les Davey de France

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

Sunday, May 31, 2020

What a difference a week makes!

Well there we are.

A little while ago the church could not meet, and what's more, even if it could I couldn't meet with it.
The choir could not rehearse, and even if it could, I could not rehearse with it.
We could travel up to 100km and even stay overnight, but no cafés or restaurants would be open.
Everything was somewhat difficult.

Now we can meet as churches and I am allowed to go, too!

However, we do have to wear masks for the whole duration of the service, removing them briefly for the purposes of the Lord's Supper, we have to disinfect all the surfaces, we have to ventilate the church well, we must stay always 1 meter apart,  but we can do everything else we usually do.

And I can do it too.

Now choirs can meet, observing physical distancing, and can sing, faces masked.

And I can meet with them. (I think I probably won't until September, just to be doubly certain.)

Also we can travel anywhere in France. Soon we might even be able to cross into Spain.

In Aquitaine, our region, yesterday over 2500 peolpe were tested for coronavirus, everyone was symptomatic. There were 10 positive cases identified. In Bordeaux itself 800 people were tested - all were symptomatic. None of the tests were positive. The numbers in hospital are falling. Fewer than 40 people are in intensive care for covid-19 in the whole region.

From Tuesday cafés, bars and restaurants can open, keeping physical distancing. Tables are being hastily rearranged and where possible the town hall has given extra space for outside seating. Clients can be unmasked but staff must wear masks. Spare a thought for them. Masks make you feel very hot, and kitchens are already pretty hot and humid.

Concert halls can open from Tuesday.

From 22nd June our cinemas will be open.

There is every prospect that from September life will look more like before.

Some things will probably change permanently, at least until the good weather ends. More people on bicycles. Fewer people in the public transport.

People ask whether we will forget how we used to greet each other. I doubt it.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Worse things happen in Troas

I can do tech. I can. And I can do church. But mix tech and church and I set off like Scott of the Antarctic to explore new regions of chaos where never foot trod and never finger prod.

Last night it was the mute/unmute button in zoom. Sometimes I could see it but not poke it. No cursor! I poked, slid, woggled, nothing!

Notably this was for the songs. So instead of muting myself like any normal human being would I had to pretend to be muted, miming a heart-felt rendition of ‘Before the throne’.

At the end of the service I said “Jean-Sam pray for us”, and reverently bowed my head. After a moment wherein he was obviously gathering his thoughts there came the clamour, “Alan, what’s happening now? Alan, you’re muted.”. I unmuted and said with all the aplomb i could muster, “Jean-Sam pray for us”.

Oh well, worse things happen in Troas. Our passage was Acts 20:1-12, where we meet the singularly hapless Eutychus.

We discussed the government’s somewhat reluctant permission to conduct services. Here’s the conditions, some from the government document, some from the CNEF guidelines.

All 1m apart.
All wear masks at all times.
Hand gel on entry.
Disinfect and ventilate the place between services unless there’s a 5 hour gap.
Establish a one way system so people are not squeezing past each other.
No “attroupements” (no hanging around in groups)
You can take your mask off for a moment to accomplish a rite (they’re thinking of eating a wafer)
Obviously, no coffee, no larking about, no tickling children, no hugs or high fives.

About half of us are not comfortable with travelling on public transport just now, and about half of us live too far from the church to walk or cycle. Very few of us have cars. We’re so green! About a quarter of us are in some way “vulnerable”. So we could muster perhaps half our number in the building.

We discussed live-streaming the service. There’s no internet in the building we use, so we would need a sizable data plan on a mobile phone. That’s doable, and we would live-stream to YouTube.

However none of this takes us back to where we were before confinement.
Attroupements is part of it for us. It’s what we do, it’s who we are.
And life on Zoom, for all its clumsiness and ineptitude, seems preferable to the masked distance and YouTube.

So for the moment we’re staying as we are on Sundays.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

What a palaver!

Well the Conseil d'Etat (whatever that is) told the government that their ban on religious ceremonies was too restrictive and gave them 8 days to lift the ban and issue guidelines to follow.

