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, September 20, 2021

It's a man's life in France

At the pharmacy :

"Do you have anything for when your ear is blocked with cerumen, some drops, perhaps ?" 

The assistant went to a small display of assorted drops for when your ear is blocked with cerumen, including cotton buds and alarming rubber spiral gizmos for drilling into your lughole. 

I gulped.

"This is what you need. These drops. The instructions are on the box."

"And do I need any cotton wool* to block up my ear with the drops in?"

(I said ouâte de cellulose, I hope this is correct, I have a vague memory of this word and I can't be bothered to look it up having spent a week looking up words like Rückfahrkarte and Putenschnitzel - this latter is not rude.)

"You have to rinse it."

"Rinse it?"

"Yes, rinse it" showing me the box which said, "il faut le rincer" = you have to rinse it.

"With what shall I rinse it?" quoth I, "with tepid water?"

"Yes, with tepid water. Do you have one of these at home?"

I stared blankly at the rubber bulb designed for squirting water into your aural orifice.

"No, we don't have one of those at home."

"You suck up the tepid water and, hop, squirt it in your ear."

"Ah good ? In England they say you must never put anything in your ear except your elbow."

"Really?" I could see her thinking, "They're nuts these English".

So I left the pharmacy with a home ear-syringing kit.



Sunday, September 19, 2021

Kehlsteinhaus

 One afternoon of the conference is given over to a sightseeing trip. On previous occasions we have taken the train to Salzburg and sung our way round the Sound of Music sights. This year we went to Berchtesgaden and to Kehlsteinhaus - the Eagle's nest.

Berchtesgaden is a picturesque Bavarian town - Germany turned up to 11. On a mountaintop high above the area in the 1930s a meeting place was built for the Third Reich, accessed by a vertiginously winding road that leads to a wide car park, then a tunnel you must take by foot to a golden elevator that opens into the Eagle's Nest.

There was a large meeting room, a sun terrace and a kitchen. There were no bedrooms. Nobody stayed overnight.

It was spectacular, fascinating and astonishing. Pictures below.












Germany

 This last week I have been in Germany for the International Pastors' Retreat. We stay in a conference and holiday centre in a small town called Teisendorf, very near to the Austrian border and on the Munich to Salzburg railway line.

I took the TGV to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport to catch a flight to Munich and then the train to Teisendorf. I knew that a colleague would be on the same flight as me, but I'd never seen him. By the time the crowded aeroplane took off we'd identified each other and were able to get out ticket to Teisendorf together. He speaks German. I'd done the journey before. We made a good team.

I flew Lufthansa and it was a pleasant experience. I got the cheapest type of ticket. You get to stuff your bag under the seat (mine fitted fine) and you also get a bottle of water and a small piece of chocolate - which I missed on the outward journey because I was asleep. You also get taken to your destination at the same time as everyone else.

Getting the German trains was uneventful and at the station at Teisendorf we met some American colleagues and walked together to the conference centre. In all about 6 to 7 hours on trains and planes and the associated waiting around.

The conference centre is modern, clean and well-designed and I had paid a little extra to have a single room. Pat had been due to accompany me but her back is not yet up to the journey. Apart from the bed being somewhat hard and the duvet really warm, the centre gives you everything you need for a comfortable stay. 

Oh yes, and the food is very German, by which I mean that there's ham, salami, bacon, sausage and pork everywhere. The pig monopoly is occasionally broken by veal or by turkey, which in German is called Pute, much to the horror of the French folk.

The conference is made up of three main threads. Firstly there's a Bible exposition from Jonah given by an American pastor from Landstuhl in Germany. I still find accents and cultural references hard to wrestle with so they do impair my comprehension. Secondly there are reports from the various attendees, followed by prayer. Then there's some practical input, this time on discipleship, given by a retired MAF missionary.

Friday, September 10, 2021

The new choir

I've been out of sorts for a few days, forgetful, bothered and distracted. I leave the house without my tram card or my masks. I can't remember whether I locked the door or not. There's something going on, but I don't think it's anything serious.

Anyway, if Pat had not urged me on I would probably not have gone to the rehearsal of the new choir.

But she did. So I did.

It must be a 40 to 50 person choir. I felt a little uneasy as we sat quite close together in the rehearsal room, but we were all masked and in principle all vaccinated or tested.

The average age was about 10 years more than me. Allmost all the men appeared to be in their seventies or over. I feet pretty young! 

We're singing Brahms, Saint-Saëns and  Franck. It's a huge change from the repertoire in the chamber choir. There it was largely 20th century. This is romantic stuff.

And last night's two songs are in German. German has influenced French, but it remains quite different. French is all about vowels - lots of them - all subtly different. German is all about consonants. Lots of them. And all needing to be pronounced.

One chap, faced with the word schleicht, said "All that to go in just one note!".

Thankfully there is a German among the basses. Questioned again about the initial "s" in German words - pronounced like "z" in English, he said "There are not fifty ways of pronouncing letters in German, not like in French !"

There we are. Back singing again.

The rehearsal room is in a tree-lined garden. Tree-lined gardens in Bordeaux mean mosquitos. So I anointed myself with essential oil of mint in a neutral oil carrier. I ponged of mint briefly, then I either got used to it or the force wore off. Not one bite!

The journey home was an adventure. "Take bus 5, then bus 11" said the app. What it didn't say was that the stops I needed were all out of service because of roadworks, so I spent quite a lot of the night charging up and down roads trying to find a bus stop that was still functional. Still, I'll know for next time.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Cooking. Kind of.

 I thought I would never say this, but to all intents and purposes I have given up chocolate.

I have! Honestly!

I used to buy milk chocolate in 100g bars and put four squares, 1/6 of a bar - about 16g - in my porage daily, along with a mashed banana. But the thing is, if you look at the ingredients in a bar of milk chocolate the principal one is sugar.

hmmm.

I looked at plain chocolate, but in decent French plain chocolate, if 86% is cocoa, then 14% is sugar.

hmmm.

So I did an experiment. Instead of adding chocolate to my porage I added a small quantity of good cocoa powder. 

I ate it with bated breath...

And it's fine! Oatflakes, banana and cocoa powder. Magic! Cook with water. Add a little milk for a splendid start to the day!

That set us thinking. The place which Marmite holds in the British soul, Nutella occupies in the French. Excepting, of course, that EVERYBODY loves it.

However, take one look at the ingredients in Nutella and you'll quickly see that a large proportion is sugar.

Now we have for some time been preparing our own peanut butter by blitzing the living daylights out of roast salted peanuts. Give 'em enough time and violence and the peanut butter is mighty fine. Works for cashews, too, and cashew butter is exquisitely sweet.

I added cocoa powder to the peanuts before marmalising them. 

The result? 

Beautifully chocolatey peanut chocolate spread. 

And not a trace of added sugar. 

Just roast salted peanuts and cocoa. Magic!

Thursday, September 02, 2021

La rentrée scolaire

 It's back to school day today.

This no longer concerns us directly. The days of searching the supermarket for obscurely named essential items that the children will never use are long behind us.

Indirectly, however, it's a huge deal.

1) Foreign students arrive in Bordeaux, hunting for a flat, trying to get the hang of the way things run. The biggest headache is accommodation. The best thing students can do is to come EARLY. The early student catches the nice flat.

2) Church activities start up again after the quiet months of July and August. This means lots of organisation and administration to do.

