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)

Sunday, March 31, 2019

On Mothering Sunday

Catrin visited the baby unit at the orphanage where she's volunteering this week. One of the infants there was found at about a month old, abandoned in a plastic bag. There are social and cultural reaons for this abandonment of children that Catrin explained to her mother but that I didn't really hear.

But this Mothering Sunday it reminds me of all those who for a variety of reasons, always powerful, always strong, maybe overwhelming, but surely never sufficient, have abandoned their children or killed them, and now live with that act in their past and their person. May they seek and find pardon and peace.


Yesterday evening Arpège gave a concert of Monteverdi motets and instrumental interludes at the church of Saint Severin (l'Eglise Saint-Seurin). This is the choir I joined briefly last September, but left because of the impossibility of committing myself to weekend rehearsals. They're a really good choir and to be honest I found their standard a bit daunting, too!

Anyway the motets were all psalm settings and so the concert took the form of a kind of "vespers light" without all the Stella Maris stuff, or bits from Song of songs dubiously sung to Mary.

They were accompanied by an approriate little group of baroque instrumentalists with a portative organ, two baroque violins, a cello, a bass and a theorbo! If you've never seen a theorbo then it's worth googling it. They're quite spectacular!

The church is large, chilly and the acoustic is not at all resonant, so it's important to sit quite near the choir.

We were travelling to the church by bus, the concert started at 20:30, and until 18:30 the city centre was impassable for buses and there were no trams because of the demonstrations, but more particularly, the rioters setting fires in the streets, etc. However, the choir had kindly set aside a free ticket for me, so we bought one for Pat and hoped to be able to get to the church.

At 7 we set off for the railway station and bus number one to Saint-Seurin. We were encouraged to see that trams were now running to the station, so we hopped on. When we got the station we saw that a bus was indicated to leave in 5 minutes.

"It won't be going through the city! It'll go via the boulevards." we were warned.
If we got off at Barrière Judaïque we'd have a longish walk, but plenty of time to do it.

The bus came. "I'm not going through Victoire, I'm going via the boulevards." repeated the driver.

I wondered how she'd get the bus to the boulevards because one of the streets leading that way had had rioters setting fires in it, but that wasn't my problem.

Anyway off set the bus - and followed its usual route. Victoire was calm and busy with the cafés open and people sitting and eating. The city had quickly returned to normal. The bus set us off at our desired stop, the driver smiled and waved goodbye and off we set for the church.

We got there 45 minutes early, but there was already a queue. What could we do but join it? So we ended up with nice seats and heard a super concert, prepared and rehearsed just since Christmas - under three months!

Beforehand one of the chorists came up to say hallo. This lady was one of the trio with whom I'd had to sing the opening of the Cantique de Jean Racine during one of the rehearsals - one of the more terrifying moments of my musical past, though I was gratified at the time to see that she was just as terrified as I was, and we gave each other mutual support. Anyway, she said, "I've never understood what happened to you?"

"Well you don't know what I do for a living..."

"Yes I do", she said.

"Well it's the weekend rehearsals - it's just impossible for me."

Afterwards we said hallo to one of the other choristers who's one of the leaders in the group, and a very kindly man.

We hopped back home on the number one bus and set our clocks for the summer, tired but happy.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Ville morte

It's the twentieth Saturday of vandalism in Bordeaux and to mark the occasion the Toulouse vandals have decided to travel up to help their hooligan chums in Bordeaux to smash up the town. (In French one talks of the casseurs.)

So the new mayor has asked shops and businesses to close up and the Bordelais to stay at home this afternoon as he fears real nastiness.


Strangely, although our bedroom has a lovely bathroom attached to it, it has no built-in wardrobes. The other rooms do have them, but share a small shower room.  Go figure.

Anyway we hung our clothes on those metal-framed things you can get and left some in boxes and waited for the augurs to be auspicious in order to get some wardrobes.

Much measuring. Much perusal of Ikea catalogues. More measuring. Calculations. Finally I knew which ones we should get.

Some more waiting. We needed the coincidence of funds to purchase them and time to construct them. This week the planets came together so the wardrobes were delivered at 12 on Thursday afternoon. Yes - instead of reserving a pool car and wrestling the seven (7) heavy two metre boxes around myself I opted to pay for two hulking guys with a van to bring them into the flat.

