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, October 21, 2017

Bordeaux Church has a new website

the address is the same, but it has had a make-over (in French, a relooking)

www.bordeauxchurch.info


Shingles

I have shingles. I've had it a couple of weeks. I'm due to go and see the doctor in early November, so if it hasn't cleared up by then I'll ask her opinion.

UK health websites tell you it might clear up in a couple of weeks, and that you need to see the doctor if the vesicles are near your eyes.

In my case I have four red, raised itchy spots, perfectly symmetrically arranged, one on each shoulder blade and another on each side further down my back.


Autumn has come to Pessac

bringing dampness, drizzle, russet tones to the trees, much moss in the grass and milder temperatures.


Even BEFORE we open our mouths

we walked silently into the coffee shop.

"Hallo, you are not French, yes?"

"ben, non, mais on vit ici, on habite à Pessac"... (um, no, but we live here, we live in Pessac)

"I knew you were not French just by looking at you..."

OK, we were with a Chinese person, and I guess you could tell they were not French, but even for them it's a bit of an assumption to make...

Oh well. Despite my imposing, deGaulle nose, the baguette under the arm, the beret and the cigarette hanging our of my mouth, I STILL don't look French...


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A real conversation, remembered and translated from the French

At the Maison de la Bible, a tall elegant couple in their fifties comes to the counter. The lady speaks:

Lady: Do you have any French translations of the whole Bible that date from before the Council of Nicea?

Alan takes deep breath and remembers to try to avoid mansplaining: OK, well you know that at the time of the Council of Nicea the French language didn't exist, everyone spoke Greek or Latin. But the translations we have here are all based on Greek and Hebrew texts that have been edited from copies that date from before the Council of Nicea.

Lady: The thing is that at the Council of Nicea the Vatican suppressed the text in the Bible that speaks of reincarnation.

Alan: We have Bibles here from Roman Catholic publishers and from Protestant publishers who are not at all influenced by the Vatican or the Roman Catholic Church. (Thinks) Have you ever seen this little book, The transmission of the Bible. (Thankfully the lady bought the book)

Lady: Do you have any books that speak about the suppression of the text that speaks of reincarnation in the Bible by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Nicea?

Alan: I don't know of any publisher, either Christian or secular, that would publish serious books about that. That kind of thing is spread by the internet, and you will find websites that talk about that and more. But if you like, why not go to Mollat, France's largest bookshop and speak to Arnaud in the religion section. If anything exists in French along those lines, he will know.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Some reflections on TED at Bordeaux

The TED event at the Cité du Vin started at 14h and we were requested to be on time. Meanwhile at about 12h30 there was a technical problem with Tram B that meant that no trams were running between Peixotto and Quinconces - a HUGE stretch of the line that runs to the Cité du Vin. Thankfully I was already in the city centre, so after spending some time at the LutherFest I was able to trot down to Quinconces, ride the tram to the Cité du Vin and eat a sandwich fit for a king on the terrace of the Cité du Vin cafeteria. Incidentally this café is very reasonably priced and nicely located just alongside the river, and the BatCUB stops there. End of advertisement...

The theme was "Mais qu'est-ce que tu crois?", and I was quite intrigued at what might be presented, so once I was comfortably full of salad, chicken, curry sauce and bread I climbed the stairs to the auditorium and settled myself down. I won't give you a blow by blow account, but there were fourteen speakers - in French, "les speakers" - who each had about 18 minutes on subjects like "Why you should only believe what science tells you, including the multiverse", "An introduction to meditation" (we were told to remove our shoes and feel the energy of mother earth entering through our feet - an effect diminished when you're on the first floor of the cité du vin), "Animal welfare law", "How our musical tastes change", "Fasting", "Intuition" and "How I stopped believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy" - this one opened the show and was delivered with admirable aplomb by a remarkable ten-year-old girl. 

The speakers had been working on their talks for six months, aided by coaches and they all did really well, though some with more fluency than others. One guy, talking about being an environmentally sensitive smallholder, was a real barnstormer, but then he's a YouTuber and has an extraordinarily wonderful speaking gift. 

It shows you the power and attraction of the simple spoken word. Many of the talks had no visual aids and yet almost every seat in the 250 seat auditorium was filled and 750 people actually applied for tickets. 

It also shows how easily we can put together a huge variety of approaches to a broad theme, like "But what do you believe?" without worrying too much about presenting an overall coherence of approach, without needing to hold together any over-arching world view. Some of the talks could have clashed, but now Such clashes have become impossible because we no longer seek a coherent vision of reality. 

