Category Archives: Paris

Saturday 16th October 2021 – THIS NEW WAY …

… home actually seemed to work a lot easier than going home the normal way. So if ever my 07:17 from Brussels is cancelled in the future and I can’t have another cheap ticket any other way, I’m going to consider quite seriously going this way home again.

The alarm was set for 06:00 but it was pretty much a waste of time because I didn’t have much sleep at all. The heating made so much racket that in the end I went down and switched it off, and then I ended up with people talking outside my door for what seemed like hours.

Nevertheless I was up and about as soon as the alarm went off and it didn’t take me long to finish packing and to make my sandwiches. There was even time for coffee and toast for breakfast.

07:00 is the latest time for me to leave my digs because there’s an express train to Brussels at 07:33. But I was on my way at about 06:50 and was in plenty of time to catch the 07:21 express. And I wish that I’d brought a coat because I was absolutely freezing.

Sitting on a draughty station for 45 minutes froze me to the marrow and I was really glad that the train to Paris came in early. I scrambled aboard the crowded train to warm up and found myself sitting next to a Chinese student who was confused about the application of the Eurorail pass. He didn’t realise that there’s a supplement to pay on the TGV and so he was stuck for an excess charge.

Much of the route to Paris was spent catching up with my beauty sleep so I was wide awake when we arrived in Paris. I had to show my vaccine passport on arrival and then go to look for RER track E.

It’s actually quite a walk but it’s on the level and on a really good surface so it didn’t seem like too much effort.

Down in the bowels, I didn’t have long to wait for a train. Much more comfortable than the metro, rather like a cheap mainline multiple-unit in fact, and it was only 15 minutes to the Gare St Lazare.

There was quite a walk from there too but once more, it was all on the level and going up to the station was on an escalator so there wasn’t any struggle with the baggage.

Finding my way onto the platform was something else. There’s a “magic eye” that reads the QR code of your ticket, but the eye isn’t where you expect it to be and it took me 5 minutes and the assistance of a passer-by to enable me to find my train.

It’s a newish double-decker multiple-unit with all mod cons and very comfortable. Furthermore it’s non-stop to Caen and it doesn’t hang about either.

At Caen there’s a one-hour wait for the train to Granville so I could go for a walk around, eat my sandwiches and even buy myself a coffee. The train though, one of the Bombardier units that we have seen in Granville, is strange in that there’s only four power points per carriage and they take some finding.

Just four power points, and in the 21st Century too!

Coming back home was easier than it has been recently. I only had to stop four times coming up the hill and loaded up as I was, that isn’t bad going at all. And it really was nice to be back home.

Football later on, in the Welsh Cup. Colwyn Bay of the 2nd Division against Cardiff Metro of the 1st. A game rather short on skill and technique, but a proper cup-tie all the same played in front of a big, noisy crowd. Cardiff Metro had most of the play, missed a penalty, had a goal disallowed for offside and missed three or four absolute sitters.

Colwyn Bay, who were on the back foot for most of the game and only had one real shot on goal. And so, as you might expect, Colwyn Bay won the game 1-0 to move into the next round.

Now that i’ve had tea, I ought to be going to bed but I’m not tired right now. I’ll go to bed at about 03:00 I suppose and then sleep through until tomorrow afternoon.

That’s what usually happens.

Saturday 18th September 2021 – JUST A FEW LINES …

… because I’m really not feeling like sitting down and writing War and Peace after the day that I’ve had.

As seems to be usual these days, I had a pretty disturbed night last night, not being able to sleep very much. It always seems to be the case when I have to arise early in the morning.

But arise early I did and I had plenty of time for my train. I was on the station at 06:15 in the freezing cold – winter is coming quicker than you might think

My train was the 06:33 to Brussels that arrived at about 07:05 so there was plenty of time for me to go to the supermarket and pick up a little something for lunch before my train left at 07:43.

Yes, half an hour later than usual, simply because my usual one had no seats left. But even though this train costs €30:00 more, I don’t have to change trains at Lille and stagger halfway across town.

We were 10 minutes late arriving in Paris Gare du Nord but there was still plenty of time to cross the city on the metro to Gare Montparnasse.

The train that was awaiting me was a two-trainset one of 16 carriages, and was pretty much empty. It looks as if they were just using one trainset pulling the second one as a positioning voyage. I’d slept for much of the way between Brussels and Paris, and repeated the exercise on the train between Paris and Granville.

In fact I was asleep when the train pulled into the railway station at Granville.

The walk downhill into town was quite easy but to be on the safe side I’d bought a can of go-juice at the Carrefour in the Rue Couraye.

The climb back up the hill in the Rue des Juifs was a nightmare as you might expect and I can’t go on much longer like this. It took me about four or five stops to make it up to the top, one of which was a nice long one while I drank the drink that I’d just brought.

Back here I sat in my chair and vegetated for quite a while. It’s good to be back home, as Barry Hay once famously said.

Later on I made a coffee and without moving from my chair I watched the football on the internet. TNS v Barry Town.

With the demise of Connah’s Quay Nomads and the strengthening of TNS over the summer, TNS are pretty unstoppable and this is how it proved to be.

Their 3-1 victory tonight was really a foregone conclusion but Barry’s defence was appalling. Their second goal came about because the Barry keeper didn’t dive to cut out a ball doing across inside his goal area at about knee-height.

For the third goal, Declan McManus was standing in an onside position on the goal line right in the centre of goal with not a defender anywhere near him for about 15 seconds before he was presented with a simple tap-in.

Round about 23:00 I finally summoned up the energy to leave my chair. I’ve had no tea tonight because I was too tired to make it and I’m just going to dash off a few notes before I go to bed. I’ll add the photos into the notes in due course when I’m feeling better.

Saturday 21st August 2021 – I’M BACK …

… home right now, on one of the most uneventful journeys that I have ever had – at least, as far as the trains went.

Despite going to bed early I couldn’t sleep at all and I remember things like 01:00 coming round and I still hadn’t dropped off. Although I must have done at some point because there’s some stuff on the dictaphone. There had been an army patrol up in the High Himalayas, 2 jeeps and some soldiers. One of the jeeps had split off and gone somewhere and picked up 3 tyres. On the way back, one of the guys with the tyres had arranged to be dropped off somewhere so he was dropped off in this mountain pass which was quite a coincidence just as the other jeep came into view. The 2 jeeps carried on without him. he scrambled down the mountain which was honeycombed with German troops and the Germans were talking about the guys who were bringing the tyres, so this must have been a plan. In one of the buildings above the pass that the Germans were guarding was Caliburn. You could see from the German point of view that they were down there in the pass and on the hillside Caliburn suddenly rolled out of this garage, did a wheelspin start and was away. The Germans were throwing bombs at it and the windows broke but Caliburn kept on driving up this hill.

When the alarm went off at 04:30 I hauled myself out of bed feeling about as bad as I have ever felt, but surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to make everything ready.

The walk down to the station (and I do mean “down” because it is downhill) was pretty depressing – imagine having to stop to catch my breath when I’m going downhill. I’m clearly going downhill right now, and in more ways than one too.

Being rather early this morning, I was just on the point of entering the station when the 05:33 to Oostende pulled in. A carriage door opened right in front of me so I pushed my way onto the platform and scrambled aboard just as it was on the point of closing. No photo unfortunately but it was a Class 18 electric that was pulling it.

We pulled into Brussels-Midi with over an hour to wait for my train out to Lille so I had to loiter around. But then, I’d rather be hanging around at Brussels waiting for my train than in Leuven wondering if I’m going to make it to Brussels in time.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThe train this morning was, as usual, one of the TGV “Reseau 38000′ machines, number 4525 – or, at least, my bit of it was.

There are called “PBA” trainsets because they spend much of their time working the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam route, although the 07:13 which I susually catch is a train that goes to Strasbourg.

It describes a wide arc going via Lille, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Marne-La Vallée, mainly because the direct route through the Ardennes via Luxembourg isn’t of the correct standard for sustained high-speed running and upgrading will be extremely difficult.

It was a delightful journey to Lille because I had the sweetest, cutest passenger that I have ever had sitting next to me. She wasn’t particularly talkative which was a shame but it was still a pleasant journey.

TGV Inoui 225 are TGV Reseau Duplex gare lille flanders railway station lille France Eric HallThe walk down to Lille Flandres was a struggle too

The train that was going to take me to Paris was already in at the platform at Lille Flandres, as it usually is. You’ll probably notice the time on the clock as well. I’ve done a lot already and it’s still early.

Once more, it’s a TGV Reseau Duplex double-decker but undortunately there were no comfy sofas in the lounge area. I had to cram myself in and it wasn’t easy either with all of the luggage that everyone had.

Most of the journey was spent having a sleep because the morning had caught up with me by now

TGV POS 4408 gare du nord paris France Eric HallOur train was made up of two trainsets and, interestingly, the front trainset wasn’t another one of the Reseau Duplexes, as I discovered when we arrived at Paris Gare du Nord.

Instead, we have been pulled to pulled to Paris by one of the old TGV POS trainsets. That’s not something that happens every day, is it?

At Paris I stepped onto the platform of the metro just as a train was pulling in – perfect timing again. I shall have to do this more often. Luckily I was able to grab a seat and have a comfortable journey across the city.

84580 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris France Eric HallIt was just as well that i’d had a good rest because the labyrinth in the cellars of the Gare Montparnasse, up and down stairs and walking along these long corridors just about finished me off.

Luckily there was an empty seat in my little corner behind the coffee machine by the platform where my train was waiting because I couldn’t go much further. I sat down and had a good rest.

For some reason that I don’t understand, the wait seemed to be much longer than it is usually, and I couldn’t wait to be called forward and to settle down on my comfortable seat – well, I hoped that it was going to be comfortable.

At long last the platform – which we all knew anyway – went up on the noticeboard and we could all move off to our train.

And actually, it wasn’t as comfortable as it might have been because it was packed to the gunwhales today – there wasn’t an empty seat anywhere. I’ve no idea what was going on down the line, but whatever it was, it seemed that everyone In Paris was going to it.

Once the crowd thinned out, I managed to eat some of my sandwiches but my appetite has definitely gone again for now and I’ll save the rest of my lunch for later.

84581 gec alstom regiolis Bombardier B82652 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallWhen we pulled into the station I gathered up my possessions and cleared off towards the exit.

As I reached the end of the platform, another train pulled in. There’s another line that passes through the station at Granville – the line from Caen to Rennes.

In the past it used to take the direct route through Folligny but when they did some excavating work a few years ago they found that the curve that connects the Granville-Paris line to the line towards Caen was in reasonable order, so they refurbished it and brought the trains here.

Bombardier B82652 B82650 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallAnd just after I clicked the shutter, another train came into the station.

One of those (and don’t ask me which because I don’t know) is the train from Caen to Rennes, and the other one is the reverse from Rennes to Caen.

They all meet up here a couple of times per day so that passengers coming from Paris can travel on easily to places like Avranches and Coutances, and vice versa.

of course, if there’s any vice involved, I’m bound to be interested.

As I left the station I debated whether I ought to wait for the bus to take me home. In the end I decided to walk which was not the best idea that I had. While going downhill into the town was one thing, the rest of the journey back up the hill on the other side towards home was a different thing entirely.

crowds at exhibition working sailboats port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt took me an age to climb up the hill, with about a dozen pauses to catch my breath.

One of the pauses was overlooking the harbour. That’s interesting today because the festival of working sailing boats or whatever it’s called in now in full swing and there are quite a few people down there this afternoon enjoying it.

As for the greenery, it doesn’t ‘arf look nice, but wouldn’t it have been nicer decorating on a permanent that new car park that they resurfaced earlier in the year instead of having one big miserable mass of Macadam.

sailing boats port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallWith events like this going on, the place is bound to be full of working sailing boats making an exhibition of themselves.

Down there we have Marité of course and the other boat bears a very strong resemblance to Charles Marie but I can’t see her name at all from here.

Having recovered my breath, I carries on up the hill towards home, much more weary than I was when I set out. I can see that if things don’t improve over the next few weeks I shall be going to and from the station on the bus in future.

Back here I put away the food in the fridge and made myself an ice-cold strawberry smoothie to cheer myself up. Next, I poured the rest of the coffee from the flask into a mug and brought it in here to drink. And when I awoke about 90 minutes later, it was right by my side, stone-cold.

Football on the internet later – Barry Town v Bala Town. A rather entertaining 0-0 draw but it was always going to be 0-0 because both teams were rather lacking in firepower up front and neither goalkeeper was really tested. I don’t think that either of these two teams will be challenging for very much this season unless they can come up with something in attack.

For tea I just had a handful of pasta with some veg tossed in garlic, olive oil and black pepper. And now it’s ridiculously late and I can’t sleep so I don’t know about tomorrow. I’ll just go to bed and get up when I awaken, provided that no-one disturbs me first.

Tuesday 17th August 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not actually sitting in a rainbow but sitting in my little room in Leuven in Belgium.

Just for a change there were very few problems as far as the journey went but I have had a fraught time and I can’t go on like this for much longer.

This morning started fair enough as I was awake as soon as the alarm went off and there was some stuff on the dictaphone. There was something happening last night about Channel swimmers and there was even a dog that swam the Channel but in almost every one of these cases they were carrying drugs and the bag of drugs would split in their stomachs and almost all of them would die from drug overdoses just as they reached shore

Because of my condition I was having to move. They had offered to treat me at Chester General Hospital so I went to live in Connah’s Quay. That was several trips of 150 miles to organise everything . While I was there the new ferry out of Connah’s Quay, Castell Alun I think, was sailing through the sky brightly lit by the moonlight. I went to make myself a mug of hot chocolate which was just powder and boiling water. While I was there some people were walking past my house. They were talking about whatever it was that had to be 94 inches wide rather than 84, and they didn’t know where they would find something like that size. I didn’t know what it was that they were talking about because they certainly wouldn’t find a lorry that width.

To my deep regret I didn’t step back into that epic and memorable dream where I left off yesterday, and wasn’t that a disappointment?

