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)

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Yatal concert

This January gets you down. You never dry out! Every time you leave the flat you get drenched by constant, persistent, penetrating drizzle. It's just like Cardiff, it really is.

So last night I was the only Davey to brave the brief journey by train to the Eglise Sacré Coeur near the central railway station to hear the group, Yatal, who hail basically from Grenoble.

Yatal is a kind of folk-pop group made up of a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, a violinist and a multi-instrumentalist who is known especially for playing the hang-drum. He also wowed the crowd by playing the spoons. (I'll have to tell Pat. We can both play the spoons. Fame awaits us!)

My train was 10 minutes late so I had to hoof it fast up the road to the church. I've been there once before. A friend from the language school used to go there. It's one of the more interesting Catholic churches, it has perpetual adoration of the host, as well as pop-music youth masses on Sunday night and has renamed itself "L'Eglise de Bordeaux Centre". It's also often the venue for Christian concerts, including the catholic groups, Glorious (you pronounce it like "glory-house" without the h) and Be Witness.

In front of me was a young chap I know from a church in Bordeaux. We chatted about the size of the crowd. 

"I expected more people."

"We're about 150, I guess."

"But they could have held this in one of the Assembly of God buildings?"

"Certain doctrinal differences perhaps? They come from a baptist church don't they? Or is it some kind of frères"

"CAEF, I think". I looked around. "So more differences than with this?"

"The place of the Word of God?"

Sometimes I feel very foreign. 

I think that what has happened is that the charismatic movement in the Catholic church has created a certain coming and going between the charismatic protestant and catholic communities and made a bridge between the two. This hasn't happened between the pentecostals and the other groups, so in the end people like my friend feel a greater affinity with the church that maintains perpetual adoration of the host than with the local AoG groups. Maybe my friend doesn't know the local AoG people at all.

Makes you think, doesn't it!

France is awesome

I mean it. Clear sign of God's common grace and love for humanity.

Lots of reasons. Here's another.

This week the government finally decided what to do about a possible new regional airport near Nantes, in a little place called Notre Dame des Landes. (Nothing to do with the Landes de Gascogne)

The project had created a lot of discussion, protest, sit-ins and Swampy-style squatting, but no decision from the government either for or against the plan.

Macron's government promised to make a final decision, and there were lots of consultations with all sorts of people on the local and national level. And this week Edouard Philippe, the prime minister, announced the decision. Not before large numbers of riot police had been ferried into the area.

He said that where large-scale projects had succeeded there had always been united support - they had been projects that commended themselves to all kinds of people. This project obviously created a lot of division. So the government had decided to knock it on the head once and for all.

No decision would have been easy, which may be why previous governments have chosen that path? To decide for the airport would mean a huge backlash from the environmental and agricultural lobbies. To decide against leaves Nantes without a regional hub and leaves large businesses wanting compensation for the work they have already put in.

It reminded me of a situation many years ago where I learned a lot about rule by elders. In a happy church not far from London the elders had decided that it would be good to start area house groups. They worked it through and announced it to the church meeting.

Shock and awe. Some people were horrified. Some years previously there had been a serious dispute in the church which seemed to have come from some bad behaviour on the part of house group leaders. Now history seemed about to repeat itself.

The elders looked at each other, looked round the room and promptly knocked the whole idea on the head. Ruling means more listening than talking.

Friday, January 19, 2018

My friend's cafe

My friend has a café that he runs with his fiancée in a busy little street of Bordeaux.
It has perhaps 20 chairs, a nice little patio - well, tiny really - and a small cellar where they can store stuff. The rent is over £1300 a month, which means they have to do REALLY WELL just to cover their expenses. The other day a chap and I were eyeing it up and working out how many people you could get in there if you laid it out as a church, and you could get perhaps 40 people in. That's rents in central Bordeaux for you.

The January blues

Here we go!
Roll on March.

Rich and poor - on Dollar Street

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

On cream once more

The avid reader of this blog will be aware how much I appreciate easy recipes, and my attention was recently drawn to a very simple recipe for home-made ice-cream - no machine, no incessant churning, it's easy.

Armed with my home-made mincemeat I found a recipe for Christmas ice-cream and set about buying the requisite ingredients.

Let's see. Condensed milk - that's easy - and ... whipping cream.

Here we go again!

Over a decade ago when my eyes were keen and my beard dark I tried buying whipping cream here in France and discovered to my dismay that cream is a territorial species.

We Brits delight in half-cream, single-cream, whipping cream, double cream and clotted cream.

Americans, however, separated by a wide ocean and two-hundred years of cultural divergence, have their own classification, which includes "heavy cream".

