Showing posts from 2020


 It's not that early - 7:45 here in Bordeaux - but I'm still the only one up so far. This year there's been more talk of Plygain that usual. Plygain is the old Welsh tradition of carol services. They'd take place in the early morning, usually in a country church or chapel, and people would turn out in droves - just as popular as Carol Services today or more so. The local clergy person would open proceedings then invite people up to sing, and unrehearsed groups, in the old days generally of men, would come to the front and sing the old traditional carols by heart. The old Welsh traditional carols were full of biblical references identifying the infant Jesus as the one who came from Bozrah, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, the promise given to Adam, the lawgiver on Sinai, and so on. I think the fear is that the tradition is now dying out and all memory of it, too. One church in Montgomeryshire where the plygain had its roots has just closed. Children who grew up with pl

Today Advent or Christmas Music


Today some Advent or Christmas music

 the unique Jacob Collier :

Today some Advent or Christmas music


Every day an Advent or Christmas song

 high art from Peter Warlock :

Every day an Advent or Christmas Song


A covid Christmas

 Well today was to have been the day that we flew to Gatwick, then took the train to Norwich to spend Christmas with Gwilym and Beth in Norwich. We were due to stay exactly one week. A couple of weeks ago, concerned about the instability of the situation in both France and the UK, we decided to cancel our flights and commit to staying here. As things stand today we're glad we did. Norwich is not in a particularly high tier in the UK, but travel from the UK to France is currently impossible. Rumours suggest that France will be reconfined early in January. If this happens we'll be back online for our meetings. So for the moment we're better off staying at home. As it is we have a few friends coming for Christmas - we're allowed up to six people. There's still some work that I need to get done and I have some videos to film. Other than that I'm staying away from Zoom and video calls as much as I can! It will be good to have a little peace and quiet to rest and reco

Every day an Advent or Christmas song


Every day an Advent or Christmas song


Every day an Advent or Christmas song


Every day an Advent or Christmas song


Every day an Advent or Christmas song

 Today one for you to sing :

Every day an advent or Christmas song


Every day an Advent or Christmas song

 Unrivalled diction. Instantly recognisable rubato :

Every day an Advent or Christmas song


Every day an Advent or Chrismas song

 Today Isaac Watts' setting of Psalm 98, Joy to the World :

Every day an Advent or Christmas song


The next phase of confinement

 The rules change next Tuesday. From then we will no longer be confined, as such, and there will be no time limit on leaving home and no restrictions on how far we can travel within France. However, there will be a curfew. Each evening everyone must be home by 8pm, unless they are engaged in essential work. The rules for church gatherings are unchanged.

Each day an Advent or Christmas song

It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old, From angels bending near the earth, To touch their harps of gold: " Peace on the earth, goodwill to men, From heaven's all-gracious King." The world in solemn stillness lay, To hear the angels sing. Still through the cloven skies they come, With peaceful wings unfurled, And still their heavenly music floats O'er all the weary world; Above its sad and lowly plains, They bend on hovering wing, And ever o'er its babel sounds The blessed angels sing. Yet with the woes of sin and strife The world has suffered long; Beneath the angel- strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not The love-song which they bring; O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing. And ye, beneath life's crushing load, Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way With painful steps and slow, Look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing. O

Every day an Advent or Christmas song


At the pharmacy

 had to go to the pharmacy the other day and got served by the big boss - I say the big boss, he's quite tall. Anyway I asked how everyone is - fine, he said, but doing lots of covid tests.  The antigenic ones? Yes - but with not many positive tests. That's good. Salivary? No, in the nose, just like the other test.

And another version, with subtitles

Every day an Advent or Christmas song

 Today a Welsh carol plygain.

Every day an Advent or Christmas song


Every day an Advent or Christmas Song

Every day an Advent or Christmas song.  A group of us sang this in 1981 in the Honeywell Works Canteen in Hemel Hempstead.

A slight catastrophe

 PG Tips teabags have vanished from the supermarket shelves in our area.  Brexit?  Covid?  Who knows! Anyway we found some Typhoo or Tetley or something, then in utter desperation I decided to order from Amazon. Four boxes of 240 bags. That might get us through to Christmas. They came, we opened them with great joy. The first cup fo tea was good. The next brew was dreadful. Weak and insipid. Closer inspection of the tea bags reveals that some are filled normally, but other have only a tiny amount of tea in them. I've contacted Unilever to ask for an explanation.

Every day an Advent or Christmas song


It was explained to us that the gardens below our flat would serve as flood defences, too


Every day an Advent or Christmas song


Every day an Advent or Christmas song - See amid the winter snow



 Bit of a wobbly day yesterday.  For one thing we were all waiting for the government to decide on the rules for social distancing for places of worship. They had set a limit of 30 people. This had caused great consternation all around. Imagine the great cathedral with 30 people!  Then we were still wondering whether we'd be able to go to the UK for Christmas. We had tickets - on the fourth flight we tried. The first booking with Ryanair was changed to a different airport. Then it was cancelled. So we booked with Easyjet. Then that was changed to a difefrent airport and we were given the choice of cancelling. We really wanted to go, but what about testing, quarantine in the UK and in France, and would our flights be cancelled last minute. In the end we decided that we would accept that Christmas in the UK this year was not going to happen. I cancelled our flights and took a voucher so that we can go over as soon in the New Year as we can. That just left the government. They had tal

Every day an advent or Christmas song - Come thou long-expected Jesus

Every day an Advent or Christmas song. I had to search to find one that didn't use Hydrofoil as a tune. I wanted this one, written by Stainer, I think. Sorry about the red-robed choir - and the intrusive 'r's. But we do get Wesley's words. Somehow I don't think Wesley thought of this as a seasonal hymn.

From the 4th Century Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, born near Tarragona in Spain

  Every day of Advent a Christmas or Advent song.  Today from the 4th century Spanish Aurelius Prudentius Clemens :

You have to keep your wits about you

 Anti-covid regulations change and we have to change our plans with them. So we are in a phased deconfinement at present. This means that shops are open again, with longer opening hours permitted, up till 9pm. Also Sunday trading is permitted. This doesn't affect us in Bordeaux much because Bordeaux is a tourist city, so Sunday trading is allowed anyway between certain hours. Cafés and restaurants are not allowed to open, but they can do takeaways and delivery. People are showing huge ingenuity in finding ways to encourage people to buy takeaways. One of our favourite places was doing picnic baskets to take to the nearby park. Others are selling takeaway drinks in a huge variety of containers.  Churches have stayed open for private prayer, but now services can be held with a maximum of 30 people, not including those officiating. Since we have a disproportionate number of people on duty, doing video-projection, accompaniment, stewarding, etc, this means we can meet with no difficult

Every day a new Christmas song

 One of the rich aspects of being an international church is that many Christmas songs have different versions in the UK, in France and in the USA. I expect Canada adds its own fruit to the pudding, but of that I know nothing. It means planning a carol service can be a puzzle. So in a fit of positivity I decided to make a list of all the Christmas carols I know and to indicate whether the UK, FR and USA versions differ.  ( I left out things like the Cherry Tree Carol, all the ones about Apple Trees and 20th Century mediaevalism, like Sir Christemas, Wolkym Yeule and all the rest...) Then I thought, why not share a Christmas Song every day till Christmas. Originally I thought maybe the Daveys could sing them, but covid. Then I thought it might be a good opprtunity to use the Acapella app on the smartphone.  So here's the Kings Singers.

Couch to 5K

 Redid Tuesday's run.  Better this time.  Not good as such, but better.  Good enough to count as done and move on.

A phased deconfinement

 So from Saturday 28 November : Shops can open. Churches can meet, but only up to 30 people. (The cathedrals are not impressed) We can exercise up to 20 km from our homes for up to three hours a day. But we're still confined and we still need to justify being outside the home by carrying a form. Also no restaurants, cafés or bars. I'm more excited than I should be about the 20km thing - probably because it means we can go to any of the Bordeaux parks by public transport and walk or run there. As for meeting together, it means we can meet and do our thing, and possibly live-cast a Carol Service. It does rather depend on the hygiene requirements that the government will require. We'll find these out today, I expect.

Couch to 5K

 hmmm. Not going so well. The problem is that I'm wheezy, so I have to stop and use my inhaler mid-run.  Yes, I do use it before I set out. On the stairwell on the way down from the flat. There are a couple of triggers - firstly it's suddenly got quite cold, and the cold air can irritate the lungs. Then we are also being warned of a peak of particulate pollution in the area just now, because of the bright, fine weather we've been having. "Asthmatics are invited to stay indoors." I avoid the early morning cold by running mid-afternoon, but I guess the particulates are probably higher then.  Still, I just stop, inhale, walk till the wheezing subsides and then resume.

So today I thought :

 this hospital visit is next week. I had better : Check I have the right forms ready to sign Print out or copy all the various bits and bobs I need to take with me Check the no-residue diet I need to be on for a few days beforehand Check the NHS website to see if there are things explained more clearly there Stick the list of allowed foods on the kitchen wall with blu-tac Also the timing of the stuff I have to take beforehand Having done all that I got a phone call. It's postponed till 3 March because covid. Oh well. As you were.

Insécurité à Bordeaux

 (A growth in crime) :

I forgot about this

 Last week on couch to 5K I had six runs of 1:30mins each. This week I have two of 1:30mins and two of 3:00mins. The total time is the same, but the effort is quite different. Meanwhile I am encouraged, inspired and challenged by Mrs Davey, some weeks ahead of me, who ran 6K yesterday. Also, I found out where the prostitutes have gone - a row of white vans parked down on the small road parallel to the river. One lady was sat at the seat of custom but I think she could tell that I was in no fit state to partake of her wares. She ignored me as I went gallumphing past.

