Thursday, December 31, 2009
je pense au célèbre message de Noël du Roi George VI, diffusé en 1939 au commencement de la guerre.
The link gives a recording . Le lien donne un enrégistrement mais il cite ce poème :
J'ai dit au gardien de la porte de l'année:
"Donnez-moi une lampe
Pour aller sans danger vers l'inconnu."
Et il m'a répondu: "Avance dans la nuit
Et met ta main dans la main de Dieu.
Ce sera mieux qu'une lampe
Et plus sûr qu'un chemin connu."
The Christmas season is drawing slowly to a close.
Just time for some more of this fine group of brass learners.
The arrangements they are playing are published by Chester Music (I think) - look for "Christmas Crackers" and "Just Brass" and maybe "Iveson"
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
What you believe in your heart will out and will express itself in your life.
I have no doubt about this whatsoever.
I sometimes wonder if in our insane pitting of biblical theology against systematic theology we are not storing up great problems for the future.
Well no, I don't wonder.
I am positive.
Anyway, what sparked this little diatribe is a few conversations recently. I mentioned the Sunday when we used the definition of chalcedon as our confession of faith, remember ? One of the reasons for that is that you sometimes hear amazing departures from orthodoxy. For example 'Mary was a surrogate mother, she gave nothing to the unborn Jesus Christ but the welcome of her womb.' That may sound plausible, but it is not the Christian faith and it is not the teaching of the Bible. Jesus' humanity was continuous with ours. He was born of her and derived his body from hers, by God's intervention.
One of our chaps wanted to discuss this the other week and I referred him to Stuart Olyott's book, 'Fils de Marie, fils de Dieu', which he got and read. This Sunday he asked , 'What about the resurrection and the ascension ? Is it the same body that is now seated at the right hand of God ?'
Oh yes ! Oh yes ! Although now glorified, the hand that steers the universe was once nailed to a cross ! The man who slumped by a well in the heat of noon and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink is the one who rules forever. Boy, does he know that we are dust. He really does know !
With wounds still gaping wide,
From which rich streams of blood once ran,
In hands, and feet, and side.
‘Tis no wild fancy of our brains,
No metaphor we speak;
The same dear Man in heaven now reigns,
That suffered for our sake.
This wondrous Man of whom we tell,
Is true Almighty God;
He bought our souls from death and hell;
The price, His own heart’s blood.
That human heart He still retains,
Though throned in highest bliss;
And feels each tempted member’s pains;
For our affliction’s His.
Come, then, repenting sinner, come;
Approach with humble faith;
Owe what thou wilt, the total sum
Is canceled by His death!
His blood can cleanse the blackest soul,
And wash our guilt away;
He will present us sound and whole
In that tremendous day.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Nothing ever works properly between me and Orange. It never has. It probably never will.
Why I retain this naïve optimism that one day something will go OK between me and Orange I will never know.
Sheer dumb stupidity, I guess.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
1) Personal - Christmas forces us to face questions that we just find too difficult to grasp - how can it be that God could enter the creation he made? How could he become an embryo, a foetus, a baby? How could God be nursed and changed, and that in a stable? What does that say about God, about us, about the world?
2) For ministry Christmas is a brilliant time when people are more open than usual and when the great themes of the Christian faith can be discussed a bit more freely than usual. It does make Christmas a bit busy, though!
3) In the family. Gwilym was born on Christmas Eve, so it's a very special time for us, with celebration on top of celebration.
This year Christmas activities started really early with carol singing and stuff really from the first week of December. The Bordeaux Carol Service was on 12th December, and so on.
For the family Christmas Eve was the big day, with Gwilym's birthday in the morning, a special birthday lunch with friends invited, then Christmas dinner in the evening (but pork, not turkey... we did buy lamb for a special treat, but Pat grabbed the wrong joint from the fridge!) and then opening presents in the evening.
Christmas Day was spent basically at church! We had a rather nice, intimate Christmas Day Service at 11, followed by lunch together at church, three families and various singles were there.
Pat's brother gets married today in Cleobury Mortimer, but it would be impossible for us to go - air fares to Britain at the moment are expensive - Easyjet for four people from Bordeaux to Manchester would cost something like £1000. And to drive there we'd have had to leave a few days ago. Part of the implications of living overseas, I'm afraid !
We are pathetic at getting cards and letters done for Christmas. However now we have a little more time - perhaps we can get down to it and send New Year's Greetings instead!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God almighty,
Enough for him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day
A breast full of milk
And a manger full of hay.
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But his mother only,
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him —
Give my heart.
Cwynai’r rhewynt oer,
Ffrid a ffrwd mewn cloeon
Llonydd dan y lloer.
Eira’n drwm o fryn i dref,
Eira ar dwyn a dôl,
Ganol gaeaf noethlwm
Oes bell yn ôl.
Metha nef a daear
Gynnwys ein Duw;
Ciliant hwy a darfod
Pan fydd Ef yn Llyw.
Ganol gaeaf noethlwm
Digon feudy trist
I’r Arglwydd Hollalluog
Beth a roddaf iddo,
Llwm a thlawd fy myd?
Petawn fugail, rhoddwn
Orau’r praidd i gyd;
Pe bawn un o’r doethion,
Gwnawn fy rhan ddi-goll;
Ond pa beth a roddaf?
Fy mywyd oll.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
We hope this Christmastime finds you in good health and in good spirits, as it finds us.
What did 2009 bring our way ?
