les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Checking with the doctor by video consultation

 We're so thankful for this flat just now. I can live at one end and Pat can live at the other. We have a "dirty zone" - the kitchen and living room - where we have to wear masks, open windows and wash our hands obsessively. I prepare the meal then scuttle down to my end shouting to Patricia that it's feeding time. Then once the coast is clear she gets her plate and scuttles off to her end. We sneak in with our dishes and pop them in the dishwasher decontamination apparatus to await thorough cleansing.

It occurred to me that this might be a lot of effort to no effect if my catching covid is inevitable. It also occurred to me that there might be things we should do that we have't even thought of. So I arranged to call the doctor.

"Well you mustn't see her", he said.

"I mustn't SEE her?" I emphasised.

"Well, you must't spend time in the same room."

I explained our arrangements I detail and asked if there was any point. He said there was every possibility that I might not catch the thing, and that our approach was appropriate.

This afternoon we had an appointment at the bank to open an account for the café outreach, so I did a quick test after lunch. These are public events as we pop photos of our results online and ask, "does this look negative to you?"

It did. Quite gloriously negative. So off I scuttled to the bank and followed it up with a lightning assault on Auchan to buy various essentials, like cake and strawberries and hard toffees to bring some sunshine into Patricia's life, and into mine. Well, except for the hard toffees...

As I paid in Auchan a lady outside was dashing back and forth shouting "Au secours ! Au secours !"

I turned to look. "She hasn't paid." said the cashier.

In the tram there was some kerfuffle going on. The driver stopped the tram and said he wouldn't start it up again until people calmed down. 

They did, so he did, but then at the main railway station he ordered us all off. (There's always a lot of police hanging round the main railway station.) 

The kerfuffle continued. 

The next tram came. 

I came home, thankful for the peace and quiet of my end of the flat.

Monday, March 28, 2022

And Mrs Davey has covid

 She's been ill since Friday and tested positive this morning.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

They’re planting the gardens!


Chez le médecin

 Vocabulary is always a challenge. For example, what about the range of different kinds of pain, like ache, throb, stabbing pain, discomfort ? I only know two, I think... douleur and courbatures. As well as the old mal à la tête, mal à la gorge, etc... It seems quite important to me to know whether something aches, throbs or stabs, but I'd have to launch into quite a long speech to explain it in French.

Thankfully on this occasion pain wasn't part of the issue, and I had most of the words I needed. Respirer, s'allonger, le fauteuil, constricte, bronchodilateur - though it turns out this one needs a bit more tatata in it. it's dilatatation, so bronchodilatatateur. Or I think that's what he said. You have to remember that a cough is a girl - la toux, and to cough is tousser... oo, oo, oo, never ü, ü, ü.

How do you address yourself to the doctor? I asked a friend. Can you say, Bonjour Docteur ? Bonjour Toubib ? Bonjour M. le Médecin ? What is appropriate ? As it turns out you usually don't call him anything. "Bonjour, ça va ?" is quite enough.

He remarked on my Batman tee-shirt. "J'ai mis ça pour vous faire plaisir." I said (I wore it specially for you). "Well take it off so I can listen to the whistling in your chest."

I tried for "The British Grenadiers" by controlling my inhalation and exhalation, but it wasn't a good rendition. Loud enough, but out of tune.

He checks your blood pressure by sticking your hand in his armpit. The first time I was mildly shocked. The second time just nonplussed. This time I was armed. Vous n'avez pas peur des guilis, vous ? (You aren't ticklish?) He laughed and promised that one move of my hand and he'd break my fingers for me.

He wondered aloud about heart failure but since I'd told him that the day before I'd trotted up to Lidl and back, about an hour's round trip on foot if you count the shopping time, and he could see that my ankles bones are still nice and visible I was quite confident that it wasn't that. And after checking, so was he.

A tip, and a reminder for spoken French - someone says to you "asspwala ?" they mean as much as that, to that extent, etc... Written it's "à ce point-là", but e's tend to disappear in French, as do most consonants and of course combinations of vowels are usually pronounced as a totally different vowel which is not present in the combination. For example, most ways of writing the sound "o" do not contain the letter o.


The upshot is that I came away with a prescription for a steroid to inhale to calm the inflammation in my lungs. Twice a day for a month. And something to start if the pollen begins to get to me. And another Ventolin.

