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, December 23, 2019

Fabien, before and after

Saturday evening's storm was named Fabien. Here's the view from our balcony before and after. Not much destruction. Other places got much worse - a village in the Pyrenees was devastated by a local tornado, and Bordeaux's town Christmas tree outside the cathedral was blown over.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Bordeaux = Bay of Biscay = Storms

In 1999 there was a big storm that devastated the South-West of France. We, of course, were safely nested in the North-East of Wales.

In 2009 there was another big storm that confined us to barracks until it all calmed down, that removed a good portion of the tiles from our roof and others in Pessac, caused some deaths and felled many trees.

We regularly get big storms, but now and again we get a really big one. Our building is very exposed, it gives it its charm, but it also means that we'll have to be very careful with what we put on the balcony and when the next BIG STORM comes we'll need to prepare very well.

This one isn't the biggie :

Friday, December 20, 2019


Big question. Do we return to the UK or stay in France?

We have about 5 years maximum to decide.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Temporary trees at the Jardins de l'Ars ?

It seems that the trees will stay for the moment in their canvas sacks.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Photos at Le Bouscat

 This is the tram I just missed getting onto

Les Jardins de l'Ars

Great excitement!

The abandoned car was towed away today.

Not only that but about twenty trees have been delivered into the area between our flats and the little school.

A magnificent adventure

On Saturday tram D was inaugurated by our old mayor, Alain Juppé, and his replacement, Nicolas Florian. We rode it home in the afternoon and confirmed that it is indeed named tram D for Davey - it takes us directly from our house to where the church meets.

It does go a little further, though, so today we decided to make an expedition, to have an adventure, and to ride the tram D (D for Davey) right to its end at Le Bouscat.

We have never explored Le Bouscat before, but we found a humble, unassuming little town with a couple of pizza joints, a brasserie, some estate agents and banks and a small supermarket. It also had a nice little town hall and an ENORMOUS library.

After exploring a little we bought some sandwiches in the small supermarket and ate them while finding our way back to the tram. I paused to take a photograph while Pat got on the tram. The doors closed behind her and when I pressed the button to open them again the tram started moving. We waved goodbye.

We were soon reunited at the next stop, however, enticingly named "Calypso". We imagined beach huts, margaritas and limbo but instead there was a clinic.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Election day

Get out and vote, everyone! I know it's a challenge and I feel and share your pain and perplexity, but at least we have a vote, so let's use it!

However, my postal vote didn't come, so whatever happens it wasn't my fault.

And what's more, this will probably be the last UK election in which I'm allowed to vote. Once you've been living outside Britain for 15 years you lose your vote.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Thursday, December 05, 2019

The strike

There's a national strike today to protest at pensions reform. The pensions situation in France is quite complicated. Essentially you can currently retire at any age after 62, but certain jobs have special arrangements. For example, because railway workers have a really hard and nasty job they can retire earlier.

Not only that, but the retirement and health system is divided into organisations a bit like unions, so that you pay into the "regime" for your profession. That means that our regime, the one for priests, monks and nuns, gives us quite a good deal for health cover but doesn't provide much of a pension since it is tailored for folk who don't have families, and who end their lives in religious retirement homes.

Over the years these systems become more and more complicated, with loads of special cases, so the government wants to simplify the system. This may mean that some people lose some of their special conditions for retirement. It also almost certainly means that people will end up retiring later.

In the UK the government raised retirement ages and I don't remember much fuss about it. Probably people wrote to their MPs. Anyway for Pat and I to get our state pensions we will need to work until November 2025, when we'll both be 66. This would be a difficult time to return to the UK and we could never afford this flat on our various pensions, so, all being well, we hope to retire from the mission in the Spring of 2026 and return to the UK. We have not yet talked about this with UFM, though we've started talking it through with the church here.

In France people do make a fuss. It's the normal democratic process here. The government proposes some legislation that will change people's lives and people march through the streets to encourage them not to go too far and not to remove their privileges.

Exciting times at the Jardins de l'Ars

The school opposite is scheduled to open in January, if our understanding is correct, and this has led to a spurt of landscaping between us and the school. Fences have been erected with huge gates to allow lorries to pass. A kind of road has been established between our flats and the school, though I can't imagine why, unless they anticipate the kids going from our flats to the school each day. But most surprisingly of all, the abandoned Ford Focus has been moved. Not removed. Merely moved. But surely removing it is the next step.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


One evening some weeks ago we met some Italians on the number 1 bus. They were examining a map of Bordeaux and the route displayed on the wall of the bus and discussing options. They seemed to be heading in completely the wrong direction. They spoke no French. We speak no Italian. We asked where they were heading and gave them a much shorter route. We asked where they were from. "Bari", they said.

I looked up Bari. Pat had a decimal birthday approaching. I had a weekend off. Ryanair flies at convenient times and their lowest prices. Reasonably-priced accommodation was available. When someone told us Bari had nothing to commend it we were convinced.

Ryanair. Well we'd bought cheap tickets but when it came to add any kind of bag whatsoever we could either choose to pay individually for each bag we took or to add priority boarding with two bags each included. It doubled the price of our tickets but was still next to nothing.

Then came time to check-in. You could pay to choose your seat or be assigned seats at random free of charge. Humph. I was assigned a seat near the front of the plane and Pat was placed by the emergency exit over the wings. To choose either seat cost more than the flight. So we flew like that. Others did, too.

We flew in on Friday evening and caught the train to the centre of the town. Bari has an old town set on a promontory with a warren of alleys, a castle, myriad churches and lots of little shrines on the walls. To reach it you had to cross the grid system of the new town with its chain-stores galore.

We found our accommodation. The owners were delightful. We went to explore and forgot to take our cash. On the walls of Bari we found a bar that accepted cards and planned our weekend. Saturday would be bright and sunny. We'd do the seafront. Sunday would be wet and blustery. We'd do churches and maybe museums. (We'd looked fruitlessly for a church to attend.) Monday we'd do whatever we wanted before flying home.

