We have a couple of hours this afternoon before the ex Coventry folk in the church plant here arrive for a meal and a skype conversation with a number of friends from Jubilee Church this evening. I have run 8 miles today, partly along the Seine, and am now recovered sufficiently to write a blog.
Much has happened in the last four weeks.
Gill thinks I have lost lots of weight recently. She's actually right although I claim the bathroom scales work differently at this latitude and so there's nothing to worry about. Still 5 kilos is quite a lot apparently. Anyway, she wants me to eat more. Last night we were due to go round to a friend's flat to watch a film with her and so we decided to eat before we went out, rather earlier than we usually do. Gill had made one of her excellent pizzas and served me a huge segment. To keep her happy, I ate it and asked for more. I ate another segment and felt absolutely stuffed.
At 7pm our friend rang to ask if we were still coming and we set off down the street carrying my still hot cup of coffee and a dozen fresh scones with jam and cream which, despite looking amazing, I had no intention of sampling due to pizza induced stomach cramps. Imagine my thoughts on arrival when our friend said that the scones would go rather well with her crumble and that her other friend was bringing the main course which we were to have with various salads and breads. I felt like an already overinflated balloon being further inflated to dangerous levels.
Gill has started a French course run by the local town hall. It is about 10 minutes away on the bike and she goes for two hours four mornings a week (not Wednesdays). She is confident she is in the right level and is enjoying it very much saying her teacher is brilliant. As usual Gill is making lots of friends. It is also good that one of the girls from the church plant, Grace, is on the same course.
In the afternoons Gill continues to go as often as she can to the conversation group in St Germain des Pres in the city centre (about 15 minutes on the bike). In ten days' time she and her French friend Lucile are doing a musical evening for the conversation group regulars when they will sing and teach some classic French children's songs.
The church plant is now a year old and we celebrated with an excellent party which included lots of fun and games and amazing food. Our worship times have since the summer really grown in depth and the sense of God's presence which is so encouraging. I am preaching about once a month and am currently working my way through Mark's gospel and it will be the end of chapter 3 tomorrow morning (a challenging section on the unforgiveable sin!). I estimate Jesus could well return before I finish the series!
We have started the Alpha Course and that is going well. We had lots of guests to the Alpha Supper, but almost all of them are unable to come regularly to the eight week course (distance, time etc).
More personal news: we are trying to buy a flat in South London to rent out. The first one we tried last month fell through (fortunately just before our surveyor had visited) and now we are looking at one in Clapham North. Ideally we would like to start renting it out before Christmas. We may need to furnish it a bit first. It is very well located (a few minutes' walk from the tube station). We are hoping that the London rent will virtually cover our Paris rent and then we simply need to find enough money for me to keep eating enormous pizzas.
I bought a new bike a month ago as the old one, though still running, needed extensive and expensive repairs and I judged it was not worth it. However, the new one was stolen after two weeks (while it was chained up against railings in the city centre). That meant a four mile walk home that night as I had no money with me to buy a metro ticket. So I currently use the Paris city council's hire bikes called Velib (see picture 3 above). Occasionally it is possible to find one in prime condition, but more often recently I have had to use velibs (see picture 2 above) with at flat tyres, or with no saddle, with pedals that do not revolve at all, with handlebars which "float" and thus give little direction to the bike, with only first gear....that's perhaps why a one year pass is only €29.
I started a part time job as an English instructor at Berlitz two weeks ago. I work at the company's centre on Avenue de l'Opera which is extremely posh (see picture 1 above). I have to be available at fixed times during the week (roughly 22.5 hours) although so far my clients have frequently not turned up so I have had free time to do other things. It is relatively straightforward and with no preparation at all which suits me fine. The pay is not exactly great: it is apparently equivalent to what the average Roman slave received in the first century AD, but funnily enough, I really have the sense that that is where God wants me (Berlitz, not Rome, that is). And, encouragingly, one of my new colleagues, a young Australian called Nathan, came along to our life group this week and I have already been able to share the gospel with a number of others.
Gill had been offered one morning's teaching at a private school as a replacement for a lady having a hip operation next month. It is a French school, but on Wednesday's it becomes an English school! She is wondering whether this might lead to further work in the new year. That would be good. Wonderfully for her the English day is Wednesday when, of course, she is not at college. She has also started ironing and cleaning for a neighbour on Friday afternoons.