OK, Apple computers are not perfect

Firstly my Mac Mini, a 2012 model, doesn't get the newest release of the MacOS operating system.  What's that all about, Apple? I mean, it's only eight years old! Don't get me wrong. The thing is working fine. It did have a little blip a few months ago when the bluetooth connection stopped working, but I took it apart and put it back together and it's been fine since. But I guess I'm going to have to see how important it is to have that new operating system and if I really need it, I'll have to find a new Mac. It's a pain to think of changing something that's working well, but we do it with cars, don't we. We anticipate problems to come.... Meanwhile my laptop, a 2015 MacBook Pro, does get the new software, so I did the upgrade yesterday morning. The disk's a bit full so I uninstalled some of my big programs, upgraded the software, then installed them again. Now it's running fine again. It did have a problem - the anti-reflection coating

Couch to 5K

 week two begun

The nature

In confinement it's great to have houseplants, an office, a balcony, but nothing really compensates for walking under the trees and kicking the leaves. In the spring confinement I remember how thrilled I was to find some horse-chestnut trees just in front of the railway station. After confinement getting back on the quays, then to the Jardin Public was very therapeutic. Of course, soon we'll have more trees than we can shake a stick at right down there at the foot of our apartment block. Maybe by spring? But meanwhile. Then last week Mrs Davey found a park while out running. It's not a big park. It's cosseted between a school, some apartment blocks and a vehicle testing centre, but it's a park and it's within a short walk of our home. Next door to the vehicle testing centre is the nearest cooperative supermarket. We must investigate.

Zoom zoom

 Got through a whole service with multiple screen shares and assorted jiggery-pokery without panic and without having to ask for help. Even found the red buttons and stuff. Amazed.

Well that's week 1 done of Couch to 5K

 Yes, I've started at the very beginning.  It is, after all, a very good place to start. I have one long felt want - to be able to count and run at the same time. I try to count my repetitions and fail dismally and so I carefully calculate my finishing point to be just outside the block of flats so all I have to do is climb the stairs to the fourth floor as my cool-off, but I mess it all up and finish up by the tram lines with a long walk home. Beurk

Let's fight it out in court

 We're half-way through the first week of confinement and France is concerned for its small shopkeepers.  To begin with, just like those stalinist Welsh, they ordered that the non-food aisles in the supermarkets be taped off. They went even further and requested the French to refrain from ordering their non-essentials from US-originated multinational giants and maybe to consider using the various click and collect schemes put in place by shopkeepers. Now some of the mayors have decided to defy the central government by allowing shops to open in their towns. It's noteworthy that some of these mayors are right-wing, at least in French terms. They argue that there is very little evidence of people catching coronavirus while buying shoes or books. Most clusters in France have been generated either in sporting fixtures, in family gatherings or in religious ceremonies. We'll see how it plays out.


 Sunday morning : Why am I doing this? How did I ever do this? Man this hurts so much! Forget it. Monday : Why did I even think about it? How did I do it before? Have I aged so much so quickly? Tuesday : Paracetamol is pretty good. I could do it again. Tomorrow. Wednesday : Why did I fuss so much? It's not so bad. Oh no! Forgot my running around permit... There'll be no photos, though. I have this amazing little computer thing that you strap on your arm, and it tells you when to run and when to walk by rattling. It means I don't have to take my phone with me when I run.

Choir rehearsal

 This evening I should be in our choir rehearsal. Our choir is a 32 person, four to a part, eight parts choir. We sing unaccompanied and we were currently working on a Christmas programme, using arrangements I've never done before by people like Ola Gjeilo, Jim Clements, John Tavener and so on. Nice stuff. I'm singing the low bass part. I'm not a low bass really, but real low basses are as rare as real high tenors. People like me do what they can. We started rehearsing in September, distanced and with masks. It was still good. We were learning parts and learning to cohere and so on. But now we're confined and we can't sing together. I miss the synergy. When the church meets online we sing, but to do that everyone mutes themselves except the specific accompanist who's doing that song. So it's good, but it's not singing together. You don't get the synergy. Oh well, we'll be back together soon.

Confinement and stuff in France

 Here in Bordeaux we are entering our confinement with a mix of resignation and resentment. Resignation because we can see that we need to slow the circulation of the virus. Resentment because actually our statistics in the South-West of France are not as bad as all that. We feel that we're in confinement almost in solidarity with the rest of France. Some of our folk are teachers, and schools here are open. The big difference is that children aged 6 and over have to wear masks in school. The university is back to teaching online. This is fine for lots of things, but not everything. Confinement is presented differently from in the UK. We don't talk of "Saving our NHS" but rather of saving French lives. I think that's a significant difference. The NHS is a national treasure, but it is a practical arrangement, and other arrangements might be possible. French lives have a God-given, absolute value. It is quite difficult, though not impossible, to weigh French lives ag

And I’m running again

 When we first moved here I stopped running. The pavements were gravel. Prostitutes worked the streets. There was a lot of construction traffic. It felt like there was nowhere to run. Cycling was little better. Everything felt hazardous. Now we have beautiful wide pavements and the prostitutes have moved elsewhere. Soon we’ll have the gardens below us. Our perfect cycle paths speed us smoothly to nightmarish bottle necks where trucks and buses vie to more down today’s kill. Well you can’t have everything. But I’m running again.

