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)

Friday, January 30, 2015

It's that time of the year again :


Yesterday was MEGAWET and MEGAWINDY.

I eventually shut the shutters on the westward side of the house where the weather comes from, just in case.

I thought of that day in 2009 when one Saturday we sat and listened to the constant wind, hearing occasional roof-tiles move, wondering what we would find when we could emerge from the house. That year one house in our area lost ALL its roof and another had a tree crush half its roof. Our garden fences fell, giving us the rather nice "jardin public" between our houses for a couple of weeks.

This weather wasn't nearly as bad. In fact it wasn't even classed as a storm. Just gusts (rafales).

This morning all seems OK. No fences down. No trees fallen.

An anxious day ... until

The task before us this year was dawning on me yesterday as I faffed around to get the repaired oven back.

Downsizing means :

1) selling the house after April, when the tram come almost to the door.

2) redecorating in probably three rooms. Touching up in others.

3) dramatically reducing our books. Watch for treasures on Amazon!

4) and our furniture. Will this mean I have to sell my fake Brynmawr chair?

5) and the normal spring garden slash-and-dump

We need to get shot of:

sofas, bunk beds, wardrobes (unless we leave them here), tables, chairs, garden furniture, books, bikes?, LOADS of stuff!

So yesterday morning, thinking of our typical week, I wondered when we would actually accomplish these feats!

Then I wondered whether anyone would actually fancy buying our house, with all the foibles and drawbacks we have lived with over these years.

Then my crazy friend came round. My most unusual and barking mad friend, he is terminally ill with lung cancer (but has been all the years I've known him) and has taught me all the WORST words in French that I know I could never use. You can usually work out the meaning of these words, but reading Houellebecq confirmed my analysis.

Time does not allow me to list the proofs of his craziness. But yesterday he really helped me enormously. He LOVES our house. He imagines it fetching ENORMOUS prices. "Add a pool, it wouldn't cost much, perhaps 7000 euros, and you could sell this for half a million!" I'm sure he's wrong, and anyway, who has 7000 euros?, but it did make me think that perhaps the house has features and qualities that I am used to. and it made me think that perhaps we will sell it. Not for half a million, but perhaps we will sell it.

Of course, the real answer to these concerns lies in trust in the providence of God. And we know this. Before coming to France we sold a house that was impossible to sell in less than a week, to the first viewer, and for a good price.
But, unfortunately, sometimes stress and anxiety win.
Until God sends a crazy friend to visit who just takes the edge off!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Well they fixed the oven

in time for our film and pizza evening on Friday.

Remise en état alimentation. Refection connectique.

(That means they fixed the power supply.)


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Peter-Lukas Graf : César Franck : Sonate pour Flûte traversière et piano 4ème mouvement

It appears that the oven is fixed

I just received an email advising me of the "mise à disposition de votre appareil au comptoir".

Oh well, I know what I'm doing first thing tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Non non non non non non non non non non

Well faced with the possibility of tottering through the park with a microwave oven balanced on my noggin or booking a citiz car to take it to the repair place in Bègles I'll let you guess what I chose.

At 8 am the big car with the flat boot floor was free. I showered and came back to book it. It was taken. So I booked it from 1 till 5.

1:03 found me in the car heading off to the supermarket with Pat's list in my sweaty mitt. 2pm found me en route for Bègles with the oven/microwave combination securely in the boot, along with a bag containing the shelf, turntable, the bizarre steaming contraption, etc. etc. "You must take everything", the lady had said, "together with a written description of the problem and a copy of the receipt."

So I printed out a copy of the receipt, wrote on it in big letters "AUCUN SIGNE DE VIE" and popped it in the bag with the shelf, turntable, the bizarre steaming contraption, etc. etc.

I found the place with little difficulty and went in.

"I have a faulty oven/ microwave combination."

"Bring it in."

I staggered in with the oven, then sprinted back to get the back with the shelf, turntable, bizarre contraption for steaming, etc. etc. I plonked the bag on the table.

"C'est quoi, ça?"

"C'est toutes les accessoires. Samsung m'a dit de les apporter."

"Non non non non non non non non non non non."

"Non non non non non non non non non non non?" I replied, taken aback. The man smiled.

"On n'a pas besoin de tout ça.

He typed on a sheet N'allume pas. "Il faut compter une comblée de semaine."

Well every day you hear a new expression.

"Huit jours", he said, which was when I realised that I had been looking baffled.

"D'accord. Merci bien. Au revoir." and off I trotted to return the car and then go home on the bus 4, bag with shelf, turntable, bizarre steaming contraption, etc. etc. in hand.

