Category Archives: Belgium

Saturday 6th August 2022 – AS BARRY HAY ONCE …

… famously said, IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK HOME.

And, shame as it is to admit it, it was good to have Caliburn at the railway station too because the train can be 15 minutes late arriving in Granville, I can go to do a pile of shopping in Lidl, and still be back home before the usual time that I would have been had I walked, and without any of the stress and fatigue.

Just as well too because apart from the fact that it was a scorching afternoon that would have burnt me to a frazzle had I tried to walk, I’d had another bad night. In fact, when the alarm went off at 05:30 I was already up and about tidying the room.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Never mind the 06:33 to Oostende, I was well in advance for the 06:09 to Knokke via the airport

For a change, I was out of the building quite rapidly and soon at the Martelarenplein. That’s been under renovation for years too so it’s really nice to see it almost clear of the evidence. Just a portaloo and a little compound to go.

But by the looks of things, Birnam Wood is now on its way to Dunsinane, and presumably intending to travel there by taxi too because it’s just behind where they are that the taxis line up to take away the passengers.

And you can see the time on the station clock just above the trees.

glad road sign martelarenplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022It goes without saying that I’m quite happy too. Especially as I’m on my way home.

Seriously … “just for once” – edGlad is Flemish for “slippery”. What this sign is referring to is that there’s a spiral cycle ramp just here and when it rains and the water comes cascading down it’s quite treacherous.

It beats me why someone would want to bring a horse up there, but I was going to go for a closer look but there were no little girls around to come with me, presumably something compulsory, judging by the accompanying sign.

sncb 535 am96 multiple unit gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Bang on time the 06:06 pulled in so I clambered aboard that and headed into Brussels via the airport.

It’s one of the class of AM96 multiple units with the rubber bellows end and the driver’s cab that tilts away when two or more trainsets are coupled together. These are quite comfortable, compared to some of the trains that work this line.

Not much luggage space though which is rather sad for a train that goes back and to via the airport. When the train is full we’re all somewhat overwhelmed with suitcases, although it was quite empty today.

ukrainian refugee centre gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022At Brussels I had a few things to do there so I was glad that I was on the earlier train.

First thing to do was to check the Ukrainian Refugee Centre to make sure that it was still operating. It was all closed up when I went by but that’s presumably due to the early hour. It looks as if it’s still operating in normal times.

Second thing was to draw more cash from the one-armed bandit. I don’t use very much cash at all these days, preferring to pay by card for everything but nevertheless it’s still handy to have some floating about.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that as a result of years of bitter experience, I keep €50 tucked away in my phone case and another €50 tucked away in Caliburn just in case I forget my bank cards when I’m on my travels, and I’ve had to rely on them more than once.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4537 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022There was only a short wait after that because much to my surprise, and everyone else’s too they posted the train to Paris half an hour before the next one so we all swarmed up to the platform.

Today’s train consists of two trainsets, each of 8 carriages. Mine is a “PBA” trainset, one of the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam Reseau 38000 tri-volt units. Quite elderly now but still quite capable of cruising for hours effortlessly non-stop at speeds of over 300kph.

Despite their age, it’s still by far the most comfortable and quickest way to travel to Paris. Many people think that an aeroplane might be quicker but it takes an age to travel from Brussels to the airport at Zaventam and then from Charles de Gaulle to the centre of Paris.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4533 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022The other trainset is also a “PBA” and that’s a surprise. We’re quite used to having hybrid trains consisting of different types of trainsets.

Everyone suged aboard and I could understand why they posted the train earlier too. There were 16 carriages on this train, all of which except the two buffet cars have 108 seats, and there wasn’t an empty seat on the whole train.

Getting that lot on board would take much longer than 15 minutes.

My seat was squashed in a corner out of the way so I passed the time of the journey choosing more music for my radio shows and keeping myself to myself.

Paris was heaving too. I was lucky enough to grab a seat on the Metro and we whizzed through the drains quite rapidly.

At the exit at the Gare Montparnasse Metro station a couple of people offered to carry my suitcase up the stairs for me, which was very nice of them. I didn’t take up their offer as I have to do all that I can to maintain my autonomy.

Nevertheless I am glad that I found that easier walk down the street instead of struggling through the labyrinth.

Gare Montparnasse was heaving with people this morning but then the first Saturday in August, that’s hardly a surprise. And I was lucky to find a seat next to an electric socket that actually worked so I could charge up the phone and listen to a live concert of Steve Harley and Nick Pynn which has one of the best versions of “Riding The Waves” that I’ve ever heard.

84558 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo August 2022The train back home was as usual a Gec Alstom Regiolis

Once again we were called early to the train which was once more just as well, and for the same reason as before. 2×6-car units and not a spare seat anywhere.

Lucky me! I had a lovely travelling companion but she didn’t say much and I carried on choosing music, reading a couple of books and … errr … falling asleep as we all went West.

The car park at the station was heaving too and leaving took quite a while. But I’m glad that I took the opportunity to go to Lidl because I could stock up with stuff for the next few days.

You’ve no idea how glad I was to be back at my apartment. I struggled up the stairs not once but twice with my stuff and ended up having quite a long chat with my neighbour from upstairs and we put the world to rights for a while.

Once I’d installed myself inside I made a nice strong coffee and a couple of rounds of toast – the first stuff that I’d eaten today and it was 15:30.

While I was drinking the coffee (two cups) I backed up the big computer in here and even before I’d finished the coffee I’d fallen asleep again. This time it was a good one and I was gone for about an hour and a half.

Tea was what I should have had last night. Alison coming by yesterday was a surprise so we had eaten out and I brought the stuff back with me today. It’s a shame to waste it.

There was the dictaphone to deal with at some point too. I was cooking some food in the oven. There was some stuff in there that I’d bought and there was a pie in there, something like that. I put the pie in what was really the vegetable container in the fridge but that was in the oven. When I went to turn the pie over to do the other side I noticed what i’d done and had to take it out. I went to pull the vegetable tray out but it was made of glass and really hot. I dropped it on the floor. Luckily it didn’t break and didn’t damage my pie. I had to look around for a pyrex bowl in which to put my pie so it would heat up properly in the oven while everything else in there was cooking

Later I was in charge of a gaol last night in Alabama or Georgia somewhere in the USA. There was turmoil because the State declared itself independent from the USA and everything changed. The townspeople wanted to take control of the gaol because there was an Afro-Caribbean prisoner in there who they wanted to summarily execute. I’d arranged for my men to be in the prison so that there would be no violent takeover. Anyway the people came in. I was standing there with a loaded shotgun. They considered that to be provocation. One man sidled up towards me supposedly out of my vision to try to overpower me but I stepped back and drove the butt of the shotgun into his stomach. I’d sharpened the butt of the shotgun into a point so it was like a spear. It pierced his skin and that took him by surprise. We ended up in a back room where I stabbed him several more times with this shotgun. He ended up unconscious on the floor. I walked back into the room with the shotgun in one hand and an automatic pistol in the other and asked “what happens now?”. That took them completely by surprise that I’d managed to overpower this guy so easily.