Here in France I am still struggling to understand why some crème still tastes sour, and so is obviously crème fraîche, even though it doesn't say so on the pot.

Here is what I have discovered.

If you want whipping cream then you buy crème fleurette, which has added alginates to provide a frothing agent and help it whip. (shudders ... I can't, I just can't...)

Otherwise if you want to whip your cream you need to buy 30% cream.

To get non crème fraîche and have a cream that does not taste soured at all I only know of one brand, which comes in a kind of 33cl sachet.

Otherwise, since the ice-cream recipe contains sweetened condensed milk and I need 50cl of cream, I just frown, knuckle down and buy crème fraîche.

The holy grail of cream here is France is Crème d'Isigny, which is thick and unctuous and will play the role of clotted cream if you have good scones and are of a greedy and forgiving nature.

All clear?

Darkest Hour

On Monday afternoon we took the tram to the nearest UGC cinema in Talence to see Darkest Hour in VOSTF. There were four people in the room. Well, it was Monday afternoon.

Of course, watching the film in Bordeaux probably increases the visceral blow of the film. How do you defend against panzers and blitzkrieg? How do you negotiate with totalitarianism? How do you willingly wake up from a nightmare?

I had a new appreciation for the pace of events. In just two weeks everything was unleashed.

I wondered at Chamberlain. Was he really such an evil old buzzard, controlling the voices and reactions of his party with just the flick of his handkerchief? Could this be a true portrait? At the same tie I have known people like that and, to my lifelong shame, I have not always explained the danger of their habits.

I wondered at Churchill's energy. He was born in 1874, so at the outbreak of war he was already 65. No wonder he needed his naps! And his drink!

It would be good to find a historian's review of the film. What about the King's change of heart?

And then Brexit. Probably for the UK it doesn't matter much whether we are in the EU or not. I mean, obviously, economically it matters hugely, and probably in terms of rights and protection of citizens, too. But in the event of war on the continent of Europe, it is hard to see how Britain can avoid getting drawn in.

Perhaps the real hero of the film is the spoken word. Popular folklore credits Churchill with winning the war by means of the radio, and without in any way overlooking my father's, and others' sacrifice in devoting the best years of their youth to combatting the fascist plague, I would like to believe that that is true.

Here is one historian's take on the film

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A worldwide reaction on a global scale

We have been inundated by a worldwide reaction of two messages asking us to keep the blog alive, one from an undisclosed location believed to be deep inside the European Union, the other from a Mr Davey of the Home Counties.

Faced with this unprecedented emotional outpouring the blog is, of course, reprieved.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The week the blog almost died

It's been a very busy week here in Bordeaux, just one thing after another, to such an extent that I thought the best thing to do was to announce the death of the blog. However last night Mrs Davey told me that this would be a pity, and so the blog will live on.

What's been happening? All sorts of things.

Monday is now sabbatical day, and I ventured out into Bordeaux without my phone and quite, quite alone. It was very liberating to know that nobody knew where I was and nobody could contact me. I ate lunch in one of the cheap cafés and watched the empty square - Mondays are quiet in Bordeaux and many of the shops are closed.

We had some computer problems sorted out. Catrin's laptop hit problems due to lack of storage but in the centre of Bordeaux there's an independent computer shop that was able to sell us a bigger disk and fit it. I'd have been able to fit it myself, but it was cheaper to get them to do it than to buy the tools I would need.

Then Pat's phone had a cracked screen. Catrin's had previously suffered the same thing, so we got Catrin's repaired at the same place for a very reasonable sum and Pat took over Catrin's phone.

Again on the computer front a young chap asked me to help him upgrade his cloud storage but unfortunately he could not remember his password - or rather he correctly remembered the wrong password - so there was nothing constructive that we could do!

I met up with a young student who is working on the role of women in protestant churches in Bordeaux and after our interview we discussed how he feels about President Macron. We are both glad to have a president who knows how to behave without embarrassing the whole country, not something we felt so able to say with the two previous incumbents.

It's been the CNEF week of prayer, but I only got to one of the evenings, in the Eglise Libre in Pessac. It was good to meet up with folk and to pray together.

The church council had a very constructive meeting, and we're progressing towards declaring our 1905 Association, we hope at the beginning of February.

And I've started working on a big music project, that of singing a complete Bach cantata, number 82 for baritone. It represents about 25 minutes of singing! Some movements are very achievable, others are far more difficult. I've started by tackling one of the easier movements. Someone drew my attention to this Radio 4 programme that discusses the piece : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09l07ly

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Some radical decisions being taken here...