Well, one kind of talk would have clashed, I think. Any talk that was in any way theist. The meditation talk was "spiritual" and the intuition talk was going in that direction, too. But even the talk on fasting managed to mention Aristotle, Socrates and Pythagoras as being committed fasters, but left out Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I mean, how can you talk about fasting in France in 2017 and not talk about Ramadan? Easy-peasy. Watch me do it.

Despite technical issues with the coffee machine, the interval snacks were delicious as were the "cocktail" snacks served at the end of the afternoon. I needed some coffee half-way through to keep me from the land of nod. I chatted with a Chinese woman who thought I was French, until a waiter came by with something, I said "Merci" and he said "You're welcome." "You see", I told her, "one word is all it takes and everyone knows I'm British."

LutherFest500 photo

This is the Maison de la Bible stand for the LutherFest500 with the weekend organiser, Pamela, putting the final touches to the display.

The screen is showing the much-appreciated Playmobil film of Luther's life, with no sound but subtitles in French. I was a little concerned about showing the film as it is somewhat critical of the Roman Catholic Church in Luther's day, and the MB stand was situated right at the main entrance to the cathedral. But hey!



Saturday, October 14, 2017

TedxBordeaux and the LutherFest

Ted talks are coming to Bordeaux this weekend, from 2pm at the Cité du Vin. I applied for a ticket and my name was pulled from the hat! The theme is "Qu'est-ce que tu crois?" (what do you believe) so it will be fascinating to see how the theme is addressed.

At the same time it is the weekend of the Bordeaux Lutherfest, much reduced from how I imagined it, there is a cluster of municipal festival tents around the corner of the Cathedral. The Maison de la Bible will be there, along with the Gideons. We had planned to share a stand, but instead we have been separated from each other and placed with other groups - us with the Adventist Youth and someone else, the Gideons with other folk. We were surprised to see two other bookshops present - a stand from the publisher Olivetan and a bookshop from Toulouse. Both have links with the Eglise Protestante Unie de France, the historic protestant church.

The LutherFest will be celebrating Protestant social action.

On the Maison de la Bible stand there will be a loop of the Playmobil Luther film with French subtitles. There'll also be a small model printing press and Gutenberg-style Bible verses to frame and display. There'll also be our friend, Myriam, the story-teller, telling the story fo Mary Jones and her Bible, as well as books at various levels telling the story of Luther and his rediscovery of the way of salvation.

I had tickets for a recital of Bach Cello works but it clashed with our Bible Study so I gave them to someone else.

There was also an excellent choral concert yesterday evening, but I had to give that a miss, too.

I have tickets for a lecture advertised as being on "Luther - adventurer of the faith", but the title has been changed to "The Protestants 500 years on." which doesn't interest me at all.

I have tickets for a theological debate on Sunday afternoon. We'll see if I get to that!

It's one of those weekends where lots of things are happening all at the same time.


Dépistage

We get screened for all kinds of things, sometimes annually, sometimes less frequently, and yesterday  we got screened for age-related hearing and visual problems. To do this we had to go quite early to the Beaulieu centre, one of the diocesan centres of the Roman Catholic Church (or as we say in France, "the church"), quite near Gwilym and Catrin's lycées just inside the boulevards.

The Beaulieu Centre looks like a renovated urban monastery, with a small cloisters and a little fountain in the middle, surrounded by rooms of various sizes, one of which is used as a restaurant and cafeteria. Another was used for a waiting room and still others for eye and hearing tests.

The hearing test involved listening to imaginary sounds via headphones and pressing the button when you think a tone might reasonably be expected to have begun.

The eye test checked peripheral vision, reactivity to light, near and far adjustment, all that kind of thing. 

Mrs Davey is very excited because she has less high frequency age-related hearing-loss than I do in her left ear. Yes, maybe, but she doesn't have a dodgy left ear from being clouted by an irascible history teacher in 1974.

I was impressed to be screened just before the Cardinal Archbishop of Bordeaux, who I would happily have greeted if I could have remembered how one is meant to greet Cardinal Archbishops in French. Another thing they didn't teach us at the language school!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Rebranding

Two churches in Bordeaux seem to have rebranded themselves in the past couple of months.

