Tuesday 5th December 2023 – IN ANSWER TO …

ginger and orange biscuits christmas cake christmas pudding Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo December 2023 … the thousands … "well, maybe not thousands" – ed … of requests, here’s a photo of my weekend’s efforts.

On the left is the figgy pudding and on the right is the Christmas cake. You can see where the edges of the cake were stuck to the baking tin but once the cake is covered with marzipan and icing no-one will notice.

Marzipanning and icing are planned for this coming weekend so now is the time to send me a few handy hints. After the debâcle last time, I’ll remember to put the cake in the fridge before I ice it. Icing a warm cake produces some rather interesting and artistic results.

In the background is my box of ginger and orange biscuits. And believe me – they do taste as nice as they look.

Thinking on, I should have stuck a couple of fruit buns in the photo too. There are a couple floating around in one of the biscuit tins.

Anyway, I ended up going to bed reasonably early last night and awoke again at some kind of ridiculous time. But at least the person with the hatpin didn’t come back.

Although I did drift off back to sleep, Zero didn’t come to visit me. And neither did Castor nor TOTGA. But the sleep did me some kind of good.

When the alarm went off I staggered into the kitchen for my medication and my half-litre of flat water flavoured with a dash of orange juice. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve run out of C02

Back in here I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. I had a photo and was trying to identify the subject and the folder in which it belonged. I was strolling through the directory that seemed to me to be the correct one looking at all the photos but just couldn’t identify the subject at all by doing that. I began to wonder whether it might have been from another folder but at the moment there was still some stuff in the first folder to wade through so I just ploughed on regardless but still couldn’t find it

Later on I was back in the same dream looking again through a pile of photos when just at that moment the alarm went off. We all had to leave. There was a girl missing. When I looked up I could see the small girl way up somehow on a pile of tubing that had been arranged like a scaffolding. She’d somehow climbed up there but was unable to descend. One of the boys in the room took it upon himself to climb up there and rescue her. At first I didn’t understand what he was trying to do so I tried to stop him but then it suddenly occurred to me what he was doing so I let him on his way and helped him as much as I could.

And then I was working for an express bus company last night. I was given a job to go from London to Swansea Docks and Carmarthen. When I was going through the paperwork there was a woman there talking about Swansea Docks. I found out that she was going on the same route as me with a bus but to Swansea Docks and Llanelli. We were due to leave at about the same time so we decided to travel together as far as Swansea Docks because I didn’t know where the pick-up point there was. We talked about Gloucester Services – what time we’d arrive, how long we should stop. I made the remark that I’d have to let Zero down again. She asked “what do you mean?”. I replied “this is the 13th consecutive time that I’ve promised to pick Zero up and my working schedule has been changed so I’m not going to be able to do it”. The woman asked “what did she say?”. I replied “she doesn’t know yet. We’ve only just had the work schedule. Someone else will have to pick her up”. We set out to pick up our vehicles, across a very busy main road. She was nattering away about her husband and tyres etc. We reached the place to pick up our vehicles. They were 2 mark I Cortina estates. I thought “this can’t possibly be correct, this”.

After I’d slipped back into oblivion later on I had exactly the same dream again, word for word.

Finally I went to look at the new shopping complex near Goodall’s Corner in Shavington. It was dark and I’d had the lights on the car but couldn’t see anything at all so I’d had to increase the brightness of the dashboard lights which increased the brightness outside. I reached where I thought it would be, climbed out of my car and went in. It looked like the door to someone’s house. I wandered round and there was a yellow French pillar box just inside the door so I thought that it must be somewhere around here. I went round and round all these corners until I came to an enormous Post Office with about 2 dozen clerks sitting around. It looked as if there were 1 or 2 members of the public in so I asked if they were closed. She replied that they were. I said “that’s a pity. Could anyone sell me a stamp?”. Someone had a rummage round on the top of a desk and came up with a 1st class stamp

There was some more stuff too but you don’t really want to know about that, especially if you are having your tea.

Once I’d finished that I had a couple of chats on line with a couple of different people and then sat down to revise my Welsh, stopping for a good wash in between seeing as I’m going out.

Armed with a fruit bun and a full pot of black coffee I sat down for the lesson and to my surprise it went quite well.

We were discussing extreme weather today, so I told the class about the time when we were on the trail of Sir John Ross and a group of us walked across Philpot’s Island about 800 miles of so from the North Pole to map the far side in a temperature of minus something ridiculous and we were caught in a blizzard.

My friend Mike who was leading our group decided that this would be a good time to have a yoga session so there we were in a white-out lying on our backs in a snow bank.

What worried me most about that was that you really had to struggle to see your hand in front of your face. We could have come face-to-face with a polar bear and it would have been too late to have done anything about it.

We did have an armed guard with us but his job, so he told us, was that if he saw a polar bear in a confrontation with a human, his job was to shoot the human. "It’s far less paperwork" he said.

Actually, it’s a fallacy to suggest that the best way to survive a polar bear attack is to run faster than the bear. You just have to run faster than one other person in your group. Since my mobility has been … errr … restricted, I’ve been asked on several occasions by Mike and Jerry if I would like to return to the High Arctic and go exploring with them again.

After the lesson the car came to pick me up and take me to the Centre de Re-education.

My ergotherapy session was cancelled again so there were just the two sessions. And Severine told me that she is noticing an improvement in my muscles in my legs. So she must be doing some good somewhere.

In the musculation sessions there was just an old man and me and the therapist had us using our strength (or what we have of strength) against each other with whatever aids they had lying around – things like giant rubber balls, elastic straps and so on.

My upper body strength was better than his but he had more power in his legs.

Severine is probably right about the improvement. Coming back up the stairs later, I could actually lift my left leg high enough without any difficulty and it was the easiest climb back up the stairs that I’ve had for a good while.

Nevertheless, I was still exhausted and crashed out for a while once I sat down.

The radio notes are now finished off ready for dictating and I went for tea- a taco roll with rice and veg.

Before I go to bed tonight I’ll dictate the radio notes and I’ll prepare the programme tomorrow morning. The car will come for me at about 14:30 or so if I’m lucky so it should be finished by then.

And then I want to press on with these photos that I’m supposed to be annotating. It’s taking for ever and it shouldn’t be this complicated.

Right now I’m short of things to fire my enthusiasm which is hardly a surprise given everything that’s going on right now but whatever the answer is, feeling sorry for myself isn’t it. It’s not going to be finished if I just sit here and look at it.

There is the rest of my Christmas cooking too. I need stuffing, of course, but that’s not available over here. I suppose that I could invent something with breadcrumbs, onions, garlic and herbs so I’ll have to find a decent recipe. I have some gram flour somewhere in the kitchen.

And then there are the hash browns. When I’ve made them before, they have been a dismal failure so I need to work on those too ready for Christmas.

Something else that I need to think about is to restart the ginger beer factory that I had running here at one time. I still have the bits missing out of the wall to remind me about how powerful it was.

It actually worked very well until I had to restart Leuven on a monthly basis a couple of years ago. Brewing ginger beer requires constant attention and you can’t leave it fermenting for four days while you are away, as my walls will testify.

A powerful batch, that. Shame I never got to drink any of it.

Monday 4th December 2023 – WHEN THE ALARM …

… went off at 07:00 this morning I was well on my way through preparing the radio programme notes for which I dictated on Saturday night.

The other day when I awoke at something like a ridiculously early time, I ended up going back to sleep and having a pleasant half hour in the company of Zero.

Today though, being awake at 04:30, I couldn’t go back to sleep no matter how hard I tried and in the end round about 05:10 I gave it up as a bad job and arose from the Dead.

Last night I’d actually had an early night for once and I don’t suppose that it took me too long to go off to sleep.

But then I hauled myself out of bed at 05:10 and went for my medication.

Back in here the first thing that I did was to transcribe the dictaphone notes. I was being taken somewhere, either on board or off a ship. I was in a wheelchair and like that Brazilian company that I knew, they had 3 groups of numbers and lots of individual ranges in each group. They were checking through one particular group to see if I was in there because I was either leaving or joining the ship. I was dying to go to the bathroom but that wouldn’t make them hurry up this task any quicker and it looked as if I’d be there for ever

Later on I’d been back to visit Alison again. I was with a guy and a couple of his children, girls who were probably aged about 5 and 6. Just a couple of doors away from where Alison was living was a sign about some kind of Theme park of “Enchanted Magic” etc. I often wondered what happened there so seeing as I had 2 small children with me we took ourselves off. Eventually we managed to find the entrance because it wasn’t straightforward. We paid for the entrances – we could either have paid or opened an account which we’d settle on leaving but I preferred to pay as we went round. I went for a glass of water. There were several carafes of water that were in the direct sunlight on the windowsill so I went to look for one that was in the shade. We even talked about staying the night in this place because it was possible and the girls would love it. I happened to mention Alison and the guy said “yes we could even go out for a meal with Alison tonight”. I didn’t know what his plans were and what his intentions were but they were his daughters so I let him decide what was going on.

Finally, some famous travel author or similar was going on a walking tour through the mountains of one of these South Asian republics east of the Caucasus. He was looking for volunteers. In the end I decided after much thought that I’d like to volunteer and was accepted. It was something of a cheat in a sense because we travelled extremely light and had a support vehicle that carried the luggage for us for our overnight stops. We were walking through the foothills of these mountains. It was something of a disappointment in a certain respect because if we wanted to follow his exact route and stop exactly where he wanted it was great but if we saw something that was a little off the beaten track that interested us, he wouldn’t stop. We would either have to go ourselves and then run after him, which was complicated, or else ignore it. It happened to me on a couple of occasions, things that I would otherwise have stopped to photograph were left behind. We suddenly came round a bend in the track and came across some headstones. Most of them were American Army headstones from 1977 but a couple were American Army headstones from 1844, in the days before there was really an American Army of course. We could understand the 1977 ones but the earlier ones were a complete puzzle. I was determined to photograph them even if it led to an argument. In the end he set off and I took out my camera to photograph them but somehow a load of mud had come onto the lens. No matter how I tried I couldn’t clean the mud off the lens. I was there for ages trying to do this and he was going further and further away.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that having dreams about camera failures was something that happened quite often at one time in the recent past but we’ve not had one for a while.

Armed with a mug of instant coffee to fire up my enthusiasm I made a start on the radio programme that I mentioned. And once I’d added in the final track and the speech it over-ran by 3.6 seconds. But that didn’t take too long to edit down

Then I took myself off to look at the results of my labours yesterday.

One lesson that I learnt was that I should have lined my cake tin with baking paper before putting in the contents. When I sprung the hinge it left a few lumps stuck to the side.

Not that anyone will notice once it has the marzipan and icing on it of course. And in any case, I’ve made it to eat, not to look at.

Another lesson that I learnt was that my pudding steamer doesn’t make a perfect seal and I hadn’t wrapped up the pudding sufficiently. Steam get everywhere, into the smallest gaps, and my pudding looked rather damper than I would have liked.

In the end, I put the oven on low for an hour and gently dried the pudding inside it. Now it looks much more like a Christmas pudding.

That’s one of the (many) reasons why I keep these notes. You’ve probably noticed that there’s an index with keywords for each entry and there’s an *.sql database that controls all of the keywords.

So next year, I can just search the database for “Christmas Pudding” and call up all of the notes that I’ve made on the subject, read them to find out how I could have done better, and hopefully improve on everything next time.

With a memory like mine, you’ve no idea how much of a necessity it is.

One thing that I can say, however, is that the Christmas Cake is delicious. Those bits that stuck to the side of the tin didn’t go to waste. They made a nice breakfast.

Much of the rest of the day has been spent, when I haven’t been sleeping off my early start, finishing off the tidying up from yesterday and then sorting out the music for the next radio programme that I’ll be preparing.

The music took longer than it might have done because the programme will be broadcast on Rinus Gerritsen’s birthday. As far as I can tell, he never sang the lead on any of Golden Earring’s songs and he only wrote one or two of them.

With it being his birthday I ought to include something. It took me an age to identify a track that he wrote on his own, and even longer to actually find it and convert it for radio.

When I moved to Brussels and started running again, I had a huge cassette tape with all kinds of Golden Earring tracks that were the right speed for my running, but can I find it?

When I started running again here at night after Covid began, I think that I ran to the accompaniment of the Dead March.

Tea tonight was a stuffed pepper with pasta and veg – just as good as ever. And there’s stuffing left for a taco roll tomorrow and probably to go into a leftover curry on Wednesday.

But we’ve hit a crisis in that my gas cylinder is empty, so no more sparkling water for me. Cylinders are available on line of course, but you have to pay the full whack, not just the exchange refill. And I can’t ask my cleaner to struggle back on foot from LeClerc with a refill

Tomorrow there’s the Welsh class and if the car comes for me, the Centre de Re-education. There are three sessions organised for me so I’ll be fit for nothing when I return.

If I have the chance, I’ll finish off writing the notes for this radio programme. After I’d finally sorted out the music I wrote half of them so it won’t take me long to finish them.

But right now I’m off to bed. I still haven’t recovered from my early start and I need to be on form tomorrow. But coming back up the stairs after three sessions at the Centre de Re-education will finish me off for good.