Here's one.

Monday is Desert Island Day.

I leave my phone at home and my laptop turned off and I venture out. The idea is to take a proper break one day a week.

I was a little unsure about what might happen if I am taken ill and need an ambulance, but since I have never been taken ill or ever been inside an ambulance this seems to be a rare occurrence. Anyway I'm not actually going to a desert island, so there'll usually be someone who can phone if they find me supine and unresponsive.

And what to do? Well it is a bit sad that lots of my favourite things are closed on Mondays, like museums, galleries etc., but the Mériadeck library is open Monday afternoons. I've now lived in Bordeaux for over 12 years and never yet visited this awesome place. The parks are open, as are many shops and cafés, the cinemas etc.

Why this stern action? Well both Pat and I have had grumbling health issues this autumn - in my case niggling asthma and shingles. So we're trying a couple of things. Hypoallergenic detergent, for example. A new regime of early nights (we'll see how long that one lasts). And a weekly break from everyone and everything.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Poor Catrin's computer

We needed to download a new piece of music software, but before we could her computer needed to be on the latest update of the system software. (Ahem, ahem, who has not been doing their updates, then?)

And that was when the fun started.

There was not enough disk space to download the update. So we deleted some things and it downloaded and started to install.

However - then it said there was not enough room to install the update, and got stuck in a loop that we couldn't break out of.

The solution? By a bigger hard disk and either fit it or get it fitted by our friendly local independent Mac expert. The cheaper option was to get them to fit it, so they did, this morning.

And all is well again, with the storage space on her computer now doubled!

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

So that was Christmas

I took time off to spend with the family. It was wonderful!

Gwilym came home from London on 18th December, he slept in the lounge on the sofa bed, and this gave a certain shape to our time together, with early nights and late mornings (or at least late for me - I normally get up at about 6:30).

For Gwilym's birthday we ate at the Regent Bistro in Pessac, a local chain of restaurants that does steaks, salmon or breast of duck at a reasonable price.

We also ate a kebab from the most popular kebaberie in Bordeaux, the Coluche. I find it hard to love kebabs, but it's the nearest Bordeaux comes to authentic street food so...

For Christmas dinner we added some friends to our family and ate a raclette together. This is a very unwise mix of boiled potatoes, grilled bacon and dried sausage with a topping of melted cheese. It has the sole virtues of being good fun and very filling, so it was followed with a mincemeat flavoured ice-cream following a really simple recipe I found on the internet.

Christmas Eve we worshipped with our friends in Merignac. In the evening Pat and I went to the late night service in the Pessac church, leaving at the moment of the mass. There must have been about 200 people there. The priest's sermon was kind of OK, full of historical detail, application focused on being people of peace and goodwill. OK as far as it went, but that wasn't very far. The service was extremely badly organised!

Yesterday Gwilym left on the 11:20 flight to London, missing storm Carmen by just a couple of hours. I spent the rest of the day moping.

Now it's back to work! Lots to do!

Monday, January 01, 2018


On New Year's Eve a mosquito was desperately trying to get into the flat through the firmly closed, double-glazed window.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Some more Christmas Bach

BWV 82 Ich Habe Genug is based on Simeon's song, known as the Nunc Dimittis ("Now dismiss")

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Diolch yn fawr iawn i S4C am y rhaglen hon!

This programme shows the valley where I grew up, features the brass band I played with as a lad and then goes on the my university town. I half expected Bryn to hop on a plane to Bordeaux, but he didn't.


The BBC won't let me watch anything, but S4C allowed me to watch this.

Christmas Day

Well, just like in the old days, the kids got us up. We'd opened our presents on Christmas Eve as you do in France, but we also had little stockings with bits and bobs in. Then the rush to get the table ready for lunch.

Some genius had had the idea to have a raclette for lunch - I think it was a collective decision - so there wasn't a vast amount of cooking to do beforehand. We'd bought too much charcuterie, some chicken pieces, too much cheese and so we boiled too many potatoes.

For an apero we opened a bottle of Lillet someone gave us and which we'd been saving for just this kind of day, and we had crisps and cashew nuts. To accompany the meal we had some French cider, barely alcoholic but sweet, light and fruity - not at all like English cider.

For dessert we had some mince pies, of course, but this time made with home-made pastry and home-made mincemeat. I tried someone's secret that they'd shared with me years ago and used self-raising flour in the pastry. It worked very well. We also had some Christmas ice-cream that I'd made according to a recipe I found, consisting of:

2 cups of whipping cream (I used the thickest cream and thinned it a little with milk)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk.
1 cup of mincemeat, made a little runny by added liquid - orange juice or whatever...

