Showing posts from August, 2009

Festival de fanfares festives - painted black

Festival de fanfares festives - I get around

Quite !

They get everywhere !

Yesterday morning after the service we took a picnic onto the right bank. There was a "Festival de fanfares festives". I'll pop on a couple of videos. You have to guess the tune.

Rentrée and planning

It's the start of term. That means two things. For the children it means beginning their new class / new school. For Pat and I it means lots of planning. So today Pat is at a meeting to talk about chidlren's ministry. On Wednesday I will be at a meeting where we'll be talking about ministry in the various congregations and plans for this year. Meanwhile soon we will need to hold our student work planning meeting, though for this various reinforcements arrive this week. Meanwhile Catrin starts school on Wednesday, but tomorrow we have to go and collect her textbooks. Gwilym goes to school for an hour on Friday (it'll take him longer to get there and back than he actually spends there !) then his term starts properly next Monday. Meanwhile we are in the countdown to my mini-visit to Britain. On Saturday evening I was a little down about the new year, lots of changes, etc, but after yesterday I am in good heart and rearing to go !

A sad reflection of the times we live in

no left luggage at Bergerac, neither at the airport nor at the railway station. Because of the vigipirate plan - the government anti-terrorist public security measures. It didn't surprise me in a way. Remember when all the rubbish bins vanished from London mainline railway stations ?

A monastic Hawaii 5-O seen at St Emilion

100th birthday barbecue

at our place. 100th because I contribute 50 and Pat throws 50 into the pot, too. Merguez, chipolatas, ventreche and steak haché galore. 100th birthday duly celebrated in the presence of all Pat's siblings.

It's a bargain, innit

We were in this Carrefour looking for something to eat while the kids were in the waterpark with the Griffins. We wandered everywhere. There on the bottom shelf in the 50% off section, a breadmaker. We'd had a breadmaker in Britain, but it was one of the things we gave away when we got ready to come to France. ( We got shot of lots of good stuff and kept all the junk. ) Anyway there was no price, so I found Pat and showed her. It's a Slytherin, a brand you see quite a bit in France. So I found a young lady and asked her how much. She said she'd have to find out at customer services. Off she went. We followed slowly, getting to ready to say 'Merci bien, on n'le prend pas, au revoir, bonne journée.' But she said "ben, wé, c'était à vingt-neuf euros quatre-vingt dix-neuf, donc à quatorze euros et quelques." 15 euros. Really ? "Ben, on le prend, quoi." So there we are. A friend at church has been telling us how she saves a fortune by making h

Frogs in Focus

Thanks, National Geographical !

On holiday reading

The beach is not the place for John Owen, the Institutes or any other book like that. Read for fun on holiday. Read for fun. Rediscover what it's like to read just for pleasure.

The Hodgson family gite

Pat's family are staying near Bordeaux this week at a gite in Gauriaguet out on the A10 not that far from St André de Cubzac. I tell you, it's a classy place ! It has a pool with a solar panels and pipes to heat the water. It has a jacuzzi, a big garden with various little patio areas, guinea fowl and chickens that roam around, 5 double bedrooms, two of them en suite. Then Pat's brother and fiancée are staying in the heart of Bordeaux near Mériadeck in an appartment-hotel. It's our first time to meet Nigel's fiancée, they're due to marry in December just after Christmas. Yesterday we went out to see them and took them on a short tour of part of Bordeaux. If you walk the legs off them they can't get up to mischief. Or can they ? The plan is that on Thursday we have a 100th birthday barbecue here at our house.

Chez le Médecin

"A very good blood test. With a cholesterol level as low as that you have a long life ahead of you." Ah ! OK ! but my levels of the good cholesterol (thinks, le ou la cholesterol... is there an e at the end... oh who cares...) are low, too - I was thinking that we ought to eat more fish ? No, that's not important if your cholesterol levels are as low as yours... Well there we are - good blood and a happy doctor. I did wonder whether, if I got the doctor's prediction in writing, and if one day I depart this life in a sudden and untimely manner, whether Pat would have some recourse in law... Nah...

The weekend

A nice morning service, Patrick preached. There were a couple of new folks. We were together for lunch and it was a good time to talk about things here, the future life of the church, the challenges that face us and so on. A catchphrase developed "On attend la décision du Conseil Presbytéral". In the evening Ben preached and it as nice to welcome regulars old and new as well as the Gilbart-Smith family from Twynholm church in Fulham.