Nobody spoke French. Everyone spoke a little English. By the time we left people had taught us some Italian, as well as the basics of Italian etiquette. They'd also plied us with all sorts of food and drink "To try, to try!" In a cafe the waiter brought us some little panzerotti "for you, from us".  "It's local?" "No, it's cheese and tomato". At a restaurant two little glasses of limoncello. In a bar, a little disappointed that we were drinking a light fruity wine called Anarkos, "to try, some primitivo". We felt so welcome we actually tried to go back and say goodbye before we left, but places close on Monday. 

Bari cooking is probably best described as hearty. We ate some of the local specialities. The lady in the tourist office said, "don't eat lasagne or spaghettis here. It's not good. Don't use that bakery, it's too greasy, go to the other one. Here are the dishes to try".

So I had orechiette con cime di rapa, which is local pasta with turnip greens. Elderly ladies sit around their tables making the orechiette while listening to music on their TVs. We know, we saw them. Pat had patate, riso e cozze - potatoes, rice and mussels - served in a casserole. I felt too sorry for the octopuses to try the sandwiches, but we had three different kinds of panzerotti, which is a local variant of a calzone, sometimes baked, sometimes friend, sometimes enormous, sometimes bite-sized, but always a gorgeous cheese-bomb waiting to dump gloopy goo on the unwary.

Two cappucinos and four small biscuits cost under 5 euros. One gut-busting meal for the two of us cost 9€. By Monday we could eat no more, but we had one last thing to try, a focaccia di Bari. It's a round bread covered with tomatoes, olives and herbs. 2,40€ and it fed us both for lunch.

We visited the best-rated coffee shop. It was a traditional Italian one. You stand in designated areas along the counter. The waiters scuttle back and forth taking orders. Under the counter are pastries, cakes and biscuits. While waiting for your coffee you drink your free still or fizzy water. When your coffee comes you down it quick. You leave and pay by the door. Due cappucini. Tre euro. One café on the walls charged 1,50€ for a panzerotto. They were about the size of a cornish pasty. We had one each and wondered if we'd ever move again. Someone had complained that the panzerotti were too filling - they'd wanted to try them all.

On Saturday we walked miles along the beautiful seafront, constructed in the 1930s, watching the sailors, the wind-surfers, the snorkelers and the octopus-whackers. (You have to wallop them on the rocks to tenderise them.) In the evening we wandered out to the main shopping street and found it crowded with all ages yelling happily at each other. French football supporters make less noise.

Sunday found us visiting churches, including the church where Saint Nicolas' relics are housed. Some Bari fishermen went and got them in 1087 and he became the patron saint. We enjoyed getting hopelessly lost in the old town.

We didn't do the museums. Maybe next time.

Monday we mopped up what we felt we hadn't seen before flying home in a plane filled with Italian families. Boy, are they going to have a shock the first time they try to buy a meal in Bordeaux! Still, they didn't pay much for their flights.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

We've had some visitors these past few days

but it did mean we went wandering round the city a little.

When I can work out how to add some photos I will.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

More than a ton

of cocaine in separate packets has washed up on the shores of Aquitaine around Arcachon. The beaches have been closed. One likely lad was arrested having gathered five packets while beachcombing.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Most of my childhood world is found on this satellite photograph

Of course, it's all changed dramatically. The entire road system has been reworked with the loss of Porth Square and the monument (the public toilets in the centre of the square) and the building of the splendid Golden Gate Bridge of Porth. Morrisons has replaced the old Cymmer Colliery, already out of action when I was a child, and my old school has been repurposed several times. But the essential shape of things is still there.

My paternal grandparents lived in a small house built up on the hillside on the left of the photo. If you follow the line that leads left from Morrisons, then at the end of it stood an engine house with a steam engine that pulled trucks of waste rock up the hillside. A little below this engine house stood my grandparents' home. My grandfather's job was to attend to this steam engine.

I don't remember the house at all, it was bulldozed when I was very small, but my cousin has written about it and described the dampness of the downstairs room, the two bedrooms upstairs where seven people slept, the springwater and the plentiful supply of coal, the garden with its vegetables, flowers, rabbits and chickens. There was no electricity or gas. No flush toilets or plumbing. Lighting was by oil lamp. The house was known as Tip Cottage? We were the Daveys, Tip Cottage. Not that there were any other Daveys in the valley.

You couldn't drive up to Tip Cottage. There was a track, but that's all. I suppose you could get a cart up there but otherwise you walked up and down.

Though by my childhood the house had been bulldozed I knew the hillside very well. That line where the rails had been was called the incline. We pronounced it "ink line" and it took me a very long time indeed to connect this sound with a slope. There were streams where we'd hunt for newts, and woods where we'd root around, and heaps of clinker where we'd burrow caves, and cliffs where we'd find caves the rain had burrowed for us, and bracken where we'd play British and Germans and shoot each other and die theatrically. We'd gather whinberries and blackberries and the occasional deadly nightshade and fly kites and run with the dog and run amok. In later years I'd sit on the hillside and watch the world scuttle about below.

My father was living there when he was called up to fight in World War Two in his early twenties. He never talked to me about his wartime experiences. Never. But the photos he took speak of his travels to Egypt and to Palestine. It would be years before he returned to the valley. He came back an experienced driver of heavy vehicles and became a bus driver.

I grew up in one of the first streets as you came down the hill. We moved there when I was about four and I seem to recall going to the house pulling a big old toy circus lorry behind me. When we moved in you had to go into the yard to get to the toilet. One of dad's first projects was to knock together several storerooms to make an indoor toilet and bathroom. The water was heated by the kitchen fireplace and you could really get it hot. We'd feel the tank to see whether there was a good bathful or not.

Later on two reception rooms were knocked into one. The stone-flagged kitchen floor was replaced with concrete, then the wooden living room floor got the same treatment. Central heating replaced the coal fires with first a Parkray coal burner, then a gas fire and backboiler. We had radiators in the kitchen and hallway! By then the kitchen cooking range and belfast sink had given way to fitted kitchen units.

