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)

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I've had, and I still have so much admin to do - my own and some for other people - so this morning I planned a little trip to brighten the gloom - a trip to the waterfront to see two wonders!

1) The launching of a new pleasure boat on the quays by Quinconces

2) The arrival of a Russian tall ship.

The tall ship was planned to arrive at 11am and I was pretty excited to see it pass under the new lifting bridge, so after a couple of annoying phone calls, irritating emails and stuff, I hopped on the tram. I arrived at the quays a little late, but within normal Bordeaux margins, and hastened off towards the new bridge to see the ship arrive.

No sign of no launching, the bridge was lowered and being crossed by all manner of roadcraft and I saw no tall ship.

Oh well. It was a gorgeous day - like August at Llandudno - so I continued down the quays. As lunchtime approached I thought I'd get a sandwich.

The sandwich man said, "You are English? Vous êtes Français?"

"Je suis Gallois." was my proud reply.

He reflected a little. "Mais vous parlez français?"

"Ça m'arrive", I said, thinking that one day I really must ask someone if they speak Welsh.

I ordered my sandwich and scoffed it happily in the sunshine.

I watched the people running by. Few ran faster or better than I do. One older man ran beautifully. Most just shrugged, shuffled, shambled and shimmied along, whether young or old. I felt reassured.

I decided that instead of hopping on the tram to Pessac I would continue my walk to the Pont de Pierre and catch bus 24.

It was than that I saw her.

 The Russian tall ship had evidently come up the river earlier than planned as was moored all splendidly just before the Pont de Pierre.

I paused to take some photos, then carried on up to the 24 bus, which started its journey just after I boarded.

I missed the boat, but at least I didn't miss the bus.

Monday, October 17, 2016


One of the advantages of having kids who study music is that they expose you, willy-nilly, whether by accident or design, to new singers, musicians, styles that you never took any notice of before. Gwilym got me listening to Ed Sheeran and to John Mayer. Catrin was recently given this song to analyse and I find it all very fascinating, dovetailing very well with the minimalists like Steve Reich, etc. The musician, James Blake, won the Mercury award in 2013 for the album which contained this piece.

1966 and all that (a)

A for Aberfan.

One of my earliest memories is of playing in the street as a seven-year-old with my friends and being very worried about my aunt and uncle who lived in Aberfan and who kept a fish and chip shop there at the time. I'd seen aerial photos of the landslide and the devastation it caused, but strangely none of the photos indicated clearly to me the position of Daveys' fish bar, so my mind was not put at rest. They were at the other end of the village, however, so the disaster had an indirect impact on them. They stayed open all night the night of the landslide, providing meals for the rescuers. And they were involved, like all the villagers, in the aftermath of the tragedy for years to come.

Because we lived in another mining valley the Aberfan disaster had other, continuing effects on our lives.

Perhaps the first thing was the hand-wringing of the National Coal Board and the action taken - too little, too late for the poor families of Aberfan, of course - to make the coal tips safe. As a kid I roamed wild on the tip behind our house. Oblivious to any danger, we'd drink from the streams that bubbled up here and there - careful only to avoid any that contained sheep droppings or - horror - dead sheep. We'd dig dens in piles of coke and clinker - it was only years later that I realised that the pile of coke and clinker was the waste from the steam engine that my grandfather look after which drew the trucks of waste up the mountain.

The National Coal Board gave a contract to Ryan, I think, to come and landscape the coal tip, extracting all the coal dust in the process. There were massive earth-scrapers, bull-dozers, lorries and dumper trucks and a temporary road that gave access further up the valley at Dinas Rhondda. When they landscaped the mountain they did it in terraces that made it look less natural than even the tips, then they spread tons of chicken manure everywhere - the smell was astonishing - before seeding it with grass. It took years for these human efforts to catch up with what nature had done more effectively in the preceding years.

I think it may have been at this time that the cottage my father grew up in was bull-dozed. Both my parents' ashes are scattered where we think the cottage was - we found it as best we could judging by the position of the park fence and other landmarks that had not been eradicated by the earth-movers.

Our valley was littered with conical tips, always placed on the mountain top pretty well directly above the villages which were, of course, in the valley floor. By the mid 1970s only Tylorstown Tip remained and it is still there to this day. I don't know why it escaped.

Now the Rhondda is clean, green and devoid of any heavy industry. There are fish in the river and lots of wildlife in the hills. It's become a beautiful place again, a real testimony to the power of nature to recover and restore.

In 1977 I went off to university at Aberystwyth. My aunt and uncle told me of a lad from Aberfan who was a student there. Just a little older than me, a survivor of the landslide, he had been pulled from the slurry in the ruins of the school. His name was very ordinary. I thought there was little chance of me meeting him amongst 3000 students but I said that I would look out for him. Well, I met him in my first few weeks. We sang together in the Gilbert and Sullivan society's production of Mikado. We never talked about the disaster, though he knew my uncle and aunt, of course.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ascending and descending

Paris will always be Paris

The CNEF has another training day on 5 November, directly about Church Planting.
This time it's a bit further out in Paris in the 19th Arrondissement.

I just priced up going: we're talking roughly:

60 euros return on the cheap trains
60 euros to stay overnight (cheap hotel or AirBnB)
20 euros fee for the day
40 euros for meals, say - one whole day and an evening

About 180 euros for a training day.
I could save by travelling up overnight by coach, but it does seem to make you sleep during the sessions, and I have to preach on 6 November.

