Showing posts from January, 2016

At the station

Me: Bonsoir. Le M: Bonsoir. Good evening. Je ne sais pas si vous êtes Français ou Anglais Me: err, je suis Gallois. Le M: Ah. Je ne parle pas gallois. Me: Vous dites "Noswaith dda". Le M: Noswaith dda? Et ça veut dire? Me: Très bien! Ça veut dire "bonsoir" en gallois.

Because we are so incredibly hip and trendy

First a word of apology, then one of explanation. To our regular readers, we do not deserve your assiduity, we are unworthy of your commitment. Eny fule kno, to quote the unrivalled Molesworth, that to keep a blog going you have to blog regularly , preferably every day. This I have not done. And I am sorry. However I am not without explanation. We have been to Paris. Yes! To PARIS! But not to the City of Light. No, we skirted the south of the city to head straight for the station Marne-la-Vallée. Yes! the stop for DISNEYLAND! But we were not going to visit Mickey, Donald or any of his other friends. We were going to Multiplication , a short workshop run by Acts29. (Gentle reader, do not look for the 29th chapter of Acts in your Bible.You will look in vain.) Yes. Church planting is what we are engaged in in Bordeaux. It is arduous, demanding and often solitary. Since last summer we were challenged to consider joining one of the church planting networks, of which it seemed to

Couch to 5K - you have to keep your wits about you, if you can lay your hand on them in the dark

I use an application to guide me in my running, and I like to get up at about 6:30, get ready and run then. The streets are empty and dark and I can hurtle alongside the vineyards to my heart's despair without fear of disturbance or perturbation. It is good, too, to surrender all sovereignty to my phone and just obey when it says "Ding! Start running", "Ding! Watch that kerb!", "Ding! Don't worry about that dog, he's indoors." etc. There is a drawback, however. It is that at 6:30, though I am pretty well awake, I am not terribly competent with technology. So it is that I have run various days of week one for about two weeks... The first I know of it is when I am expecting to have to run further and for longer, but no... same as yesterday. Oh well. Little matter.

Couch to 5k

Day whatever... Harder this morning, but still OK.

Ladies of a certain age are wearing shiny plastic coats this year


Oh, that's SO ANNOYING

A lady came into Maison de la Bible today and said, "I hope you can help me. I am looking for a Bible, a Second 21, with very wide margins for taking notes on." "Oh yes", quoth I, "the English ones are called Journalling Bibles". "Yes! That's what I am looking for, but in French." "Sorry. It doesn't exist. You'll have to master English." She laughed and we examined all the Bibles. And yes, it doesn't exist. And it SHOULD. We could find no wide margin Bible at all. "I'll contact the publishers of the Bible Second 21 and tell them that we need one." "Great! You can let me know when it will come out?" "Well it will take a long time. Frankly, I think it would be quicker to master the English language."

It has been a discouraging week in Bordeaux.

Some remarks were made at the start of the week that I took too seriously. I knew they were not true, but I allowed them to haunt me instead of tackling them. Oh well. Next week will be better.

Couch to 5k

Day three. Remembered to turn on the sound on my phone. The lady thinks I'm awesome. Forgot my Ventolin inhaler. Didn't need it. Remembered all my stretches. On the basis that that which killeth thee not shall render thy force increased , this will be OK.

Couch to 5k

Ow, my thighs... Oh yes - there's that stretch where you grab your foot, isn't there...

Open air preaching and Catrin's concert

Wednesday began with my stint in the Maison de la Bible. It was a pretty quiet morning punctuated by happy visits from sundry welcome souls. Pat relieved me at 2, but I stayed with her till 3 because she was scheduled to be alone for her first hour. Then to McDonalds for coffee and office space! Reading for Sunday and checking emails and stuff. Then down the road from McDonalds to where our good friends from OAC were going to preach in the open air. I've wanted to go and support them for months, but there's always something; There was something again, but enough was enough. It was a good time with perhaps a little crowd of 10 to 15 people for one of the little presentations, good humoured people listening well and nice conversations afterwards. Then off to the University for a concert of music by Duteil. Catrin's classmates had had the task of orchestrating the songs for a concert at the end of last year, but now a handful of them sang the songs while others accompani

Couch to 5k

First morning. OK, but don't have your phone set to silent. Didn't die! Yay!

