Showing posts from 2018

and a peaceful New Year

It's been a nice peaceful week, except for Acte VII of the gilets jaunes here in Bordeaux. Two to three thousand demonstrators gathered at the Place de la Bourse yesterday afternoon. We stayed at home and I followed the action on Twitter as some journalists popped on photographs and short reports. This time the trouble was more diffuse and took in some of the most prestigious streets, like Cours Clemenceau, where the Auditorium is, Cours Pasteur, Place de la Victoire and, moving a bit further down market, Cours de la Marne. This last was distressing because that morning Pat and I had popped out to our nearest good coffee shop, Oven Heaven, and the rioting was happening just outside. I sent them a little message to say we were thinking of them and hoped there was no damage or distress. They very kindly replied saying that the only real problem they had was burning dustbins in the street outside and that apart from that all was well. I feel so sorry for the mayor and the town c

Christmas eve reflection

This was a year of big changes, all happy ones! Firstly two graduations. Well, sort of. Catrin completed her degree at Université de Bordeaux Montaigne in Musicologie, chanson française, jazz et musique actuelle. Gwilym had a fancy graduation ceremony to mark his degree in Theology and Worship at London School of Theology. Gwilym began work at Saint Peter’s, Harrow as Head of Music and Creative Arts, while Catrin is teaching English in Bordeaux awaiting continuing adventures serving in an orphanage in South Africa before possibly training in Musicotherapy. The Saturday after Gwilym’s graduation we moved house, from Pessac into a new apartment further into the middle of Bordeaux in a new area that is still being built, Euratlantique. We’re very pleased with the flat, on the fourth floor overlooking the future Jardin de l’Ars and with big windows giving us views out over the south of the city — for the moment mainly building sites. Moving was as traumatic as ever, compounded by bot

Vitamin D

So I went to the doctor. I have a little flare-up of shingles. It's not nightmarish. It just breaks out in itchy patches on my back. I can ignore it, but my doctor did say that when it happens I should go and see her. Anyway she said, "the body is tired" and gave me a prescription for some vitamin D. Christmas should be pretty restful now, anyway.

A News Embargo

You can imagine how the whole "will we, won't we, will we, won't we" hard / soft / no Brexit fiasco plays on the nerves here. We don't get UK television, but we can get SkyNews and each morning we would watch the post-mortem of the previous day's roller-coaster ride. Until last Friday when I said "ENOUGH!!!" My stress isn't helping the situation at all, and the situation is certainly not helping my stress. So we're under a News Embargo. No more Sky News. No more reruns of Peston interviews. (I'm especially glad of that because sometimes I think he crosses the line between reporting and making the news.) No more watching last night's Newsnight on YouTube. They can mess it all up without my help. And boy, do I feel good!

My experience with the gilets jaunes

So I was making my way home on Saturday at about 18:00 from near the Place de la Bourse. There was no public transport in the city centre because of the threatened "Act 4" from the naughty scamps of the gilets jaunes, so off I set to walk to the station where I knew I could get a tram back home. It meant walking along the quays. All would be fine because the rioters like smashing banks and classy shops and there's nothing like that where I would be walking. Some friends needed to get back to Pessac. I urged them to come with me to the station where they could get a train, but they insisted on walking diagonally across the city centre to Saint Nicolas where they could get a tram to Pessac. All was calm, all was bright, until I got to the bottom of Cours Victor Hugo, just by the Porte de Bourgogne by the Pont de Pierre. I knew that Cours Victor Hugo was sometimes a flash-point, but suddenly I saw a line of CRS riot police across the nearside of the road, all armed with

One of my favourite Christmas videos



is the dossier number for our application for a permanent residence permit! We have our récepissés and our cartes de séjour should be ready at end of February. So relieved!

