Showing posts from 2021

Essential supplies

 Our stocks of tea are running low, so had we gone to England for Christmas our plan was to come back with substantial supplies of tea bags.  Here in France we pay in excess of 2€ for 20 nasty tea bags, and if we can find good ones generally they're around 8€ for a box of 40. This compares with the typical price we pay in the UK of perhaps £4 for 240. In addition recently it has become very hard to find the good tea bags here in France, probably because of that ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal. About six months ago I ordered four boxes of 240 tea bags from Amazon for a cost of about 30€; more than twice what we'd pay in England but much less than in France. I found the old order on Amazon and looked at what they could offer now. Our usual brand was not available. Pat looked at alternative suppliers. I looked at other brands. In the end we ordered this : Now to find somewhere to store them.

A covid false alarm

 One of the chaps who was at church last Sunday became a "cas contact" - someone he had been near had contracted covid. For UK readers, I think it's a bit like being pinged. The drill is that if you get covid or test positive you warn the people you've been having out with so they can get themselves tested.  We faced the possibility of telling the folk who were at church that they all needed to be tested. Our man went to get a test, but was unable to do so. In addition he said that he had some symptoms. We called at the pharmacy on the way back from our walk. There's no shortage of self-test kits and we could also get a test done by the pharmacy without needing an appointment. We said that if there was still doubt the following day we would call back and get ourselves done to be sure. There was a little queue of people waiting to be swabbed, and I noticed that the main pharmacist was wearing protective goggles as he served.  Later that day our friend said he'd

A spot of nature

 Catrin and Froim came on Wednesday to kidnap us and take us on a walk. There's an app and a website for people who want to go on walks in the countryside surrounding Bordeaux. It had rained heavily for some time, so we avoided anything we thought might be too sticky and headed for Bassens, a suburb on the right bank of the river. Then Thursday brought the promise of good weather again with temperatures of 18°C, so we headed to our nearest wooded park, Parc Mussonville in Bègles, for a quick scamper through the trees.  .

Covid - new measures

 Of course, we wondered whether we had been wise to cancel our trip to the UK. One couple travelled by train from Paris to the UK uneventfully.  But then we heard other reports. One family flew from a south Asian country to the UK. Clear to fly, their day 2 test revealed that all the family were infected. They would spend most of their two-week visit in quarantine. Another family travelled from France and one child tested positive for covid on day 2. Another family has a child stranded in the UK because he tested positive and was not cleared to fly to their home in Southern Europe for Christmas. Yesterday the government met to discuss the rise of the omicron variant and announced new measures. A limit of 2000 people meeting indoors and 5000 outdoors. Masks must now be worn in all city centres. (The local Prefect had already imposed this in Bordeaux) No eating or drinking stood up - everyone in cafés, bars and restaurants must be seated. (I thought this was already in force!) No eating

An impromptu Christmas

 Having reluctantly decided not to spend Christmas in the UK, we had some work to do. The following morning, Wednesday, I got onto the websites.  Boots had sent our day two PCR tests out, so we couldn't get that refunded. Trainline made it very easy to cancel our return tickets from Stansted to Norwich. There was a button to click. We had booked return lateral flow tests with a lab at Stansted. They were easily cancelled, too. Ryanair - I was reconciled to losing the price of our tickets - expensive ones given the hold baggage we added, and sure enough, we were not allowed to cancel our trip. However, we COULD change our flights for a "small fee". We discussed dates with our people in the UK and changed the dates. It meant the tickets now were really very expensive indeed - were we throwing good money after bad? - but it gives us a date to visit the Norwich part of the tribe. So now we were staying, but how to make it festive? Well on Wednesday we contacted people quickly

Which voice did we listen to ?

 We've postponed our trip to Norwich until the spring, when we can hope for a dip in the levels of covid infections and a relaxing of restrictions.

Travel to the UK ...

