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)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Come over here, come on, you'll discover something good!"

We would not normally respond to an invitation like this, even from... especially from such a friendly security guard, but he happened to be beckoning us into the very place where we were headed, so in we went.

The concert room was lit with lovely mauves and blues and we happily took our seats and waited. I waved to one girl then realised it wasn't Catrin - I KNEW I should have worn my glasses. Eventually, not quite on time, Catrin and her friend Bérénice were introduced by M. Didier Beaujardin, their peotry teacher, and the concert began. Bérénice goes under the name of BenLou and her style is very sweet and feminine, singing songs of lost love and longing. She sang three songs alone, sometimes accompanied by Catrin on piano, sometimes by another student on guitar. Then they sang two duets, including one comic song, a parody about a woman who drinks everything in sight and ends up "weeing wine like a grape".

Then Catrin sang two songs at the piano and one accompanied by guitar. Catrin's songs were also songs of longing, but more about nostalgia for her country of birth (Il est une isle) and the struggle to integrate (Je voulais être comme vous). She managed to sing past her sore throat and chest infection and carried things off very well indeed, even making some mistakes at the piano and covering them up nicely.

The girls were followed without interval by the main act, M. Bastien Lallemant, who sang a variety of songs accompanying himself on his huge electric guitar. I slowly realised that the guitar was normal size, but M. Lallemant is very small and very thin. His spindly legs were fascinating as he sometimes kicked and stamped in time with the music. He sang songs of loss, one funny song about nothing at all, which he said was a kind of exercise of style and would last over 15 minutes (it didn't really), one was about a beach where the waves rolled the corpse of a drowned woman to and fro ("it's not very cheerful", he said, "but the setting is described quite prettily"), he sang a berceuse inutile "a useless lullaby" which he wrote for his third son who, unlike his first two children, slept easily and long, and he sang a very touching song inspired by the refugee crisis, On dormira la nuit au chaud "We'll sleep at night in the warm". I thoroughly enjoyed his charming presentation. "You'll have to ask for an encore", he said, "because the students are going to accompany me for it."

Afterwards I told the security guard that we were the parents of one of the girls.
"The one in white?"
"No, the one in black. Did you enjoy the concert?"
"The guy was OK" (he wrinkled his nose) "but the girls were wonderful." he said.

"Come apart to a quiet place for a while and rest"

That was how our MPEF retreat started, with our President, Emmanuel, sharing this passage and then benefits of being together, of sharing our news and our loads, and of praying together. The focus was on sharing news and praying together and this seemed to be a wise and helpful choice.

The first day was at our flat and began early to mid afternoon, with plane arrivals dictating the start time. Emmanuel kicked off with the scene-setting and agenda-setting passage, then we shared news of those MPEF folk who could not be here and prayed specifically for them. The evening meal was a vegetable curry prepared by Patricia, which went down very well, followed by verrines of fruit compote topped with home made yogurt.

The second day was at a hotel where our colleagues were staying. We had a Citiz car booked and hit heavy traffic on the rocade, so when we arrived everyone was patiently waiting for us in the conference room. The person detailed with bringing short talks to fuel prayer had had to pull out, so on Saturday Emmanuel had asked me to do something. I was in full-on Sunday preparation, so Monday morning I had got up early and my thoughts had been turned to Acts 16 - verses 6 - 10 where the little missionary band cross Turkey not being able to carry out any of their plans until finally they find themselves at Troas on the beach. The perplexity of following a plan that is revealed just one step at a time. I speculated on how they travelled the huge distance - 400 miles as the crow flies. We must assume they did the bulk of it on foot. 700km à pied, I said. "ça use, ça use les souliers" came the response in chorus. Well, it's cheesy, but it gets it across.

The time of sharing and prayer focused on UFM, the wider mission and those in special need of prayer as well as the mission staff. At present the Mission is advertising for a new Director, see the advertisement in Evangelicals Now.

Lunch was at the hotel. Salade de gésiers (lettuce with gizzards on top - very nice) followed by steak and sautéd potatoes and a fruit tart dessert.

The morning had been misty, damp and drizzly. In the afternoon a trip was planned to Bordeaux to see the sights and then to eat in a restaurant "pas cher". And the clouds cleared and Bordeaux put on it's best show for us. I scuttled back to Pessac to drop my computer in at the flat, to leave the car at the station and to hop on the tram for Victoire. Meanwhile Pat guided the intrepid band to the bus stop for the number 11 which would bring them to Victoire. I happily beat them by several minutes and watched their bus arrive.

