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)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A varied evening

So yesterday we Daveys went off to our different rendez-vous.

Patricia to the Alliance Française for her preparatory workshop before her TCF-ANF next week.
She had a wonderful time listening to the recordings (just once) and ticking the boxes according to the conversation she thought she heard. Then discussing the discussion section.

Meanwhile Catrin and I were at James' flat with the GBU bunch for an evening discussing evangelism and apologetics. It seemed to go OK, and James cooked us an excellent spicy pasta meal!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Some more Stravinsky

After the concert

the other Saturday a little group of us headed for the nearest tram stop. We got talking. As often happens the subject got on to how long I've been in France, whether I came directly to Bordeaux and stuff. It comes up because I have an accent (American? Canadian? Belgian? Martian?) but I do pronounce things like what we do in Bordeaux.

One woman said, "Ah yes, I am from north of the Loire and it wasn't till I came here that I had any idea that in and un could conceivably be pronounced differently."

So for her there were just three nasal vowels, and in un grand pain rond, un and ain sound exactly the same. As do un and in in un bon vin blanc.

I'd read about this in the unique and unparalleled Harriette Walters books. And all of a sudden the penny dropped on something that I'd not thought about.

A friend who is very cultured, well-read and a professional story-teller did some workshops on the use of the voice. We went along to some. She insisted that en and an are pronounced differently in (subtly) different parts of the mouth. We all shrugged and tried to humour her, but Harriette Waters points out that in some parts of France there are actually 5 or 6 nasal vowels, and a clean distinction is made between en and an.

Ah bon.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Time for some Stravinsky!


When I had my eyes tested the ophthalmologist said, "Now I don't know if your additional health assurance will cover your new glasses. Some of them have gone to once every two years.

So I watched out for the reimbursement.

On 14 February the state scheme reimbursed 14 euros of the cost, and the message said that the bill had been passed to our additional health assurer.

Since then nothing.

So I called it at the local office armed with every possible relevant piece of paper.
The lady at the desk phoned head office.

"They say that it's every two years now, unless your eyesight has changed", quoth she, holding the phone in her hand.

"And what does this prescription say?" asked I.

"Ah yes. ... But his eyesight has changed", she said down the telephone.

So today I was glad to see that I have been reimbursed.

Should think so too!

When you have la crève

I haven't looked up this word, I warn you, so I've just worked it out from context but:

when you have a flat tyre c'est crevé.

when you want to tell someone to drop dead (I know you don't, of course) Crève!

when you feel under the weather, exhausted, generally below par, j'ai la crève

when you are exhausted and desperate for sleep, je suis crevé

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Yay! A day off!

I knew there'd be one around here somewhere.

Morning run round the sodden vineyard and through the damp streets.

Maybe shopping for cotton trousers later.

And music, music, music.

Some music for Thursday

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dialogue Véritas

Well there we are. Two evenings that went OK.

On Monday evening I had to deal with "Is there life after death", and the pastor from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Florian, had "Does God exist". There were 37 folk present, about 1/2 unknown to the GBU people.

On Tuesday evening my subject was "Does life have a point?" and Florian got the biggie, "If God exists, why is there evil?" There were fewer people present but again about 1/2 were folk unknown to the GBU types.

I realised how far out of my comfort zone I was. "Philosophical" style subjects. A Lecture hall setting. Questions and answers after the talks. Very short talks, 15 mins maximum. And, of course, everything in French.

Today I was a little bushed, but we had a prayer date and a lunch date with some friends and colleagues, then Pat and I went and booked her in for a preparatory workshop for her French test, then went and had an excellent coffee from Café Piha before she returned home and I went to a free workshop at the Apple Store.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Today I was brave

On Friday morning as I tottered out for a scamper round the vines I saw that there were two people waiting by the bus stop. I don't wear my glasses to run and sometimes I have to squint to decide whether the animal in the distance is a sweet little pussycat or a ravaging dobermann pinscher - this morning when the thing began to move I could tell it was a cat - so I didn't recognise the people at the bus stop. Not until they both said a cheery "Bonjour" and I realised it was our neighbour and her daughter....