For the first church, one of our local pentecostal churches, I am sure, because there was a special service devoted to the rebranding. Previously the name was very geographically determined, very static. Now the name implies impetus, movement and also, according to the explanation, that decisive instant where everything changes.

The second church is one of the catholic churches. They all have historic names, as does this church, but it recently has started pop-masses on Sunday evenings led by Bordeaux' foremost Roman Catholic worship band, and have rebranded themselves as the Church of Bordeaux Centre.

Interesting, eh?


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Horace

I am reliably told that the best coffee in Bordeaux is to be found in a tiny coffee shop called "Blacklist", just by the Hotel de Ville tram stop.

I went there once. You sit on designer boxes, in a row, using other designer boxes for tables. I never went back.

The guys who ran Blacklist have added another string to their bow : Horace. The café that used to be "Les Mots Bleus" and sold a small range of books as well as decent drinks, snacks and lunches, has been redecorated, rebranded, renamed and relaunched as Horace : café, cuisine, canons.

It's a great place. The coffee is very good. The cakes are awesome. The breakfasts and lunches look very good, too. One day this week for breakfast they advertised brioche perdu accompanied by fresh fruit. It looked wonderful.

And they are accommodating. We are launching an independent international reading group, a small group of folks who'll read a novel a month and meet up to discuss it. I asked in one bookshop/café if we could meet there. "We'll get back to you." They didn't. I went back and asked again. "OK, but we want you to buy the books here, and six people tops because the café is small" (and we need to keep it empty was the silent implication...)

I asked in Horace. "Yes, of course!" And if there are ten people? "Of course! What's the difference between ten people on one table and ten people spread through the café?"

I didn't mention their carrot cake. I doubt if I've had a better carrot cake anywhere.

Oh yes, and it's named after my father.





Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Apostolic visit over

So we had our episcopal visit from Rhys and Jane a couple of weeks ago.

Then this weekend, our ... apostolic visit?

William Brown, Deputy Director of United For Mission (UFM) arrived on Saturday afternoon and left Monday lunchtime. We had time to talk, time to eat, time to walk round the chateau gardens and time for Bordeaux Church, before we said our fond farewells and consigned William to the air.


Friday, October 06, 2017

Mosquitapocalypse

"In spite of autumn it's still hellish. Testmonies (for subscribers) in this morning' s Sud-Ouest."

It's true, too. One little horror last Friday got me right on the elbow where the movement of your arm drives their nasty enzymes into the surrounding tissues. My arm became inflamed over an radius of about 9" and made everyone who saw me wince.

Applications of ibuprofen gel and antihistamine cream have driven the inflammation down but my arm is still sore and a little swollen.

But that's nothing really. In the photo is the tiger mosquito, which has recently moved into our area. It spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and zika.

TED talks

TEDx is coming to Bordeaux. You could apply for a seat. I did. I was allotted one by ballot. You have to pay for it, of course. But I get to go and spend an afternoon and evening at the Cité du Vin listening to TED speakers. I am awestruck. I'll take lots of notes. Who knows! It may revolutionise my preaching again!

Macron's naughty words

President Macron came to power saying that he wanted to restore the prestige of the presidential office after the last two rather unprestigious presidents, little president Sarkozy with his potty-mouth and his actress-singer consort and again little president Hollande with his nocturnal liaisons by scooter.

A jupiterian president, with dignity and class befitting his power. His elegant wife won Trump's approval for her physical condition ("just beautiful") and there's no doubt that she is a great support to him.

But he does have a rather earthy turn of phrase sometimes.

Instead of the expression he used, shown in the tweet from the Sud-Ouest, he could have said "semer la pagaille" or any one of a number of less ... pungent things.

And lest we think it is a problem of vocabulary, let us remember that President Macron is married to a French teacher. We can safely conclude that if anyone has ever come close to mastering the language of Molière - vain hope - at least he has flown nearer to that sun than most of us.

Why this seeming incoherence between his desire to restore a seemly presidency and his somewhat direct manner of speaking? I think there's a couple of reasons.

Firstly, and I know I risk sounding like a boring old duffer if I say this, but our politicians are generally a rather uninspiring lot at the moment, aren't they. I rather like Macron, but he wouldn't have to do a lot to stand out from the crowd! This is what things are like in our western democracies at the moment. We don't have a lot of presidential people, despite our strong culture of leadership. I am tempted to say because of our strong culture of leadership, but that's another story.

