les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dialog Veritas

So the first night I just went along and watched and listened. There were about 40 people there and the discussion time was good.

Last night I gave a brief couple of minutes about "Qu'y a-t-il après la mort?" and participated a bit in the discussion, then was the main speaker for "Dieu, si tu existes, prouve-le!". There were about 35 folk there and again the discussion was excellent.

Tonight I share the speaking with my colleague Michaël Razzano.

I have hunted for this quote from Sartre

« L’existentialisme pense qu’il est très gênant que Dieu n’existe pas, car avec lui disparaît toute possibilité de trouver des valeurs dans un ciel intelligible ; il ne peut plus y avoir de valeur de bien a priori puisqu’il n’y a pas de conscience infinie et parfaite pour le penser. »

Existentialism thinks that it's very annoying that God does not exist because with him dissapears all possibility of finding your values in an intelligible heaven ; there can no longer be any a priori "good" since there is no infinite and perfect conscience to think it so.

Find it in a bigger context here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Numb-day Monday phone call

This evening, tomorrow evening and Wednesday evening the joint forces of the GBUs, FAC asso and Agapé are putting on a series of evening discussions called Dialog Veritas, where sudents have been surveyed for the question they would like to ask God, the top five have been selected and these will then be presented and discussed.

Two speakers are booked for each evening.

Late morning the phone rang. Would I consider replacing one of the speakers, who is ill. I said "No" for this evening, and I'll get back to you for Tuesday and Wednesday.

After reflection I said I could do Tuesday (topics "God, if you exist, prove it!" and "What is there after death?") but no to Wednesday ("Why all the suffering?").

Thanks for praying !

Monday Numb-Day !

Well the weekend went OK.

It started with a church council from 10:30 to 16:00. For lunch I got nice sandwiches and a chocolate goo pud from Aldi for under 2 euros. The council had a good outcome - we're working on the progress of the church and on the call of the pastor.

Then preaching for the Chinese. They've twigged now that for small groups I don't see the point of standing on a podium speaking into a microphone, so we sat round the tables at the back and I spoke from Acts 4, obeying God rather than man. As some of our Chinese folk belong to house-churches in China the discussion afterwards was very real.

Pat joined me at the church after the council and we were together for the Chinese meeting because she's supposed to begin Christianity Explored with one of the Chinese girls, but the girl wasn't there. Oh well.

Home by 10:30 and off to bed.

Sunday morning I was in Blaye and we were dropping the kids off and picking up Sally at Cenon. The service went well, on John 6 - Jesus the true bread. Afterwards we drove through the rolling hills to Bourg to drop off one young chappie before wending our way home for chicken stew and apple crumble.

On the evening we were a good number - not quite 20, I think - and we were in the latter part of Acts 8, Philip going from the city to the desert to bring salvation to the Ethiopian eunuch. It was one of those occasions where I departed completely from my notes, partly because I was tired, I think, but it seemed to work very well. Certainly the Eunuch's question, "What stands in the way of my being baptised?" came home with a fresh force, with the answer - nothing.

One day I must use that question as a key to the whole passage...

What stands in the way of me

.. worshipping in the temple
.. belonging to God's people
.. understanding the passage I am reading
.. knowing God
.. etc.. finally being baptised.....

For those folk who struggle with the idea of salvation by grace through faith this passage was a god-send.

Then home to bed.

Today it's snowing, but hasn't really started to stick at all. We'll see.

Meanwhile I am numb from the neck up.
It's my day off.
I shall watch intriguing murder mysteries and maybe read trashy novels.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Le Pere Cent

So off went Catrin like the proverbial little lamb through the icy North wind to catch the 7am bus to school.

'The teachers have been crafty and scheduled the Bac blanc (mock exams) for today, so maybe that'll work...', she said.

Then at 7:40 an email from the school. Once more the entry to the school was surrounded by a gang of kids wielding flour, eggs, etc. Safety and the good functioning of the school could not be guaranteed and so the school would be closed.

Text messages and phones calls caught our girl too late. A gang of three "Terminale" students had followed her pelting her with flour, eggs and ketchup. She made her mucky way home and got showered and changed.