So early this morning, perhaps it was knowing that all was revealed and my feeble attempts at secrecy were all in vain. Or perhaps it was that my back was aching and I was hit by one of those early morning existential crises, so eloquently sung by my neighbour on a Welsh language camp all those years ago - "ffili gweld y pwynt o godi, ffili gweld y pwynt o gwbl" - I don't see the point of getting up, I don't see the point at all. Anyway the clock said "6:30, time for your run" and I said to myself, "time to roll over".

At 7 I thought, "it's now or never", so I got up and ventured out. The morning was overcast but mild. I have these navy cotton running trousers - well, they are designed to wear for loafing round the house, really - yes, they really do make trousers specially designed and made for loafing round the house - can't you just hear people saying, "Oh, it's too bad, I have absolutely nothing to wear while loafing round the house, I'll just have to do the garden instead" - and they are cut quite tight to the calf. I wear a grey sweat-shirt which is just big enough. I imagine it gives the effect of the cart horse who somehow got into the corps de ballet by a fluke. I warm up by gently moving anything that can move as I slowly ascend the hill to the inappropriately named Rue Profond.

I needn't have worried. Except for one small pussycat - "or is it a rabid dobermann pinscher?", he squinted - the streets were deserted.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Here's something a tiny bit more serious on Patrick

from the website of the Gospel Coalition - click HERE

and from Wales Today - click HERE

Here are some things that made me smile

Bobo = bourgeois-bohème (the rich and trendy)
Facho = fascists (the extreme right)

Beer for Patrick's Day,
Leffe, Desperadoes and Hoegaarden! 
Figures, I suppose:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

24th anniversary

On Tuesday, having discovered new reserves of energy, we decided to go out for a meal to celebrate our anniversary. This means lunch, for reasons I won't go into. Now Bordeaux has an embarrassment of wonderful eating establishments, but at the moment we have a little project of eating our way round the world near the Place de la Victoire, so we decided to eat at Nobi Nobi Japanese restaurant. Pat had a predictably cool curry while I had some chicken thing with rice. We ate in the sun, quaffing San Pellegrino, then went to the nearby Banana Café for dessert and coffee. It's a grand life!

24 years of photographs

I'm pretty sure that when we got married and went on honeymoon I had an Olympus Pen EE3 half-frame camera. It was great. It took no batteries and was as reliable as can be. It took great photos, though the processing was expensive!

After a while I bought the best camera I ever had. Now I had slr cameras over the years. First a Zenith E that I bought as a student and sold on. That was followed by a Cosina CSM - really good! Then came a Nikon FE, I think, bought second-hand, and then a Canon Eos 300. That was my last slr.

No, the best camera I ever had was an Olympus mju2. Quick, easy to use, a splendid lens, a good focusing and exposure system, some of my favourite photos were taken with this camera.

Digital cameras became cheaper, with the prospect of immediate photos and no processing charge. There followed a little list of cameras like the Olympus C3000 (refurbished from Morgan Computers!), a compact Olympus C2/D230, a really natty little Minolta X20, which was very good at foliage!

Soon after that came the camera-phones, and separate cameras were never quite so convenient, though we enjoyed our Lumix FZ3 and our TZ1 - with splendid fast lenses. Indeed, we still have them.. But the camera-phone is always in your pocket.

I still pine after that mju2. If someone would make a digital camera with a good, fast, non-zoom lens - preferably 35mm equivalent - and a good focusing and exposure system at a reasonable price, I know they would sell at least one.

Perhaps they have. Perhaps it's the camera-phone in my pocket.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I went to a concert on Saturday evening

in the Eglise Saint-Nicolas, a big 19th century heap with lots of trompe l'oeil swags and bows in the interior.  The concert was given by the amateur vocal ensemble, Stella Montis, which specialises in singing stuff by living composers, or at least those not long dead, and in which the bass player from the Pessac Jazz Band sings.