Exploration ! We made our first summertime sortie into the Dordogne where we stayed a couple of days with friends. In the autumn we spent a baking week in Carcassonne and recently we went to a wedding in beautiful Alsace. Alan had meetings in places as diverse as the Cévennes and Cambridge, and crossed the Millau Viaduct through icy winds. Gwilym and Catrin went on camp to Tywyn and have vowed to return !
Education ! Gwilym and Catrin are doing fine in school, Gwilym in a new collège in Bordeaux where he goes by bus and tram. He's just done a week's work experience in one of the most prestigious châteaux in Pessac. OK for some.
Music ! Catrin continues with her flute and plays very often at church now. Gwilym's electric guitar is progressing well. Pat has recently taken up the harmonica, half-heartedly, it must be said. Alan now plays trombone with the Pessac Jazz Band, though he's seldom asked to play at church, strangely.
Health ! Swine 'flu. Well, probably. We weren't tested but since we all became ill the same day, and two days after a friend's daughter got it... We're all fine now, though (except for Alan's persistent non-smoker's cough).
Family ! We didn't get to Britain as a family this year, but the Hodgsons came down like the wolf on the fold on the unsuspecting inhabitants of a town near Bordeaux. The motive was our centenary. 100 years of Pat and Alan (shared pretty equally between us).
Church ! We have now been over a year in our rented building and this year the major project is to buy it. For a new church in a big, expensive city like Bordeaux this is a huge challenge ! We also had a change of pastor with a fond farewell to the Foucachons and a hearty welcome to the Brienens.
Menagerie ! We think that Pat and Catrin have at last got the hang of sexing and separating guineapigs
early enough. Well, I say early enough – but had they got the hang of it earlier we might not have ten of the things.
Ministry ! Things continue well with the student work – mostly French people at the moment, the French church – more outreach projects taking shape, and in the International Congregation where we welcome folk from all over the world, from Brazil to Malaysia and all points between.
Plans for 2010 ! This summer we hope to come to Britain, with a couple of conferences, camp for the
kids and some church and family visits on the agenda.
We also hope to find homes for some guinea-pigs.
Any takers ?
With all our best wishes at Christmastime and for 2010.
Alan, Pat, Gwilym and Catrin
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
Had seized their troubled minds;
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.
Is born of David's line
A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord;
And this shall be the sign:
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swaddling-bands
And in a manger laid."
Thus spake the seraph,--and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels, praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song:
And to the earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from Heaven to men
Begin and never cease."
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
In Bordeaux you see rather a lot of people wearing leather jackets and coats, some of them real overcoats. The other day I saw them for sale in a shop and I had a quick look at the price tag. 900 EUROS !
Later that day I was talking with Liz, our volunteer. ( Happy 21st, by the way, Liz ! ) I heard myself say, "Yes ! That means there's people walking round Bordeaux wearing 1000 euro coats - and I mean young people, like us !"
It's a funny thing, this working with students. Makes you forget how old you are.
Then last night we were talking with the airforce types who play with the jazz band. We were talking about relationships and making compromises and adjusting to changing circumstances. "Je ne ferais pas ça pour une nana" said one single guy. I heard myself say, "Voilà, c'est un ado, il n'est pas prêt, c'est tout", and our friend agreed, while the others protested that he was 30 and it was high time that he was ready !
Yeah. There's your age in years, and there's your age in your head.
Of course, you have to live somewhere between the two !
After all, too many late nights (early mornings) and I end up half-dead !
It was OK for a start. They said, "next time can we try and explain why we think everything changed in 1914 ?" I said OK, thinking "next time can I explain as fully as possible what we mean by the gospel"... but I have this feeling that they won't come back.
Apparently at the Kingdom Hall in Pessac Monteil they have two meetings because the place is full. It holds about 150 people and there's 200 that attend, mostly from Pessac. That would make them the biggest religious assembly in Pessac by far, I should think. I can't imagine that there's 200 people at the RC churches and the two protestant churches together wouldn't get to 100.
It went very well. We were three trombones, two trumpets and 5 saxos. Four trombones if you count Renaud but these days he seems only to play his solos. During Critical Mass we invited kids to come up on stage and play bongos, congas etc. The noise was deafening and we need some new drumsticks !
Afterwards we dropped off the drumkit (ba-tte-rie, three syllables) and chatted at the music school. It's always very good for my colloquial French. Renaud : "Tu répètes pas ça à l'église." Me: "je répète tout..." It's useful really. You have to know what you can and mustn't say !
And we were paid. And paid well. The money will go to the music school and will enable us to buy more equipment - for example saxophones are extremely expensive and the baritone sax belongs to the school, etc.
And we were fed. The first course was a salad with some kind of terrine on top. Completely unidentifiable, I suspected it came from inside the head of a cow, but really I didn't know and neither did anyone else. OK. Get it down quick. The second course was nicer, fried chicken with rice and a kind of mousse of tiny mushrooms. There was a dessert, too, of a chocolate cake served with custard.
One of our trumpeters was sick. I don't really think it was the terrine, but the others thought so.
Monday, December 21, 2009
2) Pat has ordered an iPhone for me for Christmas. She suggested it over a week ago but at that time the prices were a bit ... prohibitive. Then I noticed that Orange had cut the price by 90 euros and were giving 100 euros 'cashback'. When we tried to order it we hit a snag because the website demands either your identity card or your passport as id, and our passports have just expired. Then an online counsellor popped up and told us to use our driving licences. So we did and it worked and it should come for 23rd. Don Whitney (SDFTCL, etc.) says it is spiritually beneficial.