The house had four bedrooms. There was never any heating upstairs, except that one bedroom which had the airing cupboard in it. That room was always too warm.

That's the house where I roasted conkers to make them harder, where my dog slept under the kitchen table, where we'd boil sheep's innards to make her food - the smell was dreadful, where I'd practice the tenor horn in the bathroom to avoid disturbing the neighbours, where my dad grew his chrysanthemums, dahlias, fuchsias and runner beans, where we got ready for my sisters' weddings, my graduation and my parents' funerals. That's the house where my parents lived and died. It's not been bulldozed but I doubt if anyone ever looks at it and remembers that the Daveys used to live there.

I live in a fourth floor apartment near the centre of Bordeaux. It's heated by hot water that comes in dirty great pipes from the recycling plant at Bègles. Not that I've ever noticed the radiators warming up. There's a heat exchanger, too, that gives us instant hot water. We have nuclear energy from the reactor in Blaye and fibre optic internet. We travel everywhere by electric tram or by bus, or we can walk and cycle in the city. We carry our food home from the shops and supermarkets, but otherwise it's hard to imagine how our lives could be more different from those previous generations. And, of course, over 70 years of peace between the nations of Western Europe.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

I try to keep off politics for various reasons

not least is the danger of ranting. But one day into the election campaign I am already fed up of it.


We returned to rain. Torrential rain.

We exchanged the gentle static drizzle of Cardiff for the fierce downpours of Bordeaux.

In Cardiff you looked out of the window and were not sure whether it was raining or not. Everything was wet but nothing was falling. Instead everything seemed enveloped in cloud.

Bordeaux gets hosed down vigorously.

Apparently we've had a month's rain in three days.

Oh, and I have a sore throat...

Sunday, November 03, 2019

A quick trip to Cardiff

We took a quick and unplanned trip to Cardiff to see my sisters, flying out on Monday to Gatwick to take the train via Reading to Cardiff, then returning on Friday afternoon to Bordeaux.

The plane left early so we packed our bags and stayed overnight in a hotel near the airport so we could get to the airport on time. The flight was calm and we dozed. At Gatwick we needed to listen carefully to the announcements because points failures near Redhill had caused widespread disruption. So instead of our Reading train we were sent to Victoria, then by tube to Paddington to take the train to Cardiff. Friendly staff helped and we eventually arrived just 30 minutes later than planned.

We'd arranged to stay with friends in the area where Alan used to live and they kindly picked us up from the station, then fed us before sending us off to Kath's house, a ten minute walk away.

We were thankful to spend a good quantity of quality time with the two sisters before returning, this time via National Express from Cardiff to Bristol Airport, then another calm plane to Bordeaux.

The weather was foul, but we spent a morning mooching round the Cardiff arcades and the old library building with its amazing tiled corridor.

Saturday, October 26, 2019


Hundreds of cranes flew over the flats earlier in their enormous V formations while a cat hunted in the weeds below us and a languid bird of prey circled above.

We may be in the city centre, but nature is all around.

Why don't you write us no more?

This last week we have been away from home in a little Bavarian village called Teisendorf for a conference of pastors in international churches. 

We mused with some other British people there. When British people run conferences you sleep in bunk beds, you eat beans on toast and it's cheap. When Americans run conferences you eat good food, you sleep in hotel rooms, you have unlimited snacks and lots of coffee, but you do pay perhaps a little more.

We had an afternoon off where we visited Salzburg. We wandered round the little shops before hitting the Mozartplatz and the more tourist-focused parts of the city. Two years ago we visited the castle on the hill and took the funicular railway so this year we gave that a miss and enjoyed some peace and calm instead.

I made an attempt at learning some German using Duolingo. 

Big mistake. I didn't learn anything of use whatsoever. 

If we go to Germany again I'll find a phrasebook or something.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

I'm very excited about the match tomorrow


Because my team will win!

Wales-France in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

October in Bordeaux

means beautiful sunrises and savage storms!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A concert

For one of our singing escapades we were accompanied by a percussionist who's also a serviceable pianist, and we all got on very well. She plays with the Bordeaux Wind Band who have a really good reputation. Most French towns of any size will have a wind band, a military band, called une harmonie, and the band will play at commemoration services etc.

Anyway the Bordeaux Wind Band give free concerts and when there's one coming up she sends us a little email to let us know. They play in a theatre in the middle of town, always at 5:15, and either on Saturday or Sunday.  In the past we hoped to go but were prevented by the rampaging gilets jaunes, but now that they no longer run amok in the town centre I was able to.

The band must have been about 60 strong, augmented by two harps and 5 or 6 double basses. The programme comprised arrangements of orchestral works, firstly Berlioz' overture "Le Carnaval Romain". This is a crazy frantic romp. I used to play it with the brass band as a nipper and I've always loved it. It has solos, notably for cor anglais.

Then came most of Mussorgsky's Picture at an Exhibition, originally for piano, arranged for orchestra by Ravel, then for wind band by person or persons unknown. It's a massive, monumental work. I was impressed by the ensemble playing and the precision of the complicated rhythms. The soloists struggled a bit. The ending is so huge, an ocean of sound.

The concert ended with the Light Cavalry overture by Suppé. This is a bit of a laugh, really, and the horns played along by swaying side to side while some of the percussionists rode imaginary horses.

In all about an hour of music. Cracking! On the tram on the way back there was a lad in white shirt with a black jacket over his shoulder and a gig bag by his feet.

"A trumpet?"

"No, a bassooon"

"You just played?


"I just listened."

We chatted about the concert, the bassoon and stuff, then I thanked him and got off at my stop.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Preparing for retirement

We can't stay doing this job forever. Our use by date is 2025, so we're trying to think ahead.

1) We do not quite have all the years of NI contributions necessary for a full pension. We both lack about four or five years. So we plan to purchase as many of these years as we can before 2025. Each year costs £750 and gives you back about £5 per week in state pension. This means that if you survive three years into retirement you've recouped your investment.

2) I need to talk to the Halifax about my personal pension. It's currently set up to pay a monthly pension, but I could opt to take it some other way. I can take 25% out tax free.

