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, January 31, 2018


Guilty as charged, your honour



The word repression is used much more widely in French than it would be in English, and generally means any measure designed to put pressure on people to stop breaking the law. You would contrast it, I suppose, with education or with the promise of reward.

Recently in Bordeaux fines have been increased dramatically. Parking fines went up from about 17 euros, I think, to almost 40. Meanwhile the fine for travelling on the tram or bus without a ticket has gone up to 72 euros if you settle within three days. After three days an additional 50 euros is incurred. The cost of a bus or ram ticket is 1,60€.

The other day we were on the tram when the ticket inspectors swooped. They arrived in gangs and move through the tram preventing people from alighting without first showing their valid ticket. One woman behind us was caught. She had a wallet full of tickets, none of which had been punched in the machine. "See", she said, "I have lots of tickets". But to no avail. "The fine is 72€ if you pay within three days, if not it goes up to 122€. You can pay me now by card."

"Can't you extend some indulgence? They do in Paris" said the woman, shocked at the cost of her misdemeanour.

No indulgence was extended. No indulgence was possible. The woman argued, complained, wept, railed, and paid. "You have ruined my night out!" she told the inspector.

After the inspectors had gone she continued to complain to the passengers around her about the cost of the fine and the lack of indulgence on the part of the Bordeaux ticket inspectors when compared to the kindly, forgiving Parisians. (Frankly, I have my doubts.)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Changing the hard disk

We don't have a television or a hifi system. Instead we have a Mac Mini computer that stores all our music and accesses films and programmes that we might want to watch. We've had the computer about three or four years and it's very good, but it has always been very slow indeed.

The problem is that Apple put slow hard disks in their base models, and to buy a computer with a fast hard disk is very expensive indeed.

The solution is to change the hard disk for a SSD. Well, following the computing adventures of last month I decided to bite the bullet, buy a drive and change the thing.

In the centre of Bordeaux there is a computer-monger who sold me all I needed, including a very natty little case full of the special screwdrivers I would need. Youtube has videos showing the procedure to follow step by step. What could possibly go wrong?

So in I hied me on the trusty number 4 bus. The chappie in the shop remembered my name and sold me the bits I needed, recommending a particular piece of software to copy the old disk onto the new. (CopyClone)

I came home and used a different piece of software (SuperDuper) and waited as the copy took hours, several hours.

Then came the surgery. I set up a lamp by the table and laid out kitchen paper to receive the various screws. One website said it would take about 45 minutes. It didn't. It took about 20. There were a few steps that people said you could leave out, so I did. One screw didn't want to go back in, so I left it out! Then...

The Mac Mini is now REALLY FAST! I couldn't believe the difference it made!

If you're hesitating, do it!

Continual rain and flooding

You've seen the images of flooding in Paris. Here in Bordeaux the Garonne is very high but as yet only the cycle paths and walkways alongside the river have flooded. The streets of the right bank have not yet been inundated.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The great Nutella riots

Supermarket chain Intermarché has an offer on 950g jars of Nutella. Usually sold for about 5 euros they've cut the price to 1,41€, limited to three jars per customer, and sparked the great Nutella riots of 2018, rivalling the infamous British Ikea Sofa Stampede for notoriety.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Yatal concert

This January gets you down. You never dry out! Every time you leave the flat you get drenched by constant, persistent, penetrating drizzle. It's just like Cardiff, it really is.

So last night I was the only Davey to brave the brief journey by train to the Eglise Sacré Coeur near the central railway station to hear the group, Yatal, who hail basically from Grenoble.

Yatal is a kind of folk-pop group made up of a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, a violinist and a multi-instrumentalist who is known especially for playing the hang-drum. He also wowed the crowd by playing the spoons. (I'll have to tell Pat. We can both play the spoons. Fame awaits us!)

My train was 10 minutes late so I had to hoof it fast up the road to the church. I've been there once before. A friend from the language school used to go there. It's one of the more interesting Catholic churches, it has perpetual adoration of the host, as well as pop-music youth masses on Sunday night and has renamed itself "L'Eglise de Bordeaux Centre". It's also often the venue for Christian concerts, including the catholic groups, Glorious (you pronounce it like "glory-house" without the h) and Be Witness.

In front of me was a young chap I know from a church in Bordeaux. We chatted about the size of the crowd. 

"I expected more people."

"We're about 150, I guess."

"But they could have held this in one of the Assembly of God buildings?"

"Certain doctrinal differences perhaps? They come from a baptist church don't they? Or is it some kind of frères"

"CAEF, I think". I looked around. "So more differences than with this?"

"The place of the Word of God?"

Sometimes I feel very foreign. 

I think that what has happened is that the charismatic movement in the Catholic church has created a certain coming and going between the charismatic protestant and catholic communities and made a bridge between the two. This hasn't happened between the pentecostals and the other groups, so in the end people like my friend feel a greater affinity with the church that maintains perpetual adoration of the host than with the local AoG groups. Maybe my friend doesn't know the local AoG people at all.

Makes you think, doesn't it!

France is awesome

I mean it. Clear sign of God's common grace and love for humanity.

Lots of reasons. Here's another.