Sunday 3rd December 2023 – IF MY CHRISTMAS …

… cake tastes as nice as did the bits that bubbled over the top of the cake tin onto the base of the oven, I shall be extremely pleased. It was phenomenal!

And yes, Liz, “bubbled over”.

Trying to bake a cake with no self-raising flour or eggs and just using sodium bicarbonate and red wine vinegar to produce a chemical reaction is very much a hit-and-miss process.

The last time I tried, when I made my bread-and-butter pudding, it exploded in my face, presumably because it was insufficiently cooled and mixed before I added the vinegar, but today it went perfectly and I was so impressed

But I was also so tired too.

Not that a really late night had much to do with it, but the fact that all through the night I had the Return Of The Stabbing Pain.

It defies my understanding, all this that goes on with my body. I’ve mentioned in the past … "and on many occasions too" – ed … the fact that at times during the night there’s a stabbing pain in my right foot as if someone is pushing a hatpin into the sole of my foot, and last night it occurred probably almost every 5 minutes

It went on for ages too and when I finally brought myself into the Land of the Living today at about 11:40, it was still going on.

After I’d had the medication I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. A group of resistance fighters of undercover British soldiers had been parachuted into the Occupied Territories to attack the headquarters of a German General. One of the people who worked in that office was a member of the Allied resistance and had been feeding them information. What they did was to make sure that this person made good her escape. Then they walked in and hauled a hand grenade through the door into the other office where the German General would normally work. The hand grenade exploded and there was a cry of agony from in there so they dashed inside. The General’s secretary was there. She’d been very badly injured by the bomb. She staggered out of the room into the office and saw that the office was empty save for these British soldiers. Her first thought was “where’s Madame So-and-so?”. It quickly became clear to her what had happened but no-one in the party of Allied soldiers had the courage to finish her off. 5 minutes later the German General came back in his car with a load of companions who’d been out somewhere. They stepped right into the middle of this carnage, rounded up the soldiers easily and led them away to be shot. During the whole of this dream the British soldiers made absolutely no effort whatever to resist capture and no effort whatever to try to escape or evade.

Several young children, both boys and girls, who had been dancing had come together under the tutelage of a well-known ballerina and were planning to put on a concert. It was called “The Icepedia of Madame Clifford”. She was busily arranging them into groups and teams etc, choreographing dances etc. These children were due to start any day now having their formal tuition in whatever this Madame Clifford wanted to do but just as they began, I awoke.

Later on, a group of 4 or us, 3 girls and me, had been away for a while on a kind-of touring holiday or road trip. As usual there was one girl whom I particularly liked but she was far too busy being friendly with the other 2 girls than she was spending any time alone with me, which was rather disappointing. When we reached the end of our journey there was some kind of issue or confrontation. The girl whom I liked ended up having lost her clothes so she was there basically with all that she had on. I noticed that she was wandering off to the car of one of the other girls so I went over to ask her if she was going to borrow some clothes from her. She replied “no” so I wondered if there was anything that I could do for her or to help her, give her a lift somewhere as she had no clothes, no money etc but she assured me that she’d be OK. I couldn’t actually see how but she was quite adamant. In the end I could hear the 3 girls making up some other kind of plans to meet somewhere on the way home. I felt rather annoyed that I was being left out of everything but I didn’t say anything. I got into my car, and then realised that I was going to be rather short of money for going home. Someone passing by pointed out that one of my tyres had a slow puncture so I wondered how I’d manage to resolve that too. Then the girl pulled up in her car alongside me so I began to talk to her. I had it in my mind to say that I was jealous of the fact that she spent more time with the others than she had with me etc but for some reason I just could not push the words out of my head and out of my mouth to say them. It ended up really unsatisfactory from my point of view. Then the other 2 girls turned up and talked about meeting somewhere in Munich or wherever. I realised that my timetable was going to be really tight and I couldn’t even make it if I was invited. I wondered how these girls were going to do it too. It turned out that they were going to be flying so where was the one with no clothes and no money going to find the money for that? I set off anyway, disappointedly and came to a road junction where there was a car waiting. I waited behind it but it didn’t move. I suddenly realised thet there was no driver in it so I pulled around it, checked that the road junction was clear and began to drive away.

A disabled boy with whom I used to work appeared in a dream somewhere and we talked about my illness. I told him that I had a lot of appointments unofficially registered on 22nd October and I was going to go to the hospital to talk to a few people about how things were going on. We’d been parked in Shavington outside the small parade of shops talking, then he pulled out of the parade without looking and nearly hit another car that was coming our way. Luckily he managed to stop in time but the car carried on driving. We ended up following it for a while then both it and we turned into Chestnut Avenue and began to go down the hill. He’d completely lost the thread of what he’d been saying and told me that that was a problem when his concentration was disturbed. He lost track of just about everything.

And then I was with Alison, Hans and Jackie. We were in Germany somewhere going for a meal. We all piled into one of the cars and someone drove to this restaurant out in the countryside. We went in and the restaurant was actually up some stairs but I struggled up. We eventually managed to find a place to sit. We had quite a good time talking about all kinds of different things. When the bill came mine was €30:06. While I was sorting out my money everyone disappeared. I heard them downstairs. Someone was saying something to Jackie about “shall I run you to the station now?”. That took me by surprise because I understood that we would all be staying together for the weekend. I went downstairs and to my surprise I walked down the stairs without my crutches. We were all milling around in the cloakroom gathering our clothes together. Hans told a joke that made everyone laugh. he said “that was one of Eric’s”. We collected all our coats and set off outside. It was pouring down with rain. Hans made a remark about how lucky we were that we had hats with us. He would be soaked to death walking to the car.

A group of us from the radio had gone to watch Man play in Brussels. The auditorium was packed but I managed to find a little place at the side of one of the mixing tables to put the ZOOM H1 so that it would record the sounds of the group. I wandered off to do something but when I came back there was a family sitting around this table so I went up to tell them that they needed to be very quiet because there was a live microphone recording taking place. They apologised and said that they hadn’t known that it was my seat. They stood up and left. Taking advantage of the empty seat I sat down. I suddenly realised that I hadn’t brought any spare batteries for the Zoom. it it goes flat I’ll be having a real problem. I switched off the machine while the preliminaries were taking place but just them all of the musicians came onstage. I had to switch it on again hurriedly. I’d done it so quickly that I wasn’t sure whether it was on or off. I had the feeling that this was turning into another complete mess. After the first couple of numbers I was chatting to one of the guys from the radio. I told him that if we have issues about space there are only two numbers that are absolutely essential in the recording. I told him of one but I couldn’t remember the name of the second. At that point the dictaphone began to go flat so I gathered up my things and left. After I’d been walking home after 10 minutes I realised first of all that I still had the elastic strap around my ankles and secondly, I didn’t have my crutches. I walked past the street fair and the place where people left food out for the live slugs and fish. I came to a set of steps but I thought that I better hadn’t push my luck too much with these steps without my crutches. I walked the long way round and headed home. I remember thinking that I hope that everything would be fine from now on because if I lose my crutches that’s really the end of everything. I’ve no idea what I’d do then. That was the thought that was worrying me for the rest of the way home.

Something like that actually did happen to me once while I was recording an outside broadcast. The batteries in the ZOOM H8 went flat and the spare batteries were just as dead.

Of course, I haven’t done any outside broadcasts since last Summer before I went to Canada, and for obvious reasons too.

Another reason why I’m exhausted, and probably the most relevant one, is that I’ve been on my feet all afternoon. So much so that my back, my thighs and the muscles in my calves are aching in places where I didn’t even know that I had places.

Firstly, I prepared the mix for the next batch of biscuits. Fresh ginger, fleur d’orange and ground almonds together with the usual spices

And anyone who has been following these pages for any length of time won’t need to be told about what happened just as I was up to my elbows in flour and vegan margarine. For the benefit of new readers, the telephone rang.

There was no other option but to answer it. It was my neighbour, the President of the Residents’ Committee, wanting to know how I was and what happened on Friday so I cleaned myself up and had a good, lengthy chat with her.

She was the one who tipped me the wink about the apartment downstairs. At one of the residents’ meetings the owner of the apartment just happened to mention quite casually that he was thinking about selling up.

She told me and the owner and I had negotiated a price, agreed a deal and I’d paid the deposit to purchase all before he’d even had time to consult an estate agent.

All I have to do now is to wait for the lease to end and the tenant leaves the property, and then I won’t have all these stairs to climb and I can install a proper kitchen and shower. And, it goes without saying, find a cat to adopt me

Of course, the tenant can always leave before the lease expires. “Negotiations are proceeding”.

Next step was to make my Christmas pudding. That was quite straightforward and it was all placed in the steaming container that I’d greased and lined with baking paper. Three hours of steaming in a bain marie to cook it, and seeing as I didn’t have one, I had to invent something.

But that’s now steamed and it’s currently cooling down before I open it to see how it’s looking. And I hope that it works.

Then there was the Christmas cake. That really took some mixing too but I do have to admit that my soaked fruit looked and smelt delicious. Anyway, it all went together, thanks to everything that I’d bought from LeClerc and fitted quite nicely into my moule à charnière.

You’ve no idea how difficult it is to find proper cake tins here in France so when LeClerc had brought in a pile of stuff for a baking sale a couple of years ago I bought two – a large one and a small one that fits into an air fryer.

Yes, I have a cunning plan about that.

Earlier on I’d taken out of the freezer the last of the pizza dough, and while the cake was baking I was busy defrosting and then assembling my pizza.

When I was satisfied that the cake was baked properly I put the pizza in to bake and while it was baking I rolled out the biscuit dough and cut out the biscuits.

Once the pizza was cooked I put the biscuits in the oven and while they were baking I ate the pizza.

So now I have a Christmas Cake, a Christmas pudding, 40 ginger and orange biscuits and a partridge in a pear tree and I’m totally exhausted. I really am.

What I should have done today is to edit a radio programme but I’ve not had time as yet and right now I don’t have the energy to even move. I’ll have a hot drink and then go to bed.

But while I was making my hot drink the phone rang yet again. For several years in the early 1970s I had a girlfriend whom I knew from school. However we ended up going our separate ways, as you do when you’re that kind of age.

In 2006 Liz (not “this” Liz but “that” Liz”) and I were on our way from a meeting of the Disabled Students Group in Bristol (Liz was in charge of Student Support and I was on the Disability Committee) to a University Region 9 Meeting in Newcastle upon Tyne.

We stopped off at a pub in between Shrewsbury and Oswestry for a meal, and who should walk in?

Quite honestly, you could have put her in her school uniform and she would have been exactly as I remembered her – not a single day older.

Since then, we’ve kept in some kind of desultory touch.

So now that I’ve had my hot drink I’m going to go to bed. A good sleep will do me good, as long as I don’t have the person with the hatpin again.

Saturday 2nd December 2023 – I AWOKE THIS …

… morning at 05:30, even after all of my exertions last night. And I was feeling so awake that by 05:40 I was seriously thinking about leaving the stinking pit.

But I’m glad I didn’t.

Some time later I must have fallen asleep again. And I’m glad that I did because during that little period I had a visitor. Zero came to visit me.

In fact her presence so startled me that I awoke bolt upright. And this time I actually did leave the bed before the alarm went off. Not my much, it has to be said, but any period of time is worth noting.

First port of call was to take my medication. And that was especially important seeing as how I’d abstained yesterday.

Second port of call was to check the temperature. When I lived in the Auvergne the temperature was just one of the several dozen records that I took twice a day so I could make graphs that would hopefully show a correlation between the different types of weather and the different types of energy that was being produced and consumed but I don’t do anything at all like that here.

What was important today was the fact that even though we’re so close to the sea, everything was iced up outside.

And sure enough, at 07:00 this morning the temperature was minus 3.5°C. That’s the lowest temperature that I’ve seen here, but it’s still a far cry from how things were in the Auvergne. Rosemary rang up for a chat later on (as you will find out in due course) and she told me that the temperature in the Combrailles had dropped to minus 7°C and as things had warmed up in the morning they’d had a fall of snow.

But as for my temperature (well, the temperature outside actually) it was enough to put me off going out.

After yesterday’s exertions I was really exhausted but I wondered whether I should force myself to go out but as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, if I fall over I can’t pick myself up again and staggering about on the ice in sub-zero temperatures is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, I came in here and finished off my order for LeClerc. I was going to send it off on Monday but instead I added in everything that I would otherwise buy at the Carrefour and it was on its way even before I’d had my morning coffee.

There were no tomatoes on delivery today but my cleaner usually goes to the market in town on Saturday morning so I sent her a message and she duly obliged.

Next stop was to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. And, more importantly, who had come with me. I’d been collecting up tools, the kind that you’d find on market stalls in the northern UK. I’d been making a collection of all kinds of stuff. Then I’d been going through it and deciding what I wanted to keep and what I didn’t, and maybe I would advertise the rest for sale or something like that, maybe even visit a market stall to try to sell them or even try to have a market stall myself so much of last night was spent going through this collection of tools and making decisions. There were things like hammers and drifts, taps and dies, files etc that I would have loved to have had at another moment.

