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, April 21, 2018

Visiting flats

We went to see two apartments yesterday, very different from each other.

The first was in the new area of town called Euratlantic. This is projected to become a new presitigious part of town with lots of offices for a financial centre and new apartment blocks built to the highest environmental standards. Until recently it was the edge of the district where the working girls are to be found, and at present it's a huge mass of construction sites.

The flat was on the eighth floor of a block optimistically called "Residen'ciel". It had a lounge facing south and bedrooms facing north. Unusually, the bathroom had a window. On both sides there were balconies floored with that decking material. (I don't like the way it springs under foot.) The views were wonderful, out over the river. From the living room we could see the bridge that carried the motorway on the south side of the city. From the bedrooms we could see the spires of Bordeaux and the motorway bridge on the north side. Atop the building, on the 10th floor, is a rooftop, a roof terrace open to all residents.

The flat has been bought to let by someone taking advantage of tax breaks offered by the French government. It's a good idea, but it does make these flats hard to let. Why? Well rents are expensive in Bordeaux and French law states that you have to have income of at least three times your liabilities (rent, mortgage, loans, etc.) That means you need a minimum salary to afford the flat. However the tax breaks are only available if you let to people who income is under a certain ceiling. So the number of people eligible to let these flats is restricted. You have to earn enough, but not too much!

The lounge was about 20 m2, but the kitchen was along one wall, so we would lose about 6 m2 compared to what we have now. There were four bedrooms, but all were smaller than ours now, and none had fitted wardrobes. The rent includes heating and hot water, powered by the somewhat distant recycling plant at Bègles. We tried to fit our lives into the flat, and failed.

We arrived by tram and trek through the dusty heat between the building sites, and we left by bus. Just nearby three women were plying their trade, watched, possibly supervised by a man sat on the grass opposite leaning against a large plastic container of water.

The next apartment was up at Bordeaux Lac. We arrived a little early and enjoyed a walk around the area, watching the ducks, fish and coypus playing in the canals that separate the blocks of apartments.

This apartment was on the ground floor with a balcony that gave directly onto the road on one side and onto the park on the other. Every window was a french door. There was a lounge about the size of our current one, with a separate kitchen, a little bigger than what we have now, then three bedrooms, again each one substantially smaller than ours. One was really small. This apartment is heated, along with the whole district of the city, by a huge central wood-chip burning boiler, so the rent includes heating and hot water. Again we tried to fit ourselves into the apartment, and again we failed. I was a little concerned about security, too.

We are also applying for another apartment at present, again in the Euratlantic area. This block is built, but the apartment won't be completed until the end of June. We have plans. It has three bedrooms, nearer the size of ours at present. The two smaller rooms have fitted wardrobes. The largest room has an attached bathroom. The lounge has the kitchen in the corner but it is substantially bigger. It should be more feasible. Again it's in the buy to let scheme. The woman dealing with it apologised for asking personal questions, like, "Do you have any other income? Does your wife work? Is that all the household income?"

Friday, April 20, 2018

We are considering moving home

We love our flat. It's a very pleasant place to live. It has two faults, though. Firstly it's quite a long way out of the city centre. Secondly I have no office and we have no guest bedroom. I usually work on the (small) kitchen table, just alongside the washing machine.

So today we are going to look at two different apartments, both in new areas of Bordeaux.

The first is in a new district which is just being constructed on the other side of the station. It's one of M. Juppé's projects, the quartier Euratlantique, an area with financial services offices, a new bridge, the Pont Simone Weil, that crosses to the new Floirac Concert Hall, and two tram stops from the central station.

The second is on the other side of town, at Bordeaux Lac, between the lake that was constructed decades ago on the site of the old land-fill and the huge shopping complex where Ikea is situated.

We are also being considered for another flat that is being built and is due for delivery in June, again at Euratlantique. We can't visit that one, obviously, but I've seen the plan and despite its moderate size it looks like it could be a very practical and comfortable living space...

We'll see!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The race for naturalisation

We have not proceeded with naturalisation, partly because it would cost us about 500€ just to get everything translated that needs translating, without any administration fees.

Birthday meal

Pat had saved up a little spending money for our anniversary which we hadn't used, so we decided to push the boat out for a birthday meal. That meant, after some reflection, la Tupina.

La Tupina is one of the more prestigious but less swanky restaurants in Bordeaux. Rather than candelabras and funky crystal, it's gone for the best quality meats and fish from the river, cooked in traditional ways, often over the fire. For example, they do lamproie à la bordelaise (lamprey cooked in its own blood and red wine). It was around 30°C in Bordeaux today, but their fire was lit for grilling, as usual. We ate outside.

