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)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sorry about neglecting the blog

but it's Christmastime and we had two services on Sunday and in the morning lots of people were away and it was me preaching and we were still about 25 to 30 people and then in the evening it was the English service and again lots of people away and we were twelve people among whom were some French guys who are anglophile and it was a good time and this week it's doing chores and odd jobs except last night we were invited round to some friends' house who have converted their garage into a study come home cinema with a video-projector and a big screen and surround sound speakers and we ate fettucini bolognaise and then watched Indiana Jones and I fell asleep in the middle but that's normal for me and this evening I want to go to the student centre and get the office PC so I can try and encourage it to work a bit better and faster and more efficiently and it's a time for planning the coming months too especially for the home groups, international and French.

Sorry about the sentence structure - a touch of conjunctionitis.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Penn State Trombone Choir performs

A lively day !

Well well that was a lively day. It started quietly enough simply running someone to the airport. Then I had a rendez-vous for coffee with a friend visiting from Switzerland BUT we had not arranged a place to meet, he is staying in a rented house and his mobile phone doesn't work here. I phoned his father who was unable to tell me the house number but he told me the road, so I drove down there to look for a Swiss Opel.


I drove home to find the Griffins there for lunch. Our friends, the Foreaux arrived soon afterwards and we got our raclette sets out, the meat, cheese and potatoes. We waited for the last person to arrive but eventually gave up and ate a hearty meal of bacon, spuds and cheese, followed by leftover cheesecake from yesterday and icecream log.

While we waited we had a phone-call to inform us of the death of an old friend in Connah's Quay. She'd been ill for some time and died during the night of Christmas.

It snowed this afternoon, quite hard, but not for long and it didn't stick. It snows every year in Bordeaux.

Not long afterwards Layla from Bahrain and Kiki from Lebanon arrived ( co-students from Pat's French class ) and we proceeded to tea. Then the friend we were waiting for at lunchtime who thought she'd been invited for tea ( and maybe she had - who really can say ). So we were a lively international bunch.

Now it's just us and we're feeling kind of drowsy.

Les huîtres: guide d'achat

How to buy, keep and serve oysters.

Yesterday as we drove to the student centre we passed oyster stall after oyster stall. The bakers and the florists were open, too.

So oysters are extremely popular but I can't imagine I'll ever eat them.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It was Christmas Day in the centre

The quickest report on Christmas Day in the student centre. We were about 25, of whom about 20 were Chinese. I was especially pleased that a friend called Mohamad was there and had brought his neighbours with him. Fiona was unable to be there as she'd gone down with 'flu. An excellent meal - largely Chinese but some other stuff.

We ate, we played games - ice-breaker games, a team quiz, we inveigled people into singing. I ended up singing "Un fendith dyro i'm" because I could only remember that or "Oes gafr eto" on the spot.

The beginners English class did this sketch of the nativity story, which was made all the better by the fact that the angels shepherds and mages were all played by the same people with the addition of wings, tea-towels or gifts.

Then I did a brief talk-ette on our reaction to the good news - how the experts thought they knew everything so they didn't seek the truth about Jesus, how Herod just wanted to keep things the way they were and couldn't bear losing power so he reacted violently against Jesus, and how the mages did whatever it took to find out the truth about Jesus, and that's what FAC is there for.

We're still at the centre. Some people are playing Jungle speed - doesn't work for me because the colours are too subtle , some people are clearing up in the kitchen, some are on the phone and I am having a nice cup of tea and a sit down and asking you to pray for our friends that they seek the truth about Jesus Christ.

I spoke without notes but with an outline in my head. Where the quality of the French isn't so important I dare to do that now.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Brass quintet playing Christmas music

Yahou ! Chicken !

I've remarked before on how expensive chicken is in France. Pork is much cheaper, and beef can be reasonable, too. I think a lot of it is down to farming methods - chickens here are usually either free-range or barn animals rather than battery hens. But that makes them more expensive. So we eat a lot of pork and some beef and not much chicken. We ought to eat much more fish than we do.

However, recently we have noticed a fall in the price of packs of chicken legs. It's not that nice chicken, quite fatty, but it's OK.

Then our supermarket had chickens at 5.35€ ( that's about £14 each now, I think ! ). We wanted to contribute a chicken to the Griffins after them feeding everyone for Christmas lunch (well we did supply puddings but...) so I bought two and we are about to eat one.

The next time I went in the chickens were two for 5.35€. Today it was three for 5.35€ !

And they're nice chickens, not enormous, corn-fed ( poulet jaune ) . Over-production, perhaps ? Anyway there are now three chickens in the freezer.

La Veillée de Noël

This evening is the Christmas service at Anglade near Blaye. A number of us will travel up from Bordeaux and environs. I'm technicien de projection de chants, so I'll sort out the PowerPoint file for the hymns once I get the list.

One of the big things I miss about Britain is the richness of our hymns and songs. At Christmas-time you can easily sing carols for a couple of weeks without repeating any. Not here. If I were a poet and good at French I'd set about translating and writing, but I am not, so I'll have to pray for someone else to get on with it.

Tomorrow there's no service for us as such. Normally we'd go along to the Anglican Chaplaincy Christmas morning service but this year instead we're going to the student centre early to set up for lunch. Except that I am wondering whether to drop off Pat and the kids and scuttle off to the chaplaincy myself. It's my once-a-year visit and it would be a pity not to say hello at all. I'll check the times.

Deck the Halls

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

At the supermarket

Pallet-loads of oysters, and jars of goose-grease, presumably for sewing your children into their underwear for the winter ?