Finally Zero’s dad had given me a small red FIAT car that was in really good condition. I’d brought it in through my front door and into the house to give to Nerina, the idea of the house being that he couldn’t claim it back just in case there was a problem because I wasn’t sure about how reliable this gift was going to be. Then I had to go and do some work on the computer so I went upstairs to my office . I’d arranged all the furniture at one time that meant that I couldn’t see the computer screen from where my desk was so I had to rearrange it all back again. While the computer was warming up there was a programme on the internet about some kind of race through these fields by the people of this village. They had become so bogged down in the mud etc that they’d had to bring dogs in to tow them out. One of the competitors had to stay behind because they had a pair of chains to use to attach these dogs to all the teams. Instead of being clear favourites they were way down the field by the end. The judges had to mark their lateness as being compulsory rather than voluntary and that was controversial. The judges had to stay there really late to mark this particular leg so they weren’t happy either. It was all rather chaotic

It’s been an age since Zero has come for a wander with me during the night but every now and again her father pops up uninvited. He’s obviously “The Banquo at my banquet, a cuckoo in my nest”. Why can’t he send Zero instead?

So now I’m off to bed. I’m exhausted and a good sleep will really do me good, I reckon. I’ve been invited out tomorrow but I don’t know if I shall go. I’m not feeling up to it right now so we’ll have to see if I’m feeling any better in the morning.

Friday 5th August 2022 – HAVING HAD SOMETHING …

… of a quiet day today, no-one was more surprised than me to notice that I’ve performed more than 109% of my daily activity today.

That’s a whole lot of nothing.

It was raining when I returned home yesterday evening and it kept on at it for a while during the night. And at 02:50 I was awoken by the most enormous clap of thunder

No alarm this morning, which was probably just as well, and it was 09:40 when I finally struggled to my feet.

Toast for breakfast, and while I was munching thereupon, I was chatting to Liz on the internet, and then I nipped out for a walk.

First stop was at the pharmacy where I picked up some of the medication. Not all of it because they didn’t have it all in stock. I had to return later.

outdoor market herbert hooverplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022There were plenty of other things that I needed to do so I headed off further into town.

It’s Friday morning so the open-air street market in the town will be in full swing. Here on the Herbert Hooverplein though there are quite a few stalls that seem to be missing.

What with it being August I suppose that a lot of stallholders have gone away on holiday. Even market traders are entitled to a few weeks by the seaside on the Costa Stella.

And judging by the size of the crowd here at the market, many of the customers are away at the Costa Stella too

From the Herbert Hooverplein I pushed on down towards the town centre.

rebuilt office building tiensestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we have been following the fortunes of the renovation of an old office building on the corner of the Tiensestraat and the Rector de Somerplein over the last few months.

In the three months during which I’ve been absent it looks as if the work has now finished and it’s become a Thai restaurant.

Good luck to them in their new venture and all of that but it seems to me that everything in Leuven is becoming a restaurant. It would be nice if once in a while something else would open in the town You can’t move around the town centre without tripping over a table and chair.

Anyway, that’s not my problem, is it?

marquee velodrome brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022My problem lay at the far end of the Brusselsstraat so I headed off that way, passing by the velodrome to see how things were shaping up there.

Regular Readers of this rubbish will have seen in the past that there was some hardstanding laid down at the back of the velodrome where on the odd occasion they erect a marquee and have some entertainment.

This morning they had a series of large beach parasols erected and there was a crowd of people loitering around there. And so the inquisitive me took a photo and went over to see what was going on.

musicians marquee velodrome brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022There was quite a crowd gathered around the marquee watching a performance.

There was some kind of youth orchestra playing away underneath and there were more than enough musicians to fill the place. Not that I know all that much about orchestrations but surely there must be a point where one violinist more or less won’t add anything to the sound that’s being created.

And why would they have a conductor conducting the crowd rather than the musicians? The cynic inside me suggested that she might be going to collect the fares at some point, but anyone less than 40 years old wouldn’t understand that.

However, the people there were quite enjoying the entertainment so I left them to it.

crane building site brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Not that I went very far, actually.

One of my many eternal gripes (sometimes I think that these notes are nothing more than a whiner’s charter) is the slow speed in which they are redeveloping the site of St Pieter’s Hospital, but it doesn’t look as if it will be a vacant demolition site much longer.

There at the back of the site is the girder structure of what is almost certainly a crane. I suppose that they’ll be erecting that sometime soon and if we are lucky some kind of construction might begin.

But they’ll nedd to do something about the building in the background. No-one is going to pay the kind of money that they’ll be demanding for these luxury flats if that’s the view that they see from their balconies. It’s actually areally nice building but it needs a good clean.

building site brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Another thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall seeing are the enormous piles of builders’ rubble and earth that were just here.

By the looks of things, much of that has now disappeared. Well, it hasn’t actually disappeared – it’s just been flattened down into some kind of raised flat surface. I doubt that they’ll be building on top of that as it doesn’t look very stable so maybe it’s just a landscaping feature.

Further down towards the end of the site, work on the building that they are erecting is proceeding and I’ll wander down that way in due course for a closer look before I go hope.

medieval tower city walls Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Just one more thing on which I need to check while I’m here.

After they knocked down the building that was here, an old medieval tower from the days when the city walls ran through here was revealed. While the building work is going on, they’ve practically armour-plated the tower so that nothing untoward happens to it.

This kind of thing cheers me up immensely and I like to keep an eye on it.

The cynic inside me has seen far too many instances of old buildings that are in the way of modern development being blighted by a “suspicious fire” (the property developer’s best friend) or accidently being flattened by a bulldozer “out of control”.

new building kapucijnenvoer Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022On my way down to the end of the street I went past the Kapucijnenvoer.

There’s one building here that we have seen rise up from a demolition site and at one stage it was going up like a mushroom. However the work slowed down the close it came to completion and the last time that we were here we thought that it couldn’t be far off.

It’s almost done and it does look superficially quite nice, although we have seen a few things that indicate that beauty is only skin deep.

It’s quite dark too, especially down at the lower storeys. And this is midday at the height of summer too. Imagine what it must be like in winter.

blauwe hoek Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022At the end of the Brusselsestraat is the Blaue Hoek – the “Blue Corner”, and here they’ve been relating the sewers as they have been in the past elsewhere in the vicinity.

They’ve remodelled the roundabout too while they were at it and by the looks of things it’ll all be finished before too long although it doesn’t look too easy for the buses to negotiate it.