Now Mrs Davey has gone down with something similar but not exactly the same. Hers involves PAIN and swollen glands and a feeling of impending doom. 

She's suffering. 

I'm just coughing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The downside of unmasked faces

 We got back Tuesday evening and a happy and full week of activity awaited us. Wednesday was Bible study and prayer at the home of a couple who live in one of the suburbs - Mérignac. It's quite a hoof from the tramline, so you switch to the bus and the journey, though not long, takes up to an hour. Sometimes I reserve a pool car but it takes just as long because of having to get around the city centre, then negotiate a maze of different routes. The evening was good, however.

Wednesday morning we had met up to work through the statutes for the association which will run the café-style centre in front of the church building. We met in one of the local coffee-shops and I drank a great flat white to kick-start my little grey cell.

Then it was preparation. We changed our preaching schedule a while ago but, still high on San Sebastián, I totally forgot so launched into reflexion on Luke 3, instead of the end of Luke 2. Luke 3 is a fascinating chapter and Rory will preach that this coming Sunday.

I also needed to prepare for our Saturday afternoon on Worship. I was covering the sections entitled "How we got here" and "How do we do this". Sylvain had the central section "what do we do, then". Powerpoint slides work really well as an aide-memoire, but I also attached notes to them just in case.

On Friday Catrin, Froim, Pat and I met up in town. I had the beginnings of a sore throat, and so did Catrin and Froim. By Saturday morning I was concerned.

I did my webcast to North Wales (on Luke 18:15-17) then hopped off to the pharmacy.

I described my symptoms and said my voice had to last through the weekend, then I could flop. 

"Do you have anything to wash up your nose?"


"OK you need this. It's often because of nasal infections that your throat gets inflamed. Also this, it's essential oils that are anti-bacterial and anti-viral. You aren't asthmatic are you?"


"hmmm. Here we are" It was a herbal syrup for singers.

Should I do a covid test?

"You could"

Could or should.

"Well, perhaps if the symptoms change...

Now I am not convinced by herbalism or by homeopathy or by flower therapy. Basically if it isn't produced in a massive petrochemical plant somewhere I can't see how it can have any beneficial effect on the human body. But at the same time the pharmacist is the expert in this exchange, so I paid my money and went home to squirt sea-water up my nose and to drink the sweet syrup of elderberries and thyme.

And I added Olbas oil, Potter's pastilles and aspirin gargles.

I got through the weekend, and before setting off for the worship gathering I did a negative covid test. 

Saturday afternoon started with a delightful meal in the sunshine of the courtyard, then our time of discussion, explanation, review and exploration.

Sunday was also a good day, with Jesus in the temple amongst the teachers, 

Incidentally, were the teachers in the temple amazed at the precocious 12 year-old, or was it something else? Was it the fact that he thought the whole Bible was about him (like in Luke 24), AND that he thought the temple was his Father's house...

But Monday came. 

Well what do you expect if you've been wearing masks and keeping away from people. I had a raging sore throat that was rapidly developing into a nasty hacking cough. 

Bring back masks, that's what I say !

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Long time no blog

 We were married on 13 March 1993, so last weekend we hopped on the TGV to Hendaye. There was a church officers' meeting at our home on Friday evening so we took the 9am TGV from Bordeaux.

Hendaye is a border town just south of here. The TGV gets there in about two and a half hours. We get cheaper tickets because of our age (codger cards) and when I booked the tickets it cost perhaps 3 euros more to travel first class, so we did.

Large armchairs with electric reclining mechanisms, a mains socket and a USB socket, various lights and natty tables to fold out. We travelled like kings. You now only have to wear a mask on public transport, but even there you can take it off to eat or to drink, so we regally ate apples and bananas and drank from our water bottles.

At Hendaye you change to the Euskotren which goes from a station about 100 yards away. I wasn't sure what kind of ticket we needed and there wasn't a lot of information displayed but a friendly lady came up to help us. Our singles to España cost 2,75€ each Then off to San Sebastián in the Basque country.

We had booked into a guest house which we found on AirBnB but which was cheaper if you booked directly at their own website. It was near the main beach, a decent-sized bedroom with a kettle and cups and a very small bathroom attached. On the way we found a café that was serving lunch and ate a copious set menu that put us off eating anything more that day!

