Saturday 24th June 2017 – I WAS UP …

… a good 10 minutes before the alarm this morning. And had I been bothered to leave my stinking pit, I could have been up a good hour before it too.

I’d been on my travels too, not sure where, but I ended up dating one of the nurses (I wish that I could remember which one) who had treated me while I had been in hospital. She was considerably younger than me (well, let’s face it – almost everyone in the world is these days!) and this excited a great deal of comment from all sorts of people.

Which of course just goes to show – I can still chase after the women, even if I can’t remember why.

We had the usual trip for the baguette and the lunchtime sitting-on-the-wall-overlooking-the-harbour too. The weather wasn’t quite as warm as it has been, but still too hot to be out there for long. And the tide is now almost fully-out which means that we aren’t going to be having any ships passing by for a while.

Even the Marité is conspicuous by her absence. She seems to have departed into the ether – Ships That Pass In The Night and all of that.

Tea was another attack on the European Tinned Food Mountain and with the addition of a few herbs and spices it was quite tasty. Just goes to show the difference that a few simple things can make.

So what have I been doing today then?

Some tidying up. Not much, but if I do a little every day (or nearly every day) it will slowly all go together nicely. And some cleaning too. I need to make an effort.

I had a phone call too from the maintenance people about the fridge. So I told them that it was now back working again so they hung up. And now it’s stopped again, hasn’t it?

I’ve also had a very unwelcome letter from the Treasury of that hospital in Verdun. It seems that once again my insurers are dragging their heels about paying (which they usually do) and I’ve been lumbered yet again. I’ll need to sort them out properly in early course.

Ingrid was on the phone too and we had a lengthy chat. Her health issues are finally moving, although in which direction it’s hard to tell. She’ll know more in early course. But it’s a good job that she rang, because I was … errr … resting at the time.

But most of the day has been organising the blog. I’ve finished November, done a few of December, skipped the rest because there’s a lot in there that needs editing, and now I’m well into January 2012. Only 289 entries to go before this cycle of amendments is completed. And then I’ll need to go back over it again to bring the earlier entries up to the current standard as well as tackling some of the more complicated entries.

In that vein, we are going pretty well too. I’ve done some more ad-hoc editing, removing unwanted tags, editing a couple of others, merging one or two as well and it’s not been taking me as long as I thought, especially as I’ve found a quick way of doing it.

So now I’m having a relax before bed-time. And I reckon that I deserve it too. It’s hard work, this sitting around doing not very much.

Friday 23rd June 2017 – I’VE BEEN SPENDING …

… my money again today.

I’ve decided, with a great deal of reluctance, that the second instalment of furniture from IKEA can wait – and wait until I come back from Canada too.

I’m going to Canada for two months and I intend to have something of a good time while I’m there – hence the decision to be careful about what I spend in the meantime. Consequently there are a few things that I need that are very important around here that can’t wait until IKEA.

Like a wok (I bought a new one a while back as you might remember, but it doesn’t work on my induction hob), a dressing mirror for the bedroom, a laundry basket – stuff like that.

GIFI Was having a sale and so I blitzed round there this morning and acquired a laundry basket, a big dressing mirror that hangs on the back of the door, a waste bin for the bathroom, a large set of plastic drawers for the office, a chalk board and some chalk.

I went to NOZ too. And here my luck was in. NOZ is a chain of shops in France that sells bankrupt stock lines, overstocks and all that kind of thing, and is always worth a browse. Today, they were selling inter alia a variety of herbs and spices in those nice little octagonal jars that look so good. All at €0:99 each. And so i stocked up on the herbs and spices that I need and next week I’ll go back for more (if there are any) because the jars, when they are empty, will be ideal for refilling with other herbs and spices.

As for a new wok, a couple of weeks ago I’d seen one that I liked. Aluminium isn’t good for the health and these coated non-stick pans – the coating comes off them far too easily. But they had a range of these ceramic pans in the Auchan. Quite expensive, really heavy, and guaranteed for years. I enjoy cooking very much, but doing it in sub-standard conditions with sub-standard equipment always gets me down. And so I but the bullet and invested in the aforementioned.

I’m fed up of frying stuff in a saucepan.

While I was there in the Auchan I bought some frozen peas and carrots too. Let’s hope the fridge keeps going until I can buy a freezer. Then I’ll be moving onwards and upwards.

But with the late night last night it was quite something to try to crawl out of bed. But a shower soon brought me round (well, almost) and a shave and clean clothes made me feel much better. The new washing basket is full now, so that will be another trip to the launderette some time soon.

On the car park at the Auchan, we had an exciting moment as some woman reversing out of a car parking space as I was walking past took my trolley with her. Half a second later and she would have taken me with her too. And in the confusion that followed, I became separated from my baguette, and one or two other things too I suspect.

So it was a pretty thin lunch that I had today – and this afternoon I crashed out until … errr … 18:15. Heaven alone knows why. I reckon that it was about three hours that I was away.

