Friday 1st July 2022 – WHATEVER HAPPENED …

… to the Vanilla Queen?

She was the “fascinating lady” whom I met on MY TRIP AROUND THE HIGH ARCTIC IN 2018 and who came to “haunt me, even in my dreams” for a while thereafter.

While I was driving around this afternoon THE SONG FROM WHICH SHE TAKES HER NAME came round on the playlist and that got me thinking that I’ve not had the pleasure of her company for a quite a while.

She certainly blew down my fences, and I wasn’t the same for quite a while – until the following year when it all kicked off again when I had that rather bizarre encounter with Castor. I don’t know what it is about the High Arctic.

While we’re on the subject of being haunted in our dreams … “well, one of us is” – ed … I had another weird encounter today. I was crashed out for an hour or so this morning in a layby and while I was asleep I saw someone walk past me – someone in his 40s with dark thinning hair, a thin face with a prominent pointed nose and a red, pink and white patterned shirt.

It wasn’t as dramatic as seeing Zero a few weeks ago but it was pretty close.

This morning there was tons more stuff on the dictaphone that I’ll have to transcribe later.

And after a shower I went for breakfast that was included in the price. All in all it was excellent value, the hotel, and I’ll stop there again.

As well as that I almost managed to drive away without paying. I’m never sure whether this booking agency makes me pay in advance or not. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I was just on the point of driving off when the receptionist came running after me.

It was raining quite heavily this morning and cool too so it was a pleasure to drive. But I couldn’t keep going for long. I found a lay-by down a lonely road and crashed out for a while when I had my strange encounter.

The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful. Nothing much happened and I even crossed the Rhine without really realising it.

There was however a bad attack of the Jimmy Ruffins as I entered Stuttgart. ‘I’ve passed this way before” I sang to myself. Even the traffic jams, and there were plenty of those between Stuttgart and Pforzheim, looked strangely familiar.

And the diversions too. In fact there were plenty of those all over Germany. Getting in my way wherever I try to travel. But at least the weather improved later on in the day as I went further north.

Right now I’m at a hotel in Pirmasens a couple of hours from Luxembourg. The hotel is like some kind of Gothic horror out of the 1960sbut then again so are the prices. I’ve never stayed in a hotel as cheap as this anywhere in Europe apart from a unit hotel at a French motorway exit.

So tomorrow I have a choice of several directions to take. It all depends how I’m feeling and how is about, I suppose. We shall see.

Thursday 30th June 2022 – MEANWHILE, IN THE …

… Hotel Adler in Eichstätt in Bavaria –
Receptionist – “I’m afraid that it’s a rather small room”
Our Hero – “No problem. I’m a rather small person”.

We also have a very happy small person in the Auvergne too today. The Amazon fairy has been past and she is now in possession of a little 3/4-size guitar with love from me and another large book on animals (in French) with love from STRAWBERRY MOOSE.

Every child deserves the right to be happy and have nice things and I hope that she enjoys them.

Last night was a slightly better night but even so there are still tons of stuff on the dictaphone that need transcribing when I find a place where I can settle down be comfortable. But that looks as if it’s going to be back at home.

What has happened is that I’ve made an executive decision – and for the benefit of new readers, regular readers of this rubbish will recall that an executive decision is one where, if it goes wrong, the person who made it is executed – that I’m not going to Austria, or Italy, or Croatia. I’m going home.

But this morning after I had a shower I went round to Hans and Ulli’s for breakfast and a nice long chat. And then we had some errands to run around the shopping centre at the back of Eching.

Back in the apartment, after an unsuccessful trip around, we carried on chatting until it was time for Hans to prepare to go to work, so in the best traditions of the “News of the Screws”, I “made my excuses and left”.

Having fuelled up Caliburn I headed northwards towards Landshut; a medieval town with the tallest tower in Germany. The idea was to stop there and go for a walk around but the place was heaving with people, it was 34°C and there was nowhere handy to park.

Instead, I just stuck Caliburn anywhere, took a couple of photos and drove away.

Next stop was the medieval town of Regensburg where I had the same issues so I adopted the same solution.

We had some excitement there with a fire engine trying to beat the red light but having already been stuck at the lights for longer than I cared to be I cut him off and left him stranded across the traffic.

And serve him right.

It was a pleasant drive through rural Germany to the town of Eichstâtt where I arrived right in the middle of a street festival that was taking place right outside the hotel.

Despite the comments of the receptionist, I’ve stayed in many worse places than this. I’ve had a shower and washed some clothes, and then went for a walk around where I stumbled across a live group playing at a bar.

Back at Caliburn I made some butties for tea and then came back up here to write up my notes.

Tomorrow I’ll be pushing on northwards towards Karlsruhe and Metz, and see where I end up from there. Give me another week and I’ll be back home, and I can’t say that I’m sorry.

Wednesday 29th June 2022 – HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE …

… to repair a puncture and to put two flatpacks onto an IKEA trolley?

Hans and I set off on our travels to have these errand done at 10:00 and we returned home at … errr … 15:00.

This is of course Germany, the home of efficiency where everything runs like clockwork. God only knows what would have happened had we been in Belgium.

There wasn’t even a puncture to repair either, apparently. Just to replace a leaky valve and that was that.

Yesterday I remember saying that a good sleep would do me good, but I wonder whether I would have one.

The answer was that I didn’t. I was in bed early and fell asleep quite quickly. But I awoke at 01:20 and then couldn’t go back to sleep for an absolute age, tossing and turning around in my bed.

But I did eventually go back to sleep and there was tons of stuff on the dictaphone. But you’ll have to wait until I have a few quiet days on my own when I can transcribe everything before I can tell you all about it.

When the alarm went off though I was already awake. I had a good shower and then Hans and Ulli met me. We went off for Hans’ birthday breakfast at a local hostelry, which was really nice and was the first place that I have encountered for an age where vegan milk substitute was on offer.

