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)

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Lots to do and sometimes a little fed up

Well confinement has been going OK.

In family life we get what we need. Flour has sometimes been an issue, but at Carrefour we sometimes hit rich seams of bread flour (T65), plain flour (T45) and I even got some organic wholemeal spelt flour (spelt f l o u r). The other day they had piles of yeast, so we're set up for a good long while, but the spelt flour will come in useful if and when we decide to make a sourdough starter.

Standard recipes now are honey and oatflake bread, slow-cooker bread and turbo no-knead. All recipes from YouTube.

For breads that go in the oven here's my top tips.

1) put water in a tin in the base of the oven. Steam helps.

2) preheat the oven to its maximum temperature using the fan if it's a fan-oven.

3) when you put the bread in turn the oven down to the temperature you need and turn the fan off.

The extra oven heat at the start really helps the bread to rise.

Why have I been a bit fed-up?

Well for one thing I miss the city I live in.

I want to get out by the riverbank, but though we can see the river from our flat there's a dirty great road that cuts it off from us.

I want to see my friends who run cafés. They're grand lads and I miss them.

I want to see the horse chesnuts flowering. Every year they take me by surprise, but not this year. I've hunted around our neighbourhood but if there's a horse chestnut within a kilometre of our flat I haven't found it.

Meanwhile we have some great blessings. We're getting on very well together. The flat is big enough for us to get away from each other. We have very good internet, so we can hold three different meetings in three parts of the flat by Skype, Zoom and Facetime and it all works great. We have access to some great films and TV series. Our health is good, except for my allergic reaction to the rats, and that doesn't really count. And we know now that soon we'll be set free.

May 11th is the end of this phase of confinement. We'll be able to roam the city once more and shops will be able to open again. The bars, cafés and restaurants will stay closed at least until the beginning of June, however, because the government wants to see how well this gradual deconfinement works before going any further.

Churches can be open but we're asked not to hold any ceremonies until the beginning of June.

We'll need to wear masks in public transport.

So Pat has been making masks using some old material from Ikea and some joyful cotton prints from Africa that I was supposed to make bags from, but the sewing machine was playing up. Somehow she got it to work long enough to make perhaps a couple of dozen masks. Some we use and some we put in the hallway of our flats for others to use as they want.

We also put up a list for people to put up phone numbers, email addresses or to communicate via a facebook page, but that got no responses at all. I wasn't all that surprised. People love their privacy and once you're in your flat you can forget that there's people living above you, below you, to the right, left and behind you...

So there we are.

Meanwhile church life continues, and I feel busier than usual, partly because of the time it takes to keep in touch with all the folk who are making sure we're OK! I think this time may turn out to have been beneficial to the church's community life.

Thinking wider, the departmental committee of the CNEF (Conseil National des Evangeliques de France) met at the end of last week, and we plan a pastors' fellowship in mid May when we'll try and share best practice on health precautions to take ready for when our churches reopen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


In March, for our wedding anniversary, which fell just before confinement began, Pat called at a florist near the station. The lady asked Pat if she could give her a hand unloading her van, so Pat spent a happy twenty minutes getting bundles and boxes of flowers and foliage our of the van and into the shop.

As a thank you Pat was given three little pinks that we put into one of our troughs.

They've brightened the balcony ever since with their profuse, scented blooms.

Another video recorded and sent out

Honestly, with all the video work we're doing, before long they'll be calling us the Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Judy Dench of Bordeaux.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A trip to Carrefour

Our nearest supermarket is a small "U", and we like it very much. We like the staff, we like the quality of the products and we like its proximity. But it doesn't stock everything we like to use, so sometimes we shop elsewhere.

The big Auchan in the city centre has pretty well everything anyone could ever want, but it's a long way away. Too far to walk. But there is a moderately sized Carrefour about 15 minutes walk away, so this morning I hied me away to pillage Carrefour.

We wanted flour. And yeast. But also icing sugar. And specifically self-raising flour. Earlier this week Mrs Davey went there and came back with some T65 bread flour! What a prize! I had high hopes.

Anyway last night we had a family quiz night with our son and daughter-in-law and her parents, whome I whimsically call the Texan Outlaws, since her father is from Texas. 

I hate quizzes. For some reason they miss the fun zone by a mile and land slap bang wallop in the middle of the terminal examination zone.  Out of a possible 35, Mrs Davey and I got a paltry 19. It was pathetic. I couldn't even remember the name of the movement in art to which Gauguin, Cezanne and Seurat belonged. The shame was unbearable. Never mind the fact that nobody else got more than 14, I was plunged into misery.