In San Sebastián we walked lots, including around the new town where the chain shops are, around one of the hills where the huge waves drenched us with surf while I was busy giving someone directions to church. I didn't scream, yell or lose my sang-froid. We rode the rickety funicular railway up to the not-yet-opened amusement park, but great for the views out over the city. We explored to our hearts' content. And we ate Basque food. 

In one bar near the funicular railway the proprietor was speaking Basque to several of his customers and we ate hearty bocadillos and drank Spanish cider (it's 1,50 a glass but only 5€ for the bottle, said the proprietor) while a group of seriously elderly people at a table alongside chomped away on various pintxos and laughed at the folly of our youthful leaders.

Pintxos. On previous expeditions to San Sebastián pintos had not figured At all. Once we went in a rainy, bleak November and another time Pat went with a friend who is vegan, so this trip we wanted to tackle them. The old town is stuffed with bars and we ventured in on Saturday evening. It was fiesta time. Everywhere was absolutely stuffed with people laughing, shouting, singing and dancing in the street. We were not sure we were quite ready to shove ourselves into the festive throng, and we were still full from lunch, so we found something to drink in a quiet place and went back to our room.

Sunday was a different story. We had spotted one quiet bar on a quiet street in a quiet corner of the old town, so after online church we ventured out to find our pintxos. We reckoned that if we went early we'd be OK. By the way, my Spanish is now seriously lousy and I'd had no time to revise. I understand pretty well anything anyone says to me, but answering is another matter, I mix up "here" and "there", and don't ask me to conjugate verbs, though 2nd form Latin still seems to work...

So -  Pintxos. Essentially they are kind of like tapas, but not really. They're snack-size meals prepared with skill and delicacy. The official way to do it is to go on a pintxos crawl, eating a snack and drinking a glass in a succession of different bars. We decided that we didn't want to quite do that, so we stayed in the one place and ordered what we fancied.

The classic is called La Gilda - named after the heroine of a 1940s film, It consists of a skewer dressed with an olive, and anchovy fillet that encircles three small pickled green peppers and finished with another olive. 

Others come on toasted slices of baguette, and feature tuna, anchovies and shellfish, as well as little lamb cutlets and cheek of beef, stewed slowly in rich gravy. It's all quite delicious and cheaply priced as long as you don't get carried away. Also we slipped up one time and ordered dessert. Big mistake! It was expensive and ordinary.

The local wine is called Txakoli and has to be poured from a great height, as does the cider. You need to get air into it. They're both light and acidic, refreshing but not at all strong.

San Sebastián was full of French people and we chatted with them about the city and the food we were all eating and how we could do them back in France for apéros dînatoires. We got chatting with an American guy who works all over the world by didn't want to tell us what he did, just as you'd expect from an international hired assassin.

On our last day our TGV left at 6 from Hendaye, so we needed to catch the train from San Sebastián at 5. We popped out for breakfast in a nearby café, then tidied our room and checked out to explore the city for one last time. San Sebastián has lots of charming little parks dotted around the city. Then we went for a late lunch to another place I'd spotted that did a reasonably-priced pintxos set lunch. It was next door to the splendid café El Quijote and had a kind of greenhouse where you could sit and eat while watching the world go by untroubled by the breezes. The proprietor spoke un poquito of English and French, so we managed in Spanish, with me blithely making up any words I didn't know.

Back to Bordeaux and we hit the ground running before I developed a raging sore throat - une angine. It's not covid. I checked.

Monday, March 07, 2022

A nice, busy weekend

Our Ukrainian friends had car trouble in Germany and the repairs required a part to be ordered, so instead of arriving on Wednesday evening they arrived on Friday. Not only that, but nine people had swelled to seventeen. 

This changed our plans. We had imagined accommodating them in church members’ homes but on Saturday two of our folk were having their wedding ceremony and reception, and spare rooms were full of guests, so we decided that the best thing was to get them rooms in one of the basic hotels on the ring road. There’s one just over the river from us, so once we knew they were definitely going to arrive I phoned and booked the rooms - four I think - and then booked a pool car for the journey over.

We anticipated cooking them a meal, but we abandoned that idea when we realised that they would arrive late at night, with very young children. Church folk had bought vast quantities of boxed drinks and cartons of coffee as well as bread, ham, cheese, biscuits, cookies, chocolate, fruit… you name it, they had it. I was a little concerned that there wouldn’t be room in their vehicles to take the stuff, but I think it was OK.