Today's Christmas song


Some photos from the evening after the riots

and this: In the streets where rioting took place the previous evening



You've seen the photos and film clips

There's a few things to note: The violence and damage is limited to a few streets. That is not to minimise the nastiness - the Apple Store was looted as well as other shops, tram stop shelters were smashed, vehicles were burnt - some on the tramlines, several policemen were injured as well as some tens of demonstrators. But the majority of folk I know in Bordeaux will have seen, heard and eve smelt nothing. On our journey to church today we don't expect to see any damage. It's limited to a small area of the city centre and I honestly believe that with the minimum of care and common sense we will not be in any danger whatsoever. Catrin was working until 13:30 yesterday on the far side of the city centre. She was inconvenienced by the trouble because the trams were stopped, so she had to walk home from Quinconces instead of taking tram C. She saw the gilets jaunes assembling, but remember that it's a minority of the demonstators who cause damage and hurt.  Meanw

A report on the gilets jaunes

We've not seen any trouble personally. The closest I got was on Wednesday when I had to collect something from a shop near the opera house and before going I just checked the news media and saw that the high school students were demonstrating at the opera house, so I postponed my errand for a couple of hours to let them move on. The shops in the street around the Maison de la Bible have been advised to close and to barricade their doors and windows today, and the trams will not be going through the city centre from mid-day until things calm down. The abolished "tax on the rich" that is mentioned is the ISF, an inheritance tax levied on the largest fortunes. The government replaced the tax with one that just taxes bequests of property, the ISI, the intention being to encourage people to buy shares in French companies knowing they can pass them on tax-free to their kids.

Les lycéens

The little scamps have been at it again, blocking the tram, lighting fires in the street, setting fire to their high-schools and generally getting up to all sorts of mischief. But the trams are running again, and the authorities want to discuss with the protestors.

Trouble with trams

Last night we were on our way to a house-warming party for one of the chaps at church who has just moved into a nice little flat in the middle of town. We were getting on the tram when we heard discussions with the driver about a BIG PROBLEM. The central computer system that controls the traffic lights, monitors the position of all the trams and communicates with the drivers had broken down. It's wtill not working, so the entire tram network is out of service. In addition our nearest bus, the 11, is redirected away from our road at present because of road works on a bridge just by the centram station. We're cut off! Marooned!

Les Gilets Jaunes

You will have seen the disturbances in the centre of Paris at the weekend when the "gilets jaunes" rioted in protest at fuel prices, taxation and the general feeling that the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer while the middle class is quite simply disappearing. Direct taxation is low in France and we now pay substatially less under Macron than we did before. Indirect taxation is fairly high, however, with 20% VAT and then supplementary taxes on tobacco, alcohol and on motor fuel. The price of fuel at the pump has been falling over recent weeks, but over the time that we have been in France it has risen a lot. For us in the city that doesn't affect us much, we go almost everywhere by public transport and when we do use a car the cost of fuel is included in what we pay. But it does have an impact on food prices in shops, of course. Also France is a big country and many people live outside the city centre here they are obliged to use a car for getting

The coffee machine is dead. Long live the coffee machine

"The water flows OK. Just not enough. I suppose the first thing to do is descale?" We had bought our coffee machine when we moved into the flat in Pessac. It was one of these despicable ones that use coffee pods, there's 36 brands available in our supermarket now, though we bought the machine itself from the flagship coffee-pod store on the smartest street in Bordeaux, just up the road from the mustard shop. They had pre-Christmas offers on their machines. Now three years later we were getting a thimbleful of coffee, no more. "That's an electronic problem."" "And to fix it?" "You'd have to buy 30 euros' worth of coffee pods and the repair would cost 40 euros. The machine is worth 170 euros." (We'd paid 70.) We reflected and discussed. Our coffee crisis coincided with another offer from the flagship coffee-pod store where if you signed up to buy 20 euros' worth of coffee each month for a year, you could have

But you're a pharmacist...

The letter had been hanging round for a few weeks and I thought I had really better get it done. I do like to wait a little while. I have this theory that the vaccines get better as the weeks go on, but the last week of November is leaving it late. So off I went to ask about getting my flu jab. In Pessac one year the nurse came to do it. Another year I got the vaccine just before a visit to the doctor. I have the impression that the procedure changes every year. "Hallo. I have this form for a flu jab. How do you do that now? I feel like it changes a lot." "Oh yes, we can do that." "What? Here? At the pharmacy?" "Yes, that's right." The guy went off to get the vaccine. I took off my jacket. "But we'll go in a side room." "Oh, OK, though it doesn't bother me. It's only my arm. So the pharmacist?" "Yes, well you used to have to get the letter approved by your doctor, then get the vaccine fro

Panoramas de l'Ars

The top part of the tower just beyond the metallic car park is now half-completed. It will have 9 floors of concrete for offices, and 9 floors of glass-clad wooden structure for apartments, separated by what I think will be a tenth floor garden area.

Well it's all go!