There was one more slice of pie in the fridge and so I finished off that with my mash, peas and carrots. We had mint and garlic in the spuds and rosemary on the veg and it improved everything considerably. I even remembered to make the gravy.

But the pie was delicious – I have to say that. And I’ll be baking another one in the near future. With the herbs and spices that I bought today, it should be even more so.

All in all, my diet is definitely improving and I’m glad about that.

Thursday 22nd June 2017 – WITH ALL OF THE EXCITEMENT …

… yesterday, I forgot to mention that while I was sitting on the wall eating my butties, there was a haze closing in on the sea and slowly – very slowly – drifting towards land.

And so this morning, after another disturbed sleep, I found that we were enveloped in it all and it was relatively cold (well, as relative as it might be after this week of heatwave). So much so that I regretted leaving the windows open last night to cool the place down a little.

And outside, it really was cool too. Over the last few days I was very appreciative of the fact that this building is built of solid stone walls 1m thick, because when you come from the outside into the hallway and stairwell, it’s been relatively cooler than the outside. Today though, the communal hallway and stairwell was a lot warmer. It just goes to show you the effect of stone as an insulation and heat store.

Lunch was once again on the wall overlooking the harbour, and with it being somewhat cooler I was able to stay out there for longer today. But it was warm nevertheless and in the end I came back here and … err … closed my eyes a little.

So what was I doing for the rest of the day then?

This blog amending is coming on in leaps and bounds and I’m now doing the lest weekend of November 2011. As well as that, there are certain other amendments that needed doing too in order to bring it up to the standards that I use today. So I’ve been tackling a few of those.

Only another 300 pages to go now, and then there will be some hard-hitting revision of the composite pages that will need breaking up and reworking. And I’m not looking forward to that, I can tell you.

Not only that, a few years ago I was in Vaduz in Liechtenstein, and I made a few notes about it. Bala Town of the Welsh Premier League have been drawn to play FC Vaduz in the Europa League in a few days time so I reworked the page to make it more readable and to bring it up-to-date, and then linked it to a couple of Welsh football sites so that Bala Town fans would have some basic travel information about the place.

After all, it’s not exactly on the beaten track, is it?

Just one more slice of pie to go and then it’s all done. And delicious it was too. I must do it again. I made a slight difference tonight by adding garlic to the mashed potatoes and that was beautiful. I’ll try that again, without fail. but I will try my best to remember to make some gravy, for I forgot tonight. I wondered why it was all dry.

Tomorrow is Friday, and shopping. Tins of peas and carrots are now depleted so if I remember, I’ll buy some frozen stuff. It’ll be nice to get back to using that.

And there are a few other things that I need too.

Wednesday 21st June 2017 – TODAY HAS BEEN …

… a day of a few major issues, and for a while here we had a very unhappy bunny.

It didn’t start off too well because I couldn’t sleep because of the heat. And so I fetched the fan in, and then couldn’t sleep because of the noise. So I switched it off – and then couldn’t sleep … well, anyway, you get the picture.

The alarm awoke me and I staggered into the bathroom, and then staggered in to breakfast. At 09:00, I went to fetch the baguette. Things were going well at this point.

Back here, there was a message on my telephone. “Your bank account is overdrawn …”. Well, no it flaming well isn’t – or, at least, it shouldn’t be. After all, I went yesterday to the bank to check that my money had arrived and they assured me that it had.

So I called the bank – no answer.

In the end, I called the bank’s head office. It seems that only SOME of the money has arrived from Pionsat. The rest must be en route (and this of course will be the reason why my bank cards aren’t ready, won’t it?). So when they gave me the €100:00 yesterday, it overdrew the account.

Of course, no point in giving the girl on the end of the phone, as annoyed as I was. It’s not her fault. She’s just in a call centre. And anyway, she came up with an effective solution. But next time I go down to the bank, they will need to redecorate the place because the heat from my tongue will cause the paint to blister.

By now, it was almost lunchtime. I opened the fridge and was promptly drowned in the cascade of water. The thing seems to have stopped, and everything has defrosted (luckily my pie was covered over). GRRRRRRRR!

So I made my butties and went to sit on the wall. I wasn’t out there long either as the heat was far too intense so I came back here. And at 14:00 I was on the phone to the agents about the fridge. “I need to transfer you to someone else” said the girl – and promptly cut me off.

So much for that! My blood pressure went up another couple of notches.

Speaking to the people at the SNCF wasn’t much better either. This baggage service has been “revised” due to “current circumstances”. They will now only pick up and drop off your suitcase at a private address. And so it looks as if I shall have to haul my suitcase around with me all across Paris – something that I was dying to avoid.

And so I booked my train to and from Brussels to the airport for my flight to Montreal. And discovered that there seems to be no return train from Charles de Gaulle to Brussels – I have to go back into Paris. And the itinerary that they have given me (which Bane of Britain didn’t check until he received it) allows me just 7 (yes SEVEN) minutes to go from the RER terminal at Paris-Nord to the departure of my train to Brussels.

