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 :
1) extremely infectious. From 1 case to schools closed in 4 days is pretty good going.
2) different in different people. Gwilym was harder hit with fevers and pains. Catrin had malaise. I had a streaming nose and the worst cough (still there a bit).
3) not that severe for us. Here we are less than a week after onset and we're up and out.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I've got a cheek posting this, really. It's been wonderful weather here. This evening, with no heating at all in the house, the temperature is 18°C. In the garden some of the trees are losing their leaves, but in that glorious, yellow-golden way. But this can't last, can it ? Can we go straight from autumn to spring ? I doubt it. We'll see.
Meanwhile I tried to see if I could trombone or not, and I could - without collapsing in fits of coughing ! Then Pat and I sauntered off to the shops at Pessac Alouette where we found some nice scarves to perk up her dress for the wedding and also got a cake mix for this evening.
Bushed now, mind !
Catrin is coughing gently.
Every now and again I think I am OK, but then I try and speak or breathe and I start coughing again.
But we're almost there !
Friday, November 20, 2009
Actually I can hear Gwilym not only coughing but also practising his guitar, which means that his 'will to live' is on the up. This is a good thing. I began to be able to read yesterday evening. Before that I thought often of reading something but even that thought made my head hurt. I can hear Catrin coughing gently from time to time.
It's an impressive virus, this. On Monday I heard of one case here in Bordeaux, the daughter of a friend of ours. Tuesday morning Gwilym is struck with it, 50 kids in Catrin's school are sent home with it and Catrin and I have it in full swing. Thursday they close the school. That's a good turn of speed !
The vaccination programme is too late. I got my letter on Friday telling me to get vaccinated in the next fortnight. Even if I had had the jab on Friday afternoon, I don't think the immunity would have been in place for the arrival of the virus which must have been on Sunday or Monday.
Poor Pat ! Tomorrow is her fiftieth birthday, and we had planned all sorts of nice things, like perhaps a Chinese retaurant, and to get her birthday present - she wants something nice to wear to a friend's wedding in Alsace in December. We may have to postpone her fiftieth birthday to a more opportune time.
Meanwhile in North Wales the churches have been hit hard this week. Two young guys, both younger than me I think, both long-term seriously ill, both have died. Please pray for all the families and churches touched by this sad time.
Pray too for this weekend. As it stands I imagine the Daveys will have to stay out of things, coughing quietly at home. Ben will probably leap into the breach on Sunday evening. On Sunday afternoon there's an evangelism workshop at FAC which I was due to help with, but I imagine Fi and Liz are well up to speed on that.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Never mind. She'll probably be able to enjoy the free school hols next week (though she thinks that Pat is going to have to home educate her for a week - I haven't told Pat yet.)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
2. Phone schools and FAC Check
3. Place onions in each room - when run out of onions reject ham as substitute Check
4. Put onion soup on menu for lunch Check
5. Go to immunisation centre to be vaccinated (I know this sounds like too little too late and stable door stuff, but the quack said to still go, even if you 'come on Saturday when I'm there')
6. Cough and splutter (no problem there - poor Pat has had that going on around her all night !)
7. Post update for friends all round the world who pray for us. (Thanks, everyone...)
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Today Gwilym woke up with a sore head and a fever. We kept him home from school.
Catrin's school rang at lunch-time to say that she was unwell. A friend took Pat to get her, whereupon Pat learned that more than 50 children have been sent home today, all with similar symptoms of fever, sore head, etc..
OK - it's either 'flu spreading fast or mass hysteria ! Since our kids don't read the paper and I don't talk about the closure of schools and the spread of the disease, I rather suspect the former.
On the other hand, I think my vague feeling of a sore throat is entirely due to auto-suggestion...
Monday, November 16, 2009
I was doing the rounds to pick up all and sundry when the clutch went on the car again.
Spurred on by many tales of derring-do, and by the thought of the car being taken back to the same (expensive) Citroën main dealer, I drove it home without a clutch.
There's a knack to that.
I don't yet have it, though I was getting better ! I even stopped at traffic lights and restarted again.
OK - now to have a nice cup of tea and some tranx, then I'll get on the phone to various mecanos.
This morning: Letter received from schools. The Friday before the wedding is a training day for teachers so there's no school.
Yippee ! Choucroute here we come !
But at present all our expectations are doom-laden. It's the end. Well it might not be the end exactly, but it's the beginning of the end. Whether the sun will expand dramatically and swallow up the earth, or whether it means a global flood as the sea level rises, or whether it means drought and famine on an equally Biblical proportion, or the North-South Water Wars, or whatever, or civilisation believes that mankind as a species is terminally ill and entering the last phase of the illness.
In a way it's just the projection of our individual fate. We are born, we grow, we fade, we die. Every story has a sad ending.