Their impressive little convoy entered the car park at about 11:30, so we lost no time bedding everyone down and we scuttled off, explaining that we wouldn’t see them again. They sent us a photo, however, to say thank you to the church folk.

The next morning I got up bright and early to do my Saturday morning talk for our church in North Wales, then broke out my suit, ironed my shirt, printed out my notes, cleaned my shoes, ate a sumptuous lunch, then we assembled our passengers and drove off to Saint Palais de Négrignac in the Charente. The sign is bigger than the village, but the church was beautiful - a lovely, simple 11th century stone freezer. The sun shone brightly and the north wind blew to keep us all alert. The ceremony over, we dropped some people off at the reception hall then drove home. The meal was due to begin at 19h and dessert was scheduled for 23:30, so we decided so skip the reception, come home and be bright eyed and bushy tailed for Sunday.

This may be the last wedding I conduct, so I was glad to look quite the part in the swanky black suit that someone recently gave me - they’ve grown out of it and I’ve shrunk into it - with my outrageously floral shirt bought in the Desigual sale and a plain navy tie to tone it down a bit. My shoes also attended their last wedding. They’re Clarks I bought years ago in the outlet shop in Ellesmere Port, and now the soles have holed. The uppers are all rather strange shapes too, though they still shine up well enough, so I think it’s the end for the road for my fine old comfortable shoes.

Sunday came and we were in Luke 2:1-21 - the glory of Rome and the Glory of the baby in the manger. I was thankful that « powerful people who take themselves for God Almighty » was relatively easy to translate into French. A rather apt description of Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Julius, Pre-eminent, Saviour and Emperor, I thought. We have an excellent interpreter now to save time and effort in doing bilingual preaching, but finding a suitable word for a see-saw eluded all our best French minds, and the only name our excellent interpreter knew for a see-saw is unfortunately quite vulgar. I know one word, balanceoire, but our French folk use that for a swing, other alternatives being trebuchet (my new favourite) and bascule. I won’t give you the vulgar one. You can find it for yourself.

We now have a couple of refugees in the church - not Ukrainians - but sadly one of our number has had his visa renewal refused, so he’s returning home in about two weeks’ time. We’ll miss him terribly but in God’s providence it might not be such a bad idea for him and for his family.

Today is quiet.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Helping some Ukrainian families on their journey to Spain

 A friend in Spain - who, incidentally, I have not yet met - contacted me to say that some of his Ukrainian family are on their way from the Ukraine. Could we help them on their way by accommodating them for a night before sending them on their way.

Originally they were to arrive on Wednesday, but car trouble has delayed them two days. This complicates matters for us as we have a wedding on Saturday and several friends from hither and yon are descending on Bordeaux for the wedding.

In addition the original 9 people increased to 17. 

So we have alerted our friends in other churches locally, but our backup plan is to lodge them in one of those cheap hotels that we used to stay in on our way from France to the UK. They're fine for an overnight pit-stop.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

The Americans came, and now they've gone again

 So last week was the International Christian Communities of Eurasia annual prayer retreat, and it was held in Bordeaux. It kept us going from early morning to late evening, so we spent a lot of the weekend asleep. 

One of the important little moments of the retreat is a meal out in a restaurant. Sometimes host churches have members who own posh eateries. We ate somewhere very impressive in Prague some years back. Others are in awesomely cheap cities. I was more than a little concerned here in Bordeaux. We don't eat out in the evening. Hardly ever. I mean, we're generally busy in the evening. Not only that but most restaurants in Bordeaux are more expensive in the evening than at lunchtime. And I didn't want to use one of the chains, but we needed something affordable and ...

Anyway, you get my drift. So Pat and I were very happy to chance upon somewhere up near Place Gambetta, not too far from the church premises, where they catered for groups. They could handle a group of up to 40 people and gave special menu at a special price including a choice of three starters, main courses and desserts. 

I was especially pleased that one starter was "Salad du Sud-Ouest", which means salad dressed with duck gizzard. It's really good! And this one also came with a few slices of smoked duck breast. Then one main course was "Confit de canard", duck cooked slowly in duck fat. Again, shockingly good.

It all went pretty well, though I did get more cranky as the week went on. Sorry!