On the corner on the left just out of shot is “Exotic World”, the big supermarket that sells a great deal of Asian and Middle-Eastern food. This is where I’ve come for my spices, and where I discovered that I’d forgotten to bring the list with me so I had to invent it out of the back of my memory.

THey also had some tofu in spinach sauce so I bought a box, thinking that this would make a nice base for a giant curry one of these days, whenever I have enough room in the freezer.

building site Goudsbloemstraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022having been on the bus to the hospital I haven’t been keeping an eye on the building work around this end of town.

When we were here last time, they had just cleared an old site in the Goudsbloemstraat, presumably to build more flats in the town, and so I added it to my list of places to visit.

Accompanied by some old geezer who insisted on chatting to me even though I couldn’t understand a word that he was saying, I went down there to find that they’ve not started on anything yet, although they have helpfully put an image of what they would like prospective purchasers to believe that they are going to build.

What? Meefar too cynical for my own good? Perish the thought, hey!

building site hertstraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022There’s another building site not too far away that we stumbled upon by accident.

On the corner of the Hertstraat and Sint Jacobsplein was a large three-storey building with garages behind. They’ve now demolished that but have left the façade standing.

Having sealed off the adjoining party wall they’ll be commencing to build something modern that will be fronted by the older façade. That’s quite a “Belgian” way of modernising the housing stock in areas of historical beauty and there’ evidence of that all over the country.

If you look closely in the distance at a modern building over on the left, then the idea of doing something with this facade has to be more appealing.

building site kapucijnenvoer Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Finally, for the moment, we’ll go down into the Kapucijnenvoer. This is another building on which we’ve been keeping an eye over the last year or so.

Three months ago they were just beginning to install the third storey. Today, not only are there four storeys in the front portion, the rear portion is even higher than that and has been clad in brickwork.

That’s what I call “quick work”, especially for Belgium where they are not know for rapidity.

The walk back to my place was something of a struggle. However I did bump into the Centre manager who is on holiday for a week, hence the unsatisfactory room that I have.

Well, it would be satisfactory to anyone who could make it up the stairs quite easily, but that’s not me.

This afternoon I’ve been choosing music for future radio programmes and I’ve not chosen anything like as many as I would normally do. I must be slipping.

At 17:00 I nipped out for the rest of the medication and then came back to carry on with the music later until Alison messaged me to say that she was on her way into town, which was a pleasant surprise.

river dilje oudlievevroustraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022When she arrived I was already waiting on the corner so she picked me up and we went to park the car.

Walking into the town centre via the back streets we walked across the bridge in the Oudlievevroustraat that goes over the River Dijle. This is one area of the city in which I would like to live, as you can see why.

It’s very olde-worlde and rustic and although some of the buildings here are quite modern, they aren’t intrusive. I have to say that I like Leuven and as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, there was a moment when I was contemplating living here.

How I would have coped with Belgian “authoritarianism” is anyone’s guess.

We went to the Greenway Restaurant for food as usual. After all, it is pretty good vegan food, and then into the town cente for a coffee and a chat at one of the cafés in the Grote Markt. We spent some time discussing our future plans. Not that I have too many these days but nevertheless …

festfiets brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Walking back to the car we encountered a piece of typical Belgian humour.

Belgians – in fact, most people on the mainland – can handle their consumption of alcohol much better than the Brits so there are al kinds of exciting things that happen here that you would never see over in the Perfidious Albion.

One of them is the Bicycling Bar. The 12 people on the side of the bar are pedalling away like crazy, there are several passengers, one person steering and a bartender.

This is one of the things that is typically Belgian and would be unheard-of in many other countries.

feestfiets minderbroerstraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022We encountered them a little later on the way back to Alison’s car.

Going like the clappers, they came past offering us drinks as they did so. I don’t actually drink but I’m surprised that Alison didn’t run after them.

It’s one of the things that makes you glad that you live over here in the real world where things like this are taken for granted.

Back in the car Alison drove me home and we said “goodnight”.

There were things to do, like listen to the dictaphone and then write up my notes. There was a group of us last night. We were all away at our activities for summer. There was a mix of ages, kids, adults, and all put in various groups for all kinds of different things. One thing I noticed was that you would not find people of the same age and opposite sex in the same groups. As a young boy I wouldn’t have any young girls in my group, older women wouldn’t have any older men in their group. No-one got to think that this was suspicious except me. As time went on I began to raise this subject with one of the girls. She replied “yes, the woman who organises the rota does this deliberately. She’s done it every year. She tries to keep people apart so they don’t form any unwelcome attachments”. Of course as a young boy this was disappointing for me because I was going there with the whole idea of forming unwelcome attachments. This girl was telling me a few more stories about everything. We agreed between us that it was generally a bad thing because people had to learn how to handle this kind of contact and how to deal with it. She said “yes, that’s why so many girls she knew suddenly became pregnant as soon as they were 18 because that was when they were all out in the Big Wide World and there was no-one supervising them and they didn’t know how to behave”. Not just the girls but the girls and the boys. We agreed that it was a pretty miserable state of affairs when kids weren’t allowed to follow their own natural instincts about finding themselves girlfriends etc amongst people they knew where they could form relationships that would be under the eye of the other people who could give them the correct kind of guidance to let these relationships develop.

There had been a heavy snowfall in the Auvergne. I had a real-time satellite photo viewer on my computer where I could zoom in and see the state of places on Earth with photos take at the very minute. Everyone reckoned that I ought to see my roof because of the weight of the snow that was on it. I tried to zoom in on this but for some unknown reason it just wouldn’t zoom in at all on the correct area. It was being unco-operative so I rang up the helpdesk to ask them for the geographical co-ordinates of Virlet so that I could type them in and that could be a better start. They gave them to me but they wanted to know which Virlet it was. “Near Clermont-Ferrand?” so I replied “yes”. They gave them to me and I put them in but it still wouldn’t zoom in correctly at all. I was showing someone how this worked which of course is guaranteed to make it not work so we went to have a look at another area by a railway main line that I knew where there were some interesting cars. Again it just wouldn’t zoom in. It was a shame. It seemed that the wheel on the mouse that zoomed in wasn’t seeming to do anything and the zoom was so slow that for all intents and purposes it was absolutely useless. I was really disappointed with this because I’ve had much better results with this program in the past and I couldn’t understand what it was that I was doing wrong this time that was stopping me having the same results particularly as I had people round to whom I wanted to show it off

My brother had brought some sandwiches for lunch while he was working as a self-employed something-or-other. They had an advert tucked in that the woman who made them was looking for help. He was thinking about applying but didn’t but my mother was nagging him along saying he had only half an hour to do it. In the end he phoned up and had a good chat to her. We could only hear one side of the conversation but it appeared that basically she was looking for pensioners. He had a look round and said “ohh, there’s 3 in here, maybe 4” looking at me. He started to talk to her about the pensioners who lived in this house and what they could or couldn’t do as far as making sandwiches went.