There was one narrow unit and one broad one. The narrow one went together easily, and there was space in the bedroom to construct it in situ. The broad one needed more floor space so I put the carcass together in the living room. Then I realised that getting it from one room to the other was going to be a challenge.

I had only one pair of arms and one back - good though fragile - but the best asset I had was my old geometry lessons so by lots of thinking, imagining shapes passing through other shapes, and then some jiggery pokery I got the thing in. About 30 minutes in total. The rest was a case of screwing on doors and making up drawers etc.

Well, you never saw a couple so blissful! We have put all our clothes away for the first time in months. It's remarkable. Every time we walk into the bedroom we grin with glee.

For those who understand French

This radio programme talks about a French family who recently left Colchester to return to France, a Frenchman who swore allegiance to the Queen, and an Englishwoman who took French nationality. Listen here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The difference Apple makes

We switched to Apple in 2013. Yesterday Apple held a keynote event which I think had very little relevance to us whatsoever. However it coincided with the release of updates of their software for iPhones, iPads and laptops.

When we had Windows PCs I dreaded updating the software. It would take hours - sometimes all day - and sometimes you would have to abandon halfway through and start again.

When I had Android phones I looked forward to software updates - sometimes for months, sometimes for years. Sometimes the updates just didn't come at all.

Now with Apple they announce the update. 30 minutes later all everything is done.

Monday, March 25, 2019


My father's strong views on British politics, usually expressed in unparliamentary language, are being utterly vindicated.

The health of the household

Mrs Davey's angine virale is slowly calming down. She has moved back from the spare room, though has not yet achieved a full night's sleep.

Mr Davey's share of the same infection is still mild and irritating. Vocalzone pastilles are very useful.

Miss Davey has occasional bouts of nausea, the explanation for which is still proving elusive.

Young Mr Davey seems in rude health.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Back almost a week

and the blog is so quiet!

It's because of various things:

1) Mrs Davey is unwell. She's been struggling with what we thought was 'flu ever since we got back from Zurich. Yesterday she went to the doctor and was diasgnosed with "une angine virale" - a viral sore throat. It's made everything swell up around her nech and throat and given her a rough time. Incidentally that means neither of us is sleeping very well! But though I'm not as well as I could be, I'm not affected as badly as she is. Maybe because of my 'flu jab?

2) Meanwhile there's lots to do, notably in preparing for the visit of our friends from Grace Baptist Mission the week before Easter.

3) At the same time we're preparing for our Annual General Meeting in May, at which time we need to change a little the structure of our association.

4) Still, at least from our point of view, there's nothing to do to prepare for the next few years in France. We've done all we can and all we need to.

5) Catrin is often unwell in South Africa. She seems to get recurring bouts of nausea, sometimes with vomiting. She thought it was linked to a particular food, but it may not be. Anyway, she's now over half-way through her time at the orphanage.

Bon courage!

Saturday, March 16, 2019


We arrived at the airport in good time, dropped off Pat's bag and went through security. Our plane was delayed because of problems with the de-icing machine at Zurich. No problem. We had an hour and forty minutes for our connection at Zurich.

Half an hour.

An hour.

Finally our plane came and we boarded. We got our snack - an apple strudel and a drink in our Starbucks mugs, but this time the flight was smooth. What awaited us was not quite so smooth though.

"Connecting flights information - here are the gates for various flights - could passengers for Bordeaux please contact the ground staff."

When we arrived at the airport there was just time for a mad dash for our flight, so we looked at the departure board.

Nothing. No departed. No late. No nothing.

Pat went to get her bag while I waited to talk to the ground staff. I received a text message, saying our flight had been cancelled. "Then you need to get a hotel" said the ground staff, ushering me into a long queue.

Some people had missed their flights to Newark, New Jersey. Others to Boston Massachusetts. One lady flying from Barcelona to the USA had a catalog of disasters to recount, involving mad taxi dashes from one terminal to another as well as multiple ticket purchases. I felt that my fate was not so bad.

The European Union has established the rights of passengers held up because of delayed or cancelled flights. You are entitled to meals and to overnight acommodation.