Secondly, there is a genuine difference between British and French culture when it comes to ... polite speech. In fact I still remember how shocked I was in about 1980 to hear a very polite Londoner say that runners looked "knackered". This was not a word we used amongst strangers in South Wales. Americans use words that British people consider impolite, vulgar or just plumb rude and in French many coarse words are used by ordinary people every day.

It's just different.

I can't imagine that Theresa May came off stage after her historic speech at the Tory Conference Party and used the kind of language to her husband in private in a furious outburst that Macron used calmly on microphone at the factory. She probably just doesn't ever speak like that.

Macron does. As one of the teachers at our language school once said, "Les gros mots, je les réserve pour les grandes occasions!" I keep naughty words for high days and holidays.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Missional visit

A couple weeks ago we had an episcopal visit from Rhys and Jane.

This coming weekend we have a missional visit from the Deputy Director of UFM Worldwide, William Brown.

It will be good to see him!

Politics

I don't often post about politics. Not since that which shall not be named. It's all very emotive, divisive and destructive. But it does seem to me that things are a bit of a shambles just now! Pretty much everywhere! What a mess!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Mission Week recuperation

Well the OMFrance7 left on Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Monday morning. They left a gaping hole but fatigue was waiting to fill it up!

So Monday was basically a quiet day. We needed shopping. Pat's back is playing up. Pat said we could get through to Tuesday. I rejoiced. I caught up on whatever emails didn't require any thought to process. You get the picture.

Now then... We've had a project for a while of starting an Independent Free International Reading Group in some café or other of Bordeaux. I'd sounded out some folk. I'd talked to a café or two. A splendid place called Horace said they'd be happy to have us. I tentatively talked about the first Tuesday of October.

But then came mission week. I did nothing to prepare. Nothing at all. Neither could I. We'll knock it into touch until November, thought I.

But unbeknown to me emails were circulating and a little group were intending to come.

So we met and had an interesting time talking about Hilary Mantel's piece in the Guardian about the death of Diana: about wit, malice, British and French Catholicism, the morals of the aristocracy, grief, national feeling, all sorts...

There we are - it's launched!




Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mission week

A super team.
Good weather.
Pleasant folk.
Good food.
So far all good.


Wahay! Day off!

I usually take Monday as my day off and Pat and I embark on adventures and explorations around Bordeaux. This week Monday was busy, but we have a day off today and... we're off to a concert at the Opera House.

The awesome Marc Minkovsky has a production of La Vie Parisienne running just now - I haven't yet dared to look at the price of tickets - BUT yesterday on twitter I saw that the tenor lead is doing a lunchtime recital. These lunchtime concerts are a real bargain so they sell out quickly, but I tried for two seats and got them!

Yippeee!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

OM Team

Arrived.

Fine people from USA, France, England, Canada.


The hazards of running - update

Mrs Davey has a flare-up of her back problem.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The hazards of running

Falling over : Mrs Davey fell over this morning. She thinks there is only superficial injury, thankfully.

Episcopal visitation

We have had an episcopal visitation from Rhys and Jane Morgan over the past few days:


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Back to running

It was good to be back pouring the paths again...

A little punctuated by my unsettled asthma, but it'll improve.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

New academic year, new printer cartridges

For some time I have been using "compatible" printer cartridges.

Everything I print in colour has been less and less well rendered over time, to the point where everything had an unpleasant blueish tinge.

It was time to splash out on some genuine Canon printer cartridges and see what that does.

And I am happy to say that the results are positive. We have yellows, reds and greens once more!

Now I need to stock up on paper.




Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Some pretty music from Praetorius

Let's hope I can just be ill and get it over with!

For a little while my asthma has been unsettled... Noisy breathing, especially at night...
In the meantime I've developed a chronically runny nose!
Then I THINK I have a little outbreak of shingles - little itchy spots here and there.
(When I had some before the doctor said it was that.)

I think I know what the problem is - too many evenings out doing this, that and the other.

I can't work morning, noon and night any more. I have to take a break now and again, and sadly at the rentrée it is sometimes not possible.

Usually when I have some little health niggle I do what British people do all over the world. I ignore it and hope it goes away. But yesterday I decided to mention it to a couple people.

"Ah, you need a break", said one person.

Well we might take a little breakette, perhaps, at the beginning of October, just after Mission Week.

Meanwhile, ha!

Last night Pat and I had an evening in alone. Yay!
We decided to have an early night. Yay!

Then at midnight she received a text message which woke us both up.

Pat slept fitfully after that.
I eventually got up, drank some camomile, ate an apple and went back to bed and to sleep at 4:30.

This morning the good news is that I have a headache! So I'm hoping I can break out in a good old cold and have done with it.

Meanwhile the morning, noon and night thing should come to an end soon, and I'm boosting my vitamin intake in the meantime!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Preaching the incarnation

It's not easy, is it, and the beginner preacher can get into some rather sticky situations.
Here's some thoughts:

1) It isn't easy and I don't think our task is necessarily to make it look easy to talk about the incarnation. The degree of unease and discomfort that people see can reinforce what we're talking about; people can see and hear that we are somewhat outranked by the truth that we're struggling to convey.

2) Be familiar with the classic systematic formulations. For example, the definition of Chalcedon really helps if you will think about it and master it, or rather allow what it expresses to master you:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence , not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God , the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The vocabulary is a little challenging, but the basis of what they are saying is pretty clear:

One person, one soul, one body, just like us. But with two natures.

He is a real 100% human being, a man just like us but without sin.

He is also God, really 100% God, still being all that God is.

But there is just one "he", and it isn't like playing roles or transforming from one to the other and back.

There are no analogies because nothing else is like this.
Just like for the Trinity, there are no analogies because nothing else is like this.

We can find illustrations. For example I am Welsh and I live in Bordeaux. When I speak French you can tell there's something different about me, but you may not know what it is. From time to time, though, you can really tell that I am Welsh. But I'm always Welsh, whether you can see it or not, and my Welshness is not something I turn on and off. Usually. Anyway, as I said, there are no analogies, but sometimes we can find illustrations that may perhaps help a little.

3) Think about what he left behind when he became man. What did he leave behind, really?

4) Think about what he took on when he became man. What did he add in his humanity?

5) Think about words that we use. Some words can provoke a strong reaction. Don't necessarily avoid them, but be ready to explain what you mean and why you use that word.

for example, weak. It is clear that Jesus took on human weakness. What is weaker than a new-born infant? What is weaker than a thirsty man sat by a well with nothing with which to draw water? But ordinary, human, physical weakness does not necessarily imply moral weakness, weakness of character or weakness of judgement.

6) Remember that making a slip doesn't make you a false teacher. We learn from our slips and errors and struggle to try to find the right words to explain the inexpressible. False teachers deliberately try to gain a following for their novelties. It's different.

7) Don't get hamstrung by your own inability to fully understand. Luke records Paul saying "(ESV) care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood" while warning against false teachers. I know that among the elders listening to Paul there were probably none of the heresy-hunters that might take you on, so perhaps you do need to exercise care, but it would be a crying shame to fall short of preaching the wonder of the voluntary self-humiliation of the glorious Son of God because you are scared of accidentally tripping up.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Prosperity Gospel

I had a colleague years ago who attended a church where you could be healed of your money worries. Needless to say, the queues for this were long, and never seemed to diminish.

I've read stuff about the prosperity gospel and encountered the edges of it in the pressure put on folks from some backgrounds to succeed in their studies and so prove their faithfulness to God. In fact, years ago in a Christian bookshop in Wales I overheard a conversation where a student's first class honours degree was hailed with "What a testimony!". Well maybe, or maybe not...

Anyway it's been a very different experience to talk recently with someone coming from a prosperity gospel background and to discover what a full-on culture of that produces in your life.

The person concerned summed it up under four headings :

What did Jesus die to secure for us? Did Jesus go to the cross to buy us wealth, health and worldly success, or to secure our holiness and fellowship with God?

Salvation by works. Is salvation a free, unmerited gift of God, hard-won for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, or is it something we must fight to obtain, conquering our own sin and failings in order to earn a salvation that we can never be sure of having fully achieved.

Faith and devotion spoiled. Is faith the happy, confident trust of a child of God in his wise and living heavenly Father, or is it a tool that we use to obtain from him the things we really want, like a good job, a nice house, a smart car and a desirable marriage partner.

Corrupted service. Is my Christian service my chance to prove myself by having a wonderful and successful ministry, or is it my opportunity to be involved in my small way in the wonderful things my Heavenly Father is accomplishing?

I want to emphasise that this is not my caricature, but my summary of the unprompted testimony of someone caught up in the prosperity gospel movement and who saw through it.


Bordeaux Church Sermon Podcast

From time to time people say that our church's sermons should be online.