They do a really good value lunch for 18€ and we would have had that but it was langue de boeuf - ox tongue - so we decided to go for their à la carte menu. Much more expensive, but we had that little fighting fund. So the girls had roast chicken.

At la Tupina they despair of the quality of the chicken we get in the supermarkets. So their chicken comes from a farm on the Medoc where the birds live free-range and then the roasting is done slowly over the fire. "We used to have a really good chicken once a week as a Sunday treat", their website says, "and we could do with getting back to those days". Their chicken was served with chips fried in goose fat and sprinkled with crunchy salt.

Meanwhile I was undecided, so I asked the waiter what I should have. I almost always ask the waiter what I should have. I was considering breast of duck (he nodded and pursed his lips), lamb (his eyes lit up) or a steak (he nodded). I had seen the steaks displayed and they did look exceptionally good, but the waiter said, "You'll never eat lamb elsewhere like we do it here." I almost never eat lamb anyway these days, so I agreed.

The traditional Easter meal in this part of France was a shoulder of lamb which was braised very slowly in a low oven all day and served with equally slow-cooked beans. They call it seven-hour lamb. "Ours is cooked for eight hours", said the waiter.

He persuaded Pat to have a starter, partly because she didn't hear what he suggested she order - a skewer of grilled duck's hearts, beautifully cooked and served with a salad. Pat ate them with gusto while we looked on! He also brought us some saucisson, some cauliflower florets, some radishes and some fresh warm bread and butter while we waited for our main course.

Well the chicken looked really good, propped up on a little block of stuffing and with a bowl of really good chips. Meanwhile my lamb came in an low earthenware dish, surrounded by rich gravy and sprigs of rosemary. It took the waiter some time to meticulously spoon all the sauce onto my plate. The thick white beans were in a beat-up old pan together with slices of carrot, parsnip and chunks of bacon. It really was so good. "I'm never eating lamb again", I told the waiter.

The waiters were very well trained. When they collected plates they had to turn away from you to scrape the chicken carcasses onto one plate. You mustn't see them do that! Our half-bottle of wine was carefully placed on the table and turned with the label facing us. When one brought the bill he hid the bank machine card behind his back. Pat had cash. "We don't need the machine", I said. He looked relieved. But along with the ritual and formality there was an easy friendliness. We spoke a little English with them, but mostly in French.

Dessert was ice-cream. For me prune, for Pat fruits of the forest (fruits rouges) with "confiture de vieux garçon". "What is that?" The waiter laughed. "It's fruits rouges", he said. Catrin had gros canelé with ice cream. She'd had better canelé, but never fatter and never with ice cream.

Considering the quality of the meal, the bill was reasonable. More than we've ever paid before, and more than we'll ever pay again in a hurry, but what a birthday lunch, eh!

Some Wednesday music

So we joined this choir

Last year was very serious. We sang Bach and Vasks.

This year we have a big project on - the Requiem for Rossini, an Italian romantic requiem composed by a committee of composers.

But it's also the 30th anniversary of the founding of the choir, so we're doing a birthday concert on 1st May. And for that the programme includes:

In the Hall of the Mountain King, sung in Norwegian.
The Hallelujah chorus, sung in Franglais
"Oh Happy Day, from Sister Act, sung inaccurately (He taught me how to wash, fight and pray)
America from West Side Story
"Voici la quadrille" from Carmen
"O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana
Pavane, Fauré
Cantique de Jean Racine, Fauré
Ave Verum Corpus, Mozart
The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, from Nabucodonosor.

That's a lot of singing, and all accompanied by our gallant little pianist!

Every year they take me by surprise!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The City of God and the Goal of Creation, by T Desmond Alexander

I sounded off a while ago about our tendency to have a somewhat one or at best two-dimensional approach to Biblical Theology, seeing one theme as key to unlocking the whole development and direction of the Bible's message - perhaps Covenant, or Kingdom. But the Bible gives us various diverse themes that run through the Scripture from beginning to end. One of these themes is the City.

We can have a somewhat ambivalent approach to the city. On the one hand some of our cities are so polluted that you cannot breathe safely, your lifespan is shortened by the smog. Sometimes our cities are characterised by injustice and inequality, with extremely wealthy penthouses and terrible slums and housing schemes. Cities can be dangerous places with areas where it is unwise to go unless you are known and know how to behave.

We dream of the countryside, of escaping to the hills, to the beach, to the mountain, to the forest. Of silence and solitude. Of clean air and crystalline water. Even typing these words makes me relax.

The story of creation in the Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. But not just any kind of city. the City of God.