3) Everything else starts up, too. The Reading Group meets next Wednesday. Pat's craft group starts up next week, too, I think. Choirs restart, too. 

At present I once more find myself between choirs. My awesome chamber choir has changed its way of working. Instead of weekly Monday-evening rehearsals in Bordeaux there'll be a weekend each month in some small country town with a Sunday afternoon concert. This month they're in a small Bastide town in the Lot et Garonne.  I can't do that so I wrote a sad letter of resignation. So there's a Thursday evening bigger choir that meets in Bordeaux. It's not all that easy to find out the information you need, but I have high hopes of being able to keep that going.


Saturday, August 28, 2021

In the United Kingdom shortages multiply, bosses grow impatient


 From supermarkets to restaurants via the factories, shortages are getting worse in the United Kingdom.

It's a phenomenon due to the delivery problems generated by Brexit and the pandemic.

Industrials leaders are urging the government to act, particularly in the light of the coming Christmas festivities.

The Nando's restaurant chain closed some fifty restaurants last week because of a lack of chicken.

In industry car manufacturers have had to pause production because of a shortage of electronic components.

In construction certain medium sized businesses find themselves short of materials and of manpower.

The CBI states that stocks held by distributors are at their lowest level for forty years.

Manpower and logistic problems are threatening the UK's economic recovery.


Friday, August 27, 2021

"You have a little accent"

 "Where are you from?" asked the tiny lady in the colourful head cloth after we discussed the health of the fig tree growing out of the steps up to the Meriadeck centre. 

"So where are you from?"

"I'm Welsh, from Wales", I said. I always put it like this now as it gives people double the chance of homing in. It's pretty emphatic in French because you say "I'm Welsh, from the Land of Wales".

"Oh! Scotland!" she said.

"No, Wales", I insisted.

"Ireland, then?" 

"No, Wales. It's a small country between England and Ireland."

"But I thought that was part of England."

I coughed.

"You also have an accent. Where are you from?"

"South America" (One says America of the South)

"Texas or Florida?" - No, I didn't say this, though I wanted to.

"From which country?"

"Peru"

We talked a bit more about the countries from which people had come to the church - we've had most Latin American countries.


The gardeners

It is seven am and we are sharply wrested from the gentle arms of Morpheus by the sound of a disc cutter attacking yesterday's concrete in the Gardens of the Ars. 
Well, to be clear, Morpheus had loosed his grip on me a while before. I had earplugs in watching a video on how to make videos without spending a fortune on cameras and lights and stuff. 
But Pat was still in his embrace. So she got up and shut the window and silence reigned once more. Except for me. I was hearing how all these microphones and lights could be had for under $150. Yes, and stored where? thought I.
The gardeners are laying concrete paths, good and wide, shiny and smooth, between the dark, dark beds of beautiful black topsoil. Surely they must start planting soon. The ideal time would be October, I suppose.
I am pretty sure that you are not allowed to do noisy construction work until after 8am at least, but we don’t mind. Sooner they start, more they do. More they do, sonner they finish. Sooner they finish, sooner we have our gardens growing below us.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Mission in the world of covid

 We've spent two years adapting to confinement, déconfinement, limits on numbers, spacing out, end of spring out, zoom, post-zoom... 

It's not over yet. At least not for us. 

We're missionaries. That means that although we live and work in France and we are immediately responsible to the church council here in France, we are also responsible to :

our sending church in North Wales who sent us here

our mission, UFM, who helped the church to get us here

individual supporters and supporting churches all over the UK who give to keep us here.

(that sounds a bit odd, but you know what I mean)

So we need to report back regularly.

Our Sending Church

we send a weekly prayer update for their regular prayer meeting

they send out an elder for a pastoral visit once a year. Or at least they did until covid stopped travel! 

we also visit from time to time - generally about once a year

I did a weekly short Bible message on Saturdays during confinement

we do zoom calls amongst the elders

The Mission

the director and deputy director also get our weekly prayer updates

we produce a quarterly prayer letter that gets sent out hither and yon

there are zoom prayer sessions

an annual review procedure comprising a form and interview

a four-yearly "end of term" review

the deputy director also visits perhaps once a year

Supporting churches and individuals

Here's the challenge. Normally each year I would spend two weeks, three weekends, visiting churches in the UK to report back and to continue the close relationships that we have so valued over the years. 

Of course, in 2020 and in 2021 that has been impossible.

Can anything like this happen in 2022? Who can tell!

Meanwhile it seems to me that we need to take action now. 

Churches get our quarterly prayer letters and some also get our weekly prayer update.

Some churches ask for video updates and we gladly cobble something together.

But I'm wondering what action we can take to try to fill the gaps.



Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Getting round the city

 It's quite a long time now since we owned a car. This was a conscious choice, but kind of forced on us - our car was costing too much to repair and it was not easy to see how we could consider buying something else - but now that we've adjusted to the car-free life we genuinely wouldn't go back.

Of course, living in the centre of the city helps a lot. In fact in our church very few people own cars, and they all live out in the suburbs. In the city parking is an issue and you can't move around very fast anyway - you're better off walking, cycling or using public transport.

We can walk to the doctor, to a physiotherapist, to the pharmacy, to a dentist, to a reasonably-sized supermarket, to restaurants and fast food outlets, all within 1km. So within a 10 to 15 minute walk. A little further and we add three more supermarkets and lots more restaurants, cafes and shops. Say within a 20 minute walk.

Our flat is near two tram-lines, the C and the D. The D takes us directly to where the church meets and both go right through the centre of the city. Bus 11 leaves nearby, too, and will take us to an enormous out of town shopping centre.

Cycling is more difficult here because we live on the wrong side of the railway lines. To cross the lines you have to take one of four routes: 

the Pont de Guit, which is narrow, busy, steep and dangerous

the Pont en U (the wiggly bridge) which currently has major roadworks

the road past the dump, which is busy with construction traffic

the railway underpass, which deposits you on a really confusing major junction

So we tend not to cycle into town much. You can always take your bike on the tram until you get to the beginning of the Quays - which then functions like a cycle super-highway to take you right through the city uninterrupted and pretty safe from any road traffic.

The good news is that work has begun on extending the quays all the way down to the bottom of our gardens, so soon we'll have a cycle superhighway from our flat right into the heart of the city and beyond.

Meanwhile we belong to a car share club which has 60 or so vehicles parked in different places around Bordeaux. So when we need to get to inaccessible places, or to take people to hospital or whatever, we can  use a Polo or a Yaris and pay just a small fee per kilometre and per hour, which covers everything. Last weekend I helped Froim and Catrin move some furniture and we used a Kangoo van. We had it for just under two hours and probably covered about 15 kilometres, so the cost will have been minimal.

Bordeaux is working very hard to change the feel of the city. In the 1960s and 1970s the car ruled the streets. Now it's people. There are people everywhere, and especially café tables. The city feels safer, calmer, cleaner and more human. It's exciting to think of what the future holds as the automobile loosens its grip even further.

Mrs Davey and the kinésithérapeute

Pat made an appointment with our local physiotherapist - the doctor had given her a prescription for however many sessions it takes - for Monday 16 August. We had walked up and found his office on the way to the pizza place, but you make your appointment on Doctolib - the website and app that lots of medical folk work with. However he caught covid, so he phoned her to postpone the appointment by a week.

That meant she went along yesterday. While she was there I scurried off to Lidl to get fruit and vegetables and succeeded in not buying a steam cleaner, a food mixer and a sander - or the tempting ice-creams they had put right by the tills!

