Showing posts from 2022

What about the energy crisis, then?

 Well we are being told to Lower, Switch off and Delay (je baisse, j’éteins, je décale) in order to help the national grid to cope through the winter, but the people most affected are the bakers, some of whom are really struggling to pay their energy bills.


 Christmas Day was a comparatively quiet day, with a shorter service at our flat, followed by lunch. In the end we represented the USA, Egypt, Nigeria, France and the United Kingdom. We did not watch the King’s message this year, I caught up with it later on YouTube. On Christmas Eve we had had a video call with Gwilym and Beth in Norwich and with Catrin and Froim, who were on the autobahn from Munich to Vienna.  This week has been restful and festive, though we’ve had lots of leftovers to eat so we haven’t sampled any the eateries that I shortlisted to try. We did call in at a coffee-shop and we’ve also been to the cinema to see ‘Living’, a reworking of a Japanese film with a screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro. The main character played by Bill Nighy, whose name I try to avoid attempting to pronounce.

Christmas follies

We get alternating periods of mild weather and very cold snaps at the moment. Snow has sometimes been forecast but has not materialised.  To this is added a season of strikes in Bordeaux' public transport that has led to some lines not running at all, remaining lines having decreased frequency and nothing at all after 9pm. On Friday I was due at A Coeur Ouvert for the last day of opening at 10am. I left hoping to get tram C and walk through the Jardin Public. Tram D was not running. I waited at the tram stop. When the tram arrived it was already stuffed fuller of people than a can is of fish.  I gave up and prepared to walk to A Coeur Ouvert - it would take perhaps a little over an hour. Then I remembered that bus 1 to the airport leaves from the station - a mere 8 minutes walk from our home - and passes within a 10 minute walk of ACO. At the station I found a handful of people waiting for the bus, and when it arrived I boarded with joy and sat down, with all the eschatological joy

A little emergency

 So it was 11pm and we had just taken to our downy couch when Mrs Davey said that her heart was beating erratically. I felt and confirmed that she had a very strong arrhythmia. She had no pain, dizziness, breathlessness or discomfort so she walked around the flat a little to see if it would settle. It didn't settle. We decided to ring SOSMédecin. Then to ring the emergency services - 15. After a brief discussion, a doctor was despatched and soon arrived with a portable ECG machine in a backpack. The machine confirmed a diagnosis of arrhythmia due to atrial fibrillation. Pat would need to go to hospital. Some phone calls ensued. "OK. Take her to Saint André aiming to arrive at about 3am." "Yes, OK, but we don't have a car." "OK, I'll book an ambulance." "And I go with her." "No." The ambulance duly arrived and the two guys came to the flat bearing their collapsible stretcher and various other bits and bobs. Pat was once again

Strikes in Bordeaux

 We have a transport workers' strike in Bordeaux today, so there's a reduced service on trams and buses. It's also really cold today. Just 1°C at present.

Operation Frankton

 80 years ago today one of the most audacious commando raids of the Second World War was launched targeting ship harboured at Bordeaux. Read about it by searching for Operation Frankton, or watch the film "Cockleshell Heroes"

A festive 'recipe' - Christmas cruffins*

 Many people will be mass-producing mince pies for the innumerable ca rol services that offer to the discerning guest a choice of Jazz Carols, Classical Carols, Choral Carols, Contemporary Carols, Celtic Carols or Heavy-metal Carols at this time of year. The more the services, the more the mince pies. Fear not; I am here to help. Buy rectangular sheets of flaky pastry. I get mine in Auchan.  (Obviously for Vegan Carols choose your pastry accordingly) Unroll your sheet. Brush it all over with warm mince-meat, attempting an even distribution of dried fruit. Roll up your sheet of pastry from the longest edge to obtain a long roll. With a sharp knife, cut this roll down the middle lengthwise to produce two long half-rolls. Cut these half-rolls into three. Now take each small section of half-roll and twirl it into a pleasing rose-bud like shape.  I mean, do your best to achieve roundness. Place gently into your muffin tin, cut side up. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 20 to 30 minutes

Winter chills

 Well here in Bordeaux we seem to have gone from summer directly to winter without passing autumn or collecting golden leaves. We usually have gentle temperatures here but today we hit a maximum of 10°C. This mean that I had to find my ski jacket. Yes, dear reader, my ski jacket. I know I have never been skiing, bt I do have a ski jacket. Some years ago, in Pessac, I went to put some rubbish in the bins room. There, draped across the green recycling bins, was a ski suit consisting of a pair of ski pants and a ski jacket. They appeared to be brand new, completely unworn. They were in an especially impractical colour of pale beige - probably quite a good idea for the pistes but not so good for the buses and trams. I tried the jacket on. It was a perfect fit. It was immediately adopted. I break it out when the weather gets chilly, like now. Meanwhile we've paid another instalment on the purchase of the flat. This one was due once the architect certified that the roof and the windows w

Birthday curry

 Mrs Davey celebrated her 21st birthday yesterday, so we decided to investigate a curry house of good repute a short tram ride from our apartment. It was a foul day, with episodes of driving torrential rain, so we were glad to have a brief moment of respite in which to make a dash for the tram. The curry was good. The waiter asked us if we liked it hot, and we said we did. It’s the first time we’ve had a properly spicy curry in Bordeaux, I think. We will be back.