We then hopped on the tram to the Place de la Bourse and the world-famous Miroir d'Eau, before jumping on the boat to the Cité du Vin. For some reason the boat didn't stop at the Cité du Vin, so we had to stay on to go to Lormont and then come back. "Just validate your tickets again", said the man. I was fearful that people's tickets would have expired by now, but they validated them and it seemed OK, so we disembarked at the Cité du Vin without incident.

We walked through some of the building - the snack bar, the cave, the entrance hall, and then walked back along the quays to our restaurant. It was like herding cats, but we managed to all get to Dan, where we meet each Sunday, and people enjoyed looking through the door as the house staff got the place ready. Then we continued just a short distance to eat at Caffé Cajou, where for under 15 euros we ate salad with hot goat's cheese, followed by steak and chips (some people chose this) or baked hake (delicious) followed by a pear muffin, accompanied by a glass of wine or a bottle of mineral water. Very good value, and the fish was very good indeed. We popped our friends back on the bus to the hotel - this time the number 1, and crawled onto the tram for Pessac.

The third day we rose bright and early to get the room ready and to get lunch going. I had three cups of coffee in quick succession and eventually got going! This time the Bible focus was on Paul and Silas in prison. I have an old sermon I managed to find, entitled "Singing in the chains", but sadly it was on the wrong passage. Oh well. Then we went round the table sharing particular prayer needs. After lunch, with much more rice this time, we waved our friends off and took a nap!

Monday, October 24, 2016


Because our old house was so much bigger than our flat our taxe d'habitation is much less, so we're getting a refund!

18 October 1966

So, about that evening in the Westminster Central Hall,

Ok, I was 7, and growing up blissfully unaware of free churches, ecumenism, potential splits, or of any of the principles involved. I've read Lloyd-Jones' address and the articles describing that evening, but that doesn't qualify me to pronounce on the Doctor's forethought, aims, practical implications or whatever. Others, more ... intrepid ... than I have made their assessments, and doubtless they were right so to do.

Stuart Olyott gave a talk recently at Christ Church Deeside, which is available here. Stuart was there that evening and he gives a very characteristically clear account of the context of the evening's address, the address itself and its consequences. He also gave me an idea of the way ahead for me in talking about that evening, namely to give my reflections and to recount my experience.

I grew up in the Church in Wales and was sent to church as a child. I must have gone fairly regularly because I sang in the choir, resplendent in ruff, cassock and surplice - a photo exists somewhere - and I can still chant the major elements of the 1662 Communion Service. We believed the facts we rehearsed in the creed, but we also believed that it was a mistake to let these things take too much of a hold in your life, so in teenage years I would feign sleep till I heard the church bell ring, and by the time I went to University I described myself as a "lapsed" Anglican.

Wales is a funny country. It has no established church, the Church in Wales having been disestablished early in the 1900s. The free churches were historically strong because of the waves of revival that swept the country in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, but later they declined dramatically. On the corner of our street was an Apostolic church, the "Oh be joyfuls" we called them, and a friend's family went to the Salvation Army. I went along to their youth club a few times, but I wasn't really interested.

Then in 1979 I was converted. Everything changed overnight. I went with my friends to the local Baptist church. My Christian friends came from all sorts of churches: Methodist, Baptist, Anglican, house-churches, Elim, Brethren, you name it, we had it. And people's denominational background made very little difference to us at all.

Most of us attended the Baptist church while we were at University, but the Elim folk went to Elim, the Brethren went to the Brethren and some of the Anglicans went to a local Anglican church. They expressed mild reservations about the preaching, but they went anyway. Later on a vicar called Bertie Lewis came from Aberaeron to Saint Michael's and we went along to his induction (I remember giggling when the Bishop prayed, "Bless, O Lord, all those who minister in holy things." I wondered about the condition of Bertie's socks, invisible under his robes.) One Sunday night we went along again and heard Bertie preach about the centrality of the cross. "I don't mind what Bertie preached tonight", said one of my high Anglican acquaintances. "That's very big of you," I thought, but I kept my big trap shut.