It's the Pere Cent, one hundred days before the BAC exams, when the final year lycée students run amok, cheeky chumps, pelting the other students with mucky things.

"Last year they had ballons filled with urine", said Catrin, philosphically thinking that she had escaped lightly.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Today is better

First the insurance office for a list of three things. Must not forget them..

Then I have meetings with different chaps at 11am, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm.

I hope also to see the new Philippe Starck bike at the town hall and to get some cloves, some raisins, some coffee pods and some white chocolate.

Crackerjack !

It's finding the right turn of phrase...

So yesterday. Yes. Yesterday.

The church here is ploughing full-steam ahead with the process of calling a pastor (with me pushing hard behind !).

That involves two documents. 1. Projet d'église. 2. Cahier de charges pastoral

(These would roughly translate into a church profile and a job description.)
Over the course of some weeks it has dawned on me that these documents would not materialise without significant investment from my part. So yesterday morning was "Cahier de Charges" morning.

I had two examples to guide me. One beautiful one from a church I know and one much more humbly presented one from a church I know of, but don't know personally.

OK. So off I went. Cut. Paste. Rewrite. Take the outline. Write your own blurbs. Etc. Etc. Etc.

The trouble with writing in French is that you can't just write in English with French words.
It needs to find a way more French to say the stuff. And projects are boys, churches are girls, the church is singular so it does things. A group is a single boy too, as is the government and the country. The police is a single girl. And so on... And it makes your head hurt.

Another problem is that to do this really I need the Projet d'Eglise.

I contact my faithful friends and advisors in Provence and the Cévennes and get back a projet d'église apparently for our church. But it's scrambled and I can't open it.

But hey ! - if it's a projet d'église for our church that should mean it's in my gmail account somewhere, because in theory it has been sent to all the church council, agreed by the church council and everything.

So begins advanced google searching. Eventually I find a document entitled something strange but which could be a projet d'église for our church.

And it is written like this. Lots of bold print. QUITE A BIT OF PRINT IN CAPITALS SOME OF WHICH IS BOLD TOO, and lots of quotations of the heidelberg catechism (4).

Hey, one does not reinvent the wheel, even if one does not like the colour !

I send it to my friend and advisor. He says "Well obviously that won't do ! Try this" and sends back a readable copy of the first document. I have never seen it before and it will need lots of changing before it resembles the church now (there's a lot about looking for suitable premises etc,) but it gives a starting point.

Ah ! Time to scuttle off to Bordeaux for my 3pm appointment.

With a guy who needs my help in writing 10 letters to all kinds of people in officialdom.
The waiter was very kind when he saw me quietly crying into my handkerchief.

At 4pm catch the bus back to Pessac for my 5pm appointment with the doctor.

Vaccination ! The doctor made me laugh. Have I told you he's exactly like Louis de Funès ?

Then home for pancakes and an early bed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Democratisation of technology

I don't know if you realise this, but I actulally love France a lot.

One of the things I like is the feeling French people seem to share that if one person can have access to something, then everyone ought to have access to it. You hear talk of the democratisation of things - which means the process whereby things become available to all.

Of course, this happens in various ways, but one example of French ingenuity are the French technology companies who make it their business to make cheaper, slightly less polished, more accessible versions of expensive high-tech gizmos.

Archos, for several years, have produced Android tablet computers. They aren't copies of iPads or of those Toshiba gizmos, but they cost a fraction of the price and they work pretty well.

Alcatel produce Android phones for the low-cost market.

And now Wiko. Wiko make a range of pretty decent Android smartphones in a range of sizes : the Wiko Cink at 3.5", the Wiko Cink Slim at 4", the Wiko Cink Peax at 4.5" and the Wiko Cink King at 5".

They lack the Gorilla glass and the kevlar battery covers of the equivalent Samsung or HTC phones, but they cost a quarter of the price. And they're designed, commissioned and sold by a Marseille-based company.

Well done Wiko !

Prayer letter on the way

The production of a prayer letter has several steps :

1) the period of reflection and prayer

2) the period of writing

3) submission to the family for approval and eventual corrections

4) submission to the mission for approval and eventual corrections

5) sending it out.