 The Birth Certificate was labelled "Passport" and was delivered by my friendly local DHL man.  I immediately scanned it with my phone and loaded it up to the ANTS driving licence website, together with the other certificate. And since then... the status of my request is "En cours d'analyse par le service instructeur". So I hope that that's all I'll need to do until the time when they ask me to send them my old licence and they send me my new one.


The ANTS website is quite well designed. You can log in via your id and password from the tax system, so I did that rather than create another id and password, and loaded up my documents.  Off went my request. Back came the bad news that further documents were needed - a Birth Certificate issued within the past three months, and the UK licence centre document that confirms your right to drive. Hmmm. My most recent Birth Certificate was issued in 2013. Meanwhile in the UK there are postal strikes. Oh well, nothing for it but to bite the bullet and order a new certificate. The UK documents office offered delivery by DHL. It cost a lot, but I decided to go for it anyway. Meanwhile I also obtained the other UK certificate that was needed. You could simply download it.


 A word that strikes terror into the heart. I have various tasks to accomplish this week. The first is to apply to exchange my driving licence. European citizens can use their driving licences in any country of Europe, but we recently ceased to be European citizens. We’ve all been told to continue to use our UK driving licence until it expires or until we commit some driving offence. My photo card licence expires in February so it’s time to exchange it for a French one. This meant getting a passport photo done. I went to a booth that supplies the photo, transmits it to the préfecture, along with your signature and a special code that you can use in communication with the government. But could I get my signature to register on the screen? To ask the question is to answer it. So I hied me to a photographic emporium. A nice lady sat me on a wobbly stool, told me to look straight ahead and to relax, then to sign and gave me the code in return for 15 euro-credits. So that stage is done. ‘Yo

France’s new immigration law

 I watched a news report about the proposed new law on immigration.  The problem is that France has gaps in the labour market, jobs that employers cannot fill, often in catering and care. Folk from other countries are willing to fill these jobs, but it is illegal to employ someone who doesn’t have the right to stay in the country and to work. Generally there are few inspectors and raids on places of work are few - though these sometimes did occur in previous administrations, police being sent to factory gates to check people’s papers.  The proposed law will give fast-track papers to immigrants who have found work in France to enable them to stay and to contribute to the economy.


 Last week we travelled to Teisendorf in Bavaria, near the Austrian border, for the Annual Retreat of the International Pastors of the International Christian Communities of Eurasia at a hotel/conference centre just a short walk from the railway station. In the past we have flown from Bordeaux to Paris, then Paris to Munich, then train to Teisendorf. Once we took the TGV to Paris, then flew to Munich, then took the train to Teisendorf. This year prices were such that we decided to go all the way by train. Our outward journey went : Bordeaux to Paris, Paris to Stuttgart, Stuttgart to Munich, Munich to Teisendorf. We had two small problems. One was that we decided to walk from Montparnasse to the Gare de l'Est. Big mistake. Don't do it. Take the Metro and spend an hour in a café instead. Then at Stuttgart we scuttled off to the correct platform to be told that we could not board our train, and that it had been cancelled. Five minutes later it pulled in at the adjoining platform,

It has been an eventful week in Bordeaux

 Firstly our collaborators, the Coquerels, had their big formal interview with the UFM Mission on Friday. It went very well and they were accepted. Then we also had a visit from one of the elders of our old church in North Wales. It’s wonderful to be looked after like this and to let them see something of the work here and how we are doing, as well as to hear how things are in North Wales. It was my turn this month to present the book to the reading group. I was excited to see that the book we had chosen, The Trees, by Perceval Everett, was on the shortlist for the Booker Prize. It didn’t win, but still… To my huge relief everyone very much enjoyed the book - a detective story come horror story come farce exploring the legacy of the culture of lynchings in the southern states of the USA. The book directed me to the Billie Holiday song, ‘Strange Fruit’. Listen to it some time. It’s harrowing. In France there are strikes just now, but they have had no direct impact on us at all. Then las

Rethinking social media

 Facebook is a dream. Facebook is a nightmare. Both these things are true. When we started Bordeaux Church some 8 years ago in 2014 we had no money for anything, not for a fancy website or for anything else for that matter. So I set up a church website using Blogger and we used Facebook for church communications - a public Facebook page and a private Facebook group. I accumulated Facebook friends over the years and made a point each day of greetings people on their birthdays, usually in French. I thought that if they saw a "Joyeux anniversaire" from me, then they might be reminded to pray for the work of the gospel here. But I stayed on Facebook for the sake of the church. This blog dates from 2005, when we first came to France. In the beginning everything was fresh, new and tough. I wrote about the joys and sorrows, the wonders and the horrors. Part of the goal was to enable our families and supporters to see how we were and to pray with understanding. Now we're three ye

