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)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Alan's salon

Well Gwilym wanted a sort of modified flat-top cut. That I needed to work out myself, but the clippers on the back and sides, then the thinning shears are very forgiving.

Catrin wanted a pixie cut, which meant taking LOTS of length out of her hair. For that I needed help, so I watched a Youtube video by the salon guy and then cut with the straight shears, using scissor over comb to remove unevenness, a few moments of fervent arrow-prayers and then light use of thinning shears to give a more natural feathering to the back and sides.

She looks very pretty. I feel very thankful.

Meanwhile the doctor came and recommended massage, ibuprofen, stretching etc.

How to change your way of thinking in four easy steps

Read here.

Quand des musulmans épousent la foi chrétienne

Mrs Davey's back

is inflamed again, not in the same place, slightly higher up, but with the same consequences - spasms, intense pain, stiffness, immobility.

The evening service was to be held here with a meal afterwards. To be honest, most people are away visiting folk or travelling - so we cancelled.

We had a nasty moment with a pain-killer called tramadol - after the second dose Pat became faint and ended up on the floor on her knees. She didn't take a third dose.

The doctor will call later this morning or early afternoon.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

For those who have kindle e-book readers etc.

Here is a link to lots of free books in kindle format.

Of course, Project Gutenberg is a huge source of useful texts.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Biscuits and whisky de Borbon

Read about Bourbon here

Benches and beggars

The issue of homelessness is always to the forefront here. Here are some of the various ways it has manifested itself recently.

Firstly the restaurant where we meet on Sundays is regularly visited by a homeless chap who is quite well known on the streets of Bordeaux. He looks and dresses like Albert Finney's Fagin, like an old-fashioned tramp, really, draped in layers of roughly cut blanket-waiscoats. He comes to the restaurant and from outside the door pops something through and hooks it by the door. The idea is that we accept what he gives and give him something in return, perhaps an ash-tray or a spoon - ideally some money. He once gave us a whole brioche that I assume someone else had given to him.

Secondly, I know a chap who is a beggar by profession. He speaks of the people who give to him as his clients, and he knows their habits and he makes sure he's at his post, outside a certain shop, when they will be passing. He lives in a hostel and also has certain allowances paid to him by the government. He's certainly not a drunk, he looks after his health, he does OK and he gets invited to people's homes during the holidays. It's his way of life. At his age, around 60, he'd find it hard to get a job, I suppose.

Thirdly during a recent discussion we got onto the subject of beggars in the streets of Bordeaux. People used to station themselves at the Post Offices to open the door in return for some money, but the Post Offices have been refurbished with automatic doors to send the beggars away. Interesting. But during the discussion one English lady who's lived in France a very long time said, "But there are no hungry people in England. If you have nothing in England the government gives you money, so nobody is hungry in England." When I had an opportunity I told her quietly of my many friends in England who are involved in running food banks because so many people are hungry.

Then I was very shocked to see an initiative taken by the town of Angoulême, a couple of hours north of Bordeaux, where the town hall decided to put fences round th benches to prevent homeless people using them. Apparently certain folk drink there - it's forbidden in Angoulême to drink alcohol in the streets - and the town hall thought the best way to tackle the problem was by fencing off the benches. Madness. I read this morning that they have taken away the fencing.

Church visits programme 2015

Alan plans to visit the UK in April. Here's the dates and the churches that are on the list so far:

April 1, Wed - Borras, Wrexham
April 5, Sun - Saint Mellons, Cardiff
April 7, Tue - Ebenezer, Swansea
April 8, Wed - Bay Church, Cardiff
April 12, Sun - Ebenezer, Cwmbran and Upton, Chester
April 13 - 16 Banner of Truth Conference
April 19, Sun - Freshbrook, Swindon

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Oh no! They wanted us to sing "O Holy night" as a family quartet!

In retrospect we should have had a go. It would have ended up very funny indeed.

Instead we done "Ark the 'erald".

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Je vais te dire une chose"

This has for some time been my favourite French expression.

I usually reply, 'Très bien, dis-moi une chose."

And usually people start laughing.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Culinary innovations in 2014

perhaps the most life-changing has been porage with water.
Add a little honey, or a mashed banana. It's great.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas events

are not as big for us here since a good number of our folk are students so they travel home for Christmas. But we had a good Christmas evening on Friday with two new faces - neither of them students - and this evening is Carols at Dan. Lots of our usuals have left to be with their families for the holidays, but we'll see who we get! We will probably have some newcomers and we may have some of our old friends visiting Bordeaux again. We have great songs lined up and a great message to celebrate!

Saturday, December 20, 2014


So far so good.

Positive things:

Apparently they don't look ridiculous.
They feel quite comfortable.
Distance vision is amazingly better. Just amazing! I can see so much more clearly!
If I wiggle my ears I can make them pulsate on my face.

Less positive things:

I look like my sister. My elder sister. Ten years older than me.
They're zoned,
so for distance you look through the top of the lens,
for a computer screen through the middle,
and for the keyboard or a book through the bottom.
It means you tilt your head more than before.
Sideways glances don't really work. You have to turn your head.

I'll get used to them.
And for the moment if I don't put them on it isn't a disaster - I can still see, though not as well.
So I have time to get used to them gradually.

Thanks David Murray for highlighting this - five of the best free Bible study tools

Find out here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Well my specs have come

and I am going to be moving my head a lot more in future!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My colour-blindness

Here's a video on what it's like to be colour-blind.