Then we went off to have the tyre repaired, waiting around for an age while they messed about with this and that. But eventually they finished it and it’s now back on Caliburn. At least I don’t have to scratch around underneath him like I did in Switzerland on Sunday.

Newt stop was IKEA. I have this oven that I picked up in Macon so I wanted a unit to fit it. And the price that they worked out was so good that in the end I decided to buy two of them.

We paid for them at the cash desk and then had to go round to the pick-up point, and that was where we had to wait for ages while they went off to find them. I can’t believe how long it took them.

Back in Hans’ apartment I had a little … errr … relax for a while and then we went down to the beer garden. Our little concert was called off as the guitarist who was due to play with us is ill. And that was rather a disappointment as far as I was concerned. I had been looking forward to it for several months.

Instead we had a nice meal, some cake and a really good what with a group of his friends.

Now I’m back in my room writing my notes and then I’m off to bed. We’re going off for breakfast again tomorrow and then I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do next. I only have the vaguest of plans for the next stage of my journey, and plenty of time to do them

Tuesday 28th June 2022 – THIS THREE HOURS …

… that they recommend you set aside to visit Dachau Concentration Camp – I was there for a couple of hours yesterday and back there by 10:00 this morning. And when I left at 14:00 there was still plenty that I hadn’t seen.

But it was just so depressing reading about everything that had happened there. It’s very hard to believe how inhuman man can be to his fellow men. And how things like that can be allowed to happen today.

Surprisingly, there was no oppressive atmosphere that I felt when I was at Mathausen 35 years ago. There, you could really feel the evil in the air, but there was nothing like that at Dachau.

Last night was another depressing, dynamic night with plenty of movement as struggled to go to sleep with this thunderstorm raging all around me and a torrential downpour going on.

Tons of stuff on the dictaphone too and when I have some time to myself I’ll transcribe it all and add it to the notes.

After a shower and breakfast I slung my hook and we headed off for Dachau where I wandered around the camp and the crematorium for several hours.

Hans sent me a message to say that he was on his way home so I wandered off that way and at his apartment I had a nice strong coffee and a good chat with him and Ulli.

There’s a festival, the Torchwood Festival, going on in Munich. It’s a music festival and craft fair with all kinds of street food so we headed that way on the train, taking advantage of the €9:00 monthly public transport ticket.

We were caught in a rainstorm but nevertheless we had a nice vegan Indian meal, a few drinks, listened to a few musicians and met some of Hans’ friends.

Later on we caught the bus and the metro into the city centre and wandered around aimlessly in the rain for an hour or so. Mid you, I managed to find a pharmacy that was open so I could stock up with magnesium tablets and Aloe Vera cream.

116% of my daily activity in my condition finished me off. I almost fell asleep on the train on the way back. Now that I’ve finished my notes I’m off to bed and I’m not sorry. We’re going out for breakfast tomorrow so a good sleep will do me good.

But will I get it?

Monday 27th June 2022 – I’M SITTING …

… not on top of the World but in the attic of a guest house in Allershausen in Bavaria after a very busy day today.

For a change I had quite a good sleep and didn’t go too far on my travels. Once more I was awake long before the alarm went off and I was soon in the shower once the alarm went off.

While I was checking my mails and messages I was disturbed by the cleaner who was clearly trying to make me leave my room so I took the hint, packed and cleared off.

It was a beautiful morning so I went for a walk for an hour or so around Memminghem. That’s a really nice town but the odour that was coming off the canal put me off my stride for a moment or two.

On the way eastwards I came across a military cemetery. But it wasn’t what you might think. It had graves of French prisoners from 1870-1871, many nationalities including British from 1914-18 and then just about every nationality from 1939-45, including a couple of Romanian soldiers and several enormous mass graves of hundreds if not thousands of Russian prisoners.

That leads me to think that there must have been a Prisoner-of-War camp here.

There were also several hundred graves of German soldiers, so was there a hospital too? Or were they also prisoners?

When I return home I’ll have my work cut out to track it all down.

Rather later than usual I stopped off for lunch and I also fell asleep for half an hour. The heat was totally unbearable and there was no shade at all anywhere.

But once I was back on the road I went to Dachau.

When I’ve visited Hans in the past I’ve seen the signs for Dachau so I’ve come here a day early with the aim of coming to see the camp. They say “allow three hours for a visit” but at closing time I was still in the exhibition centre and hadn’t had tile to wander around the grounds.

However I’m not meeting Hans until tomorrow afternoon so I’ll go again tomorrow morning to carry on where I left off.

On the internet I found a place to stay. It’s all quite expensive here because I don’t want a dormitory or shared facilities ad I don’t want to be at the airport.

First thing that I did when I arrived was to have a shower and wash my clothes. I was hot and smelly. And then I crashed out again for 15 minutes.

For tea I nibbled on something and then went for a walk. I found a couple of young girls lounging around in one of these rocking seats so as I went past I gave it a good rock

It was a good idea to go for a walk when I did because the heavens have opened and we ae having a storm. Thunder, lightning and rain and probably plagues of locusts too. I’m not sure how I’m going to sleep with all this racket but I’ll try to do my bed.

Sunday 26th June 2022 – I DIDN’T ENJOY …

… seeing that this morning.

Putting all of the stuff into Caliburn his morning I noticed that I had a flat tyre on the driver’s side front. One of my brand new ones too.

Luckily I still had the two winter tyres and wheels in Caliburn that I’d picked up last time I was in the Auvergne and there was still a legal amount of tread on them.

But having a wheen was one thing – changing it was something else. Luckily I still had my mega power-bar and 21mm heavy duty socket in Caliburn and of course there was the trolley jack but what defeated me was trying to get up after I’d lain down to put the trolley jack under Caliburn’s front wishbone.

That was what I call a struggle.

Eventually though I’d changed the wheel and I was ready to go.

In fact had it not been for the puncture I’d have been ready to go much earlier because I was actually up and about long before the alarm went off. And on a Sunday too! How about that?