A quick visit to South Wales

 Our flat in the centre of Bordeaux, conveniently situated very near to the railway station with frequent links to the airport, has a guest bedroom which Pat occasionally uses as an office when she needs to zoom. It is not sumptuously furnished, true, but the bed is large and comfortable and it came in very handy when Catrin came to lodge with us during covid confinement. However guests have been few and infrequent.  So a couple weeks ago Pat went to Sussex to visit her family. She was able to see her sisters and some of her nephews and nieces and to refamiliarise herself with countryside where she grew up. Last week it was my turn to fly off to Bristol airport to take the shuttle to Cardiff to see my sisters. They are ten and eight years older than I am, one lives in Cardiff and the other in the Rhondda valley no far from where we grew up. One of the best things about visiting South Wales is to hear people speaking in my accent and dialect. I quickly slip into it myself. So at the air

Great excitement - the inauguration of our new square

 At the top of our road is a large crossroads where four roads meet and the tram crosses. The recent buildings have been built at an angle to the crossroads making a rather twisted open air called Place d'Armagnac. Over the past couple of months this square has been paved, trees planted, benches installed, lighting placed and a drinking fountain added. It's not quite finished. But yesterday was the inauguration of the square. the Mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, a lawyer who belongs to the Green Party, was to open it, accompanied by the chairman of Bordeaux Metropole - kind of the like the Super-Mayor of the whole city. That means speeches. In addition there were to be animations - a food truck serving kebabs and drinks, a bicycle-driven roundabout, the street-band of the medical school Los (Téoporos) and a classical trio of violin, cello and marimba who would play Spanish ad Latin American music in the library adjacent to the square. A demonstration was scheduled, too, by the

Just in case

 The Welsh for ‘resurrection’ is atgyfodiad. To say ‘he was resurrected’ you’d say ‘atgyfodwyd ef’ and the Apostles’ Creed claims belief in the resurrection of the body, ‘atgyfodiad y corff’. I just wanted to reassure you that these words do exist in Welsh. I’m praying that Archbishop Justin Welby will tell the whole wide watching world that Jesus has conquered death by His resurrection and that He promises bodily resurrection to eternal life to all who trust in Him, however great or insignificant.  This is the faith of the church. (But the music was awesome) 

Long time no blog

Récent events - end of Boris Johnson, beginning of Liz Truss, loss of the Queen - have largely left me without much comment to make. However I will note the following :  We met the Queen once when she came to open the Flintshire Bridge on a damp and overcast day around 1998. Catrin was a babe in arms. Pat was working at a day hospital and they decided to take the patients down to see the Queen arrive at the civic centre in Connah’s Quay for lunch. I went down with Catrin for moral support. We were stood, or seated in wheelchairs, at the corner of the square. The Queen’s car arrived and she got out. Immediately she scanned the scene and, as soon as she could, she made a beeline straight for us to chat with the patients. It was brief, it was small-talk. We thanked her for coming and talked about how we hoped the bridge would help reduce traffic through the town centre (it didn’t) and she said how much she appreciated coming to open something useful.  One friend from years ago got a job a

La charcuterie bordelaise - Bordeaux pork products….

Linguistic shenanigans

 So over the summer while we were in the UK we were able to think a little about our decision to stay here for retirement. It’s a hard-headed decision, based on where we can most easily afford to live, where we already have a life to live and where we might conceivably be most useful in the future. But of course, that means that we are not retiring to the United Kingdom, and we are not retiring to Wales. Had we returned to Wales I envisaged getting my Welsh back up to a reasonable level. Years ago I read contemporary novels with little difficulty. Now I struggle.. a lot..As for conversation, I don’t know any Welsh-speakers here in Bordeaux. But then I haven’t looked for them. So I can tackle, and am tackling my reading by getting the old familiar books off the shelf and getting books from Amazon in kindle format. I’ll also make a few trawls for Welsh-speakers in Bordeaux and see if they come up with anyone. I continue to work on my French, of course, and hit situations still where I am

La Rentrée

 So the summer holidays are drawing to a close. This week the teachers and children are returning eagerly to their classrooms. New people are contacting us about studying in Bordeaux. And the church's year is beginning, too. Alongside our "Café Contact Centre", A Coeur Ouvert / Espace Gallien, is almost ready to open. We have tables and chairs, a counter made fetchingly from old wine crates, our swanky coffee machine, enough stocks to start with and we're all set to go on Wednesday 6 September for our grand opening. There's still quite a lot to do, though, especially in terms of publicity. We need flyers, posters for the windows, a sign above the window, maybe a Facebook page and/or Instagram account. In the past I would have cobbled these things together but that was then and this is now. Others have better graphic skills than I do, and accurate colour-vision, and so I leave those jobs to other. 

Oh the heat !

 I just got back from my forced march to Lidl. I like to scuttle off to Lidl or to Carrefour early, get a rucksack full of food, and scuttle back perhaps a little more slowly. This morning when I got up I opened all the windows and got the air changed in the flat. As the sun rose I shut the windows and shutters. At that time it was 28°C in the flat. Oh dear! My dash to Lidl was quite pleasant in the shade of the tall buildings. I aim to walk quickly. My mental image is of an elderly man afraid of missing his train. Of course, once I arrived I started to perspire. The walk back was warmer but I took it slower to compensate - and because of the bag of peaches, cucumbers, peppers, courgettes, avocados, bananas, milk, cheese and butter on my back. As I write the flat is at 29°C and I am gradually cooling off! We had a storm last night with plenty of light and noise but only a little rain.