I jest. Goose-grease is an important ingredient in all sorts of dishes. What would baked beans be without goose-grease, for example ?
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Trouble at 'piste

Bad times for the ski resorts says Emma Jane Kirby

Celebration de Noël

Well yesterday was the nearest Sunday to Christmas so the morning service was pretty normal but in the afternoon was the Célébration de Noël with Christmas songs, items by the children and youngsters and so on.

There were a good number of folks in the building, some from Blaye, some old friends come back for the occasion, some new faces, it was a good time and the building only just contained us all.

Things seemed to go pretty well, especially when you consider that one item involved the ados holding candles. No casualties. Great !

Pat stayed at home in the morning and nursed her indisposition, but she felt well enough to come along in the afternoon with a friend from Pessac.

In The Bleak Mid Winter

Now for something tidy. Don't you always think of this as Calvin's Christmas Carol ?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Carrying the percussion down the stairs

of the school of music. I carried the big xylophone and the vibraphone. It's an injury claim just waiting to happen, but thankfully the French don't seem to think like that. Yet.

Hence our pavements are dreadfully uneven - quite lethal - but people seem to feel that it is their responsability to ensure they walk safely.
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Well that seemed to go OK

Tonight was the Music School Christmas Concert. It had several elements to it :

1) Les brasseurs de vent - a "fanfare de rue" ¤ (a kind of high-class banda) who played various lively pieces interspersed throughout the concert.

2) An ensemble d'accordeons playing various things, including 'Round midnight', some Yann Tiersen, etc.

3) a super flute duet playing the first movement of a Cimarosa concerto.

4) the youngsters' orchestra playing various things

5) us in the grande finale doing our festive list : Begin the beguine, Sleigh Ride, A Christmas medley thing, The most wonderful time of the year, and then a dreadful thing compiled from the film score of Happy Feet.

It all went very well, although there were one or two incidents. One poor girl from the brasseurs de vent tripped over something on the stage and fell on her saxophone which promptly refused to sound in the grave though it worked in the aigu.

We had a nice time with the flute players sat in front of us. Renaud advised us to try and blow their hats off and I was unwise enough to share this with them during tea. They said they can't hear anything anyway once we get going. I did notice that half-way through the concert they stopped playing and just sat there looking a bit shell-shocked. During The most wonderful time of the year someone twitched and the music fell off my stand. I grabbed it but that meant my well-oiled slide shot off under the flutists' chairs, so they retrieved it while I retrieved my music and reassembled myself just in time for the bit where we have the melody.

There was a smoke machine under the stage just where our friend the Saxo player was sitting. He doesn't like the smoke which came billowing out while the youngsters were playing Smoke on the water. More like smoke on the saxo, really.

Dress-code was "relaxed" so I wore my african shirt, one oboist came as Widow Twankey, Rémi had a springy Christmas tree stuck on his head, you get the picture.

We all ate together after the final rehearsal and before the concert, and people were very taken with the violet crisps I took along. Not so keen on the salad. Who wants salad when the table is groaning with pizza and chocolate cake ?

Due to Pat's indisposition (she has a cold and she has hurt her back again µ ) the family missed the concert. They would have loved it. It was a very good free evening.

µ Pat is better now.

¤ another friendly saxophonist says that "fanfare de rue" a. doesn't exist as a term in French, b. is tautological as all fanfares play musique de la rue c. may conceivably be a bit of Pessac jargon. The controversy is raging.

On the way to the Christmas market

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Tracting at the Christmas market

Well my first visit to the Christmas Market at Bordeaux, and it was more interesting than I thought it would be. Ought I to take Pat and the children ? Maybe... I took one or two photos.

Anyway we went distributing tracts, and had a few brief discussions, mainly with the stall-holders. There weren't that many people around.

The little chalets are all for sale afterwards. One of them would make a fine woodstore. Or a fine bike shed.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra Jingle Bells

Deck the Halls

Friday, December 19, 2008

This should make us think

People are willing to inflict torture when told to by a figure in authority.

Is it not true that in groups sometimes people behave astonishingly cruelly towards others ?

Think of situations in schools where everyone joins in bullying a particular child, or in sects where people can be treated shamefully by everyone involved.

... and in churches ?

We need to be very aware of the depths of our fallenness and of our sinful nature.

Hold on tight.

Here we go !


Kids most want to ban divorce. Read about it here.

O Come All Ye Faithful - Mars Hill Madrigal Singers

What is it about Christmas ?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

While Shepherds Watched

and ... morrismen danced ...?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cracking Contraptions - The Snoozatron

On the utility of GOOGLE search and "cybergossip"

You know these Shock ! Horror ! Probe ! emails that do the rounds ?

Well I got one once from a dear friend in French which claimed that in Angleterre ("Honte à l'Angleterre!") the compulsory teaching of the history of the holocaust was to be discontinued - nay, banned...

Now far be it from me to think that l'Angleterre needs my defence. L'Angleterre is, as my wife would say, old enough and ugly enough to sort out its own problems. But still I smelt a rat... After all, I am over 25 now, and I was never taught about the holocaust in school. Maybe people who did A-level history were. I don't know. But even way back in those days it was not compulsory to teach the holocaust in schools in Angleterre.

A quick GOOGLE search revealed that this is one of those emails that does the rounds - started off, I suspect, by out of work vascular surgeons who hope that by raising the blood pressure of the community they can drum up some extra custom. (I have long suspected that the Daily Mail Saturday edition is backed by the same sinister group of evil twisted medics.)

Moral of the story : Don't just click "send" and forward it to everyone you know. GOOGLE it first. Can't GOOGLE ? Can't send either...

After all, this stuff is gossip, isn't it ? It is not a good thing to go about as a gossip, as a tale-bearer.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Silly chumps !

The high-school students are striking at the moment against Sarko's education reforms. (Just pause and savour that sentence for a while - it is right at the frontier between French and British culture !)