By the time I was halfway over the bridge back home Pat was out of the physio so we met up and walked back together. He'll see her twice a week and meanwhile she is to walk for at least 10 minutes a day. That's not so hard for us! We generally walk much more than that!

Meanwhile a newspaper report yesterday said that in France in the 1950s the average person walked about 7km per day - about 4 miles a day. Now we walk on average 300 metres a day.

Makes you think, no?

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Pro-covid demos and the health dictatorship

 From time to time friends in the UK contact me to ask if articles in the Spectator or the Telegraph accurately reflect life in France just now.  Take it from me that they don't, but do still contact me about them. Here's why they are not accurate.

Imagine I assessed the situation in the UK from, say, the articles you can find in the Guardian. Would that accurately reflect life in the UK just now? What about life in Camden? What about in life in Scotland? What about life in Cornwall?

I choose the Guardian because for the moment it is freely accessible. I can't read articles from the Times or the Telegraph without paying a fee. There's a paywall. But I realise that I have to read with care. Free of charge does not mean free of bias.

Newspapers and magazines are not neutral. They have a political viewpoint to convey that is found in every article they publish. Even when they present statistics and undeniable facts, the facts and statistics  will be selected to prove a point. We need to be aware of that. Everything is loaded. Read with care.

Here in France we hear of terrible situations in the UK. There are shortages in your supermarkets. Basic foodstuffs are unobtainable. Fruit rots on the trees for want of people to pick it. Haulage companies cannot get drivers. I ask my friends if this is true where they live. They tell me that they see no more evidence than usual - every so often a supermarket runs out of something or other in normal life.

In the UK you hear of violent protests against Macron and of his deep unpopularity. Hey, I've now lived through four presidencies in France, I think - Chirac, Sarkozy, Hollande and Macron and I can tell you, not one of them was popular. You don't elect a president so you can love them. It's not like the Queen.

Countries have a deep-rooted mental image of each other. In the UK we tend to believe that France is a tinder-box of repressed revolutionary emotions that are ready to spill over onto the streets in violent outbursts. In France we tend to believe that the UK is a quaint bucolic theme park run by the aristocrats of the ancient regime, and peopled by villeins and surfs who know their place and obey without question.

I don't think either image is true. But there are big cultural differences between our countries. 

For example, in the UK if you are unhappy about something you write to your MP. You know who your MP is and you expect them to do something about it. In France if you are unhappy about something you might complain to the town hall if it's a local issue, otherwise you'll get a group together, make banners and march round the streets banging drums and setting off smoke flares while people watch peacefully from their cafe tables. Before marching you will inform the town hall so they can send the riot police to show they are taking your protest seriously. I have no idea whatsoever who the MP for this area is, but I know the mayor for Bordeaux and the person who is in charge of the area where we live. It's just different.

Regarding the vaccine. In France now 70% of people over 12 have now received 2 doses of vaccine. Meanwhile there are pro-covid marches each week to protest against the pressure the government has put on people to get vaccinated. (I have started using the term pro-covid - anti-vaccine sounds so negative.) I think there are similar marches in the UK. 

The pressure comes in the form of the pass sanitaire - compared to dictatorships like North Korea or, most notoriously of all, to the yellow star from the 1930s and 1940s. The pass sanitaire is a QR code that shows that you have received two doses of vaccine, or that you have recently tested negative for the virus. You now need to show your pass sanitaire to take long-distance public transport, to eat in a restaurant or to shop in the biggest shopping centres. The law to introduce this requirement was validated by the Constitutional Council which made certain modifications to ensure that people could always get the basic necessities whether vaccinated or not.

As a friend explained to me, she fully intended getting vaccinated at some point, especially since she needs to travel to another European country harder hit by the pandemic, but she was still thinking about it. However, the introduction of the pass sanitaire had made her more reluctant to be vaccinated. We are very sensible people, but we do not like being told what to do, she said.

The news media are not neutral. Always engage your critical faculties.


The lovely black fertile soil


 The lovely black fertile soil is slowly being spread all over the Jardins de l'Ars. It is pre-mixed with manure, so it comes with a slightly sharp, countryside smell, but that won't last long and we hope that soon planting will begin.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Mrs Davey

 On Monday Pat left the flat for the first time and took a ride in the lift then round the yard of the blocks of flats. Tuesday she went a little further. On Wednesday we made it as far as the Station, or at least the the really nice little pizzeria opposite the station. The pizza was excellent. Certainly in my top 5 pizzas ever. After that Thursday was a little calmer. But today we tried for a place we'd never tried before. It was closed. So we ended up going MUCH further, even into Carrefour before coming home.

Next Monday she starts physiotherapy. Meanwhile I am not due to preach for the next two Sundays - we were supposed to visit our son and daughter-in-law in the UK. I told the guys I could preach if they wanted, but they are maintaining their engagements, so we met up to do some prep together on Thursday.

Otherwise we're taking these two weeks as holiday. That means not getting folk round for lunch and discussions and so on. It means I can concentrate on just keeping the flat running OK and Pat can concentrate on getting properly mobile again.


Saturday, August 14, 2021

It's so EXCITING !

 They have started working on linking the nearest end of the quay gardens, opposite the Conservatoire, with our as yet unfinished gardens. The goal is to have uninterrupted gardens from the lifting bridge at the far end of the city right through to the motorway bridge south of us.

For us this means safe cycling right into the city centre, and also pleasant walking. At present to cycle into the city you have to somehow cross the railway lines. This means either a nasty busy bridge where car transporters pull in to discharge their loads of cars right on a narrow bridge opposite a bus stop (I can't believe the city allows them to do this - it's dangerous for walkers, let alone cyclists) or taking what we can the wiggly bridge, which is currently undergoing roadworks.

You can also run the gauntlet of the construction wagons along the bottom road, but that's dirty and hazardous.

Then when you get to the other side of the station you get to the most confusing junction I've ever experienced.

A safe cycle path into the city is a wonderful prospect.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Podcasts and audiobooks

 I don't know. I think it's because I can still read more quickly in my head than people read aloud. So somehow audiobooks have always seemed like a waste of time.

As for podcasts, my problem with them is the matey in-joke self-congratulatory chatfest they seem to have to start with. Man, it's SO BORING to listen to 10 minutes of who ate what when and with whom before getting stuck into the covenant of redemption.

Then came The rest is history. It's still matey, but at least it's brief and self-deprecating. And then you get horrible histories for grown-ups. Riveting. I listen to short bursts while walking to the pharmacy, to the tram stop, to the supermarket, wherever.

Which brings me to audiobooks. I'm ready to have another go, especially for those times when I wake in the wee hours and need to read until I fall asleep again. I can play an audiobooks through earphones until I hear Morpheus' footsteps, then whip 'em out quick and set sail for the land of nod.


Mrs Davey and the doctor

 Pat had an appointment with the doctor, but on reflection we couldn't see how we could get her there. 

It's 10 minutes by foot, all on the level.

We'd thought that by allowing 30 minutes we could probably get her there, but when she got up it was clear that this was not going to happen.

I checked if a car was available. One was, but that involves getting her in and out of a car. It was clear that this was not going to happen either.

So she changed her appointment to a video-consultation. It all went pretty well, except when the doctor decided to try out his English, which I managed to decipher and had to explain to Pat. We switched back to French.