You whip the cream to stiff peaks. Then you add the condensed milk and whip again. Then you mix in the mincemeat and freeze overnight.

This improbably easy recipe resulted in a really good soft frozen ice-cream that was light and tasted of Christmas.

Our friends arrived and we ate our main course, then played Uno, Jungle Speed and Dobble before tackling dessert. The Queen's broadcast gave us a chance to have some coffee and tea. Two of our friends were from commonwealth countries, and all were from countries where Great Britain had had a historic influence (cough, cough). Then "The Great Escape" which I honoured by doing off in the middle.

A fine Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Some Bach for Christmas

If we decide to retire to Britain

will there be language courses so we can understand whatever strange tongue you are speaking now?

"I didn’t hear any edition of the Today programme this week, due to deciding recently that it harshed what little zen I possess too early in the morning."

On the discipline of rest

This time Pat and I are sleeping in our bedroom and Gwilym is sleeping on the sofa-bed in the lounge. We're sleeping a lot. A LOT! Like last night bedtime was 9pm, and we got up at about 9am.

I can't remember the last time I spent 12 hours in bed. Not even when I'm ill. Perhaps when we used to go camping and we'd go to bed with the sun. But anyway, we are certainly catching up on sleep!

I once knew a student who didn't believe in the necessity of resting or of taking a break. "I'll get plenty of rest in eternity!" they'd say.

But I think they still slept even so.

Sleep forces us to rest. If we don't sleep we quickly go nuts. And sleep is quite a subversive act. It says that we accept that we are not the centre of the world. It says that we accept that the world can survive without us. It says that we can walk away and leave things, at least for some hours.

Sleep restores us in ways we still don't fully understand. We quickly learn to appreciate sleep and to prize it highly.

It's harder to lean to appreciate taking a break, taking time off to rest.

Sometimes, like the student, we get the idea that we don't need to do that. "I'm very tired, I need to lean in and rest in Jesus!" we say to ourselves and to the world.

Well, yes, you do, and you also need to trust in Jesus and take some time to rest. When you rest in Jesus you rest in the one who would go off to quiet places to get away from people for a while and rest.

To take a break and to rest is an act of faith. And determination.

It takes discipline.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mint Spies version 1.0 and 1.1

Well I made some mint spies. Two batches thereof. This is what I learned.

1) our bin tin is very deep. More like a muffin tin really. placing mint spies in the bottom of the holes works, but it is fiddly.

2) paper cases work fine and they mean you don't have to grease the bun tin.

3) shop-bought pâte sablée (sweet shortcrust pastry) works ok but the pastry is very thin and crisp.

4) shop-bought flaky pastry (pâte feuilletée) basically doesn't work at all.

5) the mincemeat is good.

So basically I have to make some shortcrust pastry.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Home made mincemeat

The French know not mincemeat.
I mean we know not even candied peel!
Suet is an issue.
So for many years we have not had mint spies at Christmas unless someone has been able to smuggle them over in their hold baggage or something.

Then this year I found a recipe.
It's not perfect.
It has suet. I substituted butter.
It has candied peel. I left it out.
It has fresh cranberries. In your dreams.
It doesn't have grated apple. I'll add some next year.

But I found some dark brown sugar, at HUGE expense in Auchan.

So basically I did my best with what I have available.
Next year I'll adjust the spices. Less cinnamon. Some ground cloves. I'll add grated apple. I'll buy one of those zester things. Above all I'll try and make the mincemeat a couple of months before Christmas, instead of a couple of days!

But we shall have pies!

StarWars The Last Jedi

A group of us went to see the film last night, and I enjoyed it very much.

Good old fashioned escapism.
Big explosions.
Hokum galore.
Cute robots.

The old words rolling into space looks so dated now.
Forty years ago I saw StarWars in Aberystwyth with a gang of folk, and Geoff Thomas was sat a couple rows behind.
I am SO CONFUSED about the war between the Empire and the Rebels.


Life has been quite busy, health has been more of an issue than usual and the ugly monster of excess fatigue has been waving to us. Last week I thought, "let's just get through this weekend, then we can flop" and we did and we can and we are.

The weekend went well. I was a bit down and unhopeful but we had good numbers for the carol service including some splendid small boys, all who introduced carols and Sylvain who preached done good and Pat was well enough to come.

Now we are taking a break. The decision was taken when during a conversation one of my supervisors/mentors/bosses/partners referred to me in passing as Mr Duracell. It might mean that I blog more, though!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

R C Sproul

I never met R C Sproul or heard him preach in person. To me he was a writer. I didn't watch his courses or listen to his sermons.

