Grey… Tepid… Orange

It’s a grey day in Massy today: cloudy, windy, with heavy rain forecast for the afternoon.

We’re also a bit grey physically today. As you can imagine, with over 50 students plus their children plus the teaching and admin staff in a relatively small building, germs fly around École des Cèdres fairly rapidly. We both have colds, but need to plough on as we have a lot to do.

We both have tests next week (they will be every couple of weeks from now on, which is good for us in the long run but means lots of work revising!). I am sharing at our class’s short service (culte en classe: culte means religious service) on Monday afternoon (my bit is 15-20 mins), so need to prepare for that: I have the outline, but need to work it up in French and find some visual aids.

This evening is the culte of the Assemblée de Dieu Church plant here in Massy, which we’re looking forward to. The stiff uphill start to the walk there might even help our colds!

Tepid? Orange? We’ve been having water troubles in our flat. For a while the drains have been emptying rather slowly; a notice outside our block says the engineers are coming to sort this out on 11 February. The other issue is that this week our hot water has been varying from stone cold to tepid to, occasionally, actually hot. And sometimes it’s orange too… We have no information on a possible fix for that unfortunately.

Ah, must go, Joanna tells me the water is hot at the moment so must take a shower while I can…

Massy In The Snow

It snowed here overnight on Wednesday, so when we awoke on Thursday (21st) and looked out of the window the world was white! Here’s a few photos from our walk to school that morning (excuse the, err, impressionistic effects!

snow1snow2snow3snow4The last one shows Joanna’s new school bag: yep, it’s un caddie, otherwise known as a shopping trolley. It does double duty for our trips to the supermarket, but look who gets to pull it!

On Wednesday, after a couple of days of struggling in really cold weather with my fairly thin fleece, I gave in and found a thicker and pleasantly cheap fleece jacket in Cora. It was especially welcome the next morning!

Here’s the view from our balcony Thursday lunchtime:

snow5The lake is still mostly frozen over.

Now the snow is all gone and we’ve warmed up a little. Ah well: back to the revision: I have another test on Thursday (mainly featuring the subjonctif and imperatif).

Bang, Bang, Bang, Bank…

We’ve been here in Massy for nearly three weeks now and it’s been a very busy time so far. Our days are just about filled with lessons and homework (we get quite a lot), then there’s prayer and Bible reading, food shopping, cooking, eating, cleaning… oh, and a little bit left over for sleeping!

Our understanding from previous students is that after a while you settle into a rhythm and things get a bit less frantic. We’re looking forward to that. We hope to take the occasional Saturday trip by bus or train out into the countryside (we’ve a couple of places in mind to explore), or into central Paris. Massy has very good transport links.

In my class (Chris, A2 “consolidating”) we are racing through grammer at what seems a furious pace. For those who know a bit of French: since starting on 5 January we have covered describing people physically and in personality, comparisons, passé composé tense, imparfait tense, futur proche and futur simple tenses, and on Monday we start the subjonctif. I had my first test this week (results are due on Monday). Joanna’s class (A1) is similarly busy but not quite so frantic.

For both of us, lessons seem to be a mix of “Ah, I see, yes that’s clear” and “I don’t have the faintest idea what the teacher is on about…” According to other students that’s normal and it does get better. All of our lessons are 100% in French (otherwise the teacher would have to be translating constantly into and from English, Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese, Korean…), which demands total concentration.

So that’s the “bang, bang, bang” of the title: the school wants to make sure we make rapid progress, so sometimes it feels like having a “French language gun” fired at you!

We went to  open our French bank account at lunchtime on Thursday, at Société Générale. They have a tie-up with the school which makes the process easier. The whole interview was in French (lots of re-explaining was needed at various stages). The volume of paperwork was incredible: after about 20 minutes of the lady filling in stuff on her computer, she leant down and retrieved from her laser printer a wad of paper maybe 2cm thick. She then proceeded to explain it all and request signatures in various places. We hope we haven’t agreed to anything too drastic…

Having a French account will save us money on exchange costs and so on, as well as making life simpler. There are some interesting differences to UK banking. For example, we’ll get debit cards, but there is a strict limit on the amount you can spend on them per month (no matter how much money is in the account) and the  number of free cash withdrawals is limited too. None of this is any problem for us.

Flat Reworked!

We were very pleased to be given permission to move the furniture round in our studio flat. Here’s the new layout:

flatrevised1flatrevised2No more gymnastics for Chris as he climbs into bed! We’ve gained space in useful places and lost a bit where it doesn’t matter.

Here’s a panorama from our little balcony (click to enlarge it):

PanoramaFromFlatThe Mairie (town hall) is on the left, behind the small lake is the Salle des fêtes, owned by the council (would be lovely for Church meetings but permission has not been forthcoming). On the right is a Japanese restaurant (we’ve not visited, may be a bit expensive for us!) and behind is one of the railway lines (which we rarely hear).

There’s a path round the  lake which is nice for a few minutes fresh air.

God has really blessed us with where we live: it’s pleasant, convenient and very close to one of the stations (Massy-Verrières), from which we can get right to the heart of Paris, or even up to Charles de Gaulle airport.

Exploring Massy

It’s time to catch up with some news and information about our new home! Here’s a few photos…

PlaceVictorSchoelcherThe open area just next to our flats is Place Victor Schoelcher, this is a statue dedicated to him: he worked in the 19th Century for the abolition of slavery.