And in a certain region of India a man was having an extreme amount of difficulty trying to buy many items that would be considered to be normal, average everyday use in the rest of the World. At a certain moment he won £721 in a lottery for deprived areas so used his winnings to place an internet order to buy stuff on line that he could have sent to him. He went on one of these reality TV programmes to talk about his winnings and his order. Some visiting dignitary from his Province’s Government climbed onto the stage without invitation and immediately began to denounce everything that he’d ordered that had not yet been delivered, claiming that it was all Chinese warmongering equipment, even things like barbecue grills, and had no place in an ordinary decent home in his Province. he was picking up these things and throwing them about on the stage, coming out with all kinds of rhetoric. I tried to calm him down but he wasn’t going to have anything about this so in the end I reluctantly decided that the only way to deal with this matter is to have a huge confrontation with him on the TV and embarrass him by his lack of knowledge and obvious prejudice.

Later on there was a couple of domineering parents who had 4 teenage children. One day they decided that they would assassinate some kind of Russian emigré noblewoman. He knew where this noble emigré woman went to relax so the arranged to be present with rifles. As the woman was leaning against a wall smoking, the father gave a signal and everyone levelled their rifles across the room at this woman relaxing in the doorway. At the very last moment she saw them and swayed to one side as they fired. Instead of being killed outright one hit her in the cheek, another hit her in the shoulder and the other 4 missed. In a fit of anger she stormed over to this table where these 6 people were sitting and tore an absolute strip off the father and demanded that he give her a glass of gin. He was astonished that she was still moving and insisting on a glass of gin, which he poured for her. First he took a mouthful himself before giving it to her. One of this children piped up “just look at that! Now you can see what it is that we as kids have had to suffer for all our lives. He can’t even give someone a drink without having to take a drink of it himself. You’ve just met him for 10 minutes and he’s treated you like this but this is how he’s treated us all out lives”.

This was when I awoke at 05:30 and as I said just now, when I went back to sleep Zero put in an appearance. I was at school and it was the middle of summer. There were loads of kids milling around. I’d been working on a few of the radio programmes. One of the guys who ran the radio asked me if I’d put together a pile of programmes that had been broadcast previously which were my favourites. I had an enormous amount of difficulty trying to find the ones. I was looking for some certain live concerts but every time I opened a folder it was the wrong one. Eventually I put 4 or 5 together onto a memory stick and walked out of my classroom ready to go downstairs. I was wearing a shirt with no sleeves that was completely open, a tie that was actually around my neck and not around the collar of the shirt and a pair of shorts which I never ever wear. You could see the skin imperfections on my legs and you could also a great big scar running down the inside of my right arm. As I walked down the steps there were all these girls sitting down there. One or two made a remark about my sartorial elegance. I explained that if they thought that I would wear full school uniform on the hottest day of the year they are totally mistaken. One of the girls talking to me had a very white pasty face and hair as if she’d been covered in flour. There was another one, a much younger girl, who was flirting around with me as she was talking so naturally I was flirting around with her too as I was replying. Then I set off and ended up in Market Street in Crewe in the period before they demolished it all. Zero came in at some point as I was going through the directories looking for these particular files. Whether she was helping me or whether she was actually involved in one of the programmes I can’t remember now but she was certainly there as I was searching through these directories looking for the specific files.

But what is going on here? I’m flirting around with another girl while Zero is in the immediate vicinity? I really must be losing my touch these days!

By this time the shopping – including my bigarreaux confits – had arrived and I was in time to watch the delivery guy go head over heels on the stairs up to my apartment. No bones broken so he was lucky. Slabs of solid granite are really hard when you fall on them.

Before I’d sent off the order I checked the promotions to see what was on special offer, and they had broccoli heads at 99 cents so I’d ordered one.

It was more stalk than florets so after I’d trimmed it and blanched the florets ready for freezing, I decided to have a broccoli stalk soup for lunch.

  • Cut up an onion and fry it in oil in the base of a heavy saucepan
  • Add in your herbs. I used
    • chervil
    • tarragon
    • coriander
  • add in a sliced lump of garlic
  • dice your broccoli stalk finely and add it in
  • dice a potato ditto
  • fry it all up nicely for a few minutes
  • add back enough of the water in which you blanched the broccoli florets
  • Simmer it until everything in there is extremely soft, and then add in some cream. I used soya yoghurt as I have plenty that needs eating quickly
  • whizz it up with your magic wand
  • eat it with some of the crusty bread that you remembered to add onto your order with LeClerc

Fighting off (sometimes unsuccessfully) a few waves of sleep I carried on writing the notes for Canada 2022. I’m still wandering around the vieux port – I had no idea that I’d taken so many photos there.

Rosemary rang me up too (as I said just now) to find out how things went yesterday so I told her the bad news. She tells me that in the Spring next year she’ll come to visit if her operation passes ok.

If she does, I hope that she remembers to bring with her my big bass combo amp that’s sitting in her shed. That’s the one that I found in a pawn shop around the corner from Sandra’s in Ottawa in 2019.

And while we’re on the subject, sometime in the future I’ll be expecting another parcel delivery from Canada. In the back of Strider were a Fender bass and combo amp that travelled around North America with me. Now that Strider is, apparently, no more, it’ll be in the way at my niece’s house and I need to bring it here.

Apparently my talk about Christmas cake earlier in the week inspired Rosemary and she checked in her cupboard where she found that she had all of the important ingredients for a Christmas Cake.

She’s had all of her fruit soaking since then but now she can’t find her baking tin. And at least I can smile because although I moved to the Auvergne in 2006 and still haven’t unpacked yet, Rosemary moved to France more than 30 years ago and she is far from being unpacked even yet.

Anyway we agreed that cooking and baking is a fine hobby to have if your mobility is restricted. You don’t need to move around much and you can really enjoy the fruits of your labours – in the literal sense of the word.

Tea tonight was a burger on a bap, which I can enjoy now that I’ve found that I can order on-line the special burgers that I like. With a baked potato and salad it was delicious.

So tomorrow I have a lot to do. Before I go to bed I’ll be dictating the radio notes that I prepared the other day (if I get pull my head round in the right direction) so that I can prepare a programme tomorrow.

Then there’s the Christmas Cake and Pudding that need baking too.

Finally too, I have biscuits to bake. I had a couple of store-bought packets lying around but while the first packet was fine, the odour that came from the second one that I opened today convinced me that I didn’t need to taste them.

There’s some freh ginger lying around, some almonds and a few other bits and pieces so that looks as if it will make a really nice biscuit mix. It’s a good job that the vegan butter was on special offer today and I took full advantage by buying an extra packet.

So before I go to bed I’ll have a play about on the guitar and work my way through some more of my playlist. I might have a good run through RECOVERING THE SATELLITES

"We only stay in orbit
For a moment of time
And then you’re everybody’s satellite
I wish that you were mine"

Now who does that remind me of?

Friday 1st December 2023 – THE BAD NEWS …

… is that my carcinogenic protein has now been found in my nervous system

The good news is that the doctor whom I saw in Paris at lunchtime is keen to have a go at tackling it. And who am I to object to that? What do I have to lose? My marbles – I lost them a long time ago. In fact, I doubt if I ever found them.

But it’s nice to have some good news. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any, and that’s not a cue to talk about those three days that are missing from my blog at the end of August 2019 aboard THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR either.

But while we’re on the subject of good news … "well, one of us is" – ed … I had a really good session on the acoustic guitar working my way through part of my playlist. I reckoned that if I was going to spend 4 hours sitting in a car going to Paris, that would be as good a time as any to catch up on my beauty sleep so I may as well make the most of my own personal time.

The trouble is that most of my playlist is nostalgia-based and I have a lot of stories to tell about the songs on it. For example, in REAL LIFE my heroine comes from the Outaouais with black curly hair and, quite probably, regular readers of this rubbish will recall the name by which she might be known.

Then there’s MARY JANE’S LAST DANCE. "I’m tired of screwing up, tired of going down, tired of myself, tired of this town". I remember singing this to myself driving down from Crewe to Dover Docks through the night with all of my life that remained packed into the back of an old Cortina Estate

And I could go on … "not with a pickaxe through your neck, you couldn’t" – ed

So abandoning yet another good rant for a while, I hauled myself off to bed.

As usual, being a very light sleeper and having to make sure that I’m out of bed promptly, I had an enormous amount of trouble going to sleep.

But in between the spells of wakefulness I must have gone off to sleep because the alarm awoke me.

First things first – I had a good wash and put on some clean clothes. If I’m going to be poked and prodded about I might as well make an effort.

Second thing was to check the papers in my backpack to make sure that I had them all. My sandwiches were in there too – I’d made them up the night before. It’s always a good plan to have a few bits of bread in the freezer.

Finally, there were the dictaphone notes. Something had gone wrong and we’d had a calamity. As a result everyone in our house had to go out on some kind of visit to someone important at some ridiculous hour of night in the middle of winter. There was a big storm raging. This meeting went on apparently much longer that it was supposed to and it was gone midnight when we all finally struggled back. I was in front having to feel my way along the wall and along the clothes line etc in order to arrive at the building. I eventually ended up in the outhouse to the house. I eventually managed to put the key into the door and open it. I threw on the light switch but there was very little power in the batteries so there was barely a glimmer of light illuminating anything. I could see that this was just going from bad to worse to worse.

Later I was at the University of Duluth in Minnesota last night watching a strange kind of game, something of a cross between basketball and ice hockey. Each team consists of both males and females. The aim was as in basketball or ice hockey to work the ball down towards the goal area where you could lob the ball over the crossbar. If it hit the ground you’d have a free shot at scoring a point, similar to basketball. The net was a kind-of thick arrangement where it was quite easy for the ball to be lost inside. Then it would vibrate and shake around, then dart out in all kinds of strange directions and everyone would run after it. I was watching from behind one of the goals because I knew someone from Duluth who was taking part. Duluth was leading up until the final minute when the opposition managed to get the ball over the bar and bounce on the ground behind which meant that they could have a free shot. However their free shot was held up in the net and the whistle blew before it was ejected. I went to have a chat to my friend afterwards but he couldn’t stay around because he’d only turned up to play the game. He was busy with his harvest back on his own farm.

Strangely enough, I’ve never been to Duluth. I did actually have a passage booked on a freighter going from Ijmuijen to Chicago and Duluth once but at the outbreak of Covid all ad-hoc passengers were excluded from freight sailings and as far as I’m aware they haven’t restarted.

Finally I went into work on Monday but half the cars wouldn’t start and there was a big meeting taking place. The boss asked me to go to the Centre des Urgences to explain and arrange for some assistance. All of a sudden I had a mental blank and couldn’t remember where it was. For about 10 minutes I was wandering aimlessly about the building even ending up down in the basement again in the stores with Henri. Eventually someone explained to me where it was and I found it but it seemed to be for people who were having to travel at last-minute rather than anything else Nevertheless I went over and began to explain the problem but a girl sitting behind one of the desks shouted at me “can’t you see that I’m busy? Can’t you see that I have plenty of other things to do?”. I stormed right over to her and gave her a complete and utter mouthful of exactly what I thought of her interruption and then went over to find someone else with whom I could speak at another desk.

The car came for me bang on time and as I was struggling downstairs the visiting nurse was running up on his way to attend to my neighbour.
"Do you want a Covid injection?" he asked. "I have one left over"
Do bears have picnics in the woods?

So there I was, a taxi driver at the bottom of the stairs, the nurse and I halfway up, me with no clothes on my upper body receiving an injection. It must have made a wonderful sight, but I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity.

The drive to Paris was uneventful apart from the traffic around the Péripherique of course. And finding the correct building in the hospital complex (because it really is a maze) was quite straightforward.

Finding the entrance however was another thing, and once we found it, finding the reception was even more complicated.

And then I had the doctor, and we had quite an interesting discussion.
"Do you know why the hospital at Montlucon took out your spleen?" he asked.
"To be honest" I replied "I don’t think that even they knew why they did it"

And then I recounted my tale of woe about the events that took place between November 2015 and March 2016 with which regular readers of this rubbish will recall being regaled at the time.

But retournons à nos moutons as they say around here, and he told me that the last lumbar puncture revealed traces of the carcinogenic protein in the liquid that flows around my nervous system

So that, dear reader, is that.

But I’ve had to fight all my life and even if I were ready to stop, I wouldn’t know how to.

Over 30 years ago I met the old blues singer TS McPhee in a snooker club in Crewe and we had a good chat. He wrote A SONG ABOUT DYING "I’m like a ship on the ocean that’s rolling from side to side".

He goes on to say "I’ve done everything that I ever set out to do". Well, he might, but I’m a long way short of that and so I’m going to keep on keeping on, as BOB DYLAN WOULD SAY

He’s keen to get in there and fight too, which is good news. It’s always nice to have allies and I don’t have many of them.

His plan is to call me in after the New Year and have me stay for a few days. He plans another one of these really agonising lumbar punctures to check the results, and then he’s going to spend some time examining my heart.