L'Administration Française ? Je l'aime bien !

Well I phoned the CAF (Caisse d'Allocation Familiale) and we are under the threshold for the allocation de rentrée. Nobody knows why they haven't received out tax return - it's an even bigger mystery when you consider that it's the 2007 tax return they base it on ! Still. I have promised Gwilym a new rucsac when we get the allowance !

Bach Brandenburg Concerto 2, 3.movement, (with an encore)

For various reasons : 1) the sheer fun of pairing clarino trumpet and recorder. 2) for all friends who have roblems with brian or heart. I am CONVINCED that a good dose of Bach or Mozart helps my brian-waves to get into rhythm in the morning. Moody Sibelius or sunny Dvorak is no use for that, but some nice obvious harmonies and very subdivided simple time signatures get the brian marching along... That's my theory and I am sticking to it.

It's an invasion !

Brenda , Valerie and Alan, Pauline and Martin, Jamie and Shaun, Hannah and Bryony, Nigel and Ina - that makes all Pat"s siblings plus spouses, offspring and others (also known as "rabbit's friends and relations") are installed in a very nice gite not far from St André de Cubzac. Well, kind of - Nigel and Ina are in a hotel in town. It's to celebrate the Davey centenary - 100 years of Pat and Alan this year. A barbecue is envisaged and the fatted calf is looking concerned.

Oh dear - here I go again with

l'administration française. I was talking with someone today about the need to get Gwilym's certificat de scolarité before the start of term to get his tram season ticket set up. She said "I have the same problem - I need the certificate to get the start of term allowance". "Oh ! Do you get that ?" "Well yes, you should phone the family allowance people." Well by the time I had got the codes needed it was too late to ring them (they shut at 4) so I looked on the website. It's all very clever. You used to have to declare your income to the tax people AND to the allowance people - on two different forms that don't seem to correspond at all. However a couple of years ago the tax people started to send your details to the allowance people and they automatically pay you what you're due. Except that according to the website the allowance people have no idea of our income. Clever system. But is it working ? Hmmm.

Wuthering Heights

If you're good I'll post the Kate Bush red dress video. So you can compare versions.

News of the English Patient

I texted him today and he and the lads are on a rest day about 30km from Sète. All is well. Bon voyage, chaps !

The next Britain trip looms

and I have started having strange dreams where I wake up in strange beds and am not where I should be when I should be... I must get organised properly straight away ! Meanwhile I have decided to skip the Calvin Conference in London. I was only going to do one day of it anyway.

La rentrée scolaire looms

and people are not content. The government promised a "rentrée moins chère", less than 40 euros per child, but they have not delivered. Regular readers will be aware of the dreaded "listes de fourniture scolaire" - the lists drawn up by teachers detailing the pens, pencils, paints, paper, pritt-sticks, perforators (?) and other paraphernalia needed for their classes. You have to go shopping when in a rather silly mood so that you don't mind hunting down the more obscure objects ( lutins, critérium ). This year I took the English Patient with me as a bit of cross-cultural experience. It's different this year. For one thing I got my wires crossed and took the wrong list to get Catrin's stuff. Thankfully most of it was ok anyway and the supermarket reimbursed me for stuff we didn't need. Then Gwilym's list is just textbooks. I don't know if they'll suddenly dump a surprise on us and give a massive list of other things to get... I hope not. F

Happy birthday, Powerpoint !

While the kids were at Aqualand

we found this beach at La Hume . Acres of sand, hardly a soul, on the bassin so safe bathing, lifesavers on hand, shelter and picnic tables, a little snackbar. Everything enyone could ever want.

Pylat sur mer

You have to be careful where you point your camera on French beaches

Lacanau océan


Dune de Pylat


Belle DS !

Our local Aldi store, not long opened, we found it when we took an unusual way home once, has a covered car-park. That's really nice in Bordeaux because when it's not baking it's pouring. And there was this lovely DS.

The "English patient"

works through the pain. You like the green.

Photo catch-up time

An informative tee-shirt.

Minister says "Ban the burqa"

The Minister for Urban Regeration is a muslim lady of Algerian descent, and she says the burqa should be banned in France.