As if that is ever likely to be possible with the big suitcase that I have?

And when I went to pay, they declined my Belgian Bank Card (why would they do that?) and I had to use my UK one.

Tonight while I was making my tea, I noticed that the fridge had started up again. So what was happening there? I dunno.

At least my pie and mash were good. I shall have to do that again!

But I’ve not had a very good day today though.

Tuesday 20th June 2017 – I’M GLAD …

… that I bought that fan blower yesterday.

It went on at about 07:30 after breakfast and it’s still going around even now as we speak. And I’m not surprised as we’re having another scorching day.

It took ages to go to sleep in the heat last night, and I was flat out until the alarm went off. But I’d been on a few travels too, including one where I was back at the farm at Les Guis (although it wasn’t that particular building) with the rain pouring in through the roof every time that it rained.. I’d had to take a party of tourists around to show them the sights, but there aren’t any sights round there so it was something of a rather pointless ramble. We ended up eventually at the cross-roads on the hill where the road from Le Quartier to Ars-les-Favets crosses the road from Virlet to Montaigut-en-Combrailles, looking down on everywhere and not knowing where to go to next.

After breakfast I had a relax, and then hit the streets for town. In the heat.

marité goelette granville manche normandy franceFirst stop was to see that big sailing ship that we noticed in the harbour on our return from Leuven. She’s called the Marité and is a three-masted goelette built in the early 1920s. She actually took part in the Grand Banks fisheries off Newfoundland until 1929 and then around the various fishing areas of the North Atlantic until the 1960s when it took to general tramping.

Having already been saved a couple of times from scrapping, she was put up for sale in 1999 when she was bought for preservation. The restoration finished in 2009 and here we are.

it’s possible to go for a sail on her, and I shall be looking out for the trips.

But as an aside, she’s a ship of just over 200 tonnes, which you light think is pretty small for braving a North Atlantic winter. But that’s four times bigger than Columbus’s Santa Maria, and hos other two ships, the Nina and the Pinta, were smaller still.

At the bank, yes, my accounts are transferred over. And they gave me the cheque book. But where are the cards? “Ohh dear” blushed my conseilleuse and dashed off to do some hasty manipulations. “They’ll be here next week” she said two minutes later.

Forgotten to request them, have we?

I picked up some spuds and a baguette, and bumped into someone with whom I’d been having a good chat at the Marité.

Back here, I had Rosemary on the ‘phone. She’s had a bit of a disaster back home in the UK and I do feel sorry for her. WHat with her health and all of that, this is the last thing that she needs.

Lunch on the wall overlooking the harbour didn’t last too long. It was far too hot to stay out there very long. I came back here and … errr … went away with the fairies for all of three hours. Astonishing! I even ended up going on a skiing trip around the promontory here in the deep snow with Hannah and her friend.

And the pie?

Delicious. That worked well. And with a dollop of mash, peas, carrots and gravy it was even better.

I shall have to do this again.

Monday 19th June 2017 – PHWOARRR!!!

record temperature granville manche normandy franceWhat a scorcher!

Never mind the time (which is wrong of course) just look at the temperature at 14:30 this afternoon! It was bad enough outside, but look at what it was doing in Caliburn!

This morning was bad enough. 25°C outside and 23°C in here at 07:55 (that’s 06:55 for those of you living in The Land That Time Forgot) and it just got hotter and hotter. After breakfast, and going for my baguette it became far too hot to concentrate and I didn’t accomplish very much.

vegan lentil and tofu pie granville manche normandy franceBut you can see my vegan lentil and tofu pie though. It had cooled off (well, sort-of) during the night so I pulled it out of the oven. With some cling-film over the top, it’s now gone into the fridge as I made some space in there

It doesn’t look very successful, so I hope that it tastes better than it looks. With some mashed spuds, peas and carrots, it might be okay. You never know. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. But I have to learn sometime and the easiest way to learn is by experience.

sailing boats granville manche normandy franceDown on my wall at lunchtime, I was able to admire the marine traffic entering and leaving the port while I was there eating my butty and reading my book. This kind of thing caught my eye, because it looks as if it might have sailed right out of a late 19th-Century painting.

Sailing boats are classed according to their masts and rigging, so you have schooners, barques, barquentines, yawls, all of these kinds of things. And I have no idea of which is which and I can’t tell the difference anyway, but there you go.

But the heat was intense. I couldn’t stay out there for very long and so I was obliged to retreat. And this was when I saw the temperature.

As a consequence I braved the oppressive heat of Caliburn and went out of town as far as the LeClerc. I’d seen that they had fans on offer and at €19:99 I bought the biggest one that they had. That cooled me down somewhat and I feel much more like it. It still didn’t stop me having a little repose though.

So now the curry is finished, it’s pie for tea tomorrow. If I don’t blog tomorrow night, you’ll know that it didn’t do me any good.