After a shower I had breakfast and then packed and prepared to go, tyre and all.

After 20 minutes and again 20 minutes after that I had to stop and check the wheel nuts to make sure they were tight. And than I could carry on in safety.

The Lady Who Lives In The SatNav and I had several disputes about our route. She’s set to avoid toll roads but for some reason she doesn’t recognise Swiss motorways as toll roads.

THey are, in the sense that you have to pay a toll to buy a sticker to travel on them and Caliburn and I are already on record as toll evaders so I didn’t want to be caught again. In the end I had to disable the motorway option. Which I did, and which I forgot to reconnect when we crossed into Germany.

WHile I was stopped for lunch I had a little … errr … relax for half an hour in the heat and then I carried on. June, her husband and Catherine were at a swimming lake outside the town where they lived so I headed that way and we had a chat and a coffee.

Back in town I found a place to stay and then we all wandered off for a meal and a good chat. That was nice too.

So now its time for my beauty sleep. And I need it too. In fact it will take more than 8 hours of sleep to make me look beautiful

Saturday 25th June 2022 – I’M GOING INTO …

… the innkeeping business.

When I finally get round to editing the photos and posting them on line you’ll see that this afternoon I came across a tavern called L’Auberge du Grand Git. With a name like that I just HAVE to buy it, don’t I?

But anyway, be that as it may, this morning I was up early yet again and had a nice shower. After we’d had a leisurely breakfast Jacqueline went for a walk into the village and Jean-Marc and I went to see his mother.

On the way we stopped off so that I could buy some flowers for her.

She’s 91 but still quite active and energetic and I enjoy talking to her. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours reliving the time back in 1970 when I stayed with her and her husband, Jean-Marc and his sister for several weeks.

Back at Jean-Marc’s we had lunch of the vegan pie that Jacqueline had made, and then while I made some space in Caliburn, Jacqueline cleaned the oven and we loaded it into the van. So now I have a proper oven at last. I just need a unit in which to install it.

In temperature of 33°C I hit the road and melted on my way eastwards through the Jura mountains and into Switzerland near Neufchatel. The Lady Who Lives In The SatNav picked a new route for me today, one that I haven’t used before.

After I’d passed Neuchatel I began to look for a hotel and found one in the small village of Dombrosson. And it took some finding too because the road on which it’s situated is quite a long one that passes through several villages all of which share the same postcode.

Although it’s expensive, it’s the cheapest that I could find. I keep forgetting how expensive Switzerland is. And breakfast is included in the price so it’s not quite so bad. I’ll have my money’s worth there.

But right now I’m off to bed. I had a bad night and I’m surprised that I kept going all day without crashing out. Tons of stuff on the dictaphone too but I’ll worry about that another time. I just want to go to bed.

Friday 24th June 2022 – CALIBURN, STRAWBERRY MOOSE AND I …

… travel miles on our trips out.

When I can find a moment I’ll post the photos of today on line and you’ll be able to see that at one point we were driving over the Col de Sibérie, the Siberian Pass”.

Yes, we don’t ‘arf get about a bit.

We got about quite a bit during the night too and when I have a moment I’ll transcribe the dictaphone notes – all … gulp … eight different files of them. It’s no surprise that I was totally wasted this morning.

A tea in bed again did a little to revive me and a shower also helped but I wasn’t really in any mood to say goodbye. But say goodbye I did to Rosemary and Mr and Mrs Ukrainian. Miss Ukrainian was still asleep so I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to her and to my surprise I found that I was quite disappointed by that.

The drive through the Auvergnat and the Burgundian countryside was interesting. Once I arrived in Vichy the Lady Who Lives In The SatNav brought me a different way that didn’t include the expressway. We spent our time driving over the hills of Burgundy and through a variety of mountain passes.

On the way over I stopped a couple of times for shopping and for lunch and I would even have had a little siesta but somehow a fly was trapped inside Caliburn and made such a racket when it wasn’t trying to land on me, and irritated me when it did so I gave it up as a bad job.

It was about 15:30 when I arrived at Jean-Marc’s. I stayed with his family on a school exchange when I was 16 and we found each other via the internet subsequently. We’ve seen each other a few times and so we had a good chat about our latest news and about old times too.

Later on I invited him and his wife out for a meal in exchange for a bed for the night. The meal was certainly different and the staff was excellent. I’ve been here before and I’ll go back again.

Back here, I bought an oven. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that my table-top oven is not very reliable and nothing in it cooks as it did. One of Jacqueline’s daughters bought an oven, a fitted oven, but it’s far too big for her small studio so she was selling it at a more-than-reasonable price. The kind of price where if it won’t work than I won’t lose very much.

By pure coincidence my friend Hans lives about half a mile from one of the largest IKEAs in Europe so if I make it as far as his place I’ll go and buy a kitchen unit into which I can fit it.

But that’s not for now. Right now I’m off to bed. I’m going round to see Jean-Marc’s mum tomorrow morning. She’s a lovely lady and I like her very much

Thursday 23rd June 2022 – THAT WAS A …

… nice evening tonight.

Rosemary and I along with Rosemary’s Ukrainian refugee family drove all the way out to the camp site at Les Ancizes where we met Ingrid and Clotilde. We had a good evening meal and a good chat and the owner of the establishment even treated the Ukrainians to a round of drinks.

Miss Ukraine didn’t finish her burger so I teased her by saying that she wasn’t going home until she finished it but she put on such a sad face that not only did I relent, I let her have an ice-cream too. After all, every kid has the right to an ice-cream.

And there were no issues about being full up when the ice-cream arrived. She scraped the glass so hard to collect the last bits that Rosemary and I were convinced that if she carried on she would be through the glass and out the other side.

Mind you we were lucky that we could go. At 15:00 there was such a torrential rainstorm that I thought that the end of the world had come and the gale that accompanied it brought down a thick tree trunk in next door’s garden.

