Showing posts from October, 2016

A nice review of the girls' concert.


"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

"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


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 b

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.


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?"

A little reportage about Aberfan



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 mak

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

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

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. S

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

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 the

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!

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.

This is a nice Appalachian Spring


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.

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?

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

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 tr