So to take my mind off it we watched the next in our series of Marvel films. We've had Disney+ for ten days and I've watched 4 episodes of the Simpsons and we've seen the first four, I think, Marvel films. You can see why I maintain that we're busier in confinement than we would normally be! Last night's film was "The Avengers" and it meant we got to bed later than usual, so I was a bit later than I intended leaving the house this morning to walk to Carrefour.
It was splendid to be striding through the deserted streets. I walked down through the future park, then along the road that runs parallel to the river until I was able to turn left and enter the supermarket. I pulled my scarf over my mouth and nose - coronavirus oblige - and went a-hunting.

Initial success filled me with joy! They had loads of dried yeast and big jars of the peanut butter we like (pâte d'arachide - "spider paste") right by the entrance. Ramadan approaches so the stores are full of couscous and the less sweet North African peanut butter.

The flour aisle was empty though. There was nothing. NOTHING! Just a couple bags of instant naan bread and some boxes of waffle batter. I scoured the shelves for anythng else we needed, but what we wanted was flour.

The staff were hard at work filling the shelves. Perhaps... I went back to the flour aisle. It was still empty. But just beyond... What was that. A pallet containing - some flour!

There was T65 bread flour for our bread-making and there was T45 flour for the chocolate cake that I shall make either this evening or tomorrow. No self-raising, but I know how to add baking powder (levure chimique) to T45 to make self-raising, so we can do that.

Armed with my spoils I headed for the till. Carrefour have installed a strict queueing system, plastic barriers and you pay at one till but go through the lane for the till next door. I was scarfed and the cashier was masked. "It's hard not being able to smile." She made a kind of panting sound and agreed - perhaps she was laughing. We buy chocolates for the cashiers and she said she was touched. It's three times nothing, I said.

I walked back a different way and I think I saw the police clearing some squats. It's hard for the homeless. The city has made accommodation available for them, but some of them don't trust the authorities. I saw one coughing and spitting on the ground. It's not easy.

Later my honey and oatmeal loaf was ready for the oven. I use no-knead recipes that use small amounts of yeast and long proving times, so I'd mixed the dough yesterday morning and it got baked at lunchtime today. Here's the loaf:

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Thoughts from confinement

So far so good.

We're very blessed in having a clean, dry, modern apartment, and balconies so we can get outside, and also enough rooms to be able to escape from each other. I can get on with work in my office, Catrin works in her room. Pat in the living room or our bedroom.

I can't imagine being bored! My list of things to do grows longer every day!

I have the usual studies and messages to prepare and people to catch up with, online of course.

My reading is not progressing as I would want it to.

Meanwhile for diversion there's museum sites that I have not visited, like the Uffizi, the Atelier de Lumières in Paris, the Musée d'Orsay and the British Museum that have wonderful websites.

The Metropolitan Opera House and the Opera de Paris are broadcasting operas, and the Arte website also has some corkers. Pat and I watched Manon, by Massenet.

Then there are wonderful films available to watch, most of which we have not.

I'd like to do some music practice, but I've not been doing that either.

Modern Greek didn't last long, going the way of German ("die Frau isst eine Banane") and Italian.

However, Voces8 have been doing some really good webcasts on the history of music notation and on harmony, and I've watched a few of those. Very good stuff.

And Bordeaux' own Salvatore Caputo, the chorus master of the Opera National de Bordeaux has done some great workshops on Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, on singing Mozart, etc. I've caught a couple of those.

We're more in touch with our families than before. Pat reads with one of her sisters and we all message each other frequently. We've also had some family quiz nights, though I have never quite siezed the difference between quizzes and examinations, so I beat myself up over forgetting, for example, that Judas Iscariot's father was called Simon, or that Grozny is the capital of Chechnya.

Church life continues - Pat still gets groups together to do various things, like "knit and natter" and "ukulele group", as well as groups for Bible study and prayer. We've done song nights, with limited success because of internet lag. We are still planning our great Bordeaux Church Singleness Day which is scheduled for early May, though newspapers are now rumouring a release from confinement for mid-May.

Obviously Zoom, Facebook live etc. have all involved time watching vidoes, looking at websites and testing various options to try and make things work properly. Someone remarked this morning on how the social media are full now of churches webcasting the Easter message. "Why didn't this happen before?" he asked. I restrained myself.

Meanwhile I give a weekly morning devotion in our church in North Wales and we've made a quick update video for them, too. We plan to make an update video for wider circulation next week.