Alexander's book helps us to grasp the sweep of the Bible's focus on God's city chapter by chapter, beginning with Babel, the city that has no need of the creator-God, the city of self-sufficient pride. God's purpose, however, is a different kind of city - a Temple-City, a City that is a Holy Mountain, the City of the Great King, the Jerusalem that is to come, that comes down out of heaven from God.

It's a short book, but not quickly read. It's a distillation of lots of research and reflection by many scholars, making it so rich and suggestive that you have to keep pausing to think over on what you've read. But along the way you get insights you might never have noticed otherwise. Thoroughly recommended.

I received the book free from Crossway in return for an honest review. I have to say that I get to choose the books I want to review, so it's not terribly likely that I'll ever give a negative review!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Is that ECT, BST, GMT or DKT?

We're an hour ahead of our dear ones in the United Kingdom. France operates on what, I believe, is called Europaean Central Time, currently at GMT + 2.

Meanwhile the UK is now on British Summer Time, GMT + 1, which must seem like a bitter irony as the winds lash and the rain cascades.

Incidentally the stress of adapting to this national tidal wave of sleep lost and gained is enough to account for a noticeable rise in heart attacks. So take it slowly. Certainly last week I along with many others was suffering with la crève, an extreme fatigue that comes upon you for no discernable reason, if not the change to Summer Time.

But here in the Davey household we had another problem. Between our living room and our kitchen there was a noticeable time difference of about 6 minutes. We called this Davey Salon Time (DST) and Davey Kitchen Time (DKT). DST was well aligned with all the other clocks we knew, such as the internet, our mobile phones. DKT was six minutes behind.

Our flat is what estate agents would call "deceptively spacious", but it's not that big. Why this time warp?

Well time, as we know, is not really a constant. It is composed of waves of timey-wimey stuff and therefore extremely variable, and the quantum effect of moving between the salon and the kitchen was strangely sufficient to warp time to the ...

Our living room clocks are battery powered. Our kitchen clocks, on the oven and the microwave, are mains-electric. Mains-electric clocks commonly use the 50Hz cycle of the alternating current to measure time. And since January, because of some jiggery-pokery in which I seem to recall the Russians were involved ("Oh no we were not!" "Oh yes you were!"), the alternating current in Western Continental Europe was about 49.9996Hz, enough over a couple months to put our clocks slow by six minutes.

So THAT'S why I missed those buses! And THAT'S why the (mains-powered) clock on Pat's side of the bed was six minutes slow all the time.

It's now been sorted out and by some more jiggery-pokery (they ran the current at 50.00001Hz for a while) the ovens of the continent are showing the correct time once more.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The inauguration of the Chinese Church

Yesterday we were so very privileged to be present for the inauguration of the Chinese Church, which took place at the Eglise Evangélique Libre in Pessac, about a 1/2 hour walk from our home. It's a rainy weekend, so we travelled indolently, by 42 and 44 bus, walking just a couple of yards either end of the journey.

They say that when you are drowning your whole life flashes past you. Well we were drowning in a happy sea of thankfulness as all our life in France flashed before our eyes.

We saw way back 15 years ago, before we arrived when two Chinese girls started meeting for Bible Study. Soon afterwards they were joined by a lad who became a friend of ours, and who later married one of the girls. Slowly the group grew. Our involvement with the group grew, too, until 2014 when we focused on the International Church Plant. Incidentally, it was thanks to a gift from the Chinese Group that I bought my first Apple computer.

Friends were there who we have not seen for years. There were huge hugs, lots of stories, a few tears and a lot of applause. Then a good Chinese meal. "Never ask what's in it", joked one of the Chinese pastors.

We came home pretty stoked up.

Briefing the church leaders

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Monday, April 02, 2018

At last

Spring has finally arrived, we had reasonable temperatures today and yesterday we turned off the heating in the flat. Usually we don't have to heat after mid-February, so we're at least 6 weeks late. Still, today the air was warm, the sun was agreeable and we felt like we had turned a corner.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Gironde Estuary

Lifestyle changes - again

The faithful reader will know that I am not afraid of incorporating the assured findings of recent scientific research and the latest fads of the snake-oil vendors into what I so ambitiously call "my life". Also that I am not usually shy of sharing these fascinating snippets with you, gentle reader, though I did spare you, I think, the inclusion of nuts into my daily regime - something that caused me long reflection. Long story short, chocolate nut porage, with walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts and almonds. Carry on like this and I'll be adding fish-oil and chopped liver to my morning oatflakes.

Anyway, moving swiftly on, I'm trying to sleep longer. Our wild social agenda prevents me going to bed earlier, so that means staying in bed later in the morning.

But I've always got up by 6:30!

But good men get up early! Everyone says so!