I've just completed 2, so we're in the more recursive and repetitive part of the procedure now.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Chez le médecin

(Incidentally, some of the folks down here give it three equal syllables - Mé-de-cin. Lovely.)

Anyway after I'd made another clashing appointment Pat reminded me of my doctor's appointment.

I went in. Did I tell you that our doctor is exactly like Louis de Funès ? Anyway.

"Je vais bien."

"C'est bien."

"Je pars en Afrique."

"Ah non !"

Anyway we proceeded to the negociations and discussions.

Risks of malaria and of dengue fever. (Does one say denngue or dengue - nasal vowel or not)

Cholera. ("It blows in from Mecca..." Ah bon ?)

Eating and drinking. Meningitis. Bananas, Coca-cola. Diarrhoea.

I left with a prescription for a triple vaccine and for anti-diarrhoea pills.

Renée of France - Book review

Renée of France, by Simonetta Carr, in the Bitesize Biographies series. Find it here on Amazon.

When you think of the Reformation, do you tend to think of big guys and cunning kings, weedy thinkers and bible-smugglers, councils and colloquies, politicians and popes and pastors ? The movers and shakers of the 16th century ?

Well this fascinating little book will make you think again about what the reformation meant for people caught up in huge events and trying to be adequate for the times they lived in. 

You'll discover Renée, a French princess married to an Italian duke from a ruling family. You might not feel that you get to know her very well, but you'll get an insight into her life and the struggles of the times she lived in. You'll discover her husband; he, too, walking a political tightrope. You'll read of pastors from noble families, trained at Geneva and sent to help noble households in living out the reformation. And you'll get an insight into Calvin, the letter-writing friend.

And you'll finish the book wondering how you would have fared in Renée's place, what advice you would have sent in Calvin's place, how you're faring in the struggles of our day - different, but no less real.

It's an apéritif, an amuse-bouche, a taster - a short book that will open the taste-buds of your mind and leave you wanting and ready for more !

Friday, February 15, 2013

A day at Toulouse

So the meeting of the Commission Exécutive Sud-Ouest was at Toulouse from 16:00 till 19:00. Toulouse is a 2 1/2 hour train journey and you have to get to and from the station at both ends, which meant I left the house at about 10 and got back just after midnight.

On the train I chatted with a charming elderly French lady who was reading a spy book in English. We got to know each other pretty well on the journey. She does the catechism for the young children "They give me half-an-hour ! What can you do in half-an-hour ?" I mentioned that in some of our seminaries now students are told that 15 minutes is the most you can expect people to listen for. "It's a catastrophe !" I agreed.

The meeting went OK and was pretty similar to things I've known in Wales.

Two scares. Firstly a missing student email from Catrin's school. That caused a nasty moment, till we contacted her and found that she had got mixed up with her timetable and missed one of her lessons. Then during the meeting, casually, "of course, after the death of Stuart Olyott..." "What?" I realised that it is another Stuart who died, an Englishman but with a French name...

I didn't have a packed lunch with me so it was a day of healthy eating. Lunch at Macdonalds. Supper at Quicks. (Well I did look for something else, but the station café at Toulouse is a Quicks burger bar.)

I stared at the menu. "Everything is horse ?"

"Oh no, that's in England !"

I preferred the Macdonalds offering to Quicks, but the apple juice was nice. I had a little wait at Bordeaux for the next bus, so I took some photos of the lighting.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Off to Toulouse

Today I scuttle off to Toulouse on the train for a Commission Exécutive (a committee meeting). I could get the train from Alouette, but if I do I'll have an hour's wait at Bordeaux for the Toulouse train, so I'll take the bus and tram.

The committee meeting is from 4pm to 7pm, but I've scheduled in a bit of extra time before it so I can parade around Toulouse a bit. Hope it's not too cold !

Roll slower

The powers that be plan to reduce the speed limit on Bordeaux' ring-road from 90kph (56mph) to 70kph (43mph). The idea is to reduce pollution and fuel consumption.