A prescription for appropriate drugs and for physiotherapy later all was sorted and I scuttled off to the pharmacy (just opposite the doctor's) before the Orangeman came. 

The Orangeman cometh

"Remember that the Orangeman is coming between 10 and 12 to fit the alarm."

So read the sundry text messages and emails that I received since last Friday.

We'd invited church people to come round for the afternoon - some work in cafés and stuff, others are students and are at a loose end just now, so they were coming for lunch and discussion and games.

The Orangeman came at about 11, quickly surveyed the flat, concluded that only Batman could gain access via any of the windows. I was wearing my Batman t-shirt, but I told him I always use the door and sometimes even resort to the lift. 

So he installed a movement detector in the hall which takes a flash photograph of any uninvited intruder, then showed us how to dial in our codes and use our red and blue tags and to set and unset the alarm.

Meanwhile church folk started arriving. I'd found hobnobs in the shop and they met with general approval. The café people brought savoury flaky pastry rolls (roulés fueilletés) and cinnamon rolls (roulés à la canelle). I'd made a sort of fake gado gado - an Indonesian egg salad served with a peanut sauce. Mrs Davey was able to make occasional appearances. I'd intended to make ice-cream for affogato but had forgotten, but we had a colossal sweet melon, enough to feed a small village.

One of our number had met some charming Mormon elders so we talked about what are the distinguishing marks of the Christian and how to distinguish those excellent and kindly people who are not in fact Christians in any valid sense of the word. 

Then we played Farkle - a dice-rolling game with complicated scoring where the goal is to be the first to reach 10,000 points. I actually won this, despite the scorer omitting to record half my scores. We spiced up the game by attempting to count in Indonesian. Then folks played Settlers of Catan while I watched.

Then it was off with me to feed Catrin's rats.

Look ! Høbnöbs

 


Sunday, August 08, 2021

A swift visit to Lourdes

 Lourdes is about 30 minutes by train from Pau, so we went for the day. Two women were sat in our seats. "You can sit in front. We sat in the wrong seats", they said. I don't much care where I sit, but thought it might have been nice to excuse oneself, so I said, "I hope that works out". All the way to Lourdes they were reciting their rosary, so perhaps they did excuse themselves - though not to us. 

As we arrived the train conductor announced "We will shortly witness the apparition of the station of Lourdes." It set the tone for the day.

Lourdes is like a cross between a run-down seedy seaside resort and the Sistine Chapel - or if Father Ted was filmed at Clacton-on-Sea. We goggled at the sacred supermarkets, found somewhere for lunch, visited the shrine and saw the grotto. 

Then it was a toss-up between the castle or the funicular railway up to a mountain peak. The latter won, so we had a 30 minute forced march out to the place, then a quick scamper round the summit before haring off back and missing our train back to Pau. There was a later train.








A brief escapade in Pau

 We scuttled off by train to Pau for a few days away from the big city. Pau is a historic town in the foothills of the Pyrenees, famous for being the seat of Henry IV when he was just King of Navarre, before becoming King of France, and also for being one of the favourite towns of the English looking for clean air and a pleasant climate. Because it's fairly near the Atlantic it doesn't get too cold, and because it's in the hills it doesn't get too hot. We rented an AirBnB right in the middle of the town and ate lunch in various cafés to save cooking and cleaning and so on. Pau has beautiful views over the mountains, lovely parks and the Castle. There was plenty to occupy us.





Sunday, August 01, 2021

Being burgled concentrates the mind

 In the majestic story of Albert and the Lion the magistrate hopes that Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom may go on to have further sons to their name which provokes a strong rejection of the idea of "raising children to feed ruddy lions".

The long and short of it is that I'm not going to replace my laptop. I don't think I need one enough to warrant the cost. I can do everything I really need to do with an iPad and a bluetooth keyboard.


The marriage at the town hall

 


The ceremony is quite simple and is conducted by one of the town council, sometimes by the mayor in person. 

There's a brief introduction where the identities of the couple and their witness are confirmed, along with their addresses. Then some of the acts of law that define marriage are read. Then comes the big moment:

Catrin Alys Davey, do you consent to take as spouse Froim Frieder Teschner ? Yes.

Froim Frieder Teschner , do you consent to take as spouse  Catrin Alys Davey? Yes.

I declare that you are husband and wife.

Applause.

The Act of Marriage is signed, the Certificate of Marriage is given and then the couple are presented with their "Livret de Famille" and, typically, with the pen they used to sign the act of marriage.

Then it's outside for photos and back to Froim's flat for lunch.



Being burgled - aftermath

 The locksmith who replaced the cylinder in the lock said that what we needed was a barillet anti-arrachage - a reinforced cylinder. So I got to work with google maps and with my phone. One guy was not terribly helpful. The second person was much more ready to advise. She told me there were two locks she would recommend, the best was very expensive indeed, the second-best she should be able to get for that evening. If I would send her a picture of the old broken cylinder with accurate measurements, she would send me a quote for the new one.

I complied, but no return message came. Meanwhile I shopped around for the lock barrels she mentioned. The best one was available on Amazon for next day delivery from the manufacturer and for much less than I had been told. Eventually I ordered it. It came the next day and I fitted it.

Meanwhile something struck me. The new brown shoes I had bought for catrin's wedding were no longer where I left them. And where was my enormous rucksack I use for cabin bag travel? Yup. Stolen, too. Honestly! Who steals a chap's shoes?

Then came the job of filing the police complaint. You can begin the procedure online, then they send you an appointment to go in and sign it all. It was not difficult to do, and while we racked our brains for timings we realised that we'd actually been burgled during an absence of just over two hours. Our immediate neighbours suspect that it's someone in the apartment complex who saw us leave. Maybe.


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Being burgled

 I'm 62 and my home has been burgled 4 times, which means a burglary every 15 years. It isn't that much really, though it seems like a lot. Meanwhile I don't think either of my sisters has ever been burgled, though both are considerably older than I. 

Anyway, statistics aside, we've had a friend staying with us over the past few days recovering from surgery on Monday. Yesterday we decided to take a quick trip to the local mega-shopping mall on a quest to find sandals. We didn't find sandals, but when we got home we did find that we had been burgled.

They break the cylinder of the lock by force. Quite clever really, but you do wonder what the point of the lock is. Anyway usual thing, they rummaged well through everywhere - looking for money, I think. There wasn't any. They also took my laptop, the iPads and a bluetooth speaker.

We phoned the police. They arrived about 15 minutes later and told us what we could and could not touch pending arrival of the science team. We gave them the addresses the burglars had taken the computers - Apple's "Find my". One was in Cenon, the other about 15 minutes away by foot.

The science team arrived about 2 hours later and took fingerprints from any promising surface and then took our prints.

Meanwhile we could close the door but not lock it. Phoning the insurers took a LONG TIME on hold, then eventually we got through and they promised to send a locksmith. At 22:15 I worked out the best way to barricade the door so we could go to bed, but I got a call saying the locksmith was downstairs. I brought him up and he put a new cylinder (barrilet) in the lock.

You can get reinforced barrels. They cost a LOT MORE but I am going to find out about it today.

As well as making an incident report to the police and an insurance claim.

And ordering a new iPad.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Mariage at the mairie

 Catrin, our daughter, our only daughter, is engaged to be married to Froim. Froim has been a member at Bordeaux Church for some years and they started seeing each other last year. They set a date for October 31. It seemed a good date, especially from the point of view of covid.