The bus 4 was gravely perturbed by striking taxi-drivers, but we all made it home anyway.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I don't know if I have blogged about pens in the past, but they're pretty wonderful if you find a good one. I have very bad memories of those blotchy biros we used to have at school - the ones with long ends made to look like old-fashioned ink pens. They left globs of sticky ink that would get on your hands and you couldn't get it off. Nasty.

Anyway at present I am a fan of two types of pen.

Firstly the PaperMate InkJoy Quatro four colour ballpen. I have found two different kinds of this pen, one with pretty normal colours : black, blue, green and red, and one with rather more girlie colours : violet, magenta, indigo, lime green, etc. To be honest, I am not entirely sure what these other colours are, but they are easily distinguished from the normal ones, so they work for me!

This gives me eight colours for mind-mapping and means that I can just take two pens with me and still take notes separating  the different headings with different colours. Very convenient.

Secondly, I have just discovered the Hero 616 fountain pen. Well, I say I just discovered it, but really many years ago I read about this pen in an article about Parker 51 copies from China. Then a couple of weeks ago I saw one on Amazon and ordered it. And it's quite phenomenal. Being a Chinese pen made for the Chinese market it is very, very inexpensive and it looks just like a Parker 51, but with the addition of a window to see how ink you have left. It has a fine nib and writes sensationally well.

OK, so we can either post or take the oven to Bègles to be fixed.

It would be fun to try and post it. I can just see the lady in the La Poste as I heave it onto the scales...

I think I'll reserve an Autocool car and take it myself.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Setting foot in a better world

As I type Greece is going to the polls, Japanese hostages may be dead, slaughtered by cynical people who claim to act for God, North East Nigeria lives in fear, the Middle East is in turmoil and the best opinion of scientists is that we are fast heading for the end of the world as we know it.

And we're going to church.
We're setting foot in the world to come.
So that we can act with confidence and hope in this sad and passing world.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wild boars in the heart of Bordeaux

Read about them in French and watch the videos here.

A morning ditty

My cellphone operator is struggling at the moment, so they are busy trying to keep their customers and to win new ones.

That's probably why at the weekend in England I could use my French number at no extra cost! Even for internet! (though I know the European Union has been campaigning against roaming charges)

Their latest thing is to incorporate into my contract either films and series from Canal+, or something linked to sport, I think, or Premium Spotify. I have had a Spotify account for a long time, but the adverts annoyed me and I begrudged 10€ a month to get rid of them, so I'd listen to music on Youtube instead! However, now I have a premium account 'free' I happily look out music and artists I like.

Like this:

Open day, open doors?

Catrin wants to sing. I mean, professionally. As a singer.

Yes, I know, you can probably make a better living in a kebab shop, but hey, you gotta follow your heart.

Anyway, the big question is what comes after lycée? It isn't just a question of lycée, conservatoire, stage. It depends on your voice, its development and its maturity.

So Catrin was hesitating between the Bordeaux Conservatory, where you just study till you're ready, or the Welsh College of Music and Drama, which kind of fits into the standard university rhythm, or Bordeaux Montaigne, where they do a degree course in Chanson Française, or a new music training institute that has opened in Bordeaux.

Yesterday was the open day for Bordeaux Montaigne, and as Catrin has her tonsillitis, I went along.

It sounds GREAT! You do composing, arranging, orchestration, lots of performance, analysis, interpretation, loads of good things. The guy said that they try and only take people who they think will stick the course, because it's a lot of work and they can only take about 20 students. Generally the students combine their studies with studies at the conservatoire or at their school of music.

So high-level family discussions ensued and this is the preferred path :

Next year : Bordeaux Montaigne and Conservatoire.

After the degree : WCMD Masters in Opera.

That's the plan. Thus far.

The courses for next year would be Licence Chanson Française and Bordeaux Conservatoire.

Fall back is Licence Musicologie and Espace Musical de Pessac.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A bit of finesse

Facebook is a funny old thing. It's wonderful and dreadful at one and the same time. I allows you to stay in contact with old friends, but sometimes too much... When people get you down, and you have to do something, there are a variety of possible responses.

When people advertise witchdoctors on the Facebook group of your church (we get one or two a week) then you can report the advert to Facebook and block the person. This is pretty severe. It means people can't contact you at all and Facebook apologises for the inconvenience and annoyance the person has caused you.

When someone was accepted as your friend by accident, someone you don't know and who shouldn't be in your list of friends, you can "unfriend" them. It is advisable NOT to do this to people you know as they take it badly!

When someone uses Facebook in ways you find unhelpful (venting, for example, or foul language or whatever) you can "unfollow" them. This means you are still their "friend", they can still contact you, but you don't get shown every update they post on Facebook. This is a VERY USEFUL option.