So I have now received my convocation to the préfecture for the 12 December, at 14:35 at guichet 22. The is the same date and place as Pat, but ten minutes before. So yesterday I sppent a happy moment scanning and downloading various documents that we will need. Two passports (every page) Two birth certificates. One marriage certificate. Two years' worth of electricity bills for 2013 and 2014 Rent record for 2015 - 2018 Tax statements for 2013 to 2015 Proof of rights under health system. We'll need to provide an attestation each about the amount of time we have spent outside France during the last five years. And I think that's all. We've been told that the people who deal with this at the préfecture are very pleasant.

Why we're applying for Carte de Séjour rather than French Nationality

Pat has her appointment at the Préfecture on the 12th of December!

Les gilets jaunes

There is currently a social movement against President Macron and his reforms, especially focused on the price of motor fuel at the pumps. Although prices have fallen over the past few weeks, it is still true that both diesel and petrol cost less in Spain and people feel ... hard done by. Thus large groups of people wearing their regulation yellow security vests have been meeting at strategic points to block the motorway bridges, toll booths and junctions. This has caused traffic mayhem in Bordeaux, our trams are full to bursting and our buses are delayed, rerouted and sometimes just plumb cancelled. It si a good time to be living in the centre of the city near the station! The situation is serious, some people have died at the roadblocks when drivers have panicked and so on. Meanwhile some wag mused on how agreeable life would have been if instead of imposing the yellow vest to be kept in all cars in case o breakdown, the government had chosen pink tutus. There's always one.


It has suddenly got very cold in Bordeaux. Over the course of two days it went from about 17°C to about 4°C. In our flat we seem to maintain a temperature of around 22°C to 25°C. Our thermostat is set to 19°C, but we seem never to have plumbed these depths and so our radiators have not yet heated up. Such, I suppose, is the efficiency of modern insulation.

Cartes de séjour : right to remain

Good news on the cartes de séjour front : some people in the Gironde have had letters giving appointments at the préfecture.

Messa per Rossini at the Cathedral

Well we did it. It was nuts. It was crazy. It was mad, but we did it, and we pulled it off! Something like 13 or 14 hyperactive italian romantic composers recruited by Verdi to write a requiem in honour of Rossini. Arianna, a choir of some 30 to 40 voices, augmented to 130 or more by a collection of choristers from all around. A 50 piece orchestra including an ophicleide. Five awesome soloists. All were great, the contralto and the bass were outstanding - and the bass used to be a maths teacher! Two hours of music ranging from sweet unaccompanied melodies ("think gondolas", said our choirmaster) to wild frantic blasts ("look terrified", he said). Verdi did the dies irae. Enough said. Some of the choir couldn't sing. I know, because I stood next to two of them at different times. I watched the player tuning his ophicleide. He blew a test note, shrugged and crossed himself. The piece was well-written. Here's an example. The first half ends with

It's a "gros truc".

Tomorrow is the concert of the Mass for Rossini, given to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Rossini and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the choir, Arianna. There's about 130 in the choir, a 50 piece orchestra and 5 soloists. We're doing it in the cathedral and apparently it's close to being a sell-out. Essentially on Rossini's death Verdi decided it would be a good idea to pay homage to the great composer by getting a gang of Italian romantic opera composers to collaborate on a requiem that would be a tribute from his friends and colleagues. The result is a two-hour extravaganza. We've been learning the piece and practicing for over a year. Here's a couple of remarks. These are Italian romantic opera composers, so the piece is larger than life. It's full of loud and soft, fast and slow, soaring soloists, a very menacing bass, four trombones, an ophicleide, the kit and the caboodle. It'll be my swan song with the choir. I've joi

A meeting with an asylum seeker and a refugee

A young guy appeared at church last summer from a country where changing your religion is forbidden by law. He told us his story, of coming from a mixed background family, belonging officially to one religion but always being more attracted by another. Eventually he decided to become a Christian and started attending a house church. The church was raided, some six people were arrested and the others scattered. He hid in a village for a while, then found a "guide" to help him get out of the country. People like this often want to come to the UK because they speak a little English, but you can't get entry visas or get smuggled in so the "guides" instead persuade you to go to France or Belgium. Thus he ended up in France. He subsequently heard that the leader of the house group had been found dead, ostensibly he had committed suicide on his release from detention. So far our friend has been given a place to live - a shared room in an apartment near the centre

We don't entirely understand what these earthworks are about

unless they have started to landscape the future Jardins de l'Ars.