I was with a coach proprietor whom I knew and all that lot and someone turned up in a Ford Cortina estate, a dark blue MkIII. They had a dome roof on it, perspex, and it was elongated. I went to take some photos of it but I couldn’t make my camera work. In the end they drove it into the garage and on the pit so I could go down underneath. I took 1 or 2 photos but I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to take the bodywork. Brian was saying “you took some, didn’t you?”. “Yes” I replied “but I can take photos of Cortina chassis any day of the week as I have enough of my own. It was the upper body that was interesting me with the perspex dome. There were some kids messing around causing problems stopping people photographing things. My photo from underneath turned out OK but it was one of the bodywork and the perspex roof that I wanted to take that weren’t working at all and I felt quite annoyed by that.

There’s a very early start in the morning so right now I’m off to bed, and quite right too. It’s a long way home and I need to be at my best, I suppose. First problem is to make it to the station and that’s not going to be easy.

It’s not something to which I’m looking forward at all.

Thursday 4th August 2022 – I’VE DONE SOMETHING ELSE …

… today that I also vowed that I would never do. But once again, needs must when the devil drives and once again, it’s a sign of how far down the slippery slope I’ve slid just recently.

Not only did I take the bus to the hospital this morning, I took the bus back home again as well. And that’s probably more dismal than going in Caliburn to the railway station.

Last night was quite a bad night yet again with plenty of tossing and turning, and I was wide awake long before the alarm went off. But somehow I managed to go back to sleep so that the alarm awoke me with a resounding crash.

After a shower and a clothes-washing session I went in search of a toaster which one of the staff managed to track down for me so that I could have some toast for breakfast, and then I spent a little 20 minutes or so choosing some music for a future radio programme.

roadworks herestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022The bus journey was quite uncomplicated. It was, for a change, on time and it had me at the hospital quite early.

When I alighted I went over to the corner of the street to see how they were doing with the roadworks that we noticed the last time that we were here.

Now they seem to have dug up one of the carriageways as well as half of the car park. Presumably it’s to replace all of the drains, continuing the work that did lower down the street that kept us entertained for a couple of years just now.

It’s one of those things that we’ll have to continue to watch, I suppose.

Arriving early at the hospital was just as well because I had to track down my new social worker who replaced the lovely Kaatje. My medical insurance agreement expired at the end of April so the hospital sent me a bill for May’s treatment. Kaatje usually sent off the billing request to my insurance people automatically so I had to go and chivvy up the new woman.

As expected, the urologist couldn’t find anything wrong with me and suggested that I see the pneumologist. And at this I exploded because as I expected back in April, they are just sending me round in a circle. And I told the doctor what I thought of the situation.

He went to fetch his professor and I told him too in greater detail. I finished my monologue by saying that I felt that I was no longer a patient but now a statistic and that was a barb that struck home.

My examination with the cardiologist went the same way. It started off rather strangely with me wondering how they can correctly check the operation of my heart when they have a young student nurse in a low-cut overall with no tee-shirt underneath clamering all over me to connect me to her machine.

But the professor who saw me felt the lash of my tongue and the cutting edge of my wrath as well and so both he and his colleague in urology now know exactly how I feel.

Not that it did any good because a short while later I was paged to go and have some more tests at Pneumonology – the same tests that I’d had last October and on looking at the screen while the tests were ongoing, I could see that the results were exactly the same. So that was a waste of time.

At Oncology I had what at fist glance might be good news. This last batch of treatment seems to have worked as three months without it has cause a drop in my red blood count of just 0.2. And so they are going to try me for another three months without any tratment.

Ordinarily this would mean that I would be on the next plane to Montreal but the state that I’m in at the moment I can’t even go down to the end of the street.And three months before they even think about doing something else about my breathing issues means a whole waste of of a summer. I can’t see me struggling anywhere on foot dragging a suitcase behind me right now.

Cursing my luck I went to the pharmacy for my medication, only to find that they are closed. Consequently I caught the bus back to the station, did a little shopping and came home.

For 10 minutes or so I crashed out but a phone call awakened me, and then Alison came to pick me up. We had a nice meal and I had a nice cuddle of a cat while I regaled Alison with all of my woes from today at the hospital.

Back here at some point I found time to listen to the dictaphone I was trying to get hold of my friend in the USA. I’d sent him some stuff for him to dictate back to me so that I could type it out. He’d been scrabbling around for further information so I asked Rosemary about it. In the meantime somehow my friend had gone offline so seeing that I’d sent Rosemary some information to check I asked her if she’d dictate it to me. For some unknown reason she couldn’t understand what I was trying to do. It started off being a series of questions. She asked me the questions and was waiting for me to asnwer. I said “no, just read everything out slowly so that I can write it down and then I’ll give you the answers”. It went on like that and was extremely difficult to explain to exactly what it was that she was needing to do for me. Sometime in the conversation it came up that it was only 5 weeks before she was due to go off on holiday somewhere. She was worried about the Ukrainians being on their own. I was thinking of saying something to the effect that if she would like me to come down and stay at her place while she was gone so that the Ukrainians would still have some kind of point of contact but I never really got that far.

Later on my mother was taxi-driving in a Ford Granada. We were at home and my brother answered it. She said that she wanted him to go and do a taxi job later. He said “no, ask Eric” and hung up which I thought was strange because the job was to Manchester. I wasn’t a big fan of going to the airport – I didn’t fancy going all that much because it’s years since I’ve been and I don’t know the arrangements these days. I didn’t say anything. When my mother came home she was talking about a couple of the jobs that she’d done, how she’d had to drive someone into Acton and someone who had come running out of the church had seen her and had her take them to the police station at Nantwich and had had some fun rooting around for some money for change. I ashed “did you ask if they had any coppers at the police station?”. She was talking about a girl who was going to convert to Catholic and going up to see a priest in Oldham. I asked if this was what this job to Manchester was about. She replied “yes” so I said that if it’s a job to Oldham i’d quite happliy go to do it. It’s years since I’ve been to Oldham. I was thinking that I’d been somewhere round the east of Manchester just recently and a run-out to Oldham would be quite nice. I could go in one of the older cars that I happened to like. That was basically what I said but she didn’t actually say whether she wanted me to do it or not so I didn’t know where I stood about it.

Apart from the fact that my mother couldn’t drive a car, never mind drive a taxi, I’m impressed that I’m able to tell jokes in the middle of my dreams.