3) The proceeds from the sale of our house are in dodgy French government savings schemes. We plan to use that money to buy somewhere to live, probably in North Wales where we used to live before. Housing there is affordable and we'll be able to manage well without a car.

4) There is a remote possibility that we may try to stay in France after retirement.

Another issue is that of replacing us in the work we do here. That's outside the scope of this blog.

More admin

The impending zombie apocalypse hard Brexit means that our current residency permits will need to be replaced as we will no longer be European citizens.

European citizens don't need permits, but they can get one free if they want.

Non-European citizens need permits and they cost 119 Euros.

The French government has helpfully set up a website in French and in English where we can apply online for the new style cards. People who don't currently have permits can also use the site.

So there we are. It's all done. We'll be told when we have to pay our money and go to collect our cards.

The return of tram C

is bliss. We glide round the city like barons in sedan chairs.

We've gone all green

To clean the flat four things are necessary:

White vinegar - good for windows and descaling kettles
Savon de Marseille - good for surfaces
Bicarbonate of soda - good for deodorising
Savon noir - good for floors

I'm not entirely sure what savon noir is, or why it differs from savon de Marseille, though it's liquid.

You can make washing powder from the above, but we've not tried that yet.

To clean ourselves:

Savon de Marseille or Savon d'Alep.

This is a soap made from olive oil. SdM has some coconut oil added to make more suds. SdA has laurel berry oil.

(For the moment we're still using high-tech toothpaste.)

For deodorant:

You make a paste of shea butter, coconut oil, bicarb and cornflour/arrowroot.
Add essential oils like lavender, tea tree, palmarosa, peppermint...
It works as well or better than what we used.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Excitement on Rue Fondaudège

Someone is setting up a snack-bar in the space left by a recent demolition. It's quite clever - they've kept the old cellar for storage with a trap door in the decking they've set down for a terrace. Olive trees in tubs separate little tables and chairs. I'm looking forward to it opening.

Friday, October 04, 2019

On the road to choir

When Pat used to sing with the choir we would take the train from Gare-Saint-Jean to Pessac, then bus 4 to the rehearsal rooms. Now choir rehearsal has changed evenings and Pat has another commitment that evening, so I go alone. But I just take the bus.

The journey takes almost the same amount of time, but instead of charging off to buy your ticket, get the train and so on and so forth, you just hop on the bus and change buses at Barrière de Pessac.

Well last night I set off to get my bus. On the way Google maps alerted me that if I hoofed it a little I'd get an earlier bus, so hoof it I did.

And all was going just swimmingly until... at a fork in the road a large box van and an awkwardly parked car meant that the bus couldn't get through.

The bus driver sounded the horn to try and attract one or other driver. Honk. Honk. And thrice honk. Many more honks. To no avail.

We were being watched by some young guys, students? from their upstairs flat. I nodded to one. He nodded back.

More honking. Now some cars were stuck behind us. They honked, too. The lads smiled and gestured to encourage them.

After a couple of minutes a small crowd of burly chaps gathered. One proposed a solution. "If we bounce this car we can move it a couple of inches." It was a big car, so about 6 people grasped various vantage points around the rear.

It took a few attempts, but eventually the plan worked. We rolled on.

I was still 20 minutes early for rehearsal, and this being Bordeaux, almost everyone else was 15 minutes late.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Autumn has hit

Short bursts of torrential rain.
Misty mornings.
A distinct chill (sometimes it's under 20°C!)
Horse chestnuts under foot.
Everyone tired.
Outbreaks of chickenpox.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Five times. FIVE.

The mosquito hiding under my desk bit me five times on Monday evening.

I had placed an anti-mosquito device in the room, but it obviously isn't enough. So now it's the big guns - a electrically-heated anti-mosquito diffuser.

Die, insect. Die.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Saturday, September 28, 2019

So glad we don't have a car

So, a hard brexit will result in my no longer being able to drive in France. Here's how it goes.

At present, as someone from an EU country, I don't have to exchange my driving licence for a French one. I can drive with my UK licence. In the case of a negotiated exit from the EU this is expected to continue.

However, a hard brexit will mean that I will have one year before I need to exchange my licence for a French one. We expect to leave France to live in the UK in 2025, so that means lots of administration for the sake of driving occasionally in France for five years. Then exchanging it again on our return to the UK.

I won't bother.

Friday, September 27, 2019


We just got back from a visit to Inverness. A friend of UFM who hosts a UFM prayer group in her home suggested we stay at her place while she was away. We jumped at the chance. I've visited Inverness twice, I think, in 2005 and in 2012 - so I was due for a visit. In addition Pat has never been to that part of Scotland. Not only that, but a church in Inverness has partnered with us since 2005, so it was especially good to spend some time in the city.

We walked in the woods and beside the waterfalls and alongside the loch. We spent some quiet moments surrounded by nature.

We visited Inshes Church and Smithton-Culloden Church. We also went to Dingwall for the Tuesday morning of the Northern Convention. We met old friends and made new ones.

We ate traditional British food; supermarket Indian and Chinese meals, steak and ale pies (Pat was disappointed but I do not ask much of a pie) and a couple of times at Wetherspoons.

We flew to Edinburgh and hired a car. I hate hiring cars and always take photos before starting the engine, even. I've never had problems, but this time I was glad of the photos. On returning the car the assistant showed me a nick in a tyre just above a (previously) very badly scuffed alloy wheel. The nick was clearly in line with one of the scuffs, so I got out my phone and showed him the photo. The nick was there already. A bit of discussion with his supervisor, a photo of my phone with the photo and its date showing and we went on our way with the report showing returned undamaged.

Flights by Ryanair were pleasant, though the landings were rough. Do Boeings land rougher than Airbuses? Anyone know?

We returned to Bordeaux with rather a lot of tea bags and Scottish bacon, as well as oatmeal (I bought too much in Morrisons - it was so CHEAP!)

