Showing posts from January, 2009

The sales

I know I said there was nothing in 'em, but... Yesterday and today in Pessac there's a thing called la grande braderie. In Bordeaux this is an annual institution where shops put their unsold sale stock on tables outside in the street and hordes surge up and down. In Pessac it's a more sobre affair altogether though madame and Liz Griffin went yesterday and got some trousers and shoes and other essentials. They also found a stall where you just stand around with lots of other (mostly elderly) people and this guy on the stage brings out various things and gives them away. Yes, gives them away. Madame returned with four tea-towels, about 5 very small hand towels (I adopted a gorgeous orange one as a trombone cloth), a pack of large plastic spoons and a "swiffer" patent dust-mop in a fetching shade of red. I arrived to pick them up and did a quick tour of the street - mainly stalls selling nice bread, super jams, glorious chocolate and churros (they're called chic

What a difference a week makes !

Last week we were huddled together at the far end of the room listening to heavy things moving on the roof and watching light things zoom past the window. Waiting for the end. The end of the storm, of course. This week I got up to find the windows open and madame pegging washing on the line. We had some friends' children on a sleepover last night (hence Alan's lie-in, he confessed, guiltily) and said friend brought us round fresh croissants from a proper boulangerie. We NEVER go in boulangeries and we buy multi-pack sunflower-oil croissantettes in the supermarket. The kids like them but it's not the same thing... Anyway I just had a sumptuous breakfast of croissant and raspberry jam followed by croissant dunked in a bowl of hot chocolate. I can't believe that once I considered hot chocolate for breakfast as unthinkable. Quick, pass me an oyster, a snail and a whole songthrush... The quickest way to make a bordelais laugh ? When he asks "So why did you come to live

Allergy advice

Asda milk apparently has a label which says ' Allergy advice - contains milk '. My favourite was at Ikea where the hazelnut danish pastries were labelled ' May contain nuts '. Meanwhile Catrin has two new guinea pigs, Rose and Daisy, who have irritated my touchy little bronchioles... After a week of 3am wheezing the piggies are confined to barracks (Catrin's room) and my chest is starting to settle down again. Pauvres bêtes.

Sometimes I feel so privileged to live near Bordeaux

Pessac is not half so beautiful, but just look at this ! Of course, we take it all for granted and never stop to look. Aha ! We take everything for granted and never stop to reflect on things and to simply enjoy them.

The demo in Bordeaux

Lovely weather for a walk through town together ! At the bus stop I chatted with this lady who said "You don't demonstrate ?" "No, never ever have." "So what do you do when you aren't happy with what the government is doing ?" "Well we grumble about it but nobody listens." "We demonstrate, but nobody listens. Still, it does you good to demonstrate. Ca fait du bien de se manifester ." I thought of the old lady who said to her pastor, a friend of mine, "It does you good to have a good moan, doesn't it?", and of course, it doesn't ! William Cowper was right, and I am sure was speaking to himself, when he said : were half the breath thus vainly spent to Heaven in supplication sent our cheerful cry would oftener be "Hear what the Lord has done for me !"

Two quick requests for prayer

Firstly a call from the headmaster of the kids' school. A while ago the prospect was mooted of a "prayer group" for the pupils - I suppose like a Christian Union, led by me. I said I was willing, the head said he'd have to consult his council. Anyway he wants to meet up next Monday and talk about it. (This is such an enormous and unexpected opportunity that I am on the verge of tears just thinking about it !) The second relates to our financial support. We have taken a huge hit from the fall of the pound and the continued strength of the euro. We cannot assume that the pound will bounce back, neither can we assume that the euro will quickly follow the pound down. Meanwhile we are building up a deficit with the mission. So the plan is that I return to Britain for two periods of about a fortnight / three weeks (including at least three sundays each trip) to seek new supporters. Please pray for us as we plan this. It's important to try to avoid impacting on the work