My experience and description would be similar. I can see colours, but I see them differently from other people and without the nuances that others have. Two examples :

Red. I see bright red fine, but for me it isn't a bright colour. It's got about the same brightness or force as brown. So that means that in the UK I can't find post-offices or post-boxes, because the colour just doesn't stand out. A friend once asked me what kind of tree that was with all the red berries. I said "which tree? do you mean the rowan?" I couldn't see the berries, but I knew the tree by the leaves. Once I got close enough to see the shape of the berries I could see the colour well enough, but it just didn't stand out against the green.

Nuances. It is not wise to ask me to buy bananas because they go from one degree of yellow to another as they ripen. I can't tell the green of an unripe banana from yellow. I can see green. Grass green. Sage green. Bottle green is brown, of course. But unripe banana green is yellow. That's probably why I like my bananas spotty!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My favourite novel of 2014

(To be clear, I mean the novel I read in 2014 that I liked the most.)

Again I've had to joy and privilege of reading some very acclaimed books in 2014, among them:

Blindness, José Saramago
Hopscotch, Julio Cortazar
Dear Life, Alice Munro
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Sparke
Life after Life, Kate Atkinson
Quartet in Autumn, Barbara Pym
The Royal Game, Stefan Zweig
Home, Toni Morrison
The Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer
The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka.

I read this last book in the bus. I read it in the tram. I read it while waiting for an eye-test. I was reading it when a friend arrived to meet me (What are you reading?)

But the book that made an impact on me and gave me a new author was A Soldier of the Great War, by Mark Helprin. I like his prose. It's like water-colour. Transparent, clear, light and yet somehow very graphic.

Monday, December 15, 2014

My Favourite Christian book in 2014

This would have to be Tim Keller's "Prodigal God".

In 2014 I've been very privileged to be able to read some excellent Christian books, as well as some that were not so good and one, I think, that was frankly dreadful.

Why choose Prodigal God as my favourite?

It's not just because Tim Keller lives in New York, likes jazz and is one of the Gospel Coalition Leaders. (I didn't like his book on Judges very much)

It's because, just when you thought it would be impossible to say something new and fresh on the parable of the prodigal son, Keller arrives with a view so full of grace and Christ and the gospel that it became immediately my favourite book to give to any Christian who hasn't read it, especially if they might not have quite grasped the gospel.

And it did me good. And I think that each time I read it with someone it will do me more good. It's that good.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Almost every day for two or three months I have asked on Amazon.fr for Michael Reeves' "Christ our Life" to be made available in kindle format.

One day they will do it. They will. If I persevere and do not give up.


Pat and I had our first session of colour therapy yesterday in Desigual.

Ten minutes staring at the reds, blues, yellows and oranges really helps when all the world has gone gray.

The projected house move

A couple of folks have asked questions about our hope to move house so I thought it would be a good idea to make things as clear as possible in a blog post.

We hope to move house some time in 2015. The timing is important for two reasons:

1) At Easter the tram arrives about 400 yards from our house. Our house will immediately become a very attractive option for getting to the city centre by tram and bus and to the airport and all points south and west by motorway. We might get a better price. We might sell more easily.

2) Catrin exams will finish in June. We really don't want to have a house move before she finished her exams!

Why think of a house move? Well there are three reasons. They're in order of importance:

a. to no longer have a mortgage. We hope to find a flat that we can buy outright.

This is the main purpose of a move. We've now almost completed ten years in France on the same allowances, and we don't expect them to change any time in the future. When we've prayed and consulted the mission, the reply has been clear, to reduce our living costs as the cost of living rises. The biggest step so far was when we stopped running a car (and the feeling of liberation is amazing) The next step is to have no mortgage. We hope that without a mortgage we can make it through to 2024, notionally our retirement year. We're trusting God for the future and planning for the future as we follow his lead.

b. to be more accessible to the centre of Bordeaux.

We love the area where we live and we're very tempted to try and look for a flat around here. However each time we go into Bordeaux we have to allow about 40 minutes. And the vast majority of our work is done in Bordeaux. In the past this house was used for lots of activities. That is no longer the case. So to move further into the centre would make everything easier and make us more accessible.

c. to have somewhere easier and cheaper to maintain

We have a big garden. The house needs lots of work which we don't think we'll be able to do. We have wondered about letting out two rooms to students, but to adapt these rooms - to install little kitchens etc. would cost thousands - in addition to the other things the house needs. And we don't need a house this size any more.

Some folks have said things like "as long as you have enough space to host events". Well it would be nice, but that is not on our list of criteria. The church has moved out of our home. It's time for us to follow.

There is one particular area where we need to be wise.

The centre of Bordeaux has beautiful old houses divided into lovely apartments. I visited one friends' flat the other day and instead of coming down in the lift I walked down the stairs. The flat is lovely. Pristine. But the floor below has serious damp. Old buildings need lots of maintenance on their roofs, etc, and sometimes the management of these old buildings is somewhat lax. People end up suing the owner or the manager of the building to try and get their repairs paid for. We want to avoid spending time on that kind of thing.

Then, all over Bordeaux there are new blocks of flats being built. Some just near our house. They're well insulated, heated well, have low bills and good security etc. But you have to pay a lot extra for the "new".