However to marry in France you need to supply various documents supporting your identity, your single status and also your place of residence. For people who not French, and neither of our protagonists are French, this can be complicated.

You have to get your birth certificate translated by an officially recognised translator and stamped and stapled in a particular way that indicates to the town hall that the document is valid and correctly translated. In addition your birth certificate has to be issued within the past three months - and here either some town halls interpret the rules differently, or the rules are different for French people and for foreign people* - and within three months of the date of the wedding.

Froim's birth certificate was issued trilingually - in German, French and English - so it did not need a translator. NOT SO FAST! He was born in the former West Germany, which no longer exists. On his birth certificate his mother's name is given with "geb maiden-name" (born maiden-name. In English we sometimes put née maiden-name). This provoked great perplexity at the town hall. But the country in which you were born no longer exists ! What can we put as country of birth ? Also what is this geb maiden-name? What is your mother's name? Off to the translator for them to certify that geb means née.

Catrin's birth certificate was also bilingual, but in Welsh and in English. But where were you born? Ysbyty? Maelor? Wrecsam? Wrexham? What is all this? Strange to relate, the translator does not speak Welsh, but Google does so she quickly certified that Ysbyty Maelor Wrecsam means Maelor Hospital Wrexham and that the place of birth is Wrexham.

The town hall were still perplexed though, so they sent their documents off to the procureur for them to give their legal advice on whether this couple could marry given their current state of birth, and if so, whatever could be put on the marriage certificate.

Froim wrote to the mayor to complain. "This does not seem to reflect a very European spirit." The mayor asked the team to respond. "We are just trying to be professional". We discussed what a couple should do who wish to marry but find the state unwilling to comply for administrative reasons. It is illegal to hold a marriage ceremony in a church for a couple who are not legally married.

After about a week the procureur delivered their opinion - there is no problem with these documents. Catrin and Froim went in to choose a date for their legal marriage. They chose the earliest possible date. Can you blame them !

So this Saturday at noon at the town hall they will say "Yes" to each other, surrounded by the few family members who can make it (that is, Patricia and me) and by friends and church folk. 

In October we hope that at least all the parents and siblings will be there for a marriage celebration and meal at a chateau on the outskirts of Bordeaux.

7am at the Jardins de l'Ars


 The guys are laying concrete walkways

Le pass sanitaire opposé

 The pass sanitaire is generating a little opposition. These are the riot police vans getting into the centre of the city last Saturday.



Sunday, July 18, 2021

Le Pass Sanitaire

 Once you have been vaccinated twice with the appointed vaccine - AstraZeneca for certain people, for other Pfizer - you get a document with two QR codes that you can scan into your Tous Anti Covid application. This then becomes your European Covid Passport, also known in France as your pass sanitaire.

A pass sanitaire can also be obtained by getting a recent PCR test. This must be a temporary thing, I imagine, because the validity of the test expires.

French people are quite reluctant to be vaccinated. They have a very high degree of respect for science, but much less for scientists. There is also much more evidence of occult healing, clairvoyance and so on than you typically get in the UK.

So on Monday when M Macron announced that the pass sanitaire would be needed to attend concerts, cinemas and the like, and to take trains, aeroplanes or long-distance bus services the cat was put among the pigeons.

The first effect was that hundreds of thousands of people booked appointments to be vaccinated. Almost one million on Monday evening. 4 million this week.

A secondary effect has been a great outpouring of wrath at the assault on individual freedom. "Bienvenue à la dictature sanitaire !" Welcome to the health dictatorship. Thousands of people have marched against the pass sanitaire.

Meanwhile, for our part, we are coming to terms with not visiting our son in the UK this summer. The UK has imposed a ten day quarantine as well as expensive PCR tests for travellers from France, even the fully vaccinated. This is because of the prevalence of the beta variant in those parts of France that are to be found in the Indian Ocean - Reunion and Mayotte. Here in mainland France we now are dominated by the delta variant which ironically probably arrived here from India via the UK.

Oh well. We remind ourselves of all those summers we spent in the UK wishing that we could explore France more. We'll head for the mountains and the mediterranean.


Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Tour de France

 It's an ill wind that blows no good. That's what they say.

Well, due to covid we are confined to France for another summer. Usually at this time of year we would be well ensconced in dear old Blighty. Just now we would need to pay for government listed PCR tests and quarantine for a minimum of 5 days. Makes a quick trip to see the folk a bit ... inconvenient.

But the upside is that we're in France at the time of the Tour de France. And it was passing within easy striking distance of Bordeaux. 

I did a small amount of research. Essentially the choice lay between Cadillac on Friday 16 July, a town a little south of here, and Libourne on Saturday 17th, a little north of here. Both are accessible by train. We opted for Cadillac.

To get to Cadillac you take the train to Cérons - so small it has no bar or café, just a take-away pizza place - and walk across the river bridge. Cadillac is a megapolis in comparison, with numerous restaurants and cafés. We duly crossed the bridge.

One of the restaurants was selling chips (French fries) on its forecourt but when we expressed interest in eating they showed us to a nice table inside and brought us the menu. 14€ got me a salad niçoise, steak and salad followed by a chocolate pud. Mrs Davey had a salad de la mer.

Afterwards we surveyed the scene and chose some steps that led up from the main route to a car park - the steps were blocked at the top so it became our hidden hole where we waited for the "caravane" to come through. After an interminable 20 minutes or so the Skodas started to flow through the town, soon followed by every sort of crazy contraption you could imagine - from sublime gingham painted 2CVs belonging to Cochonou - manufacturers of fine dried sausages - through to a motorised basket of strawberries. All the floats were manned by over-excited young folk singing, yelling and waving and occasionally tossing goodies into the crowd, such as small bags of haribo, Tour de France tee-shirts and hats, bags, packets of seeds, key-rings, small dried sausages and bottles of Vittel water.

These last were handed very skilfully and from our vantage-point we were very successful at securing bottles of water, but not so good at anything else. A bit too close, perhaps. But we also managed to avoid getting too wet when the Vittel wagons rolled by soaking the crowd. It was all good fun. 

We then had another wait before the cyclists came. Some people were following the tour on their app and informing everyone or where and when and what.

So we moseyed back to the bridge before deciding it was too exposed to the sun and standing at the side of the road instead. One family had been visibly successful in securing hats and tee-shirts.

The cyclists came by in two waves - first the coureurs - about 20 of them escorted by a flotilla of Skodas and motorcycles. The noise of the bicycle transmissions was other-worldly - a strange whirring noise.

Then about 20 minutes more and the main body came through. Very impressive, though they are past in about a minute and a half.

Some church friends had driven out to Cérons just in time to see the main body pass and they asked if we wanted a lift back to town, so we ended the evening in a burger bar before walking home.






























Wednesday, July 14, 2021

When your favourite grammar-checker speaks with forked tongue

I have had to revise the rules on numbers following a little controversy between two French friends over whether it is correct to say on page twenty-one as à la page vingt-et-une, or à la page vingt-et-un. 

The thing is, you can't necessarily trust your friends, even those who are really clever and educated and adamant and stuff, because the rules are a bit ... opaque.

Still, you can always trust your favourite grammar checker website, Le bon patron.








Tuesday, July 13, 2021

M. Macron's speech

 It's very difficult in France to oblige people to do something. After all, the first word of the national motto is freedom. 

At the same time we now have lots of vaccine and cases of the delta variant of covid-19 are rising. Our test and trace system is working really well with free PCR testing available in lots of places in the city. But still there is a certain reticence about getting vaccinated.