But I go running at 6:30!

Aha. Leaving aside any pretence at being a "good man", whatever that may mean, and the steely glare of tradition, how can I run if I don't get up till ... shudder ... 7:30 or even 8?

So today found me gallumphing down Rue Profond at 9am. 9am! It was light! The sun was shining! The good burgers of Pessac were hieing them to the market! And I was hoofing me down the newly-resurfaced lane to the chateau.

It was fine. Nobody screamed, pointed, stared or even stopped their galloping horse.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Am Abend da es kuhle war

We'll long remember this Easter

Daniel Liechti is a missiologist who works for the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France to encourage new churches. He says, "We'll long remember Easter 2018... If usually Christians, with their faith in Jesus who died for them, are not always understood, by the example of Arnaud Beltrame, giving his life to save others, this act is seen in all its strength and its love."

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What fun!

Yesterday we celebrated four years of Bordeaux Church in the centre of the city with a day conference, a nice lunch and an evening barbecue. The speaker was big Guillaume Bourin from Paris who I first got to know some years ago when Gwilym went on a week in Belgium with him. 

The day went well, and then came the time to come home. We cleaned up and left for Pessac in luxury in Rita's Fiat Panda. No bus 4 for us that night! In fact, no bus 4 for anyone, because of the Bordeaux Marathon which was being run along a substantial part of the bus' route.

So we set off for home, guided by Rita's GPS in her phone. Pretty soon we arrived at the end of a street where we could not proceed because of the marathon runner. Some drivers hooted, others shouted, one got very rude, apparently, when told to reverse. "Does your sister reverse?" he said.

Anyway no-one could go forwards so eventually even the most recalcitrant accepted the inevitability of regress and we careered blindly backwards down the road whence we had come. After a certain time I decided that there might be a better GPS programme for these circumstances, so I started up Waze, which knows about blocked roads and traffic jams. "You are 5 minutes from home and it will take you 27 minutes", it said. 

A lively discussion ensued, wherein we eventually concluded that we should follow its directions. Follow, that is, until I realised that the programme was making gallant efforts to achieve the impossible. It could get us to within 1/2 mile of our house, but no closer because the marathon runners formed an impenetrable barrier to wheeled vehicles.

We persuaded Rita to drop us at the most beautiful roundabout, from whence we proceeded on foot without incident in the opposite direction to the marathon runners, shouting helpful encouragement, "Bravo!", "Jusqu'au bout!", and "Plus vite que ça!"

Rita, meanwhile, was staying with friends at Saige, and from the most beautiful roundabout to Saige it was an easy and clear road.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Life is improving all the time here

First a new public toilet in Pessac.
Then a pedestrian crossing exactly where we need one by the stop for bus 4.
Now a new public toilet is going up at Hotel de Ville.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


We're entering a period of strikes, prompted by the current climate of austerity in France. A friend who is a civil servant explained it to us.

Civil Servants' pay has been frozen for some years, with just small index-linked rises, but their pouvoir d'achat (ability to buy) has been eroded. In addition they receive various allowances linked to their status, but these allowances do not count towards their final pension, so they are concerned about retirement, too.

Meanwhile railway workers are the main antagonists against the government, pointing out that while they have to live with pay freezes, members of parliament and the government have not had their pay frozen. What's sauce for the goose is, after all, sauce for the gander.

So today sees a BIG demonstration in the heart of Bordeaux and from the middle of next week the railway workers will be striking two days out of five, with a calendar of strikes published lasting up to the end of June.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


The airbnb that we were staying in had a little kitchen that was fine for preparing breakfast but we didn't cook any other meal in it. That meant eating and drinking in various different kinds of places, and being served by lots of different waiters. They came from Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Italy and France. All were excellent and all said that they were very happy and that life was good.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

We have just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary

with a short trip to London.

We stayed in a super little AirBnB at Queen's Park, within easy bus and underground reach of the city, and we were able to visit the Shard, the British Museum, to watch some street performers at Covent Garden, to catch Choral Evensong at Saint Paul's, to ride on a 1962 Routemaster bus, to visit the Imperial War Museum, to visit our lad, Gwilym, at his church in Harrow, to visit our nearest church in West Kilburn and finally to explore Borough Market, having lunch with Gwilym once more before an undulated flight back to Bordeaux.

Here's some photos:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

At the bank

to open an account for the church.

"Oh no, the president of the association has to be here. It's the president that opens the account."

"But he's the treasurer."

"No, the president"

The president is on holiday for a couple of weeks. Oh, it's only delay.