What he reckons is that following the disastrous sessions of chemotherapy that I had and which were rapidly abandoned, there might be some kind of tablet that might stimulate the nerve cells to fight back in the same way that Aranesp stimulates the red blood cells.

However it’s not for the faint-hearted – and he means that in the literal sense. He needs to know if my heart will withstand the strain. If not, he’ll have to think of a Plan B.

He told me about the side effect too, one of which is “bad attacks of cramp” however I don’t really know whether I have any vacant spaces in which to fit any more attacks of cramp.

At one time I started recording the attacks of cramp that I was having but for quite a while now, the only recording of attacks of cramp that takes place is when I go for a day without any, and I bet that you’ve not noticed too many instances of that.

After he threw me out I thought that I’d find a quiet place to eat my butties undisturbed and then phone the driver to say that I was ready but I’d hardly taken the first bite out of my bread before I was caught in flagrante delicto

Apart from the traffic leaving Paris and on the péripherique de Caen we had a straightforward drive home and I drifted away with the fairies now and again.

We were back here at 17:50 and the first thing that I did was to have an energy drink and then make a massive mug of hot chocolate. I’d had nothing whatever to drink all day.

After a rest I had another helping of sausage beans and chips. Something quick and easy.

But after my exertions today I’m off to bed. I’m not going shopping tomorrow. I really can’t haul myself off outside after today.

Instead I’ll send off my supermarket order and add onto it the things that I’d usually buy at the Carrefour.

Discretion is the better part of valour after the events of today.

Thursday 30th November 2023 – THE PERISHING CAR …

… never came to pick me up today to take me to the Centre de Re-education.

There I was, just like Martin Adey and "all revved up with no place to go", sitting on the chair in the dining area by the door wearing my coat and shoes and nothing happened.

After a while I rang them up. It seems that yesterday’s driver had forgotten to pass on to the dispatching the new schedule that I’d received because my trips for next week weren’t recorded either.

We had the issue about the trip to Paris tomorrow not being recorded and having to ring up to remind them earlier in the week. It seems that despite their ultra-modern fleet of Skoda saloons, the wheels are coming off their operation.

Mind you, it’s probably as well that I didn’t go out because the weather has finally turned. It’s freezing outside, threatening snow, and snow is promised for Paris tomorrow.

Mind you, snow round here is nothing like what we’re used to.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that when we lived back in the Auvergne temperatures of minus 18°C were not uncommon. We’d have a metre of snow overnight and be snowed in for a couple of weeks. Every year round about the end of October we’d go into the big city and stock up with supplies because you never knew when you’d be able to go out again.

And then into the forest with the chainsaw to cut your wood, store your water somewhere because your well would freeze over and then finally make sure that you had plenty of good books and films.

The winter of 2012/13 is the one that we’ll all remember. The first snow was 27th October and the last snow was 25th May. I went round to Cecile’s to help her hang a door and didn’t make it back home for 6 months. However, the snow didn’t have a great deal to do with that, I have to admit.

They were exciting times and I enjoyed every minute of it, and had I still had my health I’d be down there now. But I’m going all nostalgic again and I really have to stop doing this

But while we’re on the subject of nostalgia … "well, one of us is" – ed … I ended up going to bed quite late again last night. Once I’d picked up the guitar I carried on until quite late working my way through my old acoustic playlist.

That of course is the advantage of living in a building where the walls are 1.20m thick of solid granite – grès de chausey. I can make as much noise as I like and no-one can hear a thing. Much better than when I lived in Expo and the neighbours used to complain about the noise from my headphones.

But eventually I staggered off to bed and that was that.

When the alarm went off I wandered off into the dining area for my medication and then came back in here to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. I was sorting through my images and came across a folder. When I looked I found another folder with other photos in from the same situation. I was going to merge it in but found yet another one. I kept on finding all these folders. All the while that I was doing this I was hearing that “Jeeves and Wooster” music that was going on in my head. I wasn’t sure why. But this de-duplicating my backup drives is really getting to me at the moment isn’t it?

But the music is explained quite easily. While I was eating my tea I was watching a JEEVES AND WOOSTER episode starring Steven Fry and Hugh Laurie, and then back in here on the Old-Time Radio an episode with Richard Briers and Michael Hordern came round straight away.

Then there was one of these garden parties taking place. There were a lot of children there dressed in ball gowns etc. There was one particular small boy who was very keen on talking to a small girl but she didn’t want anything to do with boys so she kept on running away. It made everyone laugh which really upset him. As the evening drew on, up on the podium someone from the crowd began to recite a poem about a boy and a girl. At that moment a butterfly appeared. It hovered around the boy’s face for a while so he breathed out gently. His breath wafted it towards the girl. She looked at it and began to smile. You could feel the hush of anticipation from the crowd as they saw this. Suddenly the girl had an incredible fit of coughing and swallowed the butterfly. Once again, everyone burst out laughing and the boy and this time the girl too were extremely distraught.

And finally I was back at the kids’ garden party last night, going through the images. All of the sudden I gave a cough and wiped out a whole directory full of images that I’d taken of the young girl in her very nice ball gown.

Once I’d awoken I sat down to make a start on the next radio programme.

While I was in hospital I’d used the time to select the music for several programmes and this one was one of them. Consequently, it didn’t take long to pair them up.

And then in a mad fit of bravado that came from I’ve no idea where I sat down and wrote out the notes for all of it – well, all of the 10 tracks that have been selected so far. I don’t choose the last track and write the notes for that until the day that I assemble to bits.

Nothing nostalgic about anything in this one, which makes a change. In fact, I seem to have run out of steam in this respect.

The cleaner came round after lunch so I stayed in here and wrote out the notes for a few more photographs from Canada 2022 but I’ve run aground at the moment.

The big difficulty is that I can’t remember why I took a few of the photos. I always travel with a dictaphone and make a few verbal notes of most of them but sometimes some of the subjects of the photos are so evident that they need no contemporary notes.

But two things happen when you reach my age. The first thing is that you forget absolutely everything.
"And what’s the second thing?" – ed
"I don’t know. I can’t remember"

That’s how things are. I can remember verbatim the words to any obscure rock song from the late 1960s that you can care to mention, but ask me why I’ve just walked into the kitchen ….

My best friend in this apartment is my white board and washable markers.

With no Centre de Re-education I did some more work on the back-up drive and then went for tea. Something from the European Vegan Burger Mountain with pasta and veg in spicy tomato sauce.

Rosemary and I had a quick chat too. She’d found some wild mushrooms and wanted to know if they were edible. I explained to her that everything is edible once but I’ve no idea about subsequently.

While I was at it I told her about the delicious mushroom soup that Nerina once made for me
"This is delicious" I said. "Where did you find the recipe?"
"In an Agatha Christie novel" she replied.

Tomorrow I’m off to Paris for my appointment with Destiny. We’ll see how that works out but we’ll have to be pragmatic. An 8-hour car drive in bad winter weather is not ideal but at least I don’t have to do the driving.

There will be no medication, no breakfast and nothing to drink before I go, on the basis that what doesn’t go in won’t want to come out, but I’ll make some sandwiches all the same. My appointment is at 12:40 so there will be a moment for me to have a bite to eat before we set off for home.

There are plenty of cafés and restaurants there at the hospital but I won’t be able to walk there, especially if we have snow and ice covering the paths.

Wednesday 29th November 2023 – TONIGHT’S LEFTOVER CURRY …

… was the best that I’ve ever made. And I’m not sure why because there were just the usual ingredients in it and nothing else.

Mind you, having said that, the garlic naan was one of the best too. So all that I can think of is that the soya yoghurt with which I made it is different from the usual type, and that might account for it.

The naan bread was rather flat though, but as I mentioned the other day, I made the dough the wrong size and that will probably account for that. If it’s less dough, it’ll be less thick in the frying pan

Anyway, retournons à nos moutons as they say around here, I almost went to bed without dictating the radio notes last night. It was very much a last-minute thing and I ended up going to bed considerably later than planned

And there’s something going on that I can’t explain and which I noticed the last time I dictated the radio notes that even with the text right before my very eyes, I ended up once more making a total pig’s ear of it. I seem to be losing the ability to read out loud right now

When the alarm went off I was out of bed fairly quickly and staggered off into the dining area for my medication.

Back in here I had a listen to the dictaphone notes to find out where I’d been during the night. I was working on a 3D project last night, having to track down various poses that I needed to create for part of it. Someone had sent me a link so I was busy looking through these poses to find out which ones would be the best to incorporate that I could amend easily to give the effect that I wanted. All of this became some kind of confusion between what was going on with this project and what was going on in real life during the dream. The outlines became rather blurred about it. At one point there was a report that someone had reported one of my posts on the subject to a moderator but I couldn’t think of what it was that I’d posted that could possibly be contentious no matter how much I racked my brains. In the end I still hadn’t finished this project at all. I was a long way from the end.

And later on a new factory had opened. I’d obtained a job there in technology so I went along to start. The very first task was that the company had a fleet of old lorries and the idea was to fill in the seams with resin and put plastic beading in to prevent them from rusting. This was something that I’d never done before so I wasn’t very quick. The guy supervising was having something of a moan. I was doing the best that I could but I thought to myself “well it can only get better than this”. We carried on doing jobs like this. I ended up talking to another new recruit doing a similar kind of job to me. We talked about our home life and the usual things you’d discuss at work. All of a sudden I noticed that everyone was disappearing from the floor so I followed them. It was break-time and there was a canteen but the food in there was astonishing. It was like a wedding buffet. Of course there was coffee etc but there were cakes, pastries, sandwiches, cheese, etc. I thought to myself that I’d never seen anything at all like this in a factory or office setting. I was thinking of all the people whom I knew who would really like to be there and how much weight would I put on after having worked here for a couple of weeks with all of this.

While I was checking my mails I had a listen to the radio programme that will be broadcast this coming weekend, and then sent it off for inserting in the stream.

And then I attacked the one for which I dictated the notes last night and, as I expected, editing it took longer than it ought. By the time that I’d added in the final track and the notes for that I had overrun by 10 seconds or so but that didn’t take long to edit out

Although you won’t be able to hear it for 8 months, it’ll be one of nostalgia.

At one point not long after I’d left school I had a girlfriend whose father ran a pub in the wilds of South Cheshire. Her brother was a big pal of a guy who played drums in a local rock band that had a couple of LPs but never actually went anywhere.

A couple of years ago, quite by accident, I bumped into the drummer and he sent me copies of the albums. I’ve been gradually inserting the odd track here and there in my programmes as I go along and there will be one coming up in this programme

When I finished I had a good scrub up at the sink and then printed out the paperwork that I needed to give to the driver about my trip to Paris.

And, of course, no matter how many papers I actually produce, I’m always going to be short of one. But anyone who has ever lived in France will know all about that.

There were two sessions today at the Centre de Re-education. A physiotherapy session with Severine of course, but also a group relaxation session which struck me as being rather pointless but it costs me nothing so who am I to complain?

Severine had me working hard though and I was totally exhausted by the time that I returned and in fact once I’d had my hot chocolate I crashed out.

But despite being exhausted, I made it up the stairs with fewer issues than Friday so it can’t be a question of fatigue.

It can’t be a question of what’s in my backpack when I’ve been shopping either because taking it off last Friday made no difference. So I dunno.

During whatever time was left today I finished off the photos from Canada 2022 and I’m now busy writing up the notes. Right now I’m walking down from the Basilique through the old town to the port to watch the shipping sailing up the St Lawrence River.

Tea has already been mentioned, so right now I’m going to have a hot drink and then I’ll be off to bed.

Tomorrow the cleaner is coming (she swapped her day from today) and I have another couple of sessions at the Centre de Re-education. There are plenty of other things to do too and I’ll have to chase down this missing paperwork for Paris

A decent night’s sleep will do me the world of good, especially if I can have some pleasant company during the night. Not that it ever seems to work out like that.

One of these days Castor will come back to visit me so I’m going to have a bash on the guitar and let RICHARD THOMPSON HELP ME CHASE AWAY A FEW OF MY DEMONS

"It’s a dangerous game I played
I threw my soul and life away "

It was a mistake to rake up this nostalgia thing today.

Tuesday 28th November 2023 – MY BREAD AND BUTTER …

… pudding went the Way of the West this morning.

It was looking rather suspicious yesterday and this morning when I opened the cake tin my suspicions were confirmed.

Either it wasn’t cooked through thoroughly enough or else my cake tin isn’t air-tight or, more likely, it’s a combination of them both.

It has to be said that I’m actually baking with a cheap table-top oven and I’ve long-known that it’s pretty much hit and miss. To cook anything in it I have to increase the temperature 20° and increase the cooking time by 50%

What’s sad about all of this is that in the back of Caliburn not only do I have a proper built-in oven that I picked up in Macon from Jean-Marc last summer after he and Jacqueline remodelled their kitchen, I also have the units to fit it that I picked up from IKEA in Munich. It’s handy having friends who live next door to the largest IKEA in Europe.

But be that as it may, in the van they are and in the van they’ll stay because there is no way on this earth that I can bring them up here in the state in which I find myself.

As for airtight containers, I have quite a few more and better ones of those too but they are up on the top shelf in the kitchen and I can’t reach them. What kind of state am I in that I have a set of steps here but I can’t climb up them?.