Merci, monsieur le Président

M. Sarkozy wants to increase the Frenchman's spending power, so he has requested an immediate reduction in income tax, even if you don't pay any. This means the taxman is giving us money this year. 189 euros. I don't think it will dramatically affect our spending power, but it's gratefully received, all the same.

It's interesting how little we know about each other

The Sud-Ouest has an editorial about Sunday trading here. The writer is under the impression that in the UK sporting fixtures are banned on Sundays and that supermarkets are not open. "Sunday's closed !" he writes. It reminds me so much of when we first came to France on a camping trip. We Brits had been told during the Sunday trading debates that supermarkets were open on Sundays on the continent and that this had not at all damaged the peace and quiet of the "continental Sunday". After a last minute change of plan, we arrived on a Saturday and need to refuel, find something to eat and make a longish journey on the Sunday. And all supermarkets were closed ! With the fuel warning light blinking we eventually found an open petrol station in a village. We couldn't eat till we found our first Macdonalds that evening ! Now the French are debating liberalising their Sunday trading laws and our writer believes that in Britain everything is closed. Fancy ! You'

What a cracking day !

We delivered the kids to Aqualand for 10am - it had been decided that the expedition was going ahead despite fine drizzle on the coast. The drizzle cleared up but thankfully the day never got as sun-baked or as hot as the end of last week. Then Pat and I went off to explore. First we drove down the road to the little town of La Hume and found our way to its beach. LOVELY ! No, I mean REALLY NICE. The nearest thing I remember to it would be West Kirby, but with cleaner sand, better weather and even less commercialised. There was a little snackbar. There's a few campsites, but tucked away (and 25 - 30 euros a night !). There's a little marina with a passage marked out into the Bassin d'Arcachon. A playground for kids. Some isometric fitness machines for adults. Picnic benches under the parasol pines. It was just lovely. We scuttled off to find something for lunch in La Teste and at a bar-tabac-brasserie Pat had paëlla and I had tartiflette. The waiter was really good, the kin

Holidays - Aqualand !

It's a water park that we pass every time we go to the Dune de Pylat. The kids have always wanted to go there and today they get their chance. We're sending them with some friends who are having a birthday trip there. Meanwhile Pat and I will find a lakeside café and drink coffee and watch the world go by.

So what's the big issue with accommodation then ?

I'll try and explain why it's so difficult for foreigners to rent in France. 1) the law forbids evictions during the colder months of the year, so apparently sometimes students don't pay their rent knowing they can't be evicted till April anyway... 2) the law permits landlords to put a stop on tenants' or guarantors' salaries to get their rent... 3) you can only put a stop on a salary paid in France by a French company so people who intend to pay their rent from an overseas company or with money that comes from overseas are immediately a less secure proposition than a French student with a parent on a decent salary. In order to rent a place you have to submit a dossier. Typically this will include the latest tax return and three months' payslips (either yours or your guarantor's). If the dossier is accepted you then pay a fee to the agency (perhaps one month's rent) plus a deposit on the flat (typically one month's rent). Often dossiers are rejec


OK. This afternoon we're going to look at a possible studio flat for the folks who are coming to Bordeaux over the next months. The place will be available from the beginning of September, which is when our volunteer arrives. She stays till February and the flat needs to be taken till June, but it is possible that we can also place another chap there who is coming as a French assistant in some schools in Bordeaux. Exciting or what ! Please pray for wisdom for us, folks.

Pessac has been very quiet today

Partly because it has been hot enough to melt the toenails off your feet. Partly because it is the Fête de l'Assomption. This is, of course, the traditional belief, made official Roman Catholic doctrine in (I think) 1950 that Mary was taken bodily up to heaven, with or without having died (traditions vary on this and the Pope's decree is worded so as to hedge all bets). The book of Acts makes no reference to this event, though I did once see a cartoon strip of Acts where the cartoonist depicts John rushing into a room saying "Guess what ! Mary's just been taken bodily up to heaven !" You have to compare your translations, though, don't you. What does this mean practically ? It's a bank holiday, so lots of shops and businesses are closed and there's no post or refuse collection. There are festivals in the seaside towns where boats pass in cavalcade before local senior clergy to be blessed. There are fireworks in the towns surrounding the Bassin d'Ar

Tiny techno-moment two

Hurrah for Ubuntu ! Ubuntu 9.04 works happily on our bargain FT sell-off Medion Akoya (MSI Wind-clone) with everything seemingly working as predicted (with the possible exception of slumber - whatever you call it in English). Yahou ! The day draws nearer when Windows is a thing of the past in my life !