A visit to Paris

We caught the 6:30 train from Bordeaux to Paris to go to the South African Embassy on the Quai d'Orsay. That train is amazing - we hurtled through the French countryside at 300 km per hour (180 mph) and arrived in Paris shortly before we left Bordeaux - or at least it felt that way. Paris was grey and cold, but we negotiated the metro and got to the embassy. We needed to pick up some papers, and we got that done in about 5 minutes. Then we had some other important business to do before our return train at 3:15. First the Marks and Spencer Food Shop. There are several of these in Paris, so we chose the nearest and easiest to get to and scuttled off to find happiness in the form of: A Christmas Pudding Mincemeat Mince pies Lemon curd (for Catrin - a recent passion) It doesn't seem a lot but it weighed my rucksack down and also squashed my banana to pulp. Then off to a traditional Paris café - Starbucks - before zooming off to the Atelier des Lumières for a son et

Plantes pour tous

Houseplants are not easy to find in the heart of a French city. Lidl will sometimes sell something - they had some chilli pepper plants a while ago. Auchan will do a small range occasionally. Ikea sells a range of moderately priced plants. Otherwise there are the florists, but their houseplants are very expensive indeed. Enter Plantes pour tous, a group of nurseries and growers who group together, take an empty commercial unit or a municipal room and put on a two day sale of plants priced at 2, 5 or 10 euros. They've visited Bordeaux twice over the past few months, the first time at the Halle des Chartrons where Pat and I went and queued  to enter. We came out with a Scindapsus (a variegated vine with heart-shaped green and gold leaves) two different Sansevierias, a variegated Ficus Benjamin, a lovely spider plant and a miniature orange tree. Ikea provided a tall Dracaena and two small Aloe veras. Plantes pour tous returned to Bordeaux yesterday and I went along hoping to fin

The adventurous Daveys ride again

We left the flat at about 2, laden with cabin bags, sleeping bags and a bag of snacks. The following eight days would be filled with travel and adventure, but we began by lugging our bags down the stairs. The lift was out of order. Tram C took us to Quinconces. Tram B took us to Doyen Brus where we met the other intrepid members of our party and clambered into Uncle Eli's elderly but valiant Renault Espace. Bags, suits, a guitar and a barrel of beer filled the boot. We filled the seats. We ventured off onto the motorway system to do the six hour or so journey to the Cévennes. We were to stay overnight in some holiday flats in a little village not far outside Alès. The funny thing with the Cévennes is that whatever the distance you have to travel, it takes at least 30 minutes. And that's without diversions, alarmingly narrow village streets and doing the same circuit twice. Diversions, alarmingly narrow village streets and doing the same circuit twice became the leitmotif of

A concert of Fauré in Arcachon

Saturday began with the excitement of a visit from two of our old neighbours in Pessac, Monique and Yvette. We ate on the terrace until it was time for me to scuttle off and meet some fellow choristers to zoom down to Arcachon where our choir, Arpège, was giving a concert of Fauré in the basilica. The weather is currently beautiful and warm and we made good time, found the church easily and parked without problems. Rehearsal went OK, the light-setter-uppers did their work and we were dismissed for picnic time. I went and ate my sandwich on the jetty watching the sun set. Came the hour to change into our song rags - black suit (in my case chinos and jacket) with white shirt and red tie. We had one changing room. Ladies used the small toilet. The high voices began with the Messe basse, sang with our charming soprano soloist, followed by a couple of motets for sopranos and altos. Then we other men entered and we sang the Cantique de Jean Racine.  Fauré set this for a competition w


Yesterday we gathered at the amphitheatre of the Musée d'Aquitaine for a Brexit Reachout Meeting organised by and in the presence of the UK Ambassador to France, Lord Ed Llewellyn. He outlined the current state of Brexit negotiations, observing and reiterating that at this time last year everyone predicted that we could never agree the amount of the divorce settlement, and then we did. He wanted to reassure everyone that a deal is possible. He repeated the current advice of the British Embassy to apply for a Carte de Séjour. When told that the Prefecture of the Gironde was reluctant to issue them to European citizens, and that in some other centres the situation is even worse, he promised to address this with the Prefet that very afternoon. We also heard that the Prefecture of the Gironde has been instructed to issue Cartes de Séjour to qualifying people who ask for them. In the event of a no-deal Brexit there is, of course, no deal. The French Government is preparing legisla

On the beauties of the French language

elféksa She only does that = That's all she does. (Elle ne fait que ça)

I know I should be better-armed than this but

every now and again something happens that just shakes you. The allegation that a squad of 15 hitmen led by a doctor with a bone-saw should dismember while living a political dissident is just so horrific. I mean, 15 people? Why 15 people? And a doctor with a bone-saw dismembering a living man while playing music through headphones and advising his team to do the same? Surely, I thought, no doctor would? No doctor could? But doctors are no better and no worse than any of us, and have no better record. I so hope that this story is not true, but sadly it could be.