Anyway, that’s enough of my moaning. Life isn’t all about being dealt a good hand of cards, it’s all about how you play the cards that you’ve been dealt and instead of worrying about problems, I ought to be thinking about solutions.

All of that will give me something about which I can think while I’m in bed tonight, so I’m hoping that it will be a longer night than last night because what with one thing and another (and once you make a start you’ll be surprised at how many other things there are) I ended up going to bed late last night.

And having spent all that time talking about garlic keeping away vampires and my three favourite young ladies, I had a visitor last night. TOTGA came to see me.

When the alarm went off at 07:00 I staggered to my feet and wobbled off into the dining area for my medication. And back here afterwards I listened to the dictaphone notes. I’d been a guest in someone’s house and had been interested on one or two items in someone’s collection. Every time I went to have a closer look at them I was suspected of stealing them. The whole situation in this country house-type of place became very complicated. There was one of the guests, a girl with one leg. She was wearing a pair of trousers. She asked me if I’d change the trousers and put a pair of shorts on her. Of course that would be something that I would find extremely difficult to do so I tried to hedge. In the end she explained to me that I was the only person here so it had to be me who would do it. The girl and I had to think of a way in which it would be possible to do it. Every idea with which I came up seemed to have a pitfall in it that wouldn’t make it work. And that seems to be par for the course these days.

And then later on TOTGA turned up, as I mentioned earlier. I’d gone with someone to some kind of club meeting because a guy had some Land Rover wheels and some kind of jacket for sale. My friend was very interested in them so I agreed to go with him to have a look and to help him. We arrived there and he found the person whom he was wanting to see so he wandered off for a chat. While I was wandering around on my own I came across TOTGA and we began to talk. What had actually happened was that there was some kind of snake slithering along the ground. All of a sudden its tongue darted out and caught a most enormous beetle, swallowed it, and slithered off on its way. I pointed it out to TOTGA and asked her if it was a snake or a slow worm. She didn’t know and neither did it. I’d taken some photos of it but the colours looked rather weak and insipid so we ended up talking about colours, palettes etc for photography and images. She told me that she used a palette that was called something like “City of Oklahoma”. I began to do some research and found out a few things about it but couldn’t find out how to load it up. In the meantime my friend came over to me, handed me his glasses in the glasses case and told me to put them in my pocket. I put them in my pocket but just the something hit me really hard on the foot. I thought that the glasses had fallen through a hole and dropped on my foot that way but they were still in my coat. It can’t have been them. I couldn’t see anything at all around there that might have dropped onto my foot. My friend gave me one or two other things, said “come on, give me a hand” and began to collect up the wheels and this jacket. Obviously he’d had a successful negotiation and was now prepared to carry away his prizes.

And wouldn’t I have liked to have carried away my prize too? But as I have explained before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … TOTGA always had far more sense than to allow herself to be swept up in my evil clutches.

Fighting off (sometimes unsuccessfully) waves of sleep I prepared for my Welsh lesson and to my surprise it passed off quite well, which took me by surprise. We spent much of the morning discussing shipwrecks and ocean travel, and I spent time talking about trailing along in the wake of John Ross.

Something else that we had to do today was to produce something from our day-to-day life and talk about it.

Of course, it goes without saying that I produced STRAWBERRY MOOSE and we discussed the events surrounding his confrontation with the Minister of Education, an unexpected death and the issue that arose with a group of students in Scotland, all of which led to his expulsion from the University.

Mind you, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, had he had different friends and companions, the eventual outcome would have been much different.

This afternoon, despite falling asleep on several occasions (and I don’t know why because it’s not as if I’ve done much) I finished off the radio notes ready for dictating later tonight, and then carried on with the photos from Canada 2022.

That latter task is taking far longer than it ought but I’m hoping that tomorrow after I finish the radio programme I can finish those off too. And then I have the notes to write, which will probably take me another 3 months.

And if you think that that’s a long time, I still haven’t finished the post-production of the … gulp … 6,000 photos that I took in the High Arctic in 2019.

Tea tonight was a taco roll with rice and veg, and there’s still some stuffing left to make a left-over curry tomorrow

So tomorrow I have a radio programme to prepare, photos to finish off, forms to print out and a physiotherapy session down at the Centre de Re-education. And then I have to think about what I’m going to do about Friday and my trip to Paris.

One thing’s for sure, and that is that you won’t get much sense out of me on Saturday. But then again, why should Saturday be any different from any other day anyway?

Monday 27th November 2023 – IT WAS A GOOD …

… job that I rang up the taxi company to tell them that the authorisation for my journey to Paris had been received from the Social Services.

It seems that the letter that I gave to the driver the other day hasn’t found its way into Head Office so they hadn’t reserved a car for me. But that’s now arranged and at about 08:30 on Friday I shall be on my way to the Haematology department at the Hôpital Salpetrière in Paris.

This is presumably when they’ll decide whether or not to take over the case of my cancer from Leuven. If they do, then all well and good.

If on the other hand they don’t, then we’ll be at an impasse. The last time that I was in Leuven was in September and the travelling was total and utter agony. Had I not had the support of Alison, Jackie and Hans while I was there I would have been finished.

My health has deteriorated since then and I won’t be able to undertake the journey.

It goes without saying that no matter how good the treatment might be in Leuven, it’s all totally pointless if the strain of travelling is going to make me worse. I’m quickly reaching the point where the best and most comfortable way of proceeding is to do nothing and let nature run its course

Obviously, staggering down the stairs into a taxi and being driven to Paris is the lesser of several evils, but then we have the climb back up the stairs when I return home that will negate the effects of whatever treatment I might have had.

At least, last night was rather less mobile than some have been just recently so I could have a good relax, even though I was quite late going to bed.

And there were some strange goings-on during the night too. I was awake early this morning and after a while I looked at the time on my phone – it was 06:00 so it must have been about 05:30 that I’d awoken. At some point I must have gone back to sleep because my brother awoke and asked me what time it was. I told him that it was 05:00 and to shut up and go to sleep. He obviously didn’t believe me because he got out of bed, switched on the light disturbing everyone else in the room and went to look. Once he’d satisfied himself that I was correct he went back to bed and began to listen to his radio. After a few minutes of this I told him to put an earpiece in. Then I must have gone to sleep in the dream because I began to dream about some child who was ill but at that moment the alarm went off and awoke me.

It’s actually been a while since I’ve dreamed that I’ve fallen asleep and dreamed that I was dreaming in a dream – if that makes sense

From the bedroom I tottered into the dining area and had my medication, and then came back in here to check my mails.

After a while when I’d come round into the Land of the Living I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. I was at a beach seaside resort with a small port last night with a couple of girls. We were standing on the cliffs watching the storm. There were some kayakers in the port, in individual or in North American canoes in which could fit several people. They were being tossed around like corks in there. It looked really interesting so in the end went to arrange for one of them. We climbed into two and were having fun in the storm. By now the boats had grown into more like canal barges and were having an enormous amount of fun either trying to ram each other or trying to pass each other. In the end it developed into a race on foot between me and someone else with a couple of shopping trolleys dashing through the centre of a town going through roadworks etc. I was in the lead but the other guy kept trying to overtake me. I was all like something out of a Formula 1 car race.

Later on I was in Crewe waiting to turn left into Nantwich Road at the traffic lights. As I pulled up to the lights an Austin Healey Sprite with Swedish number plates and huge tyres pulled up in front of me. The guy in it, an older type of guy with a young girl sitting next to him was doing wheelies in this Sprite and generally showing off. As usual I thought tl myself ‘this is a recipe for disaster”. With the lights being on red he left his car and went for a walk around. I was itching for the lights to change before he came back so that I could give him a full blast on the horn. Just then a load of Austin Cambridge MkII cars pulled up. There must have been 4 or 5 of them. They all looked in really good condition except that the paint was missing on part of the bodywork. I left my car and began to paint the bodywork with the old BMC maroon-type paint and a brush. I ended up painting the wheels with it too.

After I’d had my coffee and bread-and-butter pudding I sat down to make the next batch of hummus for the next few weeks.

And my new FOOD PROCESSOR really is the business. It made pretty short work of grinding and mixing everything up, much better than the little machine that I’ve been using up until recently.

There are now 5 small containers of hummus, four in the freezer and one in the fridge for current use.

For the benefit of new readers, of which there are a few just recently, a decent hummus is quite easy to make if you have a decent food processor or way of whizzing things up. The recipe is

  • 50% chick peas, drained
  • 25% tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 10% olive oil
  • 10% chick pea juice
  • A large handful of fresh garlic
  • some sea salt
  • plenty of black pepper

Whizz all of that together into a nice purée and then add your extras. Whizz that in just enough to break the extras into pieces but not so much that it dissolves into the purée.

Half of my batch has chilis added to it. The other half has olives and there should have been sun-dried tomatoes in there too but I didn’t like the look of them.

Having been to Transylvania and walked the parapets of Castle Bran (and I have, too) I can confirm that garlic is a very important ingredient in my cooking, for all kinds of reasons.

After lunch I had to telephone the hospital at Caen about this IRM that they want me to have on my heart and then to telephone the ambulance company about my trip to Paris.

The cleaner came by too to drop off my mail and we had a chat too. It seems that my neighbour who is ill isn’t going too well right now and people are becoming worried about her. The nurse also put in an appearance and we had a chat about my next Covid injection.

And in between falling asleep I made a start on another radio programme. I’ve chosen the music, paired it off and written over half of the notes. I can finish off the rest of them tomorrow and dictate them tomorrow night.

Tea was a stuffed pepper with pasta and veg and there’s plenty of stuffing left for my taco roll tomorrow and a leftover curry for Wednesday along with one of the naan breads the dough of which I made on Sunday.

Plenty of garlic in there too, and soaked in the garlic butter that I made the other week, that should be really good. I won’t ever be worried about vampires coming to see me in the dead of night, although it might actually explain why Zero, Castor and TOTGA have been keeping their distance.

So now I’m going to have a hot drink and go to bed. Welsh lesson in the morning so I need to be on my best form.

At least I can have a good sleep in the afternoon afterwards.

Sunday 26th November 2023 – NOW THAT WAS …

… much more like how a Sunday morning ought to be. I can’t remember a single thing about it.

Well, that’s not actually correct, because from about 00:00 until about 02:30 I remember quite a lot of it. But once I crawled quietly into bed, that was that.

In fact, it wasn’t until about 12:15 that I actually saw the light of day and crawled out of my stinking pit towards my medication. And as a result I didn’t have all that much time to transcribe the dictaphone notes before my porridge, cheese on toast and strong coffee.

That’s exactly how to start the day, in my opinion.

While I eat my meals at the table I’m either watching a film or reading a book. Films are usually in the evening and books usually during the day. And right now I’m reading THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK by Alfred Watkins, written in 1925.

He’s the author who developed the theory of ley lines and while some of what he wrote is discredited by many, a lot of it still holds good today and much of the criticism levelled at his work is erroneous.

But what caught my eye was a paragraph about vegetation, in which he comments that a change in climate may have accounted for a change in vegetation. For 100 years ago, that was a novel idea.

The first trace in print that I have been able to find that suggested the possibility of climate change was in Munn’s WINELAND VOYAGES : LOCATION OF HELLULAND, MARKLAND, AND VINLAND, written in 1914, and how Munn was roundly, and in some cases, viciously vilified by his contemporaries, some of whom, like Nansen ought to have known better.

And how many people have ended up subsequently with omelette sur le visage, as they say around here.

So back in here I carried on with the dictaphone notes. Mountains and mountains of them. I was still at school. It was coming up close to my A Levels. I’d been making all kinds of plans for things that I’d wanted to do. We had a young girl from India staying with us on an exchange visit. She was also at school. One day a coach pulled up at school and we all piled on. She was quite mystified. The coach set off but when it turned onto the motorway she began to panic. She said that school buses aren’t allowed on motorways in India. Anyway, everyone persuaded her and she finally began to understand that there was a play taking place somewhere nearby that was part of our A Level syllabus so we were going to see it, as we did at school on several occasions for different things. Gradually the discussion became rather more complicated than that. I suddenly began to understand that what was going on was that they were going to drop me off at the hospital or somewhere like that because my medical results and reports had come through. The hospital wanted to follow it up so everyone was taking advantage of this play idea by saying and doing nothing to me, just presenting me with a fait accompli when we arrived at the hospital. This was why the girl was quite worried – she’d actually heard the part about dropping me off at the hospital before she’d actually heard about going to the play.

And then I was back in this dream about that hospital – actually in the hospital. They were discussing physiotherapy arrangements. Someone said that there was an article available for me that I’d find quite useful. When they turned up I expected them to have brought the article with them but the person just came on his own and asked me to go with him to fetch it. That was pretty-much impossible because I didn’t have anything with me to help, like crutches etc. It turned out that there was nothing marked on their records for any patient at all who had mobility issues. I tried to convince him that maybe this was something that the hospital had to change because I couldn’t go anywhere to pick up whatever it was that he was offering to give me.