On Monday I keep out of my study. I'm allowed screens - normally I try and operate "no-screen Monday" but that's when we can get out and about and have adventures.

In other news I too have begun breadmaking. We can get flour - general purpose flour - but yeast is in short supply so if we look like running out I'll start a sourdough culture.

Today is Easter Sunday, and this song seems very apt:

in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Peace, perfect peace,
by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

Peace, perfect peace,
with sorrows surging round?
In Jesus’ presence naught but calm is found.

Peace, perfect peace,
with loved ones far away?
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.

Peace, perfect peace,
our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.

Peace, perfect peace,
death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.

It is enough;
earth’s troubles soon shall cease
and Jesus call us to heaven’s perfect peace.

Monday, April 06, 2020

France and the coronavirus

Here's the situation as I see it.

We're entering our third week in confinement. We're lucky, we have a light and airy flat with nice views and a big balcony. Others we are close to are in a variety of situations, some very good and some not so good, but everyone seems OK. The two families in the church with small children have gardens, thankfully.

Bordeaux is quiet. Very quiet. The bordelais are staying at home. From our balcony we occasionally see perhaps three or four different folk. People walk their dogs. Brothers kick a ball around. Families loiter while their toddlers totter and puddlejump. The front of our building has lots of balconies opening onto a courtyard and there a DJ runs a "balconnade" two evenings a week - a balcony party. So paradoxically isolation is bringing people together.

We can get what we need from our local supermarket. We can't always get everything we want, but one secret of contentment in life is to want what you can get, so we're OK. We've discovered the delights of long-proved bread making, so we have lots of fresh bread.

We're allowed out to exercise for an hour a day within 1km of our home. We can cycle to work or to the shops, but not for fun or exercise. Running is discouraged. People are encouraged to follow exercise routines at home.

As for France, Paris is hard hit. A February week of prayer and fasting in a mega-church in Mulhouse drew a crowd of 2500 from all over francophone Europe and proved to be a focus for infection to spread. This led to an early wave of illness in the area but this has since subsided and been taken over by the big cities like Lille, Lyon and Marseille. Our region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine is still only lightly affected, despite Bordeaux being twinned with Wuhan and many of our Chinese students being from there.

In the church several people have lost family members and nobody can travel to be with their folk to grieve. The internet is proving to be a huge boon to people, with online classes, teleworking and, of course, all the usual diversions and amusements.


The weekend's cyberpreaching began with a train wreck when livecasting to North Wales.

I'd carefully set up my rig by balancing my phone on top of my computer screen, checking I can broadcast via Facebook live in portrait format and so on, as taught by numerous YouTube experts.

All was good. Notes were on screen. All ready.

Saturday morning comes. I switch on, find the button - and I'm sideways... So I sign off quickly and race off to get my laptop and send the video from that.

It's OK, except that the phone was at a good angle, right by my notes, and now I'm gazing down at the slightly rubbish webcam on my laptop.

Oh well...

For Sunday we use Zoom, and each week we've taken another baby step forward. This week we were planning to sing together, as well as time of prayer, readings, message. I set up a Powerpoint file and learned how to share my screen. On Saturday, in response to criticism over security, Zoom imposed passwords, so I put that on the Facebook group with the info required to connect.

The time came. All worked well! Songs were OK. The only slight hiccup was a text message from a church member asking for the password, so while I texted that back to them the words were slightly late changing for one of the songs.

Then came the message - and my channel froze.

We waited, but it wasn't going to unfreeze. My laptop was signed on with the church account - it gives us unlimited time -

So I got my iPad and quickly signed in as me through that and carried on. All was then fine.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Amazon have delivered printer paper!

Means indefinite sorties because we can print up to 2,500 "attestation de sortie dérogatoire" !

A brief pause

There was a brief pause in the blog. There have been pauses like that before, but this was different.

One of our guys has lost his grandmother - in the USA.
Another guy has an already sick uncle ill in hospital - in the USA.
My elderly cousin died the other day in Hertfordshire.
And pastors and conference speakers I know are falling to the virus.

Somehow I hadn't realised that I would know people who succumbed, or at least I was concerned for our siblings, all of whom are older than us and some of whom enjoy robust mediocre health.

I haven't seen my cousin for at least 30 years, and it may be more like 50, but we quite regularly corresponded by email. I suspected he was poorly because I hadn't heard from him in about two weeks, so when the news came is was half-expected.

These are hard days. I have replaced early morning news with good music. I know more or less what's happening. And I'm going to make time to read good things and to watch things that will lift my spirits.

And behind it all we'll continue to do this : set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.