I have a couple of issues with this:

1) I see myself as a housewife rather than a TV chef, someone who is called to feed a family rather than to run a classy restaurant. This means that I aim to preach domestically rather than globally.

2) The Interweb is stuffed with sermon podcasts from every kind of style and stream of Christianity imaginable, and several more that defy the imagination. You need a very good reason to add to this.

But when people ask you to it makes you think. And then came Anchor, an application for iPhone which makes it easy to make a podcast and even to publish it via Apple and Google.

I have a good recorder. Or rather Gwilym does, but it's here in France and he's in England.

So we launched it. The Bordeaux Church Sermon Podcast.

We do have a bijou problemette... we cannot accurately predict when people will be unable to follow adequately in English, so that means that sometimes our messages are ... inflated in length ... by the résumés we give in French. As of yet I don't know how to tackle this.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Finding accommodation in Bordeaux

Lots of people are finding it hard.

Here are some links that may help: http://www.bordeauxchurch.info/p/coming-to-bordeaux.html

A Helter-Skelter Couple Days

It's the rentrée scolaire this week, back to school week. And every year it's nuts.

I don't know why. We haven't had kids in school now for three years, but still back to school week is nuts.

Still, today I have a chance to catch up with myself and with things, just a little.


Thursday, September 07, 2017

They didn't ask. I didn't tell them.

So I joined this choir, right? I did tell you?

Partly to meet folk, partly for therapy. I like music. I like singing. It's good for me, though less good for my family...

Anyway I joined the choir, I think, in February. They were in the throes of preparing two choral pieces for a concert in October. The pieces are the Mass by Peteris Vasks, a living Baltic composer who's the son of a Baptist pastor, and Bach's cantata no. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden.

I have had a ball. The Vasks is dense, swirly, a bit complex harmonically and rhythmically, you have to read and keep your wits about you. The Bach I have sung before, in 1978, when I was a student, in the Aberystwyth Bach Society Choir. It's great fun. Easier harmonically but still you need to read is well and keep alert. Non-trivial.

The conductor is great. He's cheerful, happy, appreciative, musical, disciplined without being too severe and generally extremely likeable.

And the choir has been glad to have me. I'm probably the youngest baritone by several years, and men are scarce in choirs in France. Not only that but I can read music, sing more or less in tune and understand and obey a conductor's instructions.

Then I saw the date of the concert. Sunday 1st October.

It's a Sunday. And it is the last Sunday of our mission week.

Oh well, maybe after the service I'll be able to scuttle up to Mérignac where the concert is taking place and it'll all work out OK. I had to do that once in Aber, though I did feel a ninny attending church in black bowtie and jacket.

Then I saw the time of the concert. It starts at 5pm.

5pm is the time of our service.

We had rehearsal last night - working on "Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg".

They didn't ask. I didn't tell them.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Horace

One of our old meet-up places, Les Mots Bleus, is under new management and has a new name.

Horace.

Yes, I know. I spotted it one day back in the summer and yesterday walked past to see what gives.

It's open. It's being run by the guys from the best coffee shop in Bordeaux and they have kept on some of the staff from Les Mots Bleus.

This morning Pat and I had arranged to meet some workers from the USA for a coffee, so we met them at Horace. It was great!


A free concert on the steps of the Grand Theatre


Monday, September 04, 2017

C'est la fin ... des saucisses

The meeting room of the brethren assembly has been closed for refurbishment since the end of June. They've had an architect in who has done some major remodelling, indulging adding a new vestibule, a staircase and an upper room for children's activities.

Scheduled to take the month of July, the works have expended to fill July and August, but next Sunday we are dur to be back in the premises once more.

Meanwhile we have met in our flat or in James' flat. The drawback is that there is obviously less room and, to avoid annoyance, we have not belted out our usual rowdy songs. However there have been fewer people present these summer months and we have been able to eat together after the service.

So last night was the night of the end of the sausages. Merguez, to be exact. A spicy mix of lamb and beef, I think they are the morrocan answer to the ubiquitous pork chipolata. Still the amount of fat that comes out of them is alarming and the indigestion in the wee hours makes the end of the sausages sound like not such a bad thing.

Last night we were 24 or 25 people. Five people crushed onto our sofa. No-one was left standing or sat on the floor, but every conceivable chair was occupied.