As I said, Wales has had a funny Christian history, of revival and decline. The last national revival in 1904 resulted in many conversions and a lot of growth in the churches, especially in industrial South Wales. However the seminaries and theological colleges were still teaching theological liberalism, questioning the most basic truths of the Christian faith, sometimes going so far as to deny the very existence of the supernatural, reducing Christianity to a system of morality.

This meant that many Christians were to be found in churches where the preaching and teaching explicitly denied the reality of what they had experienced. People found help and support in fellowship groups that crossed the denominational boundaries. Meanwhile there were few conversions and the churches declined, "killed by degrees" people said. So by the 1940s there was hardly any denomination in Wales that had stayed entirely faithful to the gospel and its fundamental truths, though some individuals in the churches had a true and living faith and there were a few preachers who still preached the Bible, conversion and "a felt Christ". In the Church in Wales there was little of the Evangelical tradition that had existed in England. The valley I grew up in was littered with free church buildings, "chapels" we called them, some disused, some now carpet warehouses, or flats, or nightclubs, or whatever. On the way to school I can't remember ever walking past a tree, but I would pass about ten chapel buildings.

Then in the late 1940s a group of students came to faith. Some of them prepared for pastoral ministry. They went to liberal Free Church seminaries, and supported each other through it. Then they went to be pastors in liberal churches. Their group grew and became the Evangelical Movement of Wales, a movement designed to support and sustain evangelical faith across denominations. (This is a very brief and caricatural account of the Movement's origin, but you can find a proper account elsewhere.) Some churches were transformed by the gospel newly preached. Other were not. And as churches became more evangelical in their stance sometimes there was a reaction.

One situation resulted in the formation of the church where I became pastor in North Wales. A handful of churches in an area which had not been touched by revival in past centuries called evangelical pastors. One man saw his church transformed by Bible truth. People were converted. Attendance grew. A prayer meeting was started. The Sunday School grew. People gave generously and the church's books were balanced. There was real new life. Then came the five-yearly inspection of the church. The people were excited. For once there was really good news! However, the report that was produced was extremely critical. For example, the church had ceased to hold sales of work and jumble sales! The new life of the church was ignored, even despised. Some people reacted angrily. "Now, calm down, remember we are Christians." said the pastor. "So you are saying that we are not?" said the inspectors.

Misunderstanding grew and relationships became more and more difficult. Five pastors from the area came to the conclusion that the struggles they were experiencing within their denomination were an obstacle to the real work that they had been called to. Some resigned, found work and then later started new churches. Others left accompanied or followed by groups of church members. In this way five new churches started, each taking the name "Evangelical Church". The desire was to unite Christians around the centrality of the gospel and to reach those who had never heard the gospel.

By 1990 there was a network of independent evangelical churches across Wales as well as evangelical ministries and churches within the historic denominations. Some of the independent churches were Baptist, others called themselves simply "Evangelical Church". Disappointed with theological training in the liberal seminaries, the Evangelical Movement organised a Theological Training Course, designed to train pastors, but which did not offer any paper qualifications. There was a general distrust of denominations, and some people, with fresh wounds from battles fought with denominational authorities, had a kind of allergic reaction even to the word "denomination". The informal support of the Evangelical Movement of Wales, which organised conferences, pastoral fellowships, pastoral training, youth camps, and ran bookshops and generally did sterling work to sustain evangelical faith across the denominations generally worked very well. Christians considered that, whatever their convictions about baptism and church government, the truths of salvation conceived by the Father's plan, achieved by the Son's cross, and applied by the Spirit's power were of greater importance and crossed all denominational barriers.

However a desire for closer relationships between churches, for greater cooperation and for a more visible gospel unity led to the formation of the Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales, a grouping of about 60 or so evangelical churches all of whom hold firmly to one of the reformed confessions of faith, usually from the Westminster family (Westminster, Savoy, 1689) or the 1823 Calvinistic Methodist Confession of Faith.

This is the context in which I grew up as a Christian. It's a context where:
... gospel unity trumps denominational unity
... evangelical Anglicans are mostly an English phenomenon
... people move quite easily between denominations
... few think of themselves as Baptists, Presbyterians or whatever
... church life is easily complemented and unthreatened by fellowship and activities between churches
... cooperation with, for example, student Christian groups is often very easy and positive

Now, in France, I find myself in quite another context.

