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)

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.