This week the government finally decided what to do about a possible new regional airport near Nantes, in a little place called Notre Dame des Landes. (Nothing to do with the Landes de Gascogne)

The project had created a lot of discussion, protest, sit-ins and Swampy-style squatting, but no decision from the government either for or against the plan.

Macron's government promised to make a final decision, and there were lots of consultations with all sorts of people on the local and national level. And this week Edouard Philippe, the prime minister, announced the decision. Not before large numbers of riot police had been ferried into the area.

He said that where large-scale projects had succeeded there had always been united support - they had been projects that commended themselves to all kinds of people. This project obviously created a lot of division. So the government had decided to knock it on the head once and for all.

No decision would have been easy, which may be why previous governments have chosen that path? To decide for the airport would mean a huge backlash from the environmental and agricultural lobbies. To decide against leaves Nantes without a regional hub and leaves large businesses wanting compensation for the work they have already put in.

It reminded me of a situation many years ago where I learned a lot about rule by elders. In a happy church not far from London the elders had decided that it would be good to start area house groups. They worked it through and announced it to the church meeting.

Shock and awe. Some people were horrified. Some years previously there had been a serious dispute in the church which seemed to have come from some bad behaviour on the part of house group leaders. Now history seemed about to repeat itself.

The elders looked at each other, looked round the room and promptly knocked the whole idea on the head. Ruling means more listening than talking.

Friday, January 19, 2018

My friend's cafe

My friend has a café that he runs with his fiancée in a busy little street of Bordeaux.
It has perhaps 20 chairs, a nice little patio - well, tiny really - and a small cellar where they can store stuff. The rent is over £1300 a month, which means they have to do REALLY WELL just to cover their expenses. The other day a chap and I were eyeing it up and working out how many people you could get in there if you laid it out as a church, and you could get perhaps 40 people in. That's rents in central Bordeaux for you.

The January blues

Here we go!
Roll on March.

Rich and poor - on Dollar Street

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

On cream once more

The avid reader of this blog will be aware how much I appreciate easy recipes, and my attention was recently drawn to a very simple recipe for home-made ice-cream - no machine, no incessant churning, it's easy.

Armed with my home-made mincemeat I found a recipe for Christmas ice-cream and set about buying the requisite ingredients.

Let's see. Condensed milk - that's easy - and ... whipping cream.

Here we go again!

Over a decade ago when my eyes were keen and my beard dark I tried buying whipping cream here in France and discovered to my dismay that cream is a territorial species.

We Brits delight in half-cream, single-cream, whipping cream, double cream and clotted cream.

Americans, however, separated by a wide ocean and two-hundred years of cultural divergence, have their own classification, which includes "heavy cream".

Here in France I am still struggling to understand why some crème still tastes sour, and so is obviously crème fraîche, even though it doesn't say so on the pot.

Here is what I have discovered.

If you want whipping cream then you buy crème fleurette, which has added alginates to provide a frothing agent and help it whip. (shudders ... I can't, I just can't...)

Otherwise if you want to whip your cream you need to buy 30% cream.

To get non crème fraîche and have a cream that does not taste soured at all I only know of one brand, which comes in a kind of 33cl sachet.

Otherwise, since the ice-cream recipe contains sweetened condensed milk and I need 50cl of cream, I just frown, knuckle down and buy crème fraîche.

The holy grail of cream here is France is Crème d'Isigny, which is thick and unctuous and will play the role of clotted cream if you have good scones and are of a greedy and forgiving nature.

All clear?

Darkest Hour

On Monday afternoon we took the tram to the nearest UGC cinema in Talence to see Darkest Hour in VOSTF. There were four people in the room. Well, it was Monday afternoon.

Of course, watching the film in Bordeaux probably increases the visceral blow of the film. How do you defend against panzers and blitzkrieg? How do you negotiate with totalitarianism? How do you willingly wake up from a nightmare?

I had a new appreciation for the pace of events. In just two weeks everything was unleashed.

I wondered at Chamberlain. Was he really such an evil old buzzard, controlling the voices and reactions of his party with just the flick of his handkerchief? Could this be a true portrait? At the same tie I have known people like that and, to my lifelong shame, I have not always explained the danger of their habits.

I wondered at Churchill's energy. He was born in 1874, so at the outbreak of war he was already 65. No wonder he needed his naps! And his drink!

It would be good to find a historian's review of the film. What about the King's change of heart?

And then Brexit. Probably for the UK it doesn't matter much whether we are in the EU or not. I mean, obviously, economically it matters hugely, and probably in terms of rights and protection of citizens, too. But in the event of war on the continent of Europe, it is hard to see how Britain can avoid getting drawn in.

Perhaps the real hero of the film is the spoken word. Popular folklore credits Churchill with winning the war by means of the radio, and without in any way overlooking my father's, and others' sacrifice in devoting the best years of their youth to combatting the fascist plague, I would like to believe that that is true.

Here is one historian's take on the film

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A worldwide reaction on a global scale

We have been inundated by a worldwide reaction of two messages asking us to keep the blog alive, one from an undisclosed location believed to be deep inside the European Union, the other from a Mr Davey of the Home Counties.