It would need to be extra-specially good to merit that cost, so I'll give this one a miss.

Paris just isn't Paris any more

The Conseil National des Evangéliques de France were holding a training day on French Association Law in Paris, so a couple of us went up from Bordeaux. The morning started at 9:30. At present there is no train from Bordeaux that will get you into Paris on a Saturday for 9:30, so we had to find other ways to do it.

My friend took an overnight bus from Bordeaux, leaving at midnight and arriving in Paris at 7am. This was a very inexpensive option, but it did seem to impact on his attention level during the sessions.

Bordeaux Church was paying for me to go, so I took a train the evening before and stayed in an AirBnB very near where the training day was taking place. My train was the cheapest - I don't know whether I'd necessarily choose that train again: it was the slow train, taking four hours and arriving in Austerlitz, the wrong part of Paris. The train arrived 15 minutes late due to traffic. That's odd, isn't it? Surely rail traffic is all planned our? Anyway, it was just 10 minutes by tube to where I needed to be.

The day began with plenary sessions:

A speech from the government minister for religion, read in his absence.

A word of welcome from the Chairman of the CNEF.

A history of religious freedom in France.

An overview of Association Law.

Then there was a copious lunch - I had a salad starter, roast beef with ratatouille, a pear tart, some stewed fruit, a glass of wine, some water, some bread and a coffee.

Afterwards followed two workshops, the most useful part of the day. I went to the ones on "Responsibilities and Competences of Officials" and on "Best Practice for Associations".

I learnt a lot of useful things, including:

1) When we establish our 1905 Association Cultuelle we need to differentiate it clearly from our existing 1901 Association Culturelle.

2) We can transfer the money our 1901 has to our 1905. (we couldn't do the reverse)

3) Women must have a HIGH degree of holiness. I listened to an introduction that went: "and to respect male female parity we have Madame Machin" and died a little inside. I hope the excellent guy who unfortunately made this slip cringed himself... I hope next time I say something like that that I stop, correct and rebuke myself and apologise right there and then... I hope to cultivate the same degree of holiness and humility as the woman thus introduced, who smiled, laughed and then gave an excellent address.

4) The government doesn't need to know all the ins and outs of your association. All they care about is who's in charge, really.

5) I get terribly stressed about missing trains! French trains are very l-o-n-g and at Montparnasse on the way home there were two long TGVs on the same platform. Mine was the further one, and my carriage near the front. Along with a couple ahead of me we got confused, entered carriage 12, hunted for our seats and didn't find the right numbers. So we got off at the other end, now carriage 11, and went back, this time turning left rather than right, and found our seats straight away. But we did get on some other passangers' nerves - either that or they had had air-brakes installed and needed adjustment. Still.

Arriving back at Bordeaux with 15 minutes delay, I'm not sure why, we were told that the Arcachon train was being held back for us. Now that train stops at Pessac after just 8 minutes journey. The alternative is bus/tram which takes about an hour. I charged for the train and joined the queue of people buying a ticket at the machine.

These machines are really awkward. There's no keyboard, just a roller to select from the 36 types of ticket available and to spell out your destination. Then you stick you card in and hopefully it all works OK. The folk in front of me managed to get their ticket with a bit of cajoling. My turn came. All went well. Very well. Too well. Card in. Code? Correct. Please remove card. Transaction abandoned.


I charged up to the train.
"It didn't work! it said....."
"I'll sell you a ticket then" said the conductor.
Soon I was home and tucked up in bed.

Oh yes, and Paris will always be Paris. I lied.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Didn't murder anyone last night!

Such a relief. And I have started to believe that I have neither murdered anyone, nor concealed any bodies, nor helped anyone else to do so.

Good news, eh!

One of those reassuring days

Yesterday was one of those reassuring days when you realise that possibly you are not quite as big an idiot as you thought you were. Or possibly that you are, but we're all in the soup together, sunk into a morass of idiocy the depth of which far exceeds our capacity to swim or even to tread ... idiocy.

Two events reassured me. The first was the decision from the western world's most popular evangelical theologian - please note, dear friends, that I choose my words carefully - that he would no longer support Donald Trump for the presidential elections and that he had been wrong to support him all along.

This was immensely reassuring to me. I am not a skilled politician and I have no experience of any political party. I am so naïve that I am still glad that we have a constitutional monarchy in the UK, and that we don't have to vote for some chump every couple of years to represent our country - or at least the 46% or so that voted for him/her/shr/it/them. In addition to all this, I come from the Rhondda Valley. You know, we had a communist mayor in the 1980s. We did! We really did! Just as I still wash coal dust out of the back of my neck, so my blood is still tinted red. It's bound to be.

Even so, it seemed to me self-evident that no chump could seriously vote for Trump.

Was I naïve? Had I underestimated the threat posed to the Free World by his opponent? Or could I really see something that so many more intelligent and more faithful people could not?

Well apparently, yes! I, aided by the undoubted advantages of living thousands of miles away and only half understanding the rhetoric of US election time, I perceived something before ... before the western world's most popular evangelical theologian.

Even if I feel this is not quite the occasion to yell "Hurrah for me!" it is nevertheless reassuring. I'm not such a first prize chump after all.

The second occasion was when a very clever friend and colleague, far clever than I, and they have the certificates and sundry jumbled letters to prove it, contacted me for a small service after they had been hoodwinked by fraudsters into giving their card details over the phone.

Some time ago this happened to me. It was the income tax people and it came at income tax time and it was all so plausible and I was in a hurry and I did it - then thanks to the two levels of security I have on my account, I quickly realised that I had been had.