This morning began by degreasing everything in sight, then rearranging the furniture to its usual position. It will be good to be back in our old meeting room!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

In the kitchen

Today marks the end of four weeks of sleeping on the sofa. The sofa is OK and we sleep as well on it as in our bed, but it makes getting up awkward. I sneak into the kitchen and prepare my forage in the half-light of the window and the light from the cooker hood.

Today we take Gwilym to the airport. It may be the last long holiday he takes with us. Next summer he'll be preparing to marry. It's been a very happy time together, with adventures in Toulouse and in an open top Mini.

Tomorrow morning I'll be able to get up and put the lights on, change and go running, come back and get on with my day like normal. It'll be sweet. Bittersweet.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Coffee shop adventures

It's such a long time since I frequented any of Bordeaux' coffee emporia.
Not only that, but certain of them closed for the whole month of August.

So on Thursday morning I high-tailed it into Bordeaux to visit Café Piha. Family members declined my invitation to come protesting the extreme heat (we are well into the thirties just now).

I arrived to find the place buzzing and got my nice Americano. Then the second man, whose name I forgot, appeared and invited me to join a group coffee-tasting session.

The idea is that when a batch of coffee beans comes in you have to work out how long to roast it for. Coffee is a natural product. Every batch of beans differs. Each batch reacts differently to the heat. The roasting has to be fine-tuned to achieve the optimum conversion of sugars for the optimum release of flavours.

Friday morning found me charging into town once more as a new Anticafé has opened right by the cathedral! The Anticafé is a place where you can go and work and you pay by the hour, by the day or by the month. The price you pay includes a workspace, fast wifi, access to printers etc. and also unlimited drinks and snacks.

It's a great idea for me, especially in such an accessible place.
Also the hourly rate is not excessive.
I joined straight away and I'll start working there this week.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Some more adventures

Gwilym's fiancée, Beth, returned to the UK on Saturday and on Monday and Tuesday we reserved a Citiz car, a Mini convertible. It is stationed at Gambetta in the centre of Bordeaux so on Monday morning I scuttled in on the N° 4 bus to get the car.

What fun! The new Minis are very plush, but really quite small. Just room for two small people in the back, a tiny boot and not very practical, but for swanning around in the sunshine it was wonderful.

We went off to Bazas. It is a small town with a cathedral well known for it's façade, and we took the small roads to get there. Driving in a convertible in blazing sunshine and 34°C down French roads lined both sides with poplars is just wonderful. We did get rather more brown than one should, except Catrin who could sit in an oven at 250° and still not brown, but sunscreen helped a little.

On Tuesday it was even hotter so we swanned around on local roads instead, going for the shopping, then visiting a local air-conditioned shopping centre for smalls, etc. Large things would not have fitted in the boot, anyway.

We were very happy to use it and very happy to give it back!






Some Toulouse photos
















Saturday, August 19, 2017

We just got back from a short stay in Toulouse

We looked for somewhere easily accessible from Bordeaux, somewhere to explore, somewhere we didn't know too well. The buses to Pau and to Bayonne from Pessac are not running at the moment, but there were really good fares from Bordeaux to Toulouse, and we found a nice flat for 5 on AirBnB available when we needed it.

The bus was as OK as any of these kinds of things are. Long train journeys, flights, bus trips, they're all a bit awful, but if you have music and something to read then they're OK.

The flat was super. Very stylish. Two bedrooms, so Pat and I had one and the two girls the other. Gwilym slept on a sofa bed in the living room. There were windows onto the street (see below) and a nice balcony over a private little courtyard with a big-leaved catalpa and a nice, black cat.

The flat was very near the Palais de Justice and not far from the river. There were supermarkets, bakers and cafés all around.

The one drawback with the flat was the way the front windows faced the street. During the day it was quiet, almost traffic-free. At night it was NUTS! The early hours of the morning had loud drunks, rubbish collectors and something I can only imagine to be a street washing machine. Why so early? I mean like 3 or 4 am.

We visited the tomb of Thomas Aquinas and some of the Toulouse parks, as well as the Japanese Garden and the Basilique de Saint-Sernin. We also used a Citiz car to go to Carcassonne, which was very hot and very crowded indeed!

I'll pop some photos on over the next few days.


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Fixing the patio door

So the man came to fix the patio door.

It turns out that with a dirty great heat gun you can soften the uPVC of the window frame and it will return to its previous shape all by itself.

For those areas where some uPVC has been broken off there is a resin based filler that you mix up and mould to the shape required and after some minutes it is hard and set.

A couple hours work and the window is pretty well good as new.