When school children strike they mount demonstrations in the city centre ( and so disrupt the trams and buses ) and they also block the high-schools to stop the teachers and other kids getting in. blocquer, blocqué, un blocus.

Sarko has delayed his reforms by a year ( reporté ) but the strikes and blocks continue.

Thus it was that we turned up at the front door of the collège this morning to be told that the kids had to scuttle round to the rear entrance. I leaned across and asked the pion :

Et à midi ?

On espère avoir reglé le problème.

Ah bon, il y a un petit souci ?

Oui, on nous a mis des chaînes...

Some silly chumps had chained the collège doors together in a futile attempt to block the collège with a hefty chain and padlock. Sadly, the only one it really inconveniences is my friend the school manager who now has to sort out a locksmith (or a friendly miscreant) to come and cut the chain off.

Fash not yourselves

In 2004 there was a team in Bordeaux doing up the student centre and doing student evangelism in the streets. There were many Scots on the team and we noticed certain similarities between Scots English and French. For example, the reflexive Scots verb to fash ones' self (se fâcher) to become annoyed.

This verb is now almost exclusively found in the second person imperative dinna fash yersel' = do not get annoyed.

But who can doubt that at one time this verb existed in all the richness possible.

Are you trying deliberately to make me fash myself ?

I could not continue the discussion because everyone was fashing himself.

Had they not fashed themselves they may have understood the point I was making.

Their behaviour is so intransigent that I just know that I will fash myself.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Well there we are - all taxes paid for 2008

Today was the day for paying taxe d'habitation (equivalent of council tax, I suppose) which includes 116 euros for TV.

And I signed up to pay monthly next year.

I always think it's a bit of a swiz to pay monthly because you begin paying next December's bill this coming January - It'll be about 60 euros a month instead of 720 euros now, and the tax office puts it into its big savings account and gets the interest - but at least it avoids a big bill just before Christmas, eh ?

What an odd day

It's a funny sort of day here.

First off the weather. It's like freezing fog without actually freezing. ( Do we just call that "fog" ? )

Then sirens all over the place. Something odd on the rocade this morning - a little Peugeot just stopped in the outside lane with police all around and the traffic at a standstill.

Then by Unitec tram stop roads closed by the firemen, police all round and a Gas Safety van driving up at full pelt.

ESV Study Bible

With the beginning of services in English and so on I decided to order an ESV Study Bible from Amazon in the USA.

If I bought one from Amazon France it would cost a huge amount. Amazon UK don't seem to be able to find our house here in France, so I spent a few US cents on the new study Bible.

They said it would come around Christmas, but it actually arrived about a fortnight ago. It's GREAT ! It has a mini-systematic theology in the back ! Great if you can never remember who the monophysites were and what the nestorians got up to.

Anyway, here Al Mohler tells us how to use Study Bibles and recommends the ESV Study Bible. There's one sentence in American Academic English that I so appreciated I thought I'd translate it for you.

Al says : The ESV Study Bible redefines the study Bible in terms of its sheer heft.

Alan translates : It's REALLY BIG.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

International Carol Service

Ben gets ready for the kick-off in his best wedding suit. Olivier reads while Catrin and Christina (and everyone you can't see) listen.
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International Carol Service

Another happy, helter-skelter weekend, Saturday began with emergency shopping for cable, logs and instant hot chocolate - then Student Centre AGM, then off to rendez-vous with Pat so I could get the car and go off to the church for preparation for Carol Service, then back to Eysines for Team Christmas Meal - Hooray !

Tomato and basil soup followed by

Chicken, carrots, sprouts, roast potatoes, stuffing, pigs in blankets, all the peas you could eat, followed by

Banoffee pie and/or raspberry trifle.

( Ben is a good cook, being a follower of the blessed Delia. )

A good time was had by all and we collapsed into bed after playing this game where you have to find lots of different things all beginning with the same letter...

Today was strangely encouraging :

AM two new couples - one christians, the others wanting to see what a protestant church is like so they found us in the Yellow Pages !

PM International Carol Service - strangely hardly any Chinese ( one of them is moving house so they're all carrying boxes ) but this evening we had French people. Yahou ! And Americans. Also Yahou !

Ben led very energetically, and we did a 5 lessons and carols thing, with different folks reading : a Haitienne, a Chinese man, an American woman, a Frenchman and an English woman. Lovely to hear the different accents reading the prophecies. Then I preached on the Magi.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bordeaux Team Christmas meal

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On the way to the team Christmas meal

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Inviting the students to Christmas lunch

Last night a group of us went inviting students to Christmas lunch at the student centre.

I'll spare you the gaffs, such as the chap who was inviting them to come for lunch in the evening (!?)

We met lots of folks who seemed keen - North Africans, other Africans, Chinese. Some expressed interest in the English classes. It was a super time.

I got dropped off by the S5 bus de soir stop in time to catch the 10:30pm. As I waited a chap went past and said "It isn't coming by here at the moment because of the roadworks further on."

Aaaaarrrrgghhhh ! Where was it passing ? Hard to say. So I began walking home past the dark vineyards of Haut-Brion and phoned Pat to come and get me. We met by the lawn-mower shop and got home safely.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Parity ! Never !

Apologies to all reformed baptist brothers - this isn't about eldership but about the euro.

I don't often write about the economic realities of mission, but they're there nevertheless. Our American colleagues have lived for years with a weak dollar. When they came to France their support was OK. Now it's inadequate. In addition the American economy has struggled for a long time and American churches are sometimes overstretched in world mission. With the best will in the world ( and American goodwill is surely among the best in the world ) churches cannot do more.

Finding new sponsor churches is a challenge. The USA is big so to become known amongst the churches is a huge challenge and involves a lot of travelling. Denominational ties help to establish relationships of trust but churches still sometimes need forms to be filled in, interviews to be held and committees to meet and it can take months before a decision is taken.