Sunday 18th June 2017 – LIZ CAME ROUND …

… while I was busy chatting to Krys (with whom I haven’t spoken for quite a while) so sorry if cut you off, Krys.

With Sunday being a day of rest and a cause for a lie-in, I was determined not to leave my stinking pit when I awoke. But finding it impossible to stay in bed any longer, I arose to find that it was … errrr … 06:55. Quite.

So after an early breakfast and a bit of a relax, I headed off to the magasin de presse for my baguette – and he was closed.

But no worries – down the hill to the boulangerie opposite the casino – and closed for holidays.

I ended up in the early morning heat (and believe me, it was hot) tramping around the town until I found a boulangerie that was open. And I’m glad that I found that one because the bread proved to be delicious.

Back up the hill I staggered (I was exhausted and boiling hot by now) and came back to do the rest of the tidying up and have a nice good shower to see me right for the rest of the year. And a chat to Krys of course and another one of my friends – the one who has been described on these pages on various occasions as “The One That Got Away”.

Liz and I had a coffee and put the world to rights, and then made our butties (I’d bought two baguettes). Once that was organised we headed off into the sun and found a spot right down at the end of the promontory by the lighthouse where was had lunch. Liz produced some sliced pineapple for pudding.

Later on after a few hours in the sun we found a cafe on the roof of the aquatic museum near here – and there was a splendid view over the harbour from up there. And much to my delight a close inspection of Liz’s ice cream disclosed that it was in fact a vegan sorbet. Now I really am in my elephant!

Liz went off home and I came back here and … errr … closed my eyes for a little. Well, it really was hot.

Pizza tonight was delicious, but as for the pie that I baked, I don’t make mistakes, I just learn a lot of lessons, such as the fact that I have bought the wrong pastry for a start. The lentils were nice though – done all day in the slow cooker, but the mix was far too wet and there was far too much of it (a pile went in the freezer for another time).

After I’ve finished the curry tomorrow, I’ll start o the pie on Tuesday. If it ends up in the bin, don’t be surprised. You have to pay to learn.

And I’ve made it into November 2011 with my blog revision. By my calculations, only another 300 – 350 entries to go. But the further I go, the more difficult it becomes and there’s a pile of stuff that is going to need some complicated unravelling

Saturday 17th June 2017 – THIS VACUUM CLEANER …

… that I bought yesterday isn’t half the genoux de l’abeille as they might say around here.

It might be only small, and it might be only cheap but it has the kind of suction for which a Conservative MP would pay good money in a back street massage parlour in Soho.

Yes, I’ve been cleaning and tidying up – well, sort-of_ish anyway. Because I had a brainwave. Self-motivation is not my strongest point, as you all know, and seeing as how Liz is on her own right now, Terry having gone back to The Land That Time Forgot to sort out the health issues of his mother and his daughter, I’ve invited her round for lunch tomorrow.

That means that I shall have to have the place looking at least presentable by the time that she comes round, and that’s not a bad idea at all. And so I made a sort-of start.

If I do another hour or two tomorrow morning it won’t be too bad I suppose. But I do like this vacuum cleaner. In fact, you can say that I’m almost as impressed with it as I am with my galvanised steel dustbin.

The tidying up involved putting away a pile of papers too (and there’s still more to go) and also sorting out my Canadian travel bag. For those of you who are not regular readers of this rubbish, I have a small bag with all of my 120-volt equipment in it – such as an AA – AAA battery charger, a couple of leads for electrical appliances, and all of the ‘phone stuff.

And it’s a good job that I did too because the data/charging cable for the North American phone doesn’t work (I remember that I had this problem last year) and I broke the car charger. And so I am in difficulty here. I shall have to think of a cunning plan.

Another thing that Bane of Britain seems to have done is to mix up the clean clothes that he washed the other day with the dirty clothes that he’s been wearing ever since. And that’s fraught with danger, isn’t it?

We had another struggle to leave the stinking pit this morning, although I was early down at the magasin de presse for my baguette. And with the boss not being there, I ended up with a rather miserable baguette too.

Lunchtime saw me up on the cliff above the harbour with my butties and book. It was another beautiful afternoon. I was up there for quite a while too in the glorious weather, but was eventually burnt out of my position so I came back here instead.

Tea was more of the curry stuff, but I’ve also prepared a tofu marinade. Tofu is pretty tasteless so it needs to be soaked in stuff. Mine was cooked with garlic, onions, pepper and curry powder (I wish that I had remembered to buy some sage and rosemary) and it’ll sit in that until tomorrow evening. I’ll cook a handful of lentils in the slow cooker too tomorrow morning and that will be the filling for the pie that I’m going to make. I’ll be having the oven on for the pizza, and so I can bake the pie at the same time.

I hope that it will be nice.

Ohhh – and Rhys – talking of cunning plans, if you are on your trips around the Dollar Stores, keep your eyes open for a data cable and a car charger for a Samsung T746.