Every time I visit Scotland I fall in love with it again. Wonderful.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

In less good news

there are four manifestations (demonstrations) in the centre of Bordeaux today: velorution campaigning for more use of bikes, a march against the closure of a Ford factory, a march for the climate and... the gilets jaunes are back in business.

Good news

Tram C, out of service between Gare Saint-Jean and Quinconces since the massive deliberately-started fire of the end of May which destroyed almost 400 vehicles parked on four levels, and in the meantime replaced by the equally appreciated and regretted ‘buses de substitution’, will begin running again on 28 September.

We are overjoyed.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Crème cicatrisante

So how long should I carry on rubbing this stuff in morning and night?

I know, the interweb will tell me.

Ha! Some hope! The websites say things like, rub it in morning and night. Continue until the scar is well-healed. It may take two years for the scar to lose all its redness.


I decided to ask for a second opinion at the pharmacy. After all, they sold me the stuff.

This créme cicatrisante, how long should I use it for? 

What have you got?

The one you sold me.

But which one, cicacrème, crèmocique, crèmcica?

The one with copper and zinc in.

OK. That one. Well you need to use it till the scar is well healed.

Yes, but that means what? Till it's no longer red? Or what. Because it'll stay red for a long time.

It depends on the person.

Yes, but two weeks? Two months? Two years? A lifetime?

What did you have done?

This. It was a sebaceous cyst. So just the skin, but well opened.

Well your scar will never disappear completely. Look, here's one on my arm from when I was a small child.

How long did you put cream on that?

I didn't.

OK. So basically every time I put it on that's great and when I want to stop I stop, and that's fine too.

Yes, stop when you're fed up of doing it. Oh, but protect it from the sun.

(I put my backwards cap back on) I don't wear this for style. 

Yes, but put some sunscreen on as well.

OK. Bye, have a nice day.

Bastille Day Fireworks Part Two

The fireworks for the 14 July were cut short by a fire on the boat they were being launched from. It did give us all a good view of the fire-boats in action, but the town hall felt that we had all been short-changed so they arranged for another show for the 14 September, when Bordeaux this year celebrated the grape harvest. (I tell you, it's one fête after another just now!)

This time the show went off as planned. We had a small pizza-party at our house, followed by a nice evening walk through the building sites down to just this side of the Pont de Pierre.

We're such poor saps - real suckers

So, remise en selle, cycle paths etc... It's all part of a fiendish plan.

This week is the week of alternative mobility, when all over France cities try to stop people driving into them. In Bordeaux this strategy includes things like:

attractive park and ride places with low prices for a car-load of people
punitive car parking charges in the city centre
exorbitant fines for illicit parking
a vigilant band of enforcers

but also:

encouragements to walk - for example there's an app now that will count your steps and award you a free drink when you've walked a long way to get it
encouragements to cycle

Yesterday en route (by "bus d sub" *) to church we saw the Vélo-tour stands all down the Quai des Sports and then we saw people with eccentrically adorned cycle helmets riding gaily down the cyclepath. One was dressed as a Roman Centurion. On a bicycle.

We get sicked into these programmes without realising it. Poor saps.

* The "bus d sub", or bus de substitution, is the replacement for tram C, out of action since the fire in the undergound car park in May. It is hoped that it will start running again in October

Tram D, which will link our home with the room where the church meets, is due to enter in service in December.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Cycling in Bordeaux

They closed off the sidewalk pavement opposite our flat for a few days. It was rather annoying because it's flat and wide and smoothly tarmacadamed and a pleasure to walk on and to ride your bike on.

It is our standard practice to cycle up this pavement, then through the square to just before the station, turn right, through the awkward area just where the railway crosses the river, then onto the quays. The quays are the cycling motorway of Bordeaux. Wide, flat and divided into cycle paths and mixed areas, well protected from cars, you zoom along care-free until you reach the spot where you need to penetrate into the streets of the city.

Yesterday I cycled to a meet-up at the breakfast club. To get there I cycled up a street that Pat and I had prospected for getting to the Maison de la Bible. All was good except for the occasional deliver van that totally blocked the carriageway. At those points you get off, walk past then resume your course. At least it's a one-way street.

Coming back I cycled down the same street. Did I say that you're allowed to ride the wrong way down one-way streets? Then onto the quays, past the railway bridge, up the road, through the square, onto the pavement up to where it's closed.

They'd re-opened the lower section just opposite the flats. They've laid down a cycle path.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Les Panoramas de l'Ars

It's all go in the Jardins de l'Ars. Large mounds of earth are positioned, shaped and repositioned. A small road is being built to serve the school. It's all very exciting.

Crème cicatrisante

I'm being a good boy and vigorously massaging my neck with the crème cicatrisante three times a day. Until now I've also taken a photo of the operation site each day just to see how things are changing, but really now it's slow progress so I'll reduce it to perhaps twice a week. Mrs Davey did, however, take a photo with a tape measure alongside and the operation site is almost 5cm long.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Remise en selle

This morning Pat and I are signed up for a session of remise en selle (Get back in the saddle) with the association Vélo-Cité. The idea is to be a bit more confident riding on the more busy streets of Bordeaux, to master the complicated junctions and so, somehow, to become one of those cyclists that weave effortlessly through the vehicles and then disappear like wraiths as the cars and buses stand there in the traffic jams.

morituri te salutant


Well we didn't die.

What we did do was get a lesson on the various road formats for cyclists, pistes cyclables (cycle-paths), bandes cyclables (cycle-lanes), zones 30 and zones partagées where cars, cyclists and pedestrians share the space. We had a practice going round in circles and figures-of-eight, doing quick stops and so on.

Then we rode very slowly up the quays and into the Chartrons area where I almost collided with someone carrying frankly too many carpets - ding "Attention !" - and with a lady walking blithely into the aroad while looking backwards - "Attention, Madame !".

The woman following me said that I should have given way to both but I maintain that it is unwise to career into the road in front of a bicycle without so much as a by-your-leave. Anyway, she later found herself confronted with a car that was going the wrong way round a corner, and she soon protested. (I saw the same car coming and veered onto the wrong side of the road to avoid it.)