 It's more than two years since we set foot on UK soil. This is actually quite normal for people who work overseas. Very often people spend four years away before coming back for a year's "home assignment". But our pattern has been to spend a couple of weeks each year in Britain. Until covid came. For reasons I won't go into, Gwilym and Beth are unable to travel to France, so they missed both Catrin and Froim's civil and church weddings. So we plan(ned) to travel to the UK to spend Christmas with them in Norwich. However that was until omicron arrived. The UK government is under huge pressure firstly to take action to stem the rising tide of omicron infections, but also not to cancel Christmas. So I think it's unlikely that the UK will go under any kind of further restrictions until Boxing Day at least. But we're not due to fly back until New Year's Eve. Then European countries are shutting their borders and putting in strict controls on who can tr

The saga of the Christmas tree continues

 Some subversive Bordelais have put up and decorated a real Christmas tree just about 50 yards from the new glass and steel tree. We haven't yet been able to go wandering around the city, but when we can we'll try and get photos to pop on here. I don't even know if this new little tree is still there.

Bordeaux' Green Mayor and the scandal of the Christmas Tree

 Last year in the surge of the green wave that swept across France the incumbent mayor, and replacement for Alain Juppé, Nicolas Florian, was ousted by a studious looking lawyer from the Green Party. There resulted a huge controversy last year when he refused to erect the habitual Christmas tree by the cathedral. "We don't want a dead tree in the middle of Bordeaux", he said. Meanwhile the arboriculteur who had grown the tree specially had to scout around for another buyer, and one disgruntled Bordeaux resident put a domestic Christmas tree in its empty place. I confess that I don't get this at all. The trees are grown for the purpose and recycled into mulch after the festivities. Anyway, there are other solutions. The neighbouring town of Talence has a huge conifer planted next to the church on the central square and every year they decorate that. Why not! Anyway, this year the mayor ordered a construction from a local artist - a huge conical tower in steel and glass

Covid testing for travel

 Oh boy. Well, we need pre-departure antigen tests before we fly. Here we can do that at our local pharmacy without rendezvous while you wait. Then we need Day 2 PCR tests after arrival. Trying to order these was a trial. We chose Boots, because they have a branch in Norwich. The routine is that you order and enter your passport and payment details on the Boots Special Covid Testing Website, then you book your appointment with the branch. The Norwich branch has no available appointments. I huffed and puffed. We wanted to avoid having to post off phials of test substrate over the Christmas period, but I don't think there's an alternative. So in the end we ordered the cheaper "stick it up your own nose" tests, which you have to post off. Then before we fly back we have to have antigen tests. Boots do these too. Same routine. Payment details. Book appointment. No appointments available. OK. At our return airport there are two companies who do on site rapid antigen testin

"Le pass sanitaire"

 It's not very French in its spelling but in general people have accepted the idea of the QR code on your phone that shows your covid status and allows you to enter cafés, restaurants, concerts, trains, planes, etc. For it to be valid you need to have received your second dose of vaccine at least two weeks ago, your booster shot if your second dose was five months ago, or to have had a negative lateral flow or PCR test in the last 24 hours.  To be honest, it's not always checked in every café - there's been one or two occasions where we haven't been asked for it. When it was introduced there was some protest but it also induced a scramble to get vaccinated. The other day we went to Ikea for something or other - net curtains for an angel, I think - and went for lunch there. You don't need a pass to shop, but you do to eat. One woman in front of us in the queue had a pass, but it was not valid. Perhaps she had too recently had her second injection. Despite her arguing

And I'm running again

 So I saw my own doctor on Friday - or at least the colleague who often replaces him - and he said, "yes, why not. It's best to run in the countryside." "Yes, but this is the city centre." "So I go to the forests to run, or in the big park beyond the football stadium." My own doctor, before referring me to the cardiologist, suggested crossing the river to run up the hills of the Entre Deux Mers. "It's an hour tram-ride away." "Oh yes, I go on the bike." (It's a half-hour bike ride.) He's probably about 30, about 6'3" and it's all legs. I suppressed harsh thoughts, but felt much better when later on I caught him outside having a quick cigarette. So today I started again. I have new socks and I may need to find new shoes, but today was fine. I'm back on the couch to 5K trail for now, but looking at other programmes, too.

