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)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Strike alert

Will we get to Harrow for Gwilym's graduation?

There's a warning of strikes causing disruption to services in and across France this weekend.

Easyjet say to check on the day.

We'll see!

The boxes are piling up slowly

as we slowly empty bookshelves and throw out piles of papers.

I'm enjoying touching up paintwork on the corners, by the light switches and where pictures hung.

I've found out how to prepare the dishwasher for removal.

I'm a little concerned by access to the new apartment block.
I'd value prayer for a good solution for the van to get as close as possible!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Is it me or does it seem sneaky?

I have completed building all the shelving I propose to build for the near future after a quick trip to Ikea this morning and manhandling the last of our kitchen units into place.

The area around the flats was crazy-busy with people everywhere. I had to drive a big circuit of the building site to get to where I could unload. I shudder to think what the removal men will be faced with next week.

Meanwhile, in a move that seems somewhat devious, France Telecom have wired the building for their fibre-optic system alone. That means that we have to change operator - and pay considerably more for our connection. Pity... But the good news is that in theory we should have our internet up and running from 10 July.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

and the boxes have arrived

so it's off we go!

Etat de lieux

"et ils sont pénibles pour l'état des lieux... chez les voisins il y avait une griffure au mur et ils ont réclamé de repeindre le mur entier"

and they're a pain when it comes to the état des lieux... the neighbours had a scratch on one wall and they made them pay to have the whole wall repainted.

We have a couple of scratches on our walls, as well as a few holes to fill in where pictures hang, so yesterday I slunk off to the paint place to get some paint to touch up. I had the code for the colour, together with the wrong name, SE 2091 gris opium, it's actually gris scorpion, and together we worked out what finish the paint must be. 25€ later and I came away with the smallest tin possible. One litre.

And what a relief. The areas I've touched up so far are fine. Just fine.

Building shelves

Two more done.
One VERY BIG ONE and one small one.

Now I'm getting impatient.
There's still a whole week before the big move, and our removal man comes this evening with the boxes.

Meanwhile today poor Patricia has a dental appointment for the start of some long, tedious and expensive treatment.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Not in the Swiss

Today I was due to fly to Switzerland with a small gang from the Maison de la Bible for the annual little conference. We almost cancelled my participation in the trip once we knew the timing of the flat move, but the tickets were paid for so I decided to still go.

However there's some strike or other and our flight to Switzerland is cancelled. The others are going by car, leaving at what-time-do-you-call-this tomorrow morning. I took it as a good moment to stay and carry on getting set for the move.

So this afternoon saw us pushing a trolley of shelving round Ikea, then hurtling down the quays of Bordeaux to our flat and wheeling said shelving on our little cart (un diable) up in the lift to our flat.

Under two hours served to construct a kitchen island, which consists of a shelving unit set lengthways on big locking castors, and a window bench, again made of a lengthwise shelving unit with cushions atop. On Monday we have another window bench to make and another shelving unit.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Boy it's hard sometimes

So we've got the keys to the new flat! Yay!

The guy explained the heating system to us, and made sure that we had hot water. I photographed the electric meter so I could set up the electricity contract and measured everything in sight to try and work out where our furniture will go and whether we can get it in there in the first place.

Then I tried to set up the contract on the electricity company's excellent website.

"Oh no you don't" came the harsh retort.

You can click a button to get someone to call you. They did. I explained what we were trying to do.

"OK" she said, "what's the address?"

I told her. It didn't exist.

"The mairie has just renamed the road. It used to be this."

No. It's not under that.

Eventually she found it allocated to a non-existent fictitious road that nobody can find or explain.

"We're not the first people in these flats. Others will have done the same thing."

"Oh yes!" A light bulb shone. She searched for clients at the address I had given her first and found some.

"OK, we're in business. Here's your estimated monthly payment.

Hop, there we are, all sorted!"

My life is sometimes so varied

The day started with sermon prep with our preacher for Sunday, who is tackling Daniel 9. We had a great time discussing the passage. Our discussion was interrupted a couple of times by messages from Pat and by a phone call.