Ingrid and Clotilde were around in a village that might possibly have been Audlem. They were talking about art and about students who had been to help with excavations. Clotilde was saying how the students would usually disappear at about 15:30 or 15:45 and you would never see them again after that until the next day. They had no interest at all in staying until closing time of the excavations. She and Ingrid were talking about the excavations and how they get some examples of bloodstone or puzzolane. They would use it in their art. They would occasionally find layers in between the ironstone or elsewhere. Clotilde asked Ingrid if she’d go back home and bring some. Ingrid got into her car and set out but nearly hit a lorry that was coming round the corner. I think Ingrid’s nerve had gone. She was very reluctant to drive off in the dark to return home to fetch this and come back again. I was interested in finding out whether it was simply a question of Ingrid needing someone to go with her because I’d quite happily go as a passenger in a car to give her some moral support but she didn’t seem to be answering any question as to what was happening and why she didn’t want to go. She was just sitting in the car talking to the guy in the petrol station and the guy in this lorry and not really answering any of the questions that anyone else was asking of her.

After all of that I’m off to bed. I’ve had enough of today so I’m going to have a good sleep with no alarm in the morning. I’ll feel much better if I have a good sleep although I doubt if I’ll have one.

Wednesday 3rd August 2022 – I’VE DONE SOMETHING …

… today that I vowed that I would never do. But needs must when the devil drives and it’s a sign of how far down the slippery slope I’ve slid just recently.

In fact what I’ve done, while we’re on the subject of driving … “well, one of us is” – ed … is that I drove to the railway station this morning in Caliburn.

It totally beats me why they can lay on a bus service that serves our building, and then send the bus off to places that don’t include the town centre or the railway station or anywhere else that anyone would realistically want to visit

Having spent far too much time hanging around in the past, I set the alarm for 07:00 today and that gave me enough time to prepare myself and to have a whizz around the apartment to clean it a little and take out the rubbish.

84569 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo August 2022There were a few parking spaces free just outside the station which was my good luck. I didn’t have too far to walk

As a result I was on the station in plenty of time for the train, which pulled into the station through the fog. The weather was clammy, foggy and not very encouraging this morning.

Our train was, as usual, one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis models, consisting of 2×6-car units. It was quite busy today and by the time that we arrived in Paris it was totally crowded.

Nevertheless I was lucky in that I had no-one sitting next to me so I could spread out and work in comfort.

It didn’t take me long to update the computer and then I read a book all the way to Paris. For a change, it was a novel, “The Man Who Was Thursday” by G K Chesterton.

eiffel tower sacre coeur paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022By the time that we reached Paris the fog had gone and we had a bright blue sky.

My seat was a good one this morning and as we pulled into the city and passed over the petite ceinture, the railway that used to perform a complete circle of the city in the olden days, I had a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower.

In fact you might say that I really had an Eiffel of it.

Over on the right on the skyline is the Sacré Coeur church in Montmartre. Where we stayed a couple of months ago was just round there about 10 minutes away but we didn’t have the time to visit it back then. I haven’t been there since I went with Nerina at some ridiculous time of the morning before the rush-hour traffic hit it some time years ago.

We were about 15 minutes late arriving in Paris but that didn’t matter too much because there was a long wait for my train to Brussels today.

ukrainian refugee centre gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022As usual I walked down the street in the open air to the Metro station instead of going through the labyrinth. It was blistering hot and I melted through the streets to the Metro. The Metro was packed but I managed to find the last remaining seat to Gare du Nord.

At the Gare du Nord I went to check to see if the Ukrainian Refugee post was still operating.

There’s a very active Group of activists in Normandy who are very interested in the lot of the refugees and I have some connection with a couple of them. While I’m on my travels I like to see what’s going on in this respect so I can pass on the information to people who can make use of it.

And then there was the wait for the train. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’m not taking the earlier “Ouigo” train and going via Lille. I’m not up to the walk across town at the moment so I’m paying extre and going on the later “Thalys” direct to Brussels.

The Gare du Nord was packed as well and there was no hope of finding a seat anywhere. I headed off to my usual comfortable secret bolt-hole where I was shouted at by a trolley driver but I took no notice.

Thalys PBKA 4301 gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022And then I had to fight my way on board the train to Brussels.

It was one of the PBKA – Paris Brussels Cologne Amsterdam trainsets and it was packed. There wasn’t a single seat free.

There was all kinds of confusion about the seats too, to which I contributed somewhat, with the ticket inspector having flicked over my electronic ticket while checking it so I ended up sitting in my seat for the return journey instead.

And in the confusion I lost my computer mouse. I had a feeling that it wasn’t my lucky day today.

sncb class 18 electric locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022As our train pulled in to Brussels, so did a push-me-pull-you for Leuven.

An ancient graffiti-ridden vinyl-upholstered relic of the 1970s as you can see in the photo where they have done a pretty poor job of cleaning it up but it was here and now do I fell aboard and that whipped us off to Leuven.

It was pushed by one of the Class 18 electric locomotives that these days are the mainstay of main-line passenger trains on locomotive-hauled lines. We’ve been on plenty of these in the past.

Having done a little shopping in the supermarket at the back of the station I came on here to encounter a load of confusion about the keys to my room.

And they have put me up two flights of stairs as well and I really don’t need that at all. Not in my state of health right now

pennsylvania volkswagen naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Later on I made it down to Delhaize for the rest of the supplies for my stay here.

And on the way down, this Volkswagen caught my eye, mainly because it’s carrying a number plate from Pennsylvania.

Why I’m interested in this is to find out how the car managed to come over here. There is a vehicle ferry from Europe to North America and back again but it’s for unaccompanied vehicles only and the prices are on another planet.

If I could find a ferry that is at amore reasonable price I’d sell Strider, my Canadian pickup, and take Caliburn over every year to North America.

roadworks Weldadigheidsstraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a while back in the Weldadigheidsstraat there was a rather large crane that was doing some kind of work at a house down there.

And so going past today I had a look down the street to see if it was still there, only to be confronted by a pile of paving blocks and building materials.

There’s some kind of process of gentrification taking place in Leuven right now and this street looks as if it’s about to fall victim to the designs of the planners.

What’s regrettable about this is that once the council does this it adds on about €20,000 to the house prices in the area and this makes the properties even less affordable to low-income earners.

Prices in town are already far too high for many people and this kind of thing won’t help any.

In Delhaize I stocked up with stuff and it wasn’t all that expensive. But then again with me being much more restrictive on what I eat these days, I’m not buying as much. And i was lucky enough to find a hard-wired mouse so I’m back in business, and after tea I can write up my notes.

photographer naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022One thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall is that my pages are full of photographs of people taking photographs.

Here’s someone else whom I caught doing it at the corner of the Naamsevest and the Naamsestraat. I had a good look round but I couldn’t see what had attracted his attention but never mind. I cleared off home.

Tea was a vegan burger with pasta and veg – the vegan burgers that I bring from home because LIDL actually does a good line in cheap vegan burgers

The reason why I do that is because if I have one with me and I’m too tired to go to the shops after I arrive, I can buy a bag of chips from across the road and I still have something like a meal to keep me going until I feel better.