So the ideal would be a block of flats built perhaps ten or so years ago. Or maybe one of those little houses that have in Bordeaux, if we coud find on in our price range. A friend has suggested that if we buy something that needs renovation we could stay in his flat while the work is done. That's a wonderful offer. We'll see.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Catrin's bac blanc philo - the questions from her four hour philosophy exam

1) Must one see other people as an obstacle?

2) Explain this text from Descartes, which essentially says if you can't have what you want, then learn to want what you have.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Oh that's so cheeky!

The government has redrawn the map of the regions of France, reducing the number of regions to 13. One change affects us directly. Before we were Aquitaine, and we comprised five departments: the Gironde, the Dordogne, the Lot et Garonne, the Landes and the Pyrenees-Atlantiques.

Now we have been merged with the Limousin and with Poitou-Charente.

Aquitaine had a historical logic to its name, going back to the Roman Aquitania.
But to name regions which are composed of smaller entities there are two possibilities.
The first is to hyphenate abbreviations of the name - as in Poitou-Charentes.
The second is to use initials, as in PACA (Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur).

Readers of our regional newspaper were invited to suggest names for our new, larger region.

I thought Aquipoichamousin sounded good for the South-West of France.

The cheekiest suggestion was APOIL - Aquitaine-Poitou-Limousin. "A poil" means starkers.

Another cheeky one was CLAP - Charente-Limousin-Aquitaine-Poitou.

I have always thought that "je vis dans la PACA" sounds a bit grim, but "je vis dans la CLAP" sounds dreadful.

Good sense has prevailed, and the new region is to be called - Aquitaine. After all, in the past Aquitaine did extend as far as Poitiers, apparently.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A serious responsibility

We were put in touch some months ago with a lady who is suffering from cancer, who lives in the Dordogne and who comes to Bordeaux for chemotherapy. When she comes down to Bordeaux she tells us what room she is in and we pop in to see her - either myself, Patricia or both of us. She's a lady with a strong and well-taught faith and a husband who isn't a Christian.

It's a great privilege to accompany her, to talk through her concerns, to share a Bible perspective with her, to pray with her and to get to know her husband a little, too.

It's not something you can blog about much, but I thought I'd mention it as part of our work here.

Mission accomplie - or almost...

The guy in the tram and bus office said, "But last year you renewed online?"
"Yes", quoth I, "but last year you emailed me to say my season ticket was running out. This year the bus told me on Sunday that my ticket was out of date. And it's too late to renew online."
"Yes. That's odd."
"I thought so, too."
"Oh, and you're subscribed to the bikes - but that doesn't run out till February. It was January, but you put your bike back in a winning slot and won an extra month. Oh, and to Citiz. Have you heard from them?"
"No." (thinks - must check with Citiz when my renewal is due.

The lady in the insurance office said, "Do you have any proof?"
"Proof of what, my identity?"
"No, proof that your son has left the country. His ticket, for example."
I thought... What proof do I have the Gwilym is now living in the UK...
"His address, perhaps? A justificatif de domicile? A receipt for rent?"
A justificatif de domicile means a gas bill, but they'd accept a bank statement or something...
"I can ask him if he has anything official at his new address."
"OK, tell him to email it to me. Then I can proceed with the enlèvement of your son"
"I hope not!" (enlèvement means kidnapping)
"Ah non, la suppression, ah non... I can do the necessary" (suppression can mean wiping it out)


"Oh yes, you're right to be concerned, our system is not connected to your health insurance so you are not getting reimbursed"
"You know, this is quite serious. I already tried to sort this out this time last year. We pay a lot of money, and get nothing back!"
"Get your statements from the Cavimac and we'll sort it out. It'll be quite festive!"
"We'll invite you for Christmas."

The lady on the phone at the Cavimac said, "We can't go back that far?"
"OK, how far can you go back?"
"Well we can do until January, but..."
"Nothing before?"
"Oh yes, we can go all the way back to the start."
"I'll send them to you by post."

Maybe we'll get this thing sorted out now.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Some Christmassy photos of Bordeaux

Oh well...

the varifocals are ordered and should be ready before Christmas.

Meanwhile we can change our health insurance for next year to remove Gwilym, since he is now in the tender hands of the NHS.

And my bus pass stopped working at the weekend. Strange.

I searched my emails to look for a reminder to renew my season ticket and found one dates 28 November - 2013! They must have decided not to remind me this year.

So I have some lovely admin to do tomorrow. Hurrah.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Catrin after her Lycée's thanksgiving meal ("Come Fancy")

La suite

Varifocal glasses. OK, I'll get some glasses. Our health insurance suggested a firm of online opticians so I might give them a try.

The long and crazy day went OK. Mostly as planned, except :

My lunch-date was an hour late, so I got to spend more time with James and his august calvinistic baptist pastor from London. (I know I should put commas between those adjectives, but I don't want to)

My shoes cost 5€. I'd taken the cheque book but I had not looked to see whether there were cheques left in it. There weren't. I dug deep in my pocket. Would you believe that I had 5.01€! Amazing. And my shoes are on my feet even as I type.

Catrin's singing teacher was late, which mean that she couldn't go to her Music Bac class, which meant I cancelled the reservation for the car.

I'm off to talk to these opticians.

A little trombone spot

Friday, December 05, 2014

Ha! Big mistake!

It had been ages since we used a Citiz (Autocool as was) car, so I stopped carrying the card.


So this month I've used Citiz a lot, and very happily, too.
Yesterday was a good example.