I wasn't sure what to expect. We are going through a period in music where living composers are writing music that is pleasant and accessible - in the UK people like John Taverner and Paul Mealor, and internationally with people like Arvo Pärt and the American minimalists. But you never know, do you.

Well I was blown away by their repertoire. The theme of the concert was Bach's influence, so they began with a quick and simple chorale, then another by Mendelssohn, then we were into works by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Knut Nystedt and David Lang. And one from Arvo Pärt.

Here's one of the David Lang pieces, "Again". He's Jewish and the text for this piece is taken from Ecclesiastes.


One problem with being a creature of habit and fitting a 6:30 run into your life is that when your life is disrupted in any way - late nights, for example - your habits go out of the window and take your early morning runs with them. I cannot go to bed at 1am and then get up at 6:30 to run. Others may be able to. I cannot.

So for some time I've been intending to add in a 1km loop to my morning circuit. This morning I did it. Hurrah! And what a morning for a run. Light, for the first time this year. A haze over the vineyard. The local rowdy birds yelling their heads off again. Some young lad about 30 - 40 years old running the other way looking all wiry and angular, a proper runner, while I oozed in the opposite direction. But I like to think I encouraged him as he did me as we puffed "bonjour" to each other.

My "fitness band", a Xiaomi Band 2, receives frequent updates to its firmware and to the application on my iphone that goes with it.

One recent update gave it the capacity to track my route, though to be honest I think the birds can track my route now as it's always the same. There's a little rut in the tarmac where I habitually trot.

It also likes to tell me every 100 metres how fast I am running. "You're going dead slow." "You're going even slower." "Wow, are you sure you're not running backwards?"

It also tracks your heart rate.

Now tracking your heart rate is a mixed blessing. I mean how fast should it beat? Is it beating too fast? Do I need to try to run faster? Slower? See a doctor? Have a stent? A by-pass? However at least the wretched thing is beating, and though these wrist-based heart monitors are notoriously inaccurate, it does at least show an increase when I run and a decrease when I stop.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Today is our 24th wedding anniversary

so we decided to go out for cake and coffee.

There is now an embarrassment of cafés in Bordeaux that I really like and want to go to. It took us just a little time, however, to decide to go to the very posh café near the Opera House, la Librairie de la Comédie. It's a bookshop with a posh café, and they have REALLY NICE cakes.

Some music for Monday

"Komm süsser Tod" by Knut Nystedt after Bach.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring has arrived in Pessac

It's glorious here. Sunshine. Loud birds. Flowers everywhere. Wonderful running weather.

And LATE NIGHTS, so only one bout of early morning running. Oh well.

Some music for Saturday morning

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Today I had LOTS of emails to catch up on and some conferences and flights to book.

Emails was OK.

Some were replies saying sorry, this year I cannot come because our dates for church visits are booked up now. :-(

One was a reply to someone who'd like to come and help for a couple months.

Some were to do with Dialogue Véritas. I'll need to do another post about that.

Booking conferences was another thing.

Essentially every year I have to choose between attending the Colloque Biblique Francophone or attending the Banner of Truth Conference. To go to Banner I schedule church visits near the dates of the conference and that works out OK, except that really church visits are better done later in the year, in June. Anyway.

So this year I thought I could try and attend both. They are on consecutive weeks, but one is only three days and the other four. We even planned that Patricia would come with me to the UK and while I was at Banner she would spend the time with church folk in North Wales. HOWEVER.

Banner is held in the UK near Stoke on Trent in April.
There are no Easyjet flights to Liverpool in April.
There are no Easyjet flights to Bristol on suitable dates.
Easyjet flights to Gatwick are extremely expensive.
Ryanair could get me to Edinburgh, but not on good dates, or to Stansted!
Air France could get me there, but at great cost and via Amsterdam.

I'm not sure of the wisdom of spending £600 - £800 on going to the Banner Conference, so we decided to forget that one.

Now the Colloque. It's held in Lyon and you can fly there or take the train. It starts on the Wednesday at 5pm.