The cardiologist

It all started when I changed doctor. My old doctor in Villenave had dissuaded me from running. "We are not made to run," she said, "but to walk".  So instead of running for 30 minutes about three times a week I walk most days to either Carrefour or Lidl and come back with a rucksack of shopping. I walk like an old guy who's scared of missing his train. It's not pretty, it's not sporty, but it is somewhat rushed. It isn't the same, though, and now that the area is starting to take shape, and there are fewer heavy lorries and more places that might be OK for running I'd like to get back to it. So I asked my new doctor. He was quite positive about it, but he wanted to send me to a cardiologist for a stress test to make sure I'm not going to suffer any ill effects.  "Who do you want to see?" asked the secretary, as if I knew anything about it. I chose the nearest. Pat had been sent to him so I knew where his surgery is. Well... I'v

Christmas concerts

 I am between choirs, and at an unfortunate moment because this is the year when we can do Christmas concerts again! The choir I last sang with has a concert next Sunday, I think, in a church in outer Gironde. (I can't continue to sing with them because they've turned into a kind of regional weekend choir.) Meanwhile the Petits Chanteurs de Bordeaux, a Cathedral-based children's choir has a concert on Friday evening in aid of the Café Joyeux, a café that employs handicapped people. The Choeur Voyageur is doing the same concert three times on three different dates in three different places in Bordeaux. These are free concerts. The Choeur Notre-Dame, directed by a friend, also has their Christmas Concert soon. I want to go to support my friend. And then there are the Christmas concerts of the Opera choir. I haven't even looked at them! Then in early January another choir I used to sing with (weekends again!) is performing Bach's B-minor. This will be an excellent perf

Why did we come to the South of France? For the weather, of course!

 Yesterday it was freezing.  Today we're being blown sideways along with the driving, persistent, heavy, horizontal rain.

Carol singing in the Christmas Market

 So we went down to the church for 1:45 to have a quick blast through the carols we'd chosen to sing at the market. We were eventually about 11 people, including two small ones looked after by their father, so 8 singing, and it all went off pretty well. I have one nagging doubt - we aren't allowed to distribute leaflets, so it means we can't hand out anything at all. It means that people see us and that's that. I wonder whether we'd be better off singing in the street near the entrance to the market where we could then hand out flyers to the Carol Service... To be considered. Do UK churches still have Carol services ? They used to be quite a big thing.

Booster rappel

 So yesterday I tried to make appointments for our third jab. This time we are to be given either Pfizer or Moderna. There are two ways of making appointments. The first is on Doctolib, and it's the way you make an appointment with your doctor generally. The system for booking a vaccination was swamped. It said we had a wait time of some ten hours. The pharmacy uses its own appointment system on its own website. It was also swamped.  Still, yesterday evening we managed to make appointments with the doctor to be vaccinated on 3 January. I did wonder if we could do better, though, at the pharmacy. This morning, when I woke up, I went onto the pharmacy website and got an appointment for a Pfizer vaccination on 17 December. Yes! I cancelled the appointment with the doctor. Then when Pat got us she booked an appointment for an injection of Moderna - TODAY! So she just came back from getting it done. Voilà ! All done.

Covid update

 It was striking to see the discipline of the folks in Porto. In Portugal at that time it was not obligatory to wear a mask in cafés and restaurants, but everyone did. We never saw anyone without a mask. Not only that, but the masks were worn to cover the mouth and the nose.  Meanwhile the French health committee met yesterday and decided that from now on : Masks must be worn in shops, cafés, restaurants, concert halls, cinemas, even where the pass sanitaire is scanned. All adults in France are strongly encouraged to receive a third dose of vaccine from 5 months after their second dose. However no confinement or curfew is envisaged. At present it seems that people are responding to this by booking their appointments for vaccination.