Firstly the CNEF pastors' meeting at Eysines. You have to go there by car, and no car was available at pessac, so I hied me away to Mérignac to find a jolly nice Clio and got to Eysines in good time.

The pastors' meeting was wonderful and disconcerting. It's a gospel centered group, so sometimes I have the wild urge to pray loudly in Welsh. Just to see. Anyway. But the folks are fine and there was a fine young baptist guy from the right bank present.

The afternoon was spent with our neighbours coaching in English.
Very good fun, and I got to play with their toddler, too, and watch a short excerpt of Peppa Cochon.

In the evening Catrin had her annual dinner-dance with her class at lycée, so we drove Pessac Peugeot by a wonderfully direct route through the city centre streets to pick her up afterwards.

This morning I'll return the car after last night and then pick it up again this evening to go to the music theory class.

Other events on the schedule today:

Meet-up with James Hammond and his august Pastor from London.
Lunch with friend. My ears will be full of somewhat dodgy French afterwards.
Hospital visit.
Check on friend's flat.
Fetch shoes from repairer.
Collate documents from Synode (if I've received them) and send to High Denominational Authorities.
Take Catrin back and fore to Music theory class.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

So, what about varifocals?

Hey. Yesterday I didn't wear glasses, and friends would read notices off the wall for me.
Today you're suggesting I get varifocals.

Yes, well. You hadn't had your eyes tested yesterday, had you?

So are my eyes going to change quickly?

OH YES! (The ophthalmologists enthusiastic answer unnerved me somewhat)
Well, you have ten years of changing your glasses every year ahead of you.

Well it's a huge waste to spend LOTS of money on varifocals every year if just long-distance vision glasses would do the trick.

OK. What's your profession?

I'm a protestant pastor.

Right. Well, let me fit these lenses in the holders. Now look at the letters in the distance. Clear?
Oh yes!
And the letters on the card in your hand?
No problem.

Now I'll do this. Try the card in your hand.
Now the letters in the distance?

Ok, now unaided. The card in your hand?
The distance?

So with varifocals you can see your book AND your congregation.
Yes, but it doesn't worry me too much if people's faces are a little blurred. 
I don't have to read letters off their foreheads.

Well, listen. I'll do you a prescription both ways.
One for varifocals. One for straight distance vision.
That way you can price them up with the optician and decide.

Great. Thanks very much.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A DEBT collection service?

Bonjour, notre service a réceptionné votre dossier cette semaine, merci de nous contacter au 03.......31 entre 9h et 18h.. Réf 23.......41

That was what the SMS said.

I looked up the phone number on the internet. Sometimes these things are just scams. This was a debt collection service.

Do I have any bills unpaid? No. Could I have forgotten something? Well, anything is possible, I suppose.

I found the company's website. You could log in and get details of the problem using the first four letters of your name and the dossier number. Except it rejected my name. Aha!

I found a direct phone number and called it. At the third attempt I got through.

Alors, le numéro de dossier?
D'accord. Et vous et M. Machin-bidule, James?
Ah bon, votre numéro de portable qui a reçu le SMS?
Ah bon, dans ce cas-là c'est un erreur.
Excusez-nous de vous déranger.


I have just a little suspicion that because my phone number is on the Bordeaux Church card,
that I might get the odd nuisance now and again.
My name isn't on the card, only the church name and my number.

Getting my eyes tested

For some time I have thought it would be a good idea to get my eyes tested. I can't see things at a distance as I could, and recently with a friend in MacDonalds I had to ask them to read the menu that was displayed behind the counter.

In France you need to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist. All he does is examine your eyes and then give you a prescription for glasses or lenses and/or refer you to a doctor if he discovers some other problem. To get your glasses you then go to an optician, and all they do is sell glasses.

There's an ophthalmologist near our home, but they aren't taking on new clients.

There's an ophthalmologist further into Pessac, but they have a three-month waiting list.

There's an eyesight centre at the Clinique Mutuelle near the campus, but they're awkward to get to.

So I hesitated. Dithered.

Then yesterday our health insurance people sent us an email saying that we could get an appointment for an eyesight check-up within the week at regulation prices. I clicked on the link. It's a place in central Bordeaux, very accessible.

I got an appointment for tomorrow.

If all goes well we'll make an appointment for Pat next.

Something to reflect on

I spotted these tweets from Justin Taylor on twitter and wanted to share them for reflection, but not to retweet them raw, as it were...

Only 3% of those at Billy Graham crusades went forward for the altar call. Evangelism is hard, even for the world's most gifted evangelist.

And roughly 1/4 to 1/2 of those going forward at Graham crusades were making first-time commitments.

Graham himself estimated that only 1/4 of inquiries at his crusades would persevere.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Book review : A Soldier of the Great War, by Mark Helprin

I don't review every book I read, but I wanted to review this book because it is such a GREAT book. I read about it on the Gospel Coalition website and the description there encouraged me to buy it and read it.

Essentially it's the story of a walk from the outskirts of Rome to a village outside the city, where an old man accompanies a young man and recounts his experiences in the Great War.

The prose is just wonderful. Simple, evocative, pure, beautiful.

The story is heart-rending and healing all in one. Terrible events are depicted with a simplicity and a beauty that somehow doesn't clash. Desperate suffering and grief live alongside heroic courage and faith. Friendship, love, loyalty and justice. Some parts make you want to weep. Some parts make you laugh out loud.