Easyjet has several flights to Lyon, but to get me there for 5pm I'd have to take the 7am flight, which means catching the N°4 bus from Pessac at about 5am.
Alternatively there are several trains but much more expensive, and the journey time is 7 hours.
Oh well, just as well I'm good at getting up early!

The French President

Monday, March 06, 2017

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Public transport in London

To get from Victoria to the British Museum I could have taken the Underground, but before committing myself I thought I would check with Google maps and it told me that I could take a bus directly. Buses are MUCH better. You can see the city as you travel through. So off I went to find the stop.

Well the Victoria area is being redeveloped, so the whole place is a little difficult to negotiate. Added to that it wasn't obvious to me how the bus stop functioned! But despite my uncertainty I managed to find the stop, wait for the bus and hop on it, and I was pleased to find that it was one of those redesigned Routemaster Boris buses.

To pay for public transport in London you have several options. You can buy a ticket from a machine. You can load money onto your prepaid Oyster card and present that at the turnstiles. Or you can simply use your contactless credit or debit card. I have an Oyster card, but I didn't want to load money onto it unnecessarily, so I used my bank card.

On the buses you scan it once when you get on. On the trams you have to scan twice - once when you enter the station and once when you leave. I was a little perturbed by the way it doesn't tell you what it's charging you. In fact I think you don't get charged until the end of the day when a complicated computer algorithm works out what tariff to apply.

Anyway, the bus went along the back of Buckingham Palace garden, along Hyde Park, up to Marble Arch and along Oxford Street. It was great to see some of the sights.

Later, to get to Child's Hill, I took the tube. Boring, but much quicker further out of the city.

Oh la la la la - The French Presidential Election

OK. So back in the autumn there was a plebiscite to choose the candidate for the centre-right party, which at the moment is called "Les Républicains" in a fine show of resistance to the inexorable march of American culture. The greatly loved mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé, stood alongside François Fillon, considerably more right-wing, but who presented himself as the squeaky-clean candidate, resolutely and traditionally Roman Catholic and with a Welsh wife, Penelope.

Fillon won.

Then came Penelopegate. French politicians are allowed to use parliamentary money to employ their family members as aides, secretaries etc. BUT it has to be for real work really done. M. Fillon had paid his wife a generous but not unreasonable salary amounting to something approaching a million euros over the years. Unfortunately an interview emerged where Mrs Fillon, who comes from the disputed territories of Monmouthshire, was asked if she helped François with his work.  Her reply went something along the lines of "Goodness me no, I don't get involved in all that!".


M. Fillon says she had worked, and they could prove it. His accusers say that she had already proved that she had not worked. M. Fillon says that if he is investigated by a judge he will pull out of the presidential election. M. Fillon is duly investigated by a judge. "I will fight to the end", quoth Fillon. M. Fillon could face criminal charges. "I will fight to the end", quoth he once more. His allies, advisors, spokesmen, campaign chairmen are resigning from his campaign. His response? "I will fight to the end."

So the Republicans face the prospect of losing the presidential election.

Enter Madame Marine Le Pen. She is the candidate for the right-wing National Front, counting among her policies the abolition of the euro and the return of the franc, alongside other very popular anti-Brussels rhetoric.

Madame Le Pen is accused of using European Parliamentary money in a similar way to M. Fillon. She has been summoned to be interviewed by an investigating magistrate. "I'm not going!" quoth she, and went she not. She will be summoned again at a future date. "I'm not going!" came the ready reply.

As in the UK, the left wing Socialist Party is in disarray. I ask you, are we living in left-wing kind of days?

Thus far this leaves the field clear for an outsider, Emmanuel Macron, who says he is neither of the left, not the right, nor of the centre, but he wants an eclectic programme of measures including the best ideas of left and of right. He wants to stop us paying Taxe d'Habitation, which is the only direct tax we qualify to pay, so he can't be all bad, can he?

With the general hoo-ha our fine and funky French friends have found a rich comedic vein to explore.

Amongst them a video of policemen catching people in flagrante delicto shoplifting or committing other infractions.

"Excuse me, Madame, you have stolen all those goods from this store."
"And I'll carry on and take them home!"
"Oh, OK, have a nice day."