Bordeaux in the autumn

is very capricious. Friday we had temperatures of 29°C. Saturday we had brisk easterly winds. Sunday started fine and pleasant. Then in the afternoon, just as we left the house to go to church, the heavens opened. We were swiftly drenched. Utterly drenched. Catrin's umbrella was no use whatsoever as we had that horizontal rain again. So much rain fell that the drainage on the roads couldn't disperse it all, so when we left church later we were repeatedly soaked by passing traffic launching sheets of muddy water at us. As soon as we got in we peeled off our wet layers and were thankful for a nice, dry, warm flat. Numbers were down morning and evening. Some are away, some ill, one poor chap couldn't find anywhere to park his car!

Inauguration of La Tram Douce

A couple of weeks ago I was cycling back from near the Marché des Capucins. It's not very far, but the direct route takes you down Cours de la Marne, the main road to the central railway station. It's a narrow road with lots of bus routes and desperately needs resurfacing. Not ideal cycling territory. So I decided to take parallel roads. Oh the fun I had! In the course of about 1/2 mile I got lost at least four times, occasionally having no clue whatsoever where I was. The problem is that Bordeaux is not built on anything resembling a grid. Not at all! If anything it is like a spider's web built by a deranged and intoxicated beast. Odd angles. Weird curves. Tangents and forks. We have it all... Anyway, the Marie has come to my rescue! On Saturday we participated in the inauguration of La Tram Douce ("the soft weft"?) The idea is to provide a clearly marked route down the higgledy-piggledy side roads along a 2km route from la Place Sainte-Eulalie to the Place

Well it has been a very busy week here in Bordeaux

In terms of weather, we have avoided all extremes, though we have had our usual localised thounderstorms with heavy downpours. There's standing water in the building sites around the flat, but nothing unusual. In the work there's been various extra things going on, including a meeting of the CNEF33, the new reborn, reformed grouping of evangelical churches in the Gironde. It's great to get folk together and to try and coordinate initiatives and to respect each others situations. It's not without challenge, but we have some good folk involved. We also had a couple of meetings of our steering group and started working on our transition to a different structure. Adding temporarily to the load is this transition period where I am singing in two choirs. The first is Arianna, which is now entering the final throes of rehearsals for the BIG PROJECT, the Mass for Rossini, composed by a committee of Italian Romantic Composers. It's pretty much as you'd expect and sel

Some British choral music - C H Parry "I was glad"


The joys and the irritations

They've tarmacadamed the pavement opposite our flats, and we are filled with joy. Up till now the pavement was composed of nasty black stones of varying sizes that were frequently flattened but continuously stirred up so they attacked the sole of your foot through your shoes, or even from inside your shoes. But now we have smooth, black, shiny tarmac. What joy! It may go a little way to solving one of our other little annoyances. Some women decided to work the street our flat is on. Let the reader understand. They are on the day shift, so they stand or sit in the blazing sun waiting for a car to stop. A while ago one lady took to yelling at passing men. "Ça va?" If they responded in any way she'd yell, "On y va?" One day she came up as I was waiting for the no. 11 bus. "Ça va?" "Bonjour. Ça va très bien, merci" "On y va?" "Où? On y va où?" "Sex!" "Ah non, et merci de ne plus crier dans la rue

Couple updates

I'm really getting the hang of this transatlantic idiom now. We've had a visit from Matt and Suzy from Deeside, so I've been less present on the inter web lately. But meanwhile a few things have happened: 1) we've sent off our requests for an interview for a 10-year carte de séjour (right to remain). I hope I've done it correctly. I gave someone the wrong email address for something important yesterday because of rushing and not focusing on what I was doing... 2) It's become suddenly autumnal. Chilly in the mornings and not always that warm in the afternoons, either. 3) Catrin has her ticket now for South Africa? She's flying Iberian with a change of plane in Madrid, leaving mid January and returning mid May. 4) Catrin has been charged with finding an electric piano for the French project - something easy to carry either in a car or on the tram. There's a very basic 5-octave Yamaha that may do the trick. 5) We've greened up our flat wit