Two hours later I got to the front of the queue and was told where our hotel was to be. Two tram stops from the airport. We were booked on to the 7:15 flight the following morning, which meant getting to the airport for 6am. "The trams run all night." We would get a meal each to the value of 20 Swiss francs. I wondered what 20 Swiss francs would buy us in a hotel, but we had no other options so we took the tram, foudn the place, checked in and put our bags in the pleasant room.

At the dining room we were told that there was a buffet of pasta with meat or tomato sauce, and bread and butter. It was ravioli, so we ate our ravioli and our bread, we drank our water and then went to bed. In the morning we'd have an early start.

The first tram was at 4:55, then there was a gap till 5:23 and a tram every 7 minutes thereafter, so 5am found us eating little croissants, yogurts and drinking lots of coffee and fruit juice before heading off to the airport.

It seems to me that Swissair did the legal minimum.

No further delays, we ate another croissant in flight, arrived at Bordeaux just before 9 and got home thankfully.

We'll remember Florence long after we forget the journey and, who knows, maybe we'll return one day for another look. But not, I think, by Swissair or via Zurich.

Thursday, March 14, 2019


You can't travel to Florence without looking around at all, so at the end of the conference we booked an AirBnB right in the heart of the city for one night. I looked at the guides and talked to one or two people. We didn't fancy spending lots of time in queues for museums. One of the Italian staff at the conference said, don't go in the museums. Explore the squares. It's an open air museum.

So we arrived in Florence at about 3:30, I suppose, and deposited our bags in the super little apartment, then went out to explore. Top of our list was to climb up to the Piazzale de Michelangelo, so we wandered slowly along the river, then crossed the ponte vecchio and climbed the hill, then the steps. we were pretty tired after the conference and we had second thoughts half-way up the steps, but we persevered and were rewarded with the famous view out over Florence.

Afterwards we wandered slowly along the river and through the streets via the Piazza de la Signoria and its statuary, finishing up at the Duomo. At the conference we had been fed delicious food until we  could eat no more, but by this time we felt perhaps a little something might be an idea, so we found a pizzeria right by the cathedral and shared a napolitana. Then back to the AirBnB and a good night's sleep.

We hadn't bought breakfast so the next day we decided to go to the central market where we knew there was a food court. We enjoyed gazing at the porcini mushrooms and the tripe à la mode de Florence, then sampled - and bought - some very mature cheese and then hied us aloft to find some fodder. Two lukewarm cappucini (it's how they come) and some croissants later we wandered out for a final look at Florence.

We headed for San Lorenzo, consecrated by Ambrose of Milan (that Ambrose of Milan) and were astonished at its treasury then entranced by its paintings. Then back to the market for lunch before flying.

We'd cased the joint in the morning, so we headed straight for what we wanted - trapezzini - half a diagonally cut bread roll, filled with mixed vegetables for Pat or spicy beef for me. So good! Then I decided on a last dose of gelato - this time black cherry - and two glasses of fresh pomegranate juice. Then off to the tram to catch the planes home.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Centro Evangelico Poggio Ubertini

The European Conference was held about 25 kilometres outside Florence at a conference centre with glorious views and a delightful history.

The centre is on the brow of a little hill surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. It is the heart of a farm complex that in the 18th century belonged to a noblewoman of English birth. On her death she bequeathed her estates to the churches to be used to strengthen their witness.

We stayed in dormitories, but with one couple per dormitory, so Pat and I had a choice of eight beds and our own little shower room.

We'd never seen Tuscany before and we quickly understood why people fall in love with it.

We'd never experienced ordinary Italian cooking, either, and we doubtless gained at least half a stone in the three days we were there! So delicious!

These conferences are quite hard work, though. Our sessions begin at 8am, before breakfast, and continue till 9pm with a couple of hours break in the afternoon.

One afternoon we tried to go on the bus to Florence but there was some mix up over weekday and Saturday timetables so instead we walked down to the nearest town for gelato.

Gelato deserves its own entry really, but in Cerbaia I had Pine-nut, Cassata and Chocolate, very reasonably priced and utterly delectable. The walk down having taken its toll I had a comedy conversation with some bus drivers to find the correct bus back to the centre.

