Showing posts from September, 2009

France Telecom making big changes after

24 suicides in 18 months - some with suicide notes citing company policies as the reason. Apparently one of the big demotivating factors is the common practice of "muter" workers - that is reassigning them to a different job in a different part of France. FT used to have a rule that people have to move job at least once every three years. Certainly it is quite common to hear of people who have to sell up and move from one side of the country to another because "Papa a été muté".

Start of English class

A good start... Can you believe it that when I explained slowly and carefully that we South Walians speak better English than the Queen, one of my colleagues at the student centre objected and claimed that this is not in fact true ! Thankfully their pronunciation is so bad nobody understood their protests...

Here we go again...

Bordeaux has the habit at this time of year of driving you nuts. It does it by freezing your toes off in the morning then baking you senseless by lunchtime. So in the morning you put on a pullover and turn on the heater in the car to clear the windscreen. But at lunchtime you need to cast off clothing of all description and put on the aircon. It's not neither one thing nor the other - it's both !

Back in the swing

Well I was preaching yesterday - Ephesians 4 : 17 - 24 part 1 - on being transformed by the truth. I was quite taken with the way the French translation talks about la justice et la sainteté que produit la vérité (the righeousness and holiness that the truth produces). It was good to be preaching in French again - good for me, anyway ! This week the student activities start up again so it's all hands to the pumps and here we go for a full wind. Tuesday evening English class - I am taking on the beginners this year. Wednesday evening Church prayer meeting. Thursday evening Bible study at Student centre. Wahay - here we go !

So many things that I miss about France

26°C in September, people who say hallo at the checkout, wedding convoys that hoot, listening to yourself speaking French and hoping it's not too laced with fôtes. But I don't miss mosquitoes that bite your elbow in September ! Then I miss the church, the student work, most of all Pat and the children. It's just SO GOOD to be back.

Even angels like to look into

the rugby stadium to watch Bath play at home. Where's Larry in that crowd ?

Sally Lunn's shop in Bath

Home of the celebrated Bath Bun. Tiens ! She was a huguenot refugee ! You can read more about her here .

HOW much ?

We Daveys all need to renew our passports before next summer. For French residents it costs twice as much as for UK residents. Oh well - I suppose we have to pay for the consulate staff as well as for the passport agency.

It's that time of year again

and my orders have come to go get my 'flu vaccine from the pharmacy and get myself injected. Oh well, it's a good thing really.

Cambridge - the mathematical bridge


How dishwashers really work - the proof

I saw this with my own eyes. The dog licks the dishes clean.

Castell Caerffili 2


Castell Caerffili

The tower was damaged by an explosion when it was being used as an arsenal during the English Civil War.

Patricia is very pleased with the stuff I bought in England to bring back

aspirins, paracetamol and ibuprofen. Well they're MUCH more expensive here ! I was surprised that they allowed my cornish pastie through the security checks at the airport.

Hitting the ground running

Thursday evening parents' meeting at Gwilym's school. Friday morning meeting of evangelical workers in Bordeaux at Eysines. Friday 11 - 4 open day for English classes. (I don't think I can be there, though.) Saturday (possibly) meeting with accompanists to plan Sunday's service. Sunday morning preaching (French - finish preparing Friday afternoon and Saturday !) I was due to preach in English on Sunday evening in English but Ben wants to finish off Ruth. I said, "hmmmm. OK" !

Back in Bordeaux

Sorry about blog silence over the past few days. Monday was spent in rest and recuperation with my sister and brother-in-law in Cardiff. I visited some of their new emporia in Llanishen, and very fine they are, too. Also a brief trip to Caerffili. Then Tuesday up to Deeside to speak at the prayer meeting. It is still just like coming home ! There's no church like it. A visit to friends Harman - it was good to see them and the little ones are now not so little - and coffee and talk with Rhys. Then off to South Wales - a stop in Church Stretton to get two pasties for the price of one. I had never stopped in this super little town before - the main road skirts the centre. Then to the Milsoms for talk and chicken. Then off to Emmanuel Newport. What friends of long-standing I have there: Robin and Trevor, Phil, Phil and Phil and of course Mr Harrison who was principal of my theological course. Overnight in Bath. Puffins ! (You know what I mean...) Then to the airport - my bag had put on