A week of holiday, then confinement

 We've had a week of holiday this week, during which I have studiously and furiously avoided anything resembling work. We didn't actually go away, but we signed up for some guided walks in Bordeaux. On Tuesday we did "Bordeaux, the plague and coronavirus". It was fascinating. We walked the old town walls and saw some streets that were so badly infested with plague that the city authorities just burnt them down. We saw how the city was ravaged by successive waves of plague and of cholera, how the water supplies were easily contaminated, how the gates were closed to any outsiders and how the level of deatsh in the surrounding areas so deprived the city of nourishment that the Bordelais resorted to eating the moss off the trees, the dogs, cats and rats and, allegedly, the dead. Wednesday brought "300 heads in 300 days" and we saw the traces in the town of the amazing "Year 2" of the revolution, otherwise known as "The Terror" when the calend

What a weekend!

David and Goliath for Deeside tomorrow morning. Frances' and Benjamin's wedding tomorrow afternoon. "Free to not" on Sunday. I get all the best moments!

Bordeaux and the curfews

 France has imposed curfews (in French - couvre-feu) on the most seriously affected areas of France. Almost all of New Aquitaine escapes curfew - only the Atlantic Pyrenees department, right down in the south on the Spanish border is under curfew. Curfew means that from 9pm to 6am you have to be at home. It is designed to get people out of bars and clubs and restaurants and all places where you mix socially, hang around and snack and drink together. It also curtails concerts and shows, of course, as well as the life of churches and other groups midweek. For the moment we're OK. Our stats are mixed just now, some improving, others deteriorating, but we're hopeful.

Les espaces verts, continued

 Work continues apace on the future Jardins de l'Ars. Here's some photos, including a pile of old railway tracks.

A dreadful murder

 France is reeling from the decapitation in the street of a history teacher in Paris who became the target of a teenage religious radical. I only know what the news madia is telling us, so for more information on what happened you would do better to look there, but I'll make one small observation. A couple of weeks ago the French government announced a plan to try to combat radicalisation of young people. The plan includes making home-schooling illegal. All children would have to attend schools that are contracted to respect the national curriculum.  Some parents think it is very important to teach their children at home and there have been protests against this projected law. 

On words

 Nightmare. One example. Casserole. Here's the French definition : 1. Ustensile de cuisine de forme cylindrique, à manche ; son contenu. 2. FAMILIER Mauvais piano. It means a saucepan with a handle. You can get a batterie de casseroles , but let's not get too ambitious. I grew up in South Wales in an English-speaking household. From time to time my mother would cook a casserole, which was a kind of stew, but cooked slowly in the oven typically in a "Pyrex" oven-proof glass dish often referred to as a Pyrex Casserole.You could make chicken casserole or beef casserole and you'd know what you'd get. You could buy a set of Pyrex casseroles for a wedding present so people would start their married life with a matching set in different sizes. American friends understand something completely different by the word casserole. They make "green bean casserole" and I don't have any idea what that means at all. Now that's just one word, but in our vocabul

Les espaces verts

 So it's confirmed. What we suspected. Hoped. Watched for. Hailed from afar. This morning when Patricia left the flat she saw a guy in a yellow vest and a hard hat directing affairs. When she returned he was still there. So she asked him what stage the project is at. And he said that in the far corner they're about to begin construction of the new school of cinema, and everywhere else they're working on the gardens (les espaces verts). Here's two photos, one from about a week ago and one from today.

'Flu jab

 Both Pat and I get letters telling us to get a 'flu jab. I guess I've been having them for about 20 years or more thanks to being asthmatic. Anyway the letter came the other week. Here in France the system has changed over the years.  At first :  Take the letter to the doctor. Get it stamped. Take the stamped letter to the pharmacy. Get the vaccine. Take the vaccine to the doctor. Get it injected. Two doctor's appointments. Then : Take the letter to the pharmacy. Get the vaccine. Take the vaccine to the doctor. Get it injected. Then:  Take the letter to the pharmacy. Get the vaccine. Get a nurse to come to the house. Get it injected. Then two years ago: Take the letter to the pharmacy. Get the vaccine and get it injected. A one-stop vaccine shop. The problem was that people don't get vaccinated. Even with the one-stop shop we only achieve a 50% take-up rate. That may change this year, though, of course. Meanwhile even if you aren't called for a vaccine you can get

A hard decision

 In France we can sing together, on condition that we be masked and keep our distance. So we sing in church and in choirs. However there is some discussion about the utility and even the danger of masks. In one choir there was a full and frank email discussion about the dangers to the brain of a build-up of carbon dioxide and the toxins that we naturally exhale. I weighed in applying my training in biology and the observation that surgeons regularly work for hours masked with no ill effects to their brains - and we entrust our lives to their skill. This may not have been wise on my part. Enough said. But we sing masked. In the choir I usually sing with I was sat about halfway to the back and noticed at least four people singing but with the mask below the nose. Had I been at the front of the room singing I would not have noticed them at all, of course. Conducting I may have sene more. I'm not that afraid of catching the virus. But I am very keen to avoid generating a cluster of inf