For example, during a difficult period here when we tried to take refuge in one local Baptist church I was seen as a threat, largely because our team of missionaries had worked with a Presbyterian church. In our discussions we just didn't understand each other's point of view at all. Well, I think some of us did, but not enough of us.

Again, people feel constrained to belong to a denominational group, be it Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. It was recently suggested that Bordeaux Church join one of the Baptist denominations, a group which is currently unrepresented in Bordeaux. I am not convinced that this is the path of wisdom for us!

On the other hand, within certain of the evangelical denominational groups the pressure of pluralism is nevertheless very present - by which I mean the view that the gospel is wonderful, and to be evangelical is important, but there are also other non-evangelical forms of Christianity which are equally valid, equally salvific and from which we can learn and which we can blend with biblical spirituality. This is obviously toxic. To admit anything other than the gospel as salvific is to deny the gospel. To redefine the gospel is to deny it. And that, it seems to me, is much more serious than to differ on questions of church government or baptism.

And so we relate easily and positively to the CNEF, the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France. One friend said, "Ah, you're joining with the arminians!" Another friend finds the presence of the charismatic and pentecostal churches a problem. I rejoice in the shared real evangelical faith AND in people who have read and who hold to their evangelical confessions of faith.

I realise that I have made very little direct reference to Lloyd-Jones' address whatsoever. However I hope that you can see how the historical context of the address, its influence on those who heard it and subsequent events have both shaped the world I grew up in and the way I see the world in which I now serve.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fête de voisins

OK, so we had a little apéro entre voisins this morning. There were six of us, all women except for me. It's my animal magnetism. It seemed to go pretty well, I think, with an exchange of phone number between the ladies afterwards and a pledge to do something for Christmas.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I've had, and I still have so much admin to do - my own and some for other people - so this morning I planned a little trip to brighten the gloom - a trip to the waterfront to see two wonders!

1) The launching of a new pleasure boat on the quays by Quinconces

2) The arrival of a Russian tall ship.

The tall ship was planned to arrive at 11am and I was pretty excited to see it pass under the new lifting bridge, so after a couple of annoying phone calls, irritating emails and stuff, I hopped on the tram. I arrived at the quays a little late, but within normal Bordeaux margins, and hastened off towards the new bridge to see the ship arrive.

No sign of no launching, the bridge was lowered and being crossed by all manner of roadcraft and I saw no tall ship.

Oh well. It was a gorgeous day - like August at Llandudno - so I continued down the quays. As lunchtime approached I thought I'd get a sandwich.

The sandwich man said, "You are English? Vous êtes Français?"

"Je suis Gallois." was my proud reply.

He reflected a little. "Mais vous parlez français?"

"Ça m'arrive", I said, thinking that one day I really must ask someone if they speak Welsh.

I ordered my sandwich and scoffed it happily in the sunshine.

I watched the people running by. Few ran faster or better than I do. One older man ran beautifully. Most just shrugged, shuffled, shambled and shimmied along, whether young or old. I felt reassured.

I decided that instead of hopping on the tram to Pessac I would continue my walk to the Pont de Pierre and catch bus 24.

It was than that I saw her.

 The Russian tall ship had evidently come up the river earlier than planned as was moored all splendidly just before the Pont de Pierre.

I paused to take some photos, then carried on up to the 24 bus, which started its journey just after I boarded.

I missed the boat, but at least I didn't miss the bus.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016


One of the advantages of having kids who study music is that they expose you, willy-nilly, whether by accident or design, to new singers, musicians, styles that you never took any notice of before. Gwilym got me listening to Ed Sheeran and to John Mayer. Catrin was recently given this song to analyse and I find it all very fascinating, dovetailing very well with the minimalists like Steve Reich, etc. The musician, James Blake, won the Mercury award in 2013 for the album which contained this piece.

1966 and all that (a)

A for Aberfan.

One of my earliest memories is of playing in the street as a seven-year-old with my friends and being very worried about my aunt and uncle who lived in Aberfan and who kept a fish and chip shop there at the time. I'd seen aerial photos of the landslide and the devastation it caused, but strangely none of the photos indicated clearly to me the position of Daveys' fish bar, so my mind was not put at rest. They were at the other end of the village, however, so the disaster had an indirect impact on them. They stayed open all night the night of the landslide, providing meals for the rescuers. And they were involved, like all the villagers, in the aftermath of the tragedy for years to come.