Friday 16th June 2017 – I’VE BEEN SPENDING …

… my money again.

As I might have hinted just now, this place is beginning to look as if someone has been living here for over 6 weeks and not bothered to clean it. I’ve a brush and a mop and bucket, that sort of thing, and that’s clearly inefficient, so seeing as how LeClerc had a cheap bagless vacuum cleaner on sale at just €29:00, that has now joined the assembled multitudes. And I’ll be using it tomorrow too if it all goes according to plan.

It’s Friday and Friday is of course shopping day. And it nearly wasn’t because we had one of those days where I struggled to leave the stinking pit that is my bed. David Bowie had to wake me up again, and it was something of a disorganised stagger to the bathroom.

But the mug of coffee soon brought me round and 10 minutes under a nice warm shower did the rest. I’ve shaved about a month’s growth of beard off too and now I look almost human.

I spent about 90 minutes in LeClerc this morning and actually found everything that I needed (including a vacuum cleaner). And to give you some idea of how the decadent life here in a seaside resort is transforming me into a member of the bourgeoisie, today’s shopping came to not €20:00 or €25:00 as it would in the Auvergne, but €46:71 (and that’s not including the vacuum cleaner either).

Mind you, those melons and those peaches really did look far too nice to leave on the shelves. And I’ve bought stuff to make a tofu and potato pie – to which I shall be setting my hand some time in midweek when the mushroom curry has expired.

Lunch was up on the cliffs overlooking the harbour in the sunshine, and I was there for a good couple of hours with my book. Fatigue drove me inside where, once again, I … errr … relaxed for a while.

But what have I been doing for the rest of the day?

I have in fact been making plans for a-voyaging. My next hospital appointment is sometime round about 14th August, and on the 15th I’m heading for Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. No prizes where I’m going, of course. And I’m not going on a bucket-shop airline either but on a flagship carrier – the Luftwaffe … errr … I mean Lufthansa. High time that I had a really decent and comfortable flight across the Atlantic and I’m not still fighting World War II like most Brits seem to be.

I will however see if we can make a diversion to do a bombing run over Drowning Street and Westminster.

What is sad is that there is no longer a direct flight from Brussels to Montreal (at least, ther emight be but when we started getting into the “well into four figures” prices I gave up looking). I could fly via, of all places, Nice, and I might have been tempted seeing as it was actually a cheap option, but it didn’t arrive in Nice until 22:35 and that’s precious little time to organise a hotel and the like

So tomorrow, there’s all the rest to do. Hotels, trains and buses, because I’m going to be there for 2 months. 2 months between each hospital visit and I intend to make the most of it.

Thursday 15th June 2017 – I BEAT …

… David Bowie into the bathroom by 35 seconds this morning (I know – I counted them) and so by the time he started to croon “Wake Up Little Sleepy Head” I was already riding the porcelain horse.

Breakfast saw me demolish the last of the muesli (I had some supplies and so I made some more) and by 07:35 I was sitting on the sofa with the laptop on my knee.

This morning I spent part of the time dealing with correspondence. It’s backing up rather, and I had a rude reminder from someone about a form that I needed to fill in relating to Caliburn’s accident. And so I did that, bunged it all in some of those prepaid envelopes (I bought a supply of those) and posted it all in the post box opposite the magasin de presse – the newspaper shop where I buy my baguette.

Lunchtime was spent sitting on the clifftop overlooking the harbour entrance. It was cooler today and slightly windier so I stayed out there with my book for quite a while. In fact, it was after 15:00 when I came back here. And seeing how nice and comfortable I had been, I … errrr … closed my eyes for a while – in fact a darn while longer than I expected.

Tea was a mega-curry night. Onions and garlic fried in a saucepan, with a tin of mixed vegetable, a tin of mushrooms, a pile of peanuts, s bucket-load of bulghour and a selection of spices. Add to that a gallon of gravy browning and we had a meal fit for a King. Four Kings in fact, because there’s enough for three more days so that’s sealed in the vacuum jars in the fridge.

And apart from that, what else have I been up to?

Well, you know this 3D animation program that I’m messing around with? It’s quite good but its models are not transferable over to other 3D sites (but then it’s free, and not a couple of thousand quid so that’s understandable) and models from other sites are not transferable to it. But there is a program for building models and props from design primitives, and the finished products may be exported into *.cr2 format.

This program is likewise free and I downloaded it years ago, but it was so complicated that I abandoned it after several weeks of going nowhere. Its controls do not correspond in any way whatever with normal mouse controls and keyboard short-cuts and has no logical sense whatsoever (for example – to “Ring” the edges of the polygons that make up the design primitives, its CNTRL + … errr … K. What’s the logic behind that?).

Anyway, during one of my lengthy searches on the internet, I came across a series of no less than 24 videos that give a basic introduction to the program. And as the narrator freely states “this is only a basic introduction – there’s much more that you can find out about it elsewhere”. Yes, 24 videos as a “basic introduction”!