3) This evening the most excellent Pessac Jazz Band, with whom I have the honour and privilege to play the odd wrong note in the odd wrong place, are doing a concert in a rehabilitation centre - I think it's for youngsters with mental handicaps. We are hoping to get them to join in on assorted percussion in some of the more jazz-funk numbers.
We played this at the international camel service last year, and this year the ados did a French translation of it for the francophones.
Sorry about the manner of reading. That's how we read poems in Britain these days. It's like a nation of pantomime Richard III's...
And I think "natal nurse" means midwife, not South African...
After all, there we were in a biggish, happy church. I still miss them so much it hurts when I think of them. We would have carried on to retirement age, which for pastors in Wales is normally 87. We would have perhaps gone to conferences in the States eventually, if we could choose which microcurrent of US calvinism to identify with. Or we could have got involved with a mission and visited people working in Tahiti or something.
Instead here we are lighting the woodstove at 7am on our day off and working with small groups everywhere : in French, in English, with students, everything - small groups... We do have invitations to visit all over the world, so maybe one day we'll do that round the world trip on pushbikes...
Anyway then some things happen that just encourage you. Folks find you via the website. Our neighbour has started coming to church with us. And one guy who came to the international church last night. Every time I talk with him I learn something new that helps.
Last night he was recounting his first visit to Britain around 1970. He said, "I was amazed by all the different denominations : methodist, baptist, congregationalist. In Bordeaux in those days we had nothing at all. There was just the Roman Catholic church and the Eglise Réformée."
Suddenly I realised that, just like in Wales, God has been establishing churches here and there. Now there's perhaps 20 churches that would be able to explain the gospel to people and that are trying to reach the million Bordelais. We need more, of course, but in 30 years that's déjà pas mal.
And it's worth it.
Anyway it is striking how many folks are welcoming the JWs into their homes to try and help them. The Griffins, Didier, and now we Daveys have a couple coming this morning.
None of us want to do the battle of the verses, clever-clogs Christian thing of "Aha ! So John 17:46 makes it clear that we have to have a Christmas tree !" That always irritated me anyway. We want to love them and talk gently and respectfully with them.
For me loving them meant getting up at 7am on my day off to light the stove so the place can be nice and warm when they come later...
Sunday, December 20, 2009
It had started with the Culte de Noël at Anglade. There's a nice electronic piano in the church but no pianist so we sang unaccompanied but Catrin and I took our flutes and we played some carols before and after the service and during the offering - simple things, she played the melody and I the tenor line for Silent night, In dulci jubilo and Away in a manger. The service went well, really.
I have to tell you about the corps de ballet. I had a message from a ballet dancer asking about a carol service. I explained that that was last week, but that there's a bilingual service on Christmas Day and that after that any folks that want to will eat and play together. We may watch Aladdin together, too. And the Queen, if we can ! So I hope they come !
Life is so unpredictable. I love it !
Saturday, December 19, 2009
unlimited ADSL at some ridiculously high speed,
14 000 000 TV channels, all awful, including Sky news, BBC News 24 and BBC Entertainment (24hr Terry and June) with a Sky+-style set-top-box.
unlimited phone calls to almost all the world.
Not only that, but Free are committed to open-source software, so with the help of free programmes we can watch TV on any computer connected by wifi in our house, and now we can remotely start recording a programme on the hard disk of our Freebox via the internet.
Mobile phones are REALLY EXPENSIVE here in France and we are only just starting to get the special deals that have existed in Britain for years. Now you can get a contract from the supermarkets and sometimes these are good deals.
Enter Free. They aim to produce proper flat-rate charges of the order of 20 euros for 3 hours with unlimited sms. Good on yer, lads. After all, for the work here we don't actually need 24hr Terry and June, but we do all need mobile phones, sadly !
I didn't notice any weird effects from the pills - well, perhaps a small change in my regularity and frequence - the Brits will immediately know what I mean.
As I feared, the inhaled steroids gave me little nose-bleeds. I used to use Fixyournose nasal spray for my hay-fever years ago, but that always made my nose bleed too. Sensitive nose, see.
Anyway here I am post-steroids and the cough is back, but nowhere near as severe. I hope that with normal general care and mainlined orange juice it'll settle very soon.
Friday, December 18, 2009
However today there is :
1) A bus and tram strike - the staff want an index-linked pay-rise and the company doesn't
2) ice on the roads on the right bank
So basically everything is cancelled. Catrin doesn't have school anyway. The Ladies' group can't get there so they can't have their meeting or do their carol singing. And we are calling off the Gars de Pessac guys group.
Gwilym still has his work experience and we'll get him there no problem through the freshly rain-washed streets. And I'll be good and ready for Sunday. Maybe even for Christmas !
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Last night after the prayer-meeting there was a general 'Oh, it's so COLD' session. Because the winter here is short and not generally VERY cold, houses often don't have very good heating and insulation. Today a record peak in the consumption of electricity is expected, and people in some parts of France have been warned to turn off, turn down or face possible power cuts. Many houses are heated just with electric convector heaters.
Fiona and Liz live in attic flats (you know, like when I was a student in Aberystwyth and I used to scrape the ice off the inside of the window in my room...) Dik lives in a big upstairs flat with a badly fitting front door through which the draughts blow. They have this reversible air-con heating which works well for cooling in summer but doesn't make a lot of difference in the winter. We have our woodstove which is great when heated seven times, but which doesn't do a lot for our bedrooms or for my study. And our living-room is very large and has a very high ceiling. Lovely in summer. Nippy in winter.