Faced with this unprecedented emotional outpouring the blog is, of course, reprieved.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The week the blog almost died

It's been a very busy week here in Bordeaux, just one thing after another, to such an extent that I thought the best thing to do was to announce the death of the blog. However last night Mrs Davey told me that this would be a pity, and so the blog will live on.

What's been happening? All sorts of things.

Monday is now sabbatical day, and I ventured out into Bordeaux without my phone and quite, quite alone. It was very liberating to know that nobody knew where I was and nobody could contact me. I ate lunch in one of the cheap cafés and watched the empty square - Mondays are quiet in Bordeaux and many of the shops are closed.

We had some computer problems sorted out. Catrin's laptop hit problems due to lack of storage but in the centre of Bordeaux there's an independent computer shop that was able to sell us a bigger disk and fit it. I'd have been able to fit it myself, but it was cheaper to get them to do it than to buy the tools I would need.

Then Pat's phone had a cracked screen. Catrin's had previously suffered the same thing, so we got Catrin's repaired at the same place for a very reasonable sum and Pat took over Catrin's phone.

Again on the computer front a young chap asked me to help him upgrade his cloud storage but unfortunately he could not remember his password - or rather he correctly remembered the wrong password - so there was nothing constructive that we could do!

I met up with a young student who is working on the role of women in protestant churches in Bordeaux and after our interview we discussed how he feels about President Macron. We are both glad to have a president who knows how to behave without embarrassing the whole country, not something we felt so able to say with the two previous incumbents.

It's been the CNEF week of prayer, but I only got to one of the evenings, in the Eglise Libre in Pessac. It was good to meet up with folk and to pray together.

The church council had a very constructive meeting, and we're progressing towards declaring our 1905 Association, we hope at the beginning of February.

And I've started working on a big music project, that of singing a complete Bach cantata, number 82 for baritone. It represents about 25 minutes of singing! Some movements are very achievable, others are far more difficult. I've started by tackling one of the easier movements. Someone drew my attention to this Radio 4 programme that discusses the piece : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09l07ly

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Some radical decisions being taken here...

Here's one.

Monday is Desert Island Day.

I leave my phone at home and my laptop turned off and I venture out. The idea is to take a proper break one day a week.

I was a little unsure about what might happen if I am taken ill and need an ambulance, but since I have never been taken ill or ever been inside an ambulance this seems to be a rare occurrence. Anyway I'm not actually going to a desert island, so there'll usually be someone who can phone if they find me supine and unresponsive.

And what to do? Well it is a bit sad that lots of my favourite things are closed on Mondays, like museums, galleries etc., but the Mériadeck library is open Monday afternoons. I've now lived in Bordeaux for over 12 years and never yet visited this awesome place. The parks are open, as are many shops and cafés, the cinemas etc.

Why this stern action? Well both Pat and I have had grumbling health issues this autumn - in my case niggling asthma and shingles. So we're trying a couple of things. Hypoallergenic detergent, for example. A new regime of early nights (we'll see how long that one lasts). And a weekly break from everyone and everything.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Poor Catrin's computer

We needed to download a new piece of music software, but before we could her computer needed to be on the latest update of the system software. (Ahem, ahem, who has not been doing their updates, then?)

And that was when the fun started.

There was not enough disk space to download the update. So we deleted some things and it downloaded and started to install.

However - then it said there was not enough room to install the update, and got stuck in a loop that we couldn't break out of.

The solution? By a bigger hard disk and either fit it or get it fitted by our friendly local independent Mac expert. The cheaper option was to get them to fit it, so they did, this morning.

And all is well again, with the storage space on her computer now doubled!

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

So that was Christmas

I took time off to spend with the family. It was wonderful!

Gwilym came home from London on 18th December, he slept in the lounge on the sofa bed, and this gave a certain shape to our time together, with early nights and late mornings (or at least late for me - I normally get up at about 6:30).

For Gwilym's birthday we ate at the Regent Bistro in Pessac, a local chain of restaurants that does steaks, salmon or breast of duck at a reasonable price.

We also ate a kebab from the most popular kebaberie in Bordeaux, the Coluche. I find it hard to love kebabs, but it's the nearest Bordeaux comes to authentic street food so...

For Christmas dinner we added some friends to our family and ate a raclette together. This is a very unwise mix of boiled potatoes, grilled bacon and dried sausage with a topping of melted cheese. It has the sole virtues of being good fun and very filling, so it was followed with a mincemeat flavoured ice-cream following a really simple recipe I found on the internet.

Christmas Eve we worshipped with our friends in Merignac. In the evening Pat and I went to the late night service in the Pessac church, leaving at the moment of the mass. There must have been about 200 people there. The priest's sermon was kind of OK, full of historical detail, application focused on being people of peace and goodwill. OK as far as it went, but that wasn't very far. The service was extremely badly organised!

Yesterday Gwilym left on the 11:20 flight to London, missing storm Carmen by just a couple of hours. I spent the rest of the day moping.

Now it's back to work! Lots to do!

Monday, January 01, 2018


On New Year's Eve a mosquito was desperately trying to get into the flat through the firmly closed, double-glazed window.