I was able to explain to my colleague the procedure to follow - stop the card, go to the police and report the crime, talk to the bank, they will refund the money lost because of the excellent European consumer protection laws that argue that poor simple dupes like us need protecting from ourselves.

In addition, my excellent bank, to whom I pay charges for the privilege of giving them my money to look after (what!?!?) but who on this occasion earned every last centîme, spotted an unusual volume of purchases being made from the French equivalent of Mos Eisley - a wretched hive of scum and villainy I rarely visit - and blocked the transactions even before I alerted the card centre of the problem.

Well there we are. It happened to my colleague more or less like it had happened to me. However, my colleague - did I mention that they are much clever and much more certificated than I? - showed their superiority of spirit by refusing all annoyance at themselves. "We learn much from these occasions", quoth they. I am still annoyed at my stupidity even a year later.

Oh well. Not so reassuring as all that.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

It's Catrin's turn in two weeks

Catrin and her friend Bénérice (yeah, I know) are to be the support artistes for a visiting singer in Bordeaux under the auspices of the Université de Bordeaux Montaigne and the Station Ausone. The singer in question is one Bastien Lallemant and I listened to some of his stuff on Youtube. He certainly has a gentler style than the last one who came, and his songs are kind of wry, quirky stories of the end of love and stuff. In fact, maybe it was one of his songs that set me off with that weird bad dream.

I'm sobbing, and running in the rain

It started raining yesterday evening after weeks and weeks of virtually no rain whatsoever.

When I got up to run the rain had died down a little - I couldn't hear it in the downpipes - but when I got outside it had become a light drizzle. The grape harvest at Pape Clément next door has not yet been completed and I could just see the bunches glistening in the light of the street-lamps.

It felt good to run this morning. My song at the moment is Figaro's song to Cherubino from the Marriage of Figaro. There's one line of the text that escapes me, but I'll have it memorised next time I run.

As I came back past the vineyards I saw a tractor getting ready for the day's harvesting. They say it's a good vintage this year. Not only that but there's a bumper crop of mushrooms everywhere. But my mind was elsewhere.

We have heard that a dear friend in the UK is entering into the last couple of weeks of her life. We should be used to this by now, but we are not. Sometimes we have had the privilege of visiting people to say goodbye. Pat urged me to find a flight and travel over, but I don't think it's the right thing to do. No, I'll write a letter. At least this time I can do that. Sometimes people die without warning us first. The sheer nerve, eh?

So as I ran past the vineyards I sobbed. I sobbed, but I didn't stop running. And after all, it's not a cull, it's a harvest. We'll see each other very soon.

Oh dear, what a nasty dream

So it's 3 am and I am racking my brains to try and remember which two corpses I was involved in hiding and which of the two I had participated in murdering.

Yes - a bad dream. Essentially the police had found two bodies - one in a submerged car somewhere - and I knew it would not be long before they followed the trail and came knocking at my door, so I was desperately trying to work out how to cover my tracks in such a way as to remain unsuspected. When I woke the dream was so vivid that I was unsure that it was not real, and even now I need every now and again to replay the big events of my life to ensure that murder and concealment of murder does not figure therein.

Then I started to wonder if the loss of ones marbles is like that - that fantasy, imagination, dream and nightmare become confused with reality such that you are no longer sure who you are, where you have been or what you have done.

At 8 am in the subdued light of the kitchen this is not terribly troubling, but at 3 am it sure put the willies up me, I can tell you.

Anyway I distracted myself by reading Liu Cixin's Three Body Problem until I fell asleep again at about 6 am!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Good problems to have

We're full. Full to the point of discomfort.

At Tea and Chat in the Kitchen last Thursday there were about 35 people.
When we planned our activities we had not foreseen this response, so we had to ditch 'em.
The staff at the restaurant were a little overwhelmed, so we had to help marshall people through the till.
We'll meet up with the restaurant staff to see how we can plan it better for next time.

At Dan we're now full to overflowing.
A couple of weeks ago three people had to sit on the steps, but there were six visitors and holiday makers present. Last Sunday two people were sat on the steps, but with no visitors or holiday makers.
We need to plan for more space.

We're overwhelmingly young. We have a handful of leaders in their 50s, but everyone else is in their 20s or 30s.
And would you believe that I've been seeing this as a problem. How stupid! How many churches would love to be composed of people mainly in their twenties and thirties?

So there we are.

The new restaurant still sits empty with no sign of renewal or renovation.
So yesterday I started talking to one of the leaders of a Bordeaux church about the possibility of meeting there, in a first time for the Christmas service, in a second time, weekly.

OK, let's just forget it

I have stopped squirting sea water up my nose.

It was unpleasant.
It made my nose run for the rest of the morning.
It made me sneeze.

But most of all

it had no noticeable effect on my resistance to colds.

Hey! I gave it a shot!

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Becoming geriatric

"I never hear my phone", I remarked, as I noticed that I had missed a call at about 7pm.

"Oh, that was me", said one chap, "I phoned from the corner of the street, but then I realised I was not lost after all."

"Oh, that's because you have it set to DO NOT DISTURB", said someone else, "See!"

"Oh, I see", I said, though I didn't really see at all.

"And I never hear it when Alan sends me a text message", said Pat.

"Oh, look, you have it set for do not disturb for him - oh yes, and for me" observed Catrin.

