Showing posts from December, 2017

Some more Christmas Bach

BWV 82 Ich Habe Genug is based on Simeon's song, known as the Nunc Dimittis ("Now dismiss")

Diolch yn fawr iawn i S4C am y rhaglen hon!

This programme shows the valley where I grew up, features the brass band I played with as a lad and then goes on the my university town. I half expected Bryn to hop on a plane to Bordeaux, but he didn't. The BBC won't let me watch anything, but S4C allowed me to watch this.

Christmas Day

Well, just like in the old days, the kids got us up. We'd opened our presents on Christmas Eve as you do in France, but we also had little stockings with bits and bobs in. Then the rush to get the table ready for lunch. Some genius had had the idea to have a raclette for lunch - I think it was a collective decision - so there wasn't a vast amount of cooking to do beforehand. We'd bought too much charcuterie, some chicken pieces, too much cheese and so we boiled too many potatoes. For an apero we opened a bottle of Lillet someone gave us and which we'd been saving for just this kind of day, and we had crisps and cashew nuts. To accompany the meal we had some French cider, barely alcoholic but sweet, light and fruity - not at all like English cider. For dessert we had some mince pies, of course, but this time made with home-made pastry and home-made mincemeat. I tried someone's secret that they'd shared with me years ago and used self-raising flour in the pa

Some Bach for Christmas


If we decide to retire to Britain

will there be language courses so we can understand whatever strange tongue you are speaking now? " I didn’t hear any edition of the Today programme this week, due to deciding recently that it harshed what little zen I possess too early in the morning."

On the discipline of rest

This time Pat and I are sleeping in our bedroom and Gwilym is sleeping on the sofa-bed in the lounge. We're sleeping a lot. A LOT! Like last night bedtime was 9pm, and we got up at about 9am. I can't remember the last time I spent 12 hours in bed. Not even when I'm ill. Perhaps when we used to go camping and we'd go to bed with the sun. But anyway, we are certainly catching up on sleep! I once knew a student who didn't believe in the necessity of resting or of taking a break. "I'll get plenty of rest in eternity!" they'd say. But I think they still slept even so. Sleep forces us to rest. If we don't sleep we quickly go nuts. And sleep is quite a subversive act. It says that we accept that we are not the centre of the world. It says that we accept that the world can survive without us. It says that we can walk away and leave things, at least for some hours. Sleep restores us in ways we still don't fully understand. We quickly lear

Mint Spies version 1.0 and 1.1

Well I made some mint spies. Two batches thereof. This is what I learned. 1) our bin tin is very deep. More like a muffin tin really. placing mint spies in the bottom of the holes works, but it is fiddly. 2) paper cases work fine and they mean you don't have to grease the bun tin. 3) shop-bought pâte sablée (sweet shortcrust pastry) works ok but the pastry is very thin and crisp. 4) shop-bought flaky pastry (pâte feuilletée) basically doesn't work at all. 5) the mincemeat is good. So basically I have to make some shortcrust pastry.

Home made mincemeat

The French know not mincemeat. I mean we know not even candied peel! Suet is an issue. So for many years we have not had mint spies at Christmas unless someone has been able to smuggle them over in their hold baggage or something. Then this year I found a recipe. It's not perfect. It has suet. I substituted butter. It has candied peel. I left it out. It has fresh cranberries. In your dreams. It doesn't have grated apple. I'll add some next year. But I found some dark brown sugar, at HUGE expense in Auchan. So basically I did my best with what I have available. Next year I'll adjust the spices. Less cinnamon. Some ground cloves. I'll add grated apple. I'll buy one of those zester things. Above all I'll try and make the mincemeat a couple of months before Christmas, instead of a couple of days! But we shall have pies!

StarWars The Last Jedi

A group of us went to see the film last night, and I enjoyed it very much. Positives.  Good old fashioned escapism. Derring-do. Spaceships. Big explosions. Hokum galore. Cute robots. Negatives.  The old words rolling into space looks so dated now. Forty years ago I saw StarWars in Aberystwyth with a gang of folk, and Geoff Thomas was sat a couple rows behind. I am SO CONFUSED about the war between the Empire and the Rebels.