When someone puts on a piece of information, like "We got engaged!!!", and you express your congratulations wholeheartedly but you don't need to be told every time the entire population of the continent of Europe expresses its congratulations - then you can "Turn Off Notifications".

There are lots of ways of whittling down the tidal wave of stuff that Facebook throws at you, filtering out unwanted debris and trying to keep things civil and capable with.

It just takes a bit of finesse.

Fairy toadstools

Poor Catrin, after a splitting headache on Sunday evening, woke up with tonsillitis on Monday. Une angine blanche. We are brits, so for a while she drank lots of tea and fruit juice, took aspirin and paracetamol and gargled with various noxious substances, like brine, aspirin solution or TCP (shudder).

Yesterday we gave in to our inner Frenchmen and I asked my friend Gérard, who is a doctor and homeopath what we should do. "Facile! Mercurius cyanathus alternated with Arum triphyllum, both 5ch, three grains three times a day. That heals even diphtherique tonsillitis".

Meanwhile Pat booked an appointment with the doctor. "Oh, I doubt if it's really an angine. Let's see. Oh yes! Just like toadstools in a fairy tale! You need antibiotics!"

Gérard had told me the doctor might give antibiotics. "Yes, not a bad idea."

So with her pills and our prayers she's gone back to school.

Meanwhile today is an open day at Montaigne University so I have to go along to find out about the degree in musicology - chanson française.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Well you learn something new every day!

"On se caille là!"

Thus spake the manageress of the Maison de la Bible yesterday. I was replacing Pat for her Tuesday morning because Catrin has tonsillitis - une angine blanche. I'm not sure there's much we can do about her tonsillitis - they're usually viral and very contagious, so we just have to keep her well fed and watered, and rested, of course. But back to the Maison de la Bible.

I knew that when it's very cold you can say informally, "ça caille".

In the supermarket they sell "Caillé", which seems to be a yogurt-like dessert from the Basque country. It's made by clotting milk with rennet. Especially sheep's milk and sheep rennet, to be authentic.

OK. So we're getting there. "ça caille" would mean something like "It's setting" or "it's clotting" or "it's forming a gel." How do you say it's freezing in French? Yes, "ça gèle".

So "on se caille là" means, we're freezing ourselves here (or there).

It's perishingly cold in Bordeaux at the moment, and the Maison de la Bible has thick stone walls. We have two oil-filled radiators, both down the counter end of the shop, but they don't make much impression. Behind the shop is a kind of conservatory/scullery with a wired glass roof. That's where we make hot drinks and where the loo is, so you can imagine how cold it is in there! Normally it's not a huge problem, but at the moment it's cold overnight and then grey all day so the city is just hardly warming up at all.

Brrrr. It's not much better at home where we're burning the remainder of last year's firewood, which means all the huge bits that don't catch all that well.

Still, not long now and this winter will be behind us!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Well, that will be my last, I suppose.

It's so easy to get to the UK now! I took the 8:30 bus 4 to Pessac Centre, then the 9am bus 48 to the airport and was there at about 10. Plenty of time before my 11am flight to Gatwick.

The flight was bumpy but cheered by the sweetest steward I have ever come across, Michael, an enormous German who spoke excellent English and French, though accented and rather idiosyncratic. Easyjet are collecting for UNICEF for a polio vaccination project. As usual, I had no money at all on me but after Michael's introduction I would gladly have thrown in all I had. As the plane descended into Gatwick he thanked "Messieurs, mesdames et chers enfants / Ladies, gentlemen and dear children" for flying with Easyjet. If he is as nice with the other cabin crew as he is with the passengers the man is a hero. Bravo Michael!

I got to Gatwick about 12:30 and bought a British style sandwich in the M&S food place. I can't remember what it was, but you know the kind of thing : Brie, smoked mackerel and sun-dried durian with balsamic Branston, or something like that. Then off on the train to Bromley South.

I had to post William's visa. It was hard-won, needing several messages back and fore to get all the information and letters needed, and two appointments at the consulate, so I was determined to post it to him. I also had a UK cheque that needed paying in if I should happen to see a Nationwide. I saw one and the friendly counter-staff also gave me essential information on finding the Post Office. It's tucked away at the back of W H Smith, upstairs. It was, too. Very well-hidden. Without my friends in the Nationwide I would have sought in vain. £10.68 secured an oath on the official's grandmother's grave, written in blood, that William's passport would arrive in Swindon by 1 the next day. She even stuck a sticker over the first address so it wold be certain to get to the second.

