Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Work continues on the Jardins de l'Ars. Last week they dug two of the "bassins", two ponds for the more swampy areas meant to recreate and evoke the wetlands of the Gironde. Yesterday they did something quite inscrutable to the area just below our flat, including rollers, spreaders and diggers. This was when at sunrise they were spreading white dust in tracks of about a lorry-width. Then they rolled a larger area, including some of the white tracks and later covered it with a kind of glossy black substance. We're baffled. I would have thought some kind of soil-conditioning, but why roller it?
The pandemic takes its toll on the city. A café run by a charming couple has not survived, but they have survived and they both have good jobs. When you walk around the city you especially notice the empty squares where there once were café and restaurant tables. Then the closed up places - not everyone can do takeaway.
What you don't see is the knock-on effect of that on students. Lots of students work in cafés and bars, so they have lost their income. The government has a scheme to provide students with meals twice a day at 1€ to help them to be able to eat, even if paying their rent is still complicated.
Friends who work in music are also stuck. Schemes exist to mitigate the financial impact, but that doesn't solve everything. Some students at the conservatoire can study in place, some classes are held online. It's the same at the university - a mix of online and in person.
Teachers feel vulnerable. Schools are meant to social distance and pupils are masked, but in the playground and in the street the kids rough and tumble and share their bugs. Still, clusters of infection in schools are rare.
Shops are quite busy - after all, it's sale time and where else can you go just now? I decided I had to do something to support our favourite cafés, so I went to buy coffee pods from Jimmy. I thought I could go and buy something each week. He had some coffee pods upstairs. Boxes of 100. I won't be buying one of them each week, that's for sure. We're reluctant to use UberEats or Deliveroo or similar because they take quite a big cut, though I suppose it's better than nothing.
Then at 5 the mad dash home begins. Shops generally close at about 5:30, though some push it till 6.
Saturday, January 23, 2021
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Folks are concerned that we get vaccinated. One colleague suggested that we go and ask the doctor to get us done as soon as possible. Other folks tell us to just go and get it done. Asthma, you see.
Here's how it's working in France. From yesterday everyone over 75 is eligible to be vaccinated, as well as at-risk people in certain categories, like transplant patients or cancer patients with compromised immune systems, people with two or more organ failures, people suffering from a list of rare diseases. In short, not us. I suspect that we will be in the next tranche, perhaps in early February.
You can go to the vaccination centre and blag your way in - we have heard of one person who did that. Otherwise you need a prescription, so if we nagged the doctor they may well comply.
But to be honest, I don't think we're at high risk of catching the thing. (Famous last words, perhaps?)
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
UFM are hosting a webinar for church leaders on the above subject.
Find out about it here : https://www.ufm.org.uk/about/events/church-leaders-webinar/
A friend in the UK made a substantial gift to the mission to enable our UK state pension contributions to be completed. I had 31 years of contributions and Pat has 30, and we had anticipated saving up over the next few years buying additional years of contributions as we could. Now we wouldn't need to.
I signed a form allowing the mission to negotiate on my behalf, then the mission enquired how much it would cost to add my four missing years. The answer they got was far less than I had calculated so they sent off the cheque. I allowed a couple of weeks, then started watching my pension forecast.
I allowed a month, then six weeks.
Still nothing changed.
The folks at the mission contacted the pensions centre.
I phoned the helpline. "I'll send an urgent memo. It'll take a couple of weeks."
I phoned again, this time being sure to get the name of the person I spoke to. I quoted the dates of the letter and phone calls. "I'll send an urgent memo. It'll take a couple of weeks."
OK, but what should I do next, because the last time someone did this nothing changed. "Well it takes a couple of weeks."
We started this in June and it is now November.
"Then write a letter".
Thus it was that in December I sent a fairly thick envelops with copies of all correspondence between the mission and myself, with dates and records of phone calls and asked what could be done to rectify the situation.
After Christmas, with bated breath, I dared to look at my pension forecast page.
I now have 35 years of contributions ! After April we should see what effect that has on my pension forecast.
Man that was hard work, but worth it in the end.
Now to do the same for Patricia.
With the onset of Brexit we applied for our ten-year carte de séjour and were given our provisional ones some time ago. They were provisional because the UK was still in the EU, we had not even entered the transition period. So we had EU member state cartes de séjour and knew that once Brexit was complete we would need to replace them.
The government set up a website to apply fro the new cards and this went online in October 2019. I applied for Pat's card and for mine. Then the site was taken off-line again, but not before we had received our emails confirming our request for the new "third-country" cards.
Then yesterday we received emails from the prefecture summoning us for a meeting on 20 January to take our fingerprints once more in order to produce our final permanent cartes de séjour.
It will be good to get this finalised.
The weekend was a good example of the possibilities that coronavirus has alerted us to. We could have done this anyway, but we didn't, and now we do.
So Saturday began with a 8:45 15minute talk from Romans 3 for our church in North Wales. This happens on Facebook live and I found that Google Chrome works for that on my laptop. I can also prop it up on my nice new adjustable stand which I bought to replace the bent coat-hanger I had been using since March 2020!