Mother tongue interference


serck-rett-air, not sec-rett-air

...repeat until you can no longer say it wrong...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring has come to Pessac

One day it was -4°C and the next 16°C. Thankfully that was the day we flew back from icy Prague.

It means lots of daffodils and yellow mimosa. It means some forsythia - not as popular here as in the UK. It means the start of the blossoming trees. It means beautiful sunsets. It means people are starting to get over their colds and coughs.

Sadly the beautiful buds on the magnolias were all frozen by the beast from the east, so no magnolia blossoms this year. Instead there are withered brown dead buds.

And everything looks more cheerful and hopeful.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

French is a crazy language

The French language has a lot of character and tends to set challenges for you. Some people profess to be rubbish at French. Others show a high degree of expertise. For example:

Did you know that when you say on page 41 in French it is expressed as "à la page quarante-et-un" and definitely not quarante-et-une... Une is an article, not a number. Numbers do not change with gender. But you'll often hear people say, à la page vingt-et-une, or à la mesure cent-trente-et-une.

Did you know that French does have a neuter gender, but it hides it behind the masculine. This was all explained to me this week but it got very technical so I pretended to follow while quietly zoning out.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Praying in Prague

Last week was the International Christian Communities of Eurasia Prayer Conference, which was held in Prague. Pat and I went along for the first time ever. The conference ran from Wednesday lunchtime to Friday lunchtime, but flights meant that we flew on Tuesday and returned on Saturday.

Prague was going through a period of extremely cold weather though the dryness of the air meant that there was little snow. I have never been so cold in all my natural born days. We had lots of warm clothing, but my hat and scarf combinations generally left my cheekbones exposed, and they froze.

We flew Air France, Bordeaux to Paris, then Paris to Prague, which gave us the right to a bag of pretzels and a sandwich on the way, and pretzels and a pineapple and coconut sponge cake on the return. We stayed together in a nice hotel with very powerful heating. It was -14°C in the street and +26°C in our room. The hotel served a buffet breakfast of the usual euro-miscellany and then made up sandwiches and snacks which were left for guests to help themselves to as the day unfolded.

The participants at the prayer conference ate together on two evenings, once in a Prague institution which is a kind of brewery and traditional eating-house. I had svíčková, which is a kind of Czech version of boiled beef and carrots, served with slices of bread dumplings. It was very good and very filling. the second evening we ate at the restaurant of a deacon of the international church in Prague where the set menu was a gastronomic tour de force, with meat and fish courses and a very good chocolate mousse with marinated bitter cherries.

We had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with Prague friends, Romana who worked with us in North Wales in the mid 1990s, Jitká who was here in Bordeaux for a year in 2003 and Ted and his family. Ted teaches at universities in Prague. Romana met us at the airport on our arrival and then escorted us back to the airport along with Jitká.

A highlight for me were two visits to Bethlehem Chapel, the meeting house built for Jan Hus to preach in the 1400s. It was built to accommodate 3000 people, stood, and apparently up to 10,000 actually crammed themselves inside. At the time Prague had a population of some 40,000 people. You can see just how popular a movement it was. His Prague ministry lasted just 12 years, then followed two years preaching in the Bohemian countryside under the pope's anathema, then he was tried and burnt.

Prague now is a beautiful city with a illustrious past and a rather sordid present. Nasty gift shops line the streets of the old town. Supermarkets display cannabis leaf signs to show that you can buy cannabis cookies and cakes. On Wenceslas Square Marks and Spencer is on one block and on the next a large building advertises Thai massage and through the open doors you can see ten or more eager girls lounging on sofas and beanbags waiting for their needy punters to arrive. That's us Europeans, eh?

I had a list of good coffee shops to visit. We didn't do any. I had a list of cheap restaurants. We didn't do any. We did explore Old Town, the river bank, New Town, the Jewish quarter and the Castle area. Oh, and the Czech language is a czallenge!

Friday, February 23, 2018

What is happening to our town?

Yesterday afternoon I got home from a meet-up in the city centre to find a row of police cars, a trails moped and an ambulance parked on what we nickname bang-crash wall.

Initial fears were fed by the fact that the ambulance seemed in no hurry as a stretcher was loaded up and its load completely covered before being placed inside. Still the vehicle waited before eventually driving off. "They placed the white sheet", said one neighbour, ominously.

More extensive investigation (we asked the people who were moving out just as the accident happened) revealed that nothing quite so tragic had transpired: a young hothead on a moped was being chased by a police car alongside the Pape Clement vines. On our really dangerous corner he hit the pavement and came off his bike, appearing to have perhaps broken his arm.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

and Lawrence is home...