Génial, cette manif

Well I got to the student centre. I was going to take tram line B from Pessac to Hotel de Ville, but because of the demonstration it was stopping at St Nicolas, so I decided to try Line A from Mérignac instead. Pat dropped me at the stop and the tannoy announced that all trams would terminate at St Augustin - MILES out of the city centre. I had no choice now though, so I got on. Anyway at St Augustin the tram continued, then at the next stop, and again... all the way to Mériadeck. That was OK. Then I walked through the demonstration to the centre. I bumped into one of the teachers from the kids' school - he's an English teacher and is interested in coming to the international home groups but this Saturday he has a birthday party. I took some pictures of the demo. You'll be surprised by the carnival atmosphere. I popped out to Subway for a sandwich for tea (Sub du jour, 2€90 - ham, salami and salad) and the streets were filled with happy smiling people waving their placards

Il Gardellino

I love this and hate it at the same time. It's a bit like the Nigel Kennedy of the Sopranino recorder.. Still, you can't fault his virtuosity !

A general strike

Yes, honestly, a national and general strike has been called for tomorrow to protest at the government's plans to reform education and save money. It remains to be seen how the transport system will be affected tomorrow and how paralysed the city will be. However Catrin's Spanish teacher is striking and so she has no school tomorrow afternoon.

Toot Suite: I. Allegre (Claude Bolling)

Some time ago one of my Youtube subscriptions put up a video of an Italian recorder player performing the Vivaldi concerto 'Il Gardellino'. I loved it and hated it equally - very theatrical. So I didn't pop it on the blog and now this morning I can't find it. If I find it I'll pop it on. Meanwhile here's some Bolling !

More new faces at the English class

Good oh !

The OK Diner on the A55

It's a great place.

"New lingua franca upsets French"

Aha !

You SHALL go to the ball, Cinderella

What to do, eh ? This year both Pat and I achieve our first half-century, me in April and Pat in November. " Ah, ça se fête ! " said one of the students. Well, yes, but where, how, with whom and .... We can do something here for students, church and friends, but if we return to Britain for a birthday bash in the summer where to do it ? Our family is scattered from Sussex to Shropshire and from Cymmer to Watford. Our friends are to be found even further afield ! Hodgsons to the rescue ! They have hatched a master-plan to take a big gîte towards the end of August and drive down in convoy for week of holiday including a centenary barbecue. Wow !

The aftermath

We were a pretty good number for the morning service but very thin on the ground for the English service. Our visiting preacher could not return home as intended because there were still trees on the line to Toulouse so today he will return via Paris instead. The Foucachons still have no electricity and they have heard that it could take a week for power to be restored. Meanwhile our roof damage was just to the overhang at the front of the house ( we think ) so we had no ingress of water despite the heavy rain. Not like these nieghbours :

The day after

Saturday having been largely cancelled, life resumes today with just certain matters to resolve when we can. A neighbour has this problem, for example.

On learning the flute and learning the trombone

Flute : "Right, you'll need a scales book and a studies book - this is the one to get for now, then maybe an album of pieces." That set the agenda for lessons and for practice. 1/3 scales, 1/3 studies, 1/3 pieces. Later on a method was introduced - the august and unmasterable "Big daily exercises of the mechanism" by Taffanel and Gaubert. When I did my exam (I only ever did the one) I had to play various scales and arpeggios, the 1st movement of the Poulenc sonata, the complete Telemann Fantasia in D minor and a lovely Koehler study. Also a keyboard harmony test. Trombone : It's a method. I started with Lafosse, then Schlossberg, then Pichaureau then there's another waiting in the wings. Pieces are a problem for the trombone. There's LOADS of brilliant pieces for flute in comparison. I think part of the difference is the amazing level of standardisation that the Associated Boards have produced. Pretty well everyone follows the syllabus, and even if

Pat's been out taking photos

More on the storm

De mauvaises fréquentations

Sometimes French is truly wonderful. Last night I was walking back to the car with a friend through the dark, wet streets of Bordeaux. He said that Bordeaux wasn't always nice. Just a few years ago all the buildings were black, there were cars everywhere and on the quays there were old derelict warehouses everywhere and there were " de mauvaises fréquentations ". He meant dodgy characters used to hang around there. But de mauvaises fréquentations sounds so much better, doesn't it.

