Showing posts from December, 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