The phone call was from our insurance company who have decided they don't want to insure us in the future citing "frequency of claims". I phoned yesterday for clarification but the woman who took the decision was not in her office and the guy I got on the phone wasn't able to help. "I can't see all your dossier but I can see at least three claims in fourteen years." In 2009 for the big storm, in 2015 for a water leak and in 2017 for the burglary. The "at least" in his sentence was superfluous. There have been three. Exactly three. No more and no less. Anyway the call came and the woman's definition of frequency was indeed that. "From two you can speak of frequency", she said, "and the real problem was your burglary last year". I resisted the temptation to say that now her definition of frequency was reduced to one, asking instead for a list of our claims so that we can show it to other insurers. "We can"t do that", she said, "but you can on your client section of the website." Well if you can I can't find it.

Coincidentally we had already decided to change insurers and discussed this with another office in February. You don't think she knew, do you?

Not entirely unrelated, Pat was at the dentist receiving bad news of three extractions, a refixing of a crown and some implants to come. The thing is, our old insurers have a list of approved dentists and opticians - it's why I buy my glasses online and maybe why Pat's old dentist had said he was leaving a bad tooth in her mouth "to support the other teeth". The new dentist raised his eyebrows.

Pat was a little upset in the dentist chair thinking of the next weeks and months, and the expense. We have the money, though, I think, and anyway you can pay in instalments. Implants will almost certainly not be covered by our existing insurance and anyway, this new dentist is not part of their network. Maybe changing insurers is not such a bad idea after all.

In the evening it was the Fête de la Musique, and Catrin was singing at Ambarès-et-Lagrave. We'd booked a car from Talence so I met Pat who had spent the afternoon at the Maison de la Bible volunteering and being consoled with chocolate, of all things, and our friend Frances, and we scuttled off together. The GPS took us on the scenic route to the rocade, wasting perhaps 1/2 hour. When we arrived we quickly found a spot to park then set off to try to find the square where it was all happening. Frances is a Maths doctorand and generally very clever indeed, but we all had doubts about Google maps and joyfully trudged three sides of a square under the blazing heat before arriving about 30 yards from where we started. We enjoyed seeing the trees of Ambarès snuggled up in their knitted cosies. A Citroën 2CV had received the same treatment, as had most of the town's innumerable bollards, innumerable even for Frances. I think this might be the oddest thing I've seen in France.

Ambarès is at the confluence of the Dordogne and the Garonne and is a place of many stagnant pools and rampant mosquitoes. Catrin and her classmates were singing in a kind of rustic garage setup with a nice, intimate stage and rustling birch trees to one side. There were three stages in the town, two in the open air and this more intimate one, but only one group played at any given time, people being encouraged to flow from stage to stage. So there was a decent crowd for our girls. We missed Bérénice's prestation but were there for most of Chloë's and all of Catrin's.

Then we packed up quickly and found our own way back to Talence to park the car and get the tram to Pessac. Rendez-vous for the choir was at the church at 10pm, but at 10:06 we were still waiting for the tram. It came. We got on. It was packed. They all got out at Doyen Brus where there was a discothèque set up under the trees. We carried on to Pessac and arrived to find our choir just assembling itself on stage. We sidled in inconspicuously, though if I had known we would be sidling I might not have chosen my  beautiful "spring flowers" shirt, and given the time it took to set up the dreadful piano, we could have taken our time anyway.

Our rendition of popular classics was not an utter catastrophe and we left the stage feeling pretty happy. Biggest accolades to the pianist who coped with the lamentable piano and who repeated the same bar seamlessly until the conductor remembered to launch the sopranos into the next section of the Bizet.

Meanwhile, poor Gwilym. A cheque I wrote him from our British bank account bounced. I'm surprised but not shocked. It was a relatively big cheque and the money was in the account when I wrote it, but maybe it wasn't by the time he received it and cashed it. Or maybe the date was wrong, or maybe the bank just panicked at a big cheque... The problem is compounded by the fact that our statements take several weeks to arrive and we cannot interrogate our account online from France. Oh well, we'll get the money to him from our French account somehow.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fête de la Musique

It's a play on words.

Originally, apparently, the idea was for everyone to get that violin out of the attic and to make some music (faites de la musique).

It's turned into a nice way to mark the start of summer with all kinds of concerts, open-air, in cafés and restaurants, in churches, in public squares etc.

When it falls on Saturday or Sunday the whole of Bordeaux turns into one big mushroom, with different styles and genres in different squares and halls. So you can wander round the city listening to jazz, to rock, to street music, to choirs, to classical players, to folk music, to rap, slam and hiphop, you name it you can find it.

But this year it's on a Thursday, so it's just a musical evening. Which brings us to tomorrow:

Firstly some brass friends are playing in bandas (street bands) in a bar called the Chico Loco (I think). I would love to go and hear them but I don't think it will be possible.

Then Catrin and two collaboratrices will be singing some of the songs from their show about Mai '68 in Ambarès. Ambarès is way over the other side of the city, so we've booked a car to get us there.

Then our choir, Arianna, is singing a half-hour slot in the centre of Pessac at 10:30. Usually things run late, so I expect that we'll actually sing at about 11:00.

So our Fête de la Musique is planned out for us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Monday adventure

First a confession. I totally forgot "No screen Monday" and took my phone with me. Ooops!!!

Anyway we first went to explore the new area around the old docks at the far southern end of Bordeaux. There is a vast number of new apartment blocks up here and I tried to rent one place up there but got no reply when I submitted our dossier. Oh well. Here's some thing that we saw.

La Base Sous-marine. A U-boat base built by the occupying nazis.

The concrete is so thick it can't be demolished,
so it's used as a gallery and concert venue, including for Jazz à la Base

Later we went down to see the new flat, for which we get the key on Friday.
We discovered a few things:

1) some people have moved in
2) the building was accessible
3) the door of our flat was open
4) there's still quite a few things to finish off before Friday
5) the address we have been given and with we have given to others will not work!

The living room

Our bedroom

The bathroom door

The view from the small balcony

The view from the big balcony

The second bedroom

Friday, June 15, 2018

The unpardonable

On Thursday morning my phone vibrated in my pocket. It was Sylvain.

The Conseil National des Evangéliques de France is a national body uniting evangelicals from pentecostal, charismatic and other groupings. As soon as the CNEF was formed we in the Gironde transformed our local pastors' fellowship into a CNEF33 group.

Since then the CNEF has issued guidelines and structures for local groups, so we decided to knock down all we had and start again. And the Assemblée Constitutive was this Thursday morning.

Sylvain, one of our all-round good eggs, volunteered to go to the meeting for me. And now he was trying to phone me.

"I am in a meeting. Is it a grave emergency?" I messaged him.

"They want you to be président of CNEF33. Are you willing?"

"Yes, if that's what they want."

Moral of the story. Never miss a meeting and always turn your phone off!


The conference had four basic threads.

First thing in the morning, addresses from Leviticus from Jonty Rhodes, one of the International Presbyterian Church worthies. He talked about the offerings from the manual for communicants and the manual for celebrants in the early chapters of Leviticus.

Then Richard Gaffin gave addresses on the work of the Spirit. Professor Gaffin has written several very useful books and it was fascinating to hear him speak to us, he must be well into his eighties.

Lunch was foraged in the emporia of Ealing. One day I spotted Geoff Thomas, Gary Brady and Richard Gaffin sat at a pizzeria. I took a photo of them. "Come and join us for pizza", said Geoff.

After lunch was Sinclair Ferguson's spot. His manner is wonderful now. He has his material so mastered that he can proceed at a slow pace, searching out the way as he goes, and be lucid, coherent and luminous. Each day he gave us something special to ponder. For example, the first day was on the Spirit as mediator of Jesus' presence - "homemaker", said Sinclair.

The last session was shared between Jonny Gibson and Mark Earngay, who have coauthored a book on Reformation Worship.