Two weeks in Wales

 We flew to Manchester Airport on August 3rd with Ryanair, an easy and uneventful flight, and caught our train to Shotton. Everything was on time and convenient. The train was clean and comfortable and we enjoyed seeing the landscape slowly change from the city of Manchester to rural Cheshire and then to Wales. We had been asked to "organise" the Missions Hall at the Annual Conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales in Aberystwyth. Flights in August are predictably expensive but our mission travel fund is there for that. We baulked, however, at paying a thousand pounds for a hire car so it meant travelling by rail. Aberystwyth is accessible by rail, but to go there from Manchester Airport would take a very long time so we took the opportunity to break the journey with a visit to our "home" or "sending" or "previous" church in Shotton, North Wales. This was a joy, of course, and we got to visit our old next-door neighbour and to see various o

A cuisiniste

 One of the little challenges that awaits us with this new flat is the need to fit a kitchen.  When we moved into our current flat there was just a sink unit. A new, but poor quality sink unit. But it's a rented flat and we knew that we probably couldn't stay here once we start living on our pension. So we didn't fit a kitchen. Instead we cobbled together shelves, drawers and a kitchen island on castors from Ikea Kallax units. Instead of paying thousands we spent a couple of hundred and it's all be very functional. But the new place is our forever home, and it doesn't even come with a sink, so we have to do something. Not much - there isn't a huge amount of room, and we don't want to change our cooker, dishwasher and fridge, but we have to do something. So here's the challenge. I am reasonably good at putting things together - I've built wardrobes, desks, beds, tables galore - so I think I could fairly easily construct a kitchen from flat pack. Not o

Getting the swanky coffee machine

 For the new ‘welcome centre’, a UK charity offered to buy us our coffee machine. We had had long discussions about possible coffee machines and had come to the conclusion that one of the one touch automatic bean-to-cup models was what we needed. So armed with this information I did some research with a local-is supplier, based about an hour away towards the sea at La Teste de Buch.  We went out there, hoping to see something in action, but though they have a very impressive showroom devoted to every gadget you can imagine for the production of coffee, and though they have a cafe with fine cakes, biscuits and cereal bars, and delectable coffees on offer, all we could really do was order the machine. It will be ready by Thursday, we were told. It arrived on Thursday and I booked a car to go and get it - the only available time was the following Tuesday. Then the forest around L aTeste caught fire. The shop was advised to close on that Tuesday. We waited. The fire was slowly mastered. Th

The heatwave has broken, but

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far for us, with temperatures of 42°C. Our bananas slow-cooked on their hook. In addition our tram lines, C and D, are closed down for repairs. The company is providing a bus de substitution . There is no more terrifying term in the Bordeaux glossary. However I had an errand at the bank to run, so I took my courage in both hands and went to court disaster on the bus de sub . And disaster it proved to be. The bus arrived, stuffed with people and I found a small spot to insinuate myself into. A sturdy lady next to me was burdened like pilgrim. After a while I dared to say to her, Madame, si vous baissez le sac-a-dos ça va libérer de la place . Thankfully she agreed and laid her burden at her feet. We lurched slowly along through the morning traffic like terracotta skittles ranked in the kiln to fire. At each stop more people insisted their way into the bus until we got about two-thirds of the way to the bank, where the poor doors of the bus, a

Fire !

 The heatwave that will hit Britain over next week has been here for a few days now, and two forest fires are raging about 30 miles from our home. One is at a place called Landiras, pretty well due south of Bordeaux. We can see the smoke of this fire from our balcony, like distant clouds. The other is right behind the Dune de Pylat, pretty well due west of us and we saw that smoke, too.  The firemen have been working night and day using bulldozers to create firebreaks and Canadairs to dump tons of water on the fires. What we really need is a heavy storm to drench everything for a couple of hours, but we aren't due to get one of those till Monday or Tuesday. On Tuesday I have to go to the town next to that forest fire to collect our swanky coffee machine for Espace Gallien.  Meanwhile we are living behind closed shutters, creatures of shades and shadows, hiding from the sun.

Post covid

 I’m pretty well back to whatever usually counts as ‘normal’. I have a sticky cough but I no longer absolutely need to nap during the day, I have resumed my forced marches to local supermarkets and I think I’ll try running next week, though early in the morning to avoid the sun. Pat is also fully recovered and no longer needs to nap. At least not every day. The city is now in summertime. This means fewer trams with more people in them. Since covid is once more on the rise we wear masks in the trams and try to avoid the busiest ones… Except we have no idea when the busiest times are!  Summertime means parks, and the Jardins de l’Ars are resplendent with their trees and shrubs, picnic tables, sun-loungers and little platforms for performance poets. The trees are not yet tall enough to provide much shade, so the picnic tables are not as busy as they will be, but it’s great to wander through the paths and that’s where I will run next week, if I can rouse my inner pig-dog. The summer also m