The storm hits, and it's a biggie ! The airport and the suspension bridge are closed. 700 000 homes have no electricity. Our neighbours in front have lost their fences (taking our bamboo and buddleia with them !) Our neighbours behind have some minor roof damage. We have a drip that MAY be caused by the wind blowing water under flashing. I haven't yet been outside to look ! And the storm is scheduled to last until Sunday evening. It reminds me of the great "Hurricane Fish" when Sevenoaks lost its trees and the end wall of St Mellons Baptist church was moved out of vertical by the wind and had to be rebuilt. It's changed my schedule, anyway : The meeting at the church is cancelled. The Chinese are meeting in someone's flat because the trams are not running. The kids' club is cancelled for this afternoon. I think everyone will stay at home and hang on to anything fixed ! And the government says not to

This weekend !

Tonight our friend Daniel Bergèse is speaking at the student centre. His title is Vivre Libre. Tomorrow morning he's at the church speaking about the Nicene Creed. Tomorrow afternoon the Chinese have their service / New Year celebration. Tomorrow evening I am meeting up with some Anglican friends. Sunday morning Daniel is preaching on the parable of the unforgiving servant. Sunday evening I am preaching at the international service on the stilling of the storm. ( They forecast a BIG STORM for this weekend ! ) Monday I am staying in bed all day !

Oho - still, people matter most

I had LOADS to do today, but after dropping Pat at the Griffinhaus in Eysines I needed to stop off in Mérignac on the way home. The shop I needed was not open so I called in the newsagent and stared at the car magazines. A chappie said "I have just spotted this magazine which looks pretty good." I picked it up, to show willing. "Oh but look, my Laguna now is only worth 2000 euros. It's 8 years old." "Oh well, if it goes OK then you should hang on to it." "Yes it goes fine. Do you have an English sonority to your voice ?" "Yes, I'm Welsh." "I lived in Huddersfield for a year. I am a retired English teacher. I've visited Betsie Co-ed and Festy-nog." We continued our conversation in French though, as we talked about why I am in France, why he doesn't much like France, what is a protestant church and what about the truth of the Bible, and what about prophecy, and what about miracles, and what about other religions

Moules !

"Oh no, I eat most things." So it was that for the first time I had mussels for lunch with a side dish of prawns. I ate one prawn for show, but the mussels were OK - especially as I did not chew at all.

Good morning, why are you moaning ? I'm in mourning.

The good old BBC had a learners' slot about stories which led into my favourite story, which is the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18). Afterwards I explained a bit about how Jews prayed - stood up, looking at the sky, hands in the air ("we still do", said our friend from the Gulf states) and about beating his breast ("we still do that, too"). "What ?", said a caribbean friend, "as a sign of deuil ?" " Deuil is mourning ", quoth I. "What ? Like in good morning "? "Not quite. Look - Moaning, mourning, morning..." "But I can't hear any difference !" "Yes, listen - morning, mourning, moaning". "There's no difference !" "Oh, dont worry too much about it. Work it out from the context. I doubt if the Queen makes much difference between morning and mourning, anyway... " Strangely this was the friend with whom I had shared recently that when I first arrived in France

A couple of things that encouraged me yesterday

To be honest, January and February seem longer and harder here than they used to in North Wales. People go to earth, the weather's bad, everything's small groups anyway so when the group's even smaller... bof ! But yesterday a couple of things just encouraged me. Firstly I called on this guy, really to encourage him. He asked me all about the church, the International services and everything and I explained how things are. And he was so encouraged and thrilled that I saw it all in a new light ! The second thing was after the English class (which went well with a good group of folk). I was talking with a friend about an ex-pat who lives here. "And he speaks French ?" "Yes." "As well as you ?" "Oh better than me, he's lived here for years, after all..." "Well that's pretty good, then, because you're bilingual." "That's very nce, it's coming ... slowly." "Oh no, come on, you're bilingual n