So last night M. Macron addressed the nation. Would déconfinement be put into reverse gear? would there be new measures?

He announced that for all care and medical staff vaccination will now be compulsory. They have until September to get themselves vaccinated with the two doses. 

Meanwhile the "pass sanitaire" - covid passport - which is already required for entry to events of more than 1000 spectators will become necessary from August for events of over 50 people and for everyone over 12 years old. 

That means two doses of vaccine or a recent negative PCR test if you want to go to the cinema, to a concert, to a talk, to anything with over 50 people. We do not yet know whether that includes churches.

Then, again to encourage vaccination rather than relying on test and trace, PCR tests, currently free in France, will be charged for from the autumn.

This morning M Macron's twitter account has a gif of him speaking (no sound) but the words under his head are "FAITES-VOUS VACCINER". Get yourself vaccinated.

La fête nationale

 Wednesday is "the fourteen July", France's national holiday. To mark the occasion the town hall puts on a firework display in the centre of the city. Meanwhile we have our midweek meeting in someone's home. 

So this Wednesday, weather permitting, we will meet on the quays for a picnic and for prayer, then stay around for the fireworks. If the weather is bad, and rain is forecast, then we'll meet at the home nearest the quays and then scuttle up for the fireworks.


Mosquitos

 We have two biting mosquitos in the Bordeaux area now. There's the usual small kind that hangs around under trees and bushes at night and will come into your home. Then there's the tiger mosquito, the new kid in town, bigger, more aggressive and more dangerous - in some parts of the world the tiger mosquito carries illnesses like dengue fever and chikungunya. Here in Bordeaux they don't transmit anything but they will bite you in the daytime.

We've had mosquitos in the house around Christmas in the past. It's pretty miserable when they come for you at night when you're in bed - you hear the buzzing, like a tiny moped zipping past your ear. You smack your ear, your cheek, your forehead, everywhere, then in the morning you find the bites.

American friends wonder why we don't have screen doors, fly screens on our windows, air-conditioning so we don't have to open our windows. I don't know. I don't know.

French friends relativise it all. It's only the female who bites and she only does it so she can let her eggs. 

This is no help to me, because when I get bitten at the very least I get large hard bumps that ooze. At the worst, so far, I get huge inflamed areas that make me go to the pharmacy for creams and gels to try and take the inflammation down, and I spend a week putting hot and cold compresses on. At present my left arm is inflamed below the elbow, my left knee, just on the knee and my right ankle. People tell me I'm allergic.


Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Choir restarting

I auditioned for our chamber choir around the beginning of the pandemic, did a lousy audition, especially the sight-reading, and was surprised to be accepted. Since then we have been able to rehearse perhaps three or four times, always masked from the moment we meet to the moment we leave. So I had never seen the faces of some the folk.

It's chamber choir and we sing unaccompanied. We do some pretty easy stuff but also some more challenging music. Most of it I've never sing before because I've always sung in big accompanied choirs.

I'm at the list of my musical competence. I'm singing 2nd bass, and I'm really a baritone. I can get down where I need to, but I need to work on my volume down below. I'm learning the pieces, but I'm not a bad reader really, thanks to the time I spent as a kid playing in a competing brass band in South Wales.

So last night there were two new experiences for me. First was singing Debussy for the first time. "Dieu qu'il l'a fait bon regarder". It's wonderful music. Very much Debussy with crazy cross-rhythms and surging dynamics and smudgy harmony. It's "La mer" for singing.   

Then from the sublime to a different kind of sublime - Rachmaninov "Bogoritse dievo". This is much easier to sing because the harmony is less out there and the rhythms are more predictable, but it's still quite exquisite.

In my previous choir I was one of the stronger basses, mainly because I can read the part and, especially if it's not too funky, I don't mind belting it out. In this choir I'm the weakest bass. But hey, they have not yet given me my marching orders, so in the meantime I'm having a ball. 

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Bordeaux, buses and bikes

 Lockdown was a strange time. The city was quiet. There was almost no traffic at all. When people went out for their hour of exercise or to do their shopping the city felt calm and safe.

Then a year ago for the election of mayors France was swept by a green wave - ecology party candidates won in lots of cities, including Bordeaux.

There had already been pressure to replace large areas of concrete and wide roads with trees and green spaces, but now things have accelerated. Trees are being planted in the vast paved square outside the town hall and the cathedral. Bike lanes have been painted onto the inner ring road. More streets have been pedestrianised or made one-way with bikes allowed to go against the traffic. There are noticeably more bikes in the streets than before. 

Meanwhile the city has a principle it is trying to put in place of having all the basic services you need for everyday life available to you within a 15 minute walk. So the idea is that everyone within the city of Bordeaux should be able to walk to the doctor, to a dentist, to a hairdresser, to a baker, a café, a supermarket, and so on.

For our area this is hard because it's all new. We do already have a doctor and a supermarket well within 15 minutes, and cafés and bakers are not much further.

It is bound to make you think of churches. Will Bordeaux see a day when there is a gospel church within 15 minutes walk? 

We are praying for the day when the 8 sub-town-halls of Bordeaux all have a gospel church within them. That's one goal, and though things have greatly improved in the suburbs of Bordeaux, in the city itself we're still a long way off. 

The CNEF is encouraging prayer to see a gospel church for every 10,000 people. That would mean 24 gospel churches within the inner ring road. Another goal 

A church within 15 minutes walk of anyone and everyone adds the idea of being spread out through the different areas of the city - the smart and trendy Chartrons as well as the multicultural Saint-Michel. 

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Next step in déconfinement

On Wednesday France entered the next step in déconfinement. For us in Bordeaux this means :

No more masks outdoors, except in the two main shopping streets after lunch, and within 50m of schools, stations or transport stops.

No more limits on number in cafés, restaurants and bars - or churches

No more curfew.

We can all sit next to each other once more, but we must still be masked inside the building.

We're very happy to see our infection rates continue to drop as well as the numbers in hospital and intensive care. Meanwhile in the next department south of us, les Landes, there is a cluster of the delta variant.

We can eat together once more, though it is recommended that we do this outdoors and minimise as much as possible passing things round.

For us Davey we watch the news closely because we would love to be able to visit the UK without quarantining or paying hundreds of pounds for tests. We're both fully vaccinated now, so maybe in August?

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The big shop

 Monday. Day off. Weather unsettled. We need adventure. We also need shopping. Lots of shopping.

« I know, we can go on bus 11 from right outside the flats to the big Carrefour at Rives d’Arcin. There’s lots of places to eat, we can get lunch then get our shopping. »

So we did. We ate Poke Bowls (don’t laugh - it’s just a salad really) at Heiko. (I thought of a guy who came to church with us in North Wales for a while whose name was Heiko.)

Then a quick browse round the vast shopping centre. À door led outside. We went to take a look. At this.


Then back into the mall, off to Carrefour and back home on bus 11.

Heading off to church through the Jardin Public






 On Sunday we missed tram D, which takes us nearest to the church, so we hopped on tram C instead. 

It drops us opposite the Jardin  Public, Bordeaux' most central park, so we weren't disappointed to be able to scuttle through the park and take photos of the flowers on the way.

The weather has been pretty unstable - humid heat interspersed with torrential downpours. Our friends from the tropics say the rainy season has arrived at last! They feel quite at home!


Friday, June 25, 2021

Bordeaux is fractal

 I don’t mean it’s cracking, except in the positive sense of the word. I mean that the closer you look, the more detail you see.