Because we lived in another mining valley the Aberfan disaster had other, continuing effects on our lives.

Perhaps the first thing was the hand-wringing of the National Coal Board and the action taken - too little, too late for the poor families of Aberfan, of course - to make the coal tips safe. As a kid I roamed wild on the tip behind our house. Oblivious to any danger, we'd drink from the streams that bubbled up here and there - careful only to avoid any that contained sheep droppings or - horror - dead sheep. We'd dig dens in piles of coke and clinker - it was only years later that I realised that the pile of coke and clinker was the waste from the steam engine that my grandfather look after which drew the trucks of waste up the mountain.

The National Coal Board gave a contract to Ryan, I think, to come and landscape the coal tip, extracting all the coal dust in the process. There were massive earth-scrapers, bull-dozers, lorries and dumper trucks and a temporary road that gave access further up the valley at Dinas Rhondda. When they landscaped the mountain they did it in terraces that made it look less natural than even the tips, then they spread tons of chicken manure everywhere - the smell was astonishing - before seeding it with grass. It took years for these human efforts to catch up with what nature had done more effectively in the preceding years.

I think it may have been at this time that the cottage my father grew up in was bull-dozed. Both my parents' ashes are scattered where we think the cottage was - we found it as best we could judging by the position of the park fence and other landmarks that had not been eradicated by the earth-movers.

Our valley was littered with conical tips, always placed on the mountain top pretty well directly above the villages which were, of course, in the valley floor. By the mid 1970s only Tylorstown Tip remained and it is still there to this day. I don't know why it escaped.

Now the Rhondda is clean, green and devoid of any heavy industry. There are fish in the river and lots of wildlife in the hills. It's become a beautiful place again, a real testimony to the power of nature to recover and restore.

In 1977 I went off to university at Aberystwyth. My aunt and uncle told me of a lad from Aberfan who was a student there. Just a little older than me, a survivor of the landslide, he had been pulled from the slurry in the ruins of the school. His name was very ordinary. I thought there was little chance of me meeting him amongst 3000 students but I said that I would look out for him. Well, I met him in my first few weeks. We sang together in the Gilbert and Sullivan society's production of Mikado. We never talked about the disaster, though he knew my uncle and aunt, of course.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ascending and descending

Paris will always be Paris

The CNEF has another training day on 5 November, directly about Church Planting.
This time it's a bit further out in Paris in the 19th Arrondissement.

I just priced up going: we're talking roughly:

60 euros return on the cheap trains
60 euros to stay overnight (cheap hotel or AirBnB)
20 euros fee for the day
40 euros for meals, say - one whole day and an evening

About 180 euros for a training day.
I could save by travelling up overnight by coach, but it does seem to make you sleep during the sessions, and I have to preach on 6 November.

It would need to be extra-specially good to merit that cost, so I'll give this one a miss.

Paris just isn't Paris any more

The Conseil National des Evangéliques de France were holding a training day on French Association Law in Paris, so a couple of us went up from Bordeaux. The morning started at 9:30. At present there is no train from Bordeaux that will get you into Paris on a Saturday for 9:30, so we had to find other ways to do it.

My friend took an overnight bus from Bordeaux, leaving at midnight and arriving in Paris at 7am. This was a very inexpensive option, but it did seem to impact on his attention level during the sessions.

Bordeaux Church was paying for me to go, so I took a train the evening before and stayed in an AirBnB very near where the training day was taking place. My train was the cheapest - I don't know whether I'd necessarily choose that train again: it was the slow train, taking four hours and arriving in Austerlitz, the wrong part of Paris. The train arrived 15 minutes late due to traffic. That's odd, isn't it? Surely rail traffic is all planned our? Anyway, it was just 10 minutes by tube to where I needed to be.

The day began with plenary sessions:

A speech from the government minister for religion, read in his absence.

A word of welcome from the Chairman of the CNEF.

A history of religious freedom in France.

An overview of Association Law.

Then there was a copious lunch - I had a salad starter, roast beef with ratatouille, a pear tart, some stewed fruit, a glass of wine, some water, some bread and a coffee.

Afterwards followed two workshops, the most useful part of the day. I went to the ones on "Responsibilities and Competences of Officials" and on "Best Practice for Associations".

I learnt a lot of useful things, including:

1) When we establish our 1905 Association Cultuelle we need to differentiate it clearly from our existing 1901 Association Culturelle.