Of course, the real problem is that we all go so soft. Some of us are from Holland , where the polders and guilders freeze over and everyone skates to school from August to May. The last time I had a cosy, draught-free house was in 1991 in Cardiff ! ( I had this brilliant balanced-flue gas fire that was so efficient you could have cooked a turkey in the living-room !) But a couple of years in the South of France is enough to turn any ice-skater into a hot-house flower.
However a fortnight ago we had 18°C in Pessac, this cold snap is predicted to finish around next Tuesday and in February sometimes we can start barbecueing again !
So stop moaning, you lot, hand me my hat, scarf and gloves and I'll pop into the kitchen and make some hot chocolate !
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Meanwhile a homeless person died last night right in the centre of town near the Cathedral. He was sleeping on a piece of cardboard in the doorway of the Maison des Associations. They'll do a post-mortem to try to establish the cause of death. Meanwhile the Plan Grand Froid (Big Cold Plan) has been in action for some time, even though the legal threshold for activating it hasn't yet been crossed (i.e. remaining below zero all day). It's supposed to get warmer and wetter from Friday.
Well this week has been quieter than last week ! We have our English Class Christmas Extravaganza this evening and I am at present not sure what's happening on Thursday. Tomorrow is the student centre AGM and I stay and work at centre FAC on reception for the afternoon, though with exams and stuff I anticipate being able to work on messages for Sunday - twice in French.
And Gwilym is on work experience at Pessac's most prestigious tourist venue, the Chateau Pape Clément. He said today was crazy with loads of orders of wine for Christmas, he was on the phone, hunting down orders and generally being very useful - especially with clients from Britain. The poor lad's come home bushed ! "Why did I say I'd go there rather than the mairie ?", he said with a smile.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
We used for our Confession of Faith the Definition of Chalcedon. I did this deliberately because French christians sometimes have a rather reactionary approach to Jesus' humanity. I have heard more than once the opinion that Mary was a surrogate mother to Jesus. This may be a very anti-Mariolatry line but it isn't a valid Christian position.
The Bible makes clear Jesus is of our humanity, continuous with us in every way, but without sin. Chalcedon (AD 451) makes this clear by it's repeated assertions :
of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood;
like us in all respects, apart from sin;
as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer
In the ensuing discussion I went to get one of the Heidelberg Catechism booklets, and this makes the Bible's position clear, too :
Question 35. What is the meaning of these words "He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary"?
Answer: That God's eternal Son, who is, and continues true and eternal God, took upon him the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost; that he might also be the true seed of David, like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted.
Christmas is doctrinal and theological. It cannot be otherwise, can it !
Yesterday's Carol Service rehearsal began at 3, then a couple of us flautists gathered and played some carols arranged for three flutes, which was very agreeable. We did decide to play after the service, but something happened and we just didn't.
The Carol Service was splendid. The place was full to overflowing and everything was very happy an constructive. The readers read well (thanks, Fiona, David and Andy !) and Paul's message was spot on. Our joint welcome and benediction worked well too. The point where I really knew that God was answering our prayers was when the children sang a rather sweet Christmas number from Steve and Carol Owens, "Christmas isn't Christmas till it happens in your heart.", which very gently and sweetly confronted everyone with the need to respond to Jesus Christ personally. (They even pointed at people, which I don't think I or Paul could really have done in those circumstances.)
The real evidence comes in the weeks, months and years that follow, but for the moment, Thank You Lord so much.
Now this morning a pre-Christmas message in French. We have an extraordinary AGM this afternoon to take an important decision about the future of our building, then pre-Christmas in English this evening.
Glad of those steroids !
Saturday, December 12, 2009
So after avoiding Albert, the music-school director (I missed ALL the cycle 2 Symphonique rehearsals) I finally popped my head in through his door and he said "Look, play, and if you get lost stop playing." I'm good at that so I did.
I dropped Pat and the kids at the centre, along with a pork casserole and a really stupid quiz I'd done, then had 1/2 hour to kill so I called in a café in Pessac where the owner had said he's keen on English and had talked about the evangelical churches in the area. We talked some more about the Carol Service and the International Church and also how he can make his café buzz in the evening. If it was in the centre of Bordeaux I am sure we could do some stuff at his place.
Went along for the concert and everything was just great. The starters played things like "Frosty the snowman". The percussionists sneaked onstage and played solos during the chair removals etc. The excellent and famous street band (BDV) played and kept everyone bouncing along. The cycle 2 orchestra played really well - Mambo No. 5 rocked - especially with four trombones - and we had to encore Renaud's Norwegian Bossa-nova thing. Then the PJB, and it was exceptionally good. By that time (rather late) the hall was very full and the atmosphere was warm and happy.
Afterwards there were snacks at the back and the BDV played while people danced and bought their PJB CDs. I talked with a few folk then resisted the temptation to go to a late night café with the PJB folk (there's a lot to do today - and tomorrow !) and came home to find Pat and the kids tucked up in bed after coming home on the wonderful bus de soir.
She said "On va vous sortir de ça". Six days of steroids - pills, nasal spray and some codeïne cough syrup at night, though I sleep like a log anyway... I am coughing less already.
But I forgot to take my cheque book. How dim can you be ! I told her I'd pop it in the post and she's cool anyway.