All in all I'm surprised we survived cycling as slowly as we did. Probably a morning well spent.

As we came home we saw lots of riot police and various somewhat elderly "gilets jaunes" arriving. The protests are starting up again.

Pique-nique de Quartiers

Last night was the annual area picnic. Bordeaux has two special evenings when you're encouraged to hold a street party. The Fête des Voisins (Festival of Neighbours) is in June, the Area Picnic takes place in September.

We discussed what would be the best approach to the area picnics and we decided that rather than the whole church going to the area picnic nearest to the church, we'd use the occasion to go to the nearest area picnic to our home. In our case that was just up the street, just by the tram stop. The picnic was scheduled to begin at 7, so just after 7, armed with baguette, cheese, tomatoes, Pringles, rosé pamplemousse and some fizzy water, we headed up the street.

We weren't sure what the protocol was. In France communal meals can have various descriptions - repas tiré du sac (meal pulled from a bag - sounds almost magical), repas canadien, repas partagé, pique-nique ensemble. pique-nique partagé. You can't really know what is meant by what, except that partagé means you'll bring a dish, a dessert, an apéro or whatever, and you'll share it all, like an American pot-luck.

Anyway our local area picnic was organised by one of our neighbours and was focused on the residents of three small streets. They did the fête des voisins 10 year ago and the lady decided that it was about time to do it again. You register your pique-nique on the town hall web site and they provide you with flyers, an official organiser's badge, some tables and lots of chairs.

It was a splendid evening. People's ages ranged from a couple of months up to over 70. Recipes were shared. There was lots of home-made food including pizza, quiche, rice, salmon, ham, saucisson, home-grown tomatoes, olive cake, chocolate cake. I went to bed too full and had very odd dreams.

Before going home we told folk that next year either we would organise something for our towers, or we would join them again.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Disturbing news from Toulouse

A student has been missing for about a week after an evening in the bars. Some people reported finding him sleeping in the street. They woke him up.

Examining CCTV footage has shown him climbing into a bin. He's not seen climbing out. The bin was later emptied into a lorry which takes the rubbish for incineration.

His family must be distraught.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019


Regular readers will be aware that I try to keep off politics and British readers will know why. There is one little matter that I thought ought to extract some comment, however, and that is the issue of how our politicians tell such blatant lies without embarrassment and with no fear of challenge, contradiction or consequence.

We all know that they are doing it, too, and we seem to have entered into an agreement where we accept their lies, suspend disbelief, and approve of policies and courses of action based on outright fiction. Incidentally, in France this seems to be tolerated less than in the Anglo-Saxon world at present. Anyway, I digress.

Some words my mother would use come to mind. She used to talk of people as being strangers to the truth. I think she meant that some folk so believe their own propaganda and so trust their own thoughts that they are no longer capable of distinguishing whether they are presenting facts based on concrete evidence, capable of being demonstrated or challenged, or whether they are just saying whatever is in their head at the time. In fact, to them there is no difference.

I think that's why I'm starting to consider that the category of "lies" is no longer of much use in trying to cope with current political life. We're not dealing with science or history, where evidence can be marshalled, queried and exposed. We're dealing with a kind of art-form where reality is what I want it to be, what I believe it to be, and if you don't agree with me, so what? What is that to me? Why should I change what I say?

I think it's postmodernism, the implicit rejection of objective truth, the absence of meta-narrative, all that stuff. It begets an extreme pragmatism that rejects foresight and hindsight and lives for the immediate expedient.

Crème cicatrisante

When he took my stitches out the nurse told me that in about 7 to 10 days I should get some crème cicatrisante (scarring cream???) from the pharmacy "and don't hesitate to massage it well in".

I looked up crème cicatrisante on the pharmacie websites and as far as I could see it was snake-oil. Some contain vitamin B6. Others silicone. I can't see me taking in much in terms of vitamins through the back of my neck, and I would only consider rubbing silicone into it if I wanted a good shine.

Still, one either follows medical advice or one goes one's own sweet way, so after rubbing in some arnica cream last night and this morning (I'm sure that would do) I accompanied Mrs Davey to the pharmacist. She was after some cream to clear up an itchy spot on her arm. The pharmacist showed her a wonderful cream that contains copper and zinc (!).

I said, and I need a crème cicatrisante.

"That's the one", she said.

"Wouldn't a simple moisturising cream or a cream with arnica do the job?"

"Oh no, you need the copper and the zinc."

Well at least we could share the one tube.

So for the next two to three weeks I must rub the crème cicatrisante into the back of my neck, massaging energetically, until I achieve a dull metallic sheen.

"Oh, and protect it from the sun", she said.

"Time to get out a scarf?"

"Or wear a baseball cap backwards".

We tried out various solutions, including a nice scarf and a kerchief, but by far the easiest is the backwards baseball cap.

On medical advice, don't you know.

Saturday, August 31, 2019


The good news and the bad news. Mrs Davey doesn't like the Brompton folding bike. The handlebars are too low and not adjustable. This is good because it means we won't fight over it. However, it means that when the city folding bike goes back in September we'll need to look at getting another. You CAN get Bromptons with higher bars, but would they be high enough? Could we even try one out to see? And it means another eBay job, unless we spot one second-hand in Bordeaux.

Otherwise it'll mean an inferior make. Decathlon has a range which seems to fit for size. They don't fold down as small, but you see a lot of them in Bordeaux and they seem to do OK.

The healing

It is SO GOOD to sleep without a dressing on my neck.

It is SO GOOD to be able to twist and turn my head without stitches pinching.

I'm looking forward to the end of the itching, aching and general feelings of discomfort, but we're getting there. Every morning I take a photo of the operation site and every morning there's a noticeable improvement.

Panoramas de l'Ars

Here's the latest photo of the gardens below our balcony. There has been frantic removal of rubble, detritus and junk from just below us and wholesale earthmoving, sometimes rather early in the morning. It seems they are trying to get this school good and ready to open in January.