I got a "whole stack" of free books because I was a good boy and booked for the conference early. Some I have already, like Richard Gaffin's "Perspectives on Pentecost", so I guess that will either get given away or become a loan book. Others were new to me. One was a vast copy of "Reformation worship" by the aforementioned coauthors. And at last I bought Sinclair Ferguson's "And some pastors and teachers".

I skipped the last session to be sure of a stress-free journey to Gatwick for my flight back, this time with Easyjet. I discovered that they too have changed their policy and now only allow one bag per passenger unless you have paid for speedy-herding etc... I hadn't. One of the people at the desk seemed much more severe and controlling than the other. Thankfully I got the other. She certainly saw my small bag in my hand. Did she notice my rucksack full of books? Who knows. "All OK?" I said. "Have a nice flight." Meanwhile from her colleague to another passenger, "You have two bags, sir..."

The flight back was delayed but smooth, and buses 1 and 4 brought me home safe and sounder than I left.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Prospective removal men

How do you find good removal men?

Well first I asked on Facebook and got one recommendation.

Then I looked on Google and found some highly rated ones.
The Yellow Pages also give you people's feedback.

Then there's a service where someone will look at your rooms by video-conferencing, identify your furniture (three Billy bookcases) and work out the volume of your stuff, then invite removal firms to quote.

Two removal people came to the flat to see for themselves.

One guy stood out as being the friendliest and most easy to communicate with.
He wasn't the cheapest but we're going with him.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Prospective tenants phase two

Poor Pat's Tuesday afternoon was marked by visits, from removal meant then from our letting agency.

Three prospective tenants came together. One seemed very keen because the flat is near her children's school.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tate Modern

I flew Ryanair into Stansted. I'd never done that before, but the flight was at a good time and price, and access to London was easy. My flight was at 10am from Bordeaux and I would land at about 10 in England.

The Billi low-cost terminal at Bordeaux is great. Basically it's a large shed where you can see the departure gates from the entrance. You zigzag back and fore through security, the small duty-free shop, the cafeteria and on the the departure gates. The one tiresome aspect is passport control. Entering and leaving the country means queuing up to show your photo-id to one of the three policemen in their little booths. It's not that slow, really, but it's the one occasion where you feel that you have been queuing.

We went to our departure gate. There was the zigzag of queuing alleys. I followed some people who snuck in without going all the way back to come zigzagging all the way forward. Slowly we all formed our queue and waited for the police to arrive.

The Ryanair staff appeared at the other side from time to time. After a while I waved to them. They waved back. Still no police. Then one installed himself in his booth, looked at the queue, sighed a little, opened his computer screen and readied himself to work. I was about the fifth person through. "Bon courage", I said. "Merci" he smiled back, wanly.

Ryanair used to allow one small cabin bag and a second smaller bag. They emailed me to warn me that now it's just the one, unless you've paid extra. I was flying back Easyjet, so I put a folding bag inside my little rucksack and all was well.

On arrival I decided that once I had lots of time I would take the National Express bus into London. I wasn't sure where to get off so I watched for anything that seemed interesting, and that's when I saw that we were just a few yards from the Tate Modern. I hopped off quickly.

Here's some pictures from the Tate Modern.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Catalyst at IPC Ealing

My old friend and compatriot, Paul Levy, is pastor at the International Presbyterian Church in Ealing in West London. Last week they organised a conference entitled Catalyst dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit.

It coincided exactly with the ministers' conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales at Bala, where some excellent people would gather around the theme of "The Generous Leader". At the same time in another part of London the Evangelical Ministry Assembly were meeting around the theme of "The Unsearchable Riches - Preaching Christ from all Scripture".

I was spoilt for choice. First choice was Bala - a few days by the lake would do me good. But getting there was pretty impossible without hiring a car. Sinclair Ferguson was to be at Ealing. The choice was made.

Another old friend and compatriot, Gethin, is currently coming to the end of a year at Ealing and he said I could stay with him during the conference, so all I had to do was fly in and out of London. Capital!