By now Daniel and Hannah, ma raison d'être en Angleterre, were sending me messages on Skype saying "Where are you? Shall we come and get you?" So once William's passport was consigned to the tender care of the Royal Owls I trudged back to Bromley South station, stopping at a witness table to chat with some men from Hayes Lane Baptist Church where the wedding the following day would be held.

The home of the Brackens of Prickly Wood was a hub of enterprise. Brian, the Best Man, was icing fairy cakes. Sarah, the Cake Maker, was icing wedding cakes. In one room Hannah was scripting her and Daniel's testimony for the wedding while Daniel also typed something on his computer. I went into another room and dealt with emails.

By the way, what has Europe ever done for us? Given me free roaming in the UK, that's what. A text message from my operator explained that while in the UK I could call, text and even use mobile data just like in France. Jolly good! We'll see if there were any repercussions on the bill when it comes, but they said it was all included in the king's ransom I pay each month.

Anyway at around 5 a little group of lost Brazilians arrived at the house. After despatching them to where they needed to be we went to the church to rehearse the ceremony, entry and exit. I do strongly suggest to all young ladies and especially their fathers that they practice walking slowly. Women often have a grace that appears effortless, graceful and beautiful. Men generally lack this quality by nature, but much can be achieved with practice.

The following day, the forecast snow keeping its distance, we went to the church for the wedding at 1. What a happy time, uniting folk from the four home nations, from France, Germany and Portugal as well as Brazil and Tahiti. Daniel and Hannah's road to the church has been rocky and strewn with difficulties - lots of geographical separation, cultural differences that lead to huge misunderstanding, the UK government's initial refusal to grant a visa for Daniel to enter the UK and marry Hannah - but they make a most handsome couple and their friends and family will give them all the help they need.

We discussed the identity of the bird was that was deliciously served "en croute". The bone resembled that of a duck.
"Poulet?" (chicken) one person said. No, it wasn't chicken.
"What about those little chickens?" "Poussin?"
"No, those little birds." "Cailles?" (Quails)
The leg bone was about 3 inches long and my French neighbour had his doubts.
I told him that British birds were considerably larger than French ones and that he really ought to see a British turkey one day.
That evening I was told that it was guinea-fowl.

My flight back to Bordeaux got me home just perfectly in time to get to Dan for the service, most ably conducted by the excellent James, though Aurélien the steward scolded me for poking a sandwich wrapper (bacon, kale and acaiberry conserve) into my empty bottle of fruity water (spring water, apple juice, raspberry pulp - oh yes, and sugar...)

I missed you, Michael.

Every time I officiate at a wedding I have the same thought. See above.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The limits of free speech

Dieudonné is a comedian who specialises in anti-semitic humour.

His one man show was banned from various towns last year sparking demonstrations in his support.

After the events of last week he posted a remark on twitter expressing a certain sympathy for the terrorist who had taken hostages in the Parisian kosher grocer, was arrested, remanded in custody and will appear before magistrates on 4th February.

As far as I know nobody has demonstrated in his support.

There's nothing like a bit of stress to improve your effectiveness!

I'm going to be ready to fly off to this wedding!


More on books, proof-reading and publishing

It's great to have the opportunity to review books and there are certainly lots of books being published. I volunteer to review books that interest me, so that means I seldom review a book I actively dislike - just once or twice that I can remember. However it does sadden me that spelling errors and grammatical errors now seem almost universally present.

Why is this? Well I think we have to start with an assumption of good-will and due diligence on the part of all concerned. People go into publishing because they love books, they believe in the transmission of thought and they are concerned for standards. After all, there are easier ways to make a fast buck than publishing! Also people train to edit, to proof-read etc, and it is meticulous, lonely and tiring work.

So why aren't non-existent words (like my favourite, forebearers) and classic errors (like principle/principal) weeded out? Why isn't every sentence clear? Why do errors in footnotes persist, etc.

I've noted in the blog before that Christian books in France are MUCH more expensive than in the UK/USA. I always assumed that this was because of bigger print runs in English, but I am not sure that the answer is so simple. The fact is that quite a lot of things are more expensive in France.

For example, chickens. In the UK supermarket shelves used to be full of pre-packed standard oven-ready birds at really quite low prices. Here in France there are a few chickens like that, but most are about twice the price and have labels giving details of their age, nutrition, region of origin. People pay for the quality.

Similarly the price of books is still protected by law, so wherever you buy a book it will cost roughly the same. The biggest discount you can offer by law is 5%. Recently, to protect French bookshops, the government has banned free delivery by firms like Amazon. So people know they can't buy a pot-boiler or a thriller for £3.86 off the supermarket shelf, or three for £5 or whatever.

This means for example, that Kevin DeYoung's "Crazy Busy" costs £8.99 on Amazon.co.uk and 16,50€ in French as "Vie de fou". It's not a big book, but it costs the best part of 20 euros.