Having tidied and cleaned up the living room yesterday for when the nurse came, it didn’t take too long to prepare everything ready to leave. Taking the rubbish outside was exciting though – I can’t believe that there was so much and I’m surprised that it didn’t walk out there all on its own.

In the absence of the NIKON 1 J5 I took with me the old NIKON D3000 fitted with the old 15-110mm lens.

houses on brittany coast Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt’s not as easy to pack as the Nikon 1 but a lot smaller, easier and lighter than the big NIKON D500.

First thing that I did when I was out there this morning was to take a few pics with the camera to make sure that it was working correctly.

The weather was really cloudy with just a few gaps in the clouds where the sun was streaming through. It was illuminating a couple of houses way over on the Brittany coast and so I reckoned that that was a good enough object to try out the camera.

And despite the haze on the water across there, it’s not too bad an attempt for a 9 year-old camera and lens of doubtful quality

joly france belle france ferry terminal port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallMeanwhile close to home, there was some activity doing on over at the ferry terminal as if they are preparing the boats for the morning crossings.

To the right of the image is one of the Joly France boats. She’s the one with the rectangular windows in “portrait” format and that tells me that she’s the older one of the two.

As for the one in front of her, hidden by the jetty, it’s difficult to say who she is. The brightness of her colours seems to suggest to me that she’s the brand-new Belle France but that is a mere assumption on my part.

It’s not the little freighter Chausiaise at any rate.

festival de voiles de travail port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallSo having made sure that the camera was working sufficiently well, I set off for the railway station

What has been catching my eye for the last few days has been the appearance of all of these tents and other weird things that have sprung up all over the harbour.

The tents now have their sides fitted so they are going to be some kind of exhibition rather than somewhere to shelter from the rain.

And the purpose of that rectangular enclosure is still something that I have yet to discover.

victor hugo festival de voiles de travail port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallDown on where the fishermen keep their gear and on the car park next door, they have erected a few marquees too.

There’s what looks like the hulk of a very small and old wooden boat.

Incidentally, I found out what it is that is to happen down there because there was an advertisement in a shop window that I passed. It’s the Festival De Voiles De Travail, the “Festival of Working Sailing boats” starting tomorrow and finishing on Sunday.

And it doesn’t make much sense to me to have a Festival to entice crowds down to the town and then erect it on the car park so that they can’t park their cars anywhere to visit it.

police blocking road rue couraye Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallFor a change I decided to go to the station via the town centre rather than the park because I didn’t think that I could get up the steps at the end.

Mind you, I was wondering whether I would be allowed to walk up the Rue Couraye because as I turned the corner into the street I encountered a police barrage and they were directing all of the traffic down a side street.

It’s not the done thing of course to photograph the police in the execution of their duty unless there’s a very good reason but of course I was more interested in the guy drinking his coffee outside the café on the corner, which I could photograph having been allowed to pass beyond the barrage.

broken down van rue couraye Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallOf course you are all wondering why there might be a barrage across the road.

It didn’t take long for me to discover why either. There’s a large van that has broken down on the road junction and as I passed the driver, he was busy telephoning for a dépanneur.

While I was recovering my breath from the climb so far I could take a photo of it, and then I could press on. But it was a long, hard climb up the hill for some reason today and I really didn’t feel anything like as well as I ought to have done or indeed have done in the past.

This was a really difficult walk.

84559 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallWhen I arrived at the railway station, my train was already there so I could go along and find my seat. And I needed it too because I was exhausted.

My knee gave out while I was trying to climb into the carriage and it really was a most undignified entrance as I fell inside, dropping all of my luggage, and then trying desperately to stand up again.

Eventually I found my seat and I could set about updating the portable computer with the files that I’d copied earlier off the big computer.

And I had a very cute and charming young companion on my trip to Paris but unfortunately she wasn’t the chatty type so we didn’t say very much at all to each other.

84584 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris France Eric HallMuch to my surprise, and yours too after all of the recent events, we arrived at Gare Montparnasse bang on time to the minutes.

The next bit wasn’t quite so easy because there had been an abandoned piece of luggage found by the entrance to the metro and so it was all closed off while they fetched someone to examine it.

It took them about 15 minutes for them to clear the problem and we could advance. Everywhere was crowded as you might expect although I did just about manage to find a seat.

And that was just as well because trying my best to rush down the long corridor and up the steps had finished me off.

224 TGV Reseau Duplex gare du nord paris France Eric HallMy late arrival at the Gare du Nord meant that I didn’t have too long to wait for my train to Lille Flandres.

As usual, it’s one of the TGV Reseau Duplex double-decker trains, and in order to board it we had to show our vaccine passes and then our rail tickets, which meant that juggling two different screens consecutively on the mobile phone wasn’t an easy task when you have a handful of luggage.

The voyage was quite uneventful and we arrived at Lille on time. But by now the cloudy day had turned to light rain so walking down the road to Lille Europe was at least quite refreshing, even if it was not easy

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4517 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallAs I walked onto the railway station at Lille Europe my train pulled in at the platform.

It’s one of the “Paris Brussels Amsterdam” or PBA Reseau 38000 tri-volt trains, and inside it was chaos as no-one was sitting in the correct seat. But I quickly turfed out the people from my seat and took my place.

For a change I was on my own on this train so I could stretch out on my way to Brussels.

At Brussels they had a barrage as the police were checking vaccination passes. The queue stretched for miles and it wasn’t long before people began looking for a by-pass. I followed them through as well and left the queue behind.

big wheel foire du midi brussels belgium Eric HallUnfortunately the delay meant that I had missed my usual train to Leuven so I had to wait for about 15 minutes for the next one

While I was waiting, I was sitting on a concrete kerbstone watching what was going on all around me. It’s the time of the year right now when we have the Foire du Midi, the big funfair that takes place outside the Gare du Midi.

They have a big wheel too just like the one that we have at Granville and from where I was sitting I could see it going round. There are usually a few other large attractions too but they were out of my view unfortunately.

And it’s much more interesting at night too when everything is all illuminated.

push me pull you gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallEventually my train pulled up, and it was another one of the pushme-pullyous that we have on the Oostende-Welkenraedt route as there is no run-round for the locomotive at Oostende.

It’s brought with it the rain too, as you can see. Luckily I’m underneath the platform canopy but you can see how much is teeming down by looking at the photo. It’s raining cats and dogs right now.

This train was pretty packed too but with being at the front of the train I could grab a seat quite easily before the crowds who had swarmed on board at the centre of the train filtered down my way.

There are a couple of single seats right by the door so I grabbed one of those and I wasn’t bothered by anyone else.

1882 class 18 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallAt Leuven I could wait and photograph the locomotive that was pushing our train.

It’s one of the class 18 electrics – the workhorses of the SNCB these days, and why is it that there is always someone who makes a special effort to walk in front of you when you are photographing something?

The rain was coming down quite heavily by now and I struggled to reach my little room. And I had to come up the stairs on my hands and knees as it was the only way that I could get myself up them.

There is shopping to do as well so after a rest of about 90 minutes I headed off down the road. Just as far as Delhaize because I didn’t have the strength to go to the Carrefour.

And I only bought stuff for tea and a loaf of bread for toast in the morning too. I’m having to do my shopping in two loads because I don’t have the strength to carry everything back up the hill in one go.

Now that I’ve had tea and written my notes, I’m off to bed. No alarm in the morning because I need a good lie-in to recover. And then I’ll have to go down the road and buy the stuff for lunch.

What a state to be in!

Saturday 17th July 2021 – AS BARRY HAY ONCE …

… famously said – “one thing that I gotta tell you, and that it’s good to be back home”.

And having spent a couple of hours collapsed on my chair in my office, I can’t do any more than agree with him

This morning was a dreadfully early start – 04:25 when the alarm went off and I crawled out of bed feeling pretty awful, as you might expect.

There were my sandwiches to make and my packing to do and then a pile of cleaning up, and to my surprise it was all of 05:15 when I’d finished so I reckoned that I might as well head off for the railway station.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric HallOne thing about the camera on my telephone is that it’s not very good in the dark.

One of the construction projects in the town that has been going on for far too long with little signs of finishing is the rebuilding of the Martelarenplein, “Martyr’s Square”, outside the railway station. This is something that has been dragging on for years and it looks as if it will be going on for a long time yet.

It’s difficult to understand why these projects take so long to complete. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that there have been endless projects of all sorts going on here and which have dragged on and on and on.

class 18 electric locomotive 1812 gare de Leuven railway station 	Belgium Eric HallIt was 05:35 when I made it onto the station, to find that the train to Oostende was running late.

As I arrived on the platform so did the train and here’s a rather blurred photo of it, because the ‘phone isn’t up to very much in this kind of light.

The locomotive is one of the Class 18 electrics, the workhorses of the Belgian railway system, pulling a rake of double-deck coaches. I found a quiet spec in the front compartment over the bogie, and settled down for my trip into Brussels.

And no-one came to bother me, not even a ticket inspector. He was probably asleep in his compartment somewhere near the rear of the train.

sign about train cancellations gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric HallWe pulled into Brussels-Midi just after 06:00 and while I was here I had a look at the indicator board to see where my train might be.

But this notice caught my eye and it was worth photographing. The railway network in the east of the country has been badly hit by the flood and there are piles of trains that have been cancelled as a result.

“If you are implicated in this notice, please don’t come to the station. Postpone your journey” – in other words, there are no alternative means of transport to connect up these towns. That tells you all that you need to know about the damage to the transport infrastructure.

The trains to Germany were cancelled too. With Liège 6 feet under water and the Rhine and its tributaries overflowing, all of that has taken a knock as well and it will be a while before these services are reinstated.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4513 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric HallLook at the time now!

It’s 06:37, I’ve been here for half an hour already, and my train has now come in. It’s one of the PBA – Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt trains that is running the 07:17 to Strasbourg. I take it as far as Lille Europe where I change trains.

We weren’t allowed on the train for 10 minutes while they cleaned it, and then we could all pile aboard.

And those of us on the platform side of the train were treated to the sight of a bag-snatcher snatching a bag from the train on the other side, the 07:00 to Marseille. The security staff managed to recover the bag but not the thief. The police turned up a couple of minutes later, presumably to make further enquiries.

We set off bang on time and I tried to work but there was no electricity on the train and the battery flattened itself quite quickly and that held me up.

At Lille Europe we all piled out and then there was the stagger across the town to Lille Flandres railway station.

TGV Reseau Duplex 225 gare du lille flandres france Eric HallThere isn’t much time to cross town before my train is due to leave. It was already in the station and the platform when I arrived.

It’s one of the TGV Réseau Duplex trainsets – at least, this end of it is, and I don’t know what’s on the front of it. I eventually found my carriage but these are quite cramped and there isn’t much room in the overhead luggage racks for all the stuff that I was carrying, so I dug myself in in the little phone lounge at the top of the stairs and there I sat.

It’s not possible to work there though so I spent most of the journey asleep. But at least the laptop and the telephone could recharge themselves while we were on the move to Paris.

TGV POS 4406 gare du nord paris france Eric HallAt the Gare du Nord in Paris I could have a look and see what the front trainset of my train to Paris was.

It’s one of the TGV POS units that used to work the eastern part of France and into Southern Germany until they were replaced by the next-generation machines.

Wandering off under my heavy load, because you won’t believe just how much this medication weighs, I made it to the platform of the Metro just as a train pulled up and to my surprise there was an empty seat right by the door.

It whizzed me off to the Gare Montparnasse where I wandered about aimlessly in the ill-signposted station until I found the correct escalator to take me up to the fourth floor from where the mainline trains depart

84572 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric HallMy train always departs from the platforms at the far end of the station so I wandered off that way.

There was one of the Normandy trains in at the platform and I assumed that it was mine. And there was an empty seat in that little corner that I discovered a few weeks ago from where I could keep an eye on things.

15 minutes to go, the platform number flashed up on the display screen and it was indeed my train that I had seen, so we all piled on board.

And I do mean “all piled” too because there wasn’t even one empty seat on the train. Travelling to Granville on a Saturday morning in summer with everyone going on holiday is not a very good idea. Of course I’m not usually here at this time of year – I’m usually wandering around Canada somewhere at this time of the year.

We were so crammed in that it wasn’t easy to work this afternoon on the train, but what I dd manage to do for yesterday’s journal entry is now on line and I’ll finish off the rest of it tomorrow maybe.

84567 gec alstom regiolis bombardier 82648 gare de granville railway station france Eric HallIt was quite a transformation when we arrived in Granville – bang on time with no obstructions or delays. Cold, damp and cloudy weather had given way to brilliant sunshine.

So while I stopped to organise my luggage I took a photo of the trains in the station. My train was a combination of two trainsets – I’d been in the rear one and here on the right is the front one.

To the left is one of the Bombardier units that works the service between Rennes and Caen and on which I’ve travelled a couple of times going to Coutances and St-Lô.

So into the heat I set off. Not down through the Parc de Val es Fleurs because I couldn’t manage the suitcase down the steps. Instead I went down the Rue Couraye into town.

old cars renault 8 rue couraye granville france Eric HallAnd I’m glad that I did because once more I came across another old car.

And this one is a real old car as well – A Renault R8. This was the car that was launched in 1962 with the aim of replacing the famous Dauphine and stayed in production until 1973 in France, although the model continued to be built in other countries until as late as 1976.

One of my teachers, Mr Firth, at Primary School had one of these and that one must have been one of the very first right-hand drive ones to roll off the production line. He took me to play in a football match for our school, my only representative honour, in early 1965.

old cars renault 8 rue couraye granville france Eric HallAs I was taking a photo of the car, some tourist walked right in front of me and spoiled my photo. I had to retake it.

But the whole town was heaving with tourists, getting in everyone’s way. At one point I ran my suitcase over the foot of someone who was obstructing the pavement. They really get on my nerves.

The crawl up the hill in the Rue des Juifs was appalling and I had to stop several times to catch my breath. I felt every step of the way in this heat and I don’t want to be doing this again if it keeps on like this.