What a state of affairs to be in.

Meanwhile – the dictaphone. We were at school, a whole mob of us, and there was a radio play in which we were performing. It started off with someone falling over a pile of students’ outstretched legs so it was a long stretched-out “AAARRRGGGHHH” sound to open it. This was how this radio play opened. It was one of a series of radio plays that the school was actually doing. There was much more to it than this. I was around with a few of the kids so I was a kid myself. We all had something to do with this, a group of us, and I was involved in this and there was definitely something happening in which we were involved but I can’t remember now what it was. It was just how this radio programme started up.

Later on my car was away at the garage having work done at it. There was something involving British Salt and the garage there but I can’t remember what it was. I needed a car to go to Chester and the wholesale warehouse. My last port of call was at my sister’s to see whether she had something. They were living in a mobile home place. I went there and knocked on the flyscreen but no-one came. A neighbour came round and started talking to me about it, pointing out this old car and saying that this was her old car but she had to have one because some of her kids went to Nantwich High School and some went to the local one. This is what you have to do when your children are spread out like that. I knocked a couple of times but she didn’t come to the door so I wondered what was happening. This was not like her. If she had been there she would have come. There was much more to it than this but that’s all that I remember.

And finally I was running tours around Perth and Scotland. I had a variety of part-time people helping me. One young boy, a friend of TOTGA, had just quit because he misunderstood the situation. He expected something else other than guiding tourists around. We were waiting at Tourist Information for a party that was turning up at 16:00. I’d told a friend to turn up at 14:00 so that I could show him a few things and point out to him so that he’d know about them. Time dragged on and he wasn’t there. It was 14:30,14:45 so I phoned him and he was still at home. He said “well I was out last night”. I said “I need you here to do this”. He said that he’d come down and tried to engage me in conversation over the telephone. I said “we’ll talk about this when you arrive because we’re in something of a rush at the moment. Come here as quick as you can”. The person with me asked me about this boy quitting. What did I think? I said that it was rather silly. I could see that once again I was going to be plagued with unreliable employees. I could see that I was going to be here full-time doing all this on my own as usual. I thought that I’m not going to be able to go home until Sunday after everything finishes. It’s a long way to go in an evening to go home. I said that I’ll be going home on Sunday evening. Someone asked “doing what?” so I replied “going home” “doing what?” going home!”. I suddenly realised that they were asking me “doing what” when I was back home. I replied “going back to work of course”. The friend had been telling me that it had been raining which was why he hadn’t come in but actually where we were it was bright sunshine so I had no idea why he decided why he didn’t want to come in and do this and even less of an idea why he didn’t want to tell me that he didn’t want to come in and do this.

Unreliable employees was the bane of my life wasn’t it?

Having already crashed out once earlier, I’m off to bed now. I have no fewer than four appointments at the hospital tomorrow so I can’t afford to hang about. I need a good night’s sleep.

Friday 8th April 2022 – WELL, NEXT WAS ..

… “nobody we know”. I may well have been off on my travels last night but none of my favourite characters came with me unfortunately.

In fact, all in all, it was rather a strange night because although I didn’t go to sleep very early. I was listening to my special Hawkwind playlist until I don’t know when, and I was wide-awake at 06:35.

When the alarm went off at 07:30 I was busy trying to go back to sleep but I gave it up eventually and at 07:45 I was up and about.

After the medication (which I remembered to take this morning) I sat down and with bated breath transcribed the dictaphone notes from last night.

Once again I started dictating this story into my hand in my sleep. There was a police station with several policemen working there. The Chief Inspector was out so the sergeant was opening the post. He found a book so he passed it to Sergeant Williams, a book that was computer-written with loose-leaf pages that described a missing girl. There was an image of a young girl with two older people in some kind of nacelle at a funfair. They had been stranded so they had to climb down the arm of this nacelle. It led to some kind of event taking place that someone had set up in his garden at night but he had to go out so he’d leave it there but he’d be back three hours later to carry on in the small hours. But there was some strange noise like music about something taking place outside. He thought that it was to do with the church nearby but when he looked out of his window everything was in total blackness

So to continue that radio show for a few hours was total chaos with all kinds of music being played but then again someone took over the slot for a 2-hour jazz programme and the remainder became a radio play that started off pretty much in the same way that this story started so people were wondering what was happening.

So no TOTGA after last night, no Zero, who hasn’t been around for quite a while, and no Castor, who hasn’t featured in any of our voyages for several months, if not longer. It would be really nice if the latter two would come back and visit me during the night.

crane weldadigheidsstraat Leuven belgium Eric Hall photo April 2022At breakfast I used up the last of the bread so I had to go out for another loaf.

On the way down the hill towards Delhaize I glanced up a side-street and noticed a crane just here that seemed to be up to no good.

It’s far too far up there for me to be able to see what it was doing but that was a really heavy piece of equipment so there must have been something serious going on.

At Delhaize I spent a lot of money, and you’ll all be probably wondering why there are things like ham and cheese in my shopping bag considering that I’m a vegan. But all will be revealed in due course and I hope that it will be put to good use.

After lunch I had a ‘phone call from my bank. When I replied to his opening question he replied to me in English.
“What’s up?” I asked (in French). “Isn’t my French good enough?”
“Oh it’s fine” he replied.
“We can speak in Flemish if you like” I said (in Flemish)
“I don’t speak Flemish” he replied (in French).
So we carried on in French.

The rest of the day has been wading through the piles of photos that I’ve taken so far this month. There have been plenty of those but I haven’t had the time up until now to deal with them.

Tea was pasta and burger, which was eaten quickly because there was football on the internet – Y Fflint v Y Bala.

Although the score was just 1-0 to Bala, it was one of the most exciting games that I’ve seen for quite a while and the first 30 minutes were spell-binding. I reckon that they must have had to change the woodwork at half-time, the number of times the ball thudded into the posts and the crossbars.

But right now I’m off to bed. And sleep if I can although that’s doubtful as there’s a group of people having fun in the next-door apartment and the walls here are thin. I suppose that this means another long session with Hawkwind through the headphones.

Thursday 7th April 2022 – MY BLOOD PRESSURE …

… is up. When it was checked at the hospital this morning, it was at 168 over 109 and that set all sorts of alarm bells ringing in there.

They have told me to double the dose of certain medication that I take, and to visit my GP for a blood test in 14 days time to see if this extra medication is causing any more problems.

Mind you, had I told them the real reason for the high blood pressure they wouldn’t have done anything at all and allowed it to pass. It’s all to do with the fact that I had a visitor during the night, someone who stayed with me all the way through.