Till you see the ticket in your hand you're going nowhere

That was our rule at Honeywell all those years ago, and I think it still is a good rule, especially when it comes to vaccinations and inoculations, and especially when you'll have to pay for them !

However I now have the tickets for West Africa in March, so I must ring the doctor.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rain, rain, rain, rain and more rain

Which has unfortunately coincided with an unusually high tide, resluting in flooding in the town of Quinsac, not far upstream from Bordeaux. The river has been very high on the quays, too, flowing over the footpaths. And it's still raining heavily.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A long and unusual Sunday

This morning we have one of our special multi-lingual services.

The songs have been specially chosen for their theme and their suitability, but also because they can all be sung in French, Mandarin and English.

The theme for the service is Jesus, the Word of God. Very apt for a service of this kind.

And we are celebrating Chinese New Year, so there''ll be dim sum afterwards !

A long and varied Saturday

The day began with me getting up to cook some frozen croissants. It's one of the nice things about France, these frozen viennoiseries. The best ones come from Picard, these were from Géant Casino, but they still puffed up nicely and went golden brown.

I popped them in a bag and headed off through the morning gloom to the men's breakfast at church. AT the change from bus to tram there was to be a nine minute wait, so I preferred to stride through the deserted streets from the Hôtel de Police to the Palais de Justice tram stop.

As the tram crossed the Pont de Pierre the sun was rising. Nice.

Apparently the Pont de Pierre is sinking. This means that in one or two years' time they'll have to close the bridge to underpin some of the piers. This will cause MAJOR DISRUPTION as the only tram line that links the right bank (where the church is) with the left bank (where we and lots of others live) crosses the Pont de Pierre. Someone has suggested that this may precipitate a left bank church plant. We'll see.

Got to the church/ Put on the heating. Arranged the tables. Put on the coffee. Heated some milk. Boiled the water. Chaps arrived bearing cakes.

Yes. Another wonderful thing about France is the tradition of eating cake for breakfast ! There were two. An Apple Cake and a Marmalade Cake. Very nice too !

We presented the book "L'homme dans le miroir" by Patrick Morley that we propose to use. Patrick shared from Psalm 1. We shared about work life and family life. We had agreed to meet between 8h30 and 10 - 10h30 maximum, but one chap arrievd at 10h30, so we had another slice of cake and prolonged till just after 11h, closing with a time of prayer.

Back home and some donkey work to do ready for Sunday. Then at 3 off for the Big Band concert  at Bougue.

We arrived, did the set up. I had been lined up as back-up bass trombone (on my tenor - we don't have a bass trombone instrument) but Renaud had got hold of a tuba player with an enormous C-tuba, so I showed him his parts and explained the bits he needed to blast out.

The concert was at 20h30 so at 7 we ate a nice meal of roast pork and mushrooms, gratin dauphinois with bacon and apple tart, and watched the end of the rugby on one chap's phone.

One of the good things about being in France is that if France wins then that's good. If Wales wins that's even better. And it gave a good opportunity to tease me during the concert. I wore a red tie to celebrate and wished I had my red plastic trombone with me, especially as it has "Le Gallois" in the bell in stuck on letters...

The concert went very well indeed and we wended our weary way home with me apparently giving it ZZZs en route.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A late morning appointment and the 50c haircut.

I had an appointment this morning with a chap at 11am at the Réseau Paul Bert in the middle of Bordeaux. I've mentioned this place before, it's the place that does lunch for 4€ and also does massage, has cheap laundry machines, etc...

So I waded off to the bus stop through the mangroves in the park (we had torrential rain last night on the already saturated ground) and hopped on the bus to the middle of town. It started pouring again and I had no hat so I got off two stops early in distraction and got on the tram instead. ( I know. Nobody said this would make sense. )

Got to the building right on time ! No chap. Started trying to analyse the composition of the folk who were there. Mostly white men. Then came white women. Then black guys. Men outnumbered women by about 5 to 1.

One chappie caught my eye - he was parading round with a tee-shirt with lots of writing on, front and back.

It said : "Mens and womens haircuts 50 centîmes, long or short, sign up at the bar."