Taking the bus is a sign of defeat, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, but one of these days pretty soon I’m going to have to throw in the towel. All of this medication is killing me

marite victor hugo port de granville harbour france  Eric HallOne of the places where I stopped to catch my breath was at the viewpoint overlooking Marité‘s place in the harbour.

People were streaming on board so it looked as if she was about to go out for an evening sail as soon as the harbour gates opened. I wasn’t going to wait around. Once I’d recovered my breath I carried on up the hill.

Here at the apartment I collapsed in my chair and here I stayed for a couple of hours. And then I managed to find the energy to put away the cold food and to drink the coffee that was in my “Adventure Canada” thermos flask. Still quite warm despite having been made over 12 hours.

Tea tonight was out of a tin, and then I came in here to write up my notes. And now I’m off to bed. I’m exhausted, I really am, and it’s just as well that I’m having a lie-in tomorrow. I need it.

Saturday 19th June 2021 – THERE WEREN’T ANY ..

… thunderstorms or lightning or anything like that during the night so once I dropped off to sleep (which wasn’t all that easy) I slept right the way through until the alarm went off at 05:00.

Although I did manage to crawl out of bed pretty smartish, it wasn’t easy and how I wished that I could have stayed in bed until a much more reasonable time – but that’s for tomorrow. There are plenty of things that I have to be doing today.

Firstly I had to pack. And then I had breakfast. There were some pineapple slices and some of the mango sorbet left and it was a shame to waste them. It’s not everyone who can have that for breakfast and I don’t suppose that I would like it on a regular basis.

Making my butties was next, and then the washing up, and finally emptying the fridge. And to my surprise all of that took just 40 minutes.

automotrice Am96 multiple unit gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallI arrived at the station in time for the 06:09 to De Panne. We’ve travelled on this train before when it’s been composed of decrepit and derelict AM80 automotrice multiple units but today we’re in luck. It’s a more modern AM96 unit.

These are the trains that have bellows at the front which make a perfect seal when a couple of trainsets are coupled togather. And in those circumstances the drivers cabs at the connecting ends swivel round out of the way

We cleared off bang on time for Brussels as I settled down in a seat right at the front of the train set. And for a change, I had my ticket checked. I think that in all the years that I’ve been travelling from Brussels to Leuven this week has been the first time that my ticket has been checked on both the outbound and the inbound journey.

We pulled into Brussels bang on time as well which is always nice. half an hour or so before my TGV is due to depart and to my surprise it was already called on the departure board, so I headed off to platform 5B

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4520 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallAnd as you might expect, it’s one of the TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt trainsets, known as the PBA (for Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam) trainsets. And the fact that it’s parked so far down the station platform suggests that a second trainset is going to come in from Amsterdam and couple up behind it.

The doors were open too so we could all swarm aboard and find our seats. The train was quite crowded and I had a neighbour. Life is clearly returning to normal after the Covid pandemic although whether this is too early is a matter of debate.

During the journey I was tidying up a few things on the computer with regard to the music and the time passed quite quickly. I hardly noticed the journey and we pulled into Lille Europe much sooner than I expected.

There was the usual scramble across the city as we headed to Lille Flandres and I still can’t understand why they don’t run the Paris TGVs into Lille Europe

TGV Reseau Duplex 209 gare de lille flandres France Eric HallThey don’t allow you too much time to struggle across the city, and when I arrived at the railway station the train was already there.

While I was sorting out my E-ticket on the app on my telephone I took a photo of my train. It’s one of the TGV Reseau Duplex sets – the double-decker TGVs that work the railway line. Proper high-capacity trains of the type that the UK should have had.

The loading gauge of British railways has to be one of the most restrictive of standard-gauge railways but starting in the 1960s when they began to electrify the main lines and they had to raise all of the heights of the bridges and bore out the tunnels so that the overhead cables can pass, the short-sightedness and penny-pinching of the British Government Treasury missed a trick here to do the job properly and raise the heights so that they can run double deck trains.

The railways in the UK have been plagued by a lack of capacity since the Beeching cuts that closed down most of the duplicate routes and they aren’t ever going to resolve the problem unless they bite the bullet and do the job properly.

TGV Reseau Duplex 215 gare de lille flandres France Eric HallBut meantime, back to our story. my train consists of two trainsets coupled together and it goes without saying that I’m in the far one.

Not that it’s a problem because in fact it means that I have less distance to walk at the other end. It’s another one of the double-decker trainsets and I’m in the lower deck. Once more the train is crowded and I have a neighbour. But that doesn’t stop me carrying on with the stuff that I had to do.

When we arrived in the Gare du Nord in Paris, I found the station heaving. It seems that everyone is getting back to normal which is a shame. The Metro was quite crowded and I had to stand all the way to the station at Gare Montparnasse.

84576 gec alstom regiolis gare de montparnasse paris France Eric HallThere was about 45 minutes before my train was due to depart. There was only one “Normandy” train that was at the platform so I had a good guess that this one may well be the train for which I’m waiting.

When I was here last time I found a collection of seats near the platform so I bought myself a coffee from the machine nearby and took up position there where I can keep an eye on the train. I could actually see the departure board from where I’m sitting so I kept an eye on that as well.

Fifteen minutes before the train was due to depart the platform number flashed up on the main screen and on the departure board by the platform. I was right about the train and so I didn’t have too far to walk to board the train.

Well, I did actually because this is another train consisting of two trainsets and once more I was down in the far one. But then again, it means that I don’t have to walk so far at the other end.

Once more I had a neighbour, but only as far as L’Aigle, and for the rest of the journey I was on my own. I could eat my sandwiches in peace and work quietly.

The lady opposite me across the corridor was reading a book entitled “Ceux Qui S’aiment Finissent Toujours Par Se Retrouver” – Those who love each other always end up finding each other – and that brought back a few memories of the beginning of September 2019 and one of these days I might actually write up those pages that are missing from my blog.

gec alstom regiolis bombardier multiple units gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallWhen we arrived at Granville Railway station I took a photo of my train. Unfortunately I can’t remember the number and there are too many people obscuring the front where the number is displayed.

But today we have a full house of trains in the station. Here at Granville we also have trains that come into here that are travelling between Caen and Rennes. They are both in here today – on the left is the train to Caen and in the centre is the train to Rennes. They are both Bombardier trainsets.

But where has the hot weather gone? When I left here we were in a heatwave but now I’ve had to put on my fleece. And off I went down the steps into the Parc de Val Es Fleurs and into the town centre.

new entrance into car park rue des moulins Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallNow this is quite new, isn’t it?

When we left Granville on Wednesday morning there were a few guys with a digger and a lorry diffing out part of the flower bed and the road in the rue des Moulins. While I’ve been away they seen to have made a new entrance into the car park here and I’m not sure why they have done that because there seem to be several good entrances already.

This is another one of those things on which we’ll have to keep an eye and see how things develop because I’m sure that they wouldn’t have done this without a good reason.

It was a long hard road back to the apartment and I wasn’t looking forward to the climb up the Rue des Juifs.

swimming pool port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt looks as if we are going to be having a visit from Normandy Trader within the course of the next few days.

Halfway up the hill I had to stop for breath (having already stopped a couple of times beforehand) at the viewpoint overlooking the loading bay in the inner harbour. Marité isn’t in port but what I did notice on the quayside was the swimming pool.

What makes me say that Normandy Trader will be in port soon is that I know that she has the contract with the company that manufactures the swimming pools for transporting them over to the Channel Islands whenever anyone from the Channel Islands orders one, and they won’t leave then around on the quayside risking damage for too long.

big wheel eglise st paul port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallSomething else of interest that relates to another photo that I took as I was leaving the town was the Big Wheel.

It always arrives in the town and is erected in the Place Albert Godal for the months of July and August and we saw them erecting it. I mentioned at the time that it will probably be working when I returned and I was right about that too because it was going round this afternoon as I walked home.

As Barry Hay once said, “One thing that I have to tell you, and that is that it’s good to be back home” and he was right. I staggered into the apartment and dumped my stuff on the floor. Once I’d but the cool stuff into the fridge I came in here and collapsed into my chair.

During the course of the afternoon I did a little work. There were some notes on the dictaphone so I must have been off on a voyage during the night. It was my last week or so at work. I’d taken all of my files and all of my cases and everything into a quiet corner downstairs into an empty room. I’d been working through them to bring everything up to date before I left. One morning when I walked in, it was full of people. There were 4 coats on my chair so I asked “whose are these”? One guy who was hoovering up said that it was his. The other one belonged to some old woman. She said “Oh I thought that these places were free”. We sat down and had this lecture and I didn’t really want to attend. I wanted to get up to date so that I could leave. He was talking about something and it was to do with people who were going on treks, like pilgrimages in the Middle Ages. They were talking about how they would protect themselves from bandits etc. There was someone who could fire an arrow the length of a day’s march of an ordinary person. Someone pointed out that on page such-and-such it was quoted as being 18 miles. I had a look on that page and there was nothing like that at all. Then we all had to go off to another lesson. There was a guy trying to do something with some music but it was a total failure – he couldn’t get this music to work. His wife who had been doing the washing in the basement appeared on the scene. She made some remarks about him not being able to do it. Then it was the end of class and everyone was going home. Someone was wondering what the weather was like outside.

There was much more than this as well but as you are probably eating your meal right now so I’ll spare you the gory details.

A little later I crashed out for a couple of hours and I can’t say that I’m surprised.

Tea was out of a tin followed by apple pie and sorbet out of the freezer. And now I’m off to bed. I’m exhausted. A good sleep and a good lie in will do me the world of good so just watch someone come in and spoil it.

Wednesday 16th June 2021 – NOW HOW ABOUT …

hellmans vegan garlic mayonnaise leuven belgium Eric Hall… this to go on my lunchtime butties?

This is something quite new in the shops. I’ve never seen it before. And I shan’t have to worry about visits from vampires during the night because I tried some of it with my pasta and vegetables and believe me – it took the varnish off the door when I breathed out. This was definitely a good buy and no mistake. It’s the kind of thing that will put hair on places I don’t even have places.

But be that as it may, let us return to our moutons as they say around here.

That is, around France, because Im not in France right now. I’m actually in Leuven because it’s time to visit Castle Anthrax again.

At 06:00 when the alarm went off, I leapt out of bed – sort of, something like – and the first task of the morning after the medication was to peel, dice and then blanch a kilo of carrots that I’d bought on Monday. And then I put them to drain in the sink.

Secind thing was to make a coffee and then make some sandwiches etc for my lunch. Packing my stuff and then giving the kitchen a good clean and disinfecting and, of course, taking out the rubbish before it walked out on its own.

At 08:05 when I went out this morning it was already scorching hot. Heaven alone knows what it’s going to be like at 15:00. But heaving my pack up onto my back I set off down the hill in the Rue des Juifs.

street repairs rue des moulins Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallDown in the town there was already some excitement going on in the Rue des Moulins.

They had a concrete cutter and a digger down there, sticking a pile of earth in the back of the lorry down there, and the workmen are busy admiring the hole that they have dug. For a moment I was wondering if I should go over and fall in with them but instead I pushed on.

At the railway station, my train wasn’t in yet so I had a nice relaxing sit on a bench on the platform while I waited for the train to come in.

GEC Alstom Regiolis 84581 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere wasn’t all that long to wait. The train pulled in round about 08:45. Just one six-car unit instead of two six-car units coupled together.

Climbing aboard, I went off to find my seat. For some reason or other that I don’t understand, they had me sharing a 4-seat combination with a couple of other people. No chance of my supporting that idea so I grabbed an empty seat where I could sit all on my own.

Having had a very late night last night, I wasn’t up to doing all that much but I did managed to copy onto the laptop all of the files that I’d backed up onto my memory stick. And the music ones took some sorting out. I’ll have to research the albums that I cropped the other day and work out which song goes where.

Our train was delayed at Argentan and so we arrived 10 minutes late at Paris Montparnasse. But there was no delay on the Metro and I arrived at Gare du Nord with plenty of time to spare.

TGV INOUI 206 TGV Reseau Duplex gare du nord paris France Eric HallJust as I arrived at the station concourse the train from Lille Flandres was just pulling in.

It’s one of the TGV Inoui Reseaux Duplex trains that we travel on regularly – one of the double deckers, but we aren’t allowed to board it yet. There is going to be a delay because these days they give the train a deep clean before we’re allowed on.

As soon as the cleaners had finished they announced the train, and there was a mad scramble of passengers towards the gate. And there as a slight delay from my part because it took me a minute or two to work out how the rail ticket on my phone works.

TGV INOUI 206 211 TGV Reseau Duplex gare du nord paris France Eric HallThe train is actually two eight-car units coupled together and so it goes without saying that I was in the second half down at the far end of the platform.

And you’ve no idea of the confusion that I caused trying to find my seat, because it didn’t exist. Even the ticket collector couldn’t find it.

On close examination however, we discovered that I’d gone into the wrong carriage. I’d gone in through the correct door but at the top of the stairs I turned right instead of left and hadn’t noticed that I’d walked over the bellows into the next carriage.

But once I was sorted out, I had a good sleep all the way to Lille Flandres.

We had a curious incident after we left the station. Some woman was asking some passers-by “which is the way to Lille-Europe?”. I told her “follow me, I’m going that way” and she did – for the first 100 yards and then she shot off ahead.

She must have known the way after all for she was standing outside the station smoking a cigarette when I caught up with her.

The train wasn’t in yet so I was able to sit down and eat my sandwiches in comfort

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4523 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallWhen the train pulled into the platform we all swarmed down the steps.

It’s one of the tri-volt TGV Réseau 38000 train sets, known colloquially as the PBA, or “Paris Brussels Amsterdam” sets. This time there was no problem finding my seat and I spent most of the journey reading an e-book while my neighbour spent most of the journey speaking to someone on the telephone.

At some point I must have dozed off because the rattling over the points as we came into Brussels awoke me. And so I packed my things.

Having gone through all of the procedure about Covid tests, Passenger Location Forms and the like, there was no control at all at the railway station and I felt quite disappointed.

There was a train to Leuven and Liège on its way into the station so I ran off to platform 15.

am80 automotrice 390 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThe train was another one of these disreputable Am 80 automotrices or multiple units.