I appreciated the invitations to join Ligonier theological study cruises in Alaska or the Caribbean, though I never went and I can't imagine a universe where that would conceivably happen.

But I valued his books enormously. He was a good populariser, he could explain hard things simply. His books on the Holiness of God and on the Nativity narratives were wonderful.

His little series of short books on various topics are free in Kindle format I recommend them highly.

I thought he wrote with tremendous clarity, his "The Mystery of the Holy Spirit" is my go-to popular-level book on the subject.

Thank you, Dr Sproul, Thank you Ligonier. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hurrah! Patricia hardly coughed at all last night!

The bronchitis is really on the mend!

As for her back, well we'll see soon.

In less happy news, however, Lawrence, our rat, has a large tumour on his forelimb.
Rats are prone to tumours like these as they get elderly. He doesn't seem to be aware of it at all, and it doesn't stop him climbing all over his cage, but it does remind us that he is very unlikely to see Christmas 2018.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Expository preaching

OK. Here we go.

I began pastoral ministry in 1991as an assistant pastor in a church where preaching was consecutive, systematic and expository. Thus it was that the first Sunday I preached my passage was Mark 6:14-29, the beheading of John the Baptist. I say this just to establish that I am used to the expository method. I've never been subjected to some of the horror stories that go around, of sermons on the triumphal entry from the point of view of the donkey, the identification of the stones David had for his sling, etc. I am deeply committed to preaching the Bible and by systematic consecutive exposition. Which simply means taking a passage and explaining what it meant for the first hearers, what it means in the context of the whole Bible and what it means for those who hear today.


However, I am more than a little bothered at the moment, for the following reasons.

1) Systematic consecutive exposition of the Scriptures is not a magic method. The power does not lie in the technique or in the method applied. If we get it right, that does not automatically make it a good sermon or an effective sermon. And if we get it wrong, that does not mean the opposite. In short, we cannot rely on a method, we always have to rely on the Holy Spirit.

That's number 1.

2) We risk absolutising systematic consecutive exposition of the Sciptures.

Every now and again preachers ask, "When was the last time you heard a sermon on hell?"
Well excuse me, but we don't preach on topics do we. We preach systematic consecutive exposition of the scriptures, which means we'll never preach on hell, but we will preach on passages where Jesus teaches about hell, for example.
Now then, does that mean that it is impossible to preach on the topic of hell?
That it is wrong to preach a series on Christian basics, or family life, or whatever?
Can we say that the only type of preaching envisaged in the Bible is systematic consecutive exposition, or is preaching sometimes broader than that?
I think it is dangerous to make absolutes that are not given to us directly in scripture.

3) Preaching like a good rabbi.

Every sermon needs to have Christ at its centre. That means that we have not done our work properly if we preach a passage from the Old Testament and show how its warnings, hopes, desires, promises, its whole trajectory find their full accomplishment in Jesus. "We can always trust God" isn't christian. We have to show that "We can always trust God in Christ."

4) Not seeing the wood for the trees

You don't necessarily get at the point of a passage by talking about every detail verse by verse. And sometimes, even if you do state the point of the passage, it gets lost in detail that is entirely appropriate for reading, but not when you are trying to preach.

5) Directness

Preaching has to be direct. It's you, the preacher, speaking about very important things to your hearers. We mustn't lose in directness because we are slowly marching step by step, verse by verse, through a passage.

I'll probably add to this post.

It was better before. (c'était mieux avant)

Firstly one for travellers and ex-pats. Be aware of the golden glow of nostalgia!

This comes home to me in so many ways so often here in Bordeaux. Here's a couple of examples.

One comes from a conversation a few months ago when a British friend said, "Nobody goes hungry in England. There are no food banks in England." I quietly explained that since we left the UK in 2005 food banks have become a major activity for many of my friends and colleagues, and that some food banks are now regularly frequented by NHS nurses.

Another happened more recently and concerned bullying in schools. A French friend said how shocked they were by the bullying in England and how it isn't tolerated in France. I quietly explained that our kids were bullied in the catholic school in Pessac that they attended. "Oh, OK, I know it goes on in the catholic schools" and then how a friend's son in a state school in a suburb of Bordeaux came home one day and said "Today was a good day, nobody hit me today."

What's going on? I think it's the golden glow of nostalgia. We don't remember things properly. We forget the bad (thankfully) and remember all that was good and happy.