And so I’ve been gallantly working my way through them all. 8 videos so far, and I’m still on “control manoeuvres” – we haven’t actually done anything yet.

I have a feeling that this is going to be yet another long hard slog.

Wednesday 14th June 2017 – AFTER THE EXERTIONS …

… of the last couple of days, it will come as no surprise to regular readers of this rubbish that, just like the mathematician named Hall, today I have done three-fifths of five-eights of … errr … nothing.

Mind you, apart from being worn out before I went to bed, what I got up to during the night tired me out even further. And I’m not talking about Percy Penguin, who as I have said before, didn’t appear in these pages half as much as she deserved to when her presence was relevant.

We were off on our travels during the night and we had a Spanish flavour to them. I was trying to negotiate something from someone in a Spanish scrapyard, or something to do with bits of Spanish vehicles. My Spanish was, as usual execrable and I was making extremely heavy weather of it all in fact, we really DID have an occasion like this in real life back in 1997.
From there I pressed on , in my electric vehicle that bore a strong resemblance to a Sinclair C5, except that it only went half as fast. Some young bond guy with an unkempt beard was at the side of the road and when he saw me coming he stuck out his thumb for a lift. But I was certain that he was walking faster than I was driving, so I told him that my 300-watt motor was struggling to pull me along, never mind anyone else as well.
I ended up at one of these “alternative lifestyle” meetings that I used to go to when I first arrived in the Auvergne (and stopped going to when I – very quickly – worked out that they were more capitalist than the capitalists) where I ended up giving away some of my possessions. Unfortunately the stuff that I wanted to keep was mixed up in there too and some African girl took my toaster, which would be no use to her at all as it had a British plug on it.

And this of course reminds me. Once a month or thereabouts in the Combrailles is a “free market” where people take stuff that they no longer need and give it away to others. And the story goes, so I have been told, that one woman always comes, always takes a few things, and always ends up selling them on the internet.

Yes, that lot of New Age people in the Combrailles were a HUGE disappointment, but that’s all behind me now.

This morning I couldn’t find my medication so I had to break open a new collection of stuff. I ended up convincing myself that I must have left it all behind in Leuven but then a few hours later I had a brainwave, and had a look in one of the inner pockets in my rucksack. And sure enough …

Lunch was up on the clifftop overlooking the harbour, sitting on the wall in the burning sun. And after about an hour or so, the heat drove me back inside. It’s quite exposed out there, but it really was nice.

Tea was something quick thrown together. A pile of pasta, a tin of peas and carrots and a tin of runner beans. When it was cooked, it was fried in olive oil and garlic with some herbs added for good measure, and a dollop of balsamic vinegar. And how delicious was that?

And that’s your lot. Nothing of excitement at all. And now I’m for bed.

Tomorrow is a new day and I’ll try my best to accomplish something.

Tuesday 13th June 2017 – SO HAVING SLEPT …

… the Sleep Of The Dead until all of about 05:00, I was quickly up and about and under the shower for a good soaking. And having finally attacked the half-baguette and the jam that I had bought the other day, I was ready for anything.

Yes, quite!

Packing was exciting. I’m sure that I’m taking back more than I went out with, not including the two pairs of trousers. And so ramming it into the rucksack and the shopping bag was … errr … exciting. I wish that I had brought a larger bag with me now.

I was out early to the station because there’s a supermarket at the back where I was going to buy some lunch stuff (no tomatoes unfortunately because Bane of Britain seems to have forgotten to bring the sharp knife that lives in his rucksack pocket) but the presence of an express direct to Brussels-Midi on the platform prompted me to change my mind, and I legged it up the stairs mucho-el-rapido.

Early in Brussels, I went to see if I could change my TGV ticket for one on the earlier train. For some reason, the SNCF on-line booking doesn’t recognise the 10:13 TGV and instead books me on the 11:13. That just gives me an hour or so to perform the Traversée de Paris and that’s pretty tight, especially when I don’t have Bourvil to carry my suitcases for me.

Luckily there was a place on the earlier train. One day there won’t be, and that will be the day that there will be perturbations on the Metro or the TGV will run late.

There was still a few minutes to spare so I popped to the Carrefour on the station and bought a baguette, a couple of pears and a bottle of water. It’s going to be a long, hot day.

TGV Brussels mdid paris gare du nord franceThe train pulled in a couple of minutes early and much to my surprise the door to my carriage was exactly where I was standing, so I was second on board.

And heaving – there wasn’t room to swing a cat, and the poor moggy that was in the carry-basket of the person in front of me had to stay cooped up.

We did have a moment of excitement though, when my baguette slid off the overhead rail and almost fell down the cleavage of the woman in front. She stuck it back on the rack, and bent it too for good measure.

But what’s all this about cleavages just now?

It didn’t take long to cross Paris on the metro, which it never does when you allow plenty of time, and it gave me a good opportunity to go for a little exploration.