George Verwer

Some gentle morning wake-up music

Michael-Tilson-Thomas - Tchaikovsky Symphony No.4, 4th mvmt

on the joys of downloaded music and Gilbert Vinter

Yesterday I felt lousy. It has turned out to be a cold so here I am in bed at almost 8am (shock !) listening to Variations on a Ninth , then Spectrum . The other week I threw caution to the wind and decided to download some music from I ought to explain that Bordeaux is dreadful for buying music, be it sheet music or recordings. So online I found a Joe Alessi album I wanted and also some recordings of Gilbert Vinter test pieces for brass band from the 1960s and 1970s. I have wanted a recording of Spectrum for years. Douglas Yeo had emailed me once to tell me that a recording exists but how to get it ? Anyway, there one was in the catalogue of classicsonline. Gilbert Vinter was a British light music and brass banding composer whose works I really enjoyed playing with the Lewis Merthyr many moons ago. My favourite was always Spectrum with its colourful harmonies and jerky rhythms. Variations on a Ninth is wonderful, too, as is James Cook . We never played John O'

Oh I hate the winter more and more

It's not that cold here now. In fact it's gone back to the normal Bordeaux weather of mild and wet ( mainly wet ). Think Cardiff with knobs on and you don't go too far wrong. But my poor fingers. The skin is dry and cracked and sometimes alongside my nails my fingers bleed. I leave little bloody trails over the piano and the computer keyboard. ( OK - I made that up, but it COULD happen, it could ! ) I try wearing gloves, but it hurts when you poke your fingers in ( knitted gloves would be a BIG no no ! ) and you have to keep taking them off anyway to find your keys, bus ticket, etc. etc. I do grease my hands at night with the supermarket own brand hand cream which is really very good. It's made the backs of my hands all smooth and shiny. I can almost comb my hair using the reflection in my knuckles. But my poor fingers still suffer. Roll on summer !

You know, I am a very perverse person...

It's true. I have a certain reluctance in using the standard evangelical invitation to have a "personal relationship with God". I suppose it's partly because I wonder what other kind of relationship you can have. An 'impersonal relationship' ? Also because it sounds like you need to have a scary smile when you say it. And also because it is so much more tame than the terms the Bible uses : repent, turn to God, be reconciled to God, etc... Anyway I had a "personal relationship" with one history teacher at school. He disliked me and I avoided him. It was all deeply personal, but hardly a good model ! However for the English home group we looked at Psalm 139 on Saturday night to answer the question "What is the God of the Bible like ?" You can answer that question from the psalm with the abstract terms of systematic theology : omniscient, omnipresent, creator, etc... However if you do that you miss something vital from the psalm. The psalm doe

Ever been had ?

For her birthday Catrin decided she wanted a guinea-pig. Her birthday is in February. We had asked some friends who have guinea-pigs if they could produce some offspring for us, but these things don't always happen to order, so Pat made enquiries to find a decent pet-shop last week. So I wasn't that surprised on Thursday when Pat told me that she and Catrin had been to see the piggies. I was perhaps a little more surprised when on Friday they scuttled off to get the black piggie they had fallen in love with, plus a companion. So now Rose and Daisy have come to stay in the cochonnerie .

OK, my tasks for this weekend, should I care to accept them...

This evening Pizza, Psalm and Prayer for the Anglophone ministry. The psalm will be psalm 139, with a brief excursion into Isaiah 40, and the question is "What is the God of the Bible like ?". Tomorrow morning preaching in French from Ephesians 2 : 11 - 18 - People from all over the world saved by God through the cross.