Mrs Davey's condition is improving

The strong medicines and injections are helping to calm her lower back spasms, and her coughing is better too, helped by the antibiotics, expectorant etc.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The doctor cometh

I woke to find that Mrs Davey had left a note asking me to call the doctor and ask them to call round, and to cancel her physiotherapy appointment for this morning. The doctor just came and prescribed LOTS of things - injections each evening, amoxicillin for the cough, I'll need to take a carrier bag to the pharmacy.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The answer, my friend, is running in the wind

Well it's warmer, at least, but this morning we were back to more normal December weather of driving rain and blustery wind.

To be honest it wasn't raining that much. More a question of puddles and dampness, and I do pretty well in dampness. But the wind was annoying because all the uphill section of my habitual run (I did the short version this morning) you are running into the wind. But not only that, for some reason the good burgers of Pessac had decided that this was the night to forget to fasten their gates, so all the way I was subjected to the noise of sudden slamming. It was just like running through a horror film. I expected some monster to appear round the corner at any moment.

None did, thankfully!

We had these super-duper cheap and cheerful running bands, you know, like fitbits, but the Chinese version. They were really good, though Mrs Davey's always found it hard to connect to her phone. Mine worked OK. Till I changed my phone. Then it just wouldn't connect to the new one. I followed LOTS of instructions, including letting the battery run down and storing it in the fridge (not the freezer!) for a few days. Nothing worked. In the end I ordered a new one from China, this one's even more super-duper and still as cheap and cheerful. Well if I get over a year out of it I suppose that's not bad really, is it?

Mrs Davey's health

To her continued back problem, sometimes improving only to know sudden deterioration once more, is added a nasty, dry, hacking, loud cough. She's not very well and struggling to be very happy.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Bus fun

Yesterday I had two big appointments, the first with the insurance company to ask four questions. We addressed the question from hardest to easiest and got everything done quite quickly. I noticed that we had a discretionary discount of 15% but said nothing until the final figure turned out to be cheaper than I expected.

"La différence n'est pas énorme."
"Oui, j'ai fait un geste."

faire un geste doesn't just mean to wave your arms around. It also means giving someone a small discretionary discount, or throwing something else in free or whatever.

My next big appointment was with a chap who's a friend, but who smokes. A lot. I'm still struggling with the asthma a little, so I thought I'd better phone him and cancel. He took it OK.

It gave me the chance to hop on bus 4 to the big shopping centre, stock up on bananas and beans and also get my public transport season ticket renewed at the same time. You can renew online up till about 15 days before the expiry date. My renewal is due on 9 December and so I systematically forget to renew because by the time December comes it's too late.

In the evening was the first of the "Excuse my English" events at the "Excuse my French Café" in the quartier Saint Michel. it went very well though a number of us arrived later than intended because it was raining heavily so all the traffic went nuts.

Our team, The Botanists, won the quiz.
I wish I were not so COMPETITIVE!!! It's a nightmare.
Still the prize slice of cheesecake was delicious.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

On the death of Jean d'Ormesson and of Johnny Halliday

Yesterday we heard that Jean d'Ormesson had died. He was a well-born Frenchman (hence the d'). His full name was Jean Bruno Wladimir François de Paule Le Fèvre d'Ormesson. He became an author, the editor of the Figaro for a few years and was the longest-serving member of the Académie Française.

I got used to seeing him interviewed on the television and noticed him because he spoke openly, freely and warmly of his belief in God. He was a real charmer, always smiling, always witty. They said of him that he loved life, loved women and never took himself seriously. He himself said that as a young man he loved to have a girlfriend but what women loved most about him was breaking up with him, so he lurched from one broken heart to another.

He had a major row with his father, who saw him as a worthless lout, and it remained so painful that he couldn't speak about it even as an elderly man.

I have no idea really of the content of his faith, but I liked the tone of what he said about God.

Believing in God is so much simpler than not believing in him, and it's much more encouraging. You'd be wrong to deprive yourself!

And again, from another legend, Bernard Pivot:

- Si Dieu existe, qu'aimeriez-vous l'entendre vous dire après votre mort ? - Entre, pauvre imbécile, m'avait répondu Jean d'Ormesson.

"If God exists, what would you like to hear from him after your death?"
"Come in, poor fool" answered Jean d'Ormesson.

I'm glad there are people like him.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The choir concert

Last night the choir took part in a charity concert at the church in Pessac.

It was a bitterly cold night. We were assured the heating was on. So were our coats.

After a brief warm-up and some jiggery-pokery with the small, inadequate electric piano we sat down for the speeches. There are always speeches.

Then we were off. Our programme included the choral movements of BWV4 - Christ lag in Todesbanden, as well as the last movement of the Vasks mass and Fauré's incredibly popular Cantique de Jean Racine.