A tiny techno-moment - iPods so cool they ignite

It's been interesting to read reports of exploding ipods and iphones. An iPod in the UK caught fire. What horrifed the august subjects of her Britannic Majesty is that allegedly Apple offered the family money on condition that they said nothing to anybody ... i.e. hushed it up. Hmmm. Not too British that. What's the number of the Sun and the Mail ? A French iPhone was next, but this one put on a real fireworks display, shooting fragments of glass a foot into the air, and into the owner's boyfriend's eye. "My son has not lost his sight", his mother was reported to have said. Meanwhile iPod touch version 3 is rumored (sic) to be released in the next week or so - complete with camera if the rumors (sic) are to be believed. It all adds to the allure, doesn't it ? Not only are iPods and iPhones cool, but also you live dangerously - there's always the alleged possibility that your pocket could smoulder, ignite or even explode ! Wow ! Way cool !

Holiday 3

First day in shorts this year. Now I am like Rudolph the red knees reindeer. Still, another splendid day. It started off with excitement as we MAY have POSSIBLY found a studio for Liz when she comes to help with the student work. More on this if it develops. Then off to Lacanau to meet up with the Griffins on la plage centrale. The beach reminded me of a barbecue grill with chicken drumsticks all in a row. Many ladies topless and lots of smoking which kind of spoils things for me a bit. But everyone had a great time. Then some lads two rows in front of us signalled to us to ask if we had a knife to cut their melon. I said "a small one" and Pat hunted for it. In return they offered us some melon, but I refused. Then they pulled out a second melon from their bag and gave that to us. I thought this a very good deal. The chap who did the "bargaining" is a Kurd and we had the briefest of chats. Must say he had a lovely colour. He won't have red burnt knees. Then back

Departure as scheduled

The English Patient is on his train for Avignon to rejoin his companions on the long way to Barcelona. He'll be back in early September. Bon voyage !

Holiday 2

What a splendid day. I scuttled off to the church to collect our friend "the English Patient" and we assembled ourselves together to visit the Dune de Pyla, the highest sand dune in Europe. We had wondered if it would be too hot to visit the dune, but we decided to go for it anyway. So off for it went we all. We found a super spot in the car park and ate our picnic in the shelter of the oak trees, then launched our assault on the dune. The dune was crowded, sunny, but there was a pleasant breeze that stopped it from being too hot. After a bit of hanging around at the top of the dune we descended into Pyla itself and parked by the first beach we came to. It had pros and cons. Cons : Access was awkward. A very large topless lady. Pros : lovely clean sand, super warm water and boats slowly gliding round. Our first trip to the beach this year. Shame on us ! Then to a supermarket for ice-creams and for our friend to get the photo he needs for his youth rail card. Then home. E. P.

633 Squadron - Ystradgynlais Band: Eisteddfod 2008

Band prês Ystradgynlais yn chwarae yng nghystadleuaeth yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol. This brings back memories. Yaa-ta ta-ta-ta for what seemed like hours on end. And I have just realised that after words like cystadleuaeth, then Camaïeu shoudl hold no terrors...

Holidays day 1

A quiet morning followed by a trilingual guided visit round the new slavery gallery of the Aquitaine museum. Well, four languages if you count French, English, Spanish and sign language. Merci Didier, formidable. The only discordant note is the sheer number of battles between the French and the English. EVERY CENTURY they were at it - except the 20th. I tell you, I'm glad I'm Welsh ! "Nothing to do with me, pal, we was annexed in 1535... ça n'a rien à voir avec moi, pote, on a été annexé en 1535 " Afterwards we went to admire the finished paintwork at FAC. Trop beau, le vert et blanc. We suggested dashes of blue and yellow here and there and came close to death. Then we splashed out on a kebab at a kebabberie just round the corner from FAC near Bradley's Bookshop.