"You are under arrest. Come with me to the Police Station."
"I'm not coming!"
"Oh, OK, have a nice day."

The one bright spot is that it could turn out that we end up with M. Juppé as president after all.

He has maintained through the whole sorry mess that:
1) the French chose Fillon in a plebiscite
2) Fillon is entitled to the presumption of innocence just like anyone else
3) therefore he, Juppé, would not even consider taking his place as candidate

He now says he would consider replacing Fillon as candidate if
1) Fillon withdraws from the election
2) the Republican party backs him (Juppé)

What a palaver, eh?

Affinity Theological Studies Conference

On Tuesday I took flight to go to the Affinity Theological Studies Conference.

This is held every two years and takes the form of six papers exploring a theme in theology, these papers being sent out beforehand accompanied by a series of discussion questions. During the conference each expert delivers a synopsis of his paper, or homes in on sections they feel particularly relevant. The assembled company then divides into groups of about 10 people to discuss the paper and the questions set by the speaker. I had agreed to lead one of these groups.

I set off from a tempest-racked Bordeaux having weighed the misery of catching the 42 outside our flat, then crossing the road at Mérignac to wait for the 1 to the airport against the misery of trudging to the centre of Pessac to catch the 48 directly with no change. I decided on the latter and made it to the airport not entirely drenched. Some of this water came from my trek to the bus stop. Some of it fell INSIDE THE BUS. I consoled myself with the thought that just last week there were concerns of drought in the summer. Our aquifers were being refilled.

The airport at Bordeaux is easy. Easy to get to. Easy to get through security. Easy to avoid the duty-free shops. Easy to find a coffee is you want one. Easy to find the toilets. Easy to find the departure gate. We are very spoilt.

Boarding the flight wasn't quite so easy. Because of the weather, for the wind wrought and was tempestuous, they decided to embark with only one set of stairs, and I entered the plane to find the steward drying the seats with paper towel. "It's raining INSIDE THE PLANE?" I asked, and he said it was.

Having seen videos of aeroplanes shimmying and sashaying down the runway to land I was, perhaps understandably, a trifle apprehensive but my fears were banished when I heard the steward address the pilot as "Maverick". With Tom Cruise at the joystick, with a few unusual manoeuvres and with bated breath, after a few short minutes we were above the wind, which indeed wrought and was tempestuous and into the brilliant sunshine and peace that you find above the clouds.

I was sent into a revery about the difficult periods of life, which has so often wrought and been tempestuous, and how, if we can find out how, like Maverick, to rise above we can nevertheless find brilliant sunshine and peace.

Oops - here we are in Gatwick. A bit of argy-bargy with shuttles and I was soon on the train opposite two chatty young ladies who had just returned form a fortnight's adventures in Cuba! What experiences they had had! Now it was back to work but with their secret weapons - their memories of their Havana experiences, and not a few bottles of real rum, the good stuff.

As for me I took the 73 bus through the potholes and pneumatic drills of the capital of the rebel kingdom to the British Museum. I was headed for the Greek and Roman rooms with my copy of "Through the British Museum with the Bible". Or is it called "Through the Bible with the British Museum". One or the other.

I first visited Sargon II's Winged Lion Gates. I love those things and if one day I can have a house built for me then that's what I'll have for my garden, perhaps a trifle smaller. I was thrilled to find Sargon II's Winged Lion Bookends in the gift shop later, but at £55 each they stayed there.

Past the Parthenon Frieze, a quick visit to the ever-youthful Alexander the Great, then down to the inscriptions that demonstrated Luke's scrupulous trustworthiness in his travelogue in Acts, a quick sideways glance at the mummies, then off to the cafe for a cup of ... what-do-you-call-this ... coffee. Then lunch I suppose. I found that London shares the current vogue for eating raw fish wrapped round little balls of rice, but adds a plethora of Korean cafes. I ate in Macdonalds. Of course.

Then on the Underworld Railway to Golder's Green where I was to stay overnight with my old friends Gary and Eleri Brady. We would travel up together the following day to the conference.