Life has been quite busy, health has been more of an issue than usual and the ugly monster of excess fatigue has been waving to us. Last week I thought, "let's just get through this weekend, then we can flop" and we did and we can and we are. The weekend went well. I was a bit down and unhopeful but we had good numbers for the carol service including some splendid small boys, all who introduced carols and Sylvain who preached done good and Pat was well enough to come. Now we are taking a break. The decision was taken when during a conversation one of my supervisors/mentors/bosses/partners referred to me in passing as Mr Duracell. It might mean that I blog more, though!

R C Sproul

I never met R C Sproul or heard him preach in person. To me he was a writer. I didn't watch his courses or listen to his sermons. I appreciated the invitations to join Ligonier theological study cruises in Alaska or the Caribbean, though I never went and I can't imagine a universe where that would conceivably happen. But I valued his books enormously. He was a good populariser, he could explain hard things simply. His books on the Holiness of God and on the Nativity narratives were wonderful. His little series of short books on various topics are free in Kindle format I recommend them highly. I thought he wrote with tremendous clarity, his "The Mystery of the Holy Spirit" is my go-to popular-level book on the subject. Thank you, Dr Sproul, Thank you Ligonier. 

Hurrah! Patricia hardly coughed at all last night!

The bronchitis is really on the mend! As for her back, well we'll see soon. In less happy news, however, Lawrence, our rat, has a large tumour on his forelimb. Rats are prone to tumours like these as they get elderly. He doesn't seem to be aware of it at all, and it doesn't stop him climbing all over his cage, but it does remind us that he is very unlikely to see Christmas 2018.

Expository preaching

OK. Here we go. I began pastoral ministry in 1991as an assistant pastor in a church where preaching was consecutive, systematic and expository. Thus it was that the first Sunday I preached my passage was Mark 6:14-29, the beheading of John the Baptist. I say this just to establish that I am used to the expository method. I've never been subjected to some of the horror stories that go around, of sermons on the triumphal entry from the point of view of the donkey, the identification of the stones David had for his sling, etc. I am deeply committed to preaching the Bible and by systematic consecutive exposition. Which simply means taking a passage and explaining what it meant for the first hearers, what it means in the context of the whole Bible and what it means for those who hear today. OK. However, I am more than a little bothered at the moment, for the following reasons. 1) Systematic consecutive exposition of the Scriptures is not a magic method. The power does not lie in

It was better before. (c'était mieux avant)

Firstly one for travellers and ex-pats. Be aware of the golden glow of nostalgia! This comes home to me in so many ways so often here in Bordeaux. Here's a couple of examples. One comes from a conversation a few months ago when a British friend said, "Nobody goes hungry in England. There are no food banks in England." I quietly explained that since we left the UK in 2005 food banks have become a major activity for many of my friends and colleagues, and that some food banks are now regularly frequented by NHS nurses. Another happened more recently and concerned bullying in schools. A French friend said how shocked they were by the bullying in England and how it isn't tolerated in France. I quietly explained that our kids were bullied in the catholic school in Pessac that they attended. "Oh, OK, I know it goes on in the catholic schools" and then how a friend's son in a state school in a suburb of Bordeaux came home one day and said "Today was a

Mrs Davey's condition is improving

The strong medicines and injections are helping to calm her lower back spasms, and her coughing is better too, helped by the antibiotics, expectorant etc.

The doctor cometh

I woke to find that Mrs Davey had left a note asking me to call the doctor and ask them to call round, and to cancel her physiotherapy appointment for this morning. The doctor just came and prescribed LOTS of things - injections each evening, amoxicillin for the cough, I'll need to take a carrier bag to the pharmacy.