The other evening I went to a concert given by a church choir directed by a friend from the choir I sing with. It was being held in Bordeaux’ finest baroque church, thé Église Notre Dame on thé Place du Chapelet near the Grand Théâtre. I arrived too early, as usual, and spent a happy half hour gazing round the square.

Last summer when we did our Year 1 tour of Bordeaux and heard all about the Terror following the revolution, we were told that the Eglise Notre Dame was chosen to become the Temple de la Raison. Imagine that! 

So I hunted round the square a little and, sure enough, the square was not always named Place du Chapelet (Rosary Square) but carved into the stone is … Place de la Raison!

Another street has carved into it Rue St. Dominique. How odd! Is Notre Dame Dominican? I know another church, Saint-Paul is Dominican.

It turns out that Louis XIV wanted to build a fortress to keep the bordelais in order, so he demolished a Dominican monastery. The Dominicans, undaunted?, built a new monastery which has since the revolution passed into public ownership and use for offices and exhibition space, the lovely Cours Mably.

I walked back to the tram across the beautiful Allées de Tourny, all lined with fragrant lime trees. 









Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Bordeaux is falling down

 well, parts of it.

Some time ago a building collapsed in Marseille. I remember feeling quite sniffy about the fact that a city could let some buildings get into such a poor state of repair that they collapse.

Then last week a building in the St Pierre area of Bordeaux collapsed. But it was an old stone building and was due to be demolished ready for the space to be occupied by something new. 

So that's different.

Then on Sunday evening two more buildings collapsed in the St Paul area of the city. We know the street well, just behind one of the shopping streets.

This time one was unoccupied but in the other nine people had to get out as the building fell down around their ears. One man was left seriously injured. Two more were taken to hospital. Others are being cared for otherwise. Some neighbours were blocked in their houses, while others were evacuated.



At present it's hard to say why the buildings collapsed. The dry springtime? The recent torrential rains? We hope to know something soon.


Sunday, June 20, 2021

P G Tips galore

 We have been concerned for some time now that our last box of tea bags is nearing its end. It was the last of the four boxes of 240 that we found on Amazon last November. They rescued Christmas.

Anyway, the same company is still selling packs of four boxes of 240 on Amazon, so I ordered them. They came one day later. And by searching through our previous orders we can fairly easily conclude that we get through approximately 2000 teabags each year.

I know we are meant to shun Amazon, but during confinement, and in household teabag crises, they are there for us.


Friday, June 18, 2021

La météo

 is very important just now.

Firstly we've had grosses chaleurs - very high temperatures - with the night staying above 20°C. This means you don't really cool off at night.

Then we've had grosses tempêtes - big storms - with strong winds and hail. It's been quite rough in some parts with flooding in a few areas of Bordeaux.

Now we are heading into an important weekend, because we've been told we no longer need to wear masks in the open air, except in certain situations, and this is a long weekend with the Fête de la Musique on Monday - for which ideally we'd like pleasant, warm weather with a gentle breeze so we can go into the nearest park and play and sing.


Well I have had side-effects

 to begin with we thought it was the heat, but the heat has subsided and been replaced with torrential downpours. So Mrs Davey searched on the inter web and found that the AstraZeneca vaccine can cause diarrhoea. 

Oh joy. Oh bliss.

It has one more evening to sort itself out before I take medication.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Second dose of vaccine installed

 My appointment was originally for 17h26 on 21st June, but 21st June is a public holiday for midsummer, what is called the Fête de la Music. I think I've written about this in the past. We're wondering what form this will take in Bordeaux this Monday under covid restrictions. Time will tell. However, we digress.

So the doctor's secretary sent me a SMS to tell me my appointment would be shifted to the 14th June.

Then our computerised doctor system, doctolib, told me it would be 14th June at 17h16. So at about 17h I started out for the surgery.

This was about 5 minutes too early, but the afternoon was very hot indeed so I wanted to allow time to walk slowly. Not only that but I wanted to call into the pharmacy to get some precautionary paracetamol in case I had a reaction. The pharmacy is opposite the doctor's surgery.

Well as I approached the surgery there was a small ill-defined group of elderly men hanging around outside.

"Good day. Is this a queue to be vaccinated?"

"You have to speak to the doctor."

Even as I spoke the tall, shaven-headed doctor appeared in the door. (my auto-correct changed this to seven-headed. I sometimes wonder what world my auto-correct lives in)

"Good day. I'm a bit early"

"Good day. That doesn't matter. It's?"

"Mr Davey"

"Oh yes, you sent me a message."

"Well, I was so impressed by your efficiency!"

"I only read the message yesterday."

"That's a bit less efficient."

"Yes. It went to an account I never use. If you wait here for a while we'll call you in"

Two minutes later I was assigned a seat in the waiting room.

Two minutes later I was called into the nurses room.

"Good day. I'm right-handed."

"Good day. You didn't have any reaction last time?"

"Nothing at all."

"Let's hope this time is the same. OK, I'm sticking it in (je pique). And, there we are. See you again!"

"See you again!"

Out to the waiting room to hang around for 15 minutes.

"Mr Davey, for us it's good."

"Very well. See you again!"

"See you again."


Sunday, June 13, 2021

On gifting things

 I'm coming round to it. I used to hate the new verb, to gift something to someone, or to gift someone something. After all, we used to have a perfectly good verb, to give. But it is falling into disuse.

"The lieutenant gave the Queen a bouquet of roses" has become "the lieutenant gifted the Queen a bouquet of roses".

"The Queen was given a bouquet of roses" has become "the Queen was gifted a bouquet of roses".

Why not? Who says you can't turn nouns into verbs? And given the general irregularity of the English language, why not replace one old verb with a new one derived from its related noun ?

Anyway it is better that blessing people with things, which for someone from an Anglican background is fraught with misunderstandings, as when a friend once told me someone had blessed him with a puppy. 

I was genuinely baffled. Water, OK. Hand signals. OK. Touches on the top of the head. OK. But a puppy ?

We could even make whole new useful verbs to replace phrasal verbs. 

For example, to car, meaning to convey someone in a car.

With this new and simple verb we would no longer have to say "Richard gave me a lift to the airport." 

We could say "Richard carred me to the airport". 

It has lots to commend it. For example, consider this exchange:

"How did you come to the airport? I bussed it."

"I almost bussed it, but in the end Xavier carred me."

It works, doesn't it! It's logical, simple and economical.

Let's get verbing! Let's see how much we can new today!

The Gardeners


 We are constantly baffled by the earthworks that the gardeners are doing. 

They pile up earth here, then remove it to pile it up elsewhere before once again bringing it back.

They construct roads then destroy them only to construct others alongside the previous one.

They are creating an artificial hill just below our balcony, but alongside it is a deep ditch.

Circular flat areas lie above strangely shaped holes.

The latest excavation for a road unearthed three drainage covers.

We are fascinated, but also anxious for it all to be over and for planting to begin !

Got my shot lined up

 Second armful of AstraZeneca is scheduled for tomorrow at 17h16 precisely. 

I'll leave the house at about 17h. Last time I arrived exactly at the rendezvous hour, and this time I want to be a little early.

I expect to be back at about 17:45, allowing for the walk and for the 15 minutes wait in case of anaphylactic shock.

They'll give me a piece of paper with a QR code to scan, which will then register my Pass Sanitaire in my TousAntiCovid app. 