Christians catch the virus. Look at our society: the diseases, the disasters, etc. It's the beginning of the cataclysms of the end-times, with the predicted persecutions and oppressions (before the coming of the Son of Man at a time we couldn't possible foresee. Hmm)
We find it hard to believe in a happy ending.
The Bible thinks differently. Ruth begins with Naomi surrounded by death and seemingly with the certainty of a lonely death herself as a refugee. It ends with her home amidst her own people, dandling her grandson on her knees, while all the women laugh and chatter around her.
Jesus' own experience tells us that he can turn seeming disaster into a happy ending. His disciples lost their master (briefly) but found in his resurrection a new hope they had never dreamt of.
When Jesus was warning his disciples about the Roman crushing of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem he told them "stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near".
Peter tells refugees who have fled from their homes and who face a "fiery trial", "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
Because one thing is sure - whatever the world faces, Jesus assures a happy ending.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I got safely to Anglade, though I was a little late arriving. A little late arriving for the English service, too. I am going to lay the law down just see if I don't. ( Ha ! )
Ben's preaching went well at Cenon, so 'hop, c'est parti'.
Voilà. A good weekend. Time for bed.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Présentateur : Quel est votre avis de la passion de Jésus-Christ ?
Personne : Bon, on a tous nos passions, la mienne est le skateboard...
Hmm - les mots sont souvent trompeurs !
Both are really great options. The mairie is officialdom, and an opening into officialdom in France is great.
Pape Clément is probably the biggest tourist attraction in the Pessac area and it's also where the vineyard scenes of the mission's film 'Bordeaux, Brittany and beyond' were shot. The vineyard begins literally just up the road while the château itself is a bit further away. They do tours of the vineyards and the château, and their email address is "luxurywinetourism" (yes, that's in English).
We weighed things up, Gwilym decided he'd be better off going to Pape Clément, and we agreed, so we wrote a nice thank-you email to the mairie and a nice acceptance email to Pape Clément .
Friday, November 13, 2009
Ooh ! We're playing this in the music school orchestra in two weeks time, I just found out, and I get to do the descending arpeggio ! Yippeee ! And we stop after the massive chord and before the violins have to start whacking their strings with the back of their fiddle-sticks.
I'd better practice the descending arpeggio, though. A bit. Especially since I don't ever go to any rehearsals!
There's probably other people playing it too. Especially since I don't ever go to any rehearsals.
Unfortunately I don't think you can get both done at once (though I could get the garden vaccine from the pharmacy and take it along with me to the swine vaccination centre and see if they'll stick me twice...)
I was late for one meeting at FAC, but I wasn't the last one there by far. Hmmm. That may not be such a good thing.
The big thing that would be a big problem is Blaye.
And I think the kids have found walking to the bus-stop and changing bus-tram a bit tedious.
But otherwise it's been great.
I went to the garage, enjoying my bus and tram ride and sort of enjoying my hike up the main roads of Mérignac - the website puts the garage too far towards the centre of Bordeaux... Got to the place and talked to the man.
garage man say that with the passing of time the diaphragm in the clutch mechanism becomes stiff, ( which would account for why all the hire cars you ever drive have such super clutches and your own is always so grotty in comparison ). It's not the clutch plate. It's the diaphragm that hardens. This then means that you have to use more welly to press down the clutch, which obviously stresses the cable.
He said 'You must have noticed how the clutch is super-hard ?'
Well kind of... But it does creep up on you, doesn't it, the passage of time... And to be honest with you I have driven worse !
Anyway the plan is to talk to my friendly brotherly mechanic to see what he says. If he says 'Oh boy, yeah you gotta change that !' then it's time to shop around...
Oh - and I have a quote for the new diaphragm. 919 euros. I'll scan it for you some time.
Fun eh !
Thursday, November 12, 2009
They suggest that this is because the clutch has become hard and needs changing (remember the guy's speaking French so I am translating mechanic's jargon...) especially since the car has done 150000 km (about 90000miles).
I said "How much for a clutch ?"
So I said to change the cable to begin with and we'll see how we go !
Merci Seigneur !
Now should we just accept the first people who said yes, or should we wait for the Grand Theatre, the Regent Hotel or Château Pape Clément to reply... The Mairie would normally be a cool place to be, mind, and it may open opportunities for the future...
Meanwhile Catrin and I scuttled off on the 7:44 for her to go to school and for me to get a book of school meals tickets. 52€, 5.20€ per meal. But I hasten to add that it is a balanced meal. (How much would it be for an unbalanced meal, I wonder...)
I meandered through Pessac admiring the swanky pavilion outside the cinema where the film festival "Il était une fois ... le communisme' is in full swing. I paused to take a photo of 'A Billes Et Vous', a clothes shop with a punny name. I then hopped on the next bus to the Alouette and decided to skip the stop by the Renault garage and walk through the park instead. (What is this life if, full of care, etc...)
