les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday thankfulness

Some things I'm thankful for (in no particular order):

1) childhood holidays in Wales that prepared me for confinement
2) also Saturday gilets jaunes riots that did the same
3) good internet that allows three of us to be skyping and zooming in different rooms at the same time
4) soap
5) Hilary Mantel's "The Mirror and the Light" on the BBC Radio 4 iPlayer app
6) morning songs from Olly Knight
7) morning talks from the Deeside gang
8) a family that gets on OK together
9) a pleasant and light flat
10 ) a supermarket within easy reach with good stocks
11) a president that told us to read and reconnect with the essentials of our culture
12) friends on twitter and facebook who encourage me and make me laugh
13) TV series and films to watch by internet (except I can't be bothered yet)
14) Operas, concerts and talks on music by internet (and these are great!)
15) Zoom that enables us to continue to work to establish the church here
16) snow! (it's snowing)
17) keeping in touch with the family in the UK by Facebook and email
18) that our more vulnerable folk are all OK
19) all those people gallantly and determinedly continuing to do essential work while demannding the best protection possible

Friday, March 27, 2020

Pastoring (pasting?) in confinement

Well the latest idea going around is that we will emerge from confinement at the end of April. I look each morning at the statistics for France and for Aquitaine and gaze intently, hoping to discern where exactly on the curve we are. It seems to me that we are on the steep ascent. The day that things start to level out will be a time for celebration.

This means, of course, that we will be confined for my birthday. We had booked a treat - a visit to the newly conceived Bassins de Lumière - the old Nazi submarine base has been set up as a light and sound show, like the Ateliers de Lumière in Paris, but with reflections in the water. The photographs of the trials of the setup are ravishing.

Not only that but Gwilym and Beth were to come and visit from London, their last visit before they move to Norwich. But at present our skies are free of planes, even empty ones, and they are considering shutting the airport until after confinement.

Still, there will be chocolate cake. I found a new easy recipe. Also we have discovered the joys of bread-making by the no-knead, long-proving method. Oatmeal loaves, one of the things I have missed from the UK, are now easily accessible!

Meanwhile life seems just as busy! We maintain almost all the meetings we have undertaken but by internet, using Zoom or Facebook Live. To this is added meetings with our sending church, our mission internationally and in France, and the international pastors. Some of these things clash and some of them I forget to log in for. So I need to be Much More Organised than I usually am. I can no longer rely on my memory.

Better go make a list and remember to check it twice!

My role in the CNEF33 involves me passing information around, it's not a lot of work, but it's important that churches know that they are represented and kept informed as the situation develops.

One of my concerns is not just that church folk know that we are thinking of them, praying for them and keeping in touch with them, but that they gain that sense of community that comes from keeping in touch with each other. Appointing elders and deacons can make this feel less important - it's their job to do this - but it isn't. You can't delegate community. It comes from everyone to everyone. Must pray for this.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Coping with the crisis

I feel it's a bit of a cheek to talk about "coping with the crisis". After all, we live in a nice flat in a nice city where there is food and good medical care, we can work from home and we are not ill. What is there to cope with?

On the other hand we are confined to our flat except for sorties for food and medical care, and for one hour of exercise to be taken within one kilometre of our flat. We are confined.

Add to that the fact that when we go out we must be careful not to touch our faces, to keep our distance from people and to wash our hands thoroughly on our return. Yesterday I washed my hands, my face and the door handles.

In addition we see the mounting death toll and the numbers sick both here and in the UK, and also the rising threat in other countries of the world where many of our friends and colleagues work. How do we cope?

1) We limit our exposure to the news. We catch up first thing in the morning, and that's enough. I look at the official French corona virus website - at present we have almost 20,000 confirmed cases in France and close to 900 deaths. In our region, Nouvelle Aquitaine, there have been almost 700 confirmed cases. In the evening we check on the government announcements. Apart from that we keep away from the news.

2) We're fighting the virus with baking soda. By which I mean, we're baking. I found an easy chocolate cake recipe so yesterday and today we have chocolate cake. Pat made scones and naan bread. Catrin made cookies. I'm looking forward to trying a honey and oatmeal loaf.

Incidentally there's been a lot of talk about an anti-malarial drug called chloroquine which seems effective against the corona virus. Apparently this is because one group of the molecule has basic tendenciies (it's kind of alkaline) and so it interferes with the enzyme whish replicates the viral rna. Go figure!

3) We're not watching as much TV as we anticipated. But we are reading more.

4) I started learning modern Greek. I expect I'll start other things, too.