Old, tired, dirty and graffiti-ridden, they should have been put out to grass a long time ago from that point of view. But they are quick and reliable, and perform a lot of long-distance work like Brussels to Luxembourg and the one on which I’m riding – the Belgian Coast to Liège.

If these trains were cleaned, the graffiti was removed and they were given modern interiors with a modern seating configuration, they could keep going for another 40 years.

When the ticket collector came down, I couldn’t find my ticket on the SNCB app on my phone. Luckily the ticket collector could. We learn something new every day.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric HallThe heat at Leuven was searing and I burnt myself on the metal handrail on the steps down from the passenger walkway

But from up there, there was a good view down onto the Martelarenplein. I’ve taken a few photos of that just recently but usually from ground level. This is the first opportunity that I’ve had of taking an aerial view and so I wasn’t going to miss it.

The heat was really oppressive as I struggled around the ring road to the Dekenstraat. I had to stop a few times to catch my breath. At one point I was overtaken by some weird kind of solar bicycle but he cleared off quickly before I could photograph it.

At the Dekenstraat I found my room – another one of the upmarket duplexes. They are very good to me here, giving me a free upgrade whenever there’s one vacant.

Having sorted myself out I sat down to do some work. There was something on the dictaphone from the night but the only thing that I remember about it was being on a bus coming out of Hanley down the Etruria Road. Suddenly it had to manoeuvre into the outside lane, round in front of a couple of cars then off to the left down a slip road onto the “D road”. The slip road had all kinds of houses alongside it and it was cold and foggy and it hav been snowing heavily. I asked the driver what was happening. He said that the police had told him to go that way so that he didn’t have any other choice. I asked him “what about the people who live in Longport and places like that?” He replied “that’s rather a shame but the police have told me to do this and this is what I have to do”. Then I awoke in a really cold sweat again. There was much more to it in this dream and I think that my ex-friend from Stoke on Trent appeared in it somewhere

Having finished that I had more things to do but instead I crashed out on the sofa. I awoke with a start at 18:45 and there was shopping to do so I had to nip out smartish because they close at 20:00.

road works naamsestraat naamsevest leuven belgium Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve been watching the roadworks down at the junction of the Naamsestraat and the Naamsevest.

They are now at the stage of resurfacing the road so I reckon that in another three or four years they might actually have it finished. We all know how quickly they work here in Belgium.

Normally I would be going to the Carrefour but I didn’t have the strength tonight so I ended up at Delhaize. And I was only just in time too because as I was queueing up to pay, they switched off the lights in the shop.

In order to get back up the hill and return to my digs I had to have an energy drink. But I made it back and made myself tea – falafel burger with pasta and veg – with the latter all mixed up with that garlic dressing. Pudding was pineapple slices with sorbet.

There was the intention to write the journal entry for today but instead I fell asleep again. When I finally awoke I just went to bed to sleep it off. I can write up my journal tomorrow.

Monday 31st May 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow, but sitting on my seat in the office in the comfort and security of my own home. And am I glad to be back after all of this?

Blasted out of bed at 05:00 by the alarm, I’d made a coffee, filled the flask, made my butties, packed my bags and cleaned the digs by 05:30 and I was ready to roll. But it was far too early because I didn’t want to loiter about on the draughty Brussels Midi station so I relaxed for a while

At about 05:55 I hit the streets and walked off down to the station. And I’m not used to it being so bright so early.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will remember the Martelarenplein – the Martyr’s Square – just outside the railway station.

A lot has been said, mainly by me, of the pedestrian pace at which Belgian (and French) builders seem to work. Much of that is reflected in what’s going on here. It’s been under repair for a good couple of years and by the looks of things they are still a long way from finishing it.

Surprisingly I was on the station for just after 06:10 which meant that I had the choice of a couple of trains that were running earlier than the one that I intended to catch, and that’s always good news.

1904 class 18 electric sncb locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric HallThe train that I caught was the 06:19 to Oostende and that is my favourite choice of train if I’m ever allowed to choose.

It’s a rake of double-deck coaches pulled by one of the top-line electric locomotives of the SNCB stable, and I’m not disappointed. Despite its number, this is one of the Class 18 locomotives built by Siemens between 2009 and 2011. There are 120 of these locomotives in total and they have displaced almost every other type of electric locomotive from front-line duties, although we’ve ridden on a few others just recently.

There was a lady ticket inspector and she seemed to be quite satisfied that I’d correctly installed the SNCB app on my mobile phone and displayed the ticket correctly. I’m making great strides with this technology stuff, aren’t I?

The train pulled into Bruxelles Midi bang on time and to my surprise my train was actually indicated on the departures board. So I went up to the platform and there was a TGV already there. Not mine though. This one was going to Marseilles. Mine would be a-cumen in once this one had cleared off, so an attendant told me.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4539 gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric HallShe wasn’t wrong either. About 10 minutes later our train did indeed pull in.

It’s one of the TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt trainsets, the PBA (Paris Brussels Amsterdam) sets that we have occasionally, and the fact that it’s pulled up so far down the platform seems to suggest that there will be a train set coming from Amsterdam that will be coupled up at the back.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we saw them coupling up on another occasion that we were here just recently.

The train was actually quite empty and we all had plenty of room to spread out which was nice. I could get on with some work. And once more, the electronic ticket on the SNCF app that I presented to the inspector passed muster too.

And to my surprise, I passed muster at the Paris Gare du Nord Railway station as well. The gendarmette who inspected my Covid declaration from the hospital and my carte de sejour and waved me through without comment can detain me for further questioning any time she likes.

The metro was crowded – it seems as if despite the President’s entreaties, France has gone back to work. The casualty figures show me that this virus is very far from being beaten here and it’s all going to end in tears.

84556 gec alstom regiolis bb7200 507219 nez casse gare montparnasse paris france Eric HallAt the Gare Montparnasse what I reckoned would be my train was already in. It was the only Normandy train in sight.

Parked next to it is one of the BB7200 class of electric locomotives, the nez cassés or “broken noses” of the SNCF railway system. These, and their half-brothers used to be the mainstays of the high-speed long-distance SNCF railway network but now they are used for less glamorous purposes since the arrival of the TGVs.

It’s a long walk from the metro station to the railway station (they moved the railway station so that they could build the Tour Montparnasse on its site) and so I was exhausted. But I found some more seats that I hadn’t noticed before and one of them was vacant so I could sit in peace.

It is indeed my train – the back half of it in fact because it’s 2 trainsets coupled together. And I’m sitting in the rear trainset. The train is busy but I could still have a pair of seats all to myself which pleased me greatly.

And here’s a surprising thing. The ticket collector came up to me and instead of asking to see my ticket he asked “what’s your date of birth?”. So I replied and he said “bon voyage, Monsieur Hall”. This SNCF app clearly does more than it lets on that it does.

In the past that kind of thing would have bothered me greatly but everyone’s privacy has long since been eroded away. 30 years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing like I do but the authorities know where I am and what I’m doing no matter how hard I try to disguise it

84559 gec alstom regiolis Bombardier B82790 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallWe pulled into the railway station bang on time too and found ourselves parked up next to one of the Bombardier trainsets that works the Caen-Rennes line. At least I could photograph the front trainset from here

It had been a pleasant journey and to my surprise, despite the 05:00 start I’d only dozed off for about 10 minutes. But I’d only had some hot coffee, not anything cool to drink, with me and so having set out at that time, I now had a thirst that you could photograph.

That was what I would call rather bad planning, but seriously, you’ve no idea how much stuff I usually have to bring back and I simply couldn’t carry any more. I had quite a job carrying this lot.

Going down the steps to the Parc de Val es Fleurs was okay but even on the flat I was struggling. I wasn’t looking forward to the hill up to my place. But I cheered up watching a grockle try to park his motor home in a completely empty car park. I really don’t understand some of these people.

water leak rue des juifs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAt the foot of the Rue des Juifs there were temporary traffic lights and water all over the place. It looks as if there has been a burst pipe.

But surprisingly, despite the emergency and the big hole and the traffic lights and the vans, there wasn’t a single workmen (and not a married one either) about anywhere. It was about 14:15 so they all should be back at work after lunch.

The hill up the Rue de Juifs was not something to which I was looking forward. It’s pretty steep at the best of times and here I was, loaded up, not in the best of health, and I’d had an emergency operation a week or so ago and the stitches were still in.

But I shan’t get home just standing here looking at it. There’s no other solution but to press on.

people playing bowls bar ephemere place pleville pelley Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt’s most unlike me, I know, but I had to make several stops on the way up to catch my breath.

One of these stops was looking over to the Place Pelley where they usually play boules. There’s quite a crowd down there right now, presumably also taking advantage of the bar ephemere, the temporary bar in the shipping container that comes here in the summer and which we saw them unpacking a couple of weeks ago.

If I had had any sense I’d have come home that way and stopped off for a cold drink but I was in a hurry to go home. I took a deep breath, girded up my loins and continued on my weary way back homeward.

builders compound place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAnd what’s going on here then?

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we have seen over the past few weeks a corner of the car park of one of the other building in the Place d’Armes used as a builders compound but they all cleared off just before I came away and left the place empty.

But it seems that there is some more work going on somewhere presumably in the old walled city and they have set up the compound again. I see that I shall have to go for a walk out that way one of these days and have a good look to see what’s going on, and where.

You’ve no idea the size of the sigh of relief that I emitted when I sat down in my chair in the office, back home. It’s been a long hard slog in the 12 days since I was last here and I don’t want to have to go through all of that again. I transferred the files over and merged everything in – that’s the limit of the work that I did.

And despite the short night, I did actually manage to go off on a couple of nocturnal rambles here and there. And more than just a few too. I’m surprised that I kept going for as long as I did today.

First off was about a boy who lived just up the street from me when I was a kid. Last night he got divorced. I’d forgotten to tell everyone on the day but about a day or so later I remembered it. Anyway we were sitting around the table at lunch ansd he came along with his ex-wife and sat down at our usual table. A couple of other people who were usually there picked up their knives and forks to go away and he sent some kind of scathing comment after them. Of course I didn’t say anything at all. He looked at me and started talking to me about how well I knew Sandbach. I said “yes, I knew it quite well”. He asked “enough to take me somewhere tonight?”. I replied “yes”. So he mentioned a street called Volunteer Avenue (that’s in Nantwich by the way, not in Sandbach). “Do you know where that is?”. I said “yes” so he added “you can take me there and there’s a lot of money in it for you” – something to do with jewellery. He said “we have to leave at 04:00”. That was a bit inconvenient for me but I’d go because I don’t believe this story about money than anyone else. So I leased some sort of dummy office and fitted some kind of dummy recorder because I expected some kind of strange visit. While I was out fetching a coffee and people were talking to me a girl who I’d known and I knew her very well too (and I wish I’d remembered who she was) just walked up to my office as if she was going in. I thought “what on earth is happening here?”. She saw me so I said “what are you doing here?”. She replied “I’ve come to see if such-and-such an office is convenient for me and my boss”. “Really?3 I asked. “Why don’t you go in and have a look?”. “I can’t” she replied. “I don’t have the keys. It says that it’s locked for painting”. So I asked “why did you come here if it was locked for painting?”. She stammered some kind of silly answer at that point and I thought “yes, this is all just so crazy”.

Next up, I was in an office somewhere. I was overhearing a conversation from another desk about a woman who was trying to arrange some kind of exchange visit with a Government department in Germany about tourism. My ears pricked up and I said that I would be extremely interested in that. This woman looked at me with a puzzled look on her face. She had a little chat with me while she was having a chat with this other person. When she’d hung up on this other person she said ‘here’s my number” and it began with 5 zeroes, not 0049 as you would expect, and then a couple of other numbers “and I’m on extension 37 at the moment but this afternoon I’ll be on extension 38. Why don’t you give me a ring?”. So I asked her name and said “yes, OK”. I don’t think that my employers would agree to it but it was still an interesting thing to overhear.

Later on we were a group of impresarios organising musicians and dancers and all that sort of thing for different concerts all over the place. Roxanne was there and I told her a joke about Aunt Mary – Aunt Mary had died and it was actually quite funny but the answer to this was silence, which was one thing that no-one would ever have got. Roxanne delighted in telling it to everyone. We were trying to get this act together with these 3 or 4 dancers and so on. Roxanne told this joke to TOTGA but she didn’t understand it. There was something about ballet in it and I surprised TOTGA and Roxanne by actually being able to do these ballet steps without even thinking about it

Tea was burger and pasta followed by chocolate sponge (to my surprise it’s sill good) and coconut soya dessert.

And now having written my notes, I’m off to bed. And quite right too. I’m absolutely whacked. Tomorrow is Welsh lesson and then I have to look at these hospital appointments and condense the timescale because I have no intention of being away for another 12 days, that’s for sure. I can’t keep on going like this.

Wednesday 19th May 2021 – YOU’RE PROBABLY WONDERING …

… about why it’s taken me so long to put my notes of today’s travel on line.

The truth is that last night with 164% of my daily total of effort recorded on my fitbit, I crashed out completely at about 21:15 and crashed out properly too – in bed under the bedclothes and out like a light. I vaguely remember waking up again at about 23:20 but that was my lot until 05:20 the following morning.

And that’s another mystery, isn’t it? Whenever I do go to to bed really early I can’t seem to make the most of it and end up waking early, except on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago.

But returning to our moutons, as they say around here, Wednesday is the day that I travel to Leuven. I was up and about at 06:00 as usual as the first alarm went off.

First task was to make myself a coffee, and then make a thermos flask of coffee for the journey. Those water bottles that we received for our expeditions on board THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR really are the business.

Making my sandwiches and so on for breakfast and lunch was next, the sourdough and the ginger beer needed feeding too so I attended to that. It will be interesting to see if there’s another eruption of the sourdough while I’m away. To be on the safe side, I’ve put the jar in a bowl to stop it going everywhere.