Carte de séjour

Since the referendum we have been concerned to ensure our ability to stay in France, at least until our retirement date in 2026. We at first intended to take French nationality. However we quickly found out that this involves official, expensive translations of sundry documents, including six to eight birth certificates and three marriage certificates. It all adds up to several hundred euros. So we have dragged our feet on it. However the British Embassy in France is currently advising people to apply for a permanent carte de séjour. These things are less onerous in terms of administration and so less costly. A permanent carte de séjour currently lasts 10 years, which takes us beyond our retirement date. Once we retire we will need to consider whether to stay in France or to return to the UK. So I've had a happy morning photocopying our passports (every page) and finding proof of address for the past five years. It's quite easily done, in fact, with our council tax bills

A photograph of the happy couple


Home from the Beth and Gwilym wedding

We just got home, thankful in lots of ways. I was thankful to hear the words, "Perfect, sir" when I handed the hire car back. We were thankful to be comfortably in timer our flight despite little delays at Stansted airport (wait for the shuttle bus from the Car Hire Village, an x-ray machine on the blink, Catrin's suspicious key-rings, etc...) We were thankful for uneventful car journeys in and around Norwich. We were thankful for the warm welcome from Gwilym's new outlaws. And we were thankful for a happy and beautiful wedding.

Coughing to the left of me, sneezing to the right

I'm sleeping in my office!

Today's panorama

looks very similar to last week's!

Wedding garments

So for Gwilym's wedding Pat has a lovely pink dress with a kind of gauzy overdress with pink flowers. We modified it by removing a ribbon-belt which only served to slice her in half and it's now classy and just her colour. Catrin is a bridesmaid so she'll be in a silver-grey skirt with a lacy bordeaux top. It all looks very nice. For me it's modified american academic dress. I have a swanky grey blazer I got cheap from H&M teamed with blue trousers for the Thursday registry office wedding - I'll wear my wild jungle pattern Desigual shirt and a plain tie. Then for the Friday when I have to preach, mid-grey trousers, a white shirt and a floral tie. Catrin says we'll all look very fancy!

Glad that's over!

Well the last audition was last night. The choir rehearses not far from Château Haut-Brion in Pessac and I was pleased to find that the number 11 bus gets me within about 1/2 mile. There were four of us being auditioned. A young soprano sang beautifully but was not very hopeful because they need guys, not gals. She got in anyway. I thought she would. Then me. Then two proper basses. After we'd all voiced our vocalises and pounded out our pieces we trooped downstairs to where the choir was amassing for the rehearsal. They start at 8:30, in the same way that church with us starts at 4:30... agreed and institutionalised tardiness. After the rehearsal - sacred music by Fauré, most of which I'd never heard before, the choir director came up and said "pour moi c'est bon" then awaited my reponse. It was positive. I like the choir, I like his style, I like the discipline, I like the sound they make and I like the fact that they take a break for a sneaky drink and biscui

The search for a choir

On Tuesday I had my first audition, for Polifonia / Ensemble Vocal d'Aquitaine. I went out to Ambares for a sectonal rehearsal of basses and altos and we sang through pieces by Lili Boulanger and by Saint Saens. The couple who run the choir were very likeable and the rehearsal seemed to go well. The choir rehearses in the conservatoire, which is very near here, and it sometimes works with the chorus-master of the Opéra de Bordeaux, but I did look alarmingly young among my fellow-basses. Next audition this evening, with a different group.

Brief intermission

We've had someone staying with us for a couple of nights. We can do this now that we have a (rather nasty) sofa bed in my study. I say the sofa bed is rather nasty because the design of it makes it astonishingly uncomfortable to sit on unless you curl your legs up onto the seat. Essentially the seat is too deep. Nobody has legs that long. We'll solve the problem by getting good firm pillows and good strong pillowcases and using them as cushions to reduce the depth. When unfolded it makes a reasonably comfortable bed. We explain that our goal is to have something that is comfortable for short stays! Of course, the drawback of this is that when folk are staying I end up just like in the bad old days before the move, wandering from table to table, looking for somewhere to park my laptop and work. But it's still good to have visitors.