5) We remember that our world is deserving of God's judgement. Christians always wrestle in times of plague. Why do they come, if God is good? Well one reason is because we are not very good. We live day to day in a society where children are sacrificed to expediency or to economic advantage, whether we're thinking of aborting the unborn, abusing and neglecting our own children or enslaving and exploiting the chidlren of the world to support our opulent lifestyles. And that's just the start. That's why Christians look at economic shutdown and remember that much or our economic wealth is ill-gotten filthy lucre and we deserve to take time out and to rethink - and to repent.

6) We remember that God is good. Psalm 103 reminds us that his anger can flare up but he equally quickly remembers mercy and patience, and that he cares for us as a father cares for his children. That's why as we are sad about the world system we made we are glad that the world God made is resilient and fruitful - fish are moving back into the Venice canals - and that God has planned for us a time after the corona virus. May we learn valuable lessons.

7) We mourn the dreadful numbers of dead. Fine people, the best, fall prey to the virus. A man who delivered food to supermarkets. The doctor who made the first alert cry. Countless families weep and cannot bury their dead loved ones. We weep too as we think of them.

8) We pray for our authorities and we keep the guidelines and instruuctions they issue. My confinement may save not only my life but also the life of elderly or infirm people who I don't even know.

9) We look after our physical and mental health. Pat and Catrin do weights in the morning. I do physical jerks on the balcony (running on the spot, high knees, star jumps, squats, lunges, you know the kind of thing) and I run up and down the stairs of the apartment block, carefully. We tell each other jokes and listen to music. We try to find films or series.

10) We get on with our work. Zoom, Skype and Facebook enable us to keep in touch with people and to continue with much of the work we are engaged in, though not all. I'm lucky to have an office where I can work. Pat and Catrin work in the bedrooms, partly becuse Catrin is sleeping in the room Pat uses for her office.

That's enough for now.

Monday, March 23, 2020


I just got back from a visit to or nearest Carrefour. It isn't our nearest supermarket but we needed rat food so that meant a bigger shop.

It took about a 20 minute walk through deserted streets. I got to the front gate of the flats, then had to turn back for my form, fill it in then leave again. I went along the bottom road where the new offices and flats are being built. Well, were being built. Not today they're not. I saw almost nobody.

Carrefour was quiet, too. I entered straight away and made my way round the aisles. They had everything we wanted, though not necessarily the brands we would normally buy.

We always buy some treat or other for the supermarket staff. They are also on the front line, though they don't get the applause - or the pay - of the medics.

The walk back was longer and slower with two heavy carrier bags and the heaviest things in my rucksack, but this time I walked past the railway station - again through deserted streets - and got home without incident.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday morning

It's a beautiful morning once more, with a gorgeous sunrise and a light mist on the river. Just the morning to go down on to the quays and enjoy the crisp morning air, to cross the pont de pierrre and watch the city start to awaken. But the quays and the pont de pierre are closed to pedestrians and it's another day confined to barracks.

We're so lucky to see the river, the hills and the trees beyond. We have the balcony to get out of the flat. Others are confined within their four walls. They sit by the window. For some the window opens onto a puit de jour - a narrrow courtyard that just brings light and air down but from which you can see nothing.

France is still on the upward slope of the curve, and possibly not very far up. Our region, Nouvelle Aquitaine, is so far the least affected, but the number of new infections each day is beginning to rise, along with the number of daily dead. We gaze at the Grand Est in horror - Alsace and Lorraine - where the virus hit befoore people had had time to prepare or even to really know what they were dealing with. What can anyone say about Lombardy, except to weep?

An eminent doctor in Marseille is conducting tests with an anti-malarial combined with an antibiotic which have shown to be effective in combatting the novel coronavirus infection. Viral count and recovery times are greatly reduced. However France's central pharmacy reported yesterday that somehow their entire stocks of the anti-malarial had been stolen.

Meanwhile doctors here say that every day's delay has given more time to prepare, that hundreds of ICU beds are ready. Local businesses are collaboorating. Alcohol destined for gin production will become gels and wipes. Others are 3D-printing ventilator valves from patterns shared on the internet. The streets of Bordeaux are deserted. Cycling is said to be prohibited - nobody wants brooken legs and arms to clutter up hospitals just now. People are staying home to beat the virus. Local shops are now well-provisioned, the staff wear scarves and the clients enter one after the other to limit contact.