Having done a few more bits and pieces I headed off down the road towards the railway station, realising after about 200 yards that I’ve forgotten to pack any clean clothes. Too late now to do anything about it now.

people on terrace rue lecampion Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallDown in the town I noticed a few changes hat have taken place since I was last here. Cafés can now open their terraces to the general public.

Many of the city centre cafés don’t have terraces of course but the local council has given them authorisation to set up ad-hoc terraces on the street in front of their premises. And even though it’s a cold, damp 08:15 or thereabouts on a midweek morning, there are a few clients who couldn’t wait to sample the delights of which they have been deprived for so long.

Draymen too delivering beer barrels and crates too. That’s a welcome sign too.

But I still think that it’s far too early to be opening up like this with casualties the way that they are. I can’t help having the feeling that it’s as if the Government has given up the fight against containing the virus and relying on the vaccination programme. This is all going to end in tears.

beach cabins on lorry cours jonville Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallBut there are other more positive signs of summer too, as I noticed further along at the junction in the Cours Jonville.

As I waited to cross the street one of the Council lorries pulled up in front of my. It was pulling a trailer and was loaded up with the beach cabins off the Plat Gousset.

At the end of the season the cabins are taken off the promenade to keep them safe in a compound in the Council’s maintenance depot. They don’t leave them on the promenade through the winter

Regular readers of this rubbish who will recall having seen the winter storms smashing their way onto the promenade at high tide will not be surprised by this. Coming back at the start of the season and finding a pile of matchwood waiting for you isn’t the way to run a seaside resort.

gec alsthom regiolis 84555 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallAt the railway station my train was already in and waiting for me so I could go and find my seat and sit down. And that was just as well because with not feeling very well, the walk up there had thoroughly exhausted me.

It was only a 6-car unit too – just one of the GEC Alsthom Regiolis sets that we usually have – so it was pretty crowded this morning. I had a companion sitting next to me, but that didn’t stop me sleeping for the first part of the journey.

The rest of the journey was spent updating the laptop. This morning before setting out I copied onto a memory stick the files that had been updated on the big computer since my last trip to Leuven. I have one of these tiny 64GB memory sticks attached to my keyring which I use as I travel about to copy files from one computer to another.

The Gare de Montparnasse was still quite empty – full life hasn’t yet returned to Paris (and quite right too) – and it was easy to find a seat on the Metro train to the Gare du Nord. I always walk down to the end of the platform at railway stations because I’ve noticed that the crowds seem to congregate at the middle so the ends of the trains are usually much more empty.

At the Gare du Nord there were very few people around yet again so I took full advantage by buying another carnet of 10 tickets. I seem to be going through them quite quickly these days.

TGV Reseau Duplex 216 gare du nord paris France Eric HallAs I arrived upstairs at the terminus where I catch my train, a train from Lille pulled in and I reckoned that this will be mine going back out again.

We won’t be allowed on it for quite a while because they have to clean it thoroughly these days before we can get back on, so I spent the time looking around. I can tell you a little about my train while we are waiting.

It’s one of the old TGV “Reseau Duplex” double-deckers that they use on high-volume routes. The first time that I had travelled on one was a few years ago when I went from Lyon to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on my way to Montreal, and doesn’t that seem like a lifetime ago, the way things have been this last year or so?

sncf locomotive 522228 class bb 22200 gare du nord paris France Eric HallWhile I was looking around I came across this beautiful machine.

Anyone who has travelled on an express train in France before the days of high-speed high-capacity multiple-units will have been on a train pulled by one of these. It’s locomotive 522228, one of the class of BB22200 locomotives that flooded the SNCF network back in the old days and are the epitome of French long-distance travel.

The Nez Cassées or “Broken Noses” began to be introduced in 1975 and a total of 205 were introduced. Some of them have even been timed at travelling in excess of 200 kph. But in 2012 they began to be withdrawn for breaking and that marks the end of this era of traditional travel. And that’s a tragedy

TGV Reseau Duplex 215 gare du nord paris France Eric HallEventually the details of our train were posted up on the board so we could all swarm down to platform towards our seats.

As you might expect, mine is down at the far end of the train, which I suppose isn’t too bad because it means that I don’t have so far to walk at Lille Flandres. It’s a train of two-units coupled together and, surprisingly, we have two units of consecutive numbers.

This wasn’t quite as full as the rain on which I’d come from Granville so I had no neighbour. I could eat my lunch in comparative comfort and read my E-book.

It’s a book written in 1918 and talks about the early history of flight, AIRCRAFT AND SUBMARINES: THE STORY OF THE INVENTION, DEVELOPMENT, AND PRESENT-DAY USES OF WAR’S NEWEST WEAPONS by Willis J Abbot and makes several claims about powered flight taking place before the Wright Brothers but by people other than the usual suspects Gustave Whitehead and Richard Pearse.

It’s a fascinating read about submarines because there is little research that has been done into the German U-boat campaign of 1914-18 compared to what was done in the Second World War and the massive tomes of CLAY BLAIR

Interestingly, there’s an obscure reference in Abbot’s book to the fate of the Hunley – the world’s first killer submarine. He says that divers a couple of years after the end of the American Civil War found it still embedded in wreck of the Housatonic, although no mention of that was made when Itzé and I WENT TO VISIT THE HUNLEY after it had been recovered.

Our train pulled into Lille Flandres railway station bang on time and so I set off in the damp atmosphere down the road towards Lille Europe Railway Station.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4518 SNCF TGV POS 4403 gare du lille europe France Eric HallOur train was already in the station but there was 20 minutes before our train was due to depart so I had plenty of time to take a photo of it.

Once again it’s a train consisting of two train sets. Mine is 4518, one of the TGV Reseau 38000 tri-volt trains, the same type as the Thalys PBA trains that work between Paris, Brussels and occasionally Amsterdam. It’s coupled up to 4403, one of the POS units tat formerly worked the eastern TGV network.

its neighbour 4402 is the train that holds the world speed record for conventional train travel, having reached 574.8 kilometres per hour on 3rd April 2007.

push me pull you sncb locomotive gare du midi brussels belgium  Eric HallThe train that took me on to Leuven from Brussels Gare du Midi was one of the SNCB “push me pull you” units with the locomotive pushing it from the far end.

And I was lucky to catch it too because there was another barrage at the station with the police checking the travel papers of people getting off the train. I was paperless, as you might expect, so I had to bluff pretty hard to be allowed officially to enter the country.

But I know what to do for the next time that I arrive in the country, and I can see that I shall be having to change my travel habits.

But anyway, they let me in and I could head off for my train.

sncb series 55 locomotive 5503 haren brussels belgium Eric HallFor a change, our train took the older route that passes by the huge railway rolling stock depot at Haren, and alongside the area where they park the redundant locomotives prior to scrapping.

Amongst the locomotives in there today is 5503, one of the Class 55 diesels of the SNCB. This was a generic design used by many railway companies in Europe, and this particular model was built by BN, a Belgian company now part of Bombardier, and powered by General Motors EMD engines.

It’s a testament to the efficiency and reliability of the GM engines that 60 years after their introduction there are still plenty of them still in existence. The British version of these, powered by the unreliable and inefficient and, for all intents and purposes, irreparable North British engines that were cheap licensed copies of a MAN diesel engine, never even made 20 years.

To give you some idea, because of the narrow British loading gauge, the engines had to be mounted upside-down so that to even do a simple job like draining the oil and changing the filter, you had to take the engine out.

sncb automotrice am75 haren brussels belgium Eric HallAlso ready to go to the breaker’s yard were a few of the AM75 multiple units.

When I was working for that American company 15 years ago I would have been pleased if one of these had arrived at Jette railway station to take me off to work instead of one of the ancient units that usually took me, but these days they are long obsolete.

Introduced in 1975, there were 44 of these train sets introduced. There are one or two of them still circulating around on the network round by Antwerp and Charleroi and are the oldest multiple units left in action on the SNCB railway network, but I suspect that they won’t be around for much longer.

But I’m interested to see what the next generation of multiple units will be like.

sncb class 18 locomotive 1886 gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric HallAt Leuven I could see which locomotive had been pushing us towards Eupen.

It’s 1886, one of the Class 18 electric locomotives. There are 120 of these locomotives, built by Siemens between 2008 and 2011 and replaced a variety of different locomotives from previous generations built in the 1950s and early 1960s.

From the railway station I staggered off to my accommodation. And it really was a stagger too because I didn’t enjoy the walk at all. And I didn’t have an upgrade today. The place is busy so I’m in a single unit, although bigger and with a double bed, something that you don’t have in a basic single unit.

My trip to the shops was later than usual, and for 2 reasons too. Firstly we had a torrential rainstorm and I wasn’t going out in that. And secondly, I needed all of this time to gather my strength.

roadworks naamsestraat naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric HallBecause I wasn’t feeling very energetic, I took the shorter route along the ring-road to the supermarket, and ended up at the junction of the Naamsestraat and the Naamsevest.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve seen the roadworks at this junction for the last couple of times that we’ve been here, and there still appears to be no change. They aren’t making much progress here, which seems typical these days with building work, and I wonder how they are progressing with the other work we’ve been watching.

Anyway, at the Carrefour I did my shopping. They had burgers on special offer and also some reduced vegan sausages so I bought them for the next few teas But I forgot the vegan mayonnaise for my sandwiches which was a shame.

roadworks naamsestraat naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric HallOn the way back I passed by the roadworks again, which we can see now from a different angle, and then headed on for home

The walk back with the shopping exhausted me and the climb up the stairs to the 2nd floor finished me off. I made myself some food, a burger with pasta and veg, and that was that. I’d had enough for today and so I was going to go bed straight away. I can finish my notes tomorrow.

it’ll also give me a chance to listen to the dictaphone to see where I went during the night because there was a file on the dictaphone to indicate that something had happened during the night.

Nerina was actually involved in this although I didn’t have the chance to see her. I had to go to see someone who had built some kind of magnificent motorbike and was busy building – I dunno, circus or fairground attractions out of old cars and so on so I thought that I go and talk to him about perhaps getting a bike or doing some work or something. He lived on Stoneley Road – no, not Stoneley Road – near where the Hunters Lodge is. So I went down past Nerina’s but she wasn’t there, and I got to this house. I knocked on the door but no-one came. It was a bungalow and the front door was at the side of it. I put my head into the garage but there was nothing in there but I was tempted to go for a really good look around, which I did. When I came out I bumped into a couple who were most surprised to see me. I was most surprised to see them – it didn’t half look suspicious. I explained what I was doing. The guy started to be really aggressive in a light-hearted, funny way saying things like “when they said this kind of thing to Clement Freud on 20 Questions he became most upset, things like that. This went on for a couple of minutes. I ended up being cornered by this man and woman. She was telling me all about the stuff that he was building but e guy was being all aggresssive. Suddenly they ushered me into the house. There in the living room was a load of people all wearing black, motorbike types in black t-shirts, black leather waistcoats and so on and they had all kinds of things in there like cars that were turning into circus attractions, that kind of thing, all together. Someone I knew who was a friend of mine, either my former friend from Stoke on Trent or Rhys (yes, you have a mention, Rhys), said something about having to go and tax his motorbike. I made some kind of comment about my motorbike needing taxing as well, even though it wasn’t MoT’d. That’s where it ended.

The hospital tomorrow, and they are going to be checking my heart. At least I have one, which shows that I’m not a Tory. And I’m thankful for that.

Saturday 24th April 2021 – THERE ARE MANY …

… things in this life that I don’t understand. And the older that I become, the more I realise that the less and less I actually do understand.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a few weeks ago I was going through a phase of not being able to haul myself out of bed at any price regardless of however many alarms that I set and how loud and for how long I set them.

On Thursday I switched off the alarms so that I could have a lie-in and then on Thursday night before going to bed, I switched them back on.

The chattering birds outside my window, helped by the rattling fridge downstairs, awoke me at about 05:20. And not being able to go back to sleep, I lay awake waiting for the 06:00 alarm.

When I checked the time again, it was actually 06:10 and the alarms hadn’t gone off. It seems that last night I’d set them for 08:00 in error. And had I not been awake and instead slept right through to when the alarms would have actually gone off, I’d have missed my train home.

So what would have been the odds on that in similar circumstances a couple of weeks ago?

And this is what I just don’t understand – that I can actually do it when I have to so why can’t I do it when I don’t have to?

But anyway, there I was, up and about on time so I tidied everything up, made my sandwiches, packed up and headed off for the railway station.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric HallHere’s something that is extremely interesting.

Something else that regular readers of this rubbish will recall that not long after I came to live in Leuven in 2016 they closed off the Martelarenplein outside the railway station in order to completely refurbish it. And since then, it’s been all fenced off and the fences covered with tarpaulins so it’s impossible to see through it.

This morning though, some of the tarpaulin covering has been taken away and it’s now actually possible to see what they have been doing for all of this time.

And to be quite honest, it really doesn’t look all that different than it did before, although I do have to say that judging by how the place appears right now, there is still a great deal of work to be done. Another project around the town that has gone on far longer than it ought to have done.

So on the station, I didn’t have to wait too long for my train to come in.

automotrice am96 multiple unit 543 gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallThe train that I’m catching this morning is the 08:19 to the Belgian coast, calling at the Airport, and then the city centre before it clears off coastwards.

Just for a change, it’s not one of the depressing and dirty AM80 units but a much more modern AM96, the type with the rubber bellows and the swivelling drivers’ cabs. Bang on time it was when it pulled in and it pulled out on time too.

When we arrived in Brussels I still had 90 minutes to wait before my train came in so I went and sat in the main concourse for a while.

Once I’d worked out where my train would be arriving (there’s only a choice of 2 platforms for the Thalys and the train to Amsterdam pulled into one of them) I went up there to wait.

A few minutes later I was joined by a young lady. “This platform is quite big and lonely and there aren’t many people about” she said. “Would you mind if I waited near you? I’d feel safer”? She clearly didn’t know me very well.

Thalys PBKA 4331 gare de brussels midi railway station belgium  Eric HallSoon enough, a train pulled into the station at my platform.