And it was another night full of celestial artillery too. Even though I went to bed early I was awoken at 0:40 by a clap of thunder that would have awoken the dead. And I was still awake a few hours later when the binmen came round.

After tea in bed I had a shower and then did some clothes washing. And while Rosemary ran Mr Ukraine into town to buy some stuff I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. Something had happened to a young person. All of his stuff had been damaged and waterlogged etc. In the end it had come to me so I’d sorted it out, dried it out, had it cleaned and everything. I rang up his parents about it. They were extremely unhappy to the point of violence about someone having been through all their son’s affairs. I thought that this would have been what someone would have wanted someone else to do instead of being given a huge mass of soggy wet and miserable paper and clothing etc but these people were really on the point of violence about all of this. I really couldn’t understand what was going through their heads.

Later on I’d written a letter and gone to have it printed but the printer had been going offset on my printer and it did it again so I had to go to find a public printer. I’d been working in the middle of the street in Crewe so I had to leave my things there and hope that no-one would pinch them while I went off to find a printer. Just as I was leaving there were these people in what looked like a Bond Bug but an enormous vehicle. There were probably 12 people, piles of kids as well as adults in this. They pulled out of a parking place, did a U-turn and hit my bag and drove off. I thought that the police would be interested in this. As I arrived at where I thought that I knew where there was a printer there were loads of these elderly motorcycles from 100 years ago and a few orchestras playing a song that I can’t remember now what it was. It looked like some rally of vintage motorbikes. I was really depressed that I hadn’t brought my camera with me for once. I arrived at this place and first of all I had to weigh my package but weighing t on this set of scales by this printer was so complicated and there were so many formulas even depending on the age of the person you were sending the parcel to, I was just hopelessly confused and couldn’t work out exactly what I was supposed to do and how much I was supposed to pay for posting it off. .

When they came back we were invited for coffee with the Ukrainians and then after lunch we had a major rainstorm and also a visitor.

That took us up to time to go for our meal. We crowded into Rosemary’s car and set off, going the pretty way past Chateau Rocher and Chateaneuf les Bains.

It was good to meet up with everyone again and chat and we all had a good time. I was definitely sorry when they all decided that it was time to go home.

Stopping in St Gervais to put fuel in Rosemary’s car we then came back the quick way vial Teilhet and Menat. After all, it was too dark to see anything

And so I’m off to bed. Having done my washing this morning I’m ready to hit the road again. I have to push onwards if I’m ever to get anywhere. I can’t hang around here for ever.

Wednesday 22nd June 2022 – WELCOME HOME

This morning I went round to my house in Virlet. And I’m not going to say too much about it because it was so depressing.

When I have the time and the energy I’ll post a photo and you’ll be able to see what I mean. But basically there was no way of getting even close to the house because of all the weeds and brambles.

The last time that I was there two years ago I was able to fight my way into the place with the aid of a heavy-duty brushcutter but I’m in no fit condition to even attempt that these days.

And in any case I don’t have a brush-cutter. So that ruled that out. But it was such a disappointment.

And for a change, until I saw my house I was feeling fighting-fit. I’d eventually gone off to sleep despite all of the celestial artillery and wasn’t that a real racket? It was the loudest storm that I’ve lived through for quite a while.

As far as I knew I slept right the way through until about 06:45 and stayed in bed until 07:30. The morning cup of tea was rather later than usual.

After breakfast we set off. The house of a friend of Rosemary had been badly bashed about in a hailstorm and some temporary repairs had been effected. The insurance company needed to know that it was properly tarpaulined and as the owner is away right now, Rosemary was charged with the task of going and taking some photos.

It was after that that we went to inspect my pile.

Back here we had a coffee and I had another session with Miss Ukraine and her animal encyclopedia. Considering that she doesn’t speak English or French and I don’t speak Ukrainian (just a dozen or so words of Russian) we had an extremely dynamic chat that went on for ages and she guessed my favourite animal – turning straight away to the page with Polar Bears on it.

Yes, I seem to be flavour of the month right now and I’m not sure why. Rosemary seems to think that I’m the only person who ever listens to kids properly when they talk and that’s the nicest compliment someone has paid me for quite a while.

As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … I think that kids get a pretty raw deal out of life. No-one ever seems to take any time with them or have any interest in them and what they have to say.

After lunch Rosemary had to go for a doctor’s appointment so I stayed behind and listened to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. We were camping, my brother and I. There was a river that was full of rocks. I made a kind of improvised ram out of an old railway carriage bogie and dropped it in the water on top of these rocks with the aim that the water would carry it down, clear some of these rocks and make the water run quicker. It jammed up under a bridge so I had to get there and free it off. That took quite a while. I set it off again and it hadn’t gone more than 20 yards when it became stuck in the bank of the river. This caused a big rock fall into the river and blocked the river. I thought that what I’d been doing so far hadn’t been a very great success. I had to make tea and we were camping. We had a couple of tents and there was a caravan oven there. There was a shop-bought pizza and I had to make another one. The first thing that I nearly did was to fall into the river. My brother came to see what was going on and gave me a few lectures about everything. Then I started to unwrap the shop-bought pizza ready to put in the oven. That could be cooking while I was making mine. But I didn’t have any ingredients to hand so I was debating with myself how I was going to make this pizza when I hadn’t any ingredients and no facilities like a table or anything to make the pizza on.