As for us we're fine. We have bananas, oranges, loo-roll and pretty well everything we could want or need. This morning we will watch one of the online services and this evening our service will be on Facebook Live, then a virtual after-church coffee on Zoom. We keep contact with folk by zoom, by skype, by Facebook messenger, somehting beeps and you click everything in sight till you find the one that works.

Alongside that we read, we sing, we watch films, we cook, we play. Someone added me to a Facebook group called Côr-ona, it's a group for Welsh people to sing to encourage each other. I hesitated then accepted I'm psyching myself up to sing something.

And we pray, hope and wait.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Life in confinement

We're benefiting from really nic weather here in Bordeaux, and thankfully we have a nice balcony where we can get out and breathe. Pat sits out there and reads. We all do our physical jerks out there, too. We greet our nieighbours, either waving to people in other blocks or shouting down to the folk in our own. Pat did try singing "Knees up Mother Brown" but nobody joined in.

Meanwhile we still have good stoocks of bananas and clemntines. Bread's running low, so we'll need to make a quick sortie to the supermarket either today or tomorrow. Having filled in our form, of course.

As confinements go, it's not so bad. Of course, we have a spacious and light flat with a balcony. Some folk have just one room and some people don't even have a window that opens on the street, so for them it's much harder.

We're keeping in touch with people and checking up on people. Pastors have the right to visit the sick, having filled in the appropriate form, and we can also bury the dead. Bordeaux Church is youthful, so we're not necessarily expecting to have any sick as such. And we hope not to have any dead, either.

So there we are. Time to get back to work!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Lockdown !

On Friday the government banned meetings of over 100 people. We assumed we could still meet on Sunday, but the guidelines were: no handshakes or hugs, everyone sits at least a metre apart, no communion, coffee or snacks. Also the trams would stop running at 20h30, so people would have to go straight home.

Then on Saturday evening further restrictions were put in place which meant that churches cancelled their services completely. Sylvain was due to preach so he did a live feed on Facebook. It went very well indeed, and a little technical hitch halfway through didn't put him off his stride at all.

Gethin, a colleague from Paris, was due to go to Rome for a weekend break, but when that proved impossible he came to Bordeaux by train instead. He was able to explore the city on Friday and Saturday, but then he was here for the shutdown before leaving on Monday afternoon. It was good to see him. He got home to Paris safely.

Now we're confined to our apartment. To leave we have to fill in a form stating why we're outside. Police are checking why people are on the quays or in the city centre. You're allowed out to go to work, to get your kids, to do essential shopping, to walk the dog, to see the doctor or to take a little exercise. All with your duly completed form.

This morning we were able to drive over to collect Catrin so she'll spend confinement with us rather than alone. We're glad to have her with us, the birds are singing and the weather promises to be nice later in the week. We've been to our local supermarket and we're well supplied with oranges and bananas as well as the other basics. A rumour says there may be eggs on Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile church life continues.
This evening a Christianity Explored group will continue, probably by Skype.
Catrin has a meeting by Skype.
Wednesday's Bible study and prayer may take place by Zoom.
We're considering either Facebook Live or Youtube Live for next Sunday.
Groups will meet online and our deacons have lists of people to be checking on.
In addition we might actually meet our neighbours more easily now everyone is confined to barracks.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A Sunday in Phase 3

On Thursday evening President Macron made a speech at 8pm, the same time our choir rehearsal started, announcing further measures to control the spread of corona virus COVID-19. (I smile as I type that because the chap next to me said that Macron had completely discredited his announcement by referring to the virus as COVID-19, but that's the name of the disease, not the virus.) Anyway, he announced that all educational establishments would be closed from Monday morning and that meetings of more than 100 people should not take place.

The choir had concerts programmed for the 4th and 6th of April, but they have now been rescheduled for November. Meanwhile we concluded that the church could meet this Sunday, but we could not eat together or share communion. In addition people had to sit two metres apart. It was going to be different.

Events overtook us, however, as France moved to the next phase of the struggle with the virus on Saturday evening. The prime minister announced that closure of cafés, shops, cinemas, libraries, concert halls, anything non-essential. The only things left open are pharmacies, tobacconists, food shops, banks and newsagents. People were asked to keep contact with friends and family to a minimum and to stay at home. Churches were requested to postpone their meetings. We think this is because by law the government cannot ask for religious meetings to be cancelled.

So we quickly prepared for a Sunday at home. Sylvain was due to preach and we decided on Facebook live as the vehicle to do it. He did extremely well. In the morning we watched a service from Lyon, then a service from North Wales. Pat and I stayed in, well, using the balcony, but a visitor from Paris went out for a quick walk.