2) We can transfer the money our 1901 has to our 1905. (we couldn't do the reverse)

3) Women must have a HIGH degree of holiness. I listened to an introduction that went: "and to respect male female parity we have Madame Machin" and died a little inside. I hope the excellent guy who unfortunately made this slip cringed himself... I hope next time I say something like that that I stop, correct and rebuke myself and apologise right there and then... I hope to cultivate the same degree of holiness and humility as the woman thus introduced, who smiled, laughed and then gave an excellent address.

4) The government doesn't need to know all the ins and outs of your association. All they care about is who's in charge, really.

5) I get terribly stressed about missing trains! French trains are very l-o-n-g and at Montparnasse on the way home there were two long TGVs on the same platform. Mine was the further one, and my carriage near the front. Along with a couple ahead of me we got confused, entered carriage 12, hunted for our seats and didn't find the right numbers. So we got off at the other end, now carriage 11, and went back, this time turning left rather than right, and found our seats straight away. But we did get on some other passangers' nerves - either that or they had had air-brakes installed and needed adjustment. Still.

Arriving back at Bordeaux with 15 minutes delay, I'm not sure why, we were told that the Arcachon train was being held back for us. Now that train stops at Pessac after just 8 minutes journey. The alternative is bus/tram which takes about an hour. I charged for the train and joined the queue of people buying a ticket at the machine.

These machines are really awkward. There's no keyboard, just a roller to select from the 36 types of ticket available and to spell out your destination. Then you stick you card in and hopefully it all works OK. The folk in front of me managed to get their ticket with a bit of cajoling. My turn came. All went well. Very well. Too well. Card in. Code? Correct. Please remove card. Transaction abandoned.


I charged up to the train.
"It didn't work! it said....."
"I'll sell you a ticket then" said the conductor.
Soon I was home and tucked up in bed.

Oh yes, and Paris will always be Paris. I lied.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Didn't murder anyone last night!

Such a relief. And I have started to believe that I have neither murdered anyone, nor concealed any bodies, nor helped anyone else to do so.

Good news, eh!

One of those reassuring days

Yesterday was one of those reassuring days when you realise that possibly you are not quite as big an idiot as you thought you were. Or possibly that you are, but we're all in the soup together, sunk into a morass of idiocy the depth of which far exceeds our capacity to swim or even to tread ... idiocy.

Two events reassured me. The first was the decision from the western world's most popular evangelical theologian - please note, dear friends, that I choose my words carefully - that he would no longer support Donald Trump for the presidential elections and that he had been wrong to support him all along.

This was immensely reassuring to me. I am not a skilled politician and I have no experience of any political party. I am so naïve that I am still glad that we have a constitutional monarchy in the UK, and that we don't have to vote for some chump every couple of years to represent our country - or at least the 46% or so that voted for him/her/shr/it/them. In addition to all this, I come from the Rhondda Valley. You know, we had a communist mayor in the 1980s. We did! We really did! Just as I still wash coal dust out of the back of my neck, so my blood is still tinted red. It's bound to be.

Even so, it seemed to me self-evident that no chump could seriously vote for Trump.

Was I naïve? Had I underestimated the threat posed to the Free World by his opponent? Or could I really see something that so many more intelligent and more faithful people could not?

Well apparently, yes! I, aided by the undoubted advantages of living thousands of miles away and only half understanding the rhetoric of US election time, I perceived something before ... before the western world's most popular evangelical theologian.

Even if I feel this is not quite the occasion to yell "Hurrah for me!" it is nevertheless reassuring. I'm not such a first prize chump after all.

The second occasion was when a very clever friend and colleague, far clever than I, and they have the certificates and sundry jumbled letters to prove it, contacted me for a small service after they had been hoodwinked by fraudsters into giving their card details over the phone.

Some time ago this happened to me. It was the income tax people and it came at income tax time and it was all so plausible and I was in a hurry and I did it - then thanks to the two levels of security I have on my account, I quickly realised that I had been had.

I was able to explain to my colleague the procedure to follow - stop the card, go to the police and report the crime, talk to the bank, they will refund the money lost because of the excellent European consumer protection laws that argue that poor simple dupes like us need protecting from ourselves.