At another point I was down in south-west London staying with a couple. I noticed that the girl had a strange fancy for a certain type of car, a 3-wheeled vehicle but was one that I’d never seen before. She had one in which she drove around and occasionally another would turn up as she found it, and there was one parked down at the end of her street. One night as I was going to bed I heard some kind of commotion but I ignored it. Next morning when I awoke all the 3-wheelers had gone. There was a dark blue Ford Cortina MkIII down at the end of the street. The first thing that I heard someone say to her was “when did you have your new car?”. She replied “17:00 yesterday evening” and she chatted away about her new car. Then she began to talk about the one parked up down the end of the road. That apparently had a new chassis so she was planning to keep hold of it for a while and maybe use it at a later date. She was annoyed because she thought that she was going to go to church but apparently her boyfriend had other plans so we began to discuss these particular vehicles amongst ourselves.

While I was asleep I met up with those 4 gipsy girls who have appeared in my meanderings before. I’d first come across them somewhere else and when we were wandering around a fairground they seemed to be loitering around a few pill-sellers. My friend and I went along and tried to usher the girls away from temptation and try to organise them into going home. In the end the two elder girls began to hang around with my friend and me. The one that I particularly liked, I took her on a little exploration of the area and was pointing out one or two other things and items to her while we were walking around.

And that intrigued me. I scrolled back through several years of notes (I didn’t go back as far as the beginning of this project in 1999 by the way) to find an earlier reference to these 4 girls because it was evident that I must have known them from somewhere – but I couldn’t find a previous mention of them.

But interestingly, it wouldn’t have been the first time that I had discreetly steered a group of young people away from a situation that was on the verge of becoming unpleasant, and it wouldn’t have been the first time that one of the aforementioned had attached herself to me as a result either

Finally there was a football match taking place in the office between 2 teams. One of the players was very badly injured, a huge lump taken out of his back. When I looked, his shirt was a mass of blood. I suggested that I take him off to the Health Centre, have them have a look at it and decide what to do. I took the guy but I couldn’t remember where the Health Centre was. I went to the local switchboard on the floor where we were and asked to be put through to the Health Centre. Instead, she picked up an external directory and began to thumb through it trying to find the number. After about 2 minutes and I suddenly realised what she was doing I ripped it out of her hands and stuck what I thought was the Internal directory into her hands. It turned out to be another volume of the external one. In the end I ripped that out of her hands too and was busy having this major argument with her while this boy was bleeding to death at my feet. And I suddenly awoke.

You really don’t want to know any more about what went on during the night. Not while you’re eating your tea anyway.

A couple of people have been speaking to me on the internet during the day. Rosemary and I had had a chat (that I’d forgotten to mention) the other day that was interrupted so she called me back today and we carried on from where we left off.

Catherine spoke to me too. She was a lecturer at University who lives in Southern Germany but I know her through her mother with whom I served on various University committees. When her parents retired they went to live in Southern Germany too and as they live only couple of hours from Munich I usually pop in when I’m passing by.

Catherine was wondering how I was doing, and also wanted to tell me that her father was not doing too well, which is a shame. I hope that he recovers soon.

As well as that I made a big batch of naan bread dough, but I seem to have miscalculated. Instead of 8 balls of 100 grams, I made 10 balls of 80 grams.

Rosemary advised me to put my festering fruit in the fridge to stop it fermenting so I had to track down some containers with lids. I know where the containers are, of course, but reaching them, the way things are, is something else.

The rest of the day was spent on the radio programme. I don’t know what happened but dictating the notes last night was appalling. I made an absolute pig’s ear of it all and it ended up as quite a mess. Consequently it took me an age to untangle everything this afternoon.

However, it’s now all done, assembled and up and running ready for broadcast on … errr … 12th July 2024

Tonight’s pizza was excellent again and now that I’m fed, I’m going to be watered and then I’m off to bed.

Tomorrow I should in theory start the next radio programme but that’s going on hold for a while. It’s going to be quite complicated and will require a lot of research because 19th July is quite a significant day in the history of rock music, as far as I’m concerned. Instead, I’ll prepare the one after.

But I’ll worry about that tomorrow. Right now I’m off to bed.

Saturday 25th November 2023 – I WAS HAPPY …

… that it was today that I went on the bus to the shops and not yesterday.

Yesterday was a cold, wet windy miserably day but today was one of the nicest days that we’ve had for ages and it was a real pleasure to be out.

It was the kind of day where, had things been different, I’d have made a flask of piping hot coffee and gone for a nice long walk northwards along the coast with the camera, but how things have changed in that respect.

Things changed a little in bed last night too because I seem to have had something of a rather more relaxed night. That’s a good thing from the point of view of sleep but a bad thing from the point of view of adventure. The only adventures I have these days are these rather vicarious ones at second hand as my ethereal spirit goes walkabout during the night.

At the hospital they keep on asking me if I want sleeping pills, and I keep on turning them down. My little nocturnal voyages are about all the fun that I have, given the way that things have turned out.

When the alarm went off I fell out of bed and struggled to my feet, and then having dressed, I toddled off into the dining area to take my medication.

Back here I transcribed the dictaphone notes from last night – and it didn’t take me long. I was with a bunch of pirates last night. We’d gone ashore in the High Arctic somewhere amidst all the snow and the ice. Some of the descriptions that the crew was giving off about the are in which they found themselves were extremely poetic, including things like “if it wasn’t for the cold you’d never realise the danger” etc. A couple of the crew wandered away during the night to explore and we didn’t know if we’d be lucky enough to see them next morning etc. As it became light next morning we were rounded up into some kinds of fishing parties. We’d tried to do some fishing the evening before and had caught some cod but this morning we were going to go out on a full-scale fishing operation to revictual the ship. That involved a couple of the rowing boats with a net spread between them and the two rowing boats rowing round in a circle towards each other to tighten the catch inside the net. We were busy organising this when I suddenly awoke

It’s a shame that it ended at that point because I would have loved to have seen how our fishing expedition unfolded. When Richard Hakluyt transcribed John Cabot’s notes in order to include them for publication in his “Principall Navigations” in 1589 he came across Cabot’s delightful description of the Labrador coast and "The cod were in largeness and quantitie … that they stayed our ships".

When my book about the Labrador coast finally hits the shelves, you’ll notice the difference. Constant over-fishing by industrial trawlers decimated the cod fishery so much that in 1992 the Canadian Government imposed a moratorium on cod-fishing. And so all the big industrial trawlers moved off elsewhere and the small subsistence fisherman along the coast was deprived of his livelihood and fell into desolation and despair.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall us working our way down the Nova Scotia coast on our voyages of 2003 and 2010 when we picked our way through the decay and dereliction of piles of abandoned fishing equipment.

strawberry moose, buccaneer, near moyock, north carolina, usa, eric hall, photo, 30th september 2017But while we’re on the subject of pirate ships … "well, one of us is" – ed … we’ve encountered pirate ships before.

In 2017 when we were on our way back from visiting Rhys in South Carolina STRAWBERRY MOOSE and I came across a pirate ship. His Nibs quickly recruited an ad-hoc crew and set sail for the Spanish Main in order to wreak havoc amongst the treasure ships heading back from New Spain to the Old World.

And as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, his antics on the High Seas on his way home from looking after Kathryn at University in Ontario in 2011 led to questions being asked in the Canadian Parliament.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed there was a story about me being at some kind of formal party with about half a dozen other people, having an enormous amount of difficulty trying to keep still, having to keep moving my legs quite regularly. This led to some kind of commotion about food but I can’t now remember very much about this issue of food except that it was something that had caused it.

There was time for a quick wash and brush-up and then I headed for the bus. He was late arriving and with not being able to move around it was quite cold.

However there was a really beautiful blue sky. Jersey stood out really clearly on the horizon this morning and it looked as if I could reach out and touch the Brittany coast across the bay, it was so clear.

There was no ice or frost on the car windscreens which is no surprise as we are only 50 feet from the sea here and in the face of the prevailing westerly winds, but once we were out of the wind, all of the cars parked at the side of the road were iced up.

At St Nicolas no-one made the sign of the Cross today, but after I’d done my shopping I had a pleasant chat about historic buildings with the guy drinking coffee next to me as I waited for my bus home.

The only marzipan that they had was this tricolour stuff but I don’t suppose that it matters under icing. I have to use what I can.

They did have soya yogurt to make my naan bread but it’s only sold in packets of 8 so I’ll be making a lot of naan bread dough tomorrow.

Coming back up the stairs was another nightmare. There’s no doubt that I’m actually moving easier – that was quite evident today and I’m pleased about that – but I can’t lift my leg high enough to climb the steps and we had another gymnastics morning.

But I’ll have to have a word with Severine when I see her again and find out what she can do for me.

Having put the food away I made my cheese on toast and then came in here, where I promptly fell asleep.

A ‘phone call awoke me. The paperwork has come in from the engineer and the co-property committee has decided that they want a couple more quotes. Could I organise it?

When I lived in Expo, that was a co-property and there were enormous issues about an apartment owner who would launch himself into all kinds of unauthorised adventures and then bombard the committee with all kind sof paperwork, and I remember very well many of the issues that arose.

Consequently, I told them that if they give me an authorisation I’ll do it quite happily but I’m not doing it without any authorisation.

This afternoon I soaked all my fruit – and found that although I had all kinds of things in my baking box I didn’t have any glacé cherries, or bigarreaux confits as they call them around here. They had some advertised in LeClerc’s home delivery catalogue so I hope that they’ll still be in stock when I send off my order.

So we now have currants, sultanas, raisins, figs, cranberries, some of that dried gelified fruit, desiccated coconut, ground almonds, banana chips, dried orange chips and the odd partridge in a pear tree divided into two lots – a small one for the pudding and a big one for the cake – soaking in a mixture of vanilla, fleur d’orange, rum essence, brandy essence, all kinds of spices and probably a few other things too.

It’ll be in there for a week or 10 days, being stirred and fed with more liquid over that period ready for a baking session next weekend.

But the essences of rum and brandy are interesting. It’s not available in France – after all, if you have the real stuff, why use artificial? But there’s a chain of shops called “Bulk Barn” in all of the big cities in Canada – something like an old UK “Weigh and Save” on steroids.

Rural Canada is just like the 1950s which is why I really like it, and home baking and that kind of thing are major occupations. And when I was in the one in Fredericton last year I made a wonderful discovery and several bottles of essence found their way into my suitcase for future use.

And by God is it strong!

Back here afterwards I crashed out again, for ages this time, and since then I’ve been de-duplicating one of the backup drives.

Tea tonight was baked potato with salad and a veggie burger in breadcrumbs and that was as delicious as usual.

So now I’m off for a hot drink or two and then I’ll dictate the radio notes ready for tomorrow when I’ll prepare the programme. There’s naan dough to make as well as I’ve now run out.

Something else that I’ve run out of is chocolate biscuits. However when tidying up the shelves the other say I found a couple of packets of industrial ones about which I’d forgotten. I’ll finish these off and bake another batch of biscuits next weekend.

That should keep me out of mischief for a while.

Friday 24th November 2023 – AS YOU MIGHT …

… expect, having decided not to go to the shops this morning in case the garage came to pick up Caliburn, they didn’t turn up at all.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, this is par for the course. Only I can do things like DRIVE 500 MILES TO VISIT AN ISOLATED ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE and find it closed for the season, or load up Caliburn to go to the dechetterie and pick the only day in the month when it is closed.

And in 2022 where I booked 4 nights in a hotel in Montreal to find that the only day that the train to the east left was on the third night

That’s the kind of thing that crops up all the time and regular readers of this rubbish are used to this by now.

Having said that, it was really just as well that I didn’t go because I really didn’t feel like it. It was another horrible night where it took ages to go off to sleep and when I did, I had another incredibly mobile night.

When the alarm went off I staggered into the kitchen, to find that I was actually feeling rather more steady on my feet today than I have done just recently, and I even managed 4 steps without leaning on anything.

It might be Severine’s exertions that are working, or it might be my nocturnal exercises with the elastic band wrapped round my ankles, or it might just be my imagination.

After the medication and checking my mails (and I’ve had authorisation to have a taxi for Paris on Friday next week) I had a very slow start to the day and it took a while to wind myself up ready to start. We were on board a ship again last night and every time we’d go ashore I’d always sit with the same person, another guy. On this particular occasion we all lined up ready to climb into the boats to take us ashore. I sat down in a good place but the guy walked straight past me and went to sit down next to someone else. In the end I had either a girl or a woman sit next to me but I was more interested in listening to what these other 2 guys were doing. They were having a tremendous amount of fun talking about Queen Victoria as a painter, cracking jokes with each other etc. One of them was having a go at painting and everyone was crowded around having a look. All of a sudden, even in the dream, I felt really lonely and alone.

Liz once asked me a good while ago if I ever felt lonely, living as I do. But in fact I don’t actually live alone. The advantage of having a split personality is that there’s always a group of me living inside my head and there’s that much noise going on that I’m certainly not lonely.

But in actual fact, the alternatives to being lonely are probably worse. “he who travels fastest travels furthest” and “he who travels fastest travels alone”. And I’ve certainly covered much more ground alone than I otherwise would have done.