Provoking some discussion, those buses ! Gerald Warner in the Telegraph says : the most interesting part of the slogan is the second half: "Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Since when was the message that there is no one in charge, nobody to protect us or lend succour, thought reassuring? The notion that an unregulated universe, world and society are enjoyable is intrinsically nihilist. It betrays the fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity that afflicts secularists. They do not see God as comforting, but as threatening. That is because the concept of any curb on human passions, any moral sanction, is now regarded as making it impossible to "enjoy your life". This grey hedonism is contradicted by the visible phenomenon that many of the people who most zestfully enjoy life are Christians. Ah yes. Do you ever wonder what it is like to live in an empty universe, with no one

Carrefour théologique at Montauban

Yesterday Samy and Carol Foucachon, Ben Griffin and I went to the Carrefour Théologique at Montauban. I had lost the papers so Ben and I were signed up last minute. This meant that we couldn't have the lunch laid-on, so I took a cooked chicken (the amazingly low-price chickens at the supermarket continue !) and some apples and oranges and we explored Montauban to find a baker where Ben bought bread and cakes and we picnicked in style while chatting with some Baptists from Toulouse. The morning session was from Professor Paul Wells, who is of course a personal hero. He was of great help to us in 2004 when we were still in the throes of considering coming to France, not yet accepted by the mission etc.. We stayed near Aix where he lives and attended his church and he talked very straight to us about gospel ministry in France. All he said was true but we still came ! He's one of these chaps who, well, when you talk to him, you have to watch his face because his expression says as

Don Carson messages, some in FRENCH !

Thanks, Larry, for the tip-off !

Someone asked me how long it takes to prepare the message for this Sunday

I said, "Nearly fifty years."

"I Bought me a Cat", Aaron Copland, sung by Anthony Brown, Baritone

This is nice. We heard it on the radio the other day so I looked for it for the kids.

By the way, the sales...

Nothing in 'em. I looked.

On depersonalising the bad stuff that happens

Last night on the way home on the bus de soir the driver was having a bad time. To begin with he stopped to let some people off then took off with his usual brio but to an unusual accompaniment of various shouts, cries and yells. Someone was half-way off the bus when he zoomed away and they fell off. He stopped, they explained to him simply and clearly what had happened ( ! ) and off he zoomed again. Later on he missed some chaps' stop. As he got near my stop he said to me "It's just not working tonight ! I must be tired, it's this rain, it's just all going wrong." I guess their timetable must be tight because certainly they drive with an enthusiasm that I hope never to match on the roads. This morning in the supermarket at the super-self-scan till I was behind this chap whose stuff had to be re-scanned by the till-lady. He'd bought a case of wine and because he couldn't scan the box he'd scanned six bottles up on the wine aisle. Now, of course, th

Hah !

Now it's got warmer wood for the stove is 20% off.

He's Welsh, him.

The chairman of EADS ( Airbus etc. ) was being interviewed on the radio, and I thought Gwilym had said that he was Welsh. He's not. His NAME is Welsh. Louis Gallois. Good name, huh ?

A good morning

Ah good, some folks who've been away for a while were back at church this morning. We had every bench full except the one at the front, but no extra seats out. A decent crowd. There are 10 benches and a bench holds from 4 to 6 people depending on how broad and how distant they are (if you get my drift) so I'd estimate our number this morning as mid-40s. There were one or two families who were not present, too, so an indication that our building is tight ! This evening is the English service, and Ben is preaching, leading and basically doing everything. When he led the carol service it encouraged him (and us) so much that I asked him when he could preach during the language school holidays - the 28th December or the 11th of January, and he chose the 11th. There we are. Jolly good.

Rhosymedre by Vaughan Williams

The Typewriter

Sorry - but you know that every now and again I go a bit nuts.

2009 The Calvin anniversary

Of course, all our readers know that they OUGHT to read through the institutes once a year. Few of our readers do this, however. But this year you could. A good way to start off is to listen to David Calhoun's lectures on the Institutes from Covenant Seminary, available by podcast on iTunes or here.