It isn't easy.

Now it's the turn of the Brits !

When we came to France in 2005 the pound was at about 1.6 euros. Now it's about 1.13. Just 70% of its former value. That means that £100 in 2005 is only "worth" £70 now, and what £100 bought in 2005 now takes about £140.

The mission pays our support in euros, but our sponsor churches and individuals give in pounds. All give so generously but to increase giving by 40% ? That's almost half as much again !

Meanwhile the good news is that because we have a fixed rate mortgage and low euro-zone inflation our allowance is still the same as 2005 and our housing costs are slightly lower, and this has been OK so far. ( Other factors help, too, like the generosity of friends with holiday homes, etc. )

We draw near to the end of our first four-year term of service in August 2009. This is an administrative concept but it will involve the recalculation of support needs for the next term of service (2009 - 2013). Our costs in euros will probably not change much - there was already a 10% rise built in the last time we worked it out which we have not had to use - but the figure in pounds will be much higher !

There we are. Part of the reality of overseas mission.

Perhaps you could pray for the mission team at Swindon, especially for our financial guy. You can imagine the stresses of his role. Also remember that what I write is true for all overseas workers, not just in Europe but all over the world.

The weak pound and the kingdom of God. Who would have thought it, eh ?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The next EREI pastor for Bordeaux

will be Dik Briennen. He'll start with us on 1 August. Here he is being interviewed on Sunday evening. Alongside him is his wife, Hetty. Dik and Hetty are Dutch and have been ministering in France for almost 20 years.
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Amazing growing Chinese floral tea

Monday, December 08, 2008

Ooh la la, c'est grave !

A message from Ben came today :


Have you heard? Speedferries have gone bust!!! Not only that, BMI baby have pulled their Bordeaux-Birmingham flights through the summer. I think that we are going to have to take out a mortgage to get home at all.



Where to begin ? I need :

  • my hair cut
  • my eyes tested
  • my head examined.

I'll probably start with my hair. Pat says it needs cutting badly, like last time I got it done.

A quick report on the weekend

The International Home Group numbered about 15 people. Some of our old faithfuls were otherwise occupied with young peoples' sleepovers but there were a few new people, Chinese and French.

Andy brought this special Chinese tea for us to try. Later on I'll make a cup and video it (yes - it's moving tea) Nicer than you might fear.

Sunday began bright and early with the PowerPoint and a call for help in getting the sleepover lads to Cenon, so I despatched Pat to fetch 'em while I finished off the preparation and leaped in the shower. And we weren't late !

After the service some charging round sorting out address lists, carols for the carol service, English, then French, then rehearsing a song we'll sing (get this - we have an impromptu choir : 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 basses ... and me. I said, "Bon, si le monde est contre Athanase, Athanase est contre le monde." I should save my breath for singing. )

Then zoom off home for 3-minute spaghetti - possibly one of the finest inventions ever made, it's HOLLOW ! How do they do that ? - and off to get my friend who was preaching at Blaye. He has narcolepsy so elaborate plans had been laid to get him back from Blaye if he didn't feel up to continuing on to the evening meeting at Cenon at 6. He did feel up to it, however, so we stuck to plan A. I spent a while worrying whether I had said Augustin se sent assez fort pour venir ce soir or Augustin sent assez fort pour venir ce soir. Find out why this matters in the next post. And we weren't late !

After the service we zoomed back to Cenon. I am pretty confident of finding Anglade now but I still use the GPS because the speed limit changes all the time on the road to Blaye and you don't always notice the signs. It's 90, 50, 70, 50, 90, 70... Sometimes you see an "end of 70 limit" sign and wonder where the 70 limit began. Anyway the GPS tells us where the limits change and as long as you don't trust it TOO much it's very useful. Still, as I later remarked, I can just send the speeding tickets to the church treasurer for reimbursement ! And we weren't late !

I was late to bed, though.

sentir and se sentir

Je me sens bien. I feel fine. Je sens bien. I smell fine.

X-Y se sent assez fort. X-Y feels strong enough. X-Y sent assez fort. X-Y smells strong enough.

In fact I had said X-Y se croit assez fort pour venir - X-Y believes he is strong enough to come.

Before the International Home Group

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Outside the Hôtel de Ville

there was this recruiting lorry for La légion étrangère ( the Foreign Legion ).

It was unbelievably wonderful, with diaporamas of different scenes, including the jungle, a North African looking city, the desert and the Arc de Triomphe, and in the centre stuffed dummies of someone behind a computer desk dealing with someone's dossier while splendid martial music played.

It's a good thing that the lorry was unmanned and that the person behind the desk was a stuffed dummy because otherwise I think I might have signed up on the spot.
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Friday, December 05, 2008

My admiration is dented

It had to happen. And it happened this morning.

I was off to the student centre for 10 am. Easy-peasy. I had a rendez-vous this afternoon in Pessac so I decided to park the car there and hop on the 45. Four buses an hour. Nothing could be easier.

Well I waited at the stop. I was having a happy time listening to Brandenburg 5 on my phone and remembering the time in Cardiff when I heard it live and the famous harpsichordist got lost in the long cadenza.

This disabled lady with walking sticks came and also waited for the bus.

But there's four buses an hour so one must be along soon.

One was. Sans Voyageurs. (Not in Service.) We looked at each other.

But there's four buses an hour so one must be along soon.

One was. Another Sans Voyageurs. What is it with them today...

We waited more. I sent a SMS to say I was having bus problems. As I sent it a bus came and we got on.

Then a lady got on who was not pleased, but who held her peace for a moment.

Then another lady who was not pleased and had no intention whatsoever of holding her peace.