There was a brief moment in this movement where I was aware that the tenors on my left and the sopranos on my right were not in synch. It felt like being in a skidding car. We were slewing off. What do you do? I stuck to the conductor like a limpet and after just a couple of bars we were all back together again. I guess everyone had done the same.

People applauded the Fauré on its announcement as well as on its conclusion. I, however, sight-sang it last week and then learnt it on the train home from Paris!

Friday, December 01, 2017

The internet is back, and so am I

On Monday I left our poor disconnected flat, our pirated church website that directed folk to a pornography site and went off to Paris for a Prêche la Parole conference. Somewhat modelled on the Proc Trust preaching workshops, it was to be held at the Baptist Church in Rue de Sèvres in the middle of Paris, just a short walk from the Gare Montparnasse and so on.

We now have our super-duper high speed train link from Bordeaux to Paris, but not yet to CENTRAL Paris, so I took the Ouigo TGV to Massy. It cost 32 euros and took two hours. 

Massy TGV station is intimidating.

To get to central Paris you have to buy a ticket from the machine and take a RER train. I say the machine because there were several lonely, quiet machines for tickets for the "grandes lignes" but only one for the local lines. Its as very popular. I queued for 30 minutes in order to buy my ticket.

Then about an hour of marvelling at the Paris suburbs brought me into Montparnasse and I walked the rest of the way.

The conference was generally useful, focusing on preaching Christ from the Old Testament, specifically from Daniel, and it was good to see friends old and new from all over francophone Europe and one from Africa. The main speaker was the splendid Vaughan Roberts, the Welsh pastor at St Ebbe's in Oxford.

I was hosted by a super couple in the north-west of Paris in their flat where they live with their four daughters. Navigating the Metro proved to be easier than I feared as they, too, lived about an hour away.

For my return journey I could buy a combined metro and train ticket very quickly so I was soon hustled off back to Massy to drink a rather expensive coffee (2,50€ for a café allongé!) in a splendid new brasserie before stretching out in my 10€ Ouigo back to Bordeaux.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What a week - I HATE computers

Firstly we decided to switch everyone from the cheap and cheerful but it doesn't work very well mobile phone operator to a rival that actually costs the same but work a whole lot better. When you do that you lose your mobile phone number while they switch you across. So we've had first Pat, then Catrin, then me unobtainable by mobile phone for a day or two.

THEN, they decided to come and fix the mobile phone cabinet outside the block of flats. It was largely demolished by a car crash last Christmas Eve but was functioning fine. Every now and again someone would come and look, then go away again, but on Monday some guys came, laid the box flat and redid the base. At 5pm everyone's internet was cut off, taking all television and telephones with it. It isn't yet restored to working order.

THEN on Thursday I was told that our website had been hacked such that if you search for "Bordeaux Church" in Google you get sent to a porn site. The guy who built our website has looked into it and assured himself that the website is fine, in working order and has no problem, but still if you go to it via Google you end up on the porn site.

Those good old days were great, huh!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Is it an improvement? Hard to say...

On Monday I got home to see a van parked outside the flats and two men working on the telephone cabinet. This is the large metal structure that holds all the telecommunication gubbins for the flats. Last Christmas Eve, a wet day, a car skidded the white lines outside the flat and knocked the cabinet over into the fence and bushes behind. They'd come to fix it, at last!

At 5 I noticed our internet service was cut. I looked outside. The telecoms cabinet, previously leaning, was now lying flat on its side. I phoned the internet provider, who confirmed that the internet, tv and phone was cut off for all the residents of our block of flats. It may take 8 days to get it back, worst case scenario, quoth she.

Oh well. It's made life kind of peaceful!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

We're having some beautiful days

but there are nasty viruses going round. We've all caught a brief ninja head cold. Mine lasted half a day, Pat and Catrin had a couple of days of misery.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A year of Trump and six months of Macron.

I just thought it should be marked in some way.

November frosts!

It is COLD in Pessac. Very cold.

And there is this ninja head-cold going round.

It gets you suddenly, hits you very hard indeed, then leaves as suddenly as it arrived.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A new name

The internet salesman wrote my name on his form.

"ALAIN - Alain, it's that, yes?"

"No, Alan - A L A N."

He scrubbed out the I.

"A second forename?"


So it is that for the purposes of our telephonic communications now I am called M. Alain-Thomas d'Avey.

I think it's easier to change my name than to change the system.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs

I managed to get through to the Royal Bank of Scotland on the phone number they gave me. The charming lady who answered was not Scottish. I explained our situation.