The only time that I have really regretted being on my own was at times such as strolling across the Little Big Horn battlefield or standing on the top of South Pass, or visiting the Norse Furdustrandir on the coast of Labrador and there was no-one to share the experience with me.

But of course, had I had someone in tow before I set off, I wouldn’t have ever arrived at anywhere like that. I really ought to have had a daughter. Castor enjoyed my little stories when we were alone together on THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR late at night.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bedroom we were all discussing what we would be doing on a particular evening at home. Almost everyone had various plans but it ended up that I would be there with my 3 younger siblings at home wo we were trying to work out what we would be doing about a meal. I tried to find out whether there was any food that needed collecting because sometimes there was but the food that I could have picked up coming back from Percy Penguin’s I’d picked up the previous day. There were 1 or 2 things from other outlying farms but it was quite out of the way to go. They did ask me if I’d go out there to pick it up but for some reason I said that it would be difficult. As they were leaving my parents turned to me and said “you’ll be OK organising this meal for the other 3 won’t you? And you’ll be paying”. That was the first news that I heard about it. They had never ever discussed the payment with me for a single minute until they had some of their feet outside the door.

And then I had exactly the same dream half an hour later – word for word.

Later on I was seeing on some kind of basis a girl who had the same name as one of my regular visitors, but it wasn’t she . A third by began to hang around occasionally. I’d invited the girl back for a meal and I’d cooked something but the guy showed up. Out of courtesy I gave him some food. He asked for something but I only had a little so I said “you’re eating me out of house and home aren’t you?”. He replied “it’s not my fault. I didn’t ask to come for a meal”. I replied “you asked to asked to hang around with this girl. What did you expect?”. In the end it ended up in one of these arguments that we had. I said to the boy “there’s only one person who can decided who the girl goes out with and that’s the girl herself” and I went off to clear the table. About 30 seconds later he said “it looks as if I’m stealing your girlfriend” and walked out of the room with her. After she left she stuck her head back in the door to say “if you see (something) belonging to me you’ll remember to give it to me won’t you? You will still keep looking for it, won’t you?”. I answered with a very non-committal “yes” and carried on clearing the table.

Some of my plants are going to miss my layered kitchen but I’m going to have it remodelled as I can no longer walk up the steps. One of the plants was an adopted plant that came from a level kitchen anyway so it wouldn’t have too much trouble readapting but the others will probably find it difficult because the steps in the kitchen are completely beyond me now. It’s high time that I had the floor and everything put on the level. And what that has to do with anything I really don’t know at all.

There was another dream too. We were on holiday. I was with a girl but I can’t remember who she was. There was a variety of older couples. There was a very young girl there with a much older man. He was disabled. We formed the opinion that she wasn’t looking after him correctly. She seemed to be a nice enough girl but there was something about how the reaction between the 2 of them didn’t seem correct at all. When we travelled to this particular hotel we could see that the old guy was having a hard time but the girl didn’t seem to be particularly concerned all that much. Next day we were going somewhere and the girl appeared on her own. She tagged onto our little group of people. We didn’t really say all that much to her but when we climbed out of the coach to go on the way back to the hotel we began to chat. We asked about the guy and she gave some very non-committal answers. I had the uncomfortable feeling that she was trying to ingratiate herself with me for some reason but I wasn’t really sure why. As we climbed up and down the steps across this entry to go to the hotel I shouted out to my girlfriend “all those in favour of a coffee say ‘Aye'” and the girl shouted “Aye” too. I had no idea exactly what was happening but there were some things about this situation that just didn’t seem right to me at all.

That’s just another one of a whole series of strange encounters that I’ve had with strange people. 25 years ago I had an e-mail from a girl. “I’m a clandestine from Myanmar here in Brussels with no papers at all. I think you can help me”.
My biggest default has always been my curiosity and that has led me into a pile of difficulties and problems in the past but nevertheless, I responded.
We met up in Brussels and she got into my car. A beautiful young Oriental girl, probably early 20s at most. Perfectly manicured hands, perfectly coiffured hair, designer denim jacket with matching jeans.
If it looks like a rat and walks like a rat and smells like a rat, then it’s a rat. There’s no way she’d fought her way through the mangrove swamps on the border between Myanmar and Thailand

She played me along for a while and I played her along for a while but she eventually grasped the message that whatever she wanted from me she wasn’t going to get until I in my turn had some answers to a whole host of difficult questions, and that was something else that fizzled out.

There was another complicate dream about a girl who lived on a model housing estate that wasn’t quite finished. She had a pet that might have been a dog. As she travelled a lot she relied on one of the neighbours, a young guy, to feed the dog for her. On one occasion that she’d been away something had gone wrong about the dog food. In the end the guy had only ended up making meals for the dog for 3 days instead of 7. It led to quite a few complications, not only for her and the guy but for a few passers-by who heard their discussion. That’s all that I remember about this dream but it did go on for hours and hours and at one point I remember sitting on the kerb overlooking this housing estate eating a meal that I suspected was dog food.

There was something to do with a Prisoner-of-War camp. There were civilian internees, of which I was one, who had to go to the camp during the day but were allowed home on parole at night. On one particular occasion I was one of the last ones to leave. There were 2 women who had come there but were both ill in bed. By the looks of things they weren’t going home. The female commandant grabbed hold of me and began to give me things, festooning me like a Christmas tree. There were all kinds of stuff that apparently these women had brought that needed to go home. I couldn’t understand how I was supposed to carry all of this but she said “things like the Hoover here you can pull by the cord and it’ll follow you”. In the end, being in no position to argue, I shook my head and set off to catch the bus back to where I was staying. There were all kinds of complications about bringing these things into the lift. The Hoover snagged on its cable around a step, it was left out of the lift when we went in and the doors closed. There were all kinds of extreme difficulties through which I was going, trying to move these things while these 2 women were just lying there in bed doing nothing while I was doing all of this and upsetting everyone else who was trying to share a lift with me, waiting at the entrance to this building while the door opened. I can’t ever remember feeling as frustrated as I did about this

And that used to be a regular feature during my nocturnal voyages too.

Having dealt with all of that (which took much longer than it ought) I attacked the radio programme. And despite several occasions when I went off with the fairies I actually finished all of the notes. That leaves me tomorrow afternoon for starting my Christmas baking because I’m shopping in the morning.

With some time left over I carried on going through one of the back-up drives in the array on the shelf and made another pile of space.

Tea tonight was a delicious sausage, beans and chips. If I’m not careful I’ll be running out of sausages in due course. That batch of vegan sausages that I bought in Jersey is delicious but I won’t be able to buy any more. Beans though are no problem. Ric and Elaine bought me some last year and Liz and Terry bought me a pile this summer when they came over.

So I’m going to bed now, ready to fight the good fight in the shops at St Nicolas tomorrow. I need some mushrooms for my pizza on Sunday and a few other bits and pieces too.

And then I’ll have to think about an order from LeClerc. At the moment I’m doing Ok for supplies but I’ll never be able to find anything when I really need it.

Ordering my shopping is just like waiting for the garage to come for Caliburn, really.

Thursday 23rd November 2023 – HAVING SAID …

… the other day that I was thinking about getting up before the alarm went off, I actually managed to make it out of bed this morning before the alarm went off.

A few months ago I went through a phase of early rising, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, but just recently it’s been just a distant memory.

Mind you, at one point I didn’t think that I’d ever go to sleep, never mind awaken. For several hours starting shortly after going to be I was wracked by attacks of cramp, one after another after another.

But something must have awoken me this morning and I’ve no idea what it was but I couldn’t go back to sleep afterwards. So I spend 15 or 20 minutes doing some exercises in bed with the elastic strap with which I sleep, wrapped round my ankles, and then I raised myself from the dead.

After the medication I had a listen to the dictaphone. And considering that it was a short night, it was quite a lively one. There were some huge problems about confrontations between the Government, the University and the Students’ Association. The Students Union magazine that was sent round for that month had dozens and dozens of cases in it where students claimed that they had been provoked by the Government or University into a whole variety of things. As members of the Executive Committee we had to sit and examine these cases. I was on my way to a meeting, walking through a street where all these ragged children were playing around telling each other jokes etc. When they were running around they were leaving their shoes all over the place. I had a couple of particular pairs of shoes that I’d encountered and had been playing football with them up and down the street as I was walking. One of the kids noticed and began to chase after me, making a few remarks. I was distracted because there was another instance taking place right before my eyes of the goings-on between the Government, the University and one of the students. I was in a hurry to go along and actually witness it first-hand so I couldn’t stop and sort out this boy’s shoes for him.

strawberry moose bill rammell open university Eric Hall photo April 2002And that brought back a few memories from the time that the Minister of Education was invited by the University to address the student body, and being forewarned by one of our “moles on various committees” we laid an ambush with STRAWBERRY MOOSE and the Minister fled. Such was Strawberry Moose’s fame in those days.

But of course, Strawberry Moose had the final say, as you might expect.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bedroom I was going off by road to the far north of Canada. We set off in a big double-decker express coach. I had my huge suitcase with STRAWBERRY MOOSE in it. I handed it to the driver, boarded and found a seat. There were a few other people sitting near me and we had a chat every now and again but I spent a lot of time dozing off. We eventually pulled into a service area with a restaurant etc where we had to alight because this was where our different buses came in to take us further on our way. I alighted from the back along with these other people whom I’d met. The driver began to take the cases out of the coach. We were checking times with each other and discussing our plans etc. One of the girls with us asked where the restaurant was. I said “it’s behind you” … "ohh no it isn’t" – ed … so she turned round. Of course by this time the bus had gone so you could actually see the service area. It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t have my case and the bus has gone. It’s dark and I could hardly see anything on this motorway service area. I certainly can’t remember my case being taken off the bus and now he’s disappeared.

And later I was with a girl who might have been Roxanne. She wanted to know if she could borrow my big Bosch hammer drill to drill a hole through a piece of wood. We had a look at the wood and saw how thick it was. We ended up having to tape a couple of drill bits together. I put them in the drill and was busy giving her a lesson on how to drill wood and how to drill deep lengths etc.

Nerina and I had had some friends round at one point – another couple. We were chatting away and it was becoming quite late. I said something to Nerina about going to bed. It caught her unawares and she sked me exactly what I meant. I explained that I was having to go to the bathroom so if she was planning on going to bed at some point in the near future I’d switch on her electric blanket for her so that her bed would be nice and warm. I switched it on and the evening carried on. I wandered off to do something. later on I went upstairs and she was there in bed with the bedclothes thrown back. I asked if the bed was warm enough. She replied that it was too warm. I asked why she hadn’t switched off the electric blanket but she didn’t say very much. We ended up having a lengthy discussion about Christmas and birthday presents.

Later on there were 3 of us. We were having a virtual tour on the internet of Yeovil, getting into a virtual car and on one of these map sites having a street view out of the town. We decided that it looked fairly sophisticated so we found another way back into the city. I went a strange way because I said that it’s one way of seeing what’s in people’s gardens. We came across a nouse where behind a tarpaulin were dozens and dozens of police motorbikes all with white fairings. They were a model that I hadn’t seen before so I imagined that they had been imported from somewhere obscure and were slowly being prepared for sale. This visual programme was incredible. We ended up on the very top of a hill really high up looking over this really beautiful valley with a river and viaduct in the distance etc. We climbed out of the car to look and the car just accelerated away on its own down the hill. I could feel the wind whistling through my hair as Nerina, this other guy, another couple of people and I stood there watching it. All 5 of us seemed to go at the same time. The woman of this other couple completely forgot who she was with and took my hand as we walked away which of course had everyone bursting out into laughter.

The last time that I was in Yeovil was with Sue from Swindon. I moved her from Brussels when I had my Luton Transit and we saw each other a few times after that if I happened to be in the UK. We celebrated the Solstice together at Avebury one year but like most things involving the UK it petered out.

Thinking about it, I was in the UK for half a day in 2013 to pick up a lorry-load of slates to deliver to the South of France and Rosemary and I went in Aberdeen in 2019 to pick up THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR instead of flying to Greenland to meet it there, and they are the only times that I’ve been in the UK since 2011. And, to be quite honest, I’ve no intention of ever returning.

Having finished the dictaphone notes I carried on with the radio programme and that’s now finished and up and running, ready for broadcast on … errr … 5th July next year.

In between all of that, I had my coffee and bread-and-butter pudding and phoned the garage to talk about Caliburn and his controle technique. He actually has a vacancy and he’ll send someone round “shortly” to pick him up. And Caliburn will soon be 17 too.

The lift engineer who came to chat with me was a woman – not that that’s a surprise in itself these days – but I wouldn’t go doing any lift engineering in the clothes that she was wearing. And she was wearing enough perfume to pole-axe a bactrian camel. It reminded me of the story about the guy spreading white powder outside his front gate and his neighbout asked him why.
"It’s to keep Polar Bears off my cabbages" he replied.
"But there are no Polar bears within 5,000 miles of this place"
"Powerful stuff, isn’t it?"

This afternoon I’ve been sorting out more of my Canada 2022 photos and I’m now about to board my train in Moncton ready to travel back to Montréal. And what a journey that was.