By this time I was on Berlioz so I listened keenly to his raucous blare while the ladies remonstrated with the bus driver. I never heard a sweeter ophicleide !

I felt that they were picking on the wrong guy. After all he was the one who had turned up and stopped at the stops and let us on. It's all the others who hadn't done so who needed remonstrations.

I didn't point this out. Least said, soonest mended is the watchword. Anyway, he was more than holding his own in the ... discussion.

Meeting this morning to discuss a team coming to work next Easter.

from Mission Vacances.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

What's mission ?

Click on the headline or here

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Iain D Campbell talks about twice on a Sunday

Iain D Campbell talks about morning and evening services here.

Our situation in France is different. There's no history of morning and evening worship - at least within memory. Also there's a prevailing image of duty rather than privilege, that is that we go to church to do our duty. Having been, we've done our duty. Does this come from the surrounding catholicism ?

The upshot is that it is quite difficult to encourage people to come twice on a Sunday and to build up any kind of momentum for evening worship.

We are very conscious of our protestant forefathers. They preached several times a week - often every day or more than once a day.

Of course, they were greater men than we. Their preaching style was different from ours. Their social context was different from ours.

But they still present us with a great challenge. Faced with unbelieving Western Europe - no less dark than the days they lived in. Surrounded by Christians who need building up. Armed with the same word, indwelt by the Spirit, proclaiming the same Christ, they preached - lots. What do we do ?

At the same time Sarko ( the French Thatcher ? ) is proposing la banalisation du travail dominical - the normalisation of Sunday working, including Sunday trading. I was heartened to read that the CEO of Auchan does not want his stores open every Sunday. Good for you, and good for your staff !

I keep thinking someone's left a tap running

They haven't. It's just that it's raining cats and dogs again.

That's Bordeaux : you freeze, you bake, you drown - all in the same day. Yesterday I scraped thick ice off the car to take the kids to school. The sun in the afternoon was blinding and hot. Then came the rain - lots of it.

It's a bit like being a sausage. Frozen, then grilled, then drowned in gravy...

It's great, really, because it means you always have something with which to begin a conversation to strangers.

Il fait beau, hein ? Ô, vous êtes gelé ! Ooh la la! cette pluie !

Mapple MyPhonies

Here we are - a bit of French, a dig at Apple, the Simpsons and an illicit video that will surely disappear as quick as winking.

I so identify with all that Lisa says. If they would bring the price of those MyPhonies down just a little - say to $20 - I'd get a pair.

Saddo !

Monday, December 01, 2008

At the supermarket

We have this system of self-scanning now with these zappers you use to read the bar codes on the stuff you buy. However from time to time the computer says you have to pass everything by the scanner on the till anyway just to be sure. When I bought the emergency rice on Saturday I had to rescan at the till.

Anyway this morning someone called to see Pat so I made myself scarce and did the "weekly shop". At the till the people before me were being scanned. I was happily sorting out my coupons (we now have about 6 million zapopoints - almost enough for a free litre of milk) when the lady finished doing their scan.

"Il manquait un article. C'est une manque de rigeur!" (There was one item missing. Careless !)

The couple took this criticism in their stride, but I thought "I hope I don't get rescanned, not if we get marked on our scanning !"

All was OK. No rescan. Anyway I always scan with extreme rigour - especially since that day when something appeared on my bill that I hadn't bought or even ever seen !

After the International home group

Bibles and chairs everywhere . Lovely.
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I wonder if this stuff works

It ought to ! "Kill it, bang!"
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You can tell Christmas is coming

These are all ice-cream Christmas logs. They stretch as far as the eye can see !
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy lively Sunday

began early with the preparation of the Powerpoint file - we project our hymns and songs so that we can draw from several books.

Off to church for 10 to set up.

Bully - no, encourage someone to read David's prayer from 2 Sam 7 during the service, leaving me with just the offering and some other things to lead.

Afterwards church lunch ( hoorah ! ) Pat's chilli (with no chilli powder in it) and trifle went down well and there was LOADS to eat this time.

Then brief church meeting followed by film on persecuted church. I set up the film but had to leave before the crucial bit of the church meeting to go and preach in Blaye.

Well, I say "brief church meeting" but Samy does have a habit of stringing things out. When it was obvious that I was going to have to leave half-way through the meeting I joined in his game, feeding him distractions and discussing irrelevancies while people did their nuts (i.e. chanting le nom, le nom, le nom...) wanting to get to the nub of the matter - i.e. what progress has been made in inviting a new pastor to Bordeaux.

Blaye was great. It is hard to explain what it is like to preach to a good turnout of 8 people who represent the only protestant gathering in an area of some 50,000 people * , all of whom listen keenly and follow and encourage as you preach. It's a privilege. Blaye needs a worker. It can't be us but it does need someone who will do the legwork and spadework.

Then back to church to get the family, lock up church and take family home.

Update blog !

* The Canton de Blaye numbers some 13,000 folk, the arrondissement de Blaye (sous-préfecture) has about 54,000. We are not aware of any other protestant churches in the arondissement.

Helter-skelter Saturday

8:30 get up - I have taken to the French idea of the grasse matinée, a lie-in. It's GREAT not to get up at 6am / 6:30 !

10:30 at the church for preparation of order of service for today.

12:30 get home quickly to take kids to Eysines for them to go back to the church with Ben for club.

Type up the Order of Service and send it to all and sundry by email (we're very high tech !)

Quick trip to supermarket for emergency rice and cheese (see below)

Prepare for International Bible study.

Correct error in Order of Service and send it out again ! (Vite fait, mal fait)

At 6 people arrived to eat. "Can we all pile in?" said one of the seven people at Pessac tram stop. "No !" quoth I, "it's against the law, I'll do two trips." We were 12 in total and we ate a super ham, nice chilli (without any chilli in in it) and gorgeous cakes.