Rally faster, pound, rally faster ! Go, pound, go !

The pound is rallying strongly against the euro. We could really do with a steep rally over the next two weeks before the mission makes its next transfer from pounds into euros ! Come on, pound. Everyone knows you are worth at least 2 euros, so go for it ! Meanwhile my friendly local economics expert ( a.k.a. Ben "les Misérables" Griffin ) tells me that in the great depression of the 1930s the French economy was among the last to plummet because France trades a lot internally. Britain is all about imports and exports ( "a nation of shopkeepers" ) while France quite happily trades with itself, living off the land, as it were... Hmmm. Think about this - car sales rose for Renault and for Citroën in the last quarter ( yes - they rose ) partly because of a government initiative called prime à la casse . Essentially if you take a car over 10 years old and trade it in against a new car the government will pay you 1000 euros for it, the argument being that the old car is

Ooh la la ! Sorry about the advert !

Hurrah ! Go pound, go like the wind !

Pound gains ground, Euro now on the brink.

The big cold plan and the Alliance Evangélique week of prayer

The big cold plan has been put in action, to get the SDFs (sans domicile fixe - homeless) off the streets and into shelters. Meanwhile today is forecast to the the coldest day - temperatures should rise from tomorrow. Hoorah. EDF the electricity company have asked people to have a sense of civic responsibility and not to use too much electricity because the demand has broken all records over the past two days and they are not entirely sure of being able to meet the demand. Imagine power cuts ! Many homes here are heated by electricity because although the winter can be cold, it is really quite short - normally people here begin to heat their homes in November and by March it is pretty warm. So lots of homes have panel electric convector heaters or oil filled radiators installed - not even storage heaters. This means lots of demand for electricity to heat homes in the evenings, of course. Currently the fasionable mode of heating is reversible air-conditioning (heat-pumps). This is suppo


Well it snowed here overnight and it's snowing again now. Brrr !

Telemann Fantasie n° 6 f-min

Originally in d-min for flute

Hurrah for CHKDSK !

It found (lots of) errors on the Student Centre PC disk and (I hope) corrected them. Certainly so far so good it seems. The old ones are still the best, eh ! Thinks - RUN CHKDSK FIRST IN FUTURE !

Bach: Fürchte dich nicht, BWV 228

New Year, New Start

Of course, New Year doesn't mean anything at all, really, but it is useful psychologically in reminding us that we can start again, rethink, change direction : Tim helps here. John Piper helps with prayer here. Justin Taylor helps with Bible reading plans here. By the way : I was at a conference with a friend once. He'd brought his One Year Bible and the speaker was going to read from Acts 17. I think it was somewhere around November in the One Year Bible ! The ESV Daily Reading Bible avoids this by just putting notes in the margin for when to start and stop reading rather than rearranging the entire text. By another way : Why do so many people feel it appropriate to read the Bible in a kind of Shakespearian "Richard III" voice ? I get daily readings sent to me by email and if I click on a certain link I can hear it read in the style of an evil murderous tyrant king. hmmm.

Happy New Year

to you all ! As 2008 draws to a close everyone's mind seems dominated by the financial crisis. However 2008 has seen much more than that, hasn't it ! For us it's been a good year, a year of consolidation in the work here and with no major crises. We are still very happy in France. As the years pass and we pay our tax bills and settle in Alan is slowly becoming less convinced of disaster creeping up the driveway. We seem to be basically conforming in the essentials ! Thankfully. Health has been good in our little family. Pat and I have doctors who supervise our health very actively : blood tests, x-rays, mri scans, ultra-sound. The worst we've had to face was Pat's severe sciatica - painful but thankfully not dangerous. We both need our eyes testing - Alan peers at the videoprojector image on the wall trying to decide whether it is in focus or not ! ( The opthalmologist will probably say there's no problem, everyone does that !) Gwlym is now a lanky 14 year-