It’s one of the PBKA (Paris – Brussels – Cologne – Amsterdam) units, number 4331, a nice clean and shiny one just out of the carriage wash. But it only had 8 carriages, numbered 1-8 which didn’t really suit me because I had a seat in carriage number 18.

My lady-friend had a seat in carriage 8 so she cleared off to board the train and take her seat. I had a few enquiries to make, such as to go and find an arrivals board to find out what trains were due to arrive in the very near future. That should tell me everything that I need to know.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4536 coupling up to Thalys PBKA 4331 gare de brussels midi railway station belgium Eric HallAnd I was quite right too. 5 minutes before my train was due to depart, a TGV was coming into the station from Amsterdam. And sure enough it pulled up at this platform and I had the pleasure of watching them couple up two trainsets together.

This one is one of the PBA (Paris – Brussels – Amsterdam) Reseau 38000 tri-volt trainsets, number 4536, and once it was all coupled up I could take my seat in carriage 18. It was really busy too which is no surprise seeing as it’s the only train to Paris this morning and I’m not sure whether there will be one in the afternoon either.

We set out bang on time and arrived bang on time in Paris too, and there the passengers had to run the gauntlet of a police barrage, checking papers.

Although I don’t have a valid Covid test result, I’ve been out of the country for less than 72 hours and have a Carte de Séjour to prove my address and residence status, so I didn’t have a problem. A really good plan, that, to apply for my Carte de Séjour when I did.

And I’ll tell you something else as well, and that is that the gendarmette who questioned me at the station can detain me for further questioning any time she likes. Actually, I should be being paid by the police force, judging by the number of times that I’ve had to help them with their enquiries.

The metro was quite rapid and when I arrived at Montparnasse I even managed to find a seat, which was just as well because I had a wait of about 90 minutes for my train. I could eat my butties in comfort.

82694 Bombardier B82500 84559 GEC Alstom Regiolis gare de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt was a 6-carriage train (the one on the right, not the Bombardier B82500 on the left) to Granville and it was packed.

Even worse, there were no reserved seats. But I was one of the lucky ones in that I didn’t have a neighbour so I could fall asleep and drop my laptop on the floor in comfort.

We were held up somewhere in the countryside by electrical current issues but we made up the missing minutes as we hurtled down the line towards the coast.

And when we arrived, actually a couple of minutes early, we’d somehow managed to throw out most of the passengers and there weren’t all that many of us left.

When I’d left Leuven this morning it was pretty cold but here in Granville we were having a heatwave and I had to strip off to walk home, down the steps and through the park.

citroen ami electric car parc de val es fleurs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIn the past we’ve seen some pretty awful and horrible-looking cars but this is one that really takes the biscuit.

It’s a Citroen Ami all-electric car and I do have to say that it’s one of the most hideous that I’ve ever seen.

The climb up the Rue des Juifs was rather painful in the heat and seeing as I’m not feeling myself right now, I had to stop for a breather half-way up the hill and that’s not like me at all. And I can’t blame the shopping that I was carrying because I’ve come up the hill with much more than this.

Having put the cold stuff away I came in here to watch this evening’s football.

And this was the match of the season – TNS, top of the table, against Connah’s Quay Nomads in second place. The Nomads do have some quality but they aren’t consistent enough to do it every week, whereas TNS are like a well-oiled machine and tick over quite smoothly.

Ordinarily we might be expecting a tight game but Nomads have been known to crumble at the most inappropriate times so I don’t think that too many neutral supporters would have had their money on the Nomads.

But while you always find the odd player here and there who has a bad game, it’s very rare to find half a dozen who are having a poor performance all at the same time. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the TNS centre-half pairing of Blaine Hudson and Ryan Astles were having a nightmare match.

Despite having 60% of the ball TNS never really did much with it and Connah’s Quay simply swept them aside. Michael Wilde, a player released by TNS a few seasons ago, scored a hat-trick and Jamie Insall scored a fourth while Astles and Hudson stood around watching them.

In the end TNS had 5 strikers on the field and while they did manage to score one early in the game, they never ever looked likely to trouble the Nomads back line and when they were awarded a penalty towards the end of the game, Oliver Byrne in the Nomads goal saved it quite comfortably.

It’s been about 20 years since I’ve been watching the Welsh Premier League and I have never ever seen TNS play so badly as they did today, although a lot of the credit should go to the Nomads back 4 and Callum Morris just in front of them who stopped almost everything that TNS tried to do.

One thing that I forgot to do until later was to listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. I’d started out with a former friend of mine and we were in Nantwich, Crewe Road end, going to visit some people. There were two girls there talking away and the guy was some kind of electronics guy and his house was a total tip worse than mine and there was stuff everywhere – all bits and pieces for making radios and so on. These 2 girls were young teenage girls busy talking away and at a certain moment I said to one of them “what language are you speaking? Is it Welsh”? They replied “no, it’s Slovensko”. So I asked “Slovene”? and they replied “no” so I asked “Slovak”? and they said “no” so we agreed that they were talking Czech. I was intrigued to know what they were doing while they were looking at all these bits and pieces. At the end of the road I looked out and there was an old guy on a walkframe, delivering the newspapers. It looked as if he had a paper round. I thought “it’s one way of keeping busy when you are old”. I went off into my shed, rooting around for something. There were all these old people standing around, not saying or doing anything, just standing there and it was making me feel uncomfortable. I of these 2 girls came in and she asked me for something. I couldn’t remember what it was she asked me but she saw it while I was searching through stuff so I let her have one. The other one came in and asked “where’s mine”? So I had to find one for her as well. I told her to make sure that she used it otherwise I’d be wanting it back.

Later on I was in Winsford with my father and a few other people, and Denise was there (as if that was ever likely to happen). One of my sisters was talking to Denise about operations, telling her about how she should have had a breast cancer operation a long time ago. Paul Ross rang up but my father was on the other phone so he couldn’t speak to him. Paul Ross came round and said that yesterday evening Dave Clark had died. We worked out that since Christmas we’d had 4 deaths in the immediate close circle and it was enough to make you wonder who was going to be next. Everyone looked at me but I said “as far as I’m concerned, it’s the creaky gate that hangs the longest, isn’t it”?

Anyway, now I’m off to make some sourdough mix and then I’m going to bed. No alarm in the morning and quite right too as I deserve a lie-in after my efforts today.

Wednesday 21st April 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not stting in a rainbow but sitting in my little room in the back end of Leuven, comfortably installed as usual.

When the alarm went off at 04:25 I fell out of bed, fully-dressed because I was taking no chances last night and set about organising myself, making sandwiches, a flask of coffee, checking the packing and steam-cleaning the toilet which was in something of a deplorable condition (I’m letting the housework fall behind again unfortunately while I battle with other things).

Bang on 05:10 I it the streets and headed off to the station. In the pitch-black too as most of the street-lighting was out and I had one or two narrow scrapes, putting my feet on steps that weren’t there, that kind of thing.

82645 82790 Bombardier B82500 gare de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallWhen I arrived at the railway station, I was early and my train hadn’t yet arrived but there were some others in.

There were a couple of other trains there at the platform waiting for what I really don’t know. These are Bombardier B82500 multiple units and part of the huge modernisation plan of the SNCF over the last 10 or so years. From Granville they usually work the route between Caen and Rennes

When you hear people complaining about the filthy, unreliable trains of the SNCF you can tell that they haven’t set foot on a train in France for the last 15 years at least. There has been much more investment in French railways than in the UK for a start.

84565 GEC Alstom Regiolis gare de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAbout 5 minutes after I arrived, my train pulled into the station. It’s one of the usual GEC Alstom Regiolis trains introduced over the last 5 years or so, just in time for me.

This one is 84565 and it must be based here in Granville because I’ve travelled on it on several occasions. There was only 1 unit of 6 carriages and despite it being the only train of the day to Paris it was quite empty.

On the way into Paris I spent the time of the journey going through the computer and sorting out the music, and then going through and attacking a few of the duplicate files that have accumulated on various hard drives.

We arrived in Paris bang on time. The station wasn’t all that busy and I managed not to fall over today. I was quickly onto the Metro and reached the Gare du Nord with plenty of time to spare before my train left. So much so that they hadn’t even affixed the platform number and I had to wait for that.

213 TGV Reseau Duplex gare du nord paris France Eric HallOnce they posted up the platform details I could go off and look for my train.

Once again, it’s one of the “Reseau Duplex” trains that work the like from Paris to Lille Flandres. A double-decker, which shows just how far ahead Continental thinking is of British thinking, and I’m on the upstairs deck in corridor seat.

The train was pretty full this afternoon too. There’s a neighbour too in the adjacent seat but he had nothing to say for himself. And neither did I because, unsurprisingly, I fell asleep for part of the journey and the ticket collector had to awaken me.

The ticket collector gave me some good news too. The validity of my Senior Citizens’ Railcard has been extended by three months to make up for the disruption to travel.

But bang on time yet again we arrived at Lille Flandres railway station and I had to set off for my trek to Lille Europe and the TGV to Brussels.

sculpture place francois mitterand outside gare de lille europe France Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve seen plenty of weird and wonderful things on our travels.

In front of the Lille Europe railway station is the Place Francois Mitterand, named after the Socialist politician who, despite anything that General de Gaulle’s partisan supporters will tell you, was the longest-serving President in French history.

It’s a dreary, desolate, windswept place with little to relieve the monotony. For that reason they sometimes decorate the Square with all kinds of weird and wonderful artefacts, and today it’s the turn of these rather interesting artificial flowers to relieve the monotony.

But I didn’t hang around long to admire them. I had other fish to fry.

4515 TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt gare de lille europe France Eric HallWhen I arrived at the railway station at Lille Europe, I found that my train was already in at the platform even though there was 25 minutes before it was due to leave.

There’s no time like the present, so I wandered down to the front of the train to take a photo. It’s a rather weather-beaten and weary TGV Reseau 38000, the same models as the Thalys PBA (Paris Brussels Amsterdam) trainsets on which we travel occasionally from Brussels back to Paris.

Having taken my photograph I went and found my seat. The train is again a “short” one, just one unit of 8 coaches instead of the usual 2-unit trains. And although it was busy, there was enough room for most people to sit by themselves.

Arriving once more on time, I went to look for my train to Leuven.

nederlandse spoorwegen class e186 locomotive 9184 1186 003 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThere was a few minutes to wait so I could have a look around and see what was going on at the adjacent platforms. Just across the way was this Nederlandse Spoorwegen trainset doing the run from Brussels to Amsterdam.

These are some comparatively old-style carriages with a modern class E186 electric locomotive at each end in a kind of push-me pull you arrangement. The locomotives are built by Bombardier and are based on the TRAXX designs that were developed for the Deutsche Bahn 20 years ago.

Even though the Nederlandse Spoorwegen units are quite modern, they may not be around for much longer. Word on the streets suggests that the Dutch are working on some high-speed multiple-unit train sets. These will be sold back to the leasing company who will redistribute them around other railway networks that use this type.

320 am 80 multiple unit gare du midi brusseks belgium Eric HallThere was just enough time to photograph the Dutch train before my train to Leuven pulled in.

It’s another one of the rather disreputable AM80 multiple unit sets – 40 years old and covered in graffiti. Old vinyl seats and lino on the floor.

But considering their age and what appears to be their general lack of care and attention they still rack up the miles on a lot of long-distance work that would have seen off many a more modern unit

The train was pretty busy too but again I was lucky to to have a seat to myself. And we arrived in Leuven without any inconvenience at all.

To my delight, my key was already in the safe so by 13:30 I was sitting down in comfort on the sofa eating my butties. And then I dozed off for half an hour. And I didn’t regret it at all after my exertions today.

fire damaged house dekenstraat leuven belgium Eric Halllater on I nipped out to the shops, but I didn’t get too far – in fact a house next-door but one to the complex where I stay.

There’s been a fire here, as you can see, and the building is boarded up. Nevertheless you can see the scorching on the brickwork above the door and the windows. It must have been quite a serious blaze.

The sign affixed to the wall next to the door states “declared uninhabitable since 26th March 2021” an I wonder if that’s because of the fire, or whether the fire is as a result of the property being declared uninhabitable.

So musing on that, I carried on my way towards the shops.

house rebuilding dekenstraat leuven belgium Eric HallOf course I had to pause to take a look at the house at the end of the street here.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I have passed a considerable amount of comment on the slow rate of the various projects that are being undertaken here and there around the city. And despite the time that this building has taken to be renovated, it’s still not finished.

It beats me what takes the time with all of this work. They used to build railway lines in far less time than this with just picks and shovels. I shudder to think of how they are proceeding with the demolition of Sint Pieters or the refurbishment of the Monseigneur Vanwaeyenberghlaan.

crowds st donatuspark leuven belgium Eric HallMy route took me past the St Donatus Park, one of my favourite places in the city.

One of the things that I like to do is to go in there for a wander around but this evening wasn’t quite so pleasant because I could hear the noise from a couple of streets away. I knew that it was going to be busy, and not just with inflatable figures either.

And sure enough, there were hordes of people making the most of the warn evening weather. Not much social distancing and even fewer masks too. It looks as if Belgium has suspended many of the health rules relating to the Corona virus. I wonder if they will end up regretting that.

medieval city walls crowds st donatuspark leuven belgium Eric HallWhile I was here, I took a photo of the crowds from this angle.

One of the things that I like about this park is the fact that there are several remains of the old city walls here. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve seen quite a few photos of them, but we haven’t ever seen a photo of them from this angle.

The gate at the far end was closed so I had to retrace my steps to leave the park. My route to the supermarket thus took me down the street and the short cut through the old Beguingage.

My luck was in when I was there. There were several vegan burgers and the like reduced by 50% for a quick sale so I bought a couple of packs to eat while I’m here. IN fact, I ended up spending rather a lot of money today.

road junction naamsestraat naamsevest under repair leuven belgium Eric HallOn the way back I went to look at the roadworks taking place at the junction of the Naamsestraat and the ring road.

When I was here last month they were already attacking it, and I suppose I was being rather optimistic to think that they might possibly have finished. The place is in quite a mess with all kinds of confusion with various side streets and pedestrian crossings closed off.