Then the tower just the other side of the car park seems to be pretty well completed. We're excited to get a chance to go up and see the views from the top floor. They MUST have an open day, surely? If not we'll have to try and rent a flat and go and see it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Stitches are out


Now to wait another ten days before starting to rub in well some "scarring cream" (crème cicatrisante) to keep everything soft and supple.

Monday, August 26, 2019

A new bike

Before we moved from Pessac Pat sold her nice old mixte frame bicycle to one of the neighbours. I thought it was a pity, but the deal was concluded and the 40 euros changed hands. I sold my old Raleigh Magnum mountain bike, too. It was a faithful old thing, but I had never loved it. Even adding natty blue road tyres somehow didn't do a lot for it.

Soon after we moved here we got a Bordeaux bike. The city will loan you a basic bike, designed for robustness, and Pat loved it but seldom used it. We wondered if the problem is the bike store.

The bike store is a room next door to the main entrance to the building. It has two doors fitted with locks and automatic closers and then it has lots of hoops for attaching bicycles. To get your bike out you unlock it from the hoop, then manhandle it out of the door while fighting with the automatic closer and negotiating two right-angles. You then have two more automatically closing doors to exit, one opened by a button on the wall, the other by a simple handle.

It's a faff.

So after taking the city bike back we decided to borrow a folding bike. This would live in the hallway of our flat. The idea was to carry it, folded, into the lift, through the two main doors and then unfold and ride away.

The bike is bright yellow and has that slightly crazy look that small wheeled folders pull off so well. However, it weighs over 16kg. We know. We weighed it. It's not absolutely impossible to carry it out of the building and then unfold it, but it's far easier to unfold it in the flat, then wheel it out.

So this is what we've done, and the bike has had far more use in its few short weeks with us than any other bike ever had. It's there as you leave the flat. It says, "don't wait for buses and trams, take me", and often we do.

Folding bike loans are for two months only, so in about two weeks the thing has to go back.
Bordeaux has a couple of bikemongers so I asked some of them for their counsel.

"What you need is a Brompton". They sounded like a Greek chorus. Whence such unanimity?

"But you sell another brand?", I asked one.
"We very occasionally sell another brand"

"Do you ever get them second-hand?", I asked another.
"About once every ten years."
"When was the last time?"
"About five years ago."
"So five years to wait..."

British humour doesn't translate, as his blank look reminded me.

The thing is, those bikes are expensive. They're expensive in the UK, but in France even more so. Recent readjustments in the value of the pound against the euro have not been reflected in their price.

I went away and thought about it. In the "dismissing it from my mind" sense of thinking about it.

Then a few things happened.

Firstly the French tax people gave us a refund. I don't know how. We hadn't knowingly paid any tax, but they refunded it anyway.

Secondly we happened on a cyclemonger in Paris who stocked Bromptons. We lifted them, we unfolded them, we folded them back up. The salesman knew we live in Bordeaux so we wouldn't be buying from him. It gave us a sense of detachment. We felt for ourselves how light and small they were.

Thirdly I started hunting on eBay and on le Bon Coin (French Gumtree) There were bikes available in Paris, Lyon, Beziers, La Rochelle... I seriously contemplated catching a train or bus to La Rochelle.

But then one came up on eBay. A good vendor. A good price. A good model. A reasonable price for carriage.

I was still a little terrified at spending so much on eBay, so I sent the details to a friend who rides these things in England. "Looks OK", he said.

So we ordered it and it came. It's a glorious lime green. I still have a stiff neck, but I took it round the block and it all works fine. Tomorrow Pat and I plan to ride to her rendezvous, her on the new bike, me on the city bike, then we'll swap and I'll ride the new bike home.

Sometimes a smidgin of Vaughan Williams just hits the spot

Saturday, August 24, 2019

45 has landed

US Boris has landed at Mérignac airport and presumably been whisked in his motorcade down the A63 to Biarritz. I didn't see Airforce1 on its approach. Maybe I'll see it as it takes off.

Panorama of the Jardins de l'Ars

Still takes a bit of faith and imagination to see the promised gardens.


All seems to be healing up quite nicely. I put on a dry dressing overnight so as not to catch the stitches on my pillow, and in the morning there are little spots of blood that correspond to the eight entry and exit sites of the four stitches. I've had less discomfort each day, easily banished with paracetamol.

I've made an appointment to get the stitches out on Tuesday, and I'm quite excited about getting rid of them. I think most of the discomfort comes from them, now. I do remember how excited I was about having the operation - and that had I known that it would feel like the surgeon was digging out the cyst with a sharpened dessert spoon my enthusiasm would have been lessened. What do you mean, of course he wasn't - I know what I felt.

Anyway I'm sure that taking out the stitches will be unpleasant, too, but afterwards I'll be able to move my head without that sharp reminder.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Hurrah for paracetamol!

The dressing's off.
The operation site looks quite clean and dry.
It's sore but not unbearable.
Paracetamol is more than adequate.

I've been feeling OK, but taking things quietly. No running, jumping, cycling or tram-riding for the present. (The back of my neck looks just a little alarming for now.)

I have a prescription to take to a local nurse to get the (four purple) stitches out next Tuesday.
There's a trio of well-regarded nurses just alongside our tram-stop.

Attentive readers

will observe that I make little comment on politics.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Getting my cyst cut out

I thought that since there would be lots of administration to do that I'd go quite early to the hospital, so for my 10 am appointment we walked into reception at about 9:10.

Round to the desk. Identification please - Titre de Séjour - OK, up you go to operating block 1.


30 seconds and it was all over.

I'll never get the hang of this.

Anyway it gave time for a quick visit to the toilets.

Pat located the coffee shop for when I was in theatre.

We presented ourselves at block 1.

"Oh, you're quite early. Take a seat and my colleague will call you."

Two other patients arrived and sat beside us. A nurse said that Dr Canard (that's his name) was still in theatre but he'd be with us soon. Then at about 10 she called me in.

Tee-shirt off - hop on the table, face down.

The doctor arrived. Try your head to the left. Try to the right. Try face directly down. Is that OK?