Public transport incident

I had an appointment at the bank at 3 to talk about insurance. To be honest, I wasn't very keen on going but I want the bank to be good to me so at present I'm being especially good to the bank. So I left the house to hop on bus 4 down to the Alouette where our branch is. As I approached the stop I saw bus 4 pull in so I speeded up on the off chance that I would catch it. It stayed at the stop and the driver put the hazard warning lights on. He let me on board and continued a conversation with the bus controller.

"Ah no, the police are not here yet. Well no, but the way things are they'll be hitting each other soon."

Two men at the back of the bus were having a very heated conflict while the rest of us watched and wondered whether intervening would help or inflame the situation.

"Come away" urged some women to one of the chaps.

After several minutes the police arrived, charged onto the bus with pistols drawn, and yelled at the main combattant to stand up. He didn't. "I'm going to witness a shooting", I thought. The police got to the guy, who was drunk and also obviously had some psychological issues. They dragged him to his feet, cuffed him and frog-marched him off the bus.

Then followed interviews with various folk involved. "He'd been threatening to slit everyone's throats, and so on". (At present in France this kind of threat is particularly unwelcome.)

Eventually we all got off the bus and onto a following one, the bus driver had a much-needed cigarette before returning the the depot and I was 30 minutes late for my appointment at the bank.

Oh well.

Mi Band 2

It's working again!

When I changed my mobile phone, probably through not following the correct procedure, I ended up with a band that was neither use nor ornament because it would not connect to my phone.

There was a fix on the internet, which involved discharging the battery, putting the module in the fridge for a few days, then trying to connect again. It didn't work.

So a few days ago I thought it was time either to sort it out once and for all or to send it off for whatever recycling is possible for these things. So once more I ran down the battery (it was already flat) and put it in the fridge for about a week.

Then I tried connecting.

"You need to factory reset your band" came the new message. I did that.

Then with just a tiny amount of jiggery-pokery - IT'S WORKING AGAIN!

I'm pretty sure that a few software updates from Xiaomi have made the difference.

A three-legged friend

Lawrence survived the surgery, but unfortunately the nature of the tumour demanded the removal of his front right leg. So he has become a three-legged rat. Not only that, but his back legs have weakened with time. So the poor old feller's days of acrobatics, climbing and charging around are well and truly over. We're awaiting his discharge from the vets.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lawrence is scheduled for surgery this afternoon

The surgery might be too much for him as he's quite an elderly fellow now, but he's still quite perky so it's worth a go. If not the tumour will necrotise and become painful.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A grand trip to Toulouse

On Saturday we made a quick trip to Toulouse to visit a recent church plant called Saint-Cyprien.

After a fitful and restive night I woke and considered calling off our trip. We hadn't booked tickets or accommodation and, more substantially, I woke with a raging sore throat - in France, une angine. I gargled with aspirin and got on with it.

Some reflection : budget hotel or AirBnB? We opted for the former. Hang the 20€ extra expense!

Train or coach? That was easy. Fares and timetables obligent, we went by coach and returned by train.

We hurried to the station to get a train from Pessac to Bordeaux and waved it goodbye as we narrowly missed it. So Bus 4 then 9 it was. We were in plenty of time for our coach and settled ourselves in. Arrived in Toulouse I consulted Google Maps to see how to get to our hotel by public transport. "Search me!" said Google Maps, "but you could hoof it in half an hour."

So hoof it we did. It was a pleasant walk through the brick and stucco elegance of Toulouse with its wright iron balconies and the ever-present fragrance of burning compost heaps - so it's not just Bordeaux. Exotic tobacco is everywhere.

We easily found our hotel and got in. Room 310. "No Smoking" scolded the sign. The stale smell and the cigarette ends on the windowsills said otherwise. We opened the windows wide, put the air-conditioning on high and ventured out to find food.

Tripadvisor listed three possibilities and so we found ourselves in a very popular pub where I had a super chicken curry with the biggest onion bhaji you ever saw and Pat ate a big burger. We chatted with our waiters, from Sheffield and Illinois and wondered at the world today.

Toulouse seems much more full of traffic than Bordeaux and there's quite a bit of traffic noise at night but we slept OK then left to find our breakfast.

An elderly man took advantage of one of my sneezing fits to pass us on the pavement, then decided to stop for a chat.

"Where have you visited? Have you seen the Cathedral? Les Jacobins?"

"Yes, we visited them in the summer, we paid our respects to Thomas Aquinas. Where is good round here for breakfast?"

"Just up there on the other side of the road there's a good baker and you'll be sat outside in direct sunshine. Where are you from."

"Well I'm English and my husband is Welsh, but we live in Bordeaux."

"Oh, my children live in Bordeaux where my son is a percussionist and my daughter a violinist. I was a harpist."