He stopped near me.

"You do haircuts ?" "That's right !"

"For 50c ?" "Yes."

"For anyone ?" "Yes, for anyone. Well, obviously not for you (laughing...)"

"And when do you do this ?" "Every Wednesday morning."

"And you're a hairdresser ?" "Yes, I'm a hairdresser..."

I ALMOST gave it a go. I do need a haircut. And nobody seemed interested in getting theirs done..

But I just chickened out in case my chappie came.

He didn't. At 11:25 I decided he wasn't coming and went home.

What have I got on next Wednesday ? What about a 50c haircut ?.

Bible Study at Blaye and a Fiat 500 TwinAir

Yesterday was the Bible Study at Blaye. To get there I was due to pick up a student on Work Experience from the church and so I reserved a car from Cenon Station. This has the benefit of cutting down the distance we travel in the car to Blaye, though it does mean a bus and tram journey beforehand.

The car turned out to be a rather natty cream Fiat 500 TwinAir. These little things are tiny cars with a classy interior and a new hi-tech twin cylinder engine. People have written about them saying that they're great fun to drive, but rarely achieve the fuel economy that Fiat lead you to expect.

Well we started off and the thing was switched to "Econ", which to me seemed to mean "Threaten to stall". So I filled up with fuel and turned Econ off, and the car was much better ! It doesn't go very fast, but it SOUNDS like it is ! Great fun.

The Bible Study was small but keen, a bit like the Blaye Church itself, and we prayed for the services at Blaye Town Centre and for various folk. Afterwards we hurtled through the vineyards to spend brief visits with two Blaye folk before returning the student to her hosts' home at Cavignac and the car to Cenon station.

One of my tasks this week is to get the sale of our car moving. The end of January brought the decision to sell the car for whatever we can get for it and to use the Autocool car-pool scheme for all journeys where travel by bus and tram is impractical. So far this is working out pretty well. If we find after a while that we really do need a car outside our home available at all times then we may lease a small car, if it turns out to be as cost-effective as it seems.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Service at Blaye

Growing ! About 20 people this week !

Saturday, February 02, 2013

What a clot am I !

So Saturday was going to be rushed, but perfectly possible.

Gwilym's flight was at 3:30 from Gatwick.
He would arrive at 4 at Bordeaux (due to the hour's difference).
The trombone concert was at 6 at the conservatoire.

That would give me time to get Gwilym home, dump him, get the car to the tram stop, hop on the tram and arrive at the conservatoire in time for the concert.

Have you spotted the snag yet ?

The time difference works the other way. Gwilym's flight arrived at 6, not at 4.

Aïe aïe aïe !!!!!

Not only did this make my masterplan impossible, it also meant that the car I'd booked was useless !
I didn't need a car from 15:30 till 17:00. I needed one from 17:30 till 19:00.
And none was available at Pessac !

So Saturday afternoon found me weaving my way to Mérignac to pick up a nice Peugeot 207.
Getting Gwilym, dropping him home and taking the car back were all accomplished within an hour.
Bruce, my American trombone buddy went to the concert alone.

We spent a nice quiet family night in.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Suffering well - the Predictable Surprise of Christian Suffering, by Paul Grimmond

Some books on suffering attempt a theodicy - a defence of God, a vindication of the ways of God with men. This book is aimed somewhat differently. Its goal is to build a theology of suffering from the Bible in order to prepare and equip Christians.

It succeeds well in this. It's a book to make you think about your life, about your witness, about the world and about Christ. Parts are really strong meat. I don't think I know many unbelievers to whom I'd give this book, and I think some Christians I know would struggle with it, too. However for most Christians this book would be very helpful.

There was one section where I wasn't entirely convinced - in the chapter "The surpisingly predictable surprise" where the author attempts to answer the question why the New Testament has no equivalent of the boosk of Job and Ecclesiastes. Alarm bells of continuity and discontinuity issues rang while I read.

The chapter on persecution made some very good points, though the title indicates its character : "Where's the persecution gone ?" Living in France probably has changed my perspective on persecution somewhat.