So yesterday the government issued a décret authorising religious ceremonies once more under the following conditions :

1) physical distancing of 1m to be respected
2) 1 person per 4m2 of space
3) surfaces, doorknobs etc. to be disinfected before the ceremony
4) a one way system and people in charge to ensure no "attroupements" (gatherings)
5) all to wear masks (masks can be briefly removed if the rite demands it)
6) hand gel at the entrance

You can see that they have the Roman Catholic mass in mind, where it's you, the priest and the bread, and you're broadly happy to come, commune and go.

In our churches "attroupement" is part of the whole deal, so we may even decide to continue as we are until September, or until conditions allow a more normal meeting style.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The cat and the pigeons

This phase of deconfinement, if all goes well, will last until the 2nd of June. On 25 May the Prime Minister should outline the details of the next phase, what further freedoms will be permitted, what risks seem reasonable, what activities can be resumed and under what conditions.

It is in this speech of 25 May that we expect cafés to be allowed to reopen, along with places of worship, under guidelines to be published to be adopted from 2nd June.

However, Pentecost falls on 31st May, and the Roman Catholic Church would dearly love to open for worship for Pentecost.

This is the background to a decision by the Conseil d'Etat published yesterday that the measures forbidding public worship are to restrictive and that guidelines should be issued so that churches can resume public worship from 25th May, a whole week earlier, which would allow mass at Pentecost.

Many catholic churches are very large and would permit people to be spread out widely. This is not always the case with the protestant churches. We await guidelines to see whether we can safely meet.

Meanwhile I had better book an appointment with my doctor before the 25 May so I can know whether I can be allowed to mix or not.


Some years ago Mrs Davey concluded that she didn't really need a laptop and that an iPad would be just as good for her. This has indeed proved to be the case.

At that time we had a family computer, a 2012 Mac mini, in our living room. When we moved to the bigger flat and I got an office we concluded that we didn't need a family computer - a large screen with a Chromecast plugged in would do just as well. So the Mac mini has become my office computer, in place of my 2015 Macbook pro. Since then I have used my Macbook pro as a portable computer to use in coffee shops and for projection in meetings etc.

We've upgraded the Mac mini over the years. It has an ssd instead of the original slow hard drive, and I boosted the memory to 16gb. Despite the fact that it is essentially an eight-year old computer it does pretty well everything I need it to and it has a nice big screen for doing analysis of Bible passages. Its biggest weakness is that it doesn't have a webcam, so for zoom I have to use my laptop.

However, I'm coming to the conclusion that for me, too, a laptop is not necessary. Now that I have the Mac mini in my office, everything I do in other rooms of the house could work perfectly well on an iPad. Not only that, but in terms of performance for cost, iPads are excellent value. They're easy to carry around. They also have very good webcams, while most laptops have dreadful ones, including my Macbook.

In the late 1990s, early 2000s the move started from desktop computers to laptops. Many of us were sceptical. The screens were too small and not as easy to use. They were heavy and awkward and you couldn't get in a good position to work.

Now most people thinking of buying a computer think of a laptop. They're convenient. You don't need a dedicated worktop for them. If you want to spread papers all over your desk you can. You can take your work wherever you want to.

Now I think we're slowly moving to tablets. They're even more convenient. Lighter. More powerful. More economical.

And the thing that I find most helpful about the iPad is this - they help you focus on one thing. Rather than having lots of windows open and flitting from program to program, they encourage you to choose what one thing you're doing and to do that.

When the time comes to change my laptop I can't see me getting another.

A brighter week in store

I'm feeling brighter this week and the reason is pretty superficial - the weather is good! But it's not just that. Also I have a less frantic week in terms of zoom meetings.

Yesterday we made a little trip to Lidl together. During confinement we never went out together at all. Now in phase 1 of deconfinement we can do that, so we summoned up all our courage and hied us away to Lidl in search of goodly fare. Generally all was well but they had no porage oats so I have to shuffle off elsewhere later, bringing a moral dilemma - do I go to our nearest supermarket or do I deliberately go to the further one just so I get to walk further. I think we all know the answer...

Here's some photos of the nature in town.

Friday, May 15, 2020

At the quincaillerie

One of the downsides of our flat is that quite a lot of the fixtures and fittings are not of the best quality. The windows are fine, thankfully, but I'll be surprised if the sink unit lasts 10 years. It's the cheapest tat you find in the least prestigious diy shops, and was installed with the corresponding level of care. So our Heath Robinson system of outpipes under the sink is leaking a little. I took off the trap and cleaned it out and put it back and screwed it as tight as possible, but the leak isn't coming from the trap. It's coming from some of the other joints.