Honestly, it's like teaching your grandmother to use a spreadsheet.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Checking theological papers in English

I had a theological paper to check for a friend, trying to make sure it conformed to British English usage rather than to American.

So after lunch I went for a quick walk round our neighbour's garden, to which they very kindly allow free and unrestricted access.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Talking like a TV presenter

One day I'd like TO learn to talk like a TV presenter, how to emphasise all the lest important words IN the sentence, putting heavy stress ON prepositions and being able TO do it instinctively without even thinking OF what I'm doing.

Who teaches them all TO do this?

Talking like a TV presenter

One day I'd like TO learn to talk like a TV presenter, how to emphasise all the lest important words IN the sentence, putting heavy stress ON prepositions and being able TO do it instinctively without even thinking OF what I'm doing.

Who teaches them all TO do this?

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Sumo, the neighbours' super-sized megakitty

There are three cats that we know of living in our apartment block.

Susan (we dont know her real name) lives next door to us on the back of the block, and we have seen her a couple times sat on their window sill.

Catkin (aka Caramel) lives a couple of doors away and is a fine, sleek, handsome cat, hungry for cuddles.

Sumo (real name not supplied) lives in the same flat as Susan, and he is a super-sized megakitty. We've wondered if he has health issues - a tumour? some glandular problem? - as he has a huge tummy as well as being generally a rather large cat. But apart from one thing, he never seems to be in pain, he catches lizards - at least now, in the cooler times, when the lizards are more sluggish - and we see him sometimes charging round the garden, full steam ahead.

He comes to visit first thing in the morning. He can get in through the kitchen window, but in the morning I am usually sat there so I try to discourage that by opening the shutters and the patio door. He then slinks in and patrols the flat before rubbing himself against the legs of my chair, of the table, against my legs a little, and purring up at me. He longs to be stroked. He lies down and shows his extensive tummy, looking up with that "rub me, rub me hard" look.

Never! Both Catrin and Pat have fallen into that trap and he has turned on them both. Maybe that abdomen is painful?

So he gets brief conversation, he gets access, he gets to look round, he gets to lounge about, he gets to purr, mew and squeak, he gets to prowl, but that's all.

Of course, we never feed him. Oh, no sir! Not nothing! Anyway he is evidently not going short of food!

But we know that he'll usually visit us some time before seven a.m. and then call back periodically until we refuse to open the door for him after eight p.m. I guess he doesn't sleep at home?

His owners live back to back with us and they generally enter and leave the flats by the vehicular access. That means I've only seen them about three times and we've only spoken once. It isn't even easy to know if they're home.

But one day we need to talk about Sumo.

If only to find out his real name.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Schubert Variations on "Trockne Blumen"

You forget how much you love a piece, then you discover it all over again. This is a lovely performance with great moments.


We've never been able to grow tomatoes. Never.

The thing is, when I was a pastor in North Wales the deal was that we take August off. That means vacating the house for at least the bulk of August, which is what made campers of us. We had wonderful times, especially in our Dandy folding camper. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, tomatoes need watering, especially in August.

Oh well. Swings and roundabouts.

One year a chappie was going to stay in our house.
"All you have to make sure you do is water the tomatoes", we said, and planted up grow bags full.
He forgot.
They died.

Then this year a friend gave us a tomato plant.
"Ha!" thought I, "that thing doesn't have a chance!"

Pat planted it between two of the privet hedge plants by the wall. Near the watering system. The automatic watering system that ensures the privet hedging plants don't die in the long, hot summers.

So we have a huge tomato vine growing along the wall and a little trickle of cherry tomatoes every day!

Next year we'll plant a couple vines!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Back to the running

I slept pretty well.
My breathing settled down considerably yesterday.
I felt well again.
So at 6:30 it was "run time".

And it felt very good. I'm still building up slowly after the summer break and stuff, so I'm not running for 30 minutes yet, just over 20 minutes, with a short walk to begin and to end.

But next week I hope to add in another 1km loop and bring it up to almost 1/2 hour.

I run like an old codger. As I was galumphing down Rue Profond I thought of the old codgers we see running round the place and how my pace and gait must resemble theirs.

But then even if I run like an old codger, at least I run like an old codger who is out running.

And it was good.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our home is a house of sickness

Poor Catrin has a tummy bug.
I felt unwell on Tuesday and broke out in something vaguely cold-like yesterday.
Pat is so far resisting bravely!

An AirBnB for the homeless

Read about it here, and see a nice photo of Professor Pascal Pistone of Catrin's degree course at University of Bordeaux Montaigne.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A boat signed by Starck

There's this dirty great private yacht moored in Bordeaux.
It is due to leave this evening so I went down to get some photos:

Ausone Station

For all the time we have been here in one narrow street near the Place Gambetta - the square where the guillotine was placed during the reign of terror - one particular building was shored up with a massive construction in huge girders and beams. We've been here ten years and the building had been in a sorry state of repair for longer.

Then, towards the end of last year, I think, we heard that a survey was being done and permission sought to turn the building into a cultural centre linked to and owned by France's largest independent bookshop, Mollat. And last night Catrin and her fellow-students held a concert there.

I was quite impressed with the place. They've managed to build a large, flat floored hall, all painted dark with fancy composite arches supporting the ceiling and a capacity of at least a couple of hundred people.

The first performer was Alice, one of Catrin's fellow students, who brought a strong Euro-Rock effect, with a floral one piece, spiked goggles, a guitarist and drummer and songs about the dictatorship. Strong stuff, and she was a very confident performer.