Panorama de l'Ars



At the moment we get about three or four requests for help with accommodation each week, usually from students from the UK, the USA or France who have not managed to find a student room or flat and who hope that we can find a family they can stay with. We can't, but we do give what advice or help we can. Yesterday's call was special. The caller was a French woman. "I have a family here from Albania, they have no shelter and since you are a pastor I thought you'd have some help to propose or some ideas..." I suggested the emergency number 115 and the woman said she'd phone back. When she phoned back we talked a little, 115 had been unable to help, and so I talked about the Diaconat de Bordeaux, the protestant support services in the centre of the city. It turned out that the woman was from another association next door to the diaconat, la Cimade, which works to support immigrants legally. I thought, " they are phoning me for help 'since

Yellow alert for storms

One of the nice things about being on the fourth floor is that we get a lot of sky, and so far this year that has meant a lot of blue skies. The sunrise is pale blue shot through with gold silk. The evening is indigo. But yesterday was grey all day. I had a few errands to run. First a visit to the quackeroo who declared herself content. Then to the post office and to the bank. Google maps said the nearest branch of our bank was at Terre Neuves at Bègles, so I hopped on the tram, found the post office easily, but of the bank found I never a trace. Quick moment of cogitation. I knew the bus 11 would take me to Victoire and I knew there was a branch there, and bus 11 was due in two minutes. The decision was an easy one to take. As bus 11 neared the railway station the heavens opened and the fountains of the firmament were poured on surprised scene. The rain cascaded from the sky quicker than it could drain away and within seconds the passing cars were leaving sizeable wakes. Nobody ha

Finding a choir

We both sang with Arianna, a Pessac-based choir that meets in the music school at Alouette. There's a BIG PROJECT on at the moment, a performance for the Requiem for Rossini, a massive romantic piece for huge choir, enormous baritone and colossal orchestra, composed by a gargantuan committee of romantic italian composers, with predictably melodramatic results. The performace is in October, I think, so I'll stay for that. However the regular rehearsals are 20:30 to 22:40 on Wednesday evenings, and even when we lived in Pessac that was just a little late. So I'm hunting for something in town, aided and advised by the conductor of Arianna. He actually proposed that I might consider joining his chamber choir that specialises in newly composed music. I was very flattered! They say that the choir is open to "musicians". However although I'd love to do that it would never work, their rehearsals are on Sunday evenings at 19:30 at Blanquefort, way out of Bordeaux.


On Sunday night we were woken by a rather strange engine noise from outside. It didn't subside, so eventually we got up to see three cars doing fast circiles and handbrake turns in the lovely dust of the building site below our balcony. Up and down the building people were looking out and children were being pacified. After a couple of minutes of such high jinks, our aspiring rally drivers drove off at suitable high speed. We were concerned that this might become a regular event, but last night was calm!

Saturday panoramas from the balcony


Silent noon, from the House of Life, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Ian Bostridge, Julius Drake and a woodland somewhere

On a different and possibly discordant note there's a Peruvian pan-pipe group that plays in the city centre and I'm sure that yesterday I heard them playing Jerusalem.


the attentive reader - is there another kind? - will notice that I make very little comment on our glorious nation's political "life"

Stürm und Drang

there was no damage but we all gathered on our balconies to watch things blow by.

It's 9pm and the storm has hit

we have brought in the balcony furniture and closed the shutters, there's lots of dirt and general stuff flying round.

Orange storm alert

We're on orange alert for a storm today that will end the 36°C temperatures and plunge us to an autumnal 26°. They forecast high winds and hail for 3pm, so the parks in Bordeaux were closed, as well as one of the libraries. Since then the storm has been delayed progressively. Now it's scheduled for 9pm, but I'm starting to think it's one of these damp squibs we sometimes get that don't go off at all. Meantime we turned the balcony table upside down and stacked the chairs on the lee of the windward wall where they're least likely to be plucked up by the wind and dashed to the ground so far below.

While we were away there has been little addition to the height of the tower

  but it's good to be back and to see our big skies again!

We have just returned from holidays

We started in Bath, including a visit to Wells, then spent a little time in Cardiff, with a day at the Eisteddfod, then on to our Mission's conference near Leicester, then a weekend in Edinburgh. Travel all worked out fine, by aeroplane, by train, by coach and by car, we saw some family and some friends, and also got to explore two cities for the first time: Wells and Edinburgh. Here come some photographs, all via Instagram: