Showing posts from July, 2016

Sometimes it's hard to know what to say

To murder an elderly priest in a church building during a service in the presence of harmless folk like nuns is such a dastardly and evil act that we surely must call it what it is: cowardly, criminal violence.  Surely it is wrong to dignify this kind of brutal thuggery with words like war. This is just indefensible. At the same time angry reactions will achieve nothing good.  These aggressors need to know that there is real hope, real forgiveness and a real future with the God of Love, and that they can turn to him for him to change their lives, their hearts, their future, their destiny. The only real hope is in the reconciliation that the gospel brings. In the meantime we pray for, are thankful for and appreciate more and more our security forces and the politicians who must act with greater than human wisdom and restraint.

Chez le médecin

Well I have antibiotics and instructions to stop wearing shirts with collars and to wear tee-shirts, at least when it is hot. My collars rub the back of my neck and causes these problems.

The long-feared day has come

One of the problems confronting every Brit who settles in France is to accurately and reliably produce the sounds which enrich the French language but which do not exist in English. Most notorious are the nasal vowels, of course, but alongside them must be ranked in terms of awkwardness the sound "u". Often we go through an unfortunate period where we manage to produce a pretty good and solid "u", but through feebleness of brain, it insinuates itself into places where the sound "ou" should be heard. Thus it is that you often hear people talk about "us" while actually saying the word for "naked" - nu sommes , for example. Thankfully one of these words, nous , is a personal pronoun, while the other, nu , is an adjective, so the simple grammatical structure of the sentences in which they occur will make it difficult to misconstrue the sense intended, whatever the sound produced. Not so with the word for the neck, cou . The neck is a pa

Oh no! Did I do THAT badly?

Funny dream time. We were living in the MOST ENORMOUS HOUSE, which was ours, we owned it and it had a huge kitchen with a massive bay window in which could be seen an old-fashioned butler's sink, and we were in the garden which consisted of rolling lawns ending in a haha which led to the cornfields beyond. I had no idea where it was but it looked to me like Oxfordshire. Into this impressive idyll interjected the terrible news that I had failed my French exam - miserably. I was understandably perturbed because academic success and godliness are almost synonymous, of course.  I tried to understand what had gone wrong, but instead woke up into the much happier real world where we live in a modest rented flat and where the results of my exam will not be published for two weeks.

Alors, tu cours à jeune?

"Are you still running?" asked my elderly doctor friend. "Yes, about half an hour two or three times a week." "So how far does that make?" "Oh look, I don't run fast, and the goal isn't distance, it's time." "So when do you go?" "First thing in the morning, before breakfast." "Ah, so you run on an empty stomach. Maybe if you ate something before you go you'd find you run faster." So this morning found me rummaging in the freezer in the dark looking for the loaf of bread so I could defrost a slice, spread it with some kind of goo and then get off running. I'll find out later if it made me run faster, though the new version of Map my Run tells me that my top speed is about 12km/hour - that's not allowing for stopping to take photos of the sunrise or to allow the bus company to get all their buses in a row (I am often passed by buses bearing the legend "MISE EN LIGNE"

I now realise that I have no idea whatsoever what is going on in the world

One of the awakenings of these past few months has been to see a little more clearly the nature of the press. I don't see UK newspapers regularly, but I do get to read them online. The Guardian allows free access. Through Flipboard I can also read certain articles from the Telegraph and from the Independent. I can also read articles from the Spectator. A heady mix, don't you think? These four tell completely contradictory points of view. They report the same facts, superficially, but the headline and the interpretation of the facts are diametrically opposed. Now, OK, one might say it was ever thus, and perhaps it was. But my problem with it is that all this dogmatism stifles discussion and debate. You can never discuss anything because dogma is not open to discussion, and facts must be interpreted - and maybe even selected - to fit the dogma. I think the end result of this is that democracy is effectively stifled - the people can't have or even hear a discussion on


Well I got the tram to the DEFLE and arrived on the dot of 8:30, just in time to hear my name called. I was first in for the oral examination. Good! So into a little room. Check convocation and passport. Choose two from these piles of paper. Look at them. Now choose one of them. I had a choice between an article about how hard it is to get your kids to eat 5 fruit and veg a day, and an article about the image of women in the media. I chose the latter. You have 30 minutes to prepare. Then you must come in, summarise the article and give your point of view. Then I'll ask you a few questions. That all went OK, and the lady afterwards said, "Well that went OK. Why do you need the exam? If your written French is OK I don't think you'll have a big problem." So then home to await the afternoon tests. 1:15 found me sat in a big circle of stress with lots of youngsters who were hoping to get into university to study in Bordeaux. At 1:30 we were called down to c

So, how to prove residency in France for five years?

I have five years' worth of taxe foncière and taxe d'habitation I can show, that's for sure. But you have to pay those even if you are not really living in a property and they want you to show continual residency in France with no break longer then, I think, 6 months. What they really want is five years' worth of justficatifs de domicile - utility bills. Gas bills. Electricity bills. They're the best. And thankfully it is now supremely easy to get at five years' worth of electricity bills. Just log on to your personal space on the EDF website and, hey presto! What!?!? There's only one bill showing! But I've been paying for eleven years, and always with the same customer number and everything! I went to the electricity office in Pessac. I had been there to arrange the house move and they were very glad to see me and very helpful. "Oh yes. I don't know why they aren't showing. The best thing to do is write a letter and ask for you

36°C in the shade. 42°C on the sunny side of the street.



In June while I was in the UK Patricia went to the opticians. She had her glasses changed in January, but her vision wasn't very good and she was concerned. They said she had cataracts in both eyes - quite an opaque one in the right eye and less severe in the left. "You need to get them sorted", they said. So they arranged an appointment with an eye-surgeon at the Clinique Tivoli for the beginning and middle of September - one eye one week, the other the next - and today we went for the pre-operation appointment with the surgeon. She has also just made an appointment with the anaesthetist (though the anaesthetic is just in the form of drops) and she'll have to make two appointments for post-op checkups with her normal ophthalmologist. The operation should be amazing. They'll put drops in her eyes to numb the eye, then make a 2mm incision and pulverise the opaque lens by ultra-sound, then remove it through the tiny slit. Then a replacement lens in acrylique i

I must be doing something right...

or perhaps very wrong indeed... Someone asked me the other day if we had a cleaning lady. I paused, then said that no, we didn't.

Plan Dentry *

Speaking with our neighbour, Monique, yesterday evening - she came round to bring us some of her mother's famous bottled mushrooms - we got onto this dreaded French exam. I explained that I am rusty with writing and as we chatted about it I realised that one of my danger areas is conjugation. Frankly, for the subjunctive, which is useful in the construction "I'll have to ..." sometimes I hear what I say and I realise that I'm just making it up. "Well I do the same", she said. It's probably true. Some of the more dodgy conjugations, like saying, "I have to receive them by Thursday", for example, well you just take a stab... il faut que je les reçoive? reçoite? reçoise? and rely on people's aural editor to change it into the appropriate form somewhere between the lug and the noggin. Or you avoid the problem by using a different construction, like je dois les recevoir. .. Anyway, all this to say that I found a splendid couple of c

French exam ... that helped a lot

travelling in to Bordeaux on the tram with one of our chaps last night, he said, "so the exam you're doing is the DELF B2, right?" "Yes. And frankly I'm getting in a bit of a funk about it." "Oh, it's OK. I did it." "Really?" "Yes, I got 56." You need 50 to pass, and I'm pretty sure my French is better than my friend's. "Yes. Later I had to take C1" "Did you really?" "Yes, my school made me take it." I didn't ask him how he did.

Fireworks and trucks

After our Bible Study and pizzas we travelled into Bordeaux on the tram for the 14 July fireworks. I had hoped to cross the river and see the fireworks from the other side, but we got our timing hopelessly wrong and instead watched from near Quinconces. There must have been thousands of people on the river banks, all going oooh and aaah. The police were very present and everything was just splendid. On the way home I thought of the excellent summer we have had in Bordeaux. The way the city enjoyed the football tournament. The good humour of the police. The good-natured Irish fans winning a place in everyone's heart. The fan zone that saw some immense crowds simply enjoying the matches. The happy and peaceful atmosphere before and after the matches. The quiet satisfaction even when your team lost in the semi-final or the final. I thought of writing a letter to M. Juppe, simply thanking him for what he represents and for what he has achieved in the city. Getting home from the

The 14 July at Pessac

Pessac celebrated the 14th July with the help of a MASSIVE wind band from the small town of Manuel in Valencia province in Spain. The group has come in three coaches to spend the weekend at Pessac, playing for the parade and ceremony this morning, for the dance in the park this afternoon and evening and then at a concert in the church on Saturday evening. I'll pop on some videos of the parade when I can. After the ceremony, which involved a short speech, a Remembrance Day-style commemoration with flags, fanfare "aux morts", silence, wreaths and Marseillaise (played rather slowly three times by the Spanish band - normally it is played once, briskly), there followed an apéritif on the top floor of the cinema, and very pleasant it was too. We got talking to a lady with a Shitzu, discovered she is a retired English teacher from the University and got invited to her house some time.

14th July

Well it's the National Day today, and it's Thursday, which coincides with our Bible Study. On 14th July there's various things going on. There's usually a parade in most towns. In Bordeaux this will be a small military parade with firefighters, police and soldiers, a military band and various funky official vehicles. In Pessac I think everyone is invited to parade. The Mairie has said to come dressed in blue, red or white, or to get a tee-shirt from the town hall. We'll probably sneak in and observe from the sidelines somewhere... Then this afternoon at the park at the end of the road where we used to live there's an vintage farm display. Then this evening in Bordeaux and in Pessac there will be fireworks. So what's the plan? Pizza at 6pm and Bible Study on Ruth 3, then into Bordeaux for the fireworks.

The first impact of Brexit, perhaps?

Poor Gwilym got some bad news last night. The mission trip that he is going on to Belgium and Holland, organised by LST, is going to cost £100 more than initially planned, apparently "because of inflation". As far as I know, inflation is low in all the countries concerned, and the trip has only been planned in the last couple of months, so I can only surmise that this is because of exchange rate fluctuations.

Day off

We're all pretty tired - late nights, hot weather, a combination of factors, so this morning it was pretty hard for everyone to get going. But going we got, nevertheless, and the morning began with Patricia's ukulele practice, accompanied by Gwilym on another ukulele. Be glad you don't live next door to us! Actually I did ask our next-door neighbour the other day if she ever heard us singing, and she swore that she never does. We could perhaps ask the folk who live upstairs, but so far so reassuring. Anyway we then made a quick trip to Ikea where we dined sumptuously on vast quantities of salad, and we then purchased some cheerful cushions to perk up our gray sofa in our grey room. Then home again. We went to Ikea in a Citiz car, a splendid Yaris Hybrid. When I picked up the car I first looked around it, as you are meant to do, and I noticed that someone must have shunted it while it was parked - the front bumper was displaced. I phoned the Citiz helpline to report

And we've found a French test for Pat, too

TCF ANF is specifically designed to meet the requirements of the French government for naturalisation and gives marks at various levels from beginner right through to completely bilingual. If you get a certain score you get a certificate bearing the magic words "B1", which is all you need. The test has mandatory sections - comprehension questions and an interview, as well as optional sections - writing. The optional sections are not required for level B1. Various centres offer this in Bordeaux, including the Alliance Française in the middle of town, and Pat could conceivably take the test in September or October.

So the exam will be on 21st July

Eight candidates (I have their email addresses!) Orals from 8:30. Written exam from 13:15.

Three years with my Macbook Air

I've had this little computer for over three years no, and it still starts up and runs just as fast as the day I bought it. I have no regrets whatsoever, even though the murky depths of Windows have become ever more inscrutable and impenetrable for me. I would not willingly or easily go back. I do wish I had got a larger hard disk. When I bought the computer I didn't realise that I would also be loading some fairly heavyweight Bible software on it, or that it would effectively become my study. It copes fine, but a larger disk would give more breathing-room. But that's all. To anyone contemplating a move to Mac I would wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. Take the plunge. Come on in. The water's lovely.

The road to Frenchness

What do I need to do to apply for French nationality? 1) Demonstrate that I have lived in France for eleven years. Five years continuous residency in France is the minimum for me to request naturalisation. If I demonstrate 10 years residency then I should get a reply within a year. Continuous residency is defined as no break longer than six months, I think. I am not sure what evidence is acceptable. I have my bills for council tax for all those years, so I could submit those. I could print off electricity bills for at least five years, maybe ten. 2) Show that I have no criminal record. You can apply for this online. 3) Demonstrate that I have learnt French. The exams next week and the week after are to this end. 4) Certificates translated by an official translator: Birth and marriage certificates for all the family. 5) Work situation. In come tax returns for the last three years as well as pay slips for November and December for the last three years. A statement of yo

Hi Alan! It's Ron and Caroline! You remember our email exchange!

Um... Er... Um... to be honest, no, I have no recollection whatsoever. Our new friends had come a long way to visit France, and we had a great conversation about gospel work in Bordeaux and in France. Later I looked for the email exchange. Found it. It happened just as I was travelling to the UK. Oh well. At least it explains why I forgot, even though it doesn't excuse it.

Well, for better or for worse, I've signed up for the exam...

I emailed my old phonetics teacher to tell her I'd decided to sit the exam. She replied with an email authorising me to enter for it even though I missed the entry date (last Friday). I got a bit unnerved by this and filled in the form, wrote the cheque and photocopied my passport in double quick time so I could take it to the office at the DEFLE, our old language school. A good stare at the website, a few unanswered phone calls and I concluded that the office was open only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Panic over. All I had to do was go there first thing this morning. So I did, arriving at 8:50am, 10 minutes before opening time and about 25 minutes before the office opened. I showed my email, the secretary checked everything and said that I'll get my convocation by the end of the week, the orals start on the 15th and the written exams around the 21st, I think. Another fine mess I've gotten myself into!  Still, at the end of all this maybe I will be 1

Back to it

After another late night I told myself it didn't matter if I went for a run this morning or not. Then I woke at 6. By 6:30 I was sick of lying there, so I decided to be up and at it. I felt good, so I decided to add a 1km loop, and off we went. A quick incursion into Gwilym territory to find a tee-shirt, then off with me. And the cool morning air was a tonic, and the sunrise was beautiful, and the streets were calm, and the vines were lovely, and a worker was strimming all dressed in his orange protective samurai armour. "Bonjour", I said. "Bonjour", he replied, with a distinctly Chinese accent. Music in my head: Air de Saltarello , from La Mascot by Edmond Audran, followed by Brubeck's Take Five and Sing of the Lord's Goodness from Psalm Praise. I must find some other songs in 5/4... Good. Back on track.

Independence Day

"Well if June 23rd is going to be Independence Day for England, then we'll have to learn how to celebrate it." That was my reaction when I was told that there was to be an Independence Day celebration at our house on 4th July. To be honest I had thought of suggesting it, but hey! It's better if other people take the initiative. So 6:30 found me with our gas stove on the patio cooking burgers and sausages along with Mitch who had his all-american backpacking stove. A merry gang gathered, though we missed the folks who have already left us, of course, and the salads flowed profusely. When they got playing Uno Extreme I retreated to the sitting room and some peace and quiet from the American music that was playing. Funny what American music means to different people. Still, I heard some Springsteen for the first time. And the last.

OK. I have till Wednesday to decide what to do.

I have this idea of applying for French nationality to protect the possibility of staying for ten more years to work at planting this church in Bordeaux. We can apply for French nationality without relinquishing our British citizenship. To apply you have to get your birth and marriage certificates translated by an official translater, you have to demonstrate that you have lived in France for five years by your electricity bills and tax statements, and you have to demonstrate a certain level of competence in French. Two options exist for showing your competence in French. Either you have an interview at the préfecture (and you have to have an interview anyway) or you present a certificate called DELF level B1.  I was delighted to learn that the DELF exams are administrated by our favourite phonetics teacher at the DEFLE, so I emailed her this morning. The next sessions of DELF B1 are next year, but the higher level B2 takes place the third week of July and I have till Wedne

Et pour celles et ceux qui arrivent à lire en français

Bordeaux' experience of the Euro2016 football tournament. Read about it here.

Whenever people leave other people come and take their place!