As well as that I’ve been going through one of the backup drives checking duplicates and disposing of yet more.

Tea tonight was steamed veg and veggie balls in vegan cheese sauce, delicious as usual. Tomorrow’s tea with have to be sausage and beans, not salad, as I’m not going shopping in the morning. At some point the garage might come by for Caliburn and I’ll probably be out at the shops or something so I’ll stay at home and wait, which will mean that he won’t come.

But I’ve plenty of other things that will keep me out of mischief. At some point I’m even going to soak my fruit ready for Christmas baking and that’s the kind of thing that will be exciting.

My first ever Christmas cake a couple of years ago, coached on the internet by Hannah from Batley, was a resounding success but I put that down to beginner’s luck. And in any case Hannah is no longer in our Welsh group so I’ll be on my own for this one.

But I learnt a lot last time. Here’s hoping that I can remember it.

Wednesday 22nd November 2023 – AND THERE I WAS …

… sitting on a chair outside the doctor’s office and she asked me to come in – and I couldn’t stand up.

She had to help me up out of my chair and the two of us nearly went AOT onto the floor. What kind of state am I in?

However, it’s an ill-wind that doesn’t blow anyone any good and every cloud has a silver lining. After our struggle outside her office door she agreed to extend my stay at the Centre de Re-education until the end of January instead of the end of December.

Leaving the bed this morning wasn’t actually a struggle this morning. I had half a leg out of the bed when the alarm went off and I’m not sure why that might have been because I had another late night – having a bash about on the acoustic guitar before going to bed.

After the medication and checking the mails I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night and, more importantly, who had come with me. In between everything else that was going on last night I was working on a website. I’d taken plenty ot photos of different railway installations and was making some kind of geographical record. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working properly and nothing seemed to be going right with it. As well as that I kept on being interrupted by all kinds of different things with my family. Eventually I found out the reason why it wasn’t working. In the past I minimised the images so that they’d fit down the column of a page with the text on the other part of the page. You clicked on the image to see a full-size reproduction. For some reason I was just including the full-size images directly onto this web page and it was distorting absolutely everything. There were some really nice photos in there including some of the electrification work of lines in the spine of England. Then my mother called me for something. After a couple of minutes I went to see. I saw on the table a great big parcel wrapped in brown paper addressed to our family in Canada, seeing my mother’s writing. She also gave me a parcel. Apparently it was my birthday but I’d forgotten. I unwrapped it and inside the parcel was a camera exactly the same type as one that I had already. I couldn’t understand why it was that she’d given me this as a birthday present.

I was also at some point in the proceedings last night clutching a hoe in my hand rather like a Roman centurion. Don’t ask me why because I awoke wide-awake at that particular point. Everything that I was dreaming just disappeared completely out of my mind.

later on during the night I was back in Crewe. I had to go back to our old family home in Davenport Avenue. When I arrived the whole site had been cleared and they were making preparations to build a huge housing estate on the site of several of the houses and the old petrol station and tyre depot that was at the back of it. I didn’t recognise anything. It had just so completely changed. In the end I went to Shavington to a house where a schoolfriend of mine lived at one time. That had all changed too and I couldn’t remember anything. In the end I found the house where it might possibly have been and talked to the neighbours. They told me about all the changes. They agreed that this was the house that I’d thought was the old house of my friend even though it was now submerged in the middle of other housing. There was still a tiny plot of land there that had not been built on, belonging to a guy called Bob Hope who I imagined to be my schoolfriend’s father although that wasn’t his name. In the end there were about 10 of us sitting around there chatting and reminiscing about things that had taken place in the area in the 1950s and 1960s when we were living in Shavington. It was really most unsettling and uncomfortable to see how everything had changed and how everything in Crewe where we lived had been swept away and was a demolition site.

And finally I met a girl somewhere during the evening – a big girl which is of course quite unlike me. We got on really well with each other. In the end we went back to her house and stayed the night together. Next morning we awoke. There was no alarm. I couldn’t understand why. We got up and I wanted to take a photo of the two of us together with me holding this girl off the ground in my arms. It was rather complicated with her being on the large side. Then we found that not one single telephone that we had between us had any charge left in it. Then the subject of breakfast came up. It turned out that she would go to eat breakfast at a local café. She set off first while I did a few things to prepare everything. I found half a bread roll on a table at a café just round the corner from where she lived. I thought that it must be for me. She wasn’t there so I picked up the bread roll and walked around the next corner. She was there with 3 or 4 other people at a table. There were all kinds of breakfast things laid out on this table. She was chatting to these people as if she knew them. I went and sat down but no-one said a word to me. I was there with this half a bread roll. I felt rather guilty that I was going to be eating a bread roll brought from some other establishment with the jam that this proprietor had provided and presumably not paying anything for breakfast. It didn’t seem right to me at all.

After a brief … errr … relax I carried on with the notes for the radio programme and they are now complete. I’ll dictate them later on before I go to bed. And then I paired off the music for the next one and I’ll start to write the notes for that one when I’ve finished making the current one.

The one after that should be quite interesting, but I’ll tell you more about that in due course.

While I was doing that I had a listen to the one that will be broadcast this weekend to make sure that it’s all correct. And then I could send it off to be added into the radio’s playlist.

After a good wash the car came to pick me up to take me down the hill into town and my appointments. I mentioned the doctor just now, and then I went off to Severine for some physiotherapy. Whatever it is that she’s doing, it seems to be doing some kind of good because coming up the stairs back here was easier than it was the other day.

After my hot chocolate and chocolate biscuits I came back in here where I went away with the fairies for over an hour and it really was a very deep sleep too. I was with Christian and we were talking about rock groups who were lost in the High Arctic. There was a map that someone had found that listed the routes of several rock groups who had disappeared and so we went to look but we had a lot of difficult trying to unfold the map. There were several tracks in all kinds of places, each one in a different colour showing the supposed routes and one on or two of the islands there were legends such as “no information”. But we had a real struggle to open this map correctly.

There was also time to carry on with the tidying of the shelves. And I came across two boxes of breadcrumbs and a small Christmas pudding that I must have bought when I was living in Leuven. But nevertheless I’m still going to have a go at making my own, starting over the weekend.

And while we’re on the subject of Christmas baking … "well, one of us is" – ed … I had a chat on line with Liz about marzipan. It’s not available for delivery from LeClerc so I’ll have to see if I can find it in Carrefour on Friday. If not, I’ll have to order it on-line from an internet vendor. After all, you can’t have a Christmas cake without marzipan.

Tea tonight was a leftover curry with the last of my naan bread dough. I’ll have to make some more but the soya yoghurt has disappeared off the menu on the LeClerc delivery site. That’s something that I’ll have to check at Carrefour on Friday.

So now I’ve finished my notes I’ll have my hot drink and dictate my notes before I go to bed. Tomorrow I have the engineer coming and I also have to ring up about Caliburn’s Controle Technique too. It expired a long time ago now.

Not that I imagine that I’ll be using Caliburn again. I don’t think that even Severine’s magic touch can restore enough power to my right leg to work the brake. But I have to do something about it. I can’t leave things like this.

Tuesday 21st November 2023 – MEANWHILE, IN THE ….

… Social Services office –
Social Services Officer – "Do you have any problems with your hearing?"
Our Hero – "Pardon?"

Yes, I’ve been up to my ears in interviews today

And believe it or not, I prepared well for it today by crashing out on several occasions. Not that I’m sure that I know why because last night was one of the better nights’ sleeps that I’ve had quite recently, and I can’t remember very much of what was going on during the night.

When the alarm went off I staggered to my feet and went in search of my medication. A fine way to start the day.

Back in here afterwards I had a few letters to write and some information to pull together ready for people whom I’m likely to meet during the course of the day.

Once I’d prepared my papers I had a listen to the dictaphone notes and to my surprise and delight I was joined, at different times of course, by a couple of my favourite companions. And what a shame that I didn’t remember all that much about it. First out of the block was Zero, whose birthday it apparently was last night and there had been a big party. I’d been staying there for a few days and the morning after we decided that we’d make a start on tidying up. There were some things needed from the shop so they asked me if I would go to fetch them. The car there was a Chrysler Neon so I took it and drove away to the shops to do the shopping. Their driveway was between two pillars of brick and was fairly narrow but on the way back I just drove past and reversed in as I would normally do anywhere else. As we were walking in Zero’s mother said something about tidying up but I didn’t quite understand it – I didn’t quite hear what she said – so I sad to Zero “yes, go and put all the balloons in the cellar and jump around in there”. Her mother looked at me and said “that’s a much better idea than mine”. I was surprised because I thought that that was what she’d actually said but she must have said something different that I didn’t hear correctly. In the house when I went in there were loads of people sleeping around on sofas etc, dogs and cats etc everywhere. Apparently Zero had had a rabbit for her birthday and was playing with it somewhere.

As for the rabbit, I’m not quite sure where that fitted in, but I remember hiring a Chrysler Neon on a couple of occasions when I was in the USA 25 or so years ago and for a basic uncomplicated saloon car it was quite a pleasant vehicle

And then later on I was with Percy Penguin too. She’d finished work and gone home but she contacted me to ask me to come to pick her up. I thought that I’d go along to see what was the matter with her. When I pulled up she said nothing but just got into the car with a very depressed look on her face. After a couple of minutes she began to tell me her problems with her father – how when they go away on holiday he just lies in bed all day and doesn’t do anything. You could never force him out to do things etc. He’d completely lost interest in life and it was weighing down heavily on everyone. I set off to go for a drive with her and let her talk but for some reason, 2 or 3 times we ended up back outside her house and leaving again as if she kept on changing her mind then changing it again. We drove for a while as she told me all about these things. In the end we came into Shavington. There was some kind of fair there so we went for a walk around and came across some kind of craft fair that was proposing exhibitions and workshops. One was to make your own teddy bear and was on Wednesday at 17:30. I was explaining it to a father who was looking for some information for his daughter and noticed that Percy Penguin was listening too. I explained all about it to her. In the end we agreed that it was a shame that she knew no-one on Shavington because she could have gone there after work to wait until this course started, done the course and I would have taken her home after I returned from work. After a while of this she said that she wanted to go home. I asked why, if I could persuade her to stay out, but she said that she hadn’t yet done her homework for the week. I had the feeling that was an excuse rather than anything else but in the end I ended up taking her home.

Now there was someone who doesn’t feature half as often in these pages as she deserves. Her simple, uncomplicated, undemanding nature helped me through quite a few really stressful periods that I went through at one time or another and I wish that there were more people like her in this world.

Having transcribed the dictaphone notes I sat down to revise my Welsh ready for today’s lesson but regrettably I had the first of a couple of sessions today where I was away with the fairies for a while.

Armed with my coffee and my slice of bread-and-butter pudding I went for my lesson, which passed well enough although I’m convinced that I’m miles off the pace with this course. I just can’t concentrate on what I’m supposed to be doing.

However, as for my bread-and-butter pudding, it’s really turned out quite well and I’m very pleased with it. However it tastes quite differently from the bread-and-butter pudding that my mother used to make when we were kids, but that’s probably a good thing because my mother was not well-known for her culinary prowess.

In fact I had to wait until I met Nerina before I really began to eat well. And that’s no real surprise – anyone brought up by an Italian mother is bound to be at the top of the game in that respect and I was rather spoilt.

After I’d had a good wash and clean-up the car came for me and we set off for the Centre de Re-education where Severine put me through my paces. She told me that my sessions last week were cancelled because the ergotherapist had damaged her leg and was off work – not exactly the best recommendation for a Centre de Re-education.

With no ergotherapist I had to loiter around for a while before my appointment with the Social Services. She didn’t really have very much to tell me that I didn’t already know but she took copious notes which might serve some kind of purpose in the near future, I suppose.

Back here I had my hot chocolate and chocolate biscuits and then began the task of taking the inventory of what I have in store here.

And within a matter of a handful of seconds I came across 2kg of flour that I’d overlooked and also a tin of custard powder that I must have bought in the English shop in Belgium at some point when I was living in Leuven.

After about half an hour or so I was probably about a tenth of the way through the shelves but I’d already found enough room to store the food processor and its accessories. I’ll have another half-hour at it tomorrow when I’ll probably discover the 10 lost tribes of Israel, Lord Lucan and Martin Bormann.

Here and there when I’ve not been asleep I’ve been making a start on the next radio programme. The music has now been paired off and I’m halfway through writing the notes. I’ll finish that off tomorrow and dictate them tomorrow night. I have no visit to the Centre de Re-education on Thursday but the engineer is coming.

Tea tonight was a taco roll with some of the stuffing from yesterday. And there’s plenty left to make a leftover curry for Wednesday night. There’s still some naan bread dough left in the freezer.

As well as everything else I’ve had the acoustic guitar out again for a good while. I’m not sure why because I don’t think that I’ll ever play again in public but I suppose that nevertheless I ought to do my best to press on regardless.

Having finished my notes I’m going to have my hot drink and then go to bed. I probably won’t sleep much tonight with having had several goes at it already but I’ll do my best. And I’ll wonder about who will come along to visit me tonight.