I sauntered through the oak woods quietly, listening to all the unidentified flying birds, when I spotted someone lingering in the undergrowth..A brief toilet stop ? Something more sinister ?. 'Oh there's a dog nearby' thought I. None of it ! In fact there was another person nearby, rooting through the litter. Ha ! Les cèpes ! One lady was poking at the leaves with a stick and a carrier bag of delicious little mushrooms all ready to fry in butter. Miam Miam !
I got home at 8:30. Not bad !
Ubuntu 9.04 was great. But I confess that I had messed up the installation of Flash and so Youtube never really worked. This is more important for us because basically all we ever watch on TV is Sky news in the morning and then Youtube videos (mainly music). So it never worked under Ubuntu.
Under 9.10, however, installing Flash was a breeze and Youtube works just as well under Ubuntu as under Windows - maybe better because the OS is lighter, more efficient and quicker.
Installing new software is so easy under Ubuntu. And it is all free. And it runs fine on all sorts of PCs including the new old stock feeble old thing we bought off eBay for peanuts when the school said Gwilym needed a computer.
I spent the bulk of yesterday afternoon reinstalling Vista on a colleague's laptop. It worked fine, though I had given them the usual warnings (this normally goes wrong and takes three days to finish...) The student centre PC is in a constant loop of restarting Windows following a badly timed off-switch. and Windows 7 is too big and demanding to run on any of the Davey PCs - even on the fast one I have in my office.
Bof. I can take a hint.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The lower photo is also a Town Hall, but this time the gardens of the Town Hall in Bordeaux. Nice flowers, don't you think ?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Anyway I was very pleased to flash my card at the yellow box in the tram on the way home and I think that this evening instead of taking to car to the English class I'll take the bus and tram, especially since the nightbus home is so breath-takingly, nerve-rackingly, heart-stoppingly quick.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Ha ha ! Us and our little plans ! God overheard and took matters out of our hands !
Patrick is planning a service in conjunction with the student ministry, got Ben to one side and asked him to preach next week. Ben agreed (though Pat thought he looked a bit pale. I didn't even set eyes on him after the agreement was given !)
So there we are. B-day is next week, 17 november.
Between now and then is P-day. Pray for Ben !
And it struck me again that when we think of God as holy - yes, he alone is holy, yes, he is unique - but he is not alone. The Holy God of the universe is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So holiness never ever meant something that you find alone, in the corner of a cell somewhere, clothed in strange robes and chanting in the depths of your being. It always meant purity, truth, unity and love expressed in relationship - first within the trinity then within people made in God's image.
One of the good things about preaching in another language is how things strike you afresh.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Shostakovich in a good mood.
A conductor who keeps his coat on.
A contrabassoon and a nice big shiny tuba.
What could be better to end a Saturday and herald a Sunday ?
Friday, November 06, 2009
On Tuesday, after getting lost several times and being guided by someone at the end of his radio link, one of the bus drivers suffered a heart attack and died.
Today there's a lightning strike to protest at this and to urge the company to find a better way of operating.
The afternoon was taken up by a church council meeting to which I am invited though I am not a church council member - co-opted we'd probably say in anglo-saxonland. There's a lot to discuss, including the future for our buildings and so on...
That meeting finished at about 19h and when we went to the tram stop we noticed that the ticket machine wasn't working and neither were the info-boards. So we were glad when after about 3 minutes waiting a tram bowled up and took us to Hôtel de Ville. I was just in time for the evening Bible study, but more serendipitous, just in time to eat some really nice chicken stew prepered by Liz's fair paws.
The study seemed to go OK, then the bus de soir took me home at its usual breakneck speed.
Same old same old ? Perhaps... But we're convinced that God is at work in the routine, too.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Sunday, November 01, 2009
This evening Ben preached with his usual enthusiasm and a little less speed than usual (someone said something apparently) on 1 John 1. Kind of fitting in with me on John.
We're all cock-a-hoop because Liz and Adrien have gotten engaged. There'll be a little fête tomorrow evening but sadly I can't be there because I am off on my travels again.
Yes - I feel very spoilt even though zooming off again is a bit of a fag, even just Monday to Wednesday. This time it's the pastorale in the Cévennes. If you can imagine the Bala Conference with added chestnut conserve for breakfast and wild boar for lunch then you are getting close. The Cévennes are lovely, especially in autumn, and I have to admit that the food is better than Bala, though I'd quickly and readily swap the food and the scenery to hear a Bala speaker, of course...
As always the best thing is the conversations, seeing the guys. Each time you get to know people better.
At the end of November I'll be off to Rodez for the regional synod.
It's a tough life but someone has to do it.