And later we’d been in a kind of museum or exhibition or something like that and were on our way out. I’d gone and picked up 2 packets of crisps but I couldn’t work out where to pay for them. I was halfway through walking out of the building before I realised that this wasn’t right so I went to put back these 2 packets of crisps and walked out down these steps. There were hundreds of coaches in this car park and thousands of people milling around. Eventually I worked my way round to where I thought our coach was parked but there was a coach there and they were shepherding a load of prisoners of war off it and marching them off. We were told to wait so we waited for a while but no-one came so in the end we set off towards our coach. This guy with a wooden leg came back and asked what we were doing. We replied that we were going to the coach. He told us we should have waited but we answered that we’d waited for long enough. He made us all sit down in the middle of the street and he asked “where’s this opium?”. We asked “what opium?” and he started playing silly games with us. He said that he was going to make us march all the way back again which we refused to do. We were sitting there in the middle of the road and he was becoming quite aggressive but we were having none of it. There was a party of girls sitting close by. One of them was one with whom I’d wandered around this museum. She shouted over to me that she had taken £1100 out of her bank account, given £310 to someone for something but couldn’t remember what this other £800 was for. Did I know? Could I remember? I remembered vaguely something but this wasn’t the time or place to mention it so I told her that I’d see her later. She replied “if there is a later” because this situation was slowly starting to escalate.

This afternoon I’ve had to help Mr Ukrainian dismantle the interior of his car. I the storm last night he had about 3 inches of water in it. We ended up taking out all of the seats and carpets and putting them somewhere to dry, and then using cloths to take out the water

Tea tonight was the leftover vegetable curry from last night and it was just as nice as yesterday.

So that was that. Rosemary and I were on our own for the evening so we didn’t stay out long. Right now I’m finishing my notes and then I’m off to bed. An early night and more pleasant dreams, I hope.

But who was the girl who I’d been with at that museum? I wish I knew. And I’m sure that you do too.

Tuesday 21st June 2022 – THERE ARE STORMS …

… and then there are storms, and then there are more storms.

And right now we are in the middle of a raging beauty and if it keeps up like this nobody will be sleeping tonight, that’s for sure.

On the other hand, I had a good night’s sleep. Out like a light and I don’t remember anything at all until there was a knock on my door at 07:15. Yes, I could learn to like being awakened every morning with a hot drink.

After a shower we had breakfast and as Rosemary had some errands to run, I listened to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. There had been a rail crash near Crewe. It had been something to do with refugees from the Ukraine. People were talking about the refugees who had survived everything that the Russians could throw at them only to be brought down by a railway accident etc and how unfair it seemed to be that they were caught in this railway accident. It seemed to the people that they were the ones who had actually caused this rail accident by careless misuse of a couple of switch points and levers so they were responsible.

There had been four disappearances of different people either individuals or groups of young people. Everyone was going over everything that they had heard or had been said about them and been coming up with some pretty strange comments from various people that they had heard that they hadn’t really thought a lot of at the time because of different circumstances but now meant quite a lot when they came to the question of these people disappearing and what had been said had been told quite a lot to the people who were doing this investigation trying to find these missing young people.

I had a load of mock strawberry jam that I had made and I don’t know why. Then it came round to fitting some windows in our flat. I was trying to get my brother to help but he was far too busy chatting up some girl. I shouted him enough times but he never came so I made a start on my own getting things ready that I needed and in the end I basically bellowed at him and ordered him down. I told him that he can chat up these girls another day. He came down very reluctantly. I went into the barn to find some metal brackets then I could make a metal bracket, something like that, to hold the window in but I couldn’t find any at all. I could manufacture something, I suppose, but I was noting just how unco-operative my brother was being. I felt that if I started something I’d end up either breaking the window or dropping the window out, something like that because I was really not in the right kind of mood to fit a window at the moment they way my brother had been messing around. In the end I reluctantly called him in and told him I’d do it next weekend instead and hoped that I could get hold of the equipment and metalwork and fittings during the week to do it.

The rest of the morning was spent putting the world to rights and then we had lunch. Rosemary made a nice rice salad.

After lunch I had the guided tour of Rosemary’s property and then we had something of a tidying-up session. Rosemary is still recovering from her major operation from two years ago and can’t do much, and I’m no better.

While I was at it, I spoke to Ingrid and made “certain arrangements” and then Rosemary had to take Mr Ukrainian somewhere. I stayed behind to play the guitar but instead ended up giving guitar lessons to Miss Ukraine. It wasn’t easy because my Russian from 40 years ago is hopeless but she has a good sense of rhythm.

When they came back we were invited to a cup of tea with the Ukrainian family. And that led to quite an interesting chat. Mr Ukrainian and his daughter had learnt how to count to 10 in English and French and showed off their prowess, so I persuaded the young girl to teach Rosemary to count to 10 in Ukrainian.

For tea Rosemary made a vegetable curry and then we went off for a little walk around the lanes.

Back here, sitting outside we were joined by Mr Ukrainian and his daughter and she fetched her big encyclopaedia of animals and tried to teach us the names of animals in UKrainian while we told them to her in French. I showed her the photo of my bear from 2010 and that delighted her

The storm drove us in after a while and that was that. But it really was a pleasant evening. THis Ukrainian family seems to be really nice and keen to mix with Rosemary and that can only be good.

How long they’ll stay is anyone’s guess but I hope that they’ll be happy here and can forget the horrors of what they’ve been through. I thought that what everyone had suffered between 1939-45 would have been enough for everyone but apparently not.

Monday 20th June 2022 – HERE WE ALL ARE …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow, and not exactly sitting in a Première Classe Hotel in Tours. STRAWBERRY MOOSE and I are actually sitting in Rosemary’s spare bedroom here in the Auvergne.

Last night was another turbulent night with tons of stuff on the dictaphone but you’ll have to wait for a while to read it. But I was awake early and up and about as soon as the alarm went off.

After a good shower I packed everything and was actually back on the road again by 08:55.

a stop down the road at LeClerc to fuel up and I found myself right by the hotel that I had tried to find last night – just a cockstride away from where I’d slept.

The drive – as far as Chateauroux anyway – was quite comfortable except that I was flashed by a speed camera that I hadn’t noticed.

But once I hit Chateauroux the sun came out and it burnt me out of the cab. That was hot.

At LeClerc at Montlucon I went in for some groceries and I bumped into two people whom I knew, who high-tailed it out of there the moment they saw me coming. Old habits die hard in Montlucon.