It took me a good while to find out where to cross. And then I had to fight my way through the hordes of pedestrians, cyclists and moped riders battling for the same amount of restricted space and I was nearly run down a couple of times. But lugging my heavy load on my shoulders I finally made it across.

ambulance Erasme Ruelensvest leuven belgium Eric HallWhile I was on my way home from the Carrefour I’d seen fleets of ambulances with their blue lights flashing, roaring down the road.

And a few minutes later they cam roaring back, still with their blue lights flashing. But where they are going on the return journey I really don’t know because the hospital is in the other direction.

Back here I made tea. Burger with pasta and veg in tomato sauce, followed by apricots (once I’d fought my way into the tin). And having written out my notes, I’m now off to bed. I’ve had a very long day and I’m exhausted. There’s plenty to do tomorrow before I go to the hospital too so I need my beauty sleep.

Need it more than most people in fact, and for the obvious reason too.

So much so in fact that it was a couple of days before I managed to listen to the dictaphone to see if I’d been anywhere during the night. Someone had died in a log cabin and I was investigating this with someone. We found a group of people and it was quite obvious that the story that they were telling us was false so we urged one of these guys, telling him that telling a false story was likely to be very dangerous because if we could prove that it was false it would discredit the rest of his story and he would end up being hanged. In the end he agreed that he had fired the shot as he had entered the room but fired into the darkness and gave a few other indications that admitted that he was perfectly correct in what he’d said, and whoever had killed him had been in there beforehand and they were making their escape when he and his party pulled up.

Wednesday 24th March 2021 – WHAT A HORRIBLE …

… day I’ve had today.

Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong today and I’m thoroughly fed up. Instead of arriving at my room at round about 16:30 it was 20:45 when I limped miserably through the door.

The day started off OK with me being out of bed just after the first alarm and I even had a shower and fed the ginger and the sourdough. For some reason though I didn’t do any tidying up. I just didn’t feel like it and that was the start of the day going wrong.

But anyway I set off into town and the railway station.

unloading lorry port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that yesterday we saw a lorry at the loading bay in the inner port dropping off a pile of stuff.

This morning there was another one there dropping off another big load of stuff down there, as I noticed as I walked past. It’s almost a certainty that one of the Jersey freighters is on its way in and my money is on it being Normandy Trader.

Having observed it all for a few minutes I headed off down the hill and through the town, going the back way to the railway station again.

84563 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallMy train was already in the station when I arrived so I clambered aboard. Today, it was just 6 carriages, not twelve as usual, and it was pretty empty.

And then all our problems began.

We ground to a halt somewhere along the way and sat there for 50 minutes. It seemed that a car had tried to beat the barrier of a level crossing but failed. We had to wait until they had come along to drag the car away before we could proceed.

As a result, we were an hour late arriving in Paris Montparnasse and I had missed my connectons to Belgium.

And here things became even worse. As I was going down an escalator my legs simply gave way underneath me and I fell heavily to the ground. And I didn’t even have the strength in my legs to pick myself up. A couple of passers-by had to help me very shakily to my feet.

The pain in my right leg right now tells me that my right knee has collapsed.

Having missed the 13:15 to Lille, the next train was at 15:42 and that filled me full of despair. This is what happens when you try to travel in the middle of a pandemic.

TGV Reseau 213 gare du nord paris France Eric HallIt was necessary to wait almost 2 hours, two hours that I couldn’t really spare, before we could board our train.

It’s one of the TGV Reseau double-decker units on which we travel quite regularly to Lille. This train wasn’t particularly busy either and everyone had a seat to themselves. It left Paris a few minutes late but pushed on quite rapidly and we made up the time. We arrived in Lille Flanders railway station bang on time.

Now I had to walk across town to the Lille Europe railway station and in my state I wasn’t looking forward to that. It was something of a disreputable stagger down the street for my part.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4518 gare lille europe France Eric HallThis is the front end of the train that I was going to catch to Brussels. It was two units coupled together and I was in the rear one.

And I was really glad to see it because I discovered to my dismay at Lille Europe that my next train out of Lille Europe to Brussels was at 18:11. A wait of about 80 minutes. That wasn’t at all what I wanted to hear but there was nothing whatever that I could do.

When I was in Paris I’d looked to see if there was a “Thalys” direct to Brussels. Indeed there was but that meant waiting around at Paris even longer and an extra cost of €68:00 to save about 20 minutes.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4510 France Eric HallAnyway, my train turned up on time.

Like the front end, the rear end is another one of the PBKA Reseau 38000 units. I suppose that they have been decanted onto this route seeing as much of the TGV network has closed down under the new Covid restrictions.

This train was quite empty too. Despite it being the only train for several hours, it was almost empty too. I had a nice little sleep on board for 20 minutes until we arrived in Brussels and I awoke with rather a start as we pulled into the Gare du Midi.

Being now hopelessly late I had a look in the tow supermarkets in the station for some food as I was in no state to walk all the way down to the ones in Luven later and they would probably be closed by the time that I arrive.

But with nothing at all that I could buy so I went up to catch my train the Leuven.

multiple unit am80 automotrice gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallIt’s another one of these disreputable AM 80 automotrice multiple units that must be the next sets to go for the chop, old, dirty and graffiti-ridden as they are.

But it was on time, such as it was, and brought me on time into Leuven where negotiating the steps in the station was not the easiest thing that I have done.

Luckily the chip shop around the corner was open so I grabbed a bag of chips and headed for my room. And here I had to wrestle with the door of the safe in order to extract my key. It was not easy as the combination did not accord with the one that they sent me.

But in the words of Marshall MacMahon, “j’y suis, j’y reste” – “here I am and here I’m staying”. I’m not up to going anywhere right now as I’m in agony and I’ll have to do better than this tomorrow if I’m going to make it to the hospital

There’s shopping to do to and I’ve no idea how I’m going to manage this. All will come clearer tomorrow after I’ve had a good night’s sleep and I’m going for that right now.

In fact I had to wait until the following morning before i could listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. I started off with Marianne going to North America. I pulled up on the airport car park like we would do every 4 weeks when we went. The first thing that we noticed was that there were 2 cars, an MGB sports car and another one that were there the last time that we went. Marianne said “ohh look! There they are again”. “Yes, they are probably saying the same thing about us”. We went into the airport, sat down and had to wait. I noticed that there were a couple of other couples whom we knew by sight who had been with us on previous voyages there. Marianne asked for a breakfast so I went to find the cafe kind of place. They made some toast and a couple of other things and some coffee and I had a slice of toast as well. I took them back out and dropped them on the table but she wasn’t there. She was off doing something. I put the stuff on the table and went to the bathroom. In there I met 1 of the guys whom I’d just mentioned who’d been with us before, and we had a little chat. I looked in the mirror. My hair was overgrown, needed cutting and I was dressed so untidily, shirt and tie everywhere. I thought “God I really could have done with tidying myself up before I’d come away but it’s too late to worry about that now. I went back outside and Marianne had this huge fried breakfast, mushrooms, bacon and egg, beans, sausages, everything and I wondered where on earth she’s got that from. But she was there tucking into this breakfast.

Later I was in New York going to pick up THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR. The night before, I’d met a couple of people, I’d been staying in a …. and so on. We all had to bring our baggage around on board ship the next day. The next morning I was up early and I bumped into a young Japanese American boy who had flown in from South Africa. We had had a chat about the flights to South Africa, all kinds of things. There was a third person who was not actually going with us on this trip. The 2 of us, we set out to go somewhere. Off we went and walked around the town a little looking at the sights. We somehow became separated – he wandered off with this other person. I thought that I had better start back to the ship. I couldn’t realise or remember what time I had to be back. I had this feeling that I was going to be horribly late so I started o panic a little. I ended up in Crewe at the top end of Victoria Street thinking to myself that I would have to get to the boat. it was just them that Julie Driscoll started to sing “Wheel’s On Fire”. As I was walking down Victoria Street I could hear that song playing.

Before that there had been something about the Army. A couple of us had been in the Army and we’d been rounded up to go somewhere. We weren’t particularly military and the Sergeant-Major who was with us was a bit of a swine. It was quite obvious that we were rubbing each other up the wrong way with the way that we were behaving because we had no military precision whatsoever and he was extremely annoyed by this. The place was a total tip and we wanted it tidying up but it was one of those places that was so untidy that we didn’t know where to start. When we first got to this place there was a girl there and we helped her with one or two things and then she went. Then it came round to the time ready to go early in the morning so we started to tidy up. There was some kind of hoist or breaker that we had to bring upstairs. We went downstairs to look for it but down there was even worse with tools and machinery everywhere. We couldn’t find what we were looking for. There were a few things that might possibly have been it but he didn’t seem to think that they were. This ended up being rather a hunt for this rather than a tidy-up. This girl came in and asked if anyone could fix a light for her because the plug wouldn’t reach. The Sergeant and I went to do it. We managed to find an extension cable that we had to cut into 2. This place was just not being tidied up and it was now 17:00 and the next group of people would be arriving imminently. We didn’t have this place tidied at all and it was really looking a mess.

Saturday 27th February 2021 – THAT WAS A …

sncb class AM08 multiple unit gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall… long, long day!

And to give you some kind of clue about it, if you have a look at this image here you’ll see the time that this train is leaving the railway station at Leuven to make its way out to Halle.

It wasn’t even my train either. It was advertised as “Brussels” but it went along the city-centre avoiding lines past Merode, Schuman and that way. I had to wait another 20 minutes for my train to pull into the station.

Having gone to bed at some kind of relatively early hour (like 23:10) I staggered out of bed a couple of minutes after the alarm went off at 05:00. There were my sandwiches to make for lunch (and I’m glad that I did – read on), the packing, some tidying up, and then I could head off to the railway station.

sncb class AM96 multiple unit gare du midi bruxelles belgium  Eric HallIt was at 06:16 when a train to Brussels Midi came into the station. With it being Saturday morning, a lot of the early commuter trains aren’t running.

It’s one of the AM 96 multiple units, te ones with the doughnut ring around the front that make them airtight when two or more are coupled together. And an added novelty, when they are joined in tandem, the driving cabs at the join pivot out of the way so that passengers can pass from one unit to the next.

They are actually quite comfortable for multiple-units and they are quite often used on long-distance routes where passenger numbers don’t warrant a locomotive with carriages.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4524 gare du midi bruxelles belgium Eric HallWe pulled into Brussels bang on time and I noticed that my train, the 07:17 to Strasbourg, was already in the station. It’s one of the TGV Reseau 38000 units that we travel on quite regularly.

Strangely, and rather uneasily, there were several other TGVs there too. The 06:06 to Marseilles hadn’t left yet and the one after that to Bordeaux was still at the platform. That didn’t seem at all normal to me and I suspected that there was something afoot.

As we waited for them to open the doors so that we could climb in, a hostess came by. She told us that someone had trespassed onto the railway at Ruisbroek and been struck by a passing train. Nothing was heading south towards Lille until the mess had been cleared up.

With nothing else to do, we boarded the train – and waited. And waited.

After about an hour or so they announced that the 06:06 TGV would be leaving “imminently” so we all piled out of our train onto that one. I’d probably missed my train from Paris to Granville by now so it really didn’t make much difference but moving anywhere was better than not moving at all.

We’d been on that one for about an hour or so when they announced that this one wasn’t going to go out either. They would be laying on a fleet of buses to take us to Lille.

But no chance of that. We’ll be there for ever. One thing about train apps on mobile phones is that you can check for other alternatives. And in 5 minutes time there would be a train leaving Brussels for De Panne (coincidentally, the same train that I’d come into Brussels on, but 2 hours later) and 5 minutes after that train were to pull into Gent St Pieters, there’s a local stopping train via Kortrijk to Lille-Flandres.

And then 10 minutes later, there’s an express train from Lille-Flandres to Paris Gare du Nord.

That was enough information for me. I grabbed my things and ran.

sncb class AM96 multiple unit gare de lille flandres railway station France Eric HallAnd here’s my train from Gent to Lille, here in a platform at the Lille-Flanders railway station.

It was one of those mornings when I was fated to travel on a whole fleet of AM96 multiple units. The one that took me to Gent was an AM96 but I wasn’t able to take a photo of that because it was already on the platform when I arrived there and it pulled out almost as soon as I climbed aboard.

And then this one is an AM96 too, but a rather special one, for a few of the fleet are dual-voltage machines designed to run on the French and on the Luxembourg railway networks as well as the Belgian network so that they can operate some cross-border services like this one.

No-one controlled the passengers on either of these two trains – no ticket inspector or anything so I didn’t need to argue or negotiate, which is always good news.

TGV reseau duplex INOUI 210 gare du nord paris France Eric HallThere were ticket inspectors on the turnstiles to the platform where the train to Paris was waiting but they didn’t need much persuading to let me on board.

The train was one of the Reseau Duplex double-decker trains, nice, fast and comfortable. Up on the top deck there’s a kind of small sofa at the top of the steps intended for people to make and receive phone calls instead of doing so in the main seating area disturbing everyone.

They aren’t booked out to passengers so I made a beeline for the sofa and that was where I stayed for the entire journey in relative comfort. A ticket collector came by so I told her my story and she didn’t seem to be bothered at all.

All in all it was quite a painless journey from that point of view.

From Paris Gare du Nord I took the metro to Paris Montparnasse and then went to the station offices to tell them my tale of woe. They weren’t too bothered either particularly. It goes without saying that I’d missed my train but they gave me a ticket for the next one. It meant a wait of about 1 hour and 50 minutes but there wasn’t really any alternative.

84565 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallThis train was pretty busy. Luckily they had given me a seat so I was fairly comfortable on the way home.

While I’d been waiting I’d eaten my sandwiches so I spent most of the journey home editing my Greenland photos. It’s nice to have a laptop that is powerful enough to do all of that kind of thing. I managed to shift quite a few by the time that we pulled into the railway station at Granville.

It was 17:45 when I returned home – 3.5 hours later than I was intending. And more than 12 hours after I’d set out from my digs in Leuven. No wonder that I was pretty fed up. It meant that I hadn’t had my couple of hours chilling out before I had to start to do things.