Should of seen that coming

 Some time into the adventure that is the learning of the French language, I became aware of an immense feeling of frustration. Despite the fact that I could hold conversations with lots of different people about lots of different subjects and in various registers : informal, polite, etc, there were things that came naturally to me in English but over which I would labour in French. For example, how does one say the commonplace "If I'd known you were coming I'd have baked a cake". I can render this into French, but it just all sounds wrong: Si j'avais su que tu venait j'aurais préparé un gateau .  Why does it sound so wrong? Because nobody talks like that, that's why. The other day someone in the choir complimented me on my French. "Mais tu parles drîolement bien français, le syntaxe et tout" . I replied, "Eh bien, les gens croivent que c'est pas possible quand on est âgé" She laughed, "Ça tu as fait exprès" She was righ

Buying the flat

 So when you buy a new flat there are pros and cons. The pros are that you're buying something that conforms to the latest standards of safety, insulation, etc. In theory the place will be well built with no great defects. In the event of serious defects there is an insurance backed guarantee for ten years. For less serious issues you have a year to identify them and get the builder to rectify them. Not only that, but much of the legal shenanigans that are involved in a house purchase are done on applying for planning permission - I mean things like checking for risks of flooding (ha ha) or industrial accidents, for nuclear risks, for polluted soils, for old mineworkings, etc etc. This means that the legal costs involved in buying a new place are much less. So some people argue that you don't need the services of a Notaire. Notaires cost money, so if you don't need one why have one? I thought about this and decided I wanted someone on our side in scrutinising the flat purch

A bit more about covid

 So I have been out and about and functioning now for over a week, and I'm basically fine.  There are some continuing struggles. Firstly I have a very sticky cough. We're very thankful that I cough during the day but sleep sweetly, sound and deep all night. I have a steroid inhaler that the doctor gave me some months ago to use morning and night if and when I need it, so I've been using that at night. I noticed that a friend who came to stay last week and who's asthmatic uses the same inhaler. The second is tiredness. I can't party. Well I can, as long as I do nothing physical all day beforehand. So I've been able to preach and lead on Sunday, but was drained afterwards, was able to go to dinner for someone's birthday but did nothing all day beforehand, and so on and so forth. I first noticed symptoms just over two weeks ago and tested positive two weeks ago today. I don't want this to drag on, so I'm going to start working on stamina. I'll push

Covid early release

 So the rules are that when you have covid you must self-isolate for seven days from the onset of symptoms. However, after five you may be released if you have been free of symptoms for 48 hours and you test negative. My symptoms developed on Tuesday. Five days (inclusive) from then is Saturday. I was full of hope until I realised that I was not completely symptom free (I still had sinus pain etc... and, realistically, I will be coughing for some months yet.) I tested anyway and got a thick black positive line. Oh well, after seven days you can be released anyway, symptoms or no symptoms, no point testing. That means that today (still counting inclusively) I can once again run amok in the streets of Bordeaux. And it's raining.


In France when it gets to over 30°C in the day, AND it doesn’t get below 20°C at night, for three or more consecutive days, that’s a heatwave. This was the case last night and will probably be for the next two days. This heatwavy period is due to break on Saturday or Sunday.


On Monday evening I felt the onset of something. Aches. Cough. So Tuesday morning I tested myself for covid-19, and sure enough, there came a faint line by the T. Tuesday I spent mainly sitting quietly, drinking water and taking paracetamol. Wednesday I managed without pills till about 2pm. Thursday morning at 2am I got up to use the rest room and realised I felt fine. Absolutely fine. It didn’t last. Today I have a dry cough. Current rules, I think, are that you have to isolate for seven days from the onset of symptoms. HOWEVER on the fifth day you can test yourself and if it’s negative you can resume normal life. So for me that’s probably Saturday morning. I’m hoping for a negative test on Saturday so I can preach Sunday.

The beauty of the city

 We used to meet to do sermon prep together at a café called Gusco, but since we moved our meeting to lunchtime, and since that meant eating at Gusco and not just getting coffee, and since that meant that the preaching group became a rather expensive group to be part of, we now take sandwiches to a local park. I feel bad about Gusco, though. The waiters and the manager are really nice folk, so I went this morning taking the reading for Sunday, got a splendid iced black tea with orange and clementine (not at all bitter - the secret is a long cold brew) and read and watched the world go by. And it was so beautiful. Little things like two guys who went running by, one really tall, one really short, but perfectly in step with each other, or the woman in a diaphanous dress who came riding up on her bright red scooter. Or the lupins in the central reservation of the wide road leading out of town, or the fact that now the bike lane is HUGE and the lane for cars is tiny...