All in all a very good book. Thought-provoking. Searching. Edifying. A good one ! Buy it here.

The weekend ahead- exciting !

Firstly this evening PJB rehearsal.

Then tomorrow there's an open day at the new Auditorium with free concerts. The free concerts are all booked up, but it would be nice to look around.

Then at 4 the lad comes home from Wales ! I've reserved a car to go and get him from the airport.

Then at 6 there's a free concert at the conservatoire with a fancy trombonist from a fancy orchestra somewhere up north.

Sunday preaching in French am and in English pm.

It's a good weekend.

The good and bad of internet purdah

Good things !

No distractions !
No phone calls !
No mindless old soap operas !
No murder mysteries !

Bad things !

No online shopping.
No reserving of cars for travel to Blaye etc.
Dragging my laptop to the church to do above.
No murder mysteries !
No phone calls to Gwilym.


So our internet connection has been slow AND we have been paying a lot for our various lines and numbers. Pat and the children had been moved onto low-cost phone contracts. Now it was the internet and me.

Enter Bouygues stage left. I have my mobile phone with Bouygues so they phoned me to see if they could keep me as a client. During the discussions the salesman suggested we have fibre-optic at the house and gave an attractive price.

Our Free connection had been playing up for months, making the TV sometimes useless and the internet very slow in the evenings. We suspected a sudden influx of new clients in the new block of flats at the end of our street. We thought. Quickly. And said yes.

Bouygues delivered the fibre-optic modem and booked the appointment for the technician to come and install it. Tuesday 22nd January. I unpacked the modem and read the installation notes. Exciting !

Then a message. There's a problem. Please ring.

I rang. Fibre-optic is not available at our house. What do we want to do ?

Well we sure wanted to do something. The new Bouygues salesperson offered a super-duper price. I said "OK", even though we would lose CNN and BBC News 24. You can always get them on the internet anyway.

OK. The new modem was sent out and arrived. No date was given for the switch, however.

Then Monday 21st the line went dead. It coincided with a slight storm. Maybe it's that. Some hours later I contacted Free. They tested the line. It was dead. They said it'd take a while to restore it.

A few days later a message from Free. We have noticed that your line is dead. We're trying to restore it.

Then Saturday 26th a message from Bouygues. Good news ! Your line is activated. Please plug in your modem and off you go.

Whoopee ! I plugged it in. Nothing.

I waited. Nothing.

I rang the helpline. "Don't worry. It'll take a few hours. In the next few hours it'll connect."

The next day. Nothing.

I rang the helpline again. "You are supposed to wait 48 hours before phoning." OK. I'll phone on Monday.

Meanwhile I was somewhat annoyed that our internet had been cut without warning or giving us any date, so I thought I'd phone customer support to point this out.

"Sir, it's normal to lose your internet for a week when you change operator."
"Well don't you think your salesforce should explain that ?"
"We can make a commercial gesture of giving you a week's refund, though. And meanwhile I am sure that either today or tomorrow the internet will be online."

"OK. That's very kind, but we have been without internet or phone for a week and it's difficult when your son is overseas ! Anyway, We'll speak on Monday."

"No sir, you must think positive."

Well Monday 28th came. Nothing. So I phoned again. We'll send an engineer tomorrow.

Meanwhile the stories started coming in.
"My colleagues had Bouygues. Nothing but trouble."
"I only hear bad things about Bouygues."
"The Bouygues modems have endless problems."

Tuesday 29th - the engineer arrives. He checks the socket on the wall. "There's nothing."

"I know. It's a problem at the exchange, I'm sure."

He phoned his control centre. "Can you be in on Thursday morning ? We need to coordinate Bouygues and Orange engineers." Yes I could.

So it was that on Thursday another engineer came and checked the socket, then phone the exchange 250 metres away. It turned out that they'd plugged the wire in the wrong socket at the exchange.

"So tell me about Bouygues."

"Well the problem is their modems. 1 in 3 fail, and the support staff don't want to swap them out, so if you get one that fails you'll have huge problems."

"And if it fails ?"

"It'll fail straight away... Wait... Wait ... OK, it's connected..."

 Phew !