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)

Monday, October 22, 2018

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 when he was 19, based on a fine Jansenist text. The church was full, perhaps 200 - 300 in the audience and their applause was enthusiastic and very long. I realised that we were singing very well indeed.

A piece followed for tenors and basses. Again it went well. Some more motets finishing with the nicely rowdy "Tu es Petrus", and then the brief interval.

The second half was the Fauré Requiem. I have mixed feelings about this piece. It has all the beauty, lightness and charm of Fauré : lovely melodies, beautiful vocalises, complex and sometimes adventurous harmony, it's a glorious piece of music, but rather than expressing faith it seems to aim at calm, at resignation and a vague optimism. We sang wonderfully. There's a kind of homogeneity of sound that this choir achieves, along with really strong and sensitive dynamics. At the end for In Paradisum I thought of soaring eagles and we did get that kind of dandelion seed in the wind feeling. I was ... blown away.

I'm still coming down from it all. What an exciting group to sing with!

Saturday, October 20, 2018


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 legislation to handle this. nous devons faire en sorte qu’en cas d’absence d’accord au 30 mars 2019 les Britanniques résidant en France ne se retrouvent pas brutalement en situation irrégulière (We should arrange things so that in the case of no deal on 30 March 2019 the British living in France do not find themselves suddenly in an illegal situation.)

There was a long question time where people's fears and uncertainties were expressed.

As for us, we have sent off our requests for cartes de séjour, and we await the response of the prefecture.

Friday, October 19, 2018

On the beauties of the French language


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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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.

Monday, October 15, 2018

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!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

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 Sainte-Croix, or basically beyond where I wanted to go at both ends.

It was a wonderfully odd affair. First the speeches from the various mayors. Then we got an explanation of what would happen. Then we had to perform certain physical jerks before starting our route.

The route was punctuated by stops where we had to do actions based on various animals, such as walking sideways (pas chassées) like crabs, or standing on one leg with our arms held our, like flamingoes. Other stops had small concerts by two drummers, a trumpeter and a vocalist. The grand finale was a dance duo. We were given orange juice and cold chai to keep us going until the cake and orange juice that awaited us at the end of the route. In all it took us about two hours in the beautiful autumn sunshine. Then Pat and I followed the red line back home, and it took about 15 minutes.

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 seldom performed because it's a bit of a marathon and needs a beefy orchestra, solid soloists and a big choir. However, it's also good fun to sing because it's totally over the top. The concert is on 13 November and that's the night I regretfully leave the choir. I'll miss the folk and the choir director who's a splendid chap, but I won't miss reserving a car to get me out to the rehearsal rooms.

The other choir is called Arpège (I don't know why choirs can't have easier names) and our project at the moment is an evening of Fauré that we'll give in Arcachon on 20th October. Some of the pieces are just for the ladies and some are pretty straightforward to learn, like some short motets. One I know fairly well, the Cantique de Jean Racine, but I've never sing the Fauré Requiem. I said to the conductor, "So basically I have three weeks to learn this." "That's about it", quoth he. Then he switched me from bass 1 (high bass) to bass 2 (low bass) because of balance and stuff. Sometimes I wander a little, so I think of myself as having to try and avoid being bass 1.5...Still, it's very pretty. I was fretting about one movement in particular, the Offertoire, which isn't an easy read, but we only have two phrases to sing. So I'm fairly confident.

Arpège has breaks, which is wonderful. We get to eat bad things, like Haribo and chocolate bears, and to drink herbal tea. Our musical director is another splendid fellow and he trains us very intently.

In other musical news Pat and I are having a Purcell moment, singing "Sound the Trumpet" together from "Come ye sons of art".

Meanwhile we are very glad that the pavements linking our flats to the tram stop have now been surfected with tarmacadam. I was fed up of putting on clean dark trousers only to get dust all over them as soon as I left the house.

In short it's been a crazy week! No wonder I've been tired all the time!

Next week will be calmer.

Friday, October 05, 2018

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?"
"Ah non, et merci de ne plus crier dans la rue comme ça!"

She didn't understand me the first time. From her look I'd guess she is late 50s, perhaps portuguese, someone's mother and grandmother.

I guess that soon they'll move away onto the boulevard. In a square between us and the station the day time sees groups of children in a playground and men playing boules on the boulodrome. The daytime is quite different as the square becomes the haunt of black prostitutes. Apparently in Paris these women are trafficked from Nigeria. I don't know about here. Prostitution is not illegal in France, but being a client of prostitution is illegal.

Another minor hassle we have is that since the town hall renamed the street only abotu half the things we order from Amazon get delivered. The post office is fine unless it's a big parcel in which case they can't be bothered to call you down to collect it. But other carriers can't find the street name in google maps and so they give up. In the best case they ask you what to do, when you can ask them to leave the parcel in a local wine shop. In the worst case they send it back to Amazon.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

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 with a variety of plants - some aloes, some sansevierias, a chlorophytum, a dracaena, a ficus, the usual suspects.

Here's Saturday's panorama. The tower is advancing swiftly!