You need to know that there's not much of life that isn't depicted. Adult subjects are discussed. Terrible cruelty, savagery and barbarity. I suppose the book could have omitted these aspects of the life of a young soldier. I don't want you to read the book without knowing about that.

Ì have other books to read now, but I'll be looking for another Mark Helprin soon, and one day I'll reread A Solider of the Great War.

When the kids are small

One of the pleasures of Facebook is to see people going through the joys and challenges of the different stages of life. For example, a friend who is a new mother just put on a cartoon of herself breaking rocks, with the caption, "it's been a long, hard night and today will be a long, hard day".

I don't remember it very well, but I do know that there was a time when one of our children was young when they were not sleeping through the night. Pat was able to nap during the day and apply herself to sorting out their sleep pattern, but I had a busy work pattern to maintain. So I slept on the sofa downstairs until things calmed down.

In the midst of that maelstrom I don't know if it would have helped to know that one day I would have trouble remembering it. It seemed like a huge, insurmountable problem. Now it's a vague memory that Pat reminds me of.

Glo'l stops

I've had it with glottal stops.

I find it hard to believe now that there was a time when I couldn't do them at all.

When I first went to work in Hemel Hempstead, near London, a time I refer to as my Babylonian Captivity, I couldn't say Sn'Awbuns, 'EmwEmshted and Liw'n like the locals did. I had to learn how to pronounce things like that.

Now I listen to myself speaking and what do I hear? Glo'l stops a' the end of words tha' OUGH' to finish with a good "t".

No more. I am going to eradicate these global stops.


We recently listened to one of the current evangelical songsmiths singing a song about how great God is. And there can be no mistake. We listened carefully several times, and the dear fellow is clearly singing "How grey is our God, how grey is our God."

OK. Enough! I will do whatever it takes to wipe these dreadful things from my speech.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Suppression of the Regions

Well I just attended what will probably be my last Synode.

The Synode of Montauban was held yesterday and today. I couldn't go yesterday, but I went this morning on the 6:30 train from Alouette.

Now there's a story! I wandered happily down to the station and bought my ticket from the machine.
33€. I thought that was very reasonable for a single to Montauban, which is a good two hours away.

Got to Bordeaux. Train for Marseille leaving from Platform 3. I hasten thither, hop on and settle myself in.
The train leaves the station.
A man says over the tannoy, "we remind you that on this train a seat reservation is compulsory".

Problem! My ticket doesn't have a seat number on it.

I find a little gang of traffic police.
Let me see your ticket. Oh yes, that ticket isn't valid on this train.

The ticket inspector came.

I think I have the wrong ticket..
Let me see. Oh yes, that's a TER ticket and this is an Intercity train.
But at Alouette there's just the one machine.
Yes, for TER tickets.
You mean to say that at Alouette I can't buy a ticket for Montauban?
Not if you want to travel on this train.
But I thought SNCF was SNCF.
Ah no!
Well I hope I don't end up in prison!
Oh no, nothing like that.
But it'll cost a bit more...
Yes, 10 euros.

Oh well, I suppose it's not the first time I have paid 10 euros to learn a lesson!

This may well be the last synode I go to. The regions are being abolished, so we won't have Regional Synodes any more.
And I don't have the right to attend National Synodes because I am a Missionary Pastor and not a proper pastor. Only proper pastors get to go to National Synode.

Once every three years there's a National And General Synode, and those I get to go to.

Montauban was flooding before our very eyes

Friday, November 28, 2014

It's been kinda quiet round here lately

Winter is on the way. They're decorating the Festive Holiday Tree in the middle of Bordeaux.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Que du bonheur!

This morning Catrin left for a school trip to Caen to visit the peace museum, the D-day beaches and the war cemeteries. She had to be at Gare Saint-Jean for 6:40. A train from Pessac at 6:33 gets to the station at 6:40, but we booked a Citiz car and I picked it up last night.

5 am found us all bustling about the house and 6 found us hurtling towards the ring road in the car, to find that the slip road was closed.

Quick change of plan, to get to the next slip road would take too long, we headed for Pessac station and got that train.
Catrin hurriedly texted her friends to say that she would not arrive by 6:40.
We caught the train, alighted, found her friends, then Pat and I got on the next train back.

Before leaving we searched the departure boards for a train leaving soon after 6:40 in the direction of Caen, but nothing.

I texted Catrin. So what time's this train, then?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

While I had the car I took a load of old worthless treasures to the dump, then Pat wended her way to the bookshop and I got down to my emails.

Cut to lunchtime.

Urgent message from Lycée François-Magendie. Your daughter has been absent from class all morning.

It's no wonder parents go grey. When the kids are sensible the schools are bonkers.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Imaginary people who really exist

it's so embarrassing I hardly dare confess it.

I used to read the reformation 21 blog until they finally drove me nuts with their various antics and I forsook them forever.

One of the somewhat less-infuriating antics was their habit of inventing various different characters with crazy names and blogging in that name. A sort of pythonesque humor, I suppose. We all did it, as schoolboys.

Except that one by one I am discovering that these fictional imaginary names are real people.
No, I promise, they are!
Yes, the truth is stranger than fiction!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pat's Birthday - la suite

After our lunch at Miles we popped in at Maison de la Bible to collect Pat's mobile phone, left there the previous day, then we had a couple hours to get ready quietly for the Bordeaux Church Thanksgiving Meal Invitation Extravaganza. The evening was starting at 7pm at James' flat.