Phase one of lift-off

The English patient is on the launchpad, I mean at the church. The bike's fine, though the handlebars are a little scuffed. Our friend is feeling ready to depart and a bit fed up of waiting. All seems good. I reckon Friday will find him on the train to Avignon, accidents excepted. Meanwhile Daveys 2.0 sleep a lot ! But they're slowly regaining their energy, I think. Gwilym was pleased to be reunited with his guitar, Catrin with the multitude of guinea-pigs. I am officially off duty. We had anticipated zooming off to Normandy but we've ditched those plans and now expect to do short sorties hither and yon in the South-West. Biarritz here we come !

The English Patient continued

Well the poor chap's hand seems to be OK. Still somewhat painful but with normal movement. We have not yet submitted his bike to a full examination - by the time I collected him from Victoire last night it was already twilight - but there is just a suspected scuff to the handlebars. Beauty marred but function spared. But then it is a Specialized Rockhopper, and rockhoppers are sure to get scuffed. With the return of Daveys 2.0 from camp the English Patient now has no room of his own. Last night he started off on the sofa but then tranfserred to his sleeping mat on the floor - the sofa is just too soft after weeks of camping. So today we'll transfer him down to the church where he can have some independence and be more in the heart of all that's going on at the student centre. Meanwhile the main room at the student centre is undergoing radical transformations, with green and red paint appearing then disappearing in the continuing make-over.


The English Patient has taken a tumble on his bike. He had planned to rejoin his companions on Thursday just before Avignon, but his thumb is nicely swollen and who knows whether he's sprained his wrist or not. Poor lad !

Hey ! What's this !

We sent two lively children on camp. How come they sent us back two zombies ? Huh ?

The sparrow has landed, the children are home

having had, by all accounts, a splendid camp.

Well that was quite a nice Sunday

Pat is still struggling with what we have decided is "a heavy swine cold", so I left her laid out on the sofa. The English Patient was being collected to go to church at Cenon. He had planned to cycle or cycle/tram but after a storm on Saturday night it was chucking it down. I hurtled off to Anglade and got there in good time and the booklets I'd printed with hymns and readings in seemed to work pretty well. We were about a dozen. The English Patient ate with the students and came along to the International service. After our BUMPER WEEK last week we were back in the teens, but what we lacked in quantity we made up in quality. Didier, a new regular, found out that the papa of one holiday-maker family is a rector somewhere. Ah ! Reminds me of a chap who used to come to Deeside every couple of years. He came back for coffee after the evening service. "So what do you do ?" "I'm a Christian minister." "Oh, is that in a church, or in a mission situ

Oh am I glad that every day is not as weird as that !

Buying stuff in Ikea for the student centre. Ikea put a strain on the English Patient's burns, and it seems that maybe he won't be able to rejoin his companions on the route to Barcelona on Monday. Then home for lunch. Quiche cooked by Pat's fair (but diseased) hands. Then the English Patient phoned his parents for advice - the decision - ride to the student centre and see how it goes. Then Pat said "Alan, come here..." I followed the sound out to the garden and to the guinea-pig run where Pierre and Tom were. Pierre has been really putting on weight recently and a few days ago I said "Of course, he's not pregnant is he..." Well yes he was - and we now have FIVE more babies. We went off to the centre and found that the bordeaux paint that had been bought was ... pink as a rose. So we went off mob-handed to the DIY place to change the paint. It turned out that the man who had mixed the paint yesterday had put in the wrong colour reference, so they wer

IKEA with the students

We are off to Ikea this morning with the students as phase 2 of relooking the student centre. This could be interesting.

The English Patient

On my way to get my haircut this morning it suddenly hit me that it was a very good thing that I mixed up the dates when the kids would be away ! Normally we would have been away this week calling on our friends what live in the Dordogne but we did that last week with kids and all. And this week not only have we had the unexpected arrival of our welcome "English patient", so horribly burned that his own mother would not recognise him (at least not if she only saw his ankle - the part most affected) who we have been able to accommodate and Pat has been able to nurse through the crises, but also Pat herself has been struck down with a heavy cold / suspected swine flu.

A happy gang of students armed with sandpaper etc.