Tea was out of a tin and then I listened to a repeat of my “Strife” concert. If you missed it, it’s available AS A PODCAST.

And now I’m off to bed. I’ve had a very long day and I’m exhausted. And no day off tomorrow as I’m having visitors.

Wednesday 24th February 2021 – HAVE YOU EVER …

deserted gare du nord paris France Eric Hall… seen the Gare du Nord looking as empty as this in the middle of the working day when there has been no rail strike?

It’s absolutely unimaginable, isn’t it? Normally it would be heaving with people and it would be difficult to move about but at least in France, even though they don’t seem to have quite got to grips with this virus, people are coping with all of this “working from home” stuff.

While Paris-Montparnasse wasn’t quite so quiet, mainly because three trains all arrived at once, the Metro was quiet too. Plenty of room on my train across Paris too.

It’s all boding well for the future if people can adapt as quickly as this o the new way of doing things.

It’s my birthday today of course (so happy birthday to me) and the last thing that I wanted to be doing today was to have to travel by train to Leuven.

In fact there’s only one thing that I would rather do less than that, and that is to actually be having my treatment. And had I not changed my day of treatment from Wednesday to Thursday that is exactly what I would have been doing.

Mind you, I was lucky to actually make the station today. I had a wicked attack of cramp in the middle of the night that had me hopping around the bedroom in agony. And as a result I wasn’t in much of a mood to haul myself out of bed this morning. I’ve had days when I’ve been much more lively than this.

First thing to do was to make my flask of coffee and the second thing to do was to make my sandwiches and sort out the stuff that I need to take with me. The rubbish went out as well and I even managed to have a shower.

Finally, there was about 30 minutes spare so I had a whizz around the apartment tidying up the place and it actually looks respectable now.

It’s late February so I went out prepared for the Arctic weather, and so as you can imagine, we were having a heatwave and I was sweltering.

thora port de Granville harbour Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallYesterday when we were out on our afternoon walk we saw Thora, one of the little Channel Island freighters, anchored in the port.

When I went out this morning, she was still in there tied up in the loading bay at the quayside in front of Marité. It’s quite surprising to see her still here. These days, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, there has been quite a rapid turn-round in the port. They’ve been having the freighters in and out on the same tide at times and that’s good going.

But I can’t stand here musing. I’m running a little later than usual and I have a train to catch.

window stickers winnibelle bar rue des juifs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallFurther on down the Rue des Juifs, I went past Winnibelle’s, the little bar there.

All of the bars and restaurants are closed right now, something that is hitting the local commerce quite hard but it’s a necessity given the way that things are right now. But there’s some kind of campaign going on and I’m not sure what it is, but many places, bars and restaurants, have some weird stickers in the window, all of which seem to have been doe by the same hand

This has been intriguing me for a while, having seen so many of them over the last few weeks

The town was pretty quiet this morning. There weren’t too many people around at all. I suppose with it being School holidays, everyone was having a lie in.

84583 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAs I was walking up the hill to the station, I saw my train pull in to the platform. Another one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis units that work the line.

It’s the usual train that I catch, the 09:00 to Paris. They’ve reinstated most of the trains but only to a certain degree. Instead of a double-unit, it’s just a single unit of 6 cars and although it was busy, it wasn’t packed and I didn’t have a neighbour. I spent all of the journey updating the directories on the laptop that I brought with me, the one that I repaired over the weekend.

And to my surprise, I was so busy that I forgot to crash out. That’s a new experience on a train to Paris for me.

TGV Reseau 226 gare du nord paris France Eric HallA deserted metro and a train pulling up just as I stepped on the platform whizzed me off from Paris Montparnasse to Paris Gare du Nord and I was there in no time.

When the train pulled in we all queued up to go aboard but unfortunately there were “issues”. It seemed that someone had left behind their luggage and that involved a visit from the Security Services. They are quite strict on this kind of thing on the French Railways. Any abandoned lucggage results in the Army being called in.

After about 10 minutes, the barrier was opened and we were allowed on. It seems that whoever it was who had left behind his luggage had gone back to claim it just before the Bomb Squad blew it into smithereens.

TGV Reseau 217 gare du nord paris France Eric HallThis was a double unit and I was going to be in the front half of the train.

Both units were of the nice and comfortable TGV Duplex Reseau types, double-decker trains. I was in the upstairs part. This one wasn’t all that full either adnd once again I had no neighbour.

But I did have a visitor though. Some girl was walking down the corridor when the train lurched about on a set of points. She ended up sitting on my lap. It must have been my lucky day, that’s all I can say.

The train pulled into Lille Flanders on time and then I had a nice little stroll in the sun through the town to Lille Europe to catch the train that comes from the South of France to Brussels.

tgv POS 4412 gare de lille europe France Eric HallWhen I arrived at Lille Europe I had about 15 minutes to wait before my train to Brussels put in an appearance.

And this was a surprise today. The train that pulled in was one that I haven’t seen before. It’s one of the TGV POS units – and the inittials do not stand for what you think they might. They are actually the Paris-Ostfrankreich-Süddeutschland – “Paris-Eastern France-South Germany” units that were built to run through from Paris on the Eastern lines into Central Europe.

One of these units, 4402, set a new maximum speed record of 574.8 km/h on 3rd April 2007.

They are now being withdrawn from that service and they are now popping up all over the place.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 gare de lille europe France Eric HallInterestingly, it wasn’t coupled up to another unit of the same type. And it’s very rare to see different types of TGV coupled together

The one that was being pulled along behind was one of the tri-volt Reseau 38000 units that we usually seem to have. They are rather old and tired and of course this was my unit. Despite everything, they are quite comfortable and there’s room for me to spread out and do some work on the laptop again, especially as once again I didn’t have a neighbour.

After I’d alighted from the train at Brussels-Midi, I had an errand to perform. Last time I was here, I’d handed in a form to the Belgian Pensions Service just across the road but they sent it back as it wasn’t completed correctly. I’d completed it and now I had to take it back.

Here’s hoping that it’s complete correctly this time.

push me pull you gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallOne thing about the line from Brussels to Leuven is that there are 4 express trains every hour as well as plenty of local stopping trains.

There are expresses to Hasselt or Genk or Welkenraedt but the one that I caught was the 15:52 to Eupen. It was one of the push-me-pull-you units with the driver in a cabin at the front but with the locomotive pushing it from behind. I’m not sure how stable that kind of configuration would be at high speed and I’m surprised that they allow it on Intercity trains.

This train was quite empty too and never mind a seat to myself, I almost had a whole carriage to myself. This “working from home” is definitely having an effect on the number of people travelling on the trains.

unloading disabled passenger from train gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallWhen the train pulled into the station at Leuven, we were treated to a little bit of excitement.

On the platform was a porter with a wheelchair ramp and when the train came to a stop the porter used the ramp to allow a woman on a mobility scooter to descend.

But I was more intrigued to see the porter’s little magic wand. He had something like a Darth Vader light stick only it was flashing an orange light. He stuck it on the side of the carriage over his head where the guard at the rear could see it.

It seems to me that it’s some kind of warning signal to indicate that there’s an important operation going on and that the guard shouldn’t give the “right away” signal to the drier until the operation is complete.

sncb class 18 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallOnce the porter had finished, the train pulled away from the station.

It was being pushed by one of the Class 18 electric locomotives, the mainstream motive power these days of the Belgian passenger service.

When it had gone I walked from the railway station to my lodgings in the Dekenstraat. I’m in my “old faithful” room C7, one of the big duplex apartments. That’s one thig about being a regular customer here – I book the cheapest room possible and they give me an upgrade if there’s one available.

But then, even one of the very basic rooms is comfortable enough from my point of view.

Having recovered from my journey I set out to go to the shops for supplies.

house under repair dekenstraat leuven belgium Eric HallFor the last few months we’ve been looking at the rebuilding of this house on the corner of the Dekenstraat just down the road.

And if they carry on working at this rate, they might actually finish it by the end of the Century. As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … it’s pretty dismal, the speed at which people seem to work these days.

Belgium changed its car registration system 10 years ago and began to issue 7-character plates instead of 6-character. They put a “1” in front of the numbers and today, I saw the first “2” Plate. They’d gone through a complete range in 10 years.

At Carrefour I stocked up with food for the next few days, and found later that I’d forgotten my vegan mayonnaise and strawberry jam. That’s not very good. But they had some nice vegan burgers. I had one with my pasta and it was delicious.

So now it’s bedtime, and I’m ready for it too. But I can’t go off without mentioning that I had a “Happy Birthday” message from my Customer Service Agent at the Bank. What’s that all about? Do I owe them some money or something?

Friday 29th January 2021 – HERE I AM …

… back home again after my marathon voyage.

The journey always takes a lot out of me but usually I’m back by 14:30 so I have a few hours to recover before I can deal with whatever needs dealing with. Today though was rather different.

This morning not only did I beat the third alarm, I beat the second one too. I had a quick whizz around the pad and tidied everything up, washed up, made my sandwiches for the journey and then packed my stuff for the road.

sncb class 18 electric locomotive gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThe rain wasn’t all that heavy which was very good, and a quick walk brought me to the station in time for my train – the 07:22 which was the first one on my list.

It was another one of the expresses from Welkenraedt to Oostende – a rake of modern double-deck coaches pulled by one of the SNCB class 18 electric locomotives. Nice and comfortable and quite rapid and much better than one of the elderly multiple units that sometimes travel on the line.

It arrived at Brussels-Midi with 90 minutes before my train was due to depart but after an hour or so the platform for the train came up on the display screen so we could go up to the train.

tgv thalys pbka 4331 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallOur train to Paris this morning is one of the PBKA (Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam) units and either it was a short train or else (more likely) a unit is to come in from either Amsterdam or Cologne and couple up behind it.

And wasn’t I disappointed? Having read all the Official Notices for travelling, had a Covid test, filled in piles of paperwork, had all my documents to hand, there wasn’t a single policeman about to check my right to travel.

Our train left on time and, even more surprisingly, arrived in Paris Gare du Nord on time. During the trip I had dozed off for a couple of minutes and they had to wake me up to see my ticket. There wasn’t even a wait at the Metro because I arrived on the platform at the same time as a train.

TGV Atlantique series 24000 trainset 386 gare de rennes railway station France Eric HallAt Montparnasse there was an hour to wait before we could all pile on board our TGV. This is one of the “TGV Atlantique” Series 24000 units.

Some of these are over 30 years old but you wouldn’t think so by looking at the interiors because they are quite clean, tidy and comfortable. And even more interestingly, between 1990 and 2007, it was one of these train sets (admittedly a shortened unit) that held the world railway speed record of 515.3 km/h.

This one unfortunately took two hours to travel all the way to Rennes, which is not really surprising as it also stopped at Le Mans and Laval. But two TGVs in a day – I’m really living it up, aren’t I? T

gare de rennes railway station France Eric HallWe pulled into the railway station at Rennes at about 14:00 – – only the second time that I’ve been to the railway station there. Plenty of time to go for a wander around and photograph the town from the overbridge.

Despite the time available, I didn’t go far and for a couple of good reasons too. Firstly I had a rather heavy load to carry around with me and secondly, the railway station is such a maze that to find out where I would find my connection took me a good bit longer than it ought to have done.

By the time that I had reached where I needed to be it I was glad to sit down.

rail replacement vdl coach gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere was no train back home this time. There was a coach connection to Granville and I had to wait for 75 minutes for it.

To wait for the bus I had to go to the Gare Routier or “bus station” which is presumably built in what might have been the old goods yard sidings a five-minute walk away from the station.

We had to wait outside in the open air for it to turn up but by now it was sunny and reasonably warm for the time of the year. And although the journey home on the coach was comfortably, it still took about two hours to reach Granville railway station.

cow and penguins on roundabout place pleville Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere’s no carnival this year in Granville dur to the virus but that hasn’t stopped the town from decorating the place.

A brisk walk from the station and through the back of the town brought me to the viewpoint from the Rue des Juifs where, looking over to the roundabout at the Place Pleville I could see a cow and several penguins loitering around there watching the traffic.

It’s certainly something different to liven up the time a little and bring a smile to the faces of the general public. It’s making me wonder what the theme of this year’s Carnival would have been had it gone ahead.

pointing rampe du monte regret Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallA little further on along the Rue des Juifs I came to where they had been doing the pointing at the Rampe du Monte Regret.

During the whole week in which I’ve been away, they haven’t made as much progress as I might have expected . No-one engaged in the building work that I have seen over the last week seems to be in an awful hurry to complete their tasks.

My brisk walk brought me back home at just about 18:00, having been on the road for just about 11 hours and I knew all about every minute of it. For a couple of hours I vegetated in the chair and then grabbed a frozen meal out of the freezer.

Later on I had a listen to my dictaphone to see if I’d been on my travels during the night. I was at home and there was a sports match about to come on the TV. Terry and Liz – Liz had asked me if I could buy her some special cheese from LIDL. She had given me the packet and I’d managed to get one or two bits for her which I’d left on the kitchen table in my house but my brother was coming round so I went outside and hid, with the idea that he would go past, find my house with everything all laid out in there and so on and the sports match ready. He’d be wondering where I was and I could creep up and surprise him. He walked past, it was about 19:10 and just then the bus came past, a Crosville bus. So I hopped on board and went to sit upstairs. It started to drop a few people off but instead of going into the village of Shavington it shot off down a back lane somewhere and ended up on the road between Crewe and Nantwich via Willaston. All the roads had been realigned – it wasn’t the same road alignment. Everyone was wondering why he hadn’t gone to Shavington. He said that he was going to Shavington but he was just going to drop someone off in the country lanes first. We thought that this was going to be a hell of a long way round to get home if he’s going to be doing things like this

Bed-time now and I have to be up early in the morning as I need to go shopping. But i’m not going to be fit for much for the ret of the weekend. At least, if I can change my appointment to Thursday, come home on Saturday, I can have a complete lie-in on Sunday and I won’t have so much stuff to carry around with me.

And I’ll look forward to that.