 I've been neglecting you. I'm sorry. Part of it is the build-up to Christmas. This year we hope to sing at the Christmas Market as well as to hold a traditional Carol Service and a children's Christmas club. Then there's the political situation, wherein, according to the French media, the United Kingdom is in chaos, with shortages in the shops, rising cases of covid and a prime minister who becomes unusually incoherent in the face of big business, while in the British media France is in chaos, with riots in the streets, soaring cases of covid and a president like a Greek god who exceeds Napoleon in his ambitions for Europe. Discussions with family and friends in the UK suggest that both pictures are caricatures at best. Meanwhile there is the current covid scene in France to deal with. At present cases are rising but hospitalisations are not. Booster jabs are being rolled out and Pat and I will be due for a jab from 1 December, though this may change today as the gover


 Catrin's wedding was timed for the middle weekend of the Toussaint half-term fortnight, so the following Monday we took a flight to Porto. We had EasyJet vouchers from cancelled lights during confinement that needed to be used up before January. In December we plan to visit our son and daughter-in-law in Norwich, but easyJet doesn't fly anywhere convenient from Bordeaux for that. We're itching to return to Italy, but there were no flights. No flights to Bristol or Liverpool, so no visits to the UK. But Porto was possible, so Porto it was. The city is fascinating, we managed to do most of what we wanted to do and the only hiccough was that after going through security on the way back we found our flight was cancelled. Some moments of headless chicken impressions got us up to the easyJet check-in desk where they sorted us out with accommodation. Some years ago we were in a similar situation with Swissair, and felt so badly treated that I really don't want to fly with the

Catrin's wedding ceremony

 So Phase 2 of Catrin's wedding was the weekend of 30 October. She and Froim masterminded it, finding a chateau with a couple of gîtes and a donkey named Mirabel, arranging friends to do catering and cake, finding a photographer (mother of a colleague) etc. We simply reserved a Citiz car and helped with shuttling things about. Catrin had said that she'd like autumn colours for the décor and for the guests where possible. Given Autumn's wide palette of yellows, golds, greens, browns and reds, we had plenty of scope.  Catrin had ordered her dress from an Italian company that sells by internet. Froim found his suit in a store in central Bordeaux. Patricia shopped the stores and the web for a suitable dress and jacket and I was steered towards a shop on one of the smartest streets of the city. I went at sale time. The guys did the hard sell, trying to get me to buy shoes, socks, bow tie, all from their store. I saw a fabric I liked in a colour that would work but they didn'

Fig chutney

 Chutney is not commonly available in France. You can occasionally find something in the foreign foods parts of the supermarket and sometimes Branston pickle pops up on the shelves. Earlier in the year I passed through Paris, so I hunted down one of the sad little Marks and Spencer Food Stores - sad because many of their fresh staples are no longer available because of brexit and supply issues - but while there I bought some crumpets, some tea-cakes and some chutney. Subsequent examination of the label of the chutney revealed that it’s main ingredient is sugar. I was somewhat disappointed. Thankfully chutney is not difficult to make, so I have found a couple of recipes that I like - one for an easy tangy Apple chutney. Cooking apples are almost unknown here, so I use Granny Smiths. Also cherry tomatoes were cheap at Lidl, so I made some very gloopy tomato chutney. Saturday’s wedding was at the Mairie at Messac in the Charente-Maritime. We trundled down the lovely narrow roads to find t

The apartment

 Just about 450 metres from our flat is the tram stop Carle Vernet. 100 metres beyond that is an old warehouse that used to be the premises of "Bordeaux Termites". The business has moved to the inner ring road. Alongside it and occupying a corner is a run-down échoppe - the small single-storey railworkers' houses that have become so popular. On both of these buildings is attached a notice of planning permission. They will soon be replaced by a building housing 25 apartments, with a garage on the ground floor, three storeys of apartments and a roof garden. On the second floor of this building, with two bedrooms with windows facing south and a living room with its balcony facing the setting sun, is to be found our future home. We signed for it today.  


 So tomorrow is the civil wedding of two of our church members. I am the groom's witness, so we'll scuttle off to the Charente, the neighbouring department to the north of us, about an hour's drive to the village of Messac, rendez-vous at the town hall at 4. Next week is the wedding ceremony for Catrin, our daughter. It's going to be EXHAUSTING!  It starts with a "hendo" - in French "the burial of the life of the young girl". This means Catrin and her girlie friends rampaging around and having girly fun. All day. Thursday is the barbers. I am relying on Clement to produce the best possible version of myself. Friday is when my involvement starts. I have some folk to collect from the airport and then a team goes to decorate the room. Saturday is THE BIG DAY. I have to walk about 10 yards while looking as elegant as I can without upstaging my daughter. My son-in-law, of course, is fair game. Sunday is THE BIG SLEEP. Rory is preaching. Thanks, Rory!