Friday, December 11, 2009
We finished our stint with a waffle (they're TOO BIG, guys! we should have shared one) and a kebab from some guys who run a brasserie (très bon et pas cher, then pas vraiment cher ... I laughed!)
Then off to FAC to prepare for the Bible Study Bible Study - we've done author's intention, literary genre, structure etc. Last night was Special words (like propitiation, etc...)
Then off to Pessac for the PJB rehearsal for the grand concert de Noël. The 48 bus took me from within 150m of FAC to within 300m. of Salle Bellegrave. I was thankful to be in time for the bus.
Afterwards Renaud (prof de trombone) said "You're playing with the symphonique ?"
'No, I haven't made a single rehearsal and there's only one piece I've ever played before...'
"Well he's expecting you to play, and I am playing."
'Well yeah - but there is a difference after all !'
So there we are. Our list is :
Symphonique : Mambo No. 5, Ding ! Dong ! The witch is dead ! Bossa til hosten, Aladdin, Lawrence d'Arabie.
PJB : Spain, Fly me to the moon, On the street where you live, Georgia, J.B., Call me irresponsible, Out of nowhere, Corcovado and As long as I'm singing.
In addition Joseph's Ensemble de saxos is playing, the symphonique for the little kids and the célèbres Brasseurs de Vent
Strangely though singing and speaking makes me dissolve in a fit of coughing, the trombone doesn't. I think it's because you don't BLOW as such down the thing. Rather it's a question of internal pressure to make the lips buzz.
Anyway... So today : Doctor with chest, Gars de Pessac (reading group - where's my book !), Grand Concert de Noël, plus final sorting out for Carol Service on Saturday and services on Sunday
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Mrs Davey shares the opinion of certain doctors who build their case on strict principles of diagnosis.
It could be expressed in a paraphrase of Bob Marley's immortal and inscrutable words : "No fever, no 'flu!".
My views are coloured by human genetics and basic epidemiology. Not all people react to a bug in the same way, and if three people in a family develop a repiratory disease within hours of each other, then it is extremely likely to be the same disease.
Well our debates are over ! Enter http://quizz-grippe.fr/
Answer a series of simple questions and the likelihood of your having swine 'flu is writ large on the screen.
My result said I should have called an ambulance ! Hmm...
Remember. No book; magazine or website can ever take the place of a doctor's advice or common sense !
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
'Yes, it's great !', quoth I.
"OK. The milk's hot..."
'Yes. That's so you can make hot chocolate if you want.'
"Hot chocolate ? For breakfast ?"
She tastes her cereal. "Oh - it's kinda like granola with chocolate. Not bad."
"And what's that ?", indicating the Nutella.
'It's ground hazelnuts and chocolate', I said, beginning to see a theme emerging...
2) English class this evening, followed by an early night (see 1)
3) Carol singing / tracting / surveys
4) Get ready for the Bordeaux Carol Service on Saturday. My good frend Paul Vrolijk, the new Anglican minister, is preaching and I am looking after the prayer times. I also have to assign three readings to different readers, and I feature in the choir and among the musicians, alongside Pat, Dik, Hetty and Marije. It's brilliant to have an Anglican chaplain who is a straightforward evangelical. Pity that he covers an area the size of Wales and is centred on Bergerac, though !
5) Get ready for Sunday. I am preaching in French am and in English pm.
6) Conseil presbytéral on Wednesday afternoon and early evening.
Actually it'll be a quieter week than normal, I think. I hope so, anyway, because I could really do with getting well again. It's been weeks, now !
Monday, December 07, 2009
It took us 1000km to Grendelbruch then 1000km back, in comfort, at reasonable speeds and without hiccup.
Well, there was one moment on Saturday when the automatic electronic oil level gizmo flashed 'Minimum !' as if there was a problem, but the next day it was obvious that it was just a momentary glitch.
Our Berlingo is fantastic !
Friend : That doesn't matter ! Phone the schools ! Stay another day !
Gwilym : It does matter. I've got my Brevet Blanc (mock O-levels)
Me : What ! On Monday ?
Gwilym : Monday and Tuesday.
The folk of Grendelbruch are charming.
The French are all so NICE !
Then to the camp centre for the meal:
More apéros (Valse de bulles et ses amuses-bouches)
Seafood starters : lobster, crayfish, raw fish of many kinds, asparagus, mange-tout and haricots verts.(Entre embruns et terroir)
A sorbet to cleanse the palate. (Iceberg Alsacien)
Guinea-fowl with morels, potatoes and carrot mousse. (Gigolette de pintade aux morilles et sa garniture)
Cheeses galore (Senteurs de France et sa panaché de verdure)
Desserts of many kinds.(Farandole de gourmandises)
Fruit juices to finish (Elixir de nuit)
All interspersed with games, little speeches, songs and dancing.
Ben seems to attract nutters. I pointed this out to him.
He didn't deny it but just said "and what does that imply about you?"
I have no idea what he meant.
Had some nice and useful conversations with various folk, interspersed with coughing, then we coughed our way to bed.
I am so aware that for almost all of these people this was their first time to hear Christ preached.
For some of them their reaction showed it.
What a privilege ! Such a treasure in jars of coughing clay.
We went to inspect the church. Grendelbruch has no protestant church so everyone uses the Catholic church. Ben needed to make a cd with the processional music - a choir singing Amazing Grace, and "When I'm 64". We could only check that the cd worked just before the church service.
OK. 14h30 at the Mairie, 15h at the church.
The Mairie was nice, and the Maire charming and medalled ! A champion maire ?