I had prepared a Thanksgiving Turkey and Prune Tajine - with chicken instead of turkey because they didn't have any in Auchan the day I looked, accompanied by Cranberry Couscous.

Pat was planning to make a Banana Custard Tart, but she was saved from this by having the rest of the lemon meringue pie from the morning.

We intended arriving at 6:30, but we waited longer than intended for the bus so ended up arriving at about 10 to 7, just in time to put up the pasting table (call yourself an ex-plumber) and help set up the food corner.

7pm came. One person arrived. 7:15. A few more. By 7:30 we were buzzing' and almost half the folk were there for the first time.

James welcomed people. I gave thanks. People introduced their traditional dishes. My favourite was Jamaican rice and peas with coconut milk. After a while James gave a short talk about Squanto and the Canadians, leading into the gospel invitation to the great thanksgiving meal to come. Shortly afterwards I saw that Catrin was wilting and we decided to split. Pat said se-he'd follow on the later bus.

A good evening to end a splendid birthday!

It's been a long time since we had a trombone video

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pat's birthday - so far

The day began with a short lie-in as Catrin didn't start till 10 this morning, which meant the girls getting up at 8.

Then off to the book group, where I was presenting "The Shock of the Fall" by Nathan Filer.

One of the folk had ordered a birthday lemon tart, which was both very kind and very delicious.

We then went for lunch at Miles, recently given a joint first prize by Fooding magazine with a restaurant in Paris. Their prices are very reasonable, the team is young and friendly, all was just great.

Now getting ready for the Thanksgiving Meal this evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sin is not cosmic treason

Grateful to Ligonier Minstries for this.

I was speaking with a colleague the other day and I remarked that for the majority of people, be they Christian or not, people are basically good.

Where people will talk about sin, generally they think of it in terms of sins.

Good people doing bad things.
Good people with bad habits.
Good people who slip up.
But good people, hey?

If you think about sin like that, then your view of God, his holiness, his mercy, the cross, the price paid by Jesus, all will be affected.

But sin isn't like that. It's a declaration of autonomy and independence by dependent creatures.

Even that is difficult for us. After all, if Scotland wants to vote for independence, why not?
Everyone should decide who governs them and how, shouldn't they? Isn't that a basic human right?

That's why it's so important to see sin as the Bible portrays it:

as a sickness that infects everything about us
as a rebellion against our good and great creator and father God
as a perverse nature and a twisted heart that means we can't even think straight or desire good things of ourselves.

We are bad people who manage nevertheless, by the common grace of God, to do good things.
After all, presumably murderous, brutal dictators are kind to their dogs, or their wives, or their mistresses.
And traitors and rebels who have wonderful home lives are still traitors and rebels.

We have rebelled against this great and good God who gives us life and breath and everything else.
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

(Even if the majority of people take another view)

"This time EDF will pay for the installation of the solar panels"

A couple years ago a guy came to the house to talk about installing solar panels on the roof. He said our roof is ideal. It's big enough, at a suitable angle and faces due south. Here was the deal - you took out a loan to cover the cost of installation, repayable over twenty years and meanwhile the revenue from selling your electricity to EDF paid the load. In twenty years time, quids in!

Had we been in our twenties we might have considered this, but not now.

Anyway last night a woman rang saying that EDF were looking for homes to install solar panels, and they would cover the installation charge.

Now on the phone you can never tell whether someone is from EDF or not, but hey...

I recounted the above, and she said, "No, this time EDF pays for it. We'll make an appointment and someone will call in about 20 minutes to confirm it."

Twenty minutes later, someone calls. I recounted the above. The person said, "well what we're proposing is the same thing, a loan over twenty years. Shall we cancel the appointment?"

We cancelled the appointment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tri chynnig i Gymro (three tries for a Welshman = third time lucky)

Well what a palaver!

Bougie-wougie-telecom, the people with whom we have our internet and with whom Patricia and I have our mobile phones, wrote to me a while back announcing BIG NEW THINGS for which existing customers would be eligible.

Further details emerged.

Firstly new tariffs - for the same price as what I pays now my mobile phone would work in the UK - internet too. This seemed very interesting to me, especially since every time I go to the UK I buy a £15 top up from Three to get mobile phone cover while in the UK.

Then a new kind of ADSL and TV box coming out in January, the MiamiBox, which will have most wondrous properties.

Well the tariffs came into force on 17th November, so on 17th November I went online and looked. Sure enough, there was the new tariff. It looked fine. I clicked on the place where it said "Change for this". The reply was "We can't change your tariff online. You have to go to a shop."

Well today I was in town and heading for a shopping centre where there is a Bougie-wougie-telecom shop. I went in. I took the little number. I waited. A guy said, "Monsieur?"

"You have new tariffs, I'd like to think about changing tariff."
"OK, let's look. Ah no, you can't because you are still in minimum contract."

On the bus home I pondered. But that letter said existing customers were eligible. And I'm an existing customer. I don't remember it saying you had to be out of minimum contract. I'll have to look for that letter. (We got three or four copies, so I was pretty sure I could find it.)

Then I thought, but my phone shows me everything I need to know, too. What if I look on my phone?
I looked. My phone said, "Would you like to change to this contract that will work in the UK?"
I clicked on OK. It said."OK. Done that."