Now I just wonder whether the cause of falling standards of production in publishing in English is down to me. (And to you, gentle reader). We want to buy cheap books. We want good theological reflection, we want lots of it, and we want it at a rock-bottom price.

OK. If we're not going to pay much for the book where can economies be made? Already printing is done in countries where labour is cheap (so putting European printers out of business). We can hardly farm proof-reading and editing out to non-English speaking countries, so how can we cut those costs? I strongly suspect that many people are forced to work long hours doing meticulous work for insufficient pay, far below the minimum wage.

And we can't blame the publishing houses. Like the bookshops, they struggle to survive.

When I worked in the computer industry my boss would give me tasks to perform. I'd quite routinely ask, "Do you want it well-done and slow, or a quick dirty fix?" Sometimes a quick dirty fix was just what was needed, but sometimes we coud afford to do a good job, which is, of course, far more satisfying.

If you and I will not pay a fair price for a well-written, well-edited, well-constructed, well-printed, well-bound book of excellent quality, where the quality of production matches the quality of thought, then I only have myself to blame if standards slip. You can't have well-done and slow at quick and dirty prices.

Friends, we can help by buying the best books. And we can help by being willing to pay more for them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

You know those days where by the evening you can't remember the morning?

Yes? Well today's been like that. Rich and full. Involving :

1) Duty at the Maison de la Bible, with charming customers

2) Lunch of left-over vegetable lasagne. yum yum!

3) Discussion with James, all good stuff, and coffee in the FNAC - hurrah!

4) A visit to the consulate of a west African country to get a visa (come back tomorrow)

5) A visit to the tram and bus company to replace Catrin's lost tram card

6) A visit to found property (logical, no?) to retrieve Catrin's lost tram card handed in (Hurrah!)

7) Meanwhile Mrs Davey had her eyes tested and has an initial diagnosis of glaucoma... drops prescribed.

8) Research of singing and music degrees for Catrin next year.

Now listening to Bach and he's unknotting the tangles of my mind. He always does.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Is this the right photo or not?

Find out here. Meanwhile I can confirm that Sexagesima is NOT those little weeds by the lychgate.

Wow! Awesome!


Though I have still not forgiven them for blending fictional and fabulous names on their blog - and like totally fooling me and stuff.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Why, oh WHY didn't I cancel the service?

That's what I was thinking on the way to Dan.

It was the demonstration of unity on Sunday and so bus 4's route was deviated.
Pat was making her first bus journey in three weeks and now she would be deposited some way from our usual stop.

"Et les trams passent par le centre ville?"
"Non." (it was a stupid question, really)

So it was Shanks' pony for us.

As we got near Cours Albret we saw a slow-moving stream of people filling the avenue, going from left to right.
We had to cross the stream.
Over the top? Under the legs? Pedestrian crossing?

"If we join the stream we can edge over bit by bit and come out the other side"

So we did, and it worked wonderfully well.
Then down Elisée Réclus - full of people.
Round by the Town Hall - a sea of people.
Through the crowd to the Musée Jean Moulin - stuffed with people.
Up the side of the Athénée Municipal - a stream of people.
Down Poquelin-Molière - people everywhere.

It wasn't till we got on to Rue Cancéra that we could walk normally.

I arrived at Dan, opened up, set up, people arrived.
Three new folk, one of whom had phoned in the week, one a boyfriend of one of our girls.
Psalm 2 - why is the world like it is?

At one point I said, "It's all well and good to say je suis Charlie, je suis Ahmed, je suis Juif, je suis flic, but the Bible tells me that at root I am one of the ones who rise up against God. The problem is me. The solution is Jesus."

We decided afterwards that changing your internet profile to say that would not be enough to convey the nuances of the Biblical message, and may draw the forces of law and order down on your head....

By the time we came out the crowds had dispersed. (HOW? There were between 140 000 and 200 000 people!) Bus 4 was running its usual route. We came home, tired but happy.

Pat's back was OK, and Catrin who would normally have a real problem with these crowds, had worked through her panic and made it wonderfully.

Cours Albret - we had to cross this stream

Near the Musée Jean Moulin - we had to cross this square

Where are my girls? Somewhere back there.

Vital Carles - we had to cross this stream

Saturday, January 10, 2015

An update on Pat's back

It's been long and slow. She's been very thankful for ibuprofen and paracetamol, and also for an electric heat-massage back thingie bequeathed to her by Andy Chueng when he left Bordeaux for sunnier climes.

I think she intends coming to church tomorrow, which will be the first time in three weeks - that is she's missed two Sundays. When Pat isn't around I feel like a one-legged man trying to ride a bike.