Next up was Mateo MF, who graduated from Catrin's course in 2015, just before she started it. He was another confident performer and a bit more in the French song line, with an accordionist, a double-bass and himself on guitar. His songs were witty. One was called 'Jacques a dit' (Simon says) and was about a chap called Jacques who loses it one day and decides to rob a bank, saying "Nobody move, this is a hold-up", but everyone who has ever known him is there and has something to say about it. Another went, "It's a nice day today, a nice day to jump in the cut" (this is a free translation, of course) and another was about how boys dance badly. He was another very confident performer.

Then all the students were involved in accompanying the star of the evening, Adrienne Pauly, an actress and pop-rock singer. I felt her style owed much to the Boomtown Rats and she seemed to enjoy being accompanied by the ever-changed teams of students. Catrin played piano for a comparatively tranquil song.

We caught a late tram home and listened to some more music - a few people practicing football chants - before crawling under our downy covers.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The wise man ...

Apparently I should inhale sharply while squirting water up my nose.

I'm giving it a go.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lots of drama with the local cats today!

Firstly Sumo and Catkin had a stand-off. Spitting and staring. Batting at each other. Catkin backed down and strutted off.

Then Sumo was crying in the garden. I went to see what the problem was and he had caught a lizard, but sadly the lizard was no longer moving, no matter what he did.

That moment

Who here thinks that you can live a perfectly fulfilled and normal life without ever having a sexual partner?

Not a hand raised.

Who here thinks that Jesus lived a perfectly fulfilled and normal life?

You see the problem we have with our society and its propaganda?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

I can't remember the last time I felt like this about the autumn

Today the summer has one last go - temperatures above 30°C and glorious sunshine - so Patricia and I hied us away to Bordeaux Lac for a quick stroll by the waterside. Bus 4, then tram C, basically the same route that takes us to Ikea.

As we passed through Pessac we spotted an unusual market, so we stopped to look. There's a new initiative in Pessac called "Pessac Village" which will bring an arts and crafts market to Pessac from time to time as well as other events. There was a stage with a jazz saxophonist, a folk singer and a rock band scheduled.

So we got off the bus to look around. The stalls were charming with all sorts of things, from concrete sculptures moulded in origami to sock monkeys and solar powered butterflies. One stand was selling little cakes made without any kind of flour or sugar, all made from dried fruit and the stall-holder was keen on getting us to sample all her wares - pear and chocolate, coconut and ginger, etc... We considered using them as a dessert for the meal when the UFM retreat comes to our home, as one of our number has intolerances to gluten and sundry other things, but at 3€ a cake it would mean 50 euros just for dessert. Hmmm. Not on, me thinks.

We resumed our journey and alighted the tram just where the new Ginko flats meet the edge of the lake. It was super to stroll along the footpath and look out over the lake towards the beach on the other side - well visited today. The new Ginko flats are very attractive with a variety of unusual designs, geometric shapes, some looking like stylised houses stacked up high, others in graceful curves looking like the bridges of a series of ships. With a view of the lake or an outlook over the canal it would be very pleasant to live there - and a short walk from the massive Bordeaux Lac shopping centre. But we're very happy in Pessac.

After a happy time wandering and exploring we took the tram all the way back to Pessac then strolled home down Rue de la Paix. The sun was hot and my tee-shirt is black so it was a nice little bonus summer.

One day, some years ago, while walking round the Pape Clément vines we met one of the lecturers from the Language School here. We chatted and she told us she lived on Rue de la Paix. So a couple of weeks ago while walking down Rue de la Paix we wondered which was her house. There was a super little cottage which to me seemed just right and when we looked at the mailbox - well, yes, it was hers! So one of these fine days we'll pop a note in telling her that we live just about 50 yards away and inviting her for a tisane some time.

Tomorrow morning should be rainy and much colder and next week we're back down to the low 20s. October usually stays quite pleasant, but in November it gets chilly, then December through to February can be really quite cold. By mid-February the mid-day is pleasant again.

But we have double glazing! We have good, efficient heating! We have a long hallway to keep the cold out! We have no worries for our cold water supply, or anything else for that matter. For the first time in a long time the winter feels like it will be easy.

Book review - Good and Angry - David Pawlinson

A whole book about anger! That is at one and the same time so necessary and such a narrow focus that in a way this sums up my reaction to this very good book.

Pawlinson's concern is to help us to understand anger, and to help us to address and solve our problems with anger. For this reason he progresses slowly through the book, building step by step, section by section, gradually putting in place his argument.

Please don't misunderstand me. Pawlinson's writing is not at all stodgy or ponderous. In fact this book contains one of the shortest and best written chapters I have ever read. Excellent work!

But from time to time I found myself shouting at the book. "Yes, but...". "Well maybe, but what about..." and "Aren't you going to talk about...". Then, often in the next chapter, he would.

Now it's a sad fact of life that we have difficulty admitting to ourselves that we have a problem with anger. (That's what makes the short chapter I mention above such a useful one, by the way.) That means that some of us will never pick this book up and find the help it offers. So it's especially useful for pastors, counsellors, mentors, leaders, father, mothers and friends to read this book, so that you can find the help you need both for your own anger problems and to help those around you.

I received this book freely in electronic form in exchange for an honest review.
I honestly liked the book a lot and will read it and recommend it to others.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Day off excursions

Monday was a pleasant day so we made a couple of excursions. The first was to Lidl to stock up on essentials. While we were there we saw that they had what they called barbary figs - prickly pear fruit - so we bought a pack of six and we've enjoyed them very much.