So the students are disappearing one after the other. Our service was going to be much quieter. Then four French folk came in, two spoke English pretty well, two not much really. So I preached bilingually, see-sawing back and fore from English to French and back. It was hard work last night! The four come from a good church. It's no problem if they come to visit from time to time but if they show signs of starting to settle then I'll have to phone their pastor and we'll need to talk about it. Michaël, one of our founder members, said, "It's amazing. Whenever people leave others come and take their place. Do you remember years ago there were times when nobody came to the English Service!" Yes. It's true. Afterwards the young things went off to the fan zone to watch France trounce Iceland, while we crawled off home to bed, to sleep, perchance etc... I woke at 8:41 suddenly, thinking "Oh no! It's a running morning! What's the time?"

The lady on the bus

sat opposite me. My shopping bags were everywhere. I apologised and she said it didn't bother her at all. We got talking about politeness and stuff, and she talked about how she had enjoyed the presence of the Irish fans. "And the Welsh?" "I wasn't in town when they were there. You have a little accent. You're American?" "No, I'm Welsh. I've never been so proud to be Welsh and I've never been so disappointed." "Why?" "Well, the performance of our team, the behaviour of our fans, and that stupid vote to leave the European Union." "Ah yes. The European Union has been a great force for peace, but our real hope is elsewhere." "Oh yes. One day all these nations will count for nothing." "Yes, it's true." She got out her tablet and opened a Bible programme. "Look." She showed me one verse from Psalm 46 : He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He break

Pat's phone has come home

Poor Pat. She inherited Gwilym's old iPhone 5 at Christmastime and as she was getting used to it it leapt from the back pocket of her jeans into the toilet bowl. After drying it out thoroughly it was clear that there was enough damage to make the phone unusable. So we bought a refurbished iPhone 5 from a French company that refurbishes mobile phones. And as she was getting used to iCloud for photos it wiggled its way out of the basket of her BordoBike somewhere between Pessac Centre and Bordeaux Centre. 10 km of road, cycle-path etc... We activated "Lost mode", looked at "Find my iPhone" and so on, but after a week she reverted to an old Android phone which we knew still worked, we had loaned it to a student, and we moved on and got closure, as they say. "Let's not buy another expensive phone", she said. Then she got a call from the municipal police at Pessac. Someone has handed in her phone! And it's back. With no more scratches than it

The Welsh fans

Yesterday Pat went along to her crafts group at the wool shop. where the manager kept talking about all the fun she had had with the Irish and Welsh fans. I found it hard to imagine that fans went into her (expensive) wool shop. She must have come out to join in the fun in the street. Bordeaux fell in love with the crazy Celts. And Paris gave the Irish fans a medal!

Man alive, it's been hard!

to get back running. The problem is that it is impossible for me to get an early night, so I wake up late, so I get up late and I miss my running slot of 6:30 to 7:15. Still, I've run twice this week. Once on Wednesday and once on Saturday (today). I'll get back up to "speed". It will come. But it may take longer than I thought.

It's a miracle!

I'm interested in the football! Well, let's not get carried away. I still don't care much about football and I'm not sure I could cope with the stress of actually watching a whole match. But I do care a lot about this team. I think they show us so much! 1) A slogan that's not just a slogan. Together. Stronger. Gorau chwarae cyd chwarae. Ensemble. Plus fort. They show us that the team slogan is not just empty words. They actually mean it, and try to live it, and enjoy it, and have found it to be true, and in a funny way they have made the whole of Wales part of their team. And there's something so attractive about that. Belgian fans last night applauded Welsh supporters! 2) There's no "I" in team. That's what they say. Except there is in Welsh. Team is spelt tîm. "I" right at the heart of team.. I think the idea that there is no I in team is destructive. I'll tell you why. At the beginning of the tournament peop

Et tu Daily Mail

I never fancied the idea of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, especially with Donald Trump as US Presidential candidate. I said, "The clowns are taking over the circus." However, I wouldn't have wished the past couple of days on the poor old fellow. First his colleague, Michael Gove, puts the knife in. Now they're all at it. "If this charlatan had become Prime Minister I'd have emigrated", says Max Hastings in the Daily Mail. "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!" comes to mind. How quickly it all changes! In a wink some emails are leaked, a course is taken, and a genial but brilliant clown becomes a charlatan, subjected to the most severe public rebuke by Michael Heseltine. It explains a lot. When we left the UK in 2005 Gordon Brown was a good fellow whose watchword was prudence and who would safely guide the country. When we returned on holiday in 2006 he was now publicly reviled as some kind of monster. I didn't unders