The weather was splendid today, a warm spring day, and the Bordelais came out for some sun and fresh air. The waterfront was crowded, a was the Jardin Public.

Meanwhile a tram driver has tested positive for coronavirus, so the public transport network was shut down while a means was sought to protect the drivers from infection. They'll be running tomorrow, but with a reduced service so people can look after their children. Intercity and TGV trains will also start to be reduced in frequency to encourage people not to travel from one area of France to another.

We plan for Bible Study and Prayer groups to run either by Skype meeting or by Zoom. We're allowed out for essential shopping - our pharmacy and a little supermarket are a short walk away - and for exercise. Otherwise we're thankful for our flat, its pleasant aspect and views and its large balcony.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Morning in the Quartier Euratlantic

It's a beautiful day in the Quartier Euratlantic.

Meanwhile the government has taken the following steps regarding the spread of the new coronavirus:

1) Schools and universities are closed from Monday.

2) Meetings of more than 100 people are banned.

3) In meetings of fewer than 100 people : rigorous handwashing, no physical contact and 1 meter distance kept at all times.

Bordeaux meanwhile has closed its central library and all its concert halls that hold more than 100 people as well as pools, sports centres etc.

Pat had a routine medical appointment yesterday and her doctor told her to stay at home and not to go to restaurants, cafés or cinemas.

(We broke that rule and popped out for lunch at the newest salad emporium that has opened up just down the road. Well, it was our 27th wedding anniversary.)

The Conseil National des Evangéliques de France has added to this the strong suggestion to avoid sharing the communion service and no meals together until restrictions are lifted.

So this Sunday Bordeaux Church will meet physically in our usual place and we'll look at the possibilities for life online, perhaps with online Bible studies, prayer groups and sermons and shared playlists for songs and so on.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

When the washing machine yields up the spirit

The bearings have failed in our washing machine. It makes a terrible banging noise.

On the internet I looked up washing machine repair-men, then looked up the word for bearings (!), then looked up our machine whereupon I discovered that call-out charges are about 75€, our machine was bought in 2012, bearings are called roulements, but in our machine they are not replaceable - the design of the drum is such that you have to replace the whole thing, the parts costing 250€.

The machine has given us eight years of impeccable service, but we read that the average life of a washing mchine is about 10 years.

So this morning I have changed the itinerary of my planned trip. I'll be out shopping for a washing machine.

Eight years ago when the machine failed it was a disaster. This time it's an irritation.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Les Jardins de l'Ars and Coronavirus

Our neighbouring building sites are all but finished. Portakabins have been removed. Rubble has been cleared. We now seem to be in a new phase of breaking up old tarmacadamed surfaces and preparing for the earth-moving that will produce the eventual gardens. All very fascinating, of course.

Meanwhile one church in Bordeaux has been closed for two weeks after one of its attendees was infected with covid-19 on a visit to France's principal mega-church in Mulhouse. There's been a little outbreak associated with a conference held at Mulhouse and so this person became Bordeaux' second covid-19 case and their Bordeaux church held online services yesterday.

So despite the fact that Bordeaux is twinned with the city of Wuhan, and despite the large number of Chinese students from Wuhan here in Bordeaux, so far we have not had a cluster of cases and life continues as normal with only a restriction on handshakes, hugs and kisses to notice. For us handwashing has become prayerful as reciting the Lord's prayer gives the right timing for a thorough hand wash. I have enjoyed reciting in English, French and Welsh and I think I'll revise it in Spanish, too.

The French news observes with amusement the panic buying of toilet-rolls. French people panic buy pasta when the madness strikes, but so far our supermarket shelves are well stocked with penne, spaghetti, farfalle and rigatoni.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Water everywhere

We're getting torrential downpours, too, here in Bordeaux. No flooding, but the river is high and the puddles are many, so we charge around between spates and hope the tram will come soon.

Heavy winds have closed our parks and also made the trams very unpredictable for reasons I do not completely understand. Well the parks I do. Nobody wants trees falling on people's heads. But the trams' disruption has me baffled.

Meanwhile Patricia has a nasty head cold. It is doubtless a virus, but it is not the virus. This despite obsessive hand-washing on Sunday. I think in the pre and post service periods I must have washed my hands about 9 times.

Our pharmacy has run out of their nice aloe-vera-based hand gel - no alcohol so it doesn't dry out your skin - so they have posted a recipe for you to make your own mixing 30ml of aloe vera gel with 10 drops of essential oil of tea tree.

Keep safe, all.