Yma o hyd

 I moved back to South Wales from Hemel Hempstead probably in the summer of 1982. I'd been sent for a few months to work in Cardiff anyway, and while I was there I applied for and got a job with HTV. About a year afterwards I moved to British Telecom where I stayed until I entered pastoral ministry in 1991.  Our office was in the city centre and within a short walk, in a side-room of a concert hall, I discovered that Welsh classes were to be organised - one hour a week on Wednesday lunchtimes. I had long wanted to learn Welsh, so I thought I'd give it a go. It was good, but inadequate so I moved to evening classes with an extraordinary teacher called Ken Kane, then with a man named Chris Rees at the University. At work some of our colleagues were local people as I was. My team leader at one time travelled down from Merthyr Tydfil each day. The 1980s were turbulent years, especially in some areas of Britain. After the unrest and upheaval of the 1970s Mrs Thatcher had vowed to br

The next step

 One advantage of not being able to fly to London is that I can be a bit more relaxed about signing the various contracts on Friday. Firstly, on Friday morning, there is the lease on Espace Gallien. The agency has prepared a standard commercial lease, nicknamed a 3-6-9 lease. It protects the tenant from sudden eviction from the landlord, but also holds the tenant to complete 3, 6 or 9 years of renting.  The committee doesn't want to do this. They want a clause added to allow us to relinquish the lease early if we need to. I need to talk to the agency this week to see if they can and will do this. Meanwhile the woman who is dealing with our account is ill and signed off until the 24th, so it may be that we just have to hold fire. Then there's the contract to buy our flat. We sign on Friday afternoon and we've transferred the first part of our payment for the flat - just over a third of the cost. Meanwhile we can choose the tiles for the bathroom and toilet, the shade for the

On not going to "Catalyst"

"But that's a presbyterian conference!" "Yes, but it's in London and easy to get to." Easy, that is, until easyJet cancels your flight the morning you're due to leave. Oh well - so I miss some of my great heroes talking about the greatest themes possible. And I miss frolicking round the capital city for an afternoon and a couple of evenings. And I miss some gabfests with old friends from auld lang's syne. But at leats I don't get stranded in Gatwick late on Thursday evening when easyJet cancel my flight home. And I get to preach this coming Sunday instead.

Property !

 I dont know why things always have to be so STRESSFUL ! Renting the Espace Gallien has proved to be one headache after another, including some comical mixups by the bank, ordering cards on the wrong account and sending things hither and yon. The agency demanded an urgent signature of a lease they had not yet fully prepared. The lease was a source of consternation - but will be modified. It’s been one thing after another. Meanwhile our flat purchase is calmer, and we’re pretty confident that we have all the money we need, except that from time to time it becomes invisible on our internet banking. There’s currently several thousand euros that I just can’t see at all, while our current account yoyos wildly. I’m hoping all settles down this week as we sign on the flat next week! Once all is done I will move our account to the nearest branch to where we live. It will be so much easier to sit with pen and paper and work things out - even in French - rather than to try and sort things out by

The CNEF day

 Monday was Whitsun Bank Holiday and the weather promised to turn out well, so we were very glad as we left the flat to go to the CNEF33 ‘Day Together’. Planning for this day began some years ago. We’ve long wanted to organise a day when Christians from different churches could worship together but also spend time getting to now each other. Anyway I think it was in 2020 that we settled on a venue and started to plan the day when covid struck and put all our plans on hold. Meanwhile I left the CNEF33 committee.  Now with covid on the back foot and much greater freedom it was possible to meet. The day consisted of a time of worship together with one of the local preachers, then lunch - you could either bring your sandwiches or order from a sandwich bar, or order a portion of a giant paella. The afternoon would involve various games, sports and also an open mike, before the day closed with a brief closing message. It all seemed to be impeccably organized and to go very well indeed. Pat an

The Perfect Saint

 I phoned the bank to ensure that the bank card erroneously ordered for my account had been cancelled.  ‘Oh yes, effectively, there is a card ordered and we can’t cancel it because it is in fabrication. Oh ! We were born the same day ! You were born on the Saint Parfait’ She launched into an explanation of how in the old days in France when people were born they were often given the name of the saint who is celebrated on their birthday. Mine is the Saint Parfait. Perfectus lived in Cordoba at the time of the Moorish invasion. He was cornered into declaring whether Christ or Muhammad was the greater prophet, found guilty of blasphemy, imprisoned until the end of Ramadan and then martyred. ‘Phone back next week and we’ll cancel the card’ ‘OK, and meanwhile I’ll change my middle name to Parfait.’ ‘Good idea’

Why so quiet?

We have this project of a kind of shopfront church centre - A Cœur Ouvert - Espace Gallien. It’s a small shop premises just in front of the church. It’s taken a LONG time for everything to get in place and has known such fun as : An estate agent who said, in her first call to me, ‘if we don’t sign the lease tomorrow I’ll let the place to someone else’. I duly met her the next day to discover that she didn’t have the lease ready… The counsellor at the bank, where it takes about a month to open an account, ordering our bank card for the wrong account and also sending the code for internet banking for the wrong account. This is not yet entirely sorted out. Anyway, I have no idea at all what I’m doing, I don’t understand French leasing law and yet I am the best placed person to navigate our way through this.  Earlier in the week this all became a little stressful, especially as the cursed WhatsApp beeped incessantly on my computer as people let off steam.  But we’re through that first shoc

The Pont de Pierre

Last week was nuts. The busier the week, the quieter I get


 Went to Carrefour for leeks and oats. Found sunflower oil. A big bottle !


 "It would be in your interest to tick box 0UU" said the government website. I thought I had better do it. I could always untick it if it was a problem. I ticked it. The government gave me lots of tax back. I do hope that's right ! 

