Showing posts from June, 2022

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