Thursday, June 03, 2021

Bordeaux summer strikes again

 It's been very hot recently and time for my antihistamines. I went to the pharmacy and asked for enough cetirizine for two weeks. 

"Do you want eye-drops? Nose sprays? Sea-water to squirt up your nostrils? Homeopathic stuff guaranteed to stop you feeling anything at all ever again? Look! We have this!"

The pharmacist indicated a lovely purple box. I took some homeopathic hay-fever stuff once. Then I read the label. It said "Contains silica".

"No, these will do." I paid for my pills and left.

I'm not sure the pharmacy gets my approach to things. I don't aim to remove every symptom of hay-fever by squirting stinging drops in my eyes or foaming waters up my snout. I aim to get things to a point where I can cope without sneezing, sniffing and snuffling every two seconds. If my eyes water a little or itch slightly I can cope with that.

Anyway Bordeaux summer. Well, they say an English summer consists of two nice days and a thunderstorm.

If this is so, then a Bordeaux summer consists of forty English summers in a row.

Here from our lofty perch (fourth-floor balcony) we watch the gardeners moving vast quantities of earth and modelling ponds, troughs, terraces and hillocks. We gaze up and see Kevin our black kite (fr: Milan noir, like the city. "Vous venez d'où ?" "De Milan." "Tiens, ça fait long temps.") making lazy circles in the sky. We watch nasty magpies trying to intimidate a prowling cat. We listen out for ducks and geese in the day and for frogs in the evening. And all this before a single plant is planted nor any tree treed. It's so exciting to think of those future torrential downpours falling on the leaves below.

I scuttled into Bordeaux this afternoon. I wanted to accompany Pat on her walk to her stint in the bookshop, to go into the FNAC, my favourite shop, where I hardly ever go, and then to call to see a friend and arrange a coffee-date. 

On the way back I bought some more socks - I do seem to run short of socks - and then as I headed off to get the tram home some women were walking along with their umbrella up. Everyone was looking at them crazy, but they had the last laugh when sure enough, ten minutes later, the raindrops started. By the time I got home a full-blown thunderstorm was in progress right overhead.

I had neither coat nor umbrella, so I ducked into the multi-storey carpark to get some cover at least, then scampered through the courtyard to the entrance to our building. 

Home and ... sodden.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Catrin's Carte de Séjour

 Catrin, our daughter, has her rendezvous at the prefecture tomorrow for her application for a carte de séjour. All should be straightforward, except...

because she entered France as a minor they ask for different supporting documents, including something to confirm the date on which you entered the country. This could be our rental contract, or my tax return, or one of my pay slips. From 2005.

hmmm.

On the tax website the earliest tax return I can access is from 2008. It does make mention of 2005, saying that we used up all our allowances for that year, so I've printed that off for them.

The earliest pay slip I still have is also from 2008, but it says I entered employment on 9 September 2005, so I have also printed that off for them.

And we'll see.


Vaccine passport

 Yesterday evening Mrs Davey got her second AstraZeneca injection and, with it, her certificat de vaccination. 

The sheet of paper that tells you what's been sent to your health records also has a QR code. Scan it into your tousanticovid app and it turns into your vaccination certificate.

I'm due in the third week of June.


Sunday, May 23, 2021

Cake and coffee in the rain

 So yesterday we got the chance to go to the best café for getting good coffee on the terrace. It's a little way out of the city centre and has a huge area of paving dotted with lovely trees, so they put tables and chairs under the trees.

Yesterday it was raining, but hey, so we went anyway and met up with some of the folk. The guy in the coffee shop brought us out dry chairs and placed us under the awning, so we were fine. Kind of. And it wasn't raining much.





Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Today we take our next step out of confinement

 That means :

1) café and restaurant terraces can open.

2) Museums, art galleries, cinemas and theatres can open

3) non-essential shops can open

4) our curfew goes from 7pm to 9pm

Now come on England, put France on the green list!

 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

How can you do a duvet day when the sun shines ?

 Sunday the weather was foul and as we got home just after curfew, fearing for our lives, gigantic raindrops battered the backs of our legs. I had been feeling somewhat fatigued all day, partly because of the text I was preaching on, partly because of the context of preaching and partly because of ... well you know. It's been one of those times for a couple months. 

In addition the weather forecast for all this week is for cold, hard rain. After a glorious Saturday. With a public holiday on Thursday and a long weekend to follow - the Pont de l'Ascension. In the afternoon I suddenly realised what would help. Spend my day off on a duvet day !

A duvet day is something people use when they can no longer cope with anything. They stop everything and spend the day on their sofa under their duvet watching diverting films or binge-watching situation comedies.

So yesterday, my day off, I rose early and looked to see what I fancied binge-watching. First mistake. Nothing grabbed me at all.

I opened the windows to change the air in the flat. Second mistake. The day looked glorious.

I ate my banana and chocolate porridge. Pat got up. "Duvet day today", she said, "Wow, what a gorgeous day!". 

It was decided. We would go on an adventure instead into Bordeaux to find lunch and a park bench on which to eat it. We ventured out and visited Pat's doctor and the pharmacy, but quickly realised that though the day was indeed glorious, the park benches all over the city would still be absolutely saturated from Sunday's torrential downpours.

So we changed our minds and got lunch from our favourite emporia - chicken salad for me from Chicko's, ham salad for Pat from Eat Salad, and we caught up on a rather whimsical detective series from some years ago, called "Murder City".

A demi-duvet-day.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Vaccine, traffic lights and England in June

 So Pat got her vaccine at the beginning of march, I think, and her original instructions said to get her second injection at the beginning of May. So she's been watching Doctolib for appointments and when one came up tomorrow at our local GP she booked it.

A while later she got a phone call asking for her relevant data. We were puzzled because they did have it, but hey.

Then a little later still she got a message saying her appointment was cancelled because the gap between the injections was too small.

So we went down to ask.

It appears that they have changed the rules. Where before you had a eight week wait between injections, now the wait is twelve weeks. So she's due her injection towards the end of May and I'm due mine on 24 June.

Meanwhile the UK have brought in the traffic light system for visitors and France is Amber. This means a PCR test before coming, another 2 days after arriving, a third 8 days after arriving and ten days quarantine in an address that you have given to the authorities.

Since I am due to attend a conference in mid-June with a friend from the church here then we need France to be promoted to green by the beginning of June, ideally.

Otherwise there's no London conference for us. We could still go visit our son in Norwich, quarantining at his house. Or we could delay our visit until we have both had both our doses of vaccine.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

I think I just realised why it's so hard to get dark sugars in France

 It's well-nigh impossible to find sugars like demerara, muscovado, etc. in France. In the supermarkets we have cassonade, which is a light golden sugar. Sometimes you can find organic dark brown sugar with a lovely toffee taste, great for making ginger cake, for example, but not often. But things like treacle? Forget it.

I have long puzzled over this. France had colonies in the Caribbean and part of France is in South America, so surely...

Then I heard someone talking about the unique taste of Mexican Coca Cola (really?) and the difference the sugar makes and I twigged.

I think it all goes back to the Napoleonic Wars. During the wars the British navy blockaded France and prevented trade with the colonies. This cut off the supply of sugar.

Napoleon got people doing research and development and since then France has been self-sufficient in sugar, produced from sugar beet. 

This means that for two hundred years there's been no need to import sugar from anywhere else, and so those dark treacly sugars you can get from sugar cane are not widely available.