Today she got in a car for the first time in weeks, perhaps months. She couldn't come to see Gwilym off at the airport, for example. Cars are actually quite difficult with back problems, partly because of getting in and out and the twisting involved, and partly because of the juddering over uneven surfaces that normally you don't even notice.

Tomorrow will involve her going to Bordeaux on the bus.
At least getting on and off is usually no problem.
I hope the shaking and juddering is OK.

I really like these things

Je (ne) suis (pas) Charlie - on mockery

Following the attack on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo many people in cyberspace changed their photos to say "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie). I am not sure where this idea came from. In my mind it is kind of linked with the joke at Starbucks where some wag gave his name as Spartacus. When the barista held up the coffee and called "Spartacus" one after another people stood and announced "I'm Spartacus".


Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine especially known for its cartoons. It occupies roughly the same kind of niche as Private Eye, or the TV programme, Spitting Image. It mocks everything and everyone.

Perhaps it was this approach of mockery that led some people to start identifying themselves as "Je ne suis pas Charlie" (I am not Charlie) mais je me tiens à vote côté or some other expression of solidarity.

What about this mockery?

Someone reposted a short thought from John Piper that he put out in 2006 after the murders linked to the infamous Danish cartoons (reprinted by Charlie Hebdo) where he draws out a fundamental difference between Christ and Muhammad - and the Muslim view of Christ. Jesus accomplishes his greatest achievement precisely by means of being mocked, insulted, flogged, condemned, tortured to death. Read it here.

Later, discussing with someone else, I reflected further. Though mockery is dangerous, and the Bible warns us against it, still it is also a time honoured and Biblical tool in exposing human folly. Think of Elijah and the prophets of Baal - "Shout louder, he can't hear you, perhaps he's gone to the toilet..." Think of Isaiah and the idol makers - one piece of wood he uses to heat his baked beans, the other he talks to and says "You are my God".

Then think of the pamphlets and leaflets of the Reformation. Erasmus' "In praise of folly", Lutheran cartoons of the Pope, the church's cartoons of Luther.

And the long history of political cartooning. No doubt, images come to your mind as you read this.

I can remember laughing as some opinion I had strongly expressed was ridiculed by a well-placed joke and my error exposed. I can also remember blushing or feeling angry on other occasions.

Can mockery go too far? Of course it can. Can you imagine a church meeting with Luther letting rip? There is a time and a place - and a manner and a choice of target.

Did Charlie Hebdo go too far? That I can't say. I never read the thing. I never read Private Eye.

Am I Charlie? Am I not Charlie? To this we have to add "Je suis flic" - an identity adopted to show solidarity with the policeman who died - then "Je suis Ahmad" - when people realised that this policeman was a muslim who gave his life to defend those who died for mocking his prophet.

In the end Je suis Alan. Je suis le Gallois. I'm here to work and speak and think for Christ, to try and make his voice heard, and for that we need free discussion, without fear, and - yes - with the possibility of mockery.

The inimitable Trueman writes about this here.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Phone call from the health insurance people

They've reimbursed us for the missing years and apologised that there had been no automatic transfer between our statutory health cover, CAVIMAC and our top up.

It's good to have been reimbursed, but when one considers that the sum represents six years of sickness for a family of four it seems to me that we're paying too much. We'd be better off just having cover for major catastrophes, hospitalisations, operations etc and saving what we'd otherwise pay for cover.

I'll go into the office and talk to them about it as soon as I can.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Yesterday in Bordeaux

I was scheduled to be in the bookshop all day, so I left the house at about 9 and just missed a bus that passed at 9:04. We have real-time bus reporting now, so I flashed on the QR code and it said the next no 4 was due in 17 minutes. They're 10 minutes apart. So I decided to scuttle round the corner to catch the next 44, reportedly in 5 minutes.

I waited at the 44 stop. I was joined by another chap. "It comes at 9:12", he said. 9:12 came, but no no. 44. 9:15 arrived. I checked the real time buses again, so far "real" was not to be taken too literally. Bus 4 in 5 minutes. I scuttled round the corner again. At least I was getting some exercise even if I was not getting a bus.

As the longed-for bus 4 drew up my phone rang. "Don't come in this morning. Come at lunch time."

So I went home and got on with some reading. Then in for the afternoon.

While talking with James, my phone vibrated. Facebook Messenger : Bad day in France. Thinking of you all as you speak with others

We put on the BBC News, then France24 and learned of the events in Paris. Unimaginable.

At about 5 there were hordes of people walking up the street outside the bookshop. "It's the sales", said our friend who begs outside a shop opposite and who comes in for a quick coffee from time to time.