On the way out I found a sheltered shady layby and stopped there to make a butty And then pushed on to see my partner in crime.

It’s been two years since we last saw each other and despite our lengthy telephone conversations we had a lot of catching up to do. I also met her Ukrainian refugee family who seem like really nice people.

They have a young girl, barely a teenager, who is very fond of animals and was showing me photos that she had taken of local animals here. So in exchange I showed her my photos of polar bears, walruses and whales from the Arctic.

She’s ever so cute and it is totally beyond my understanding why anyone would want to be so evil to kids like this.

She has a cat too and insisted on giving it to me to let me cuddle it, even if it wasn’t that keen.

Tomorrow she’s going to have the shock of her life. I’m going to introduce her to STRAWBERRY MOOSE.

But not right now. I’m off to bed. I’ve had a long, tough day, I need my sleep and it’s already late.

Sunday 19th June 2022 – HERE WE ALL ARE …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow but sitting in a Premiere Classe hotel in Tours in Western France.

And when I say “we” I really do mean “we” for I am not alone. As you might expect, STRAWBERRY MOOSE has come with me too. I can’t leave him behind.

And just in case you are wondering, I’ve already made a considerable list of things that I’ve forgotten. Most people make a lost and pack accordingly. I pack and then make a list of what I’ve forgotten.

Despite a late night last night I was awake at 08:30 and drifted in and out of sleep for another couple of hours

After the meds and checking the medication I started to back up the big computer onto the little portable memory stick that travels with me. And that wasn’t the work of five minutes.

Then I had to finish off emptying out Caliburn and packing up everything to go in him. The final task was to do all of the washing up and cleaning and then disinfect everywhere.

By 16:00 I was on the road again. First stop was at LeClerc to fuel up (and that cost me an arm and a leg) and then we had a leisurely drive through the French countryside.

We hit Tours, 250 kms away, at 20:00 and saw a cheap B&B hotel so I left the ring road, was stuck on the motorway and couldn’t find my way back, came off and couldn’t get back on to retrace my steps but a Première Classe Hotel loomed up out of the gloom.

A room was a mere €45:00 which I’ll take any time, and they arranged for a vegan pizza for me at a nearby hotel that even gave me 15% off.

As you might expect, I’m totally wasted after the drive. I’m clearly not up to this. The day that I drove non-stop pulling a trailer for 32.5 hours are long-gone.

But right now, I’m off to bed. I’ve earned a good night’s sleep.

Saturday 18th June 2022 – I WAS THINKING …

“which is always dangerous” – ed … of hitting the road this weekend.

But a temperature of 32°C in an old van without air-conditioning heading off into the wild blue yonder is more than any man can stand and so I eschewed the idea for now.

people on beach rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022In order to underline the situation, I’ll post a couple of photos that I took of the crowds of people swimming in the sea today

You can tell how warm it was just by looking at these photos.

It was quite warm during the night too and I was tossing and turning for much of it. It was really difficult to go off to sleep.

By about 06:45 I’d effectively given up and I was sitting there waiting for the alarm to go off when with about 5 minutes to go I drifted off to sleep again and when the alarm went off I awoke with a start.

people on beach plat gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022Nevertheless I was out of bed as it rang and went off for my medication.

When I’d checked my mails and messages afterwards the first thing that I did was to check the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. I’d had the insurance through for the van. I remembered distinctly putting the certificate and policy in the container up on the roof rack while I was sorting everything out but it wasn’t there when I went to look for it. I turned the van inside out but still couldn’t find anything. By now we were 6 months into the insurance. I said that I would have to have a duplicate but my brother didn’t think that they would send me one after 6 months if I turned round and said that it was missing. I was just going to say that I’d misplaced it but he didn’t think that that was a good enough excuse for having a duplicate. We had one of our interminable discussions about it. In the end he decided that he would search through Caliburn to see if he couldn’t find the papers. at that point I left him to it. No point in both of us doing the same thing and getting annoyed with both of us doing it

We’re now in a Welsh lesson. A few of us given Welsh lessons on top of this double decker bus. One by one we must have been plucked off and disappeared because further along the programme nothing was heard but Welsh on this bus. The people weemed to be unaware that there was a party of English persons I fell asleep here

Finally it was the World Series of baseball and one of the coaches would be happy having amateur referees in it. That was a crazy thing to do because these World Series games go on for every. In any case his tactics were all wrong and the other teams were exploiting his tactics. The one team that had made it to the final had some depressing tactics of their own, like timewasting and making each play count minutes although they did manage to bottle up the defence of the others and make them run down one corridor. This violent hugging had cost the coach a $25 fine at the last game and was likely to be repeated if he continued.

At some point as well I was with Louise. She had had a long wheelbase Landrover that she had fitted a short cab. She’d sold the long wheelbase cab to someone in the area but he’d died before he could collect it so his executor was trying to haul away the cab. She was a kind of mouse who wouldn’t engage with him because she said that it was this other guy’s, even though he’d died. She had it all laid out in bits where it should go, here and there, everything. She showed me round quite proudly. Her uncle was there as well. He was talking to me about this and that. We were out there and all of a sudden it started to rain a torrential rainstorm. He said that he had to nip over and buy some fish but if I got in his car and sheltered from the rain he would come back when he had his fish and drive me home

The bit about Caliburn’s insurance was interesting. It expires at the end of the month and I had the new paperwork the other day. I’d forgotten all about it completely and dreaming about it reminded me, so I nipped out to put it in Caliburn before I forget it completely.

What I started to do next was to download a load of music. Not sound files but “proper” music because if I do manage to go off on my travels I’ll be taking the Gibson EB3 and the acoustic with me and having a little ja session all of my own.

at some point I had to break off because I needed some bread for lunch. I’m not taking half a loaf out of the freezer.

la grande ancre les bouchots de chausey l'omerta le roc a la mauve 3 port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022So on my way into town I stopped at the viewpoint overlooking the fish processing plant to see who was there this morning.