Study at 8 on the Bible. Some of these folks have never held a Bible so it was REALLY BASIC !

These meetings are so happy, We're so blessed. Most of the folk who come are Chinese and they just love sitting round the stove and hearing people talk about the rock-bottom basics of what Christians believe (i.e. what the Bible teaches).

After getting people back to the tram stop flop into bed tired but happy in Blyton's immortal words.

( Neglect to update blog )

Friday, November 28, 2008

Phew ( did I say the buses and trams are striking again today ? )

"Help ! Jenna's car has a flat tyre so Ben said he'd drive her home and now he's stuck at Place Victoire and I am at LeClerc with a trolley full of shopping and the kids are stuck in school !"

"OK, Alan's about to leave to get our kids from school and he'll come and get you afterwards".

Meanwhile great discussion whether there are trams and buses tomorrow for folk to come for the International English Home Group... (Yes, there are.)

So after leaving the house at 4:20 I got back with our children at 7pm having driven no distance at all and very very slowly ! Everything is blocked solid.

Two guys

Yesterday doing student surveys. Two guys stand out to tell you about.

At the end of the quickie survey I asked the first guy what he thought about doing the longer questionnaire. He said "Ok, but I am busy this afternoon."

"Yes, but we can make a rendezvous to do it another day."

"Oh, let's do it now !" So we started. We got through the initial part, then started the "Partie philosophique".

By what criteria would you judge your life to be a success ?

"That's a bit personal !"

"Well yes, we aren't asking about Descarte's philosophy but about yours !"

Anyway after a bit of reflection we continued with the questionnaire in a very happy, relaxed way. He said he was born into a catholic home and did all the stuff but was now not practicing. We finished the questionnaire and chatted for a moment. Then he said :

"Can I ask you a question ?"

"Yes..." (wondering what was coming...)

"The suicide rate amongst the young is very high in France. A Portuguese friend says that the rate is much lower there because catholicism is stronger. What do you think ? Do you think that strength of faith can affect suicide rates ?"

Well we talked about hope, and about knowing that God is there and that giving a sense of security even when things go wrong, and of there being a purpose and a destination and so on. I felt I ought to mention that the catholic church's past view of suicide may give people strong inhibitions about taking their own life, too.

I said "What do you think ?"

"Yes", he said, "I would think that it is linked to that sense of hope and purpose."

The second guy was a muslim. You can always tell by the way they answer the question "Do you believe in God." It's always a very forceful "Yes", as if God were looking over their shoulder and waiting to see what they would say...

We talked at length. I hope I showed him grace and firmness. We talked about sin, grace, pardon, the need for forgiveness and the possibility of assurance of salvation, but I felt that he hoped to convince me that I was wrong and that nothing reached his heart, really. However, what do I know ?

I know what Mark means in Mark 10:21. These are nice guys treading water in a big, wide ocean. Oh to have your feet on the rock.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Another tram and bus strike tomorrow !

They are striking because the contract for running the public transport in Bordeaux is passing from one company (Veolia) to another (Keolis) on 1st January and the public transport workers are concerned that their conditions of service may change.

So it's down tools all day.

A friend had Kipling's "If" on his wall

It's a memorable poem (if you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same) though it doesn't do a lot for me. Maybe I am not gung-ho enough, insufficiently "Roger of the Raj" to identify.

However, one does detect faint echoes in what Tim reads in his Guinness.

Phew ! That worked out OK.

Last night at about midnight the computer hollered uncle and the disk finally copied (using DriveClone). I had already gone to bed but I woke at about midnight and checked on the beast to see what had transpired and all was OK.

This morning, after lighting the stove (it's frosty here) I switched the disks. ( Much ineffectual tugging with inadequate small screwdrivers till I tried an enormous screwdriver handle with a tiny bit. That worked. Never underestimate the motive force of intimidation on the inanimate object ! )

And here we are ! Now instead of an 80 gb disk and 2gb free space, there's a 160 gb disk and over 80 gb free space. That'll keep it going for a while.

Can I get another three years out of the thing ? We'll see !

As Churchill said, "Never, never, never give up..."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yahou !


1. Robert Johnsson: Have you seen the bright lilly grow / Andreas Scholl


Boy have I opened a can of worms or what !

Basically the disk cloning program Acronis TrueImage thingie ground to a halt 3% through the copy.

So after a few attempts I downloaded a different program, which complained about a particular file.

So I thought "You should have run chkdsk anyway". I ran it. It ground to halt 37% through checking something or other.

So it appears that my poor laptop has an unhappy hard disk !

I'll try a few other wizard wheezes to see if I can kick the disk into submission. If not then I'll have to just pop in the new disk, restore the Fujitsu xp system (I have the restore disk), reload every piece of software I have on the beast, copy over the data that's on there and so on. Probably take a week all-told !


Scary moments II

It wasn't working.

So this morning I ran chkdsk (the disk is clean) and am currently trying again.

And again it seems to be stuck on 3% copied.
I am not going to look for a good long time.
I'll let it plug away.
Who knows ... maybe it'll get past a bottleneck or something.

And anyway, for the moment I have no better ideas except to download different disk cloning software and try that...

Tony Payne is thinking about ministry


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Scary moments

This morning something (can't remember exactly what) didn't work very well on my laptop - the laptop that belongs to the mission, that I use for PowerPoint at church and for the English Class etc. I just wondered how much space there was on the hard disk - I have been contemplating doing a hard disk transplant.

Ah. Not very much at all !

So even as I speak Acronis True Image is copying from the laptop hard disk to the new, improved, bigger one. Then comes the scary moment when I have to take the old disk out of the laptop, put the new one in and hope it all boots up OK.