And another Choral update

 The Pizzicati sent out a poster containing the date of the Gjeilo concert. I'm in the UK.

A Choral update

 Choirs, eh? Anyway at present I am back at Arianna and we are rehearsing a work by James Whitbourn, called Annelies. It’s a kind of cantata or oratorio based on the diary of Anne Frank. It’s not very cheerful, though it has some charming passages. I’m also finding it quite a difficult work to get into. I sing low bass for Arianna, thought I can’t remember why. The choir continues to rehearse at the Pessac library, which is far easier for me to reach than the old Music School rehearsal room, but I’m not sure what they plan for the future. Annelies is sung mostly in English. English pronunciation is a minefield for the Gallic mouth. Enough said. Meanwhile another choir advertised for help from any basses, tenors or high sopranos. I looked into them. They rehearse in a part of Bordeaux which is easy to get to by Tram D. You just sit on the tram for about 30 minutes and then walk 5 and you’re there. They’re a smaller group and thin in tenors and baritones. They need me in baritone for fou


 So on Friday we were meant to be visiting Venice. That still awaits us. Instead we went to visit the ADIL. The ADIL is a government backed advisory service that helps people with issues about housing. You can go there if your landlord is treating you unfairly, or if your accommodation is insalubrious, or to get advice on insulating your home or whatever. We went to get impartial advice on what we should do. The advisor was someone who used to be an advocate but who decided to come and work for the ADIL instead. Some of her colleagues used to be notaries. Most have some legal training. She began by of course telling us that she could advise us of the options available to us, but that she could not tell us what we ought to do. I of course said that we were depending on her to do exactly that, and we laughed. We showed her our situation and by the time we left we knew what we ought to do, namely to take out a mortgage over three years for the shortfall in purchasing the house, plus a lit

Canonical relatives

 While we were not preparing to fly to Florence, the Davey clan was gathering in Bangor, Gwynedd, for the occasion of the installation of my nephew to the Cathedral there. He’s joining the bishop’s team working in HR, effectively, after being in charge of recruitment of trainees in the Llandaf diocese. The new job involves being installed as a canon of the cathedral and being installed with Gordon the cat in a splendid house near the Menai straits. I don’t think we agree about much theologically, We have yet to ind common ground. David is liberal Anglo-Catholic in the Church in Wales. But I hope we can either visit him in Bangor soon or get him down here to visit Bordeaux. 

No gelato for us this time

 We were due to fly to Florence on Monday for the UFM European Conference. It’s held in a brethren conference centre up in the Tuscany hills and is as idyllic as it sounds. We booked a weekend in Padua afterwards so we could visit Venice. However Pat’s back problem played up while we were in the UK and put our return journey to France a little in jeopardy. So we thought long and hard, then cancelled our Padua pad and our flights. The down side of this is that we don’t yet get to go to Italy. The up side is a quiet week at home and a chance to come as reinforcements to help out a choir short of basses performing Gjeilo music in about three weeks’ time.

I have a recorded delivery for Patricia Davey

 Our notaire (it’s a cross between a solicitor and a Lord Chief Justice) asked whether we’d received a thick packet of papers from the builder’s notaire. No. We hadn’t. All was explained last Friday when the postman rang the intercom to say that he had a recorded delivery for Patricia Davey.  OK. I descend. I replied. I did so, to be greeted by a friendly young postman bearing two thick envelopes, each recorded delivery, one to me and one to Pat. Sorry about the delayed delivery, he said. Well, it’s not your fault, it’s the system. He looked at me sheepishly, « well in this case I am not sure I helped the system to function as it should…» « Oops! Oh well, it hasn’t made a lot of difference on this occasion. » Posted on April 14th, it’s a packet of specifications, certificates and information relating to the purchase of our apartment. We had 30 days to peruse and to respond.

The estival hecatomb

 has begun. Thus far have I been bitten on my heel (the VERY FIRST TIME I wore sandals this year) and in the small of my back. Meanwhile the dengue and chikungunya bearing tiger mosquito has colonized almost the entire hexagon of mainland France, hesitating only before breaching the borders of Brittany or piercing the polar plains of the extreme northerly departments.

Tomorrow's an interesting one

 May 1 is the Fête du travail , the festival of work, which we celebrate by not doing a stroke. This means no buses or trams. It's also the first Sunday of the month, so in theory cars are not allowed in the city centre. As most of our folks come to church by bus or tram, and it's the last Sunday of the Easter hols anyway, and lots of us are away, then tomorrow will be a small, select band. Hey, let's not forget the value of calm, quiet Sundays when we can relax and take things a bit easier.

Macron's vocabulary

 As some wag remarked, at least with Macron you learn some new words. Last election we learnt poudre de perlimpinpin which means snake oil. This time we learnt ripoliner , which means to paper over the cracks, and carabistouille , which means blatant, bare-faced lies.

crier haro sur le baudet

 someone used this expression recently and I just had to look it up.  It seems to mean "looking for scapegoats". Now to hear it and to use it.