One good way of making these joints good is to use a little PTFE tape. It actually helps you screw the fittings together, but it also fills the threads and stops leaks. It's great. But the hardware stores were closed during confinement. Then they opened the out of town ones. Ha! They're no good to townies like us! But now the ones in town are open.

I went in to one of my favourites. They made me have a little trolley so they could count the people in store, checked I had my mask on and had gelled my hands. I happily gazed at the bits and bobs, thinking of all the great things I could do if I had half an idea. I found the plumbing area and a pleasant chap came shooting up to help.

Bonjour monsieur, est-ce que je peux vous aider ?

Bonjour. Oui, je ne sais pas comment ça s'appelle en français mais en Angleterre c'est du ruban PTFE. (tapes in France are usually called rubans, so I hazarded a guess)

Voilà, chez nous ça s'appelle du teflon.

Out in the city once more

A tough week

It's been a tough week.

For one thing I've had LOTS of meetings by zoom or varying kinds. Some have been very helpful. Others have been demanding. All have been important. These have included :

1) A doctrine day on the incarnation run by the Pastors' Academy. First time for me to attend an event of this kind and it was very stimulating.

2) A conference run by a new group of presbyterians in the UK called Gospel Reformation UK. It involved three addresses, by Kevin deYoung, by Garry Williams and by Jonty Rhodes. Again, this was stimulating and helpful

3) The CNEF33 pastorale designed to share issues relating to confinement and more urgently to deconfinement. We adapted quickly and well to confinement. Preparing for deconfinement and adapting to its demands is like to be far more difficult.

The national CNEF group is proving to be very helpful, producing succinct advice for churches like, "holding house groups during this period is strongly discouraged".

Add in the prayer meetings and so on, and the weekend will be busy with lots of zoom and facebook live (my bête noire). Still. By Sunday evening the week will be over and on Monday maybe we can go exploring.

Then some individual contacts have been challenging emotionally for a variety of reasons that I won't go into.

We moved Catrin back into her own flat. We'll still see quite a bit of her, though, until she gets wifi installed because she spends a LOT of time online for teaching and for her church work.

And then I'm wrestling with my status of a "vulnerable person", which means I should avoid choral singing and church meetings until things change. Asthma means that when I get a repiratory tract infection my lungs remain irritated for weeks on end. For years I believed I was getting chest infections, but slowly the doctors convinced me that it was just me and the way my lungs work.

We've had good news, too, of my sister's health being much better, and we've been out to explore the city, together, for the first time in months.

Weeks like this come and go. Next week will be different.

Friday, May 08, 2020

French Evangelical losses to covid-19

According to surveys done by the CNEF, French evangelical churches have lost 72 people to covid-19, including 31 from the church that became the centre of a cluster in Mulhouse.

Blasted gourds!

With our new status as "vulnerable persons" come some consequences.

1) We're not likely to be allowed to go to church. (yes, you read that correctly)

2) We're not likely to be allowed to sing in choirs, especially since choral singing in lethal, according to the Gospel Coalition.

Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I frown.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020


We've received our Bordeaux Municipal face-masks, made of what seems like slightly shiny, close-woven poly-cotton. It's actually fairly tough to breathe through!

The idea is that you wear once for up to four hours, then wash it at 60°C.

You must not take a mask off and put it back on.

That means that sometimes you'll need multiple masks to get you through the day, and some way of carrying supposedly contaminated masks home to wash them.

The alternative is to wear disposable paper masks like surgeons do in hospital. The shops are selling them at about 95c each. But you can make a serviceable alternative.

 You need two sheets of kitchen paper, a paper handkerchief and a stapler. Also some rubber bands or a length of string that will go round your head one and a half times.

Put the kitchen paper on your work-surface and fold it into three lengthways.

Open up the two sheets and pop a folded paper handkerchief between them.

Take the bottom "third" and fold it back on itself. Do the same with the top.

Turn your assembly over. Fold over the ends and either 1) staple a rubber band into the fold or 2) leave a loop big enough to feed your string through.


OK, I've got my favourite recipe. It's for a no-knead "turbo" bread.

In a large bowl (in France once uses a salad bowl) put 1 1/2 cups of hand-hot water and a good spoonful of yeast. Add 3 cups of flour and mix till all the flour is incorporated.