"Google maps, google maps!" said one, then turned my phone every which way to try and work out where we were going because I had a street address and the name of the centre but no bus stop names.

Anyway, we got on the correct bus and the driver dropped us at the end of the drive to the centre, then waved to us as he drove off.

Monday, March 11, 2019

It's all go isn't it! This time, Florence.

Once in a while our mission organisation holds a European Conference. We've been once before, a long time ago, perhaps in 2007 or thereabouts in Tossa del Mar near Barcelona. Since then we've been prevented either by ill-health (once we set off for Barcelona in our car but had to turn back because of Pat's back problems) or by lack of school holidays or because of the cost (flying four of us in March from Bordeaux to Istanbul was hugely expensive).

So it was a great joy to be able to meet up with old colleagues and friends, this time just outside Florence. We bought our plane tickets in a hurry, and before we realsied how easy it is now to get from Bordeaux to Charles deGaulle, so we had a farily early flight from Bordeaux to Zurich, then from Zurich to Florence. Once there we had to find the correct bus for a little town called Cerbaia where we would be collected by car.

In true Alan fashion I stressed about finding the bus to Cerbaia and managed to master "l'autobus per Cerbaia?" though I was warned that if you ask in Italian they'll answer in Italian. I started listening to Michel Thomas lessons via YouTube and after 30 minutes could manage a pretty convincing Non voglio comprarle perche e troppo caro e non e possibile per me. I realised that from music I could describe speed and loudness pretty well and wondered in what context this might be useful.

Meanwhile Europe had had a weekend of severe storms, resulting in fierce high altitude winds and storms conditions in Florence.

We took off all innocent and freshfaced, having checked Pat's bag into the hold as previously sworn. The Swissair cabin staff came round with the snack of the flight, a pack of cheese sandwich crackers. I was glad that I had had my porage early on. "And to drink, sir?" "A coffee, please." The generous stewardess filled my paper cup nice and full.

Thus it was that I had plenty of coffee to make waves, spurts, gushes, spouts and splashes when the turbulence hit. You know the expression, "a storm in a teacup"? Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Hot coffee splashed onto my leg. I tried lifting the cup. Now hot coffee splashed onto my hand. I put the cup down and called the cabin crew. They gave me copious quantities of serviettes while holding on to the plane for grim death. The serviettes absorbed lots of the coffee but the cup had more to give. When an instant of calm came I took the cup and downed it in one gulp.

Hint to Swissair : LIDS

Hint to Daveys : take your own coffee mug on planes.

We landed at Zurich. Ah! Terra firma! the more firma, the less terra. During our wait for the connection we found a Starbucks and bought some drinks in their nice plastic coffee mugs.

Once we boarded the plane from Zurich to Florence we noticed that it had started snowing, so the captain announced that we would have to wait while they de-iced the plane. We eventually took off about half an hour late.

The connection to Florence was just as bumpy but with coffee in our lidded mugs we laughed at the storm, chomping on our salty roll and butter. "We cannot land at Florence because of violent tail-winds. We will be diverted to Pisa. Look for the Swissair signs at Pisa airport to find the bus that will take you to Florence."

Our omnicompetent administrator asked us "Where are you and what's happening?" and arranged for us to be collected from Florence airport. (Mrs May - here is someone who could make a success of Br**it.) So now all we had to do was find the Swissair bus.

Well we ran in all directions. Pisa airport was suddenly filled with very frazzled people hunting in vain for Swissair signs, for there were none.

Mrs Davey has excellent distance vision, and pointed out a distant stand of buses. We approached and examined them closely. None had a Swissair sign. There was nothing for it. I summoned up and adapted my one phrase of Italian.

"L'autobus Swissair per Firenze?"


Our joy knew no bounds, save that which we took onto the bus for the journey to Florence. There we met our colleague, Job and awaited the excellent Michelpresto in his little hire car.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Driving licence

Good news today about exchanging my driving licence.

In the event of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without an agreement the French government will put in place a legal framework allowing UK citizens resident in France to continue to drive using their UK licences until a permanent arrangement is found.

So no rush to get the forms in before the end of March.

(I think they may have been swamped with applications.)