Buying a flat - sequel

  Well I was right to be nervous.  Our savings have shrunk over the last six months so that we no longer have all the money we need! Good think I looked before calling the Notaire! I'll speak to our adviser at the bank and then we'll decide what to do, but we may end up having to pull out of the purchase. We need to : 1) check why - I suspect he will say covid and Ukraine 2) see if we can make up the shortfall and at what cost 3) ensure that they don't shrink any further!  I think I may have missed a column.....


My home syringing proved ineffective, so I asked my GP (in France, généralissime) to look down my ears with his little intraauriculoscope.  "Hmm, that's a job for the ORL", he said. So it was that yesterday evening I found myself in the charming Augustin district of Bordeaux at the ORL's cabinet. It's a family business with mother and daughter being orthoptists (I looked it up but I'm still a bit foxed) and father being an ORL. He was a charming man, addressing me as "Cher monsieur" and it didn't sound odd, contrived or even outdated.  Just as well, really, as he proceeded to hoover out the inside of my lug holes before using alarmingly long probes to scrape out gobs of evil-looking goo. "I won't get an infection?", I asked.  I got one once after a doctor in Cardiff used their new electric syringe machine and put me in agony such that I cried into my pillow every night for days on end. "No, we'll give you drops."  I th


 M. Macron won 58% of the vote. This is a huge amount, especially for his second mandate.  It has been equalled once, by Pompidou, and exceeded twice, firstly when Chirac beat Jean Marie le Pen with over 80% of the vote, and then for Macron's first mandate, which he won with over 60% of the vote. French politics is regionally patchy, too. Bordeaux gave Macron 80% and Paris 85%. There are background stories, though.  The first is the fragmentation of French politics. People tend to found their own parties, so Macron's centrist party is called En Marche (E.M., get it?) Edouard Philippe, the hugely popular ex-Prime Minister, has founded his, called Horizons.  This makes your election decision very different. No more can one say that the family has always voted conservative since the first d'Avey came over with the Conqueror. You got to decide who you want to be president. The second is the collapse of the left and the rise of the far right. This west-wide phenomenon (Trump? ot

Buying a flat

 I hate to admit it, but I am very nervous. Shouldn't be. This is the sixth time I've bought a property. It's never been a total disaster, even if I do regret buying the house in Pessac. Each time I've / we've stretched ourselves.  I suppose it's not the flat, really. It's the thought that this is the last house purchase, perhaps. This is the one we retire into. It's probably retirement itself, too.  Anyway, today's top priority is to ensure that we have all the money we need to buy the flat. Then to communicate same to the Notaire and arrange to sign the act de vente.

A visit to Norwich

 After Easter weekend, which was sunny and warm and filled with church folk in the park and on the quays and in worship and in song, we flew off to Norwich to see our son and daughter-in-law after over two years of covid separation. It's easy to get to the airport here, though it takes about an hour. Bus 1 wound through the streets from one terminus to the other and we picked our way through the roadworks of the future tram stop to drop our bags at bag drop, then slip through security and off to our departure gate. The flight to Stansted was on time. At Stansted we treated ourselves to meal deals before hunting down the railway station, unhelpfully indicated in all directions at once: inside, outside, frontside, backside - in the end we worked it out for ourselves and found a ramp going down. The train was waiting for us so we settled ourselves into our beautifully clean and comfortable seats. We would pass Cambridge, Ely and Thetford before arriving at Norwich. It would take about

CNEF journée juridique

 French association law has changed in an attempt to track and trace radicalisation so the CNEF organised study days where people could come together with various experts to get advice o what we need to do. The Bordeaux day took place in the church in Eysines. It's one of the to-uter suburbs of Bordeaux but tram D goes from our flat to within a 15 minute walk of the church so I didn't bother reserving a car. Thankfully the weather was very pleasant and I listened to various podcasts on the way. The day was made up of one plenary session where after the usual speeches of welcome and appreciation and how's your father the CNEF's legal expert explained the background ad the aims of the law. Then we had workshops. Our first workshop was with the same lawyer, explaining the new procedures for declaring your association to the prefecture - a declaration that you will now have to do every five years including your accounts for the last three years. This is to stop money-launde

More excitement !

 How much can one take ? Some months ago one of the choirs I sang with briefly was putting on the Bach B Minor for their fiftieth anniversary. They're a very good choir so I was excited to go and hear them - how often do you hear a live B-minor? - so I happily forked out the price for two seats. The a storm hit and the trams were disrupted and our journey to the theatre (!) where they were singing was made impossible.  Well they decided to do "excerpts" - essentially almost all the choruses - from the B-minor in one of the city-centre  freezers  churches on a "give generously" basis in aid of the local fund to support Ukraine. We gladly went along. The pianist put out a request for a page-turner but found someone before he got my message offering to help. I was very glad because the pianist was centre-stage with the page turner facing the audience.   Well, the choir sang very well. The conductor is very animated and pretty well dances as he conducts. The tempos

Excitement !

 Bordeaux has a new Aldi store, right in the middle of town. It's where a huge shoe shop used to be and it's a two-storey store with all the usual things Aldi sells but with more of it, more space and better laid out. It may conceivably wean me away from Lidl, except that from our flat we can walk to Lidl in about 20 minutes, but Aldi is a 45 minute walk away.