Lunch at Gaston's

After Pray and Plan this morning I sent Pat a message to suggest we meet up for lunch in town somewhere. She hopped on the bus and I tripped into town and we went to a really good quality bakers called "Gaston". Pat had pizza royale and I had a quiche with leeks and goat's cheese. We both had a piece of cake with lemon, poppy seeds and black pepper with our coffee. It was extremely good. Really very good indeed. The baker told me that essentially you add poppy seeds and black pepper in a ratio of 4 to 1 to your lemon cake.

Preaching for the Chinese, and fish fingers

on Saturday night, John 6 - do not work for food that spoils ... and they always have really nice Chinese food afterwards, so we talked about food over the meal. Many of them have no English so we converse in French. They were pretty amazed to hear that in England we regularly and habitually eat fish fingers, des doigts de poisson . You can see what's coming, can't you. "Fish fingers?" said one, waggling his fingers. But fish have fins? They don't have fingers. Yes, but we still eat fish fingers. Sometimes we also eat chocolate fingers - des doigts chocolatés . That was when somebody perked up. Oh yes! There's one brand of batonnets au chocolat that is called that. Fingers de Cadbury.

The Pessac Jazz Band

Last Saturday we went out for a Gala Cabaret-style Concert at the Salle Bellegrave organised by the two Pessac schools of music, the Espace Musical de Pessac and the Ecole de Musique Verthamon Haut-Brion. The first half consisted of the symphonic orchestra of the two school son music, about 80 pupils in total, playing a selection of light music, as well as the Brasseurs de Vent - my favourite street band - and a group of fifes and drums who played traditional raucous and piercing favourites. The Pessac Jazz Band played the second half of the concert, with standards like "Fly me to the moon", "As long as I'm singing" and so on. It was a very happy evening and I was glad to see the gang again - fr most of them I have not seen them at all since I stopped going to the group about two or three years ago, all linked to my burnout/depression, when all the music stopped for a while for me. I'm not going to go back and play in a group like that, for a start reh

Well March and April will be an interesting time!

I remember one guy who spoke sadly about the multiplication of conferences. March 16 - March 18 : ICC Prayer Conference near Geneva March 30 - April 1 : Colloque Biblique Francophone in Lyon April 4 - April 6 : Acts 29 Resolved Conference in Rome April 12 - April 14 : City to City in Lisbon April 11 - April 14 : Banner of Truth Conference in Leicester methinks me must choose

Probably the strangest request I have ever had, I think

At the Maison de la Bible, the phone rings: "Est-ce que vous avez de petites figurines de Saint-Joseph? Je dois vendre mon appartement." I told the lady that we had recently sold our house and we had just prayed and asked other people to pray, but she responded that it wasn't a house but an apartment, and she had already prayed but a friend had told her what she needs to do. You get a little statuette of Joseph and you bury it head down near the entrance to your house or flat. Then you pray by the statuette each morning until the house or flat is sold. In the USA they have special Saint-Joseph kits for selling your house, apparently. After an interesting conversation I told the lady of a shop in Bordeaux where she might find one

I like so many things about our flat

like it's position. When we thought about what we would need, we thought 70 sq. m., 2 or 3 bedrooms (3 would be great, but hey), and not facing south or west. Our friends thought we were nuts not to want to face south, and it's true that in winter the passive solar heating is nice, and the place would be much more bright. But in the summer you'd get cooked, you'd live with the shutters down and short of installing air conditioning they'd be very little you could do about it. Facing west would mean facing the prevailing winds, which means you get the rain and wind coming right at you, especially when it's stormy - and it's often stormy because Bordeaux is right next to the Bay of Biscay. So when we saw this flat there were two available. One was on the first floor facing due south. We hesitated, but in the end took this one on the ground floor facing north and east. It means we get the morning sun and we are sheltered from the winds and storms. Like


This morning was spent happily stocktaking at Maison de la Bible, counting an scanning books and cards. Then lunch at a café before Patricia and Catherine dusted the shelves and rearranged everything and I came home to various day-off tasks and chores.