The afternoon took us to the centre of Bordeaux where we called in at the new Uniqlo store. Uniqlo is a Japanese brand of mail order clothing and they now have eleven shops in France, the most recent being in Bordeaux. I think the brand will do well as they have just the right colour palette for the city - a range of black, navy blue, various greys and different shades of beige. Their clothes are ... reasonably priced ... and generally fairly conservative in design, though they do have some oddities. I was intrigued by a blazer which, when you got near enough to look was not tailored but knitted. They also had good coats - not cheap but they looked the kind of coat that you would wear for ever.

Pat didn't buy anything but I have been running short of socks so I got a set of six in various shades of grey, navy blue and beige.

Afterwards we went into the Desigual shop, just up the road, which is probably at the other end of the colour palette. I often call in there on grey days to brighten myself up.

Later on we took a stroll round the vines to our neighbours at Château Pape Clément and called into their Wine Shop Experience. They sell wines from the Château at around 125€ - 500€ a bottle, depending on the year, but they also sell wines from Bernard Magrez' holiness all over the world, from other parts of France as well as Bulgaria, Chile, etc. and some fo the wines are less than 5€ a bottle. 

Next door to the Wine Shop Experience is a wine bar where you can sample different wines, buy a coffee or at lunchtime get a light tapas-style lunch. It looks very posh but the prices are quite normal.

I asked the chappie in the Wine Shop Experience which parts of the château people could wander round, and he said that there's free access to all parts of the parks and gardens - you can just roam at will among the very old olives etc.

"But the people who walk their dogs in the vineyards?"

"Oh no, you don't have the right to walk your dog in the vineyard! People can wander round the park but not the vineyard."

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Animal fun

So there I am with my head and heart stuck in "possess his vessel" while animal fun erupts all round me.

First Sumo, the neighbour's enormous cat, decides to come and pay us a visit. We decide that we don't want our sofa to smell like the neighbours' cat - and anyway, perhaps he isn't allowed on their sofa. But once he's up getting him off is complicated because he is very heavy and he has claws that sink quite easily into the cloth of our new Ikea sofa-bed. hmmm. A compromise is reached - temporarily - and a blanket is placed where he tends to go.

Sumo leaves, Lawrence the rat enters and, despite his worrying immobility in his cage, becomes the daring acrorat, climbing up guitar and mandoline cases, scuttling along bookshelves, running out on ukuleles and then running for cover when they fall to the floor with a crash, leaping for the dresser and discovering there is no purchase for his little claws, so falling to the floor. He had a very adventurous time, till Pat got tired of rescuing him from the back of my chair and popped him back in his cage.


Lilas des Isles

I know it sounds like a singer in a sleazy nightclub, Lila Dézil, but this is a beautiful flowering shrub that is planted in front of our block of flats. It flowers profusely with these blousy loose blossoms. These are the last blooms for this summer.

iOS 10

On Wednesday we had to be up and out early to get Pat to that clinic, and really I needed my phone to be working to get the Citiz car and possibly use the Waze satnav programme to get to the clinic.

But on Tuesday Apple were releasing a new version of the phone operating system, iOS 10. It became available at 7pm.

Now then, in the old days on Android new versions of the phone system would come out periodically, but they would not be available worldwide at the same time. They'd come out at different dates according to your country, to your mobile phone network and to you make an model of phone. It was, frankly a shambles.

But with Apple they announce it one week and everyone gets it the following week on the same day at the same time.

But should I update the software the eve of Pat's operation?

Oh go on. So I did. There were reports that some people were having problems. I had no problems whatsoever. The phone downloaded the software quickly, validated it and then applied the update and it all worked perfectly.

Next Tuesday Apple are releasing an update to the operating system on my computer.
In the old days on Windows I'd be MUCH LESS CONFIDENT and wary of updating on the day the release becomes available.
My disk is quite full - the drawback of buying the cheapest model.
Apple computers are already quite expensive, after all!
So will the update work?
We'll see!

The summer seems to be over. Autumn seems to have come suddenly.

Monday it was in the mid 30s.
Tuesday, too, though on Tuesday evening we have dramatic and violent storms.
Our internet company sent us a message to unplug our modem.
The town hall said not to walk under any trees.
They closed the parks.
They activated the anti-hail cannons across the department.
The storm was quite spectacular, though we didn't get the forecast hail.

Then from Wednesday on the temperatures have hovered in the low 20s.
It's autumn, I think.

Squirting water up your nose

Every morning and every night I squirt sea-water up my nose, as the doctor told me to.
I sing a jaunty song as I do so:

The wise man squirted water up his nose (x3)
As the doctor told him to.

The water shoots up and the bugs flow down (x3)
So squirt some water up your nose.

But as of yet the efficacy of this treatment is unconvincing.
I sneeze. My nose runs. I am, basically, unconvinced.
I'll keep going till the can runs out of water, but I can't promise that I'll buy another.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Uniqlo arrives in Bordeaux

Now then, since I started running I have lost no weight whatsoever.

We have also changed the way we eat, greatly reducing the amount of carbohydrates in our diet, and I have lost no weight whatsoever.

Catrin has become almost vegetarian and so we now eat much less meat, too. And this has had no effect whatsoever on my weight.

But I can only assume that I have become more dense, because I have changed shape. This means that I can now wear clothes from shops I could never have shopped in before. It's quite amazing, especially when I recall how one American lady a few years ago looked me up and down and said, "You really should visit America. You would like the sizes."

hmmm. Cheeky monkey!