In addition, my excellent bank, to whom I pay charges for the privilege of giving them my money to look after (what!?!?) but who on this occasion earned every last centîme, spotted an unusual volume of purchases being made from the French equivalent of Mos Eisley - a wretched hive of scum and villainy I rarely visit - and blocked the transactions even before I alerted the card centre of the problem.

Well there we are. It happened to my colleague more or less like it had happened to me. However, my colleague - did I mention that they are much clever and much more certificated than I? - showed their superiority of spirit by refusing all annoyance at themselves. "We learn much from these occasions", quoth they. I am still annoyed at my stupidity even a year later.

Oh well. Not so reassuring as all that.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

It's Catrin's turn in two weeks

Catrin and her friend Bénérice (yeah, I know) are to be the support artistes for a visiting singer in Bordeaux under the auspices of the Université de Bordeaux Montaigne and the Station Ausone. The singer in question is one Bastien Lallemant and I listened to some of his stuff on Youtube. He certainly has a gentler style than the last one who came, and his songs are kind of wry, quirky stories of the end of love and stuff. In fact, maybe it was one of his songs that set me off with that weird bad dream.

I'm sobbing, and running in the rain

It started raining yesterday evening after weeks and weeks of virtually no rain whatsoever.

When I got up to run the rain had died down a little - I couldn't hear it in the downpipes - but when I got outside it had become a light drizzle. The grape harvest at Pape Clément next door has not yet been completed and I could just see the bunches glistening in the light of the street-lamps.

It felt good to run this morning. My song at the moment is Figaro's song to Cherubino from the Marriage of Figaro. There's one line of the text that escapes me, but I'll have it memorised next time I run.

As I came back past the vineyards I saw a tractor getting ready for the day's harvesting. They say it's a good vintage this year. Not only that but there's a bumper crop of mushrooms everywhere. But my mind was elsewhere.

We have heard that a dear friend in the UK is entering into the last couple of weeks of her life. We should be used to this by now, but we are not. Sometimes we have had the privilege of visiting people to say goodbye. Pat urged me to find a flight and travel over, but I don't think it's the right thing to do. No, I'll write a letter. At least this time I can do that. Sometimes people die without warning us first. The sheer nerve, eh?

So as I ran past the vineyards I sobbed. I sobbed, but I didn't stop running. And after all, it's not a cull, it's a harvest. We'll see each other very soon.

Oh dear, what a nasty dream

So it's 3 am and I am racking my brains to try and remember which two corpses I was involved in hiding and which of the two I had participated in murdering.

Yes - a bad dream. Essentially the police had found two bodies - one in a submerged car somewhere - and I knew it would not be long before they followed the trail and came knocking at my door, so I was desperately trying to work out how to cover my tracks in such a way as to remain unsuspected. When I woke the dream was so vivid that I was unsure that it was not real, and even now I need every now and again to replay the big events of my life to ensure that murder and concealment of murder does not figure therein.

Then I started to wonder if the loss of ones marbles is like that - that fantasy, imagination, dream and nightmare become confused with reality such that you are no longer sure who you are, where you have been or what you have done.

At 8 am in the subdued light of the kitchen this is not terribly troubling, but at 3 am it sure put the willies up me, I can tell you.

Anyway I distracted myself by reading Liu Cixin's Three Body Problem until I fell asleep again at about 6 am!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Good problems to have

We're full. Full to the point of discomfort.

At Tea and Chat in the Kitchen last Thursday there were about 35 people.
When we planned our activities we had not foreseen this response, so we had to ditch 'em.
The staff at the restaurant were a little overwhelmed, so we had to help marshall people through the till.
We'll meet up with the restaurant staff to see how we can plan it better for next time.

At Dan we're now full to overflowing.
A couple of weeks ago three people had to sit on the steps, but there were six visitors and holiday makers present. Last Sunday two people were sat on the steps, but with no visitors or holiday makers.
We need to plan for more space.

We're overwhelmingly young. We have a handful of leaders in their 50s, but everyone else is in their 20s or 30s.
And would you believe that I've been seeing this as a problem. How stupid! How many churches would love to be composed of people mainly in their twenties and thirties?

So there we are.

The new restaurant still sits empty with no sign of renewal or renovation.
So yesterday I started talking to one of the leaders of a Bordeaux church about the possibility of meeting there, in a first time for the Christmas service, in a second time, weekly.

OK, let's just forget it

I have stopped squirting sea water up my nose.