Today has been stormy

with high winds, thunder, lightning, hail, heavy rain, the works. I have no fear for our roof because we have no roof. Or at least the roof is two floors above us. And our terrace is on the sheltered side of the building.

Tea and Chat

We have an English Conversation afternoon once a month at Dan, called "Tea and Chat", which is slowly but constantly building up in numbers. It's the first Sunday of the month at 3:30.

Oh dear

We took Gwilym to the airport for him to fly back to the UK. He's staying the weekend at Hastings where he'll be helping to fix a friend's car before returning to LST.

Well, not yet. Anything is possible.

I was on duty in the Christian bookshop yesterday and this nice couple came in asking for Alain Juppé's new book, "Pour un État fort" (For a strong State). I said, for that you'll need to go to Mollat, it's not far, it's a general bookshop. This is the Maison de la Bible, so we sell Bibles and Christian books. We don't sell Juppé's book. Well, not yet.

I like so many things about our flat

like the little number 42 buses that go past towards Mérignac. They're cute.


Wednesday is the 6th of January, the feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the visit of the Magi. Churches which mark the date often do it on the first Sunday after New Year and in France there's special cakes for the occasion, enjoyed with champagne (apparently) or French cider. French cider is very low in alcohol and comes in sweet or dry varieties, though both seem pretty sweet to me. The cake is the galette or the couronne des rois . A Galette des Rois is a disc of two thick layers of fish, buttery flaky pastry with a filling of black cherry, prunes, apples or, most usually, frangipane. All these fruits are typical of the South-West of France, of course. The Couronne des Rois  is marginally lighter, being a ring of brioche sometimes flavoured with chocolate chips, with dried fruit, plain or, my favourite, with orange-blossom water. Both cakes are sold complete with a paper crown, and there's a small figurine, the feve , baked into the cake. This is what you do:

Look up! Look up!

Our Christmas letter was upbeat. In 2015 lots of nagging, grinding issues got resolved. We're in a better position now for the next ten years of ministry than since we first came to France. At the same time we face significant problems, challenges and disappointments. It's like that, isn't it. But I did feel a bit bad sending our letter out against a context of cancelled fireworks displays all over France and beyond, closed railway stations in Germany, a state of emergency in France, constant announcements urging vigilance in the public transports and Christians talking apocalyptically about "the darkness closing in". (Incidentally a young man asked us to watch his bags at the railway station while he went to the toilet. Should one do that or not?) Yes, there is this generalised fear. I guess that's why they call it terrorism. But in the UK someone or other has been trying to blow us up pretty well as long as I can remember. I was glad that the London fi

It works, even in the dark!

This morning I had to get up and sorted early because the postman will come any time from stupid o'clock to that's cutting it a bit fine, isn't it. Which meant tying my shoelaces in the dark. A good test. Have I mastered the technique enough to do it in the dark? Yes! It worked fine!

The BBC's correspondent finds out about les voiturettes of Brittany.

Read and listen here .

I am overawed. Absolutely overawed.

Some time ago I discovered that I had been tying my shoelaces wrong. Imagine that! Discovering in your fifties that you'd been tying your shoelaces all wrong for decades! The shoelace bow knot has a strong and a weak form. The weak form aligns the bow loops toe-to-heel and will undo under tension. The strong form aligns the bow loops side-to-side and will tighten under tension. That means that the tight form needs no 'double knot' and you can make an elegant and strong bow. Well this week I discovered that you can tie your shoe lace in one simple elegant movement! Yes! No more holding of loops and going round the correct way to put the loop through the knot! This way is swift, simple and elegant. Look!

On reading challenges

I guess I must read about two or three books a month, on average. I read books to review them on the blog here, and you can find these by clicking on the label "Books". This year I've usually reviewed a book each month, sometimes two, fewer towards the end of the year with the house move looming. These were all from Christian authors and publishers, and usually books about some aspect of christian thinking, living or history. Then we used to attend a reading group and so we would read one book a month for that. These were usually novels. Then there'd be other books I read for specific reasons or just for interest. It's no longer the heady days of single life in Cardiff when I would put Sibelius on the record player (remember those?) and sprawl on the sofa with a good book all evening, but it's still not a bad score for someone like me. I like the idea of having a target of 60 or more books in a year, but something about it also repels me. I'm not