I did the same thing on the desktop computer months ago and that worked OK. But the laptop is more important than the desktop.

Oh come on ! Why shouldn't it work ?

( Two hours later and a couple of false starts... I think it really is working now... )

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sometimes Europe is just too wonderful for words

I spotted a cheap second-hand book I fancied on Amazon.fr.

The book is in English, but the vendor is "German books" (Livres allemands).

So I ordered it.

I just got a message from paperbackshop.co.uk telling me they are dealing with my order.

Great, innit !

There must be more to this than is reported, surely ?

This can't be true, can it ?

I make no comment

and I trust that neither will you.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Montauban Morning

I had a great journey to Montauban.

It started with a 6:30 trot through Pessac Alouette's deserted streets to the station. Buy my ticket to Bordeaux from the machine and compost it before getting on the lovely new double-decker train. It was gorgeous, with power outlets by the seats and all mod cons.

In Bordeaux I tried to use a machine to buy the ticket to Montauban but was disconcerted by the fact that there are about 5 Montaubans in France. I know the one I wanted is in the 82 (Tarn et Garonne) but the machine doesn't care about that. I thought it was Montauban Ville Bourbon, but I feared getting the wrong ticket and into trouble so I went and queued at the ticket office instead and that was fine.

The train was an old corridor-style but it meant I had lots of room and could parade back and fore looking out of the window at the fields, rolling hills, little housing estates and the river and canal.

At Montauban I realised that I had no real idea of how to get from the station to the bridges over the Tarn, but I had no worries because it is extremely easy. Opposite the station is a sign for centre ville and this takes you right to the old bridge, and the church is just a few hundred yards from the bridge.

I thought I'd just mention the meals we had.

Lunch :

Asparagus with tomato.
Mushroom omelette and creamed spinach (lots of)
Lettuce and vinaigrette
Crème caramel

Dinner :

Stuffed squash (stuffed with meat)
Cheese and oranges
Dessert of stewed apple.

It struck me that the standard starchy part we Brits always eat (rice, spuds, pasta) was missing. Instead lots more vegetables.

You can see from the photos that Montauban is a very attractive town.

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A fight to the death !

More on the French Socialist Party leadership here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

In honour of Jean-Pierre Démoral

who invented démoralisation.

All for one, and

They reckon they have found the tomb of D'Artagnan !

Would you credit it ?

He's in Holland !

France's socialist party is seeking the way forward

The papers have been full of their catastrophic conference. The BBC reports here.

It's Pat's birthday today !

Younger every year, she is now officially 24.

Interesting - but don't tell the children

about this

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Flanders and Swann - The Gnu Song - Ich bin genug / I'm a gnu / je suis un gnou

Strange how different two songs can be.

Ich habe genug / I have a gnu / j'ai un gnou

You will have observed that I like music. Like a true Brit this is utilitarian. Music for me is useful as medicine for the mind. When I am on the edge a short burst of a well-chosen piece of music can just make the difference between being a blubbering wreck or a gibbering idiot.

Today two pieces on the eternal theme of the gnu. First Bach's sublime and comforting aria from the funeral cantata "Ich habe genug", or I have a gnu. On the point of death the singer consoles himself that he has the love of his gnu, and nobody can take that from him.

Song doesn't get any better than this. Bach has it all. Later composers will make adjustments here and there, but probably Bach still does it better. This is a lovely performance by the bass and the organist is moved beyond expression, as you will see.

Etat du réseau jeudi 20 novembre : dépôts bloqués, aucun tram et bus ne circule sur le réseau

Nous vous informons qu'un mouvement de grève a été annoncé par les organisations syndicales des transports en commun de la Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux.

What a disaster !

The kids are in school and can't get home.
Catrin finishes at 12.
Gwilym at 4:30.
Pat can't drive.
I want to go on campus and do surveys but I can't.
The students can't get to campus anyway.
I can't get to the centre of town for the student centre.
A Chinese student is worried about how to get home this evening at 7.
My phone has more messages coming in and out than the Paddington Telephone Exchange.

It's a shambles !

Oh well - at least I still have my gnu...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fresh fields and pastors new

Well by now I do not risk blowing the gaff on information that people do not know.

The church has been informed.

Everyone who needs to know knows, I am sure, and we are working hard to discern the way forward.

Because our friends and well-loved colleagues, the Foucachons, are leaving next summer. The church is seeking a new pastor.

The EREI is a movement where pastors stay about 6 to 8 years in a church, and Sammy has been here for 8. It is time.

What can one say ? We don't want him / them to go, but we accept that this is God's plan for us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Anyone know what this plant is ?

There's loads of it by the Pessac Centre tram stop and it's wonderfully fragrant and long-flowering. We'd like some in our garden. Maybe if we see them pruning it one day we can beg some cuttings...
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Hey ! Veterans !

Since that guy guessed my age as 56 people seem to be queuing up to tell me that I look older than I really am, or whatever. I think it's a conspiracy - and before you respond just let me point out that even paranoid people are sometimes the victims of plots...

Meanwhile we have had a visit from Jean-Marc, the under-head-honcho of the mission, flying from Swindon to see Fiona, us and the Griffins. He reminded us of one of two workers going through hard times - at least one of whom is in the departure-room for this sad, old world. His visit reminded me of the comments of one hard-pressed stalwart, "It takes 10 years to feel really at home and useful in your new country."

Well after 3 years things feel a lot better than they did before, though lots of things are still a struggle. The only way is up, I guess. :)

Family-wise, we are going to look for a student or someone else who can give Gwilym (and Catrin ?) a bit of help with their French. They're doing great, but a helping hand would not come amiss.