The answer, my friend, is running in the wind

Well it's warmer, at least, but this morning we were back to more normal December weather of driving rain and blustery wind. To be honest it wasn't raining that much. More a question of puddles and dampness, and I do pretty well in dampness. But the wind was annoying because all the uphill section of my habitual run (I did the short version this morning) you are running into the wind. But not only that, for some reason the good burgers of Pessac had decided that this was the night to forget to fasten their gates, so all the way I was subjected to the noise of sudden slamming. It was just like running through a horror film. I expected some monster to appear round the corner at any moment. None did, thankfully! We had these super-duper cheap and cheerful running bands, you know, like fitbits, but the Chinese version. They were really good, though Mrs Davey's always found it hard to connect to her phone. Mine worked OK. Till I changed my phone. Then it just wouldn't

Mrs Davey's health

To her continued back problem, sometimes improving only to know sudden deterioration once more, is added a nasty, dry, hacking, loud cough. She's not very well and struggling to be very happy.

Bus fun

Yesterday I had two big appointments, the first with the insurance company to ask four questions. We addressed the question from hardest to easiest and got everything done quite quickly. I noticed that we had a discretionary discount of 15% but said nothing until the final figure turned out to be cheaper than I expected. "La différence n'est pas énorme." "Oui, j'ai fait un geste." faire un geste doesn't just mean to wave your arms around. It also means giving someone a small discretionary discount, or throwing something else in free or whatever. My next big appointment was with a chap who's a friend, but who smokes. A lot. I'm still struggling with the asthma a little, so I thought I'd better phone him and cancel. He took it OK. It gave me the chance to hop on bus 4 to the big shopping centre, stock up on bananas and beans and also get my public transport season ticket renewed at the same time. You can renew online up till about 15

On the death of Jean d'Ormesson and of Johnny Halliday

Yesterday we heard that Jean d'Ormesson had died. He was a well-born Frenchman (hence the d'). His full name was Jean Bruno Wladimir François de Paule Le Fèvre d'Ormesson.  He became an author, the editor of the Figaro for a few years and was the longest-serving member of the Académie Française. I got used to seeing him interviewed on the television and noticed him because he spoke openly, freely and warmly of his belief in God. He was a real charmer, always smiling, always witty. They said of him that he loved life, loved women and never took himself seriously. He himself said that as a young man he loved to have a girlfriend but what women loved most about him was breaking up with him, so he lurched from one broken heart to another. He had a major row with his father, who saw him as a worthless lout, and it remained so painful that he couldn't speak about it even as an elderly man. I have no idea really of the content of his faith, but I liked the tone of what h

The choir concert

Last night the choir took part in a charity concert at the church in Pessac. It was a bitterly cold night. We were assured the heating was on. So were our coats. After a brief warm-up and some jiggery-pokery with the small, inadequate electric piano we sat down for the speeches. There are always speeches. Then we were off. Our programme included the choral movements of BWV4 - Christ lag in Todesbanden, as well as the last movement of the Vasks mass and Fauré's incredibly popular Cantique de Jean Racine. There was a brief moment in this movement where I was aware that the tenors on my left and the sopranos on my right were not in synch. It felt like being in a skidding car. We were slewing off. What do you do? I stuck to the conductor like a limpet and after just a couple of bars we were all back together again. I guess everyone had done the same. People applauded the Fauré on its announcement as well as on its conclusion. I, however, sight-sang it last week and then l

The internet is back, and so am I

On Monday I left our poor disconnected flat, our pirated church website that directed folk to a pornography site and went off to Paris for a Prêche la Parole conference. Somewhat modelled on the Proc Trust preaching workshops, it was to be held at the Baptist Church in Rue de Sèvres in the middle of Paris, just a short walk from the Gare Montparnasse and so on. We now have our super-duper high speed train link from Bordeaux to Paris, but not yet to CENTRAL Paris, so I took the Ouigo TGV to Massy. It cost 32 euros and took two hours.  Massy TGV station is intimidating. To get to central Paris you have to buy a ticket from the machine and take a RER train. I say the machine because there were several lonely, quiet machines for tickets for the "grandes lignes" but only one for the local lines. Its as very popular. I queued for 30 minutes in order to buy my ticket. Then about an hour of marvelling at the Paris suburbs brought me into Montparnasse and I walked the