Oh well. Tri chynnig i Gymro!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wow! I wasn't sure it would be possible, but

it's Pat's birthday on Friday and I just booked us in for lunch in a little restaurent that was recently judged the best restaurant in France!
Can you believe it!
Peter Mayle, eat your heart out!
By the way, don't tell her.

Monday, November 17, 2014


It has RAINED and RAINED and RAINED here - Saturday night it rained so hard that it was not easy to sleep, so after a lively Sunday I was very tired indeed.

So today after doing the week's tweets (for BordeauxChurch on twitter and Facebook page) we had an early lunch and headed off to Ikea!

Ikea is on the other side of Bordeaux so to get there we took bus 4 right to the end, then bus 32. It deposited us just outside Auchan Lac and we weaved our way to the recently enlarged Ikea.

We had a nice time discussing sofas and chairs and eyeing up shelves. Then off for our free cup of coffee, because we have an Ikea Family Card. Afterwards some replacement bowls and odds and ends, including a brolly for €2.50. Then walk to the tram stop at the end of line C in the middle of the new Ginko Eco-quartier, then change in the Chartrons to bus 4 once more.

A nice escape!

So he left us a...

a cake. A brioche, to be precise.

Who? Constant, a chap who lives on the street in Bordeaux. He's an old-fashioned homeless guy, he looks and dresses like a tramp and he wanders the streets of Bordeaux.

We've met him in Cenon, where he accepts a cup of coffee, but drinks it outside the building. He has come in, but not often.

And the first time we met at Dan he came past and was very upset by our presence. "It's a restaurant, not a church", he yelled. But he soon got used to us.

The other week he yelled again, the Sunday that Pat and I were in Nice. Was he upset by a voice he didn't recognise?

Sometimes we try to give him food, but he always refuses it. At Cenon a coffee. At Dan we don't have coffee, so we have nothing to give him. He likes to exchange some treasure: a glass, a spoon, a metal rod, anything he finds. But we're not in our own place so it ain't easy to swap with him.

Anyway, this Sunday, during a moment when I couldn't really be interrupted, the door opened and his hand came in. There's a hook near the door where he hangs his treasure for exchange, but this time he left a bag and went.

We looked inside. It was a brioche! Nice, too, apparently!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Our poor neighbour

came in for a quick coaching session in English ready for his exam in April.

His homework for this week?

To master the pronunciation of "a thoroughly developed law".

Monoprix, mayhem and malentendu

On the way to the Christian bookshop from the oft-feted number 4 bus one passes through the cathedral square, here known as Place Pey-Berland. One corner of the square has a shopping centre and in the basement thereof is Monoprix.

You might think from its name that everything in this supermarket is the same price, but you would be wrong. There are shops like that in Bordeaux, with names like 2€, etc. But in Monoprix the prices vary, normally upwards, that is to say that it is not known for its bargains. In fact the clothes never fit me and they're too expensive. Carrefour trousers and jumpers are fine and Géant-Casino shirts. Auchan is OK for coats. Anyway, I digress.

Monoprix's chief attraction, apart from its convenient location next to the cathedral square, is its attractive range of food. There it was that I once bought real scones, and thus it was that my lunch today was Covent Garden Soup Company Chorizo and Pearl Barley Soup. And very nice it was, too.

At the Maison de la Bible, where I am on duty today, I am struggling with technology. The till-roll machine says it's out of paper. It isn't. It has lots of paper. I've blown on it, turned it on and off, pushed, pulled, thumped and abused it. It still says it's out of paper. The keyboard of the computer says nothing at all. I guess it's out of batteries. It's technological mayhem.

Malentendu is the french word for a misunderstanding. Do not confuse it with malentendant, which means hard of hearing. A chap charged into the shop.

Vous ne pouvez pas casser 10 euros pour garer la voiture?

Oui, bien sur, qu'est-ce qu'il vous faut?

N'importe. Disons un billet de 5€ et des pièces?

D'accord. Et cinq fois un euro, ça vous convient? (passing him the coins)

Ben, cinq euros. Merci. Tenez. Au revoir.

I reflected. One part of the exchange seemed strangely dissatisfying...

Cinq fois un euro, ça vous convient?

Ben, cinq euros.

Whatever did he think I had said?

Aha! Cinq fois un euro ça vaut combien? Ben, cinq euros.

Yes. That makes sense.

It means instead of my very sensible question he heard a very stupid question, but at least his answer suddenly makes sense.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Some photos

The first photo merits a little explanation. I was at a café with a friend and he likes a "petit café bien serré" a "really strong little coffee made with just a little water". The barista produced a tiny coffee that could have comfortably fitted in your average thimble. My companion laughed a lot, but said it was very, very good.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Book review : The Foundation of Communion with God - The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen, edited by Ryan McGraw

Before we came to France I looked round our straining bookshelves. Something had to give. We didn't know what kind of accommodation we'd have, how much space, whether I'd even have an office. Hard decisions had to be taken. Some books were sold on Amazon. Some books were sold at pastors' conferences and fraternals (fraternaux?)

One set of books stubbornly resisted all attempts to sell it: a beautiful 16-volume set of John Owen, purchased in the Mecca of second-hand books in Hay-on-Wye. A friend looked at it with such interest and kindness. "I tell you what, you promise to pray for us every time you open it and you can take the books." Like a true Augustinian, he took the books, he reads them and what's more he has prayed faithfully for us for almost ten years.