When the lift doesn't work

 One thing about living in a flat is that it is flat. I don't know if that's why we call it a flat, but it's flat all the same. In a house you go up and down and climb stairs, but not in a flat. From the bedroom to the kitchen to the balcony to the office - it's all flat. So those days when you don't leave the house - and there are too many of them - mean that you hardly move at all! Thus it was for me yesterday and the day before when waiting for some things to arrive from Amazon. We've had some issues with Amazon delivery recently so when they said something was coming I decided to stay in and wait.  I'd checked the mail already - our mailbox is four floors below us so we either scamper down the stairs and scramble back up or we take the lift. This time I trotted down and scuttled back up, but the box was empty. (Aware of too many days when I go neither out nor come in, I like to run up the stairs.) Then came the call. "Amazon delivery. We're in f

Waiting patiently for my hospital appointment

 Having worked through my horror, then dread, then terror of the screening that I must undergo, I came to terms with it by remembering my father's illness that resulted in his death at the age of 69. His last few years were punctuated by one surgical procedure after another. If screening might enable me to avoid a similar course, then let's do it!  However, my procedure is a screening where there are no symptoms of disease. Covid has doubtless caused delays in dealing with people who do have symptoms, so a wait is to be expected.  A few things should be certain, I should get an appointment within three months of seeing the anaesthetist, and I should get at least a week's notice because I have some preparations to accomplish before the procedure itself

Les Jardins de l'Ars

 It is difficult to resist the strong impression that the work on landscaping the gardens has begun. Many diggers are moving earth around, piling it into numerous large lorries that then take it away, we know not where. A roller rolls. Some new piles of soil have appeared. Walls have been demolished. Fencing panels are piled up alongside small heaps of gravel.  It could conceivably be the works for clearing the space for the new school of cinema which will be built somewhere around here, but no holes are being dug for foundations. I guess that we will find out in the next week or so.

Brighter before bedtime

A couple of things have helped.  Catrin came round and clowned around with music. A future bride came round to eat, and to plan her wedding in three weeks' time. I listened to Vaughan-Williams' Fantasia on a theme of Tallis.* I took a nap. I needed it, too, after a short and disturbed night. My preparation for tomorrow morning and for Sunday. * one bright spot in the covid experience has been the artists finding new ways to reach the public with their music: the pianist Igor Levit's micro-concerts, Voces8 and Apollo5 and so on with their chamber choir stuff, orchestras performing from unusual halls, the Wigmore Hall broadcasting wonderful singers. I can't always spare an evening or the cost of a ticket for a concert in Bordeaux but here world-class music has come to our homes, and I'm very thankful.


 "Covid-fatigue fuels the second wave in Europe" read the headline.  I know whereof they speak. In every sphere of life you're hitting against walls of regulations and weighing risks and priorities.  A wedding - what can we do and what can't we do? How many can eat, where and how? Can people wait outside to greet the couple?   In a choir one guy sings with a visor rather than a mask. "It's better." he says. In another choir various folks have adopted the "under the nose" manner of wearing their mask - the cloth-stache. Have folks to your home and they're supposed to keep 1m apart. That means no meal round the table, no games, no proximity. So today I have covid-fatigue. But tomorrow, by the gace of God, I'll be up and at them again.

Meeting the anaesthetist

 I got my pool car at about 10 and headed off for my 11am appointment with the anaesthetist. Traffic was fluid. I found a parking space quite easily and headed into the building. At reception I realised I couldn't find my way to the "Anaesthesia consultations" so I asked at the information desk. "You come here first", so I took a number and waited. A few minutes later I had shown my carte de séjour, my health card, my health insurance card and my appointment sheet and been given my sheet of sticky labels and directed to the department.  There's another reception, so there I handed over the latest version of every health related document I possess - blood tests, etc. - and was told to wait.  There were about four people waiting already and two doctors. I saw a kindly looking man whose badge said "Anésthetiste Réanimateur". After examining all my documents and pronouncing them satisfactory, he listened to my breathing, checked the back of my hand for

Gaze and commit to memory - the drones are coming

A notice taped to the door of our block of flats warns us that photographic drones will be flying over the area Monday to Wednesday to take detailed photos that will allow the surveyors to plan the landscaping of the Jardins de l'Ars. Woohoo!

Choirs and covid-19

Whoever thought that choral singing would be a dangerous sport?  Well it is now, thanks to the new coronavirus.  "How so?" I hear you cry.  The problem is that singers do various unhelpful things: 1) they breathe in deeply, thus taking in more air and, possibly, more droplets which could be carrying viruses. By this means they invite an infection and a bigger initial dose of the virus. 2) they breathe out deeply and project their breath, especially when they sing loudly, thus expelling droplet-laden breath into the air and, potentially, sharing their viruses generously with all in the room. 3) they insist on doing these activities in synchronised groups, thus providing an excellent substrate for the virus to propagate. Yesterday, incidentally, I met with a colleague here who recovered from his covid infection just a couple of weeks ago. He's in his thirties and contracted the virus playing volleyball. Enough said for his state of fitness. Nevertheless he was very unwell,

Some important information


Slowing the circulation of the virus

 On Monday the Prefect of Nouvelle Aquitaine spoke to introduce further measures to slow the epidemic in the Gironde. There was nothing that stopped the church meeting, especially in our new configuration os small groups at the church and in two homes. However, our friends who planned to marry at the beginning of October with over 100 guests have had to cancel their wedding reception and plan quickly something much smaller in the satellite town of Libourne. They have reacted with admirable flexibility and resolve. Now the Health Minister is speaking. His tone is so good. It is hard to get tested just now because the government promised a free test for anyone who wanted one. This has led, understandably, to bottlenecks in the laboratories. So after thanking French people for their patience and their understanding, he has introduced a system of priority testing for people who show symptoms or who havebeen alerted that they have been in contact with the virus. Other people who just want t

Does my mouth look big in this?


Things have been relatively quiet in Bordeaux

 Just the usual combats : Vampire flies : attacking my arms and feet. I got some cream from the chemist to help with the inflammation following their attacks. Covid-19 : two men in the French church have become ill following a volleyball match with their club. Both are youngish, fit and well, but the virus is vicious. We have implemented our multi-site micro-church plan, dividing up into three groups. Two will meet in homes and cosist of up to 10 people. The third will meet in the church room and can accommodate up to 30. For this we have to pre-record our sermon and generally organise the whole thing well in advance. I gabble even more when preaching to my smartphone. Oh well. Meanwhile the town hall has announced that there will be no more Christmas Tree in Bordeaux. This is what we must expect when the Narnian Party has taken over the town hall, I suppose. I am hoping for free turkish delight for every household, but I fear I may hope in vain.

The train wreck - I mean the audition

The saga of trying to find a practicable choir continues, this time with me seeing a notice that a chamber choir needs men. The choir rehearses not so far from where we live: about 20 mins by bike, 30 by bus and tram or 45 mins' walk. I replied to the notice and got a respone from someone I know from another choir urging me to contact the musical director. I did so and he phoned straight away to arrange to come and do an audition. Then begins the mental wrangling. What could I sing? I decided on a rather awkward but beautiful piece of Poulenc but each time I worked it through (without accompaniment - I'm not good enough on piano) I messed up a tricky chromatic section in the middle. I decided to go with something else. Anyway, as I was still warming up he phoned to say he'd arrived. Oh help! What a disaster! We did some vocalises to establish my range. We did the bass line of "The silver swan", which we'd sung at the gîte. He brought out a Fauré test vocalise

They're all after my blood

 So now I have a bruise from my blood test and several lumps, bumps and scabs from the attentions of the mosquitos that have decided to add their plague to the season's pestilence. I must dramatically increase my garlic intake.

Back to school today

 Our flat overlooks a primary school and today it's back to school day. I first noticed a tall guy walking with a small boy beneath our window, chatting as they loped and trotted along. They crossed the future gardens to get the the school. Halfway across the man slipped a mask onto his face. We're outside the area where you have to wear a mask in the street in Bordeaux. It stretches from the station, about 8 minutes walk away, to just before where the church meets, but doesn't include our immediate area! You're also exempted if you're running or riding a bike. You do, however, have to have a mask on in the immediate vicinity of the school gates. Meanwhile small groups of parents and children appeared at the far end of the car park and followed the same route. A little procession left the flats further down, each mother masked, the children scuttling cheerfully. A flotilla of bikes came round the corner and crossed the future gardens, adult and child gliding along,

Masks, masks and more masks

 The virus is once more being spread in Bordeaux. We currently have an r number of about 1.78, and an incidence of about 52 cases per 100,000 population. 4.2% of tests for coronavirus give positive results. There are still few hospitalisations and few in intensive care, but we are told that this is because for the moment the virus is spreading among young people, and that when they start to infect older folk the numbers in hospital will rise. This picture is true of various places in France, so on a national level the government is prearing for local confinement and for restrictions on travel. Meanwhile masks have to be worn in the two busiest streets in Bordeaux as well as in shops and in public transport, but from next Monday they'll need to be worn everywhere in the open air.  Meanwhile churches are champing at the bit to fill their premises and choirs are waiting eagerly to resume rehearsals. For Bordeaux Church we're working on a plan to try and enable us to thrive in the

The blood tests

 So armed with my new prescription I got up, drank some mint tea and headed off to get the blood taken. The laboratory had a sign on the door saying that the waiting room was now outside in the street, but there was noone in the reception area, everyone was just behind in the office section, so I opened the door and shouted Bonjour. They beckoned me in. I had my usual annual blood tests for my doctor to do, as well as my blood group for the hospital. Blood groups are done by double determination at present, so there amount of forms to fill in was impressive. After all that was done, in I went into the back room to get the blood taken. Meanwhile a university lecturer was there to get a coronavirus test. She asked if there was anobody doing saliva antibody tests, but there isn't. The phayrngeal swab is just more reliable. Everyone commiserated with her. The phlebotomist was terribly upset to have bruised me, though she'd not hurt me with the needle so I wasn't bothered. She d

chez le nouveau médecin

 I have to have a small investigation under general anaesthesia in early October - just to make sure I don't have what my father had - and the anaesthetist wants me to take my "Blood Group Card" to my appointment at the end of September. "Blood Group Card"? I went to the blood laboratory of my choice, at the bottom of Cours Victor Hugo, where I learned that they can do it, it costs 50€, but you get that back if your doctor writes a prescription. I stewed on this for a while. My doctor is about 45 minutes journey away by tram and a short unpleasant walk, so going to see her generally takes a whole morning. But opposite our pharmacy where the nurses' office is there's now a plaque for a GP. I searched on Doctolib, our online appointment service. An appointment was available for this morning. Along I toddled. He's a young chap with a man bun. As I waited he said goodbyre to his previous patient, "Bye, have a nice day". Ah! He speaks English. W

The stage that never was

 There are various choral workshops that take place during the months of July and August. A few years ago someone in the choir approached me about going on one held just about an hour north of Bordeaux in the little town of Guitres, but at that time ... well there was no point even considering it. Now things are a little different so when a message went out that there were still places available, notably for chaps, I made enquiries, discussed it quickly, and sent off my form. Two works would be prepared and performed, by living composers. Ha! Coronavirus had other plans. We normally rehearse and perform in the abbatial church of Guitres, a tiny town with a splendid romanesque basilica plonked right in the middle, but in light of the crise sanitaire the mairie cancelled the workshop. Pat and I made plans to take a quick trip to explore Pau, Lourdes and environs, but then I was contacted by  a member of the choir to say that even though the choral workshop was not going ahead, they were

Spoke too soon

 We were out yesterday evening and were accompanied all the way home by ominous flashes of lightning. I was concerned to make it home before the torrential downpours started, but none came. Instead we oozed and slithered our way home through the hot and humid evening with one eye on the road ahead and one eye on the menacing heavens. This morning it's emptying down. Torrential downpours. The monsoon season. No storm. Just RAIN. It's very refreshing.

The Bordeaux Summer

 If the English summer can be defined as two nice days and a thunderstorm, then the Bordeaux summer largely consists of perhaps 30 English summers repeated from about July to September. Thunderstorms provide much entertainment but they are also the bane of our lives. Yesterday at about 6 Patricia announced that the newspaper said the Bordeaux parks would close at 8pm because of the impending storm. So at about 7 or so we went out and prepared the balcony. This involves turning a wooden bench and table upside down and moving all our plants to the shelter of the windward wall. The wind strikes the wall and the plants are sheltered on the other side. I originally left our splendid little passionflower cutting on the balcony wall where it was starting to cling to the balcony railings, promising ravishing flowers perhaps next year, but I had to think again and move it when the wind started whipping it about like a freed garden hose. The storm struck at 8 and was the fully garnished kind - w

Linguistic adventures

Covid-19, lockdown (UK), confinement (FR) and sheltering in place (US) as well as the Zoom-boom, YouTube and Facebook live services have had various effects.  For one thing life has become busier. While travel is been curtailed, instead we can attend things virtually and so be in two places at one time. So a couple of weeks ago we attended the Keswick Convention's addresses from Christopher Ash on the Psalms in the morning, UFM's Summer Conference in the afternoon then did our own work in the evening.  We can also visit churches virtually. I think I mentioned how the first Sunday of UK lockdown I realised that I could attend several UK churches on the same day as well as our service here if I got the timings right. I only did that once. We've also had great support from various agencies. Our Mission held online prayer meetings each week and the Evangelical Movement of Wales also holds weekly meetings to inform and encourage people. On Sundays I get a happy list of notificat

Keswick, Hothorpe Hall and the rive droite

This week is the week of the Keswick Convention and also of the UFM Summer Conference normally held at Hothorpe Hall in Leicestershire. This year both have gone online, as did the Bala Ministers' Conference in June and the Evangelical Ministry Assembly, also held in June. The advantage of this is that I have been able to attend at least parts of all four conferences.  The disadvantages include that we don't get to go away, we miss out on all the informal conversations and we have to fit work in around everything. Makes life busy! Busy but blest. Meanwhile we continue to meet on Sundays, masked and distanced. It's OK, but only because we hope for a better future! After the service we adjourn to the local park where there is an ice-cream kiosk and we sit and chat under the trees. We're currently allowed up to 10 people in a home at any one time. When we get together in homes we are careful to wash our hands on arrival and to avoid touching each other. It's all a bit d

We're havin' a canicule... a tropical canicule... the temperature's risin', it's hardly surprisin'

A heatwave in France is a canicule, and is defined as a period of three days or more where the temperature does not fall below 20°C, even at night. And that's what we've got just now. It isn't THAT hot, to be honest. Today it's been at 34°C and we've certainly known 38°C in the past - Patricia is sure it has got to 40°C - but it's unrelenting. The sun is very strong. There's no cloud cover.  You get up and it's hot, you go to bed and it's hot.  We have fans on all over the flat, our windows closed and the shutters down, and it's hot. First thing in the morning I run around opening all the shutters and windows to change the air in the flat, but by 9 or 10 everything has to be closed again against the heat. The government puts up posters telling you to drink enough. You need to drink lots of water. The posters remind you to eat enough. The temptation is to not eat, but if you don't you don't replace the salts you lose through perspiration.