Monday, August 07, 2017

HOLIDAYS!!!

Our holidays are beginning with the visit of an elderly friend from our home church in North Wales.

On Sunday Patricia spotted one of our next-door neighbours, the lads whose door is opposite ours, putting something in the big bins. She scuttled over for a chat. We're looking after their cat at the end of August and we talked about doing another apero or something to invite all the residents of the apartments. They suggested that if we do it at their place we could have a barbecue, so it's arranged for the latter part of August.

Today we scuttled down on the tram to the quays and took our ease, eating extortionately priced ice-cream on the terrace overlooking the river, and running the gauntlet of innumerable cyclists, skateboarders, uniwheelers, roller-skaters and other sundry light rolling-stock. As we staggered back to our flat we bumped into another near neighbour, a teacher from the language school who is also a travel writer and poet. We'd bumped into her before on a walk round the vines years ago, and she told us where she lived, so a while ago I looked out for her house and ... somehow ... just spotted it. We'd intended popping a card in to invite her round for a tisane, but we intend so many things.

Anyway she rounded the corner and did a double-take. Then she slowly remembered who we were. So now we have to pop that card through and invite her round for that tisane.

Sunday evening was very pleasant. We were lower in numbers, barely twenty, but super folk, some new folk, some not used to church - the service in our home won't have helped with that much - then hot dogs and Uno and music on the terrace. Two jazz pianists. Chinese and South Korean exchanging phone numbers. One chap's prayer that almost had me blubbing. Ages from 80s to 20s. Almost everyone was resident in Bordeaux. No holidaymakers this week. And one chap said it was the best evening of his life! (I didn't think it was that good, but hey...)

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Picking up an elderly visitor from the railway station

An older lady (like 80?) is visiting us at the moment from our church in North Wales. She has brought a wheelchair, but is able to walk short distances, and she came by train from up in the Vendée.  We were to meet her at the central railway station in Bordeaux.

So yesterday I went in to recce the situation. The station has a special desk for these things. I asked the charming lady what she would advise, to drive in from Pessac and, if so, where we could park, or to travel out to Pessac by train.

"You can stop in the pick-up area for a couple minutes."

"And if the train is delayed?" She made the pursed lips sign that says you have made a valid point that has no easy solution.

We decided not to travel in by car. The train was delayed. An hour. I took my life in my hands and drank an iced frapperooni from MacDonalds while Pat drank a big coffee. We shared a cronut. I won't eat one of those again.

The train arrived and a friendly man from SNCF helped us get our friend from the train, then pushed her across the tracks to where the Pessac train was waiting. The Vendée train, in which she had spent five hours, was an old, bouncy thing from the 1970s. They're OK, but you have to clamber up and down into them. The Pessac train is a swish, modern affair that you enter on the level from the platform. We were glad we took that option.

Then the Citiz Clio estate to get us to the flat and, hop, we're installed.



Refurbishment retarded

The refurbishment of our place of worship has been held back by a delay in delivery of a staircase, so now it's scheduled to be finished for the end of August.


I was going to, honest

Yesterday I gazed out of the window at the blazing heat and longed for rain.

Yesterday I looked at our dry, crisp but patchy lawn and vowed to mow the small area under the windows which is not only not dry and crisp, but also has broad-leaved weeds like plantains.

I thought, "I will mow that section tomorrow morning before the sun is high and melts us all."

Tomorrow has come and it is raining.


Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Fermé aux automobilistes

Slowly the strong currents of the Garonne erode the foundations of the Pont de Pierre, so from time to time work is needed to reinforce them. In the city's tradition of making a virtue of a necessity, this has led to the Pont de Pierre becoming a great big cycle-path right in the heart of the city for the months of August and September. Trams and buses can use it, as well as pedestrians, but no cars, vans or lorries.

A group called Vélo-cité held a quick party in the middle of the bridge to mark the beginning of the two months. The Mayor of Bordeaux says that if traffic is paralysed then the bridge can be reopened, but I should think that for August all should be well. It's holiday month anyway, and the bridge only allows single-file traffic in each direction.

In effect cars, vans and lorries are diverted upstream to the Pont Saint-Jean or downstream to the new lifting bridge, the Pont Chaban Delmas. Maybe we could foresee a day when cars are diverted away from the riverside altogether, and around the boulevards ring-road. This would make the riverside promenade safer and more peaceful. It would make Bordeaux effectively a town centred on a huge, riverside garden.