I can't find room for 16 volumes of John Owen on my shelves. Anyway, now I can get them in electronic format from various sources at various prices. And to be honest, John Owen's insight and wisdom comes wrapped in 16 volumes of John Owen's somewhat heavy, sometimes turgid prose.

Enter Ryan McGraw and Profiles in Reformed Spirituality. In this happy little volume he gives us a useful little biography of John Owen, a little sketch of historical theology so we can place John Owen in the grand flow of Christian thinking, he gives us super little illustrations of the people and places that were important in John Owen's life and ministry, and then he gives us little extracts from Owen's works. Just one or two pages on sublime subjects such as "A Spiritually Thriving Christian", "A Heavenly Directory for Worship" or "How to Obtain the Gifts of the Holy Spirit".

Honestly, if you ever thought John Owen would be wonderful but beyond you - too rich, too much, too dense, too hard - get this book. You'll be very glad you did. One section, a page or two will give you a super little boost in the morning and provide you with material for reflection for many happy moments.

I was given a copy of the book in electronic format free of charge in return for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Saying farewell

Some friends are asylum seekers from a middle-eastern country and for a time I accompanied them to the various offices that deal with their case, as well as doing introductory Bible studies from John's Gospel ( English, French, their national language, it was always delightful ). We spent some very happy times together in parks and cafés, in queues and in buses.

On Saturday we heard that they have been allocated a flat in a town way south of here, so Monday lunchtime found me at the station with a little gang of people to say goodbye. Coffee, macarons and the TGV. Au revoir! A bientôt!

Autumn has finally come, and it's COLD!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Covenant of Redemption, the Westminster Confession and its Scripture proofs

Someone started a conversation the other day about the Covenant of Redemption and its Scripture proofs, specifically, where from the Scriptures do we find support for the Covenant of Redemption. I looked in the Westminster Confession which, though it doesn't name the Covenant of Redemption, does speak of it and gives a fairly substantial list of texts in support.

The 17th century was a time of great development in Covenant Theology, and since the Westminster Confession dates from 1646, its section dealing with the Covenants does not reflect later distinctions, definitions and refinements.

Here is a passage from a book I'll be reviewing, hopefully on Monday, which speaks about this :

Friday, November 07, 2014

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Retreat - the therapeutic value

Both female Daveys have expressed their appreciation of the therapeutic value of the retreat in Nice.
It done them both a power of good. We're all very thankful!

Voyage à la Belge

That's funny. There's nothing on the information board and the train hasn't come. And that posh-looking passenger in the suit and business wheeler-trolley is starting to look agitated. I know, there's an app for SNCF, I'll just download it and look.

1245 Alouette-France - Bordeaux Saint-Jean Train supprimé.

What?!?! My TGV for Paris leaves at 13:18. I don't have a hope!

Well, I know there's a strike, but when I looked this morning the train was still running.
Let's book a taxi.
What train are you on?
13:18 to Paris.
Us, too.

The taxi driver took a while to come. I emailed James Hely-Hutchinson, the director of the Institut Biblique Belge to tell him I had a bijou petite problemette. The taxi driver came, we piled in and he hurtled off to town, regaling us with stories of how he lost and regained points on his driving licence. A reluctant barrier at the station was coaxed into cooperation. People moved aside slowly for the taxi to pass through ("ECARTEZ-VOUS") and we scuttled off to the ticket office while one of our number who would be reimbursed settled up with the taxi driver. 45€!

A sign in the ticket office told us that there were fewer booths because of the strike, but the queue diminished fairly quickly and I soon got to explain my plight to a charming lady who popped me on the TGV to Paris one hour later and the corresponding TGH Thalys to Brussels.

At Paris Gare Montparnasse - so where's the Metro? I charged up and down the platform and eventually found it. I had 55 minutes to do a journey that the internet told me took 25. The Paris metro is a bit like a ghost train, in that the tunnels wind around a lot so the train doesn't go very quickly. Anyway, after somewhat more than 25 minutes I was washed up on the platform at the Gare du Nord.

Where's the Main Line platforms? I charged up and down the platform and eventually found someone to ask. Down the other end and turn right, sir. Did that.

Now where are they? A well-placed greengrocers stall directed me onwards. Down the other end and turn left, sir.

Eventually I saw what looked like platforms ahead. I emerged by platform 8 and a big departure board. Thalys for Brussels, platform 7. Hurrah!

After that it was comfort all the way.

The day of prayer was very encouraging. The students prayed well and were a most pleasant bunch. Penne alla puttanesca with David Vaughn of Aix-en-Provence and with James Hely-Hutchinson, and a bed for the night with our friends Maxime and Demelza.

The journey back was to be by tram, coach and plane, but the trams were on strike (is it me?) so the efficient folks at IBB worked out what to do. A quick walk to the Gare du Centre with James, a quick coffee in Haagen-Däz accompanied by a croissant and a pain au raisin, then the train to Gare du Midi where we could find the coach and pop me on it. The coach got me to Charleroi without incident. It's a nice, small airport, a bit like Bordeaux, and the flight was 15 minutes early getting me home.

Here's a few photos of Brussels :

Let's stick a harpsichord in a shed next to a dead moped and get someone to play Bach's Chaconne on it

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Retreat - on the Wednesday we did an all-day excursion

to Saint Honorat, an island just off the coast from Cannes, where a monastery produces classy wine.