Cover the bowl with cling-film and put in a warm place to prove for two to four hours, till it's well risen.

De-gas the dough by poking it vigorously with a spoon or spatula and turn it into a bread pan.

Cover the bread-pan with cling-film and put in a warm place to prove for up to an hour.

Once you see the dough is rising well preheat the oven to its hottest setting.

Once the dough and oven are ready, place a tin of water in the bottom of the oven and the dough on its shelf, then turn the oven down to 200°C and bake for forty minutes.

Voilà !

C'est ça

After a couple of fruitless attempts to get to talk to my doctor (10am. Ah no, she's with a patient, try at 11:45. 11:45 phone rings endlessly.) I decided to check at the pharmacy. So in I goes with my prescription. The pharmacist gets my life-giving herbs. Incidentally I'm wearing my Bordeaux-issue face-mask, nice and white but tightly woven so every breath is an effort - but it does stop you picking your nose. Thinks - what is to pick your nose in French?

"So does that stuff mean I'm a vulnerable person?"

"Oh yes."

"Because in England it's very clear - if you're called up for the 'flu vaccination you're a vulnerable person and you don't get to come out of lockdown, but here it seems more flexible."

"Well, you just need to be very careful."

"Like, no cinemas, no theatres, no restaurants."

"That's it."

Attentive readers will be aware that they're all closed just now, anyway.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

A quick trot to Lidl

Lidl were selling their occasional bargain sewing machines yesterday, so I made a quick trot out there, arriving probably at about 9:15. Catrin is hoping to begin sewing. They open at 8:30, but by the time I got there all had been sold. I was glad to have avoided the possible scrummage and fisticuffs and used the visit instead to buy some of their coffee pods and a couple of other things we don't find in our local supermarket at the moment.

On the way I stopped to experience as much as I could the flowers and trees along the path. Below are some photographs.

Our mayor wants us to wear facemasks in public transport, in shops, in parks and even in some streets. The city is providing everyone with a washable mask, so he considers this a reasonable demand to make. So I wore one of Pat's masks all the way to Lidl and back. They sure make you hot, those things!

The latest tentative proposition from the French government is that, if all goes well and there is no new escalation of cases of COVID-19, that we can resume worship services from the first Sunday of June, from Pentecost. This would have huge symbolic significance and would be an easy concession seeing that the govenmenr was originally thinking of the following Sunday, the first in June.

However several things need to be worked out, like how we keep the required distance, how we handle entrance and exit, toilets, communion, offerings etc. One church has been working on this and their seating capacity is expected to go from 440 to 108. We have a couple fo weeks to learn what the requirements will be, and to prepare by ordering hand gel, bleach and possibly face-masks.

There is another, more personal question. In the UK I would be classed as vulnerable and asked to stay home, despite deconfinement, because I'm asthmatic and get called up for a flu-jab every year. Will France apply the same criteria? I am being brave today and trying to phone my doctor.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Well just look what I found!

Yesterday the flat became stifling so I decided to go out for my statutory hour of walking my neighbourhood. Only problem - torrential downpours. It's been raining now for what seems like months, but is actually just about two days or so. After lunch the clouds took a siesta so I ventured out. Now, if you go shopping you can go further afield and for longer, so I ticked that box and took my rucksack and an order for lemonade from someone here with cravings for it.

Off I went and ambled through the streets looking at how various buildings were progressing. I found myself by the station and thought I'd go over the west bridge and come back over the east bridge (the wibbly bridge - it zig-zags), so down I came to the station forecourt. It's weeks since I've seen the station forecourt and - hey, what's that? Just beyond the station, where the row of über-french cafés starts, I was sure I could see horse chestnut trees! And sure enough, that's what they were. I stopped, gazed and took photos while the station forecourt dawdlers boggled.

Since I was here I had just as well go to Carrefour, so I did, got my lemonade and a few other essential items like some bulbs that don't fit any of our lamps - you know the drill.

I decided to come back along the river-road but then changed my mind and turned up the street that leads to the back end of the station. Some riot police were hanging about, so I said hallo to them and tried surreptitiously to see what they were doing. I think the city is trying to clear out the squats, for health reasons.

Turn down through the nice square and arrive home just a couple minutes late for my 4pm scheduled zoom interview.

Man, that walk did me good.