There’s a bus from Paris-Montparnasse directly to Charles de Gaulle airport, so I tracked that down and made “certain enquiries”, and the SNCF also has a suitcase collection and delivery service, and that can be extremely advantageous as my health declines. I made “certain enquiries” about that, too.

BB class 15000 507235 SNCF gare paris montparnasse vaugirard franceMy luck was in over at our side of the railway station. Here parked up at of the terminus platforms was a nez cassé, or “broken nose”.

These are the typical French SNCF electric locomotives built in the 1970s as part of the modernisation plans of the SNCF. They took the French railways to a new level, tanking along at a good 100 miles per hour without even drawing breath and despite being supplanted by the TGVs and being over 40 years old, most of them are still in service.

But it’s rare to find them over here. Their usual stamping ground is in the North-East of the country. That’s why I was so surprised to see one.

multiple unit paris montparnasse vaugirard railway station granville manche normandy franceNothing over 40 years old about our conveyance to Granville though. Not even 40 months old, these things.

It was totally heaving too, at least as far as Avranches, and for some reason I couldn’t make myself comfortable which is a change. And I was drifting in and out of sleep all the way up here. I’m not as young as I was. I didn’t do any work of any description, which is not like me as you all know.

But I was glad for the bottle of water because it really was a hot afternoon in the crowded train.

Bang on time we arrived, and so nice was the afternoon that instead of waiting for the bus, I set off to walk home.

sailing ship schooner in harbour granville manche normandy franceClimbing the hill out of town was a struggle so I stopped for five minutes or so to admire the view. And this gorgeous sailing boat is in here today.

No idea of her name, but she seems to be registered in Granville so I shall have to make some further enquiries. But what wouldn’t I give for a lap around the bay in her?

And this reminds me of the story of the sea captain who bought the land at the bottom of a shallow bay in order to create a colony. But while only a mere handful of people expressed an interest, no-one would board his ship.

They all thought that his barque was worse than his bight.

Back here, I crashed out for a while and then made a quick tea out of tins. I wasn’t going to hang about because I really was tired. It took a lot out of me, these three days.

But at least on the train I can do it in three days. Not a chance of that if I were to drive. And it cost me just €195 for the trip. Diesel would have cost me €160, and then we have the autoroute tolls, a hotel each way at the mid-point and all of the stress.

No, going on the train is the way to go without a doubt.

Monday 12th June 2017 – BACK …

… in 8 weeks.

It seems that my blood count has gone down from 9.8 to 9.5. It’s not down enough to bother them that much and they don’t intend to do anything about it, so having arrived at 10:30 I was out of the door and down the road by 12:30.

Down the road as far as the café anyway, where I watched the woman sitting opposite me drop half the contents of her butty down her more-than-ample cleavage. And gentleman that I am, I would ordinarily have offered to help her remove it, and indeed so would I, had she been 19 instead of 90. At that age, people would have worked out how to do it for themselves.

Sleeping here wasn’t too bad, and I was awake fairly early. After my tea last night I didn’t feel much like breakfast and even held out over a coffee until the hospital. It’s a brief walk from here to the bus stop and the buses are every 12 minutes so I didn’t have to wait long.

Leaving the hospital, I had to try several different chemists until I could assemble all of the pills that I needed, and then went off for some vegan cheese and a couple of pairs of the trousers that I like to wear. Still on special offer too!

And that coconut sorbet that I tried? Delicious!

Back here I crashed out for an hour or so and then headed off to meet Alison. The vegan restaurant had a special offer meal available so I treated her to it ad then we went for a coffee and to put the world to rights.

So it’s early to bed as I need to be on my best form for tomorrow. It’s a long way back home again.

leuven belgium june juillet 2017But before I drop off into the arms of Morpheus, I’ll leave you with a little photo.

As you know, we’ve been running a little feature entitled ‘Only in Belgium”. And here’s the latest photo for our collection – I’ve forgotten what number it might be.

But I’m sure that you don’t need a translation to be able to work it out. It is pretty self-explanatory. And to be fair, I have seen similar in other parts of the world too.

Sunday 11th June 2017 – THERE’S SOMETHING TO BE SAID …

… for this internal alarm clock thing that we are supposed to have. Here I was, due to get out of bed at 07:00 (and on a Sunday too!) and to be on the safe side I’d even set two alarms, and yet there I was, sitting bolt-upright in bed at 06:00 precisely.

Of course, that didn’t last too long and I was soon back under the covers until firstly David Bowie and secondly Billy Cotton did the business.

30 seconds under the shower was more-than-enough and then we had this urine performance thingy. And that’s a real performance when I can’t make the machine work. In the end, I had to empty away a half-bottle of tomato sauce and use that … "the bottle, not the sauce" – ed. That is really taking the p155.