Sunday morning I was in one of our supporting churches in Bath, giving a brief update, doing the Bible reading and leading in prayer. The church posts its services on Youtube, so I needed to video myself doing the three things in advance, standing and filmed basically waist-up. So I stood Catrin's old tripod on our bed and stood in front of the wardrobes. This gave the right distance, good lighting and a neutral background.
Sunday evening was Bordeaux Church's meeting where our video projector refused to connect to anything we plugged in, so quick-thinking Sylvain exported the projection file as a pdf and we posted it to the Bordeaux Church Facebook group. People sang from their smartphones.
We'd been thinking for a while whether we need to find a better way of streaming the services. At present we use Facebook live from my smartphone via 4G. There's no wifi at the church building. A techie-task-force will take this in hand.
We hustled off home and arrived in good time for the curfew to fall and to make a quick cup of tea before connecting to one of our supporting churches in Cardiff for a short Bible message, a quick update, questions and answers and a time of prayer.
It will be interesting to see how coronavirus changes our approach to communication with churches in the future. Will we continue to do three-week whistle-stop tours of the UK once we can?
Sunday, January 03, 2021
Anyway, off I trotted into the city pausing briefly to take another angle on the opera house. On my way home I had intended walking but it was so cold so I took the tram again and chose the quickest back street to the stop. That's how I found it.
I scuttled through and made a note to come back in more clement times.
Friday, January 01, 2021
There's a curfew at the moment which means that everyone must be indoors by 8pm. Covid regulations also restrict the number of folk you can have in your home to 6 (not counting children). So New Year's Eve found us on our own this year. It meant we could do things simply.
We were on duty in the Christian bookshop from 2 till 4, so we had a big lunch of cauliflower cheese before heading off into the city. We wanted to call by Bradley's bookshop, the English language bookshop, on the way, and we spent a happy moment chatting with the guy who should really have been stocking the shelves, but hey. Then off to the bookshop through the pouring rain, dodging the many cyclists and the few cars.
Because we'd be along we decided we could skip eating an evening meal and instead go for snacks finger food, so I whipped up some hummus, Pat chopped carrots, peppers and cucumbers and we cracked open a bag of those vegetable crisps, too. We don't get TV but we do have a Netflix subscription, so we decided to watch again The Bodyguard, the TV cop and political intrigue drama from some decades ago while munching our peppers and scraping our hummus (with smoked paprika).
Midnight found us on the balcony watching the fireworks in the various suburbs around us, Floirac, Bouliac, Bègles, Villenave. People seemed particularly happy to see the end of 2020, with loud cheers for 15 to 20 minutes and some wag somewhere playing bugle calls into the night.
2020! What a year! We know that God's goal for us in this world is to make us less like the hell-bound mindless rebels we are by nature and more like the Lord Jesus Christ. To achieve this he uses every circumstance of our lives, working everything together for our good and his glory.
That's why I wonder whether despite the frustrations and challenges that 2020 has thrown up, and the very real fear, pain and grief we have known, whether in the end 2020 will prove to have been one of the nest years we have ever known. It has brought us - dragged us kicking and screaming - back to the essentials. Stripped us of our frills and shown what we are underneath.
On another note I write to you from inside the European Union, aware that many of you have now left definitively. I was surprised when the Christmas Eve Deal popped out of the hat. I thought there would be no deal. I suspected that this was the desired outcome - certainly it was for some. Now to make a success of it, as a former Prime Minister promised, but was unable to deliver.
For our part we have our 10-year residence cards. Yesterday a man urged us to apply for French nationality, and we may do that one day. What's stopping us is the expense of getting lots of documents translated and the awareness that whatever we do we can never be French. Let me explain.
I joined various groups on the internet which are designed to share information for those applying for residence or for nationality. The process is long. It takes a minimum of two years. People who are granted their prized French passport sometimes encourage everyone by saying "I'm French". French people are quick to reply that they are not French, they just have French nationality, and that is not the same thing.
We love France and we love living here. We think the French way of running the country is eminently sensible and has reaped tangible benefits. We see the French state as benign and benevolent and we are happy to pay our taxes - mainly VAT - and support the country as much as we can. We love the city of Bordeaux and we are very happy to live and work here and do all we can to contribute to its well-being.
But we don't think or work like French people and I don't think we ever could. We were not made in France and we are ill-equipped to cope here. So we'll shelve any decisions about nationality until we know where we should settle once we retire from the work we're engaged in here. That's planned for 2025. Goodness, just four years!
All things work together for good, according to his purpose, to be conformed to the image of his Son.
The path through the desert they trace;
And every affliction they suffered
Redounds to the glory of grace;
Their look they cast back on the tempests,
On fears, on grim death and the grave,
Rejoicing that now they're in safety,
Through Him that is mighty to save.
Shall flee to the land of the blest;
Life's tears shall be changed to rejoicing,
Its labours and toils into rest.
There we shall find refuge eternal,
From sin, from affliction, from pain,
And in the sweet love of the Saviour,
A joy without end shall attain.'
tr. by Lewis Edwards, 1809-87