It was unpleasant.
It made my nose run for the rest of the morning.
It made me sneeze.

But most of all

it had no noticeable effect on my resistance to colds.

Hey! I gave it a shot!

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Becoming geriatric

"I never hear my phone", I remarked, as I noticed that I had missed a call at about 7pm.

"Oh, that was me", said one chap, "I phoned from the corner of the street, but then I realised I was not lost after all."

"Oh, that's because you have it set to DO NOT DISTURB", said someone else, "See!"

"Oh, I see", I said, though I didn't really see at all.

"And I never hear it when Alan sends me a text message", said Pat.

"Oh, look, you have it set for do not disturb for him - oh yes, and for me" observed Catrin.

Honestly, it's like teaching your grandmother to use a spreadsheet.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Checking theological papers in English

I had a theological paper to check for a friend, trying to make sure it conformed to British English usage rather than to American.

So after lunch I went for a quick walk round our neighbour's garden, to which they very kindly allow free and unrestricted access.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Talking like a TV presenter

One day I'd like TO learn to talk like a TV presenter, how to emphasise all the lest important words IN the sentence, putting heavy stress ON prepositions and being able TO do it instinctively without even thinking OF what I'm doing.

Who teaches them all TO do this?

Talking like a TV presenter

One day I'd like TO learn to talk like a TV presenter, how to emphasise all the lest important words IN the sentence, putting heavy stress ON prepositions and being able TO do it instinctively without even thinking OF what I'm doing.

Who teaches them all TO do this?

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Sumo, the neighbours' super-sized megakitty

There are three cats that we know of living in our apartment block.

Susan (we dont know her real name) lives next door to us on the back of the block, and we have seen her a couple times sat on their window sill.

Catkin (aka Caramel) lives a couple of doors away and is a fine, sleek, handsome cat, hungry for cuddles.

Sumo (real name not supplied) lives in the same flat as Susan, and he is a super-sized megakitty. We've wondered if he has health issues - a tumour? some glandular problem? - as he has a huge tummy as well as being generally a rather large cat. But apart from one thing, he never seems to be in pain, he catches lizards - at least now, in the cooler times, when the lizards are more sluggish - and we see him sometimes charging round the garden, full steam ahead.

He comes to visit first thing in the morning. He can get in through the kitchen window, but in the morning I am usually sat there so I try to discourage that by opening the shutters and the patio door. He then slinks in and patrols the flat before rubbing himself against the legs of my chair, of the table, against my legs a little, and purring up at me. He longs to be stroked. He lies down and shows his extensive tummy, looking up with that "rub me, rub me hard" look.

Never! Both Catrin and Pat have fallen into that trap and he has turned on them both. Maybe that abdomen is painful?

So he gets brief conversation, he gets access, he gets to look round, he gets to lounge about, he gets to purr, mew and squeak, he gets to prowl, but that's all.

Of course, we never feed him. Oh, no sir! Not nothing! Anyway he is evidently not going short of food!

But we know that he'll usually visit us some time before seven a.m. and then call back periodically until we refuse to open the door for him after eight p.m. I guess he doesn't sleep at home?

His owners live back to back with us and they generally enter and leave the flats by the vehicular access. That means I've only seen them about three times and we've only spoken once. It isn't even easy to know if they're home.

But one day we need to talk about Sumo.

If only to find out his real name.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Schubert Variations on "Trockne Blumen"

You forget how much you love a piece, then you discover it all over again. This is a lovely performance with great moments.


We've never been able to grow tomatoes. Never.

The thing is, when I was a pastor in North Wales the deal was that we take August off. That means vacating the house for at least the bulk of August, which is what made campers of us. We had wonderful times, especially in our Dandy folding camper. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, tomatoes need watering, especially in August.

Oh well. Swings and roundabouts.

One year a chappie was going to stay in our house.
"All you have to make sure you do is water the tomatoes", we said, and planted up grow bags full.
He forgot.
They died.

Then this year a friend gave us a tomato plant.
"Ha!" thought I, "that thing doesn't have a chance!"

Pat planted it between two of the privet hedge plants by the wall. Near the watering system. The automatic watering system that ensures the privet hedging plants don't die in the long, hot summers.

So we have a huge tomato vine growing along the wall and a little trickle of cherry tomatoes every day!

Next year we'll plant a couple vines!