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, November 28, 2018

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 from the pharmacy, then go back to the doctor to have the injection, but the take-up rate was fewer than 50%.

So they changed it to allow nurses to do it, but most nurses just have an office and then visit people at home, so sometimes it would take half a day to do one vaccination.

So last year they chose three regions in France and tried allowing pharmacists to do the vaccination."

"And French people are very attached to their pharmacies"

"And French people are very attached to their pharmacies. So now it's been rolled out nation-wide."

"But a pharmacist's training..."

"We all got trained to do it."

"To be honest with you, it's not hard. I'm pretty sure I could do it myself. After all diabetics inject themselves. And I'm not your first one?"

"There's this year's file." It was stuffed full of papers.

I felt nothing. He checked I was having a reaction to the injection. We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries about the all-conquering Welsh rugby team and the glories of the 1970s and I went on my merry way.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

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.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

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.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

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 a speedy fugue on Amen, with the theme introduced by the basses. The inevitable happened. At one point there was a race between the four voices of the choir. "We won", said my friend, Guy. At another moment a group of separatist basses decided to do their own thing (Basques? Corsicans?). But every so often the whole thing stops and the basses reintroduce the theme.
We could all muster at the next bass entry.

The cathedral was absolutely full, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to hear this crazy, unique piece of music.

Monday, November 12, 2018

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 joined another. Arianna's rehearsal place is too hard to get home from late at night by public transport.

Arianna doesn't select its singers by audition. You come along, sing with the choir and if you fancy it then it's OK. Most Arianna regulars can sing pretty well, at least by memory, but for this piece the choir is augmented by many others, and I have found some who really can't sing at all.

At the penultimate rehearsal on Saturday, before we got into position, the conductor Fred said, "Before we start there's one thing... Can Alan please sit in the front row." I did this but all the way through was a bit baffled as to why. Had he spotted me on my mobile phone when the soloists were blasting through their parts? Was it a rerun of when I got thrown out of the school choir for laughing? Afterwards one of the Arianna folk explained that he wanted to get those who have some idea of what they are doing spread out among those who .. well, who don't. I am to serve as a guide for the front row.

The penultimate rehearsal went better than I expected, until the last movement - a Dies Irae composed by Verdi - you get the picture - where there were moments of horse race between the different axes of the choir.  I have to review two movements before the performance tomorrow evening - one where the men sing a capella and the Dies Irae, just so I can sing with minimal dependence on the score and keep my eyes fixed on the conductor.

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 of town - and he has started French lessons. In 10 days he goes to Paris for an interview which will be conducted in his native language to ascertain his right to asylum.

France has made various decisions :

1) to allow asylum seekers to enter the country

2) to then consider in France their right to asylum, followed by permanent residency or repatriation.

France has expressed its will to receive especially Christians fleeing persecution or civil war in the Middle East.

We talked about how in just 10 days time he would in all probability have the permanent right to remain in France.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

We don't entirely understand what these earthworks are about

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

Thursday, November 08, 2018

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
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 lumière show based on the work of Gustav Klimt.

The Atelier des Lumières is an old forge in central Paris which, unsurprisingly, closed down and left this large, empty, unattractive space. Perfect for housing immersive art projections. You enter this huge dark hall and when the show starts you are surrounded on all sides by moving, melting, morphing images - even on the floor - and by music. For Klimt they used Wagner, Philip Glass, Beethoven, etc.

The instructions were less than clear regarding photography. One sign said no filming. The dominant sign said No Flash, so we took it that still photos were allowed as long as you didn't disturb the darkness of the room.

We caught our return train in good time and arrived back in Bordeaux tired but happy.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

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 find one plant in particular... and they had some! a Cyperus alternifolia (papyrus plant). I also came home with a contrasting Scindapsus and a Zamioculcas zamifolia. This latter was an impulse buy because I don't know the plant at all, it's frankly a funny looking thing, but it has the great virtue of being indestructible. Apparently to kill these plants you have to really want to.

Our apartment is now much greener and filled with life.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

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 our weekend as we hunted for our flats, for the mairie where our friends would marry, for the function rooms where the service and reception would be held, and then for our flats again. It is the first time I have arrived late for a wedding that I was conducting. But then, as I remarked at the third time round the same roundabout, it's always good to have scouts doing the navigating.

The wedding went off well. The maire of Saint-Christol-les-Alès was charming. The service was lively and prayerful. The reception was immensely long, full of delicious food and many, many speeches. I ate snails for the first time. It was hidden in the middle of a savoury cookie. I only ate the one. Somewhere in the middle of one speech a weary Pat laid her head on the table. I wanted to do so, too. Then I imagined a room full of people all with their heads on the table while the speaker continued with his fourth point for a happy marriage. I started laughing uncontrollably. Pat started laughing and left the room. Someone saw her tears and came to give her a hug. The next course came round. "Please don't make me eat any more", she pleaded.

The next day we had a delicious brunch of left-overs, then went off to Nîmes to await our buses and trains on the following day. We had found a glorious AirBnB right in the middle of town. It's only flaw was that it had no lift, so we hauled our bags resignedly up the flights of stairs.

Monday saw our friend Sally taking the train to Northampton all the way from Nîmes, changing at Paris and London. We had a morning to kill before our coach to Nice, so we spent it at the excellent Musée de la Romanité.

Then off through the pouring rain to Nice where we were joining the folk of the International Churches for a week of retreat. It takes five hours to go by bus from Nîmes to Nice, because France is big and Nice is almost in Italy.

The retreat was held in a holiday village where once more we were regaled with vast quantities of delicious food and hauled our bags up and down stairs a lot. It didn't rain the whole time, and although the schedule each day was gruelling, starting at 8:30 straight after breakfast and continuing till 22:30  - I have suggested that the organiser switch to decaffeinated coffee - we had a wonderful time with our mainly American colleagues from France, Italy, Russia, Hungary, Germany, Turkey, etc...

We flew home yesterday - it only took just over an hour to fly from Nice to Bordeaux, and we were glad to unpack our bags and stow them in the cupboard. Pat is nursing a sore back and I'm medicating my poor aching knee and I think we'll put our bags in the hold next time we fly.

Here's some photos: