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)

Friday, December 25, 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 plygain are now in their 80s or 90s. 

Times do change. Maybe plygain is dying out, but this year there's been a flurry of recordings and reminiscences. A couple of internet searches will find you lots of information, from people translating some of the best-known songs - "Ar gyfer heddiw'r bore" (my favourite) and "Wele cawsom y Meseia" , for example - along with versions sung by opera stars and shepherds - and even a "plygain rhithiol" - a virtual plygain. That's one way to learn the Welsh word for virtual...


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Every day an Advent or Christmas song

 high art from Peter Warlock :

Monday, December 21, 2020

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 recover ready for January.

As I type the European regulator has approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in the EU and the French government is intending to begin its campaign of vaccination from next weekend. They'll begin with residents and staff in retirement homes, then progress to front-line health care workers. Pat and I can reasonably expect to be vaccinated from about March to June, I think.

A covid Christmas. It's not the Christmas you dreamt of, but the gospels tell us that the Son of God didn't come into a world where all is calm and all is bright, but into a world of crazy bureaucracy, forced travel, violence and refugees fleeing for their lives.

It's to people like us, caught up in events beyond our control, that God sends his Son to be Emmanuel, God with us.

Every day an Advent or Christmas song


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Every day an Advent or Christmas song

 Unrivalled diction. Instantly recognisable rubato :

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Every day an Advent or Chrismas song

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

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Friday, December 11, 2020

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 rest beside the weary road, And hear the angels sing! For lo!, the days are hastening on, By prophet bards foretold, When with the ever-circling years Comes round the age of gold When peace shall over all the earth Its ancient splendors fling, And the whole world give back the song Which now the angels sing.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

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.

Monday, December 07, 2020

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.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

A slight catastrophe

 PG Tips teabags have vanished from the supermarket shelves in our area. 



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


Thursday, December 03, 2020


 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 talked about requiring 6m2 per person. Previously it had been set at 4m2 per person which gives around 30 people in our room. 6m2 would allow fewer than 20. It would mean going back online.

Eventually the message was passed around - two empty seats between each person or family group, and leave alterante rows of seats empty. We can live with that!

The day ended with me feeling much less wobbly - still sad at not speding Christmas all together, but at least we can see a way forward.

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.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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 :

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

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 difficulty. The cathedral, however, is severely limited : putting 30 people in that massive edifice is like serving one green pea in a soup tureen. Meanwhile the catholics of the Pius X group (LeFevre's tridentine traditionalists) held an open-air mass in the Jardin Public attended by 300 people, and are facing legal pursuits in consequence. The parish of Cauderan held ten masses in different chapels and churches, presided over by different priests in order to get the folk through.

The Conseil d'Etat has given the government three days to change this limit of 30 people into something a little more sensible, given that places of worship vary so much in size. So tomorrow at the latest we'll see what will change. I hope there will not be a massive requirement for space per person - at 4m2 per person we can function. Increase this to 6 and it's in doubt. Make it 8 and all doubt is removed, we're online once more.

Meanwhile being back at the church building has positives and negatives. It is good to leave the flat, even though once gets very used to staying indoors in warmth and safety. It is good to see each other, to great each other from afar, to share our news and admire our haircuts. Preaching through a mask is tiring and I never realised before how much facial expressions contribute to it all.

As for Christmas, well who knows what will happen. We are due for a further jettisonning of restraint on 15 December, and just a week later we're supposed to fly to England to spend Christmas with Gwilym and Beth in Norwich. However will the flights be maintained? Will we have to quarantine on arrival or on our return? For us we can live what that, but Catrin can't really quarantine because she's a teacher, so a need to quarantine means she can't go.

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. https://youtu.be/5ZPlhAVsmPQ

Thursday, November 26, 2020

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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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


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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

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.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Insécurité à Bordeaux

 (A growth in crime) :

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

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 started to wear off, despite my always cleaning it with damp microfibre cloths, I swear. With the advent of Zoom I had to scrub it all off around the webcam, so there was a little shiny spot right in the middle at the top.

After upgrading the software I thought, "why not?", and got the surgical alcohol the pharmacist made me buy to disinfect my arm (don't ask) and cleaned off all the anti-reflection coating with some surgical gauze. Now the screen looks shiny and new and when the computer is turned off you can comb your hair.

I might get it a bigger disk and install it to give it a bit more space.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Couch to 5K

 week two begun

Monday, November 09, 2020

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.


Saturday, November 07, 2020

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.


Wednesday, November 04, 2020

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.

Monday, November 02, 2020

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 against the economic consequences of confinement.

There's no talk at all of blaming China. French people are pretty clued up about globalisation and the risks of destroying habitats and so encountering new and terrifying diseases.

At the same time there are reports of messages circulating online among the more violent and less law-abiding sectors of society encouraging gangs to attack people who look Chinese, and some assaults are reported to have taken place. 

Alongside this there is a outpouring of rage against France and the attacks on people in Paris, in Nice and in Lyon.

Friends who are teachers are encouraged to hold an act of hommage to M. Paty, but this raises the problem of how to explain to the children what happened without frightening them or exciting gruesome or voyeuristic imagination.

The shooting in Lyon may not be an act of terrorism. The Nice attack certainly is, and is not the first the town has suffered. People are horrified and defiant. People say "Why us?", "Why this?" as they are interviewed on the way to mass. Remember how the night after the Bacalan attacks people were back on the café terraces in Paris. 

Here in Bordeaux I do not sense any atmosphere of fear. We are fighting our own demons, with drug-related gangs fighting in some of our suburbs and noticeably more violence in the livelier areas of the city, "a recrudescence of delinquency", as our newspapers put it.  

Our imams are regarded as being learned and moderate, and the imams of Bordeaux and of Bègles took part in an act of worship in Bègles with the recently-retired bishop of Bordeaux. Meanwhile police entered the mosque in Pessac and the imam's home and seized his computer and various documents.

As for us, I have a small surgical procedure to undergo in early December which was already postponed from April. I'd like that to go ahead if possible. We also plan to spend Christmas in England, our first for fifteen years. I have not yet accepted that this will not be possible.

Confinement for us means: 

up to an hour of exercise per day within 1km of our home

shopping trips to the nearest reasonable shop for essential items (remember that French people are supposed to buy their bread every day)

work from home if you can

keep medical, legal and administrative appointments

only essential trips to help people in need or distress

Sunday, November 01, 2020

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.

Friday, October 30, 2020

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 calendar was changed, when the Goddess Reason was enthroned in the Temple of Reason (the Eglise Notre Dame) and heads rolled in the Place Gambetta (then called Place Nationale). 

Yesterday was more leisurely and more modern with a walk through an area we know pretty well, the Parc des Angeliques on the right bank of the city. Our guide described the new constructions of these past few years and explained the architects' intentions, as well as pointing out some of the vestiges of the area's industrial past. We came home via a short ride on the city's electric shuttle boat. It was a pleasant time.

Now we're confined again. I think the rules are more or less as before, except that people can go to work if they can't work from home, and the schools are open. Non-essential shops are closed. Marriages and funerals can take place but with a limit of 6 and 30 people attending respectively. We can leave the flat to get essential shopping from a nearby supermarket, and to exercise for up to an hour a day within 1 km of our home. Parks will stay open, but none are near enough for us to use.

We're thankful to have seen our two weddings take place over the past few weeks, one last weekend! We're also thankful for a light and pleasant flat with good views, and for having spent a good part of this week exploring the city.

In the future Jardins de l'Ars the work continues. It looks today as if peopel are taking soil samples.

The church will resume life online.   

Friday, October 23, 2020

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.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

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


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 vocabulary we have many, many words, and as time goes on so my confusion grows.

Friday, October 16, 2020

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.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

'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.


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 one if you want, for the modest sum of 12€, stuck in your arm while you wait. One local lady got her whole family done.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

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 infections focused on the church. And if I catch the virus then who knows how many people we might infect before my symptoms showed up.

So, with a heavy heart, and after a sleepless night,  I have to drop that choir until further notice.

I explained the problem to one of the committee members, but left without further fuss.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

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 front, by the mailboxes." 

"I descend!" I replied, and charged headlong down the stairs.

By our maiboxes - nobody.

At the next block to ours, where their mailboxes are under a beautiful archway with benches and palmtrees - nobody.

I hurtled out into the street and down the sideroad and found their van just turning round. I think they'd checked the number on the wall against the address.

"Good day! Here I am. It is for me", quoth I. 

"Good day! Here, take what is thine!" came the repost.

I decided to take the lift up. As it neared our floor I heard the sound of merry talk and laughter from outside. The door opened and three strangers stood there looking in. "Good day", I greeted them as I exited the lift - on the floor below ours.

Oh well! I charged up the stairs and arrived just as the lift door was opening.

"Once more good day". The three strangers looked quizzically around.

"Ah no! We have not descended!" 

They laughed and re-entered the lift.

Tricky things, lifts.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

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.

Friday, October 02, 2020

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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

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 veins and looked down my throat while I said "Aaah". 

"Alors, ça devrait aller ?" (So that should be ok?) I asked. Oh yes, no problems. But you need a covid test.

So now I wait for a date for the procedure, then follow a no-residue diet, get covid-tested, then the purge and off to the hospital.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

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.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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, experiencing great difficulty breathing, extreme fatigue and still has odd symptoms now. This isn't a disease to fool around with.

Getting back to the point. Choir directors all over France have arranged online conferences to share warnings, regulations and best practice. The upshot is to distance your singers and to insist that all be masked.

Some choirs are forced to find alternative rehearsal rooms or just to rehearse in small groups. There has been some reaction, sometimes strong reaction, to the idea of singing masked because of the risk of brain damage from the effects of oxygen-depletion, excessive carbon-dioxide and the build-up of the toxins that we naturally breathe out each day. Since I've been regularly singing, praying and preaching in a mask since early July I will leave the reader to judge the state of my poor beleagured grey cell.

Of course, singing with a mask on is disagreeable and so someone has come up with a wonderful system involving a bent wire coat-hanger that your jam over your head before putting your mask on. This keeps the mask away from your mouth and allows a more normal singing and breathing experience, except for the hook at the back of your neck, of course.

Since I bent my best wire coat-hanger to make a stand for my laptop to raise up the webcam to a more natural angle for zoom calls I am waiting till I can ransack Pat's wardrobe for something suitable.

In other news researchers have declared that the disposable "surgical masks" that we see littering our streets now, and which are more effective than the cotton "anyone and everyone" masks when new, can be washed. Washing them does diminish their intial effectiveness but they are still better than cotton masks, even after 5 times of washing.

Since these masks are far less disagreeable to sing in than the thicker cotton masks, this is good news. 

And we need good news like that, do we not!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Thursday, September 17, 2020

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 to be tested, he explained, will face a wait. He explained, too, that a test does not prevent infection.

Here's the rules for a week's quarantine:

Seven days from the appearance of the symptoms if you're ill.

Seven days from a positive test if you are asymptomatic.

Seven days from being alerted that you have been in contact - then get tested.

There is some push-back to the masks in France because it is believed that if you breathe in your own carbon-dioxide then you will suffer health problems, in addition to the moxious toxins which you breathe out all the time. It's a wonder surgeons don't all drop dead, no?

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Friday, September 11, 2020

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.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

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 for entry to the Paris conservatoire in 1910. I incorrectly identified the key as the relative minor and made a complete hash of sight-singing it. 

"No conservatoire for me", I said.

"Well that all seems fine. I'll put you on the lower bass line."

"Really? But I lack volume in the low register."

"That's normal, everyone does."

"Oh. OK."

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

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, all unmasked. Oh the joys of bicycles in these pestilent days. 

Leter we'll hear the children playing in the school yard.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

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 present circumstances.

For the choir I seriously wonder whether we need to break into small choirs of 8 to 10 people, who can then rehearse in people's homes.

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 drenched my arm with alcohol and put a thick dressing on, which I tore off as soon as I got home.

Now 48 hours wait for the results - probably Monday.

12:30 - the usual blood test results are in, and it seems that all is fine.

Now just a wait for my blood group.

13.01 - and my blood group results are here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

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.

We didn't though. I explained what I needed and he made me a nice prescription and told me where the nearest laboratory is. "Are they better than Cours Victor Hugo?" (one of the best rated labs on Google Maps!) 

"Just the same!" he said.

My appointment was for 9:15. I left the flat at 9, took the stairs instead of the lift and walked slowly so as not to be too early and still arrived at 9:08. I was out at 9:28. In addition (no pun intended) you don't pay him. Your social security and top-up insurance pay him directly.

I might switch.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

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 still planning on occupying the gîte they'd booked in the countryside outside Guitres, and doing some singing. Two of the tutors, involved in the choir, would join us for some of the time. A room was free. Would Pat and I like to come? Incidentally, they were short of men. We'd be about 8 people.

Pat at the time was on a quick farewell jaunt to San Sebastian with our friend Sally who is about to leave France and return to lockdown England. I messaged Pat. She at once replied "Yes!" So there we were.

The gite was a rambling farmhouse in a clearing in the oakwoods. It had a splendid fig tree laden with not quite ripe fruit, and an enormous privet tree. We got systematically eaten by mosquitos, I think they were coming from a kind of pit in the garden that had stagnant water in it - the moustiquerie. We suspected that there were bedbuds, too. Either that or the mosquitos were good at crawling up your legs.

We spent a happy few days singing all kinds of things from the sublime to the ridiculous. "J'aime l'ail" - a culinary round, "Un satire cornu" - a cheeky renaissance madrigal, "Beau rossignol qui chante"- a rather tricky round, "The Silver Swan" - Gibbons, "De profundis" - Janczak, "O radiant dawn" - Macmillan. We made a quick stab at a Byrd "Ave verum corpus". We were two sopranos, four alti, one high baritone and one lower baritone, and we had to choose our works to fit our ranges. We worked without a leader and got on very well, though it may have been a good idea to choose a leader, perhaps for each piece.

On the last day we were joined by our voice coach and our choir director and they helped enormously in getting our voices further back into shape - I had not sung in anger since March - and in spotting overlooked things in the score, or trying different approaches here and there.

Food was important, and we dined like kings on delights like lamb cous-cous, a curiously non-spicy pork curry, courgette quiches, cèpe risotto, a pear charlotte, peach melba... Our jar of marmite provoked strong reactions.

We visited the abbey church in Guitres, but despite the temptation, we decided not to blast our way through any of the pieces in a kind of mini-choir flashmob.

As things stand our choir is struggling to resume rehearsals. Our usual rehearsal room is far too small. A local church would give enough room but would cost around 70 euros per rehearsal to hire. 

I wonder whether we could break the choir up into small chamber choirs of fewer than 10 people and rehearse in folks' homes. At least until the current crisis is over.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

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.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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 - wind, lightning, thunder and, briefly, torrential rain. It was relatively calm when we went to bed, but at about 4am we were woken again by thunder and wave upon wave of tighning passing overhead. The balcony was as prepared as it can be so we wer efree of concern, but we still heard ominous metallic noises coming from somewhere in the building site that is the future Jardins de l'Ars. 

Today the storm alert is still in force but it is calm and, thankfully, cooler. Last night the temperature never dropped below about 22°C and though we had our windows open and the shutter slits open, not much air passes through even with stormy winds. 

Still, we may be at the end of this current heatwave. Some cooler evenings will be very welcome!

Monday, August 10, 2020

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 notifications from churches across the UK and France, and some in the USA, whose services are being streamed. Two stand out from this week. 

The first is a friend I've never met, a US worker in Spain who is working to start a presbyterian church in Toledo. We got in contact when he planned to stop over at our church service on his way through France but the timings didn't work at all.  This week I saw that his service was online on YouTube, so I watched for a while - and discovered hymns and songs in Spanish. I don't think I'd ever sung a song or a hymn in Spanish, apart from la bamba and la cucaracha, of course.

The second was yesterday. I spotted that a man I heard once giving a talk on Welsh church history in our county of Flintshire (I think) was preaching online for the Welsh church in Mold. He's a fine chap, so I thought I'd listen in. I was relieved to find that I can still understand Spanish and Welsh. Welsh more easily than Spanish.

There is a cost to this though. Normally, in order to attend different things you have to leave other things behind. You travel to Keswick and you're only there. You travel to the mission conference and you're only there. You visit a church and you're not at any other church.

At present we can flip from one thing to another and be present in lots of different places and it isn't necessarily very helpful! I've become more forgetful than usual, even with the help of rigourous computer diary-keeping. It only works if you remember to look at it!

Not only that but it makes you busier and more immobile than usual. Your soul gets fettered to your office stool and you lose the brain down time that travelling imposes on you.

So we're taking a break. For three Sundays other guys are preaching in Bordeaux and our online participation will  be minimal. As little as we can reasonably make it. We can't go away for three weeks, but we can lie low.

We have been able to go away on holiday, but now that we're meeting physically again I am reluctant to be away on a Sunday. Still we spent four nights in Biarritz and Pat went to San Sebastian with our friend Sally. Soon we plan to spend a short week in a gîte in the countryside with friends from the choir.

I hope to get down to some proper reading again. I have a big backlog! And some books in Welsh to read.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

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 distant.

And this amidst successive heatwaves. Today we're in the high thirties. Pat spent her day in the bookshop. I spent my day at my desk. Keswick continues all week. UFM finished yesterday, so this afternoon was a catch-up time getting ready for the weekend.

On Saturday morning I have a mini-message to give for our sending church in North Wales, then the Company of the Preachers is meeting here to work on Colossians 2. Afterwards it's all hands to the pumps ready for Sunday afternoon in the latter part of Colossians 1.

Next week Pat and Sally are due to spend a few days in San Sebastian as a farewell outing. I'll have rather too much peace and quiet. I might be able to check out some of the new cafés that have opened recently!

Monday, July 20, 2020

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.
The posters also tell you to avoid physical effort. Everyone moves slowly. 

The temptation to stay in your flat and not move is strong, but we think you need to get out, so we go to walk under the trees. The refrigerated sections of supermarkets are also very pleasant, as are air-conditioned shops and libraries.

The canicule is forecast to end on Thursday with temperatures under 30 for next weekend.


Friday, July 17, 2020

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 the orange waiting room" said the guy. "I'm colour blind", I said. "OK, waiting room number 4, it's the second one you come to on the left." I found it easily.

I waited in the waiting room. It seemed the right thing to do. I was very early, as usual. I could see the door with my doctor's name on it. Other doors opened and closed, people came and went, but my doctor's door never moved.

A lady came in concerned that she was not getting her fibroscopie. She discussed with the reception desk. "Look, it's the right date". It was, but it wasn't in the system. Some more discussion ensued, then she got another date that suited her and went away happy. 

I wondered what a fibroscopie is. Whatever it is, they had a room for it, or at least a door labelled "Fibroscopie".

Eventually at about 4 the door opened and two people came out, one obviously a doctor. There followed some to-ing and fro-ing and scuttling about, then a moment of calm, then "M. Davey"

I went in. She started at the very beginning. Checked pretty much everything there was to check. Then said, "So, it will be a colonoscopy. This is what is entailed (ha - geddit? en-tailed !), these are the risks, this is what you need to do, and this is when it will take place."

I said, "In England there's no general anaesthetic. They give you a cup of tea, then hop!"

"Yes, in France we do a lot of anaesthesia."

So my appointment with the anaesthetist is for the 29 September. The colonoscopy will follow between 3 days and three months after that appointment assuming the anaesthetist is happy.

To prepare I have to eat a low residue diet for a few days, then use a preparation called "Moviprep" (I laughed) for the la purge. "Vous allez passer une nuit ... perturbée !" said the doctor, somewhat too cheerfully for my taste.

I thanked her, we said goodbye, but did not shake hands, and off I went to read the many sheets of A4 she'd printed off for me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

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 make it a sumptuous treat for the bourgeois Bordelais. 

So the thin and crispy economical crust? Thick, with big bubbles and moelleux - moist.

Toppings? Juicy and luscious, gooey with emmental and rich with duck breast, potatoes, apple and truffles.

Pizza is always good, but that one time I tasted a genuine italian pizza has made my whole pizza experience like searching for the holy grail and finding a cup of builder's tea in a chipped mug in a cafe on the Old Kent Road. Wonderful, ecstatic even, but not quite the same.

Where was I?

Anyway, I'm feeling better. But on Thursday I have an appointent to arrange another of my doctor's bright ideas - an internal examination by camera to seek and destroy any budding cancers that might conceivably be lurking in my innards.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

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."

"OK, so will you being going home first?"

"Um, no, it's right opposite."

"Silly me, I didn't realise it was 16 hours."

We laughed, I picked up the vaccines and skipped off to see the nurse. After a few minutes he arrived on his motorcycle.

"Have I seen you before?" he said.

"I don't know. Last year a nurse here took out my stitches after an operation. He was on a motorcycle, too, but I don't think it was you."

"No, that was my colleague."

An injection in each arm. I wasn't sure it was necessary for the nurse to show me the length of the needle before driving it into my upper arm, but there we are. 

I went home and that was that.


Friday morning I had a meeting with two of our likely lads to plan a day of evangelism. We met in a new-to-me coffee shop. It is adorable! Good coffee and a sublime terrace with little tables under the trees - the essence of France, but in the wrong place. It's way up by the fire station where I never ever go! Pity.

Afterwards we met some of the other for lunch in our friend Grace's café near the church. They had a special menu on with really good burgers. Some others were going to join us afterwards for a coffee, but Grace's place was really full with huge queues, so we went to our third coffee shop fo the day!

And that's when it started. We were sat drinking our iced coffee when I realised I had sweat trickling down the back of my neck. I felt OK, but I was sweating profusely, so much so that I decided to high-tail it home. The cool tram helped and it was not crowded. I had a early night and slept better than usual.

Notwithstanding all this rest today, Saturday, I have felt absolutely exhausted all day. We had folk round for lunch, but after lunch I sneaked away and eventually went to bed.

Pat looked up possible reactions to pneumonia vaccinations on the interweb. "Fatigue, sweats, muscle pains, aching joints, 'flu like symptoms".

Rotten doctor! I bet I wouldn't even have got pneumonia anyway! 

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

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.

Monday, July 06, 2020

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. Sempey and the Beethoven.

I'm usually too slow off the mark to get tickets, and sure enough, on Wednesday when the tickets went on sale I was busy with someone and something important. But when I looked later there were still seats. Not only that but we were told that many people reserve places but then don't turn up - so there was plenty of space.


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.