I scuttled to the church. M Tortellini was rehearsing his aria with the organist.
"Can I have an order of service ?"
No, there isn't one, but it's "All things bright and beautiful", then "A toi la gloire".
"And "When the saints go marching in" ?"
pfffrfffrrr (the noise for sorry I know nothing of that)
"Well I don't have the music for "All things bright and beautiful"
Ben arrives. "But I gave him the music. A toi la gloire goes to When the saints go marching in."
Does it ?
So you told me.
Did I ? (how nuts am I these days...?)
The CD doesn't work. Quick confab with organist. Pat, Ben's mom and his aunt will sing Amazing grace while Nora comes in. We'll skip "All things". Can organist please play "A toi la gloire" (Handel) for going out. He says yes. I hear (from the organ loft) Amazing Grace and see Nora coming in.
There's never a fireman's pole when you need one. I process quickly down the stairs and sneak to front of the church.
Mawwidge ! (without coughing ! prayer and Potter's pastilles !).
Not a dry eye in the place.
A toi la gloire does not go to "when the saints go marching in", but it does go well to Handel.
Message goes OK. Marriage - Alliance (wedding ring in French) - God's faithful promise - Christ to the cross for us - give yourselves for one another (rough road map...)
Exit to Mendelssohn.
It was a lovely wedding. Warm, personal, friendly, intimate, full of love.
Later I remember - I had told Ben that sometimes we sing 'Toi qui disposes" to "When the saints go marching in" ! It's a DIFFERENT SONG you great wilbur !
Grendelbruch is a lovely little village in the Vosges, just outside Strasbourg. They'd hired a children's camp for their family and friends to stay in and when we arrived it was to a late evening Spaghettis party with a lovely mixture of Americans, Tarbais (Nora used to live in Tarbes, in the deepest South-West of France), Alsaciens and a couple of Brits. "There'll be snow", they'd said, but though the cold was a shock after 18°C in Pessac, the roads were all dry and the only snow we saw was on the volcanic peaks of the Auvergne on the drive up.
But why not fly ? Oh yeah - four of us ?
But it's a two day journey ! We only have one day to do it, grasshopper.
Anyway we do North Wales in two days !
1000km, about 9 1/2 hours, not allowing for stops.
That is not two days.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
I was greeted like a new best friend and had to give my full name (which they promptly mis-spelt), birthday (not date), address and grandmothers' maiden names and place of birth. Then they led me to the shearing.
It started with a hairwash. Nothing new there. Ha ! Think again ! The coiffeur flicked a switch on the chair and I started moving. It lifted my legs in the air and started massaging my back while my head was upside down in the sink.
The massage was almost pleasant. The ripples up either side of your spine were OK, but I wasn't sure about the end of the movement which was a bit like being poked very hard in the shoulder-blades with a full packet of cornflakes. Meanwhile my hair was shampooed to within an inch of its life. Longtemps.
Afterwards the little coiffeur started cutting. He cut very well and we chatted about his background and his life in France. He's Hmong.
He said, "It must be two months since you had your hair cut !"
I thought that it may well be longer, but since this seemed to be a very serious point to him I just shrugged and tried to look as if this was significant to me !
Perhaps I should go and get my hair cut more often than I do. Once my shoulder-blades have stopped aching.
Spectrum part two.
Doug Yeo, bass trombonist extraordinaire and earnest Christian, loves this piece and has performed it with his New England Brass Band. He's also produced extensive performance notes to help conductors.
This piece is a bit of brass-banding history. It did for brass-band music what "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faun" did for the flute and what "Rite of Spring" did for all classical music. It changed the world forever.
Previously serious brass-band music had been well-meaning rather stodgy "tone poems" with earnest names like "An Epic Symphony" and "Life Divine". Think Finlandia with Euphoniums.
"Spectrum" brought weird rhythms, funky harmonies, jerky tunes and exotic percussion.
For me, it was my favourite piece in my heady brass-banding adolescence.
Thanks Dirk, Dutch trombone brother, for posting these videos (in two parts). Be merciful in your judgement. This is very difficult for the euphonium especially...
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
So I bowled up at 5 and found... Pat and Andy Cheung (dear friend, church member ad part of Pat's French class). Nobody else showed up. OK. So making and keeping contacts was a non-starter, but I got to see the film.
It was very moving. It tells of how a French guy had the idea of getting various musicians from various parts of Israel and Palestine to come and play a three-week tour of France together. I think that I would actually encourage you to see it if you can. It's basically in English with French subtitles.
1 Timothy 2 1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
I thought "This'll NEVER work".
but it is !
Cool one, Pixma !
Plans changed. All the leaflets have been finished after just a couple of sessions. Tribute to the efficiency of the French mailbox and the EREG folk.
However we are Carol singing on Campus tomorrow, so I am busy compiling a Carol Booklet ready.
Strangely Tuesday is one of the more busy days of the week, with a team meeting in the morning and the English Class in the evening plus whatever preparation is need for the class. Today I hope to add in leafleting round the church (rendez-vous at 14h) and a haircut if possible in that new salon by Géant that gave me the money off voucher. Oh yes - and Pat's French class are going to see a film at the local cinema (free !) and I have been invited along too. I'd really like to go if possible for the contacts' sake. Better make sure I get a proper lunch.
Of course I could always do the haircut tomorrow. Wednesday there's another opportunity for leafleting round the church (rendez-vous at 10h) but also student surveys at 11h30 followed by my tour of duty in the student centre 14h till 18h, then prayer meeting at 20h30. Tomorrow afternoon is probably going to be when I do the bulk of the preparation for the wedding on Saturday (form of words for intro, vows etc.)