At the hospital

I'd never been the the centre for hepato-gastro-enterological surgery before, so I let Waze guide me. Big mistake. It told me to take two entrances that were gated and locked - I can't imagine what the driver of the van behind was thinking, thankfully he didn't tell me - and once in the hospital complex it had me driving round in all directions. Eventually I saw a building that looked like the one on the map I'd looked at previously so I parked near it and went inside. Incidentally this hospital has a beautiful free car park and also a nature trail through its grounds. Maybe a idea for another time. In France you go to the main reception, take a number, wait to be called and they enter you into the hospital database. Then they tell you where to go. Everywhere is colour coded. Even the reception desks. I stared intently trying to distinguish the yellow and the green, the blue and the violet. Anyway when my number came up I chanced upon the correct desk. "Go to

First an apology

As I come out of the pain and fatigue filled torture chamber of a weekend I feel immediately that I owe you an apology, gentle reader, for some IMMODERATE LANGUAGE in the last blog entry. Specifically when I may have appeared to threaten to give my doctor a slap for prescribing the vaccinations that plunged me into the gulf of hopelessness. It wasn't meant as a threat; merely an observation of the temptations to which I was prey. Anyway after a weekend in the crypt of despair I at last feel that I am emerging into the sunny plains once more. Yesterday Mrs Davey and I even attempted a visit to a promising pizzeria not far from our house - alas too far for even the lure of a proper italian pizza to coax me onwards - we ditched and bought a French one from the nearest supermarket instead. French food is excellent. Even the bad stuff is good. It really is. But like, I suspect, every nation under the saun, the French pizzaïolo has adapted the sublime staple of Neapolitan peasants to ma

Ee I am vexed

I feel ill-disposed towards my doctor just now. If she were here right now I'd be sorely tempted to give her a good slap. The thing is, she's decided that it's her responsibility to keep me alive and in the best health possible for as long as she can. Which this week meant anti-pneumonia vaccinations. Two. One in each arm. There's a nurses' surgery right opposite our pharmacy so on Wednesday when I picked up my anti-histamines I popped in to make an appointment. Thursday at 4. I knew the pharmacy had the vaccines in stock so all I had to was pop in the pharmacy first, get myself well-stabbed and voilà, it's all sorted. Ha! Poor ignorant sap! So at 15:40 precisely I left the house. At approximately 15:48 I arrived at the pharmacy and said, "Could I have the vaccines, please?"  Well, this being France, I said, "Good day, it's for the vaccines." "Good day. Do you have an appointment with the nurse?" "Yes. At 16 hours." &q

If it ducks like a quack

My six-monthly doctor's appointment fell this morning. I got the 8:30 slot and someone was already in with her before me, so I went in on time and was out by 8:41. Ace. It means leaving the house at 7:30, but the tram takes me to within a 15 minute walk of her surgery, past building sites and car dealerships. She pronounced herself content with everything, wants me to get vaccinated against pneumonia (to ward off the old man's friend?), to get blood tests done again and we chatted about confinement, trams, masks and stuff.

A night at the opera

At the weekend the Opera National de Bordeaux Aquitaine held a series of free concerts - at lunchtime performances of Peter and the Wolf, at tea-time some dance and then in the evening the Fauré Requiem, some movements from Beethoven symphonies and a couple of arias from Florian Sempey. We went along for the evening. Marc Minkowski opened proceedings explaining the rules for entry and exit and telling us we could remove our masks while seated. (Hurrah!). Salvatore Caputo, the charismatic chorus master, introduced and conducted the Fauré, then gave place to the Musical Director, Paul Daniel, to conduct the rest of the programme.  The concerts were held in the amphitheatre that is formed by the Eglise Sainte Croix and the Conservatory, the Square Dom Bedos, as a tribute to the healthworkers "who gave their lives to save ours". The sound is surprisingly good, especially with some amplification. All sang well - we had some lovely moments in the Fauré, an excellent time with M. Se

When bank robbers go to church

So we were back together yesterday. The brethren have removed all the cushions from the benches and arranged them a meter apart for proper physical distancing. They have done all the hard work of putting up signs, indicating the capacity of the room, organising one entry and one exit and so on. We arranged to meet up early to disinfect - I got confused about times and so we arrived 30 minutes apart - oops - but we swiftly disinfected the varnish off the benches and remembered the door handles, light switches and so on. Even though everyone was masked, it was great worshipping with the windows and doors wide open to get air through the place. I am told that if the preacher is 10 feet from the nearest person he can preach without a mask, but I would not have felt comfortable being the only unveiled person in the church so I persevered with it. It's tiring. Afterwards we cleared up and locked up and went to the local park where we sat in a circle, ate ice-cream and sang unmasked.