Other friends have long suggested that I shop at Uniqlo, an online clothing shop of Japanese origin, but I am reluctant to order online, especially when the same printed size label can mean wearing a tent or a tea-bag - and then if it's not right you have to send the thing back... No.

Well, Uniqlo has just opened a store in Bordeaux and while Mrs Davey was reading "far away", "near", "now the next line backwards", "now try with both eyes shut", I went down to check it out.

I didn't get in, but I did hear the Japanese drummers making a dreadful racket, heard the various people making speeches, and saw the queue going twice round the block to buy sweaters at 10€ off and socks at 6 pairs for 10€. Buy one merino wool sweater, get 12 socks free.

Once Mrs Davey told me she'd been seen and was ready to go we got some celebration cakes from Gaston and then hied us away home for tuna and cucumber sandwiches.

OK. All fine. We don't need to see you again. Just get some reading glasses.

Pat had her post-operative check-up this morning and the ophthalmologists were very happy with her. They don't want to see her again. They don't want to assess her for glasses, not in a week, not in a month, not never unless she has a problem. She only needs some +2 glasses for reading, which can be bought in lots of different places.

She's delighted.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"My wife has had another operation."


"Well yes, she has two eyes..."

This was the exchange when I handed the bill into our insurance office in the hope that they will reimburse us. They haven't done so for the first operation yet. We'll give it a week and then I may have to go and see them about it.

*Update: We got all but 50€ reimbursed for the first eye, so if they follow that pattern the operations will cost us something in the order of 100€, plus, of course, the insurance premiums we pay for health care.

Anyway, last week's appointment was for 8:30 and they rang the day before to tell us to come for 7:30. "Oh yes! If you come at 8:30 it will be too late!"

OK.. So we rolled into the clinic at exactly 7:30.

This week they phoned to say that we should come at the time indicated on the appointment. "If it says 9:40 (which it did) then you should come at 9:40!"

"But last week..." said Patricia...

Anyway, we rolled up at 8:40. Patricia's appointment was for 9:40 but she actually had her operation at 10:40.

Go figure.

It was a different team of nurses and a different anaesthetist.

This time fewer eye drops but perhaps a sedative given.
More discomfort but a shorter wait before being discharged.

Meanwhile I was sent away to wait elsewhere, so I drove off to Ikea, just two miles away, and availed myself of free coffee and wifi.

Today she can see for miles and miles.
But she can no longer read at all!

On Monday we scuttled into Hema in the centre of Bordeaux to try their reading glasses, and with the strongest (+3) she could read, so I might get a pair of the cheapest +3 reading glasses I can find to tide her over.

On Friday she sees the ophthalmologist for a post-op check-up.

They said to come back a week later for assessment for glasses.
Meanwhile another woman was told to wait three months to allow her eyes to adjust.
Again, go figure.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

We've all been really tired this week

I think it's a combination of the heat - especially at night, of Patricia's operations and of getting everything started up again.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Got my marks for DELF B2 through today

I was relieved to have passed comfortably, even the part with the letter complaining about the cow.

I got 91%. My lowest mark was 21/25, which corresponds to 84%, for the letter about the cow. My highest mark was 25/25 for the oral.
How can anyone award 100% in a language exam? Especially for an oral?

Anyway, I feel stupid for having got so worked up about the exam, I feel encouraged to have a French certificate of competence in French, and I feel thankful for the encouragement.

The last time I had a result like this was my A levels, in 2003 or thereabouts, where I got 94% overall and 100% in my AS exams. Again I don't quite see how that's possible, but hey... That was when we were in that awful time of working through leaving our church, which we love, to come and serve in France. We needed encouragement.

Now we're in this messy time of church planting. It's so ... untidy.

In church life there's rules, there's a team, there's people who take decisions together, there's a limited range of possibilities, there's relationships that have been forged over the years, there's a pretty clear path ahead, even when you have to make big decisions together.

We have little of that. Everything's up in the air. Simple things are all complicated. I wonder if we'll make progress at all this year. But we'll get through it because if God is establishing a church in the centre of Bordeaux then he will do it, and if he chooses to use what we do then it will all work out, and even if it doesn't, it's fine, because it's a good enterprise, and will involve good things on the way and all is good.

So there we are. 91%. Now then, do I have to get our parents' birth certificates officially translated into French or not? Who knows! Where's that form?

Thank you for your prayers, and for your patience!

Friday, September 09, 2016

The cold caller

The phone rang.


There was a pause, then a click - this means a call centre with a computerised calling system that puts answered calls through to someone.

"Hallo Sir, I'm calling on behalf of EDF (France Electricity) to ensure that you received your last bill."

I was suspicious. They've never done this before.

"Yes. It came by email as usual."

"Also to ask you if you have considered the benefits of installing photovoltaic panels on your roof."

"Madame, it is clear that you do not work for EDF because if you did then you would know that this is a block of flats and we are tenants, not owner-occupiers."

The phone cut off suddenly.

At the insurance office

I called at our insurers' office, just about 5 minutes walk from the flat, to drop off the bill for Pat's cataract operation in the hope of it being reimbursed. We should be covered. The person who dealt with it said, "OK, I'll send that off."

"I ought to talk to you about life insurance, too, in case we die, because to die incurs costs."

"OK. What kind of sum are you thinking of? 10,000€?"

"Sounds about right. I guess a burial costs about 5,000?"