I could breathe. It would be fine. A quick wash with betadine, the placing of the blue paper cover and we were off. About four injections of varying discomfort. Lots of rattling of surgical hardware, then pulling, tugging and the occasional very sharp twinge.

Then the stitches. "There's four", he said.

I took a photo of the cyst - it was about 4cm by 3cm. A good-sized pigeon's egg.

If it gets enflamed or infected come back to see me. Otherwise get a nurse to take out the stitches in a week to ten days. From tomorrow leave it without dressings. Wash in savon de Marseille and dry thoroughly.

I thanked them, apologised for the blood all round the room and left at 10:20.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

OK this means war

I killed one the other day, but this morning ANOTHER mosquito was hiding under my desk waiting to attack my legs in the early morning.

Friday, August 16, 2019


Regular readers will know of our family history with rodents. A gerbil. Guinea-pigs. Rats. It is now over a year since Lawrence, the last of our rats, abandoned this vale of tears.

A year is a long time and the prospect of getting her own place energised our daughter into dreaming and searching. She located a breeder of rats. She ordered a cage. She negotiated her price. We built the cage. It only remained to drive out to the breeder's home to get them.

So we met Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the three wise rats. They are husky dumbo rats. That means they are born with husky-like markings that fade over time, and their ears are rather lower on their heads than one would usually expect. This gives them a rather goofy and endearing appearance.

The young rats came home and were placed in their cage. Disaster! They are so small that they can get through the bars. So they were put securely in a box until we could get a small mouse cage to be going on with.

Disaster again. On one of the roll-calls it was discovered that one rat was missing. A general search of the whole apartment ensued. Drawers were ransacked that had been undisturbed for a year! No rat was found.

Then, very late, he was seen scuttling from the bookcase to the piano and back. His hiding place was revealed, deep under the recesses of the bookcase. The rats were reunited once more, though they seemed unmoved by this.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Assumption, for which we get a public holiday, so the pet shop in town was closed, but the one out near Ikea was open. Ikea is normally very accessible by tram C, but the fire damage to the car park is not yet repaired and tram C is therefore not running between the station and Quinconces, so it took some jiggery pokery to get to Ikea. Not only that, but on public holidays there are fewer trams. It took a long time to get the cage. We rewarded ourselves with lunch at Ikea then wended our way home by another route, bus 15 to Victoire, then bus 1 to the station.

So the juvenile rats are now happily housed in their natty little plastic cage, with a big tunnel to hide in, a wheel to ignore and all modern conveniences. And we can sleep soundly again.

Monday, August 12, 2019

They've started testing the new tram Line D

This is important for us because it will link directly our flat and the building where the church meets, as well as Catrin's flat (assuming all goes well for her rental).

They hope to open the line to the public before Christmas.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Summer in France

The summer in France can be frustrating.

Sometimes it's very hot. We bust the record a couple of weeks ago, with a temperature, I am told, of over 42°C. On days like that everyone moves very slowly in the streets, and you hope with all your heart that your bus or tram will have working aircon. It's touch and go.

Sometimes it's not too bad. Today it's 24°C. To us now that feels just a little chilly.

Sometimes you get thunderstorms. From our flat we see the lightning and watch the rain fall hard on the parched ground.

But it isn't that that's frustrating. It's the summer slow-down.

For example Catrin is waiting to hear about this flat she'd like to rent. We went to see it weeks ago, but the agency (which has very bad reviews on Google, by the way) is shut until the 19th. OK.

Tram C has been out of action between the station and the other side of town following the devastating fire in the car park. But added to this we have the reduced frequency of the summer timetables for the buses and trams in general.

Then there's the roadworks. They're happening everywhere. Everywhere. You need to take advantage of the reduced traffic on the city streets, you see.

Meanwhile there's another dispute about the new bridge that will go from near our home to near the concert hall on the other side of the river. The court that oversees public works thinks we aren't getting good enough value for money.

But with all this there's the promise of better to come.

They're clearing the burnt-out cars from the underground car park. Soon they'll begin repairs and one day tram C will run again.

Meanwhile on Monday they start testing tram D. This will run from near our home to near where the church meets. It will be great.

And soon the autumn transport schedules will be out and we can zoom around to our hearts' content.

Friday, August 02, 2019

A Welshman at the hospital

The trouble with being Welsh and living in France is that I am a bit obsessive about being on time. So my appointment with the surgeon was at 10:20 but I thought I had better allow for traffic and for finding the building and for finding a parking space so I sailed non-stop through the deserted suburbs of Begles at the limit of 30km/h, then a little faster though the empty streets of Talence at 50km/h, found the hospital, found the building easily and was spoilt for choice as to where to park. So at 9:30 I listened to a programme about Stefan Zweig's attitude to the First World War while waiting to go in.

The trouble with being Welsh and living in France is that you forget that everything starts with a song and dance at the computers. So at 10:05 I went into the building, trekked to the toilets, then took a ticket to go to reception. I was number 53. There were seven people before me and two receptionists. But the receptionist has to

1) verify your identity and your address from your carte de séjour

2) verify your carte vitale is valid and up to date

3) verify your mutuelle and the cover it provides

4) scan all these documents

5) create a patient record for you

6) send you to the relevant department.

All this took some time, so I ended up being late anyway. Not only that but the receptionist said "Follow the violet signs". I can't see violet. He'd just as well have said follow any sign at random. So I had to ask him what the violet sings said so I could find the right ones.

Still I got to the door of Dr Canard's waiting room just as the secretary was opening it. They're used to the system even if I'm not. They probably say 10:20 if they want you to arrive at 10:30...

Dr Canard was tall and slim with light brown hair and an efficient gait, just in case you were wondering. He looked at my cysts.

"No, it's the same one. Shall we take it out?"

I might have hesitated longer than I should. "That's the idea, I think."

"Oh yes, it's pretty big!"

So I have an outpatient appointment for 10am on 20 August. I can eat my hearty bowl of porage beforehand and drive myself there and back. He'll do the local anaesthetic and the excision. It should all be over by 11:30 and about a week later I'll have the stitches out.