This is our nearest boulangerie (bakery), just a couple of minutes walk away. Unfortunately they are closed at weekends, so for our Sunday morning breakfast treat (pain au chocolat or pain aux raisins) I need to walk a couple of minutes further on: what a hardship!

lookingbackLooking back from the Place, our flats are on the left.

marcheA minute or so further on is the central market, open Thursdays and Sunday mornings; this is the direction we walk to get to Les Cèdres. The market is very small with only a few stalls.

centreThe centre of the old town, looking back towards the Catholic Church: the tower is all that remains of the original building, a new building next door is used for services.

flatsrouteFlats on our route to school. Some friends from Les Cèdres live here.


Here we turn left onto voie de Wissous. There’s a nice big sign for Centre Evangélique!


The entrance to Les Cèdres, our language school.

maindoorThe main door; the Church area is on the right.





Below: the entrance foyer, looking out (taken before the Christmas decs came down).

foyernormandieThis is Joanna’s classroom: Salle Normandie.


And Chris is next door in Salle Bretagne.

groundsThe grounds are full of cedar trees, hence the name.


The last days have been marked by several interesting contrasts.

First, as I use my praying walks to explore more of Massy, it’s clear that, small as it is, there are significant differences between the various areas. There’s ‘old Massy’ with the small shops and cafés, older houses mixed in with some smallish blocks of flats, such as ours built in the 1980s.

Near the TGV station there is a large area packed with new office blocks and apartment blocks (many quite upmarket and gated). Then at the other end of town, near the Opéra, are lots of not quite so snazzy but quite large apartment blocks; North African musak playing in the supermarket…

The second contrast has been in our Church experiences here. On Sunday morning we attended the Baptist Church at Les Cèdres: the building is sizeable, the congregation large (there are two services on Sunday mornings to get everyone in).

Last night we went to the new Assemblées de Dieu (Pentecostal, like the UK Assemblies of God) Church plant in Massy. There were just 6 people there, including us (some regulars were unwell or otherwise detained). The Pasteur has tried very hard to find somewhere to hold meetings and been rebuffed many times, so at present the Church shares premises with the Reformée Church located in ‘flat-city’ near the Opéra.

But please don’t imagine some grand piece of ecclesiastical architecture: it is a small group of rooms buried half-underground, rather resembling a bunker to be honest! We hope that we can be an encouragement and help to Christophe, the Pasteur, and our other brothers and sisters, as they try to get this new plant off the ground.

After a short time of worship to begin the informal service, Christophe looked over to me and said (in French), ‘Chris, would you like to share something with us?’ Talk about being dropped in at the deep end 🙂 . I was able to share a little, which seemed to be on a similar theme to what God had earlier given Christophe to share for that evening. Isn’t He good?

The final contrast has been in our days. We’ve both been used to doing exactly what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. Now we must keep to a strict timetable, be right on time for every lesson, do our homework… Quite a difference!

Our Flat

As promised, a few photos of our studio flat. Bienvenue à notre petit appartement !

IMG_5066The bedsitting room from the entrance; we look out over a road to a small park area with a lake.

IMG_5064Just enough space to study, eat and sleep. Good news yesterday: we received permission to move the furniture round a bit so the bed won’t be against the wall.

IMG_5063Our kitchen is a decent size, with an electric cooker/oven.


First Sunday

We went to the Baptist Church linked to the École des Cèdres on Sunday morning. Being lazy we opted for the 11am service rather than the 9:30am! We met some more of our fellow-students, including the couple who were in our flat last year (who are now working for their mission in Massy).

Although there was much we din’t follow, there was quite a bit we could understand. Several of the songs we knew already from our times of worship in French over the last two years.

We’ve been meeting our neighbours in the flats over the time we’ve been here and on Saturday received an invitation from a retired couple to go and eat Galette du Roi with them on Sunday afternoon. We had a really great time and chatted away, nearly always in French, for nearly two hours.

Galette du Roi comprises two layers of pastry with almond paste inbetween. I was in heaven, I adore almonds! It is eaten on the first Sunday of the new year, originally to celebrate the arrival of the three magi to visit the infant Jesus. Nowadays it is often just a celebration time for family and/or neighbours, with no religious aspect.

Off in a few minutes to begin our first day at school…


That’s what the people of Massy are called, apparently. So that’s what we are now: Massicois! The trip went fine on Tuesday, we arrived a little earlier than expected, got the keys to our studio flat and unloaded.

It was wonderful to have our friends with us, for their company and encouragement, and some good laughs, but also for several trips to the local hypermarket, Cora (which is absolutely huge and sells just about everything you can imagine!).

Day by day we are settling in more, getting the flat re-arranged, unpacking and finding homes for everything… The flat is bigger than we had expected and is very comfortable for us.

It’s funny how you don’t get a feel for a place until you walk round it a bit. Massy is quite small, and we are right in the centre of town, close to the Mairie (Town Hall) and Police Station. There are four boulangeries (bakeries) within 4 or 5 minutes walk: us Massicois really do like our bread and pastries! It’s just 10 minutes walk to our language school, Les Cèdres, and the same to Cora. All very convenient.

God is good to us. With every hour this is more like home, and it’s exactly where He wants us.

I’ll post some photos soon.