We converged on the student centre at about 2pm; Fiona, myself, Pete, Olivier and Yi Fei. First job, decide on the colour. The main meeting room in the centre has grey skirting boards. It is decided. They will be green. Then, remove the table. This has a stone top, so it's a major undertaking. Then take up the carpet. I don't know what colour the carpet is, but I do know it is ghastly. Underneath is a really nice parquet floor, but we will have to sand and varnish it *. Then a quick rub-down of the skirting boards while Fiona went out for the paint. Then we painted one of the benches just to see the colour when it dries, because in the tin it is like mushy peas. Then we left through the early evening heat to cook lamb chops, potatoes and carrots and get off to the prayer meeting. * This could be a job for Pete and Dave in September...

Bazzini La Ronde Des Lutins Chuanyun Li

"La ronde des lutins". "One for you", says Martin. Ho ho !

Help ! It's les listes des fournitures scolaires !

For Catrin all kinds of stuff. Just the thought of hunting for A4 Exercise book covers in yellow, red, green but not blue, plus intercalaires (how many sets ?) plus the stuff for maths... Wonderful for building perseverance, character and patience. For Gwilym a list of books. All except one are available from Amazon, some second-hand ! Hurrah for Amazon !

Always Gonna Get Ya

It's a while since I put any music on the blogue. Here's "Big Bad Voodoo Daddy" with 'Always gonna get ya'. It's cheerful, no ?

An unexpected visitor

Well that's a bit strong - not expected yet. Three guys from Bath are cycling to Barcelona at the moment. Once they get there two are coming to Bordeaux in September to help us with student ministry start-up. That was the plan. What actually happened was an explosion in a camping gas cylinder that put one man down with extensive burns to one leg. Ten days with no cycling. So yesterday I collected him from the station and last night he cooked us a splendid sweet and sour chicken. Today first call, the doctor, then we hope the student centre to see how his rest period could be put to good use.

Oh, there's people waiting outside.

Are you sure they're waiting for the English service ? Well that other family certainly is - they've got Bibles ! So we were 33 - mainly holidaymakers, from Finland, Holland and England, but also some first-time French people and a new student who's just arrived in Bordeaux. And would you believe that one of the Dutch couples knows our Dutch friends from Deeside !


on the roads. The problem is that the July holidaymakers are going home and the August holidaymakers are going away. All at the same time. This resulted in a huge traffic jam right through the middle of Pessac Alouette (because the main road two blocks from us leads to the beach) and an EVEN BIGGER traffic jam on the motorway leading to Spain (and also to the beach). A BAD DAY to be travelling anywhere in France, though I got to the supermarket and back OK on the back roads past the hospitals.

Catrin practicing for stardom



( Some photos below ) We went on Tuesday to visit our old friends from North Wales who have recently moved to the Dordogne. They live in a place called Le Bugue, south of Périgueux and east of Bergerac. Originally the plan was that we would visit them while the children were at camp - a way of taking our mind off the emptiness of the house - but I got the dates all messed up. Since the kids had to leave from Bergerac, however, it wasn't so bad, except that Ben ended up going to the airport by train instead of with us. Well I can WELL understand why everyone wants to live in the Dordogne. It's gorgeous. Think of the Lake District with hot sunshine and good food and you wouldn't go far wrong.

Repas gourmand au Bugue

On Tuesday evening we went down into the town of le Bugue for the repas gourmand. We ate before going, but took our seats on the long trestle tables and enjoyed the ambiance. Every Tuesday evening the town square is filled with trestle tables and then various stands set up around the outside : crêpes, casseroles, steak and chips, bread, wine, soft drinks, ice-creams, you get the picture. The crêpes were normal prices (2 to 3 euros depending on what went inside) and the casseroles about 5 euros. I didn't see the prices of the rest of the stuff, but it means that you could eat a nice meal for under 10 euros. Near the end of our table was a small stage whereon stood the entertainment for the evening - a guy with a guitar and a big selection of backing tracks. He proceeded to sing and play a vast range of songs from the 70s - 90s. Some of the locals danced and I reckon the local physiotherapists and chiropracters do good business on Wednesdays and that some of the folks would soon be o

The view through our bedroom window


Le repas gourmand, Le Bugue


Limeuil, in the Périgord Noir


Le Bugue (with dodo)


On the way home we stopped off at Périgueux

and visited La Cathedrale du Saint-Front.