Breakfast was a massive pain au raisin with orange juice and a big coffee, then off to church.

The church was started in 2014 and meets in a nightclub in the centre of the city, but on the less fashionable side. Since then they've grown to capacity in the nightclub and started another group over the other side of the city, but two congregations of one church.

The service was fine, with good preaching from Ephesians 4. Our friend Aaron came and sat by us and introduced us to his charming son. It was encouraging to see how things can work out.

Then off we hoofed back to the station, calling into a bargain-price pizzeria on the way where we got a big salad and a small pizza with a coffee for 12€! For students with a student card it's 7€50!

The train was on time and we got home a little earlier than expected. Then more gargling with aspirin, a quick paracetamol and off to bed...

Mission accomplished.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lawrence is at the vet's

He has a big fatty tumour on his front leg and a weepy eye infection.

He's also around 3 years old, which is a good age for a rat.

We're hoping he comes home.

Postnote: He did come back. You need an appointment. He's going again on Monday

Friday, February 16, 2018

The simple things you see are all complicated

OK. Here comes a rant.

Well, I'll try not to rant.

I think there's a great temptation, trend and desire to simplify things that are actually much richer and more complex than we want to make them, and I think that this oversimplification applies in various areas of life and thought at present.

Biblical theology

In finding the overarching story, the metanarrative of the Bible, pretty well everyone is agreed that the key is Christ.

But how does this work out?

A couple years back a group of us were meeting up to discuss a bible overview book that focused on God's covenants as the metanarrative that points to Christ. I compared this with the other great trend that sees kingdom as the overarching story - God's people, in God's place, under God's king.

OK. But where do temple, priesthood, sacrifice, prophetism, etc, come into these schemas?

Perhaps it is time to recollect another style of Biblical theology that takes covenants, Kingdom and adds them to a rich palette of promise and fulfilment, type and anti-type, shadow and reality, that copes well with the temple theme that runs from Genesis to Revelation, with priesthood and prophetism, with the range of presentations of Christ that we find in the Bible.

When we oversimplify we impoverish ourselves and make everything bland, like living on a diet of rice.


In the same way there's a silent discussion going on about how God makes his people holy. Some focus on the role of the truth of the gospel on our thought-patterns. It's a case of applying gospel-truth to your heart and changing the way you think and behave.

Well yes, but what if the toolbox God uses to make us holy has this at its heart, but also includes other factors? Sinclair Ferguson , in a long article on the Union website here unfolds our sanctification focused and centred on our union with Christ and speaks of the wide range of ways in which God makes us holy, including "providences", the things that come into our lives, the fellowship of the church and the sacraments.

I think these silent discussions are interesting. We're having another on the charismatic (non-)issue. We have decided that continuationism or cessationism is a non-issue. But it isn't. Or again, the question of forms of worship, from the neo-liturgists through to the new standard model of 1/2 hour singing, 1/2 hour preaching ("There was a worship war, the pentecostals won and we all got the victory" is the way one man put it).

It's as if we are tired of discussing things, so we try to pare everything down and make it as simple as possible. Maybe it's part of the current trend for decluttering and for minimalism.

But as we throw out the simple, soapy bathwater, let's keep our grip on the slippery, moving, complex things that is the baby.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Catrin's 21st Birthday

It was Catrin's 21st birthday yesterday. Festivities included a fun party with suitably unhealthy food, a visit from her old friend Meghan from London and a planned lunch in town yesterday which had to be called off when the soporific effects of cough mixture overtook her on the tram.

I just took Meghan to the airport for her flight back to London and returned to Pessac through the snow. It must be about 12 years or more since I drove a car through a snow-shower. It snowed heavily but briefly and has now reverted to glim drizzle.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Le plan du grand froid

Bordeaux has put into action its plan du grand froid. There's a three-stage plan for cold weather to care for folk on the street. It goes from froid, to grand froid, to extrème froid.

Grand froid means that as many places as possible are provided to shelter everyone who requests it, in Bordeaux that means over 1500 places have been made available.

Home made ice cream

The latest party trick is to make home made ice-cream from recipes supplied by a website called "Bigger, bolder baking".

The trick is to whip 400ml of cream soundly until rigor sets in, then to add a can of condensed milk and whip again.

Into this foamy custard you fold whatever flavourings you favour, be it vanilla, crushed up Oreo biscuits or whatever, and freeze the mix for as long as you can.

The result is almost 2 litres of ice-cream - and you know what's in it.

Alan's wizard tips

I have these great socks from Uniqlo. They're really nice! But sometimes my toes go through them and you end up with a really nice sock with a hole in the toe. In the past I have darned socks but I would rather prevent the problem than solve it.

I considered the way I cut my toenails. Frankly I have heeded advice over the years and I don't think there's much improvement to be made in my technique. That was not the problem. More thought ensued.

And now I believe that I have found the solution. After donning your socks but before inserting your feet in your shoes push your sock into the space between your first and second toe and hold it there with your toes. Then put your foot in your shoe and wiggle your toes to release the fold of sock. Tada! This makes a loose area in the sock preventing the tautness at the toe of the sock which results in the friction that makes the hole.

I arrived at this solution a few weeks ago and it really does seem to be working.

Snow in Bordow!

It snowed this morning for about 5 minutes and even started to settle on the garden wall.
Then it stopped and now we have bright sunshine.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Singing the Hallelujah Chorus with a French choir

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For de Lord God omnipotent reigness!

and so on and so forth...

The conductor eyed one of the basses and said "There's still one bass singing 'ze Lord God'"...
The culprit nodded sheepishly.
"It's Alan!" accused one of the sopranos.

Ha ha ha... Minx!

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Running on pause

Running has been on pause since last week because I hurt my leg getting on the bus.

Oh look, I'm getting in practice for being a bumbling old duffer, OK?

I've pretty well perfected the bumbling.
I hope that old will come naturally.
Now I'm working on the duffer part.

Anyway last Wednesday evening Patricia and I were getting on the bus. She'd had some problems scanning her bus card. I was watching to make sure it worked OK rather than looking where I put my feet. I missed the step and slammed my shin into the side of the bus.


Later that evening I wondered if it was broken, but I could move my foot normally, so I slathered it in ibuprofen and arnica.

Now, a week later, the lump has almost gone, the bruise is progressing through the spectrum, the pain is subsiding and I am taking great care when I get on the bus.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Guilty as charged, your honour



The word repression is used much more widely in French than it would be in English, and generally means any measure designed to put pressure on people to stop breaking the law. You would contrast it, I suppose, with education or with the promise of reward.

Recently in Bordeaux fines have been increased dramatically. Parking fines went up from about 17 euros, I think, to almost 40. Meanwhile the fine for travelling on the tram or bus without a ticket has gone up to 72 euros if you settle within three days. After three days an additional 50 euros is incurred. The cost of a bus or ram ticket is 1,60€.

The other day we were on the tram when the ticket inspectors swooped. They arrived in gangs and move through the tram preventing people from alighting without first showing their valid ticket. One woman behind us was caught. She had a wallet full of tickets, none of which had been punched in the machine. "See", she said, "I have lots of tickets". But to no avail. "The fine is 72€ if you pay within three days, if not it goes up to 122€. You can pay me now by card."

"Can't you extend some indulgence? They do in Paris" said the woman, shocked at the cost of her misdemeanour.

No indulgence was extended. No indulgence was possible. The woman argued, complained, wept, railed, and paid. "You have ruined my night out!" she told the inspector.

After the inspectors had gone she continued to complain to the passengers around her about the cost of the fine and the lack of indulgence on the part of the Bordeaux ticket inspectors when compared to the kindly, forgiving Parisians. (Frankly, I have my doubts.)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Changing the hard disk

We don't have a television or a hifi system. Instead we have a Mac Mini computer that stores all our music and accesses films and programmes that we might want to watch. We've had the computer about three or four years and it's very good, but it has always been very slow indeed.

The problem is that Apple put slow hard disks in their base models, and to buy a computer with a fast hard disk is very expensive indeed.

The solution is to change the hard disk for a SSD. Well, following the computing adventures of last month I decided to bite the bullet, buy a drive and change the thing.

In the centre of Bordeaux there is a computer-monger who sold me all I needed, including a very natty little case full of the special screwdrivers I would need. Youtube has videos showing the procedure to follow step by step. What could possibly go wrong?

So in I hied me on the trusty number 4 bus. The chappie in the shop remembered my name and sold me the bits I needed, recommending a particular piece of software to copy the old disk onto the new. (CopyClone)

I came home and used a different piece of software (SuperDuper) and waited as the copy took hours, several hours.

Then came the surgery. I set up a lamp by the table and laid out kitchen paper to receive the various screws. One website said it would take about 45 minutes. It didn't. It took about 20. There were a few steps that people said you could leave out, so I did. One screw didn't want to go back in, so I left it out! Then...

The Mac Mini is now REALLY FAST! I couldn't believe the difference it made!

If you're hesitating, do it!

Continual rain and flooding

You've seen the images of flooding in Paris. Here in Bordeaux the Garonne is very high but as yet only the cycle paths and walkways alongside the river have flooded. The streets of the right bank have not yet been inundated.