I found out later that it wasn't. It was a silent vigil outside the Ecole de la Magistrature. When I closed up at 18:30 there were still several hundred people there.

Thanks for your prayers for France.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Pray for France

Pray for the families who have lost fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters.

Pray for there to be no islamophobic reaction.

Pray for many to seek the peace that only the Prince of Peace can give.

Pray for wisdom and restraint on the part of those in authority.

Pray for words of grace and love from the lips of those who know the Living God.

Pray for violent men to be brought to justice, and to repentance and faith.

Houellebecq in the news again

Michel Houellebecq (as far as I can gather from the various pronunciations I hear here, one says "Well-er-beck"or "Well-beck") is one of the most controversial contemporary novelists in France.  He has written from an essentially bleak nihilist viewpoint novels about isolation and the pointlessness of life. Now he has turned his talents to imagining a France which elects a Muslim President and becomes islamic overnight. He says this scenario is entirely possible and envisageable.

It's interesting to see this in the context of the resurgence of the European far-right, concerns about immigration, and the struggle with islamic terrorism.

Read the BBC's take on it all here.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Two sad losses and a busy week ahead

We've lost two friends to cancer over the Christmas period.

The first is a Dutch lady with whom we were put in contact through her friends in Pembrokeshire. She lived in Bergerac - a two hour journey from here - but we used to visit her on her visits to the hospital in Bordeaux. We got to know her very quickly and she seemed to appreciate our visits, contacting us from her iPad to let us know what room she was in and so on. She had a very lively and well-informed faith and used to work translating books from Dutch into English for some very well-known people. We weren't able to visit her during her last few days, or to go to her funeral, but we said farewell by email - her last message was to say goodbye as she was getting too weak to type.

The second is a lady who was very involved with the Christian bookshop in Bordeaux. She contracted a cancer in her face and her battle was long and difficult. She is greatly missed but it is good that this hard period for her and for her family is now over. Her funeral is this afternoon and I hope to go.

A British philosopher (?) has recently said that cancer isn't a bad way to go because you get to say goodbye to your family and you have time to relinquish this world and set your affairs in order. Well, yes, I suppose, so, if it is well-managed, and depending on the nature the disease. Not all cancers are the same, are they...

This week has suddenly become quite hectic. Tomorrow at Maison de la Bible all day - I'm replacing the afternoon guy this week and he'll replace me next week. I'll be able to read and prepare during the quiet intervals. The sales start in Bordeaux tomorrow so everyone will be trying to buy cheap winter coats and boots. Then Friday we have the Bookshop Committee meeting. One item on the agenda is how to publicise the bookshop and encourage suitable people to volunteer.

Monday, January 05, 2015


at Maison de la Bible, so it's all hands to the pumps.

We had these funky handheld scanners to scan the barcode on each item, then you had to poke ineffectually at the screen with a minuscule stylus to enter the quantity of each item, be it a book, cd, etc...

Thankfully I discovered that instead of poking around with the minuscule stylus you could press tiny buttons to exactly the sam effect, which speeded up the job remarkably.

Then we scuttled off to a café round the corner for lunch together - confit de canard with a mound of haricots verts cooked with garlic and some very tasty potatoes.

After lunch I was scheduled to go to the ex-pats creative writing group - yes I know. It's my second time to go and ... well ... We are under the gentle tutelage of a published author who is very affirming and encouraging. My work of art this month was the proof that a stitch in time does not save nine, in the form of a detective forced to stitch up a murderer by planting a gun in his washing machine in order to meet his quota of arrests and so save his job, but being rewarded for his pains with a vicious head-butt requiring 9 sutures at the local A&E.

For next month our task is a descriptive passage with no adjectives.

Les Fils de la Réforme

Book Review : Salt, Light and Cities on Hills, by Melvin Tinker, published by EP

Melvin Tinker is vicar of St John's Newlands, Hull, an Anglican Church in a northern English city. Melvin's ministry is known for seeking biblical integrity as well as an evangelistic heart for the folk around. He has written a couple of books which all are well worth reading, and are generally rather short. He writes economically, which is good.

This is a very useful book that repays close reading. It falls into broadly three sections :

1) A survey of the recent history of Evangelical thinking regarding the social implications of the gospel

2) A Biblical theology tracing Isaiah through the Sermon on the Mount into the early chapters of Acts.

3) A testimony of the way this is worked out at St John's Newlands.

I don't want to say too much about the contents or the stance of the book because I don't want anyone to dismiss it because of the position it takes, but I will say that Melvin surveys writers and speakers sympathetically, honestly and courteously, that he argues closely and biblically and that he builds a compelling case. There were several sections that I found especially helpful and my review copy has lots of underlining and highlighting - and I seldom highlight a book and never underline.