"5 - 7,000€, yes. Here we are, for straightforward life insurance you're talking about 7€ per month per person."

"OK. That sounds affordable."

"Alternatively we have endowment policies that pay out in case of death but also your premiums are saved up. There for 10,000€ cover you'd be putting aside 50€ per person, but in 5, 10 or 20 years you get these sums of money back. And of course, if you die then your wife gets the money."

"Oh, I shan't tell her."

"No, you must tell her."

"I'll leave a letter or something. Lots of people die suddenly for less than 10,000€."

"Oh yes, we had a case of that. Not here in Pessac, but a man who took out life insurance, but he did it here, at the bank, at other insurers. Then he took his wife on holiday and pushed her off a cliff."



"Oh, I don't think there's any fear of that. My wife is very kind."

"The premiums depend on any serious illnesses, pre-existing conditions."

"Well if there are any we don't know about them! Anyway, they know all about our health, we're insured with them."

"That's true. But they don't know about any antecedents."

"Ah, well there there's only bad news."

"Oh, really?"

"Well yes! All my antecedents are dead. Everyone dies in my family."

"Oh yes. Mine too... I can't find your profession on the screen."

"I'm a pastor, a protestant pastor."

"Hang on, here's pastor, imam, monk or ... POP. What's a POP?"

"I don't know. Perhaps Priest or......"

"Priest or... Priest or perhaps. That's it! Well here's all the information."

"Thanks. Have a good day."

Thursday, September 08, 2016

You have to take the rough with the smooth

This has to be the first year ever that we have a tomato plant that has been adequately watered all summer. It's quite remarkable! We left our flat for three weeks in July and early August and all that time our tomato plant was watered and flourished.

We planted it by the hedge, you see, and the hedge is supplied by our flats' automatic watering system. Every evening a trickle of water is squirted from a system of pipes that runs along the little hedges and around the various trees and shrubs. Anything planted by the hedges gets watered too. Anything else doesn't.

That's why our "lawn" has two distinct colours. Where the pipes run the lawn is luxuriantly green, verdant, thriving. Everywhere else it's brown, crisp and dusty-looking.

Our tomatoes haven't yet ripened, but it's still quite sunny and it will stay warm till November, so I think we will get some. Next year we'll be ready. We'll get some tomato plants and put them in beside the hedge nice and early in the year. You can even train them through the privet so they don't need staking. Maybe we could put some lettuce along another stretch. And what about some pepper plants?


Pat had her post-op examination in the centre of Bordeaux today. The chap said that the operation was very good, excellent, but that she must clean her eyelids and put some cream near her eyelashes to prevent any possibility of infection.

Jolly good!

Then we called on the way home at the DEFLE university language school, where a list had been posted of the people who had succeeded in the DELF B2 exam. My name was on the list. Phew! They did not get put off by the cow.

Jolly good!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Pat's cataract

On our arrival at the clinic we went to the reception area. You have to decide what you are there for - we were here for an "Admission", press the relevant button, take the ticket that printed out and then sit and wait. After a couple of minutes we were told to go to desk E. Pat, who was not wearing her glasses, dutifully charged off to desk B, while the lady at desk E and I watched her.

Once we were reunited there were lots of documents to hand over and lots of forms to fill in and sign.  Passport photocopied and returned, consent forms signed, next of kin information given, insurance details provided, eventually we were given a folder of information and sent up to the cataract department.

The waiting room was quite small and had perhaps ten armchairs. "Ring and enter." We rang and entered. A nice, brisk nurse came out and took the folder of information.

"OK. Monsieur wait here. Madame and I will go to undress. I'll call you when the operation is about to proceed."

Pat went off to doff her clothes and put on a natty blue paper suit. I settled myself to read "The Last Train to Istanbul" on my Kindle.

After about half-an-hour two other couples came in. It seems that two operations are scheduled every half-hour. One lady was humming loudly to herself. She and her husband had arrived rather early.

"Your husband is good at waiting?"

"Oh yes, stick him in a corner and he'll be fine." (Pat said they gave him a trolley to lie on and he went to sleep.)

After a long wait during which time Pat was having anaesthetic drops put in her eyes, her blood pressure taken, a canula put in her arm and other merry preparations for surgery, I was called into a side room.

"Here we are. They've just started."

On a screen on the wall I could see a large eye, recognisably belonging to Pat. I could see the clamps holding it open and the bright light was reflecting off the retina to make to whole pupil appear red.

As I watched a little tube was inserted from what seemed like below, but I later realised was the side, and a small pick was placed in at 90 degrees to the tube. The lens started to break down. With the pick it was broken into four pieces, then sucked up the tube. By a combination of pick and tube over a couple of minutes the lens was entirely removed.

Then another tube appeared and was inserted into the eye - and the new lens was pushed in and quickly unfurled. The pick was used to manoeuvre it into place, helped with what looked like small quantities of saline to swish it into position.

The screen went dark. The operation was finished. I went back to the waiting room and resumed my wait. The humming lady and I chatted about the operation and pretty well everything else.

At about 11:15 Pat appeared with a clear plastic shield taped over her eye.

off we went down to the reception area. This time we pressed button "Sortie". We hand over the folder once more.

"There's 148€ to pay." I duly paid using my card.

"Here's the receipt for your health insurance. You need to give that to them so that they will reimburse you if you are covered."

Clutching our precious paper we went out into the bright sunshine.

Pat says her eyes feels like nothing at all happened. She has lots of drops to put in and an appointment with the ophthalmologist tomorrow just to check all is OK.