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Prospective new tenants

"Can we bring someone round who might rent your flat?"

"Well you can, but if I were you I'd wait till the gardeners have been and mown the grounds because it doesn't give a good impression of your company."

"Ah, but you are responsible for the spot of lawn outside your flat!"

"Oh yes, and you will see that our garden is neat, as is the next-door neighbour's, but be careful in the common areas, which are your responsibility. They haven't been mown for weeks."

"Oh well, the gardeners are scheduled to come on Friday, but this person wants to come and see it on Wednesday."

So it was that on Wednesday afternoon a young chap came to see the flat and on Thursday morning in the heavy rain a gardener came to mow the lawns and trim the hedges.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Preparing for the move

On Wednesday we went down to see the new flat again, from the outside, to reassure ourselves that it will be possible to move in late June early July.

This is it, seen by hanging precariously out of a nearby multi-storey carpark.

We wandered into the grounds, now fenced and gated and planted with salvia, until a workman chased us out, then climbed the multi-storey carpark. From one of the floors, if you hang out over the cladding, you can just see our apartment. We were able to tell that one balcony has a textured flooring while the other seems to be a kind of rubberised surface.

The flat won't have a fitted kitchen and we are reluctant to fork out for fitted units for a couple of reasons. The first is that we are tenants, so we don't want to donate a carefully planned set of units to our landlords. The second is that here we are somewhat disillusioned with wall cupboards after several incidents of things falling out onto heads. Every member of the family has been victim to these unfortunate accidents. Not only that, but once we have lined up our appliances against the kitchen wall we will have used up all available space. So we plan to put in a tall cupboard in one corner, to hold tall things like ironing boards, hoovers, brushed, mops and such, and a kitchen island which will be the main preparation and serving area and will partially separate the kitchen from the sitting and eating spaces.

I'm quite excited about the prospect of constructing this island. I've watched some videos where skinny teenage girls put one together in no time at all, so I've decided to simplify their design in order to place it more centrally in my sphere of competences. We already have some of the things you need, too!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

New car, new hoops!

We have a new car!

Yesterday morning there was a committee meeting of the CNEF33 group, so I booked a car to take me out to Outer-Eysines where the meeting was to be held. What's this? A Polo? I quickly reserved it.

And there it was, all silver grey, new and shiny, with that Volkswagen touch of class. I was so excited!

And hey - hoops!

At many places in Bordeaux the Citiz cars have hoops - arceaux - which rise when the car is driven away to reserve its parking space. These are a Very Good Idea because generally whenever I take a Citiz car out someone rushes up to park in the space - even though they are labelled in jaunty yellow "AUTOPARTAGE - Stationnement interdit". I have come to the conclusion that the majority of the drivers in Pessac are now arrivals who have not yet mastered reading public notices in French because they will shun hundreds of metres of unrestricted kerbside in order to place their car carefully inside the yellow box labelled "AUTOPARTAGE - stationnement interdit".

Anyway after some years of reluctance from the authorities, we now have hoops. You move the car and - "hop" - press the button to raise the hoop. On your return press the button once more and - "hop" - there is your parking space.

The Polo is smooth and comfortable. It has a BIG touch screen with a super GPS that recalculates your journey if there's a buildup of traffic on the rocade. It has a speedo that is really easy to read and a nice, flexible engine. Fin, bref, I LOVE it!

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Giving notice

There we are. The firm we rent from has acknowledged receipt of our notice. We're moving.

The other evening one of our neighbours said she needed to come round for a chat about something. We wondered what her problem was. We've invited her several times to come and eat, to take a tea, a tisane, whatever. She did come to the royal wedding tea but she has family living nearby and surely if she had a problem she'd go to them. We was baffled.

Anyway I got home to find her and Pat chatting on the sofa, and she just wanted to come round and talk about tus leaving. We were very touched.

We're sad to leave this flat. It's been a happy place to be, and a good compromise between accessibility and comfort. It's been nice to have a garden and the terrace has been good. But now it's time to be thankful for what we've had and to move on.