Silly me - but I might still be ok

Last time I came to Britain I brought an ENORMOUS bag. It filled the boot of the little hire Fiesta and I ended up paying excess baggage charge on the way home (I don't know why - there was very little extra in the bag). This time I brought a nice small bag. And I have bought: 20 little Bibles and 2 bigger ones. Packs of pants for me, Pat and Catrin. A pack of socks for me. Two DVDs. That's all. In addition I have birthday presents to take for Gwilym and Catrin and sundry other things I have been given to take home. So I have just practiced packing. I THINK I will be OK. I may have to jettison my vans , but they're broken anyway so if I do it's no great loss !

A grand weekend in Gloucester

Blue skies and all, for a super weekend at Trinity Gloucester amongst old friends and new. It was particularly good to meet up with my old fellow student Derrick Holmes as well as lots of other folk. We go back a long way. A very long way. Now I'm back in Cardiff briefly and I am in the home straight.

Leicester was super

It was great to see the folks at Little Hill - a great group of people. Previously I had the enormous privilege of attending a meeting of the association of evangelists amongst such worthies as Roger Carswell, Vinnie Commins, Nick Howard and others. Now to Cardiff briefly before going on to Gloucester. Starting to tire a little !

And so to Leicester

After two super evenings at Newtown then Shrewsbury and a brief excursion to the cheap shoe shop (they had nothing I liked) and the supermarket to find certain dvds (I didn't find them) and to M&S for drawers and socks (that worked - some things you can always rely on, I am off to Leicester this morning.

England's (and Wales') green and pleasant land

Oh, I tell you, it's breathtaking. I drove from Bath to Trowbridge on Sunday morning and passed through narrow little valleys, over the canal, past cottages with masses of wisteria, it was beautiful. Then today coming from Cambridge to Newtown - Powys is just lovely. Dumpy hills and little bridges, level crossings and lovely trees. It's a pleasure to drive through it. And I was listening to Iestyn Davies singing Handel at the Gregynog Festival. Nice !

Phew !

Poor Pat. Last time I came over we got our financial pants in a twist and ended up overdrawn in our current account. This meant that I had to get online at Peter Milsom's house and transfer money from our savings account to our current account to get things going again. Well this morning the poor girl tried to refill Catrin's tram card and the machine said "Payment refused". So she phoned me and I said phone the bank. The upshot is that there is money in the bank. The machine was just playing up. Just as well she'd done that because just now in Waitrose the till refused my card. Ha ! So I got money from the hole in the wall (which worked) and paid with that. Then bought petrol. And the card worked OK. Stupid machines. You get us all scared !

Briefly reunited

It's been good to see long-time friends again. (Sounds so much better than 'old friends', don't you think ?) Among the reunions was one brief encounter which was particularly poignant. I speak of our large stainless steel Thermos flask, which we left at the Henwoods' some time ago. They brandished it and filled it with coffee to animate me on my way from Bath to Cambridge, and I was very glad of it ! I think it enjoyed the journey to Cambridge and after i arrived I took it in the kitchen and washed it carefully. And left it there.

To Newtown

Today I leave England briefly and cross the border into Wales, going to Newtown. It'll be great to be there again, it is familiar territory for me. Years ago I was a member of an AECW working party and we used to meet up at Newtown. I used to take the opportunity to visit the Laura Ashley outlet shop to find any bargains for Pat. So it was that the famous "Sophia Loren" dress was bought - a super summer dress with a very full skirt and a fitted bodice in a white floral print - just the kind of thing Ms. Loren would wear. At one wedding in Chester Pat wore her "Sophia Loren" and Catrin was in a very similar dress that we found for her in Asda ! They looked a million dollars and almost (if it were possible !) upstaged the bridegroom's mother...


I scuttled into Cambridge to meet up with Simon to talk about student work in France, while admiring the mathematical bridge and wondering how much fun it would be to steal the pole from one of the punters passing under the bridge we were on. Tomorrow to Newtown.

It's a real privilege to talk in churches

about the work in France. And one of the things I notice is the sheer number of people doing French degrees. If all these folk link in with student work in France somewhere, or if they get stuck into local churches, then they could be a real help in situations where sheer numbers are often lacking. Today in Cambridge I have two simple things on my agenda. Firstly to meet up with a chap who's doing a French degree and is considering coming to Bordeaux to work alongside us in student outreach. Secondly to visit a bookshop I used to love - Heffers on Trinity Street. Anything else will be a real bonus !

Well there we are...

North Bradley this morning - a lovely drive there through chocolate-box countryside. It was great to see Ben in native habitat, obviously settled, happy, loved and loving it. And David Lansdown - a great kid grown up to be a great guy. Journey went ok - I stopped in the services and drank my coffee, then used the loo, then napped for 20 mins. Rock great. Nice bunch, nice questions. Good to see Matthew in native habitat, obviously settled, happy, loved and loving it. Then CPC. Nice bunch, nice questions. Great to see Iain in native habitat, obviously settled, happy, loved and loving it. Now tired but happy !

The long trek

Most times that I come to Britain I have one day that is just silly. Today is that day. I begin in North Bradley in Wiltshire. I then travel to Rock in Cambridge. I finish up at an after-church event in Cambridge. I hoep to fill a flask with coffee and, depending on how good my progress is between Wiltshire and Cambridge possibly find somewhere for a quick nap on the way. Thinks: must remember to park the car before starting the nap.

Sshhhhh !

No-one's up and I am sleeping in the room where the computer is, so I am watching the Proms on the BBC iPlayer. Stravinsky Orpheus. Pity there's no Doctor Who available.

Second hand car prices

This brief reflection is sparked by 1. the theft of a friend's 20-year-old Fiat Uno 2. seeing a 1991 Renault Clio on sale for 1500€ 3. seeing a much younger Peugeot 206 on sale for £1500 Second-hand cars are MUCH more expensive in France than in the UK. I think it is probably better to say that cars are under-priced in Britain, maybe because they don't last as long. There are surely other factors. For example I was once told that the entire cheaper end of the car market in France is lacking because so many old cars end up in North Africa. The prime a la casse scheme will also inflate the price of second-hand cars, because now any and every old banger is worth 1000€ if you trade it in.

So here I am in England

I had a nice flight over except for one brief spell where the captain explained that we were passing through 120mph winds (like wading through a 120 mph river) which made the plane bounce around a bit. I was squashed in between two very substantial gentlemen but I had legroom. The airport at Bordeaux was FULL of people. I bumped into an old friend, le petit Suisse , who explained that some flights had been cancelled that morning due to technical problems. At Bristol airport I had just seen someone who looked like an older, larger version of Bill Farrell when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Gerard and Jacqui, on their way to a wedding in Budleigh Salterton. We walked to the car hire place together where I picked up my very basic Polo. It's fine. Busy roads to Bath. Radio 3 (sorry, I know sometimes it drives you nuts, but I miss it. I haven't found a station like it in France. Here everything seems to be Classic FM style) A nice meal, Marguie and Rupert came round, whic

The thing is: I have LISTS, I have LISTS

You know that feeling you get when you're sat in the airport and you just KNOW you have forgotten something VITAL ? Well it's 7h30, I don't fly till 4 and I am sure NOW that I will have forgotten something vital. This despite having : 1) a list of what to do before I go 2) a list of what to pack 3) a list of what needs to be on the portable computer 4) a list of where I am going with contact details and addresses 5) a list of documents I need to have with me 6) (now) a list of all my lists. I suppose being obsessive and compulsive only becomes a disorder when it leads to you being disorderly...

Just when you start to get used to it...

Shock ! Horror ! Probe ! Certain churches in France are banning "la bise" or even shaking hands because of the fear of an epidemic of swine 'flu ( la grippe porcine in French). One of our chaps even said "There we are - the French will change their habits and give up doing "la bise" . One large church had a medical expert to do a spot on Sunday and he advised that shaking hands was too risky and that la bise (basically you touch cheeks, going from left to right, while air-kissing) also has to be banned for the moment. Instead people should greet à l'anglaise with a curt nod, a grin and a discreet wave of the hand. As the Newly Adapted English Bible says "Greet one another with a curt nod and a discreet flick of the wrist". Frankly I can't see that la bise is going to be a major cause of transmission ! Shaking hands, yes. We all need to wash our hands a lot more than we do and keep them out of our noses and mouths (especially nose fol

One of the things I'll miss while I'm in England is

my occasional music session with Catrin. Catrin's Prof de Flûte gave her a load of duets, one of which lends itself particularly to playing on flute and trombone - the Can Can from Orphée aux enfers by Offenbach. We have been picking away at this a little for a while and I think I can say that the results are quite effective. On my return, if I can persuade Catrin, perhaps we could pop a video on for your appreciation.

24 hours to take off

and our poor printer is working overtime. 'Not again', thinks the printer... Meanwhile rentrée (back to school) scheduling problems reared their ugly heads - but I think they have once more subsided.

Irrational fears and church visits

I have lots of irrational fears related to church visits. One includes forgetting to arrange somewhere to stay overnight and ending up arriving somewhere looking like I slept in the car. Another includes arriving in a town and not knowing where to go or who to contact. So this morning I am trying to tie down all those kind of things. Addresses, phone numbers, etc. Also messages, notes, powerpoints, leaflets, short films. Lists of things to take ( how many shirts ?) etc.

La rentrée - so far so good

Catrin seems pretty at ease in her new class. One girl wrote her a very sweet note at the beginning of term and now we can see all the marks she gets in every subject on the internet using our own special code . I suppose this means that we could send weekly letters to the school commenting on whether marks are falling (inefficient methods) or rising (dumbing down). Gwilym has changed school and he also seems happy. Yesterday he had school lunch - spaghettis carbonaras followed by a chocolate doughnut. OK - it is probably not as balanced a menu as at his previous school but it cost less than £5 and he ate it. He mentioned liking his art teacher, who is 62 and on his 35th rentrée, and who said of some artist "ce mec il est mort et..." . Meanwhile at the music school the text book for their theory of music class this year costs 29.95€ . They're both in the same class, so I just bought one copy ! The teacher may not like it, but he'll have to lump it. I'll buy anot

Even more strange and wonderful

Talking about Bordeaux churches last night - a city of a million people, perhaps 60 churches that would fit in the broad evangelical spectrum, including many "ethnic churches" - linked to a particular African country, or Spanish, Portuguese or Gipsy churches, and many "micro-churches" of ten or fewer people. And one British-Israelite church. I asked, incredulously, "that believes that the English are the ten lost tribes ?" "Yes, the Anglo-Saxons..." "And these are FRENCH people who believe this ?" "Oh yes !"

Strange and wonderful

Well on Sunday evening I mentioned our friend who's moved into his 17th floor flat but needs furniture. Monday - I get a phone call - someone I have never met is moving out of the area and is getting rid of a sofa and a table and chairs. Monday evening - another phone call - cupboards, a bench and some single beds are available on loan. Tuesday morning - a nice double bed, currently stored at someone's house, is available. Wow !

Oh joy, oh bliss - mobile phones !

I am due to go to Britain soon, and the last time I was there, although my International Roaming option is set in my Orange phone contract, the phone found the networks but was not authorised to connect. So I went to an Orange shop in the UK. Of course, it's a different company and they couldn't suggest anything. I looked at my Orange account online and there was international roaming writ large. So I paid a couple of quid to get my phone unlocked and bought an Orange Pay as you go sim card for a fiver, just to get me going. On my return I went to the Orange France shop. Oh yes, they said, it's set up on your account but we can't explain why it didn't work. You'll have to phone tech support before you leave for Britain. So just now I phoned Orange tech support. Oh no, we can't do anything now. You'll have to phone us from Britain. I think I'll change phone operators...

Hurrah ! One more nation finds the better way !

Phew !

Last Wednesday the week got into 5th gear and didn't change out of it till this morning ! For me the highlight was on Saturday evening when I was at a garage trying to get the fluid topped up in the power steering and discovered that I needed to scuttle off and let someone into the church. I took to the roads and sat stock still for about 15 minutes because they'd closed the Pont d'Aquitaine and the whole of Bordeaux ground to standstill. (I left the rocade and bullied my way through the town centre - which worked far better). Anyway this morning maybe I can catch up with myself and perhaps even answer some of those emails I've ignored for a few days (sorry folks!). The weekend ? Very happy. The morning service at Cenon was full to bursting, lots of new students had found the place via the internet. At Anglade we were a smaller group but in good heart. In the evening we were 17, again from all over the world. Someone remarked on how after the international service you

Anticipating a happy day

This morning I'll be preaching at Anglade in the Blaye area. Pat's doing the nursery at Cenon so I have to drop the family off on the way. Then after the services I'll pick 'em up again, and we have Fiona, Pete, Dave and Liz coming for lunch. Ephesians 3:14 - 21, Paul's prayer this morning. This evening I'm leading the English Service. I forgot to send out the email telling people the service is on, but I think people know anyway ! Philippians 4:1 this evening. Gwilym's playing for accompaniment. It'll be a festive day.

From the 17th floor


Airbus A380 on board

From my traffic jam on the pont de pierre.

so the car is serviced for almost another year...

I asked our mate who's a mécano whether he knew anyone he could recommend to service the car. It's always good to have someone recommended. "Bon, me", he said. So he came today. I'd bought the oil and the filters - in trepidation because I don't know the brands in France. Is Motul better or worse than Feu Vert ? Anyway he was pleased with what I got and Gwilym acted as his gopher and stuff as the filters were changed and the brakes inspected. We then paid him and fed and watered him and sent him on his way with our thanks, a blessing and a cheery wave. Gwilym may also be one step closer to getting one of his work experience weeks arranged - he'd quite like to work in a garage for a week to see if his passion for cars could turn into a passion to be a mécanicien. I feel so much better when I've had a look in the oil filler and seen the brake shoes and things. It's great. "Fine", he said, "you'll get another 300,000 km out of this.

Well after all the excitement and charging round of yesterday

today is about preparing to preach twice tomorrow ! Oh yes !

Signing up for the local music school

One of the joys of the rentrée is signing up for the local music school. You have to go along to a meeting for every instrument/pupil and negotiate to try to secure a convenient day and time for your lesson. For me this means four meetings : Catrin for flute. Gwilym for guitar. Alan for trombone. Catrin for children's choir. Since I have to go anyway I volunteered to do some of the clerical work for the school (it's a club at base - an association), filling in people's forms, working out their bill, taking their cheques, etc. It's a good way to meet people etc. So Catrin is signed up for flute, but we don't yet know what day or time. (Don't ask !) I am now signed up for trombone. That was funny. We "clerks" were at the back of the room and in the opposite corners were two desks - at one sat the clarinet teacher and at the other the prof de trombone. I'll pop a photo on some time, when I've got it off my phone. Basically the clarinet teacher was

Mr.Sandman for Trombone Quartett

A fitting little melody for bedtime

Well that was exciting !

Sometimes you are just aware that God has taken charge of your day. Today I had a meeting 9:30 - 11:30, followed by a lunchtime meeting at FAC, followed by helping someone move at 14:30, followed by a meeting this evening at 18:00. Also the English Patient returns today. I thought "This'll NEVER work out." Well all went well till the lunchtime meeting overran, so I rang Pat who was meeting me at Saige at 14:30 to help move our friend (she'd forgotten) and she went there while I hopped on the tram. When I arrived I discovered that due to a slip-up our student friend didn't yet have the keys so my lateness was no problem at all. Our friend is an overseas student whose wife and child are joining him this weekend. You may remember that I went with him to the town hall in Pessac when we were trying to find him a flat. Well he has a newly decorated place on the 17th floor of one of the towers in Pessac. It has a nice lounge with a kitchen attached and round the other si

The good news first, then the bad news

Last night Pat got a message from the family allowance people and it looks as if we ARE eligible for the allocation de rentrée. Hurrah ! However last week I got a message that said that there's been a mistake with our pay slips for the past two years and they'll all have to be redone, AND that when the new ones come we will certainly not be eligible after all for the allocation de rentrée, but we will possibly be eligible to pay two years' worth of income tax. Ah. OK.

Spot on, Carl

Click on the LINK . Click on the LINK .

"Sanity" restored - thanks for your prayers

7am: Good morning. I'm calling to ask what time the inforéseau bus is at Pape Clément today. Ah no, that was yesterday. Oh. So to set up a season-ticket I have to come to the city centre ? Yes. The thing is, I don't have my son's certificat de scolarité yet. You don't need it for an season-ticket, just for a renewal of the youth card. Really ? Yes. And the queues ? Mmmmmm. It's hotting up. 8:25am: I am on the tram armed with : 1) Gwilym's old TBC card 2) A passport photo of Gwilym just in case 3) the season ticket form duly filled in and signed by Gwilym in his sleep 4) the chequebook 5) a RIB (don't ask - if you ever come to live in France you'll know soon enough) 6) Catrin's old TBC card 7) Catrin's certificat de scolarité 9:15am I am at Quinconces. Use the loo. Join the queue. It's short. It moves quickly. They check my documents. You don't need this photo. I thought so, but I brought it just in case. Wise. You never know... I join the

How to drive Alan nuts

OK. To get to school Gwilym is going to take the tram, and he'll need a season ticket at 14€ a month, plus a youth card. Youth cards expire on 31 August - cunningly timed to coincide with the new school year which always begins around the 1st of September ! To renew his youth card he has to have a certificate of scolarity, which you get from your school (he needs this even though school is compulsory for 11 to 16 year-olds). The tram company says "Don't leave it till last minute ! Get your youth card early and avoid the queues." However the school was closed till last week, doesn't answer the telephone and doesn't reply to emails. So tomorrow I hope to scuttle along to the school and BEG for his certificate of scolarity (even though he doesn't start school till Friday), then either I hope to go along to the tram infobus in Pessac at Pape Clément (I saw in the paper that it's there but the tram website doesn't confirm that) or I'll have to go to

Well whaddayaknow !

When I done my French A level we did the AS oral with our own teacher, but there was an external examiner for the A oral. I went on about nuclear power-stations and stuff, and we had quite a nice talk together. Then a few weeks later I was in an EMW committee meeting (oh how I miss those) when Hywel, one of the EMW glitterati, said "I was talking to your A level examiner the other day." Turns out the chap is from Hywel's church and when they had been cycling past Deeside college (happy days !) he'd said to Hywel that he'd had a local pastor doing an oral and Hywel said 'I know him." Well anyway this august examiner has just sent a message on Facebook. There's lovely isn't it. (Sorry about the gender mistake on purse. I don't carry one, see...)

Hans Rosling: Let my dataset change your mindset

We live in wonderful times.

Thanks, Justin, for reminding us of this

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, commenting on Phil. 1:10 ("that you may approve what is excellent," or "that you may have a sense of what is vital"): The difficulty in life is to know on what we ought to concentrate. The whole art of life, I sometimes think, is the art of knowing what to leave out, what to ignore, what to put on one side. How prone we are to dissipate our energies and to waste our time by forgetting what is vital and giving ourselves to second and third rate issues. Now, says Paul, here you are in the Christian life, you are concerned about difficulties, about oppositions and about the contradictions of life. What you need is just this: the power to concentrate on that which is vital, to leave out everything else, and to keep steadily to the one thing that matters. The Life of Joy : Philippians, vol. 1, pp. 54-55.