Flu jab

 The letter came last week and told me to go and get myself vaccinated against the 'flu from 26th October. I made a mental note. Yesterday evening I recalled my mental note and decided to call the pharmacy to arrange a vaccination. So this morning at about 9am I took action on my decision. "Hallo. It's for the anti-'flu vaccinations. It starts next week. Do I need to make an appointment?" "We've started today. They've brought the date forward and you can just come in with your letter." So in went I went and in went the needle. No blood, so no sticking plaster.  Off I went again.

Schèmes; schemes and more schemes

 The area where we live is being radically redeveloped, completely remodeled, with new roads, new gardens and parks; new shopping centres and lots of new apartment blocks. So we have continued looking to see if we can find a suitable apartment for our retirement. We looked at a complex of buildings being built by a company that is a household name. The salesperson attends a church in the city and knows several of my friends and colleagues. But we don’t like the design of the apartments or of the tower blocks. We looked at some apartment stuff being built by the wiggly bridge (le pont en u) near the railway station. The apartments are nice but it’s perhaps a little too close to the station and the wiggly bridge will intrude on the privacy of the apartments. We looked at another block of flats on the corner of the gardens, pretty well opposite where we live now, but again it’s a tower block. And we also looked at another smaller block of 24 flats just beyond our nearest tram stop. Two fl

Chez le médecin

 So a visit to the doctor was due. For some years I have frequented a doctor in Villenave, the town where we first rented a little house in France. She’s great. She’s also 30 minutes tram ride and 20 minutes walk away. Meanwhile two new young doctors have opened their offices 10 minutes walk from our flat. The one doctor is an hairy doctor, bearded and with a man bun. The other doctor is a smooth doctor, shaven headed. I went to see the hairy doctor with a little list of issues. Among them : Is my left ear blocked? I have the stuff from the pharmacist but I cannot manage to look down my own ear, no matter how I try. I’d very much like it if you could peer down my ear and relate what you perceive. He looked. It is. So am I doing the best thing? I have xylene drops and a rubber ear squirting bulb. What about using hydrogen peroxide (eau oxygénée) or bicarbonate of soda ?  He shuddered at the idea. No, xylene is the good stuff. Carry on. Another question concerned mosquito bites. Lately I

We went, we saw, we considered

 Well we went along to the office of the property developer that is building the new flats. Two charming women wrestled powerfully with technology before giving up on large-screen projection and augmented reality headsets and showing us the models of the flats on a laptop. It all sounded quite promising. They explained the eligibility criteria for the prix maitrisé - to have not been property owners within two years of the purchase, and to have an income below a certain threshold - we met the criteria. They explained the timetable for payment for the flats. (In France you pay in stages as the place is built. This can be crippling if you are repaying a growing loan as well as your rent, especially when construction is delayed.)  Then we came away and discussed it all in the tram, over lunch and while walking round the building site where the flats will be in a few short years' time. We came to the conclusion that this isn't the moment for us. 1) Our savings are in schemes that m

Sunrise over the Jardins de l'Ars


More future planning

 The question of where we go when we leave UFM is an interesting one. We moved here from North Wales where, in our post-industrial and unfashionable town, property prices are reasonable. We could happily return there and assume the life of UK pensioners. I do have some concerns. The NHS is excellent and the envy of the world, but queues are long and its excellence seems to be subject to geographical variations. Also the life of a UK pensioner is sometimes a life of fuel poverty, especially if we live in an older, poorly insulated house heated by gas for long months of the year. Modern flats can be found in city centres, and some might be within our reach. We have various little accounts here and there which, when matured and amalgamated might find us an apartment in a small city somewhere. Life in a city centre would mean that we wold not be dependent on running a car, another major expense. Or we could stay here. Fuel poverty is less of an issue here as we never heat our flat. Anyway,

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


 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.


 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 G

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

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 i

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 wit

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.

"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 t

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,

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

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 directl

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 th

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 poi

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.

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

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 ev

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

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 ) an

Look ! Høbnöbs


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

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.

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 fo

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 te