However, so far Thursday is relatively quiet. Just the Bible Study in the evening with preparation beforehand. Maybe that's the best day for a haircut. I also have to ensure I have something to wear for this wedding - it's four years since I last wore a suit or a formal jacket. Even if they still fit, they'll surely need cleaning. Oh, and I imagine we'll still be leafleting on Thursday at 10h and 14h.
hmmm. Better try on my jacket this morning. In case of disaster Géant have cheap suits at the moment. 50 euros ! Not bad. Not what you'd call a nice good quality suit but it'd do for what my Dad would have called a "weddings and funerals suit". Alternatively I try to find a reasonable black jacket.
Monday, November 30, 2009
So 14h the car was duly sat in the queue and I went off to wander round Leclerc while the test was done. When I came back the car had passed.
They did note a few things :
One of the front foglamps is not working, (!)
"Deterioration" on the offside back door (it's a dent).
"Deterioration" of the rear number plate lamp. We replaced a bulb when we serviced the car so maybe he just noticed that the lamp cover is missing. We couldn't get it back on but it's hidden up inside a deep ridge anyway.
A bit of play in the rear suspension.
But none of these things was failable, so we are set to roll for another two years.
It's good to get that out of the way. I feel that with that done we have come out of a rather hard fortnight !
Wow ! Sacqueboutes and funky trumpets !
Pat (coughing) : Oh, I expect so one day.
Pat (coughing) adds : But one day you'll ask that question to a doctor and they'll say, 'No, I think this is the end, now'
Alan (coughing) : then I must NEVER ask that question of a doctor...
It's a pity to end our festive jazz suite with a fizzle. Perhaps tomorrow I will append their sleigh-ride. If you're good.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Wow ! Christmas is coming fast !
Friday, November 27, 2009
'But I'd have done that for you !' he said, 'you should have said'. Anyway he directed me to a place near the music school and said to say that he sent me. You have to get your car checked over every two years. A friend has a seriously rotten Citroën Visa from just before the Norman conquest that passes first time every time, but another friend has just had his recent Rover failed on emissions. So I guess you never know.
Anyway, off to read with Dik, J-P and Christophe, followed by a quick trip to the church to deposit two PCs that are up for grabs. Anyone want a basic machine for word-processing, email and the like ? One uses XP and the other Win 98. No takers ? Posh lot !
Then home via the contrôle technique place. I liked the guy. He looked like someone from a Thomas Hardy novel and we made a rendez-vous for Monday afternoon. I changed the wiper blades. Must check that all the lights work and check tyre pressures and levels of brake fluid and steering fluid on Monday morning.
Then home to find the leaflets for door-to-door waiting for me.
Yippee ! Must say, I didn't see any buses in the city at all, and just a few trams. Everywhere seemed very quiet though it did seem to be National Drive Like A Lunatic Day.
Continuing our festive frolic.
Pat's always said that she'd love to learn a musical instrument, and now she has one that she can always keep with her in her handbag.
I did think of 'The ukelele for dummies' but I couldn't find it.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Phew ! A sensible title !
I went and said hello. We shook hands. "You work here ?" 'Yes, the boss will be here soon and I don't have a key. Problem with the car ?' "Yes. No clutch". 'Ah !'
I am grateful too for garage owners who shake hands with you and say "We'll sort it out" and who work 150 yards from your house.
And for friends who have made a substantial contribution to the cost of the clutch repair. Thanks guys !
And for a quiet morning to gather my strength for this evening and prepare for the weekend !
And not least for a wife who is well reestablished and trying on her wedding garb !
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
It included doing surveys on the student campus. I met some great people. I particularly think of one guy who was very pleasant and easy to talk to who said that he believes that there is no reason for anything, and that he does not believe in happiness or misery, and so manages to live in a state of detached peacefulness. His philosophy lecturers tell him that he has no heart or feelings. I think Spurgeon would have kicked him in the shins to test the strength of his detached peacefulness but he was a big guy... Anyway we talked very freely about things and he accepted a Bible. Afterwards, of course, I thought of a hundred more things I should have said to him, far better than the things I did say, but hey... Three students said 'Yes, we believe in God'. I said, 'Really ?' and we chatted. They are products of believing catholic families who sent their kids to catholic school and the kids made friends and now they are studying together at university and still attending church. I invited them to FAC. They'd get on well with some of the others who come. Another guy is muslim and we hope to meet up in a fortnight after he's finished a project.
Afterwards I collected Catrin from home and took her to her flute lesson (the first post-flu) and then to her opticians appointment. While she was in her flute lesson I learnt that my trombone session and the big band rehearsal had been moved from Friday to Thursday because there's a concert of the symphonic on Friday. EEEK !
We had a half-hour to kill on the way to the opticians so we popped into a café in Pessac than we've never tried before. The manager was very pleasant and a real anglophile. He even detected from my accent that I am not English (hurrah !). 'I learnt my Englsh from Pink Floyd albums.', he said. He seemed to be aware of some of the evangelical churches, too. I'll pop back and invite him to the carol service. I bet he'd love that.
The optician said that Catrin has a slight astigmatism, but that if she adopts a good posture while reading and writing then that will be better than trying to correct this with spectacles. Jolly good !