Buy the book and read it. It's only 120 pages. You can read it quickly, though it will be best if you read it fairly slowly, a section at a time, and think things through to decide if he is right or wrong in what he asserts.

Again a book makes me mourn the extinction of the proof-reader. A friend has explained to me that the principle reason is that thyme constraints in modden publishing mean that books can no longer be edited properly. Add to that spell chequers that do not always get things write and I guess we must al learn to reed phonetically.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

A house of sickness and infirmity

Poor Pat's back is having great fun making her suffer. The doctor came and prescribed stretching, massage, ibuprofen and paracetamol and a kind of muscle relaxant thing. The pills work well but she still needs them, sadly. She's better than she was, but it's not great.

Meanwhile Catrin is slightly under the weather.

Speaking of the weather, we just had a really cold spell - overnight temperatures well under freezing, some daytime peaks of 3 or 4. Brrr. We can get the bedrooms warm, but the living room is a struggle, even with the wood-stove well lit and blazing. However the forecast from now on is much milder and today the drizzle is back.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

He's gone again

Gwilym's flight was at 5, so I reserved a car from 2:30 because I knew he'd want to try the new Starbucks. We had some viennoiseries for a treat for breakfast and Pat had a roast dinner planned, too, so we fused the kitchen just before the cauliflower was ready and had to forego our Christmas pudding! (heaters in bedrooms, oven, kettle - just too much power being drawn through) Oh well. Gwilym's not keen on the stuff anyway. Tomorrow when I get some more fuses of the right power we can do the pud.

So off to get the car. Pessac was SO QUIET! We got to the airport and scuttled off to the amazing folding origami Starbucks, thinking that it might be closed - it is, after all, New Year's Day, but it was open, so 15 euros later and lighter and we were all drinking some form of latte... (Catrin doesn't like the taste of coffee so she had a "chai tea latte", but she did try Gwilym's latte)

Well, except for Patricia, whose back is too stiff and painful for her to get in the car, so she had to say her tearful farewells at the house before we drove off.

My the house seems empty. And quiet. And cold.

But this cold snap ends tomorrow and we'll be back to our usual balmy temperatures.

10,000 New Year's Resolutions - thanks to Paul Tripp

It’s that time of year again, that time of year when we examine what we don’t like about our life and make a resolution to change it in the New Year.
Can be I honest with you? I think your New Year’s resolution isn’t going to be as effective as you hope it will, if it works at all.
Is change important? Absolutely. Is commitment essential? Of course. Is improving your lifestyle a wise decision? Without a doubt. So I don’t want to discourage you from writing or keeping a New Year’s resolution, but I do want to challenge the way you think about biblical change.
You see, Christianity – which has the gospel of Jesus Christ at the center – simply doesn’t rest its hope in big, dramatic moments of change. The fact of the matter is this: the transforming work of grace operates in 10,000 little moments more than it does in a series of two or three life-altering events.
In other words, the character and quality of your life won’t be defined by two or three life-changing moments. No, the character and quality of your life will be defined by the 10,000 little decisions, desires, words, and actions you make every day.
How you can you be a better you in 2015? Confess in 10,000 little moments of conviction. Be courageous in 10,000 little moments of faith. Obey in 10,000 little moments of decisions. Choose the kingdom over God over the kingdom of self in 10,000 little moments of desire.
You don’t need a big resolution to change your life, because your life isn’t established in big moments. Your life is established in 10,000 little moments, and Jesus Christ is present and active in all those moments. In these small, seemingly insignificant moments, he’s delivering every redemptive promise he has made to you. In these 10,000 little moments, the Lord is working to rescue you from you and transform you into his likeness.
By sovereign grace, God places you in 10,000 little moments that are designed to take you beyond your character, wisdom, and grace so that you'll seek the help and hope that can only be found in him. In a lifelong process of change, he is undoing you and rebuilding you again - exactly what each one of us needs!
Yes, you and I need to be committed to change in 2015, but not in a way that hopes for a big event of transformation. Your hope for change is a humble heart that finds joy in, and is faithful to, a day-by-day, step-by-step process of insight, confession, repentance and faith. 
As 2014 gives way to 2015, wake up each day committed to live in the 10,000 little moments of your life with open eyes and humble hearts.
God bless
Paul David Tripp


  1. What do you want to change about your life?

  2. Why is a New Year's resolution so attractive?

  3. Why do New Year's resolutions typically fail? 

  4. How can you make changes in your 10,000 little moments of life?

  5. How can you encourage others in their 10,000 little moments of life?

Happy New Year!