And we had quite a crowd down there today. From front to back we have La Grande Ancre, Les Bouchots de Chausey, L’Omerta, Le Roc A La Mauve III and a small boat that as far as I know doesn’t have a name.

Plenty of vehicles down on the lower level too, unloading the boats and taking away the catch. It’s always quite a profitable affair and sometimes I’ve seen the tractor and trailer groaning under the weight of shellfish taken off Les Bouchots de Chausey

yachts baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022There was plenty of activity outside the harbour in the bay too.

This yacht that was sailing past the entrance to the harbour was gorgeous and I quite liked the sails on the smaller one that was following along behind her.

And that wasn’t everything out there either. There were more than enough boats of all types, shapes and sizes sailing around there today ad I could have spent all afternoon there photographing them.

But instead I pushed on down the hill towards the town centre and the supermarket for my baguette.

marité port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022Now here’s quite a surprise.

Here we are on a Saturday in summer and there are crowds of people round about, as we have seen already in our photos of the beach, yet for some unknown reason the crew of Marité has decided not to put to sea today.

It’s the kid fo day when I would have expected them to have rounded up hordes of passengers and gone off for a lap around the bay.

As for me, I went off for a lap around to Carrefour where I bought a baguette and a can of cold drink for the climb back up the hill to home.

saturday market place general de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022On the way back home I wandered back through town past the Place General de Gaulle.

With it being a Saturday morning it’s market day and the open-air market is in full swing. Mind you, there isn’t really anything there that is of interest to me.

The walk up the hill in the heat was agonising as I expected and I enjoyed the stop that I made halfway up when I drank the can of cold drink. That made me feel better.

Back here I made a sandwich for lunch and then carried on with the downloading of the music. I ended up having a play around with Wishbone Ash’s THE BALLAD OF THE BEACON. It’s much easier than you would think.

In the middle of all that, rather regrettably I dozed off for 10 minutes or so. And I was doing so well too.

fishermen in zodiac baie de Granville Manche Normandy Francec Hall photo June 2022As it happens I was rather late going for my afternoon walk today.

Having already looked down onto the beac I wandered off along the path towards the end of the headland, having a look out to sea to see what was happening. Out there in the bay this afternoon was a zodiac with a few people in it.

At first I thought that they might have been fishermen but before I could have a good look at them they started up the engine and cleared off around the headland out of sight.

As for me, I cleared off around the headland too, but at a rather more sedate pace

belle france ferry terminal port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022There wasn’t anyone on the bench at the cabanon vauban this afternoon so I carried on down the path on the other side of the headland towards the port.

Over at the ferry terminal across the harbour we had Belle France, the newest of the ferries that go over to the Ile de Chausey. The other two aren’t in port anywhere so I imagine that they are out there at the Ile de Chausey already waiting for the tide.

Still no Victor Hugo either. According to the maritime radar she spent the night at St Helier and left early this evening, presumably to come back here. I’ll get to see her yet!

marité port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022Earlier this morning I mentioned that Maritéwas still in port despite it being a summer Saturday today

And she was still there this afternoon too. By the looks of things she hasn’t been out at all today. I know that it’s none of my business but if I were in charge of Marité she’d be out all weekend during the summer, as much as possible.

Most of the fishing boats are also in the harbour too. They don’t go out at weekend either. Even L’Omerta was moored up at the fish processing plant, settling down into the silt. All on her own as well.

port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022Just now I mentioned Victor Hugo being out at St Helier.

Also out at St Helier, according to the maritime radar, is Southern Liner, the freighter that was in port yesterday.

And I can tell you much more about her today. The company that owns her has started a freight service between St Malo and the Channel Islands just recently and as they had a couple of days free they sent the ship over here to see how she would get on in and around the harbour here.

Apparently the plan is that they want to see if there is sufficient demand for another freight service between Granville and the Channel Islands, using small containers rather than loose freight that the other little freighters carry.

This is something that is going to be interesting

Back here I crashed out again for rather longer than I was hoping – so much so that my coffee was stone cold. But I did some more music downloading. There’s still plenty to go at.

Tea was a breaded quorn burger with baked potato and veg, and then I had my notes to write, interrupted by another marathon phone call from Rosemary, hence I’m way later than I intended.

We’ve had a storm and a rainstorm too so that might cool everything down. I hope so because I’ve been in shirtsleeves with z fan going all day and I’m still struggling for breath in this heat.

Friday 17th June 2022 – "THE MOVING FINGER"

“writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it”

So wrote Omar Khayyam in his famous Rubaiyat 900 years ago. But of course he was talking nonsense because a good rubber or a backspace key can erase as much as you like of anything that you have written.

What you cannot lure back to cancel, not even half a word, never mind half a line, is a word that you have spoken and how I’m regretting many of the words that I spoke, or, “mis-spoke”, to be more accurate, in my Welsh exam this afternoon.

Luckily, it’s a conversation exam so, as has been drummed into us on many occasions, they aren’t looking for perfection. Just whether you can hold a conversation that is intelligible and which flows.

The part of the exam which I feared the most, the “asking questions to fill in the gaps”, actually went quite well but the conversation was strewn with errors. However I managed to keep it going, he understood me, I understood his questions and he understood my replies.

Where it fell apart was when I had to interrogate him for a minute or two about his house. You’ve no idea how difficult it is to ask someone a barrage of questions for that length of time.

Yes, what wouldn’t I give for my moving tongue to wipe away whatever it was that I said so that I could start again?

But anyway there isn’t really anything that I can do about that now.

Let’s focus on the rest of the day instead.

southern liner port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022And how about this ship that appeared in port this morning?

The other day I mentioned that it looked as if we were expecting some interesting things happening in port but I wasn’t expecting anything quite like this.

She’s Southern Liner, a small bulk carrier of 1100 tonnes, registered in Panama, that for the last few weeks has been running a shuttle between St Malo and St Helier but for some reason or other has now come into port here.