Then back home for a swift sausage before heading off for the prayer meeting. I learnt wih dismay that I was opening up - dismay because with buses and trams it's not easy to guarantee being on time. I was on time, however.
But on the way home a technical incident meant that there weren't any trams passing the church, so we had to walk a couple of stops before getting on this empty tram that said "Sans Voyageurs" but opened its doors at the stop. We looked at each other but got on anyway. Then Fiona kindly ran me home and I was warmly welcomed by my bed !
Look, this is festive, great jazz and great art music.
You do have to get past the titles, though, I confess.
Afterwards we returned home through the warm autumnal sunshine and I got on with some more Carol Service planning - by email. After some preparation and a quick sandwich it was time to scuttle off on the tram for the English class. I walked to the bus stop through the park - through the dark trees under the inky sky.
I wish I could bring you with me on the journey. The bus takes us through the lower regions of Mérignac, where instead of stylish new villas you get old wooden shacks and ramshackle old farmhouses. The outskirts of Mérignac fascinate me, and on the bus you see them very well. You end up at a bus / tram / park and ride called Fontaines d'Arlac. After crossing a frontier style level crossing you turn a corner into this beautiful little square with a centuries old wash-house and a space-age stainless-steel park and ride. In the evening with the street lights it's a magical place. No, really ! Then the tram to the centre of town. Great !
The English Class seemed to go pretty well. It included a brief introduction to the continuous tenses (I walk/I am walking, I will walk/I will be walking). We played Monster (please, thank-you and sorry) to practise la politesse anglaise. Mispronunciation of 'aces' prompted a brief session on words that are really much more offensive than you realise. The kind of lesson I wish someone had given me for French, because you really need to know what NOT to say as well as what to say.
I have wrestled with this awful little whiteboard that you have to balance or prop with one hand while writing with the other etc... and today I had a brianwave. I put the whiteboard on the table. Then we used it as the card-table and when I need to write anything down: 'better late than never', 'on the off-chance', 'Kings, Queens, Jacks, Aces', the board was really accessible. Everyone needed to remember everyone else's name for the game, so we wrote them on the whiteboard. Simple !
Home to move the car with Ben's ox-like help to a position from which I can take off for the repairs tomorrow morning. Brief talk with the neighbour opposite. Let's call it a day.
Not a bad night's sleep, though Pat had a bout of vomiting in the wee hours. She's coughing better, though.
But I have yet to find it in France.
Yesterday I was at the pharmacy buying Vicks for our feet so I asked what they had in the way of oils for inhalation, and the pharmacist found me a marvel.
It's made up of mint, thyme, lavender etc. No eucalyptus so it doesn't have the eye-watering aggression of Olbas Oil, but instead it has a penetrating sweetness and it smells nice. And an atomiser, so you spray it on your hankie, duvet-cover, coat collar, socks, pretty well everywhere. "Buy the small size", said the pharmacist. It lasts.
Christmas is coming, no ?
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
( Sit down ! Please sit down. Repent ! Please repent. )
So we played Simon Says.
When we did the time I did think of playing "What's the time Mr Wolf" but it coincided with us getting a huge table in the middle of the room where we work, so we couldn't.
This week we might play Monster - a card game - or we might play "I spy", just as a vocabulary workshop. Or maybe the alphabet restaurant. "Waiter, I'd like an apple !" "Waiter, I'd like an apple and a bread roll !"
1) The Citroën dealer in Mérignac (where the car was towed all that time ago). The most expensive and the most awkward to get to !
2) A garage next door to a friend in Pessac. Comes recommended and is walkable to. The second most expensive (though over 200€ cheaper than the main dealer !). They could fix the car next week.
3) The Citroën Chronoservice guy just round the corner. He also comes recommended - the main dealer sends people to him. They could fix the car this Thursday.
4) A breakdown and repairs garage just across the park. I found them in the yellow pages when I was looking for the number for guy 3. and I liked their entry. They even had a little video. It's a family firm, and the cheapest. They could fix the car sometime this week (dans la semaine).
I'm going to go for guy number 3. It's a small business. They won't have a work experience kid fixing your brakes. He's the easiest to walk to and to drive to and he professes to be a Citroën specialist. And it'll give us a chance to get to know a mechanic in the area.
Continuing in the festive theme.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Christmas is coming, or so I hear.
Then I remembered audiobooks. ChristianAudio.com give away each month an audiobook for download, and some time ago I downloaded Eugene Peterson's Christ plays in 10000 places. I gave it a go in my swanky, real iPod.
It's great, a very stimulating listen, and super for listening to because it's a kind of structured theological ramble, so you get lots of gems to ponder but if you are cut off suddenly it doesn't matter tremendously.
A few stylistic horrors - probably due to transtlantic differences on style. After all, I am right, aren't I ? Mary's magnificent Magnificat is a construction to avoid, especially when so many alternatives to 'magnificent' jostle for selection. I felt sorry for the reader, but he managed very well !
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Or has it ?
Maybe the worst times are the best. Certainly this last week has taught us lots of things. Firstly we have had to be patient with each other. We've done very well - right up till this morning when things got fraught for a tiny moment. Secondly we've seen how God has helped us through - sending our friend at just the time Pat needed to get Catrin from school, sustaining Pat's health until the rest of us are better (she's not good just now, though), timing everything for us, keeping our spirits up. It's been good to be quieter and slow down together - normally life is an endless rush from one place to another.
Last Sunday evening we sang together :
Now we're back in circulation, and this evening I am preaching from John 2, the cleansing of the temple.
(We didn't sing this verse :