Not Zero though, despite my comments yesterday. In actual fact TOTGA had the call-up last night, and a very young TOTGA it was too. There was a group of us on board a ship – maybe even THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR discussing all kinds of things. For some reason I lay down to sleep under a blanket. It was one of those sleeps where you were asleep but you could hear everything that was going on. They were talking away. I turned over and fell off the seat onto the floor. Everyone came round to see me and to see what I was doing and help me up. Gradually the conversation drifted off and it was just me and TOTGA. I started to become quite familiar with her. I happened to mention that I knew almost everyone on board to which she replied that so did she. She pointed out a few people whom she knew. There were persons who were friends of my mother so she said “let’s go downstairs and see who I know through my grandfather”. At this point I slapped her behind. We were halfway down the stairs when there was a bride and groom coming up. They had married and were travelling on their honeymoon, still in their wedding clothes. They were saying that they had just bought a pub in Alsager and had demolished it and were going to build houses on it. They were really surprised to see TOTGA here. The way that the two of us were fooling around, it was quite obvious to anyone that the two of us were a couple, which would have been quite strange because of the difference between our two ages during this dream but it was pretty clear to everyone. TOTGA knew the bride and that’s how we were talking but it was clear to everyone that the two of us were certainly a couple.

I forgot to mention that the group of us was doing things in music and the reason why the 2 of us were alone was that we had to persuade whoever was supposed to be looking after her that she could come on a tour abroad with the rest of us and play the music and that she’d be fine and well-looked after (clearly whoever writes the script and directs these nocturnal rambles doesn’t know me very well. Since when would TOTGA ever be safe alone with me?) etc but we didn’t reach that point in the dream

Later on I stepped back into this dream where the leader of the orchestra was trying to spit up TOTGA and me. He thought that our relationship was inappropriate but I was so unwilling to give her up and she was so unwilling to give me up. All around us things like Russian songs and Russian poems had been written on the walls of this ship and the 2 of us wrote something on there too but I can’t remember what.

And then I was back in this dream yet again but I missed a lot of the start that I can’t remember that I’d dictated into my hand without the dictaphone being there. The 2 of us were walking down a set of steps with some people whom she knew, her parents or guardians or something. I had my arm around her but considering her age that would be most unlikely. Again we were looking for these musicians, talking about playing in this music group. I’ve missed so much off the start of this with dictating into my hand.

Finally I was back in this dream again. We’d made it to Köln. I came out of the station and onto the square there and was thinking about where we were going to play. It looked very much as if we’d made up our minds so I went back to the station to find everyone else and that’s all that i can remember of this, coming out of the station, making up my mind and going back. But I’m sure that there was a lot more to it that I can’t remember now.

So having spent the whole night in the company of a very young TOTGA and on a very familiar basis too, it’s hardly surprising that my blood pressure was racing. Yours would have been racing too under these circumstances.

When the alarm went off I was already up and about and when the second one went off, I had actually already had a shower. It goes to show that I can do it when I really try.

rebuilding tiensestraat leuven belgium Eric Hall photo April 2022Having made my butties I staggered off outside into the rain and my walk up to the hospital.

At the start of the Tiensestraat where it leaves the Rector de Somerplein I walked past the building that they started to knock about a couple of months ago.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we were lucky enough to have had a peek inside back then but it’s not quite so easy right now with all of the goings-on.

But I’m intrigued to see what they are going to be doing with it. I hope that it’s not going to become another fast-food joint. There are already plenty of those in the town and it would be nice to see something rather more substantial.

photographer rector de somerplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo April 2022another thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall is that taking photos of people taking photos is a fairly regular theme that runs through these pages.

Today we have something slightly different, a photo of someone making a film.

Back there where they have the camera, there’s some kind of plaque set in the floor that doesn’t announce anything in particular yet it seems to be of a great interest to the guy with his camera and his assistant.

That prompted me to make a mental note to go for a closer look on the way home but regrettably, it seems that I forgot.

marquee stand demolition site brusselsestraat leuven belgium Eric Hall photo April 2022My route carried on through the rain down to the demolition site that was formerly Sint Pieter’s Hospital.

The site over there where there’s the concrete base is where they occasionally erect a marquee when there is something going on in the town but right now there isn’t anything happening anywhere.

But as I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … if they are going to be building some kind of “model village” on this site with expensive apartments and all that kind of thing, they are going to have to do something about the view.

demolition site brusselsestraat leuven belgium Eric Hall photo April 2022This isn’t really what you want to see if you’ve shelled out a lot of money for somewhere reasonable to live, is it?

But then again, as we have often said about Belgium, they don’t seem to be in all that much of a hurry to do things around here so I’m not expecting these apartments to see the light of day for quite a while yet. It took them long enough to knock down the hospital.

But as we saw yesterday, the pile of soil on the extreme right seems to be slowly growing. Perhaps one of these days they’ll get round to landscaping part of the site with it. Just imagine the weeds that will be growing in it once the summer arrives.

new building kapucijnenvoer leuven belgium Eric Hall photo April 2022And while we’re on the subject of growing … “well, one of us is” – ed … the newt building in between the Kupicijnenvoer and the Zongang seems to have stopped.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that last time that we are here we saw them caulking the joints where they had installed the windows. This month they have now gone along and installed the exterior cladding.

They have been quite quick doing that, which just goes to show that even Belgian builders can get a move on when they have to. It won’t be long before the tenants start moving in.

It’s not for me though. It’ll be quite dark in there, I reckon. I’ll need more light than they can offer otherwise I’ll wilt.

new building kapucijnenvoer leuven belgium Eric Hall photo April 2022Another new building that has attracted our interest over the last few months is the one that they are erecting further down the Kapucijnenvoer on the other side of the road.

They are making a start on the second floor now and in the normal course of events it shouldn’t take them too long to do that. But the depth of the foundations and the height of the cranes onsite seem to suggest that the building is going to be a lot higher that that.

The size of the underground car park is quite impressive too so I’m intrigued to see how tall the building will be and who is going to occupy it. In Leuven you would think that it would be something to do with the University, but why would they need such a car park?

And the final climb up the Monseigneur van Waeyenberghlaan finished me off. Despite the cooling effect of the rain I was defeated at the halfway mark and had to stop for breath

furniture lift monseigneur van waeyenberghlaan leuven belgium Eric Hall photo April 2022And a couple of places further up the hill too, although one was for a photo opportunity too.

This is something that you don’t see too often, except in Belgium where you find them quite often. Moving house is sometimes complicated when apartment-dwelling is commonplace, and the easiest way to shift your furniture can often be “out of the window”.

That’s where these furniture lifts come in handy. They can do the job in a couple of minutes. When I moved into my apartment in Brussels in 2000 I hired one, but when I finally moved out in 2011 I went out in the hours of darkness via the interior lift.

And so I struggled on up the hill to the hospital. It was a bad day.

At the urology department they poked and prodded me around, took piles of copious notes and weighed me. Despite all of the exercise that I’ve had over the last week I’ve gained 2kg and I don’t know how. And they’ll “get back to me” in due course.