I’d allowed myself an hour to walk to the station and so 20 minutes later, in the bright early morning sunshine, there I was. I’d even had time to stop to buy a baguette to eat with my couscous for lunch. I’m nothing if not prepared (although I do realise that I have forgotten my sponge bag, and I’ll probably realise that there are a few other things that I have forgotten by the time that we arrive in Leuven).

multiple unit SNCF gare de granville manche normandy franceMY ticket from Granville to Paris for a journey of over three-hours costs me just €20:00 (eat your heart out, you Brits!) and this is the train that I take.

Probably not a year old, they are magnificent and I really enjoy the journey. But typing of a train as it’s clattering over the joints in the track is bollyd dficicltue, I’ll tell you.

Pulled into Paris bang on time (eat your heart … ditto) and the direct Metro to the Gare du Nord was open this time. Mind you, it was a hell of a hike to Line 4 and I don’t fancy that in August with Strawberry Moose in his suitcase.

And it was heaving too – and on a Sunday. Like sardines we were. But 40 minutes saw us at the Gare du Nord. I went outside to eat my baguette and couscous. And it was steaming out there too. It’s a long time since I’ve felt it so warm.

And while I was out there I was harassed by a couple of beggars and amused myself watching a pirate taxi driver try his best to tempt gullible tourists into his car. But I was impressed that the savoir-faire of tourists in the town has improved somewhat.

The TGV was packed to the gunwhales and it was stinking hot in there too despite the air-conditioning. You can’t really open the windows at 220 mph I suppose. And we arrived at Brussels-Midi just in time for me to leg it onto the 15:55 to Eupen, with the guard very kindly holding the door open for me.

I’m now installed in my cosy little room with very thin walls and a loud television next door. And Bane of Britain has done it again – forgetting that it’s Sunday and so he can’t go shopping and now he has no coffee, no water, no nothing.

But after a brief repose (because it’s 32°C here believe it or not) I went for a walk and found a shop open and that helped.

The walk did even more to wear me out and when I arrived back I crashed out definitively until … errrr … 20:40 too. And I have so much to do.

But I did manage to find food and so that’s not too bad, and now I’m going to crash out again.

But this thing about three hours or so to Paris on the SNCF does remind me of the story about the Texan in Ireland, looking at the small size of the fields.
“Do you know” he exclaimed. “I can get into my car and it would take me three days to drive across my field back in Texas”
“I know just what you mean” said an Irishman
“Do you really????” asked the Texan incredulously
“Ohh yes” replied the Irishman. “I used to have a car like that myself”.

Saturday 10th June 2017 – AND IF YOU THOUGHT …

… that yesterday was hot, then you should have been here today.

I slept right through to the alarm, and it was a struggle to leave my stinking pit, that’s for sure. And after breakfast, it was already so hot that I had all of the windows wide open in here. And I noticed that everyone else’s were opened too.

Fun times going down for the baguette. I met one of my neighbours coming back from town with a wheeled shopping basket thingy.
“You’re up early” I said.
“Been to the market” she replied. “Like to get it done early”.

In the newsagents “I’m not open until 09:00 tomorrow” he told me.
“That’s a shame” I replied. “I’ll be halfway to Paris by then”. Well, I won’t. Probably no more than about 4 or 5 miles or so down the line, but I won’t let a bit of poetic licence bother me.

On the way back, I noticed that the doors to the church were grand ouvert too. And just as I passed, the church organist struck up a couple of chords on the organ. It was just like something out of a Hammer Horror film – which is quite a good description from my neighbours’ point of view now that I’m living here.

It was round about here that I met my neighbour again, heading in the opposite direction. “I forgot my money” she explained. “I’ll have to go back and pay them as they all know me in town”.

Liz was next. “We’re going to Coutainville-Plage after lunch” she said. “Would you like to join us?”

So I made my butties, hit the streets, went round to the railway station to pick up my tickets for tomorrow (I’ve been caught out before by a non-working ticket machine) and went to the beach.

I found a secluded spot amongst the crowds, ate my butties in the glorious sunshine spread out on the sand on my blanket. I had a book with me too. It’s the story of the German U-boat offensive at the height of World War II – one month where the balance dramatically shifted to the Allies. It’s called Black May and, in the light of recent events, I would love to see a title more apposite than that.

Liz and Terry came along and we all relaxed in the sun watching two girls aged about 3 and 5 having loads of fun. Terry and Liz even went for a paddle.

windsurfing beach coudeville sur mer manche normandy franceI continued to read my book and to watch the people on the beach, including this guy struggling down to the water’s edge with what looked like a huge wing – presumably attempting to take off for the Iles de Chausey, or that’s what it looked like.

But in fact he was nothing more than one of these wind surfers, and he spent the next couple of hours, once he finally managed to launch his surf board, parading about just offshore.

We had a drink and then I came back here to finish off the rest of the pear sorbet. I have raspberry sorbet for when I come back.

Tea was out of a tin and now I’m relaxing ready for my trip tomorrow.

Leuven again. A nice change, isn’t it?