Is this going to be the start of something important? I hope so, because we could do with some more trade coming into the harbour.

Not like some of the locals will like it. Having had a successful campaign against the Big Wheel that I mentioned a few weeks ago, they are now campaigning against the Bar Ephemère and are campaigning to close it down.

They seem to be determined to destroy everything that disturbs the peace and tranquility of their little world on the seafront and so I’m on record now as saying that if they don’t like the town and its entertainment I’ll help them pack and I’ll personally run them out of town.

At times I think that a great many people have forgotten that many years ago they were young people too. They need to get over themselves, grow up, and take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror.

So once again I was awake early. Round about 06:45 as it happens. And when the alarm went off I was up and about quite quickly.

After the medication and checking my mails I spent the rest of the morning and the early part of the afternoon revising my Welsh, with the usual stops for a coffee, for breakfast and for lunch as well.

a little earlier I mentioned the exam. It should have been much better than it was but having to think on my feet and talk for more than five minutes is quite confusing. Still, too late to complain about it now.

people on beach rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022Once the exam was over I went out for my afternoon walk around the headland.

As usual I went over to the wall at the end of the car park to have a look down onto the beach to see what was happening down there.

It was no surprise to see crowds of people down there because it was the hottest day of the year today. It’s quite cool in my apartment with walls of solid stone 1.2 metres thick and even so I didn’t have a jumper on at all today.

Some of the people down there had taken to the water too and I can’t say that I blamed them. I was rather tempted myself – that tells you just how warm it was today.

marker lights ile de chausey baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022While I was looking down onto the beach, my other eye was roving about out at sea to see what was going on there.

There was quite a haze out there this afternoon and a strange reflection from the water. In recent times when the tide has been out we’ve seen the really nice beaches down at the north end of the Ile de Chausey but today the haze had hidden all of that.

And as far as I could see, there wasn’t a single boat out there at all this afternoon and that was something of a surprise. Admittedly the tide was quite far out so there won’t be anyone on their way home but I was expecting to see something going on out there, regardless of the haze.

marker buoy baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022A few days ago we saw a beautiful flag out there in the bay, presumably indicating where someone has dropped off a lobster pot.

There were a few more out there in the bay this afternoon. By the looks of things the inshore fishing is intensifying, possibly because of the summer season and the tourists. They’ll all be asking for fresh lobster.

Mind you, I can tell you a story about “fresh lobster” from my days in tourism but this is not the time and the place, bearing in mind the peculiar way that calumnie works in France.

There weren’t too many people here on the path so I could wander round in comparative peace and quiet on my way around my circuit.

securite civile van pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022But there had been something going on on the lawn here by one of the old bunkers and by the looks of things I had missed it.

That van there is a Securité Civile – Moyens Aeriens – “Civil Security by Aerial Means” and it is usually out and about wherever the Air-Sea Rescue helicopter is operating.

And so it looks as if they have had their chopper out around here performing a rescue. That’s cleared off, presumably to hospital with the rescuee and the van is on its way back to the depot with all of the climbing equipment and everything else that it carries.

And I was too late to catch it all in action.

That was enough excitement for the afternoon. There was no-one down on the bench by the cabanon vauban at the end of the headland so I wandered off around the end of the headland and down the path on the other side towards the port.

l'alize 3 charles marie 2 wavecat express chantier naval port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022And we have yet another change in the chantier naval this afternoon.

Wavecat Express is still there but the catamaran that has been there for a while has now gone back into the water.

L’Alize III that we saw in there on Wednesday is still in there today and she has company. The blue and white trawler that’s come to join her is Charles Marie II..

And there’s a yacht in there too today. I wonder if it’s the same one that we saw the other day that was briefly in here but didn’t stick around.

l'omerta port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022And we’re back to playing “Musical Ships” again by the looks of things.

Yes, it’s L’Omerta back again, moored up to the quayside at the Fish Processing Plant and settling down into the silt.

There were quite a few cars down there on the lower level so it looks as if they are expecting a lot of the smaller shell-fishing boats coming into port to unload as soon as the tide turns.

On the way home I went to inspect Southern Liner and then back here I had a strawberry smoothie.

Next task was to check the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. There was something going on about learning French last night but I can’t remember anything at all about it. It all went out of my head the moment I grabbed hold of the dictaphone.

Later on I was in my white Passat estate going to Germany from Brussels. Leaving Brussels was a real mess because everywhere was in roadworks. I had to go a long way out out of my way. eventually I picked up a road to Liège and set off to go that way. This road disappeared into a tunnel with a black and white road surface. There was a load of slow-moving pedestrians in it (by now I was on foot) and I was running into these pedestrians, they were moving so slowly. We went round a corner in this tunnel and ended up in some kind of subterranean railway station. A train pulled in so we all slmabered aboard. I walked down to the rear of the train where I could look out of the windows at the back and down the line. I didn’t have a ticket, was just standing there watching. The train gradually filled up. In the end the last 2 seats were taken by a couple of men who were clearly under the weather. They were dressed in light blue tuxedos. It looked to me as if they had been on a night out in a casino or something like that, spent their money and had plenty to drink. They settled down in these last two seats so I was standing up by there. The train pulled away and that was that.

And regrettably I fell asleep at some point. The only time that I fell asleep today as well and again, only for about 15 minutes.

After I awoke and came back round into the land of the living I started to empty Caliburn.

At great personal expense I’ve brought up two of my four kitchen units. I can bring them across the yard on a trolley, carry them to the front door (just about) and then roll them in their boxes head over heels up the stairs. It’s back-breaking so I’m not going to do the other two until tomorrow.

What I am going to do later though, when I’ve recovered, is to go down and bring up a pile of the lighter stuff. It’ll be another job done.

Tea tonight was a curry made of leftover bits and pieces and it was delicious. So now I’m going to take it easy because tomorrow I have some cleaning up to do.