"Oh, we don't need any documents for people living in France. Just send your French tax number."

So it's all sorted out. Phew!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Here we go again

In 2013 I had a long exchange of correspondence with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the upshot of which was to establish that I am truly and completely fiscally resident in France, with no UK income and no tax liability. It took some months to establish this to everyone's satisfaction but I received several letters from different tax officers, sometimes all on the same day, all agreeing to and affirming this.

Now then. We have a bank account with Virgin One which was our main account until we left the UK in 2005. I loved this bank account very much. I wish there was a similar thing in France. When we left the UK we didn't close the account and we currently have £5 in it. I hope that if one day we return to the UK we can simply continue with that account as we did before.

Then they sent me a form to fill in to show that I am fiscally resident in France. It demanded strange things, like a photocopy of a passport issued by a foreign country and endorsed with a stamp from a UK consulate. I don't have a passport from a foreign country (yet). They helpfully supplied a phone number if you needed help. I dialled it. I got no response. I called Virgin One. "Oh, that form is nothing to do with us. It's RBS."

I considered that for the sake of £5 and having had official confirmation from several of her majesty's officers that I am fiscally resident in France I had done all I could reasonably do. But no. I am being chased up. So I shall write them a letter to enclose with my form.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Well I don't know what went wrong with bus 4 yesterday

Pat and I met Catrin at 4 for tea and cake at Horace, then after buying a book as a gift for someone we went to wait for the bus 4 home.

"Is that snow?"

"I don't know. It's something."

It wasn't snow, but it could have been. The evening was dark and cold and the rain was falling heavily. Still, we wouldn't have long to wait. There's a bus 4 every ten minutes.

"It says 12 minutes."

People said they had already been waiting a long time. We decided to walk to the previous stop, where the warmth from the engine of a waiting bus 15 gave us some welcome cheer.

"Now it says 4 minutes."

6 minutes passed.

Eventually a wave of excitement came across the little crowd at the bus stop. Here it came! The bus 4!

We squirmed on with the other folk. Somehow the seat right at the front was free. I sat in it to occupy it for Pat who was following me, but the bus got so full we couldn't change place.

"We've been waiting half-an-hour. Two were due but never came."

Everyone got on board, but at the next stop people were too numerous. "I'm shutting the doors", said the driver. There came some furious hammering. It was someone handicapped with their carer. The driver let them on and they squeezed in somehow.

Pat recognised a chap with Downs syndrome who often sings on the bus. A couple of minutes later he started up. It was party time in the crowded bus.

We wondered where people would get off. Palais de Justice? No. La Médoquine where there's lots of flats. No. Almost everyone stayed on till Pessac Centre, where they were replaced by collégiens and lycéens.

Ours was the next stop. We got off, thankful to be home briefly before charging out to take bus 4 again to Pessac Alouette.

There's a bus 4 every ten minutes. We waited 25.

Some music for Thursday

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Running in November - It gets COLD!

Oh boy was it cold this morning. I had on a nice thick tee-shirt, "lounge pants", a sweatshirt and a tubular hat for my head, but my eyes still watered with the cold.

I want to increase my distance bit by bit, but this was not the morning to do that.

At the doctor's

My doctor is great, but a bit ... strong.

She copes with my stoic approach to minor illness, but she does protest a little: "Il faut toujours venir me voir. Il faut toujours venir me voir..."

This was when I confessed that I'd had a couple of spots of shingles but that after a couple of weeks they cleared up.

"That's fatigue", she said.

"Yes, I had too many late nights."

We discussed bedtime, breakfast time and running for a couple of seconds while she played darts with my arm and a 'flu jab.

I would have given you something to make it less painful and long.


She did my prescription for my life-giving herbs and potions.

I looked at it.

"I'm going to have trouble with the pharmacist."


"Because the one thing is "for six months" but the other doesn't say anything. If I go to the distant pharmacy where they know me they do it anyway, but the nearest pharmacy won't do it."

She changed the prescription, to my great relief.

I'm going to stop typing now because my dartboard arm is sore!

Monday, November 06, 2017

Changing to fibre-optic

This salesman called on all the flats from Bouygues Telecom telling us about this super-duper deal on  installing fibre-optic internet in our flat, and since all the cabling was already in place it would be really easy, and it was at a bargain price, and so on and so forth.

After a couple of days deliberating I decided to go ahead with it. That was back in September, I think, and the technician called today to set it all up.

And there we are! Fast internet, cheaper than we were paying before, and with a nice, elegant little box instead of the humungous white blunderbuss we had.