Pat is moving ever upward and has developed a severe loathing for our freezer - it's a chest freezer (lovely in very hot weather - we all hang over the edge and freeze our chests) - because it was while delving in the depths that her disc slipped. I feel that it is precipitate to blame the freezer when her back is simply one big disc waiting to slip. Anyway she would like to see the chest freezer exchanged for an upright. But then we could not bulk stock Lidl blue-box ice-cream. (To try it is to love it. I wonder if they put illicit substances in it we long for it so much...) The next long-awaited big step is when Pat resumes driving.

Meanwhile on the music front I am battling with this trombone a bit, though now there are more ensembles than I can shake a stick at. Well, there's a fortnightly brass ensemble and a weekly orchestra, but my stick is busy, OK ?

I think one of the things you learn from learning ( be it languages, instruments, sport, whatever ) is that from time to time it's all a bit hard, but you keep going until you get through that barrier, past that plateau...

Anyway, a much nicer slant on all this came from Jim at Missionary Blogs.

It turns out that we are veterans !

Imagine that !

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jonathan loves Christianity Explored



Our numbers were swelled by folks from Blaye, by Chinese students and by other visitors and the building managed very well. Great !

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

International Home Group

We were between 15 and 20 people for the international home group, probably half Chinese.

Jean-Marc, the under-head-honcho from the mission, spoke helpfully from Acts 3 and Andy translated into Chinese on the fly. Lots of great questions and lots of opportunity for folk to chip in their helpful two-pennorth. A really great evening.

We had a lot of fun picking people up from Pessac Centre. Here's what happened :

1) Alan's phone starts beeping saying the battery is flat - he puts it on charge in the bedroom

2) some kids are here for tea - lots of singing and noise

3) An sms arrives to say that the first group are boarding the tram. We don't hear it come !

4) Alan thinks 'We haven't heard anything from the guys boarding the tram', runs to look at phone .. aha !

5) Alan phones guys . "We are at Pessac Centre," they say

6) Phones Liz (backup transport) we head off for Pessac Centre.

7) find people - there's seven of them. We wait for Liz - for a while - then decide I will set off with the first load and come back for the second lot in case Liz has got lost.

8) as people get in the phone rings - someone is delayed and will be at Pessac Centre in about 20 minutes

9) drive off - notice there's a LOT of heads in the back ! We have four (slim) ladies in the back of the car. Pray that we won't get stopped despite the interior light flashing on and off because the door is not quite properly closed...

10) deposit first group - return to get second lot.

11) second lot not there - eeek - Pat phones - they're at the house. Liz comes up trumps. Great. Delayed person comes running down the platform of the tram stop.

Thanks Father - all are safely gathered in.

Plan for next time is to spread out the tramstop shuttle by eating together before the home group. Long term plan is to extend the tramline to our house, but that may take a while...

Ubuntu 8.10 / XP

On my study computer I had to do various different things with photos this morning for various church things happening today. To do this I needed to begin with Ubuntu and then switch to XP for reasons I won't go into - on the same PC. I quite liked doing that because it gave me an opportunity to compare the two operating systems much more directly than I have heretofore.

Ubuntu : I started in Ubuntu Linux - and it started up very quickly. Once it came up I went straight into Firefox and Gmail and got the first photo I need to fiddle with. All very quick. I downloaded the photo then though 'Aha, why don't I do this in Picasa ?', so went into Picasa which then proceeded quickly to find all the photos on the PC. Meanwhile I had thought "Why don't I upgrade OpenOffice 2.4 to 3.0 while I am at it ?", so I did. Then I thought "and I could set up some podcasts on Rhythmbox...", so I did that and then it went off and found all the music on the PC. Then I did what I needed to the photo, shut everything down and restarted the pc. All so swift even though some of the things I had done were quite big tasks.

XP. Start-up ... yawn. Click on Firefox. Oho - the PC's not fully started up yet even though it looks like it is and this despite my streamlining of the start-up using CCleaner. OK - there's Firefox - I'll download the picture I need to get and print it out. Meanwhile for light relief I watch some paint dry.

I think I need to do some more fiddling with Ubuntu - for example set up Wine, so I can access Online Bible and the Theology books I have on my hard drive, network the printer and so on... Then I'll switch permanently. But when to fiddle like that... It's always the "fiddling about curve" that puts me off.

Soirée d'ouverture au Centre FAC

We were full of Chinese for a very happy and up-beat soirée d'ouverture.

We need more Chinese Bibles. We need a worker who speaks Mandarin.

But what we have already is wonderful. The promise of a great year working with these super folk at centre FAC and also in the International Church.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Catrin's flute teacher

You practiced the duet with your father playing WHAT ?

The school canteen

Papa : What'd you have for lunch ?

Enfant 1 : Potato balls.

Enfant 2 : Didn't you have the meat ?

Enfant 1 : No, I didn't like it.

Enfant 2 : It was nice. It was chicken.

Enfant 1 : No it wasn't, it was lamb.

Papa : So what about dessert ?

Enfant 1 : A yogurt.

Papa (thinks) : Potato balls and a yogurt - to you, sir, 5 euros...

Enfant 2 : I had apricots in juice.

We later found that the meat was pork chops, and that enfant 1 had also eaten some bread. Oh well. It's only now and again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brilliant !

Look ! Your cable catching misery is over.

Remembrance Ceremony at Pessac

Photos taken while waiting for the start.

I find it very reassuring that even the Remembrance Day ceremony doesn't begin on time. First photo because I thought you'd like to see a képi or two.

Various representatives of different groups lay wreaths of chrysanthemums. There's lots of speeches. No singing, no prayers.

Not much music - just two bugle calls : "Cesser de feu" and "Aux morts", and a VERY EMPHATIC Marseillaise to finish.

And one poppy.

There was a very good turn-out and I got to shake hands with the maire of Pessac and with the chairman of the Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux.
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