They had already been looking for me at the Haematology Day Clinic so when I arrived they were ready for me. As soon as I walked into the reception she had the paperwork and my ID bracelet all ready. The fact that they are beginning to know me in the hospital is a little disturbing.

With everything ready, I was coupled up quite quickly and I didn’t have to wait very long for the doctor to see me.

She was much more friendly than the one last time but she had no concrete suggestions about my struggles. Next month I have the appointment with the heart specialist and we’ll see what he can suggest.

Having picked up some extra medication I headed for home and halfway down the hill I had a ‘phone call from Urology. “Come back on 5th May”. So that’s now three appointments on that day. Things are obviously reaching a critical point.

bicycle rack kruisstraat leuven belgium Eric Hall photo April 2022Several months ago I noticed that they were installing some cycle racks at the side of the Sin Jakobuskerk.

At the time I speculated that they weren’t likely to see much business because they were rather off the beaten track as far as accommodation goes, and it looks as if I might have been right.

What caught my interest though was the electric bike in the foreground. I noticed that it was carrying some kind of registration plate. As well as that, instead of having a chain it has a synthetic drive belt.

Next time that I’m out and about I’ll have to keep an eye out for what’s happening with this situation. I’ve not encountered it before.

The banana-flavoured soya milk that I love and can only buy in Belgium has now run out so I called into Delhaize for more supplies on the way home. And back here I had a coffee and a chat with Liz before I rather unceremoniously crashed out.

This evening I’m not all that hungry so I’ve just had a couple of biscuits. This weight issue isn’t do to food but to water issues, but even so I should take every opportunity to cut down on my food intake.

So having written my notes I’m going to lounge around for a while before going to bed.

But a whole night with TOTGA! Whatever next?

Saturday 12th March 2022 – AS BARRY HAY …

… once famously said at a concert that I witnessed at Scheveningen in 1993, “there’s one thing that I gotta tell you, man, and that it’s good to be back home”

And he’s dead right too.

And I’ll tell you something else for nothing as well in that in the past I’ve been happy to stay out for as long as possible and even longer, but this little apartment perched on my rock surrounded on three sides by the sea is the first ever place where I’ve been keen to return.

Anyway, I digress.

When the alarm went off at 05:30 this morning I was already up and about. Having sleep issues can sometimes be an advantage.

It didn’t take long for me to make myself ready to leave either.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022Down at the Martelarenplein – the Square of the Martyrs – now that they have almost finished the resurfacing after all these years there’s a really beautiful view of the railway station.

It looks absolutely magnificent lit up like this, with the modern trainshed illuminated behind it. The modern bus station to the left is a disaster and the least that is said about that the better.

The story behind the Martelarenplein is that it relates to the events of August 1914 when the Germans, in a fit of rage, totally destroyed the city and reduced it to rubble.

Hundreds of civilians were caught up in the orgy of destruction and massacred, or later killed in reprisals for what the Germans considered to be acts of terrorism – events that have a parallel with events that are taking place elsewhere in Europe even as I write this.

It totally dismays me that after all of the destruction that has taken place over the last 108 years, some insane madman is doing exactly the same thing and that we as ordinary civilians are powerless to prevent it.

537 am96 electric multiple unit gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022With my early start, never mind the 06:33, the 06:14 was in the station when I arrived and I had time to leap aboard.

The train was the one that goes to De Panne and is made up of an AM96 unit, one of the ones with the tilting cab so that passengers can walk through when another trainset is coupled up.

There was a moment of panic when my telephone told me that I didn’t have a ticket. It seems that I’d been disconnected from the SNCB website. And so I switched my phone back on and for some reason it wouldn’t accept my e-mail address.

Just as well that no-one came to check my ticket.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4538 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022When I arrived at Brussels-Midi I went into Carrefour to grab some bread for breakfast, and then went to hunt down my train.

It was already in the station and to my surprise we were even allowed to board. It’s one of the old TGV Reseau 38000 Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam trainsets and it was absolutely crowded. There wasn’t a spare seat anywhere.

Once I’d found my seat, I spent the journey transcribing the dictaphone notes for the last few days. And I’d actually done half of them by the time that we arrived at Paris.

Bang on time too, which was nice, and I didn’t have to wait too long for a metro. As a result I was out of the underground and walking down the road in the open air towards the Gare Montparnasse in quite good time.

And aren’t I glad that I found this easy, comfortable way in the fresh air from the metro station to the railway station.

With an hour or so to wait for my train, I treated myself to a coffee and a nice relax while I waited for things to happen.

84566 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo March 2022No rpizes for guessing which one is my train.

It’s one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis trainsets that we always have. It was just a single 6-car trainset today and it was, like the TGV, packed out. No spare seats at all and I had a companion as far as Argentan.

Despite the abominable state of the track that had me thrown from side to side and made me realise why I never write anything while I’m travelling this route, I did manage to finish my dictaphone notes and I can tell you where I went during the night.

We were on a spacecraft last night. We’d started off with an equal number of each sex but many of the men had been killed when they’d landed on a foreign planet. Now there was just one man in charge and the rest were women and children. The children were gradually ageing and becoming young people. I was on board and we were still landing on strange places an being attacked by the local inhabitants and having to quickly close the door and scramble away. We landed on some kind of mountain and the guy said that he wanted to go to some kind of casino that night. A couple of us went for a walk around and we came to some kind of precipice where we could see straight down many, many, many thousands of miles below us a town that someone pointed out to us and said that it was Pompeii which was where this casino was. There was a huge, enormous palace construction somewhere that we could see and the person with us said that that was the palace of the Borgias. There had been some kind of incident with a loaf of bread as well that had been badly burnt on one end. I had that with me and I cut away the burnt end and I had both pieces in my hand. Then we went back to the spacecraft. When we went round a corner on this rocky path there was a girl, probably about 9, with blonde hair sitting there. She panicked when she saw us and couldn’t move. She had a cat with her. I tried to talk to this girl but of course she didn’t understand anything that I was saying so I started to stroke her cat. After a couple of times her cat started to respond to the stroking. I thought that if I managed to win over the cat I might win over the girl and we could rescue her and take her away in our spacecraft.

Later on we were out around Nantwich last night. We’d come down the Middlewich Road towards the Barony and turned right towards Chester when a strange machine went past. It had four huge wheels and it looked as if they had fish hook fastened to them. We could see what it was doing, that the fishhooks were digging into the ground as the wheels spun so that it go go past in all kinds of soggy and wet and muddy ground. It had a flat frame and someone was sitting on it working a couple of levers with handles and these wheels were really enormous, 4 of them, but very flimsy construction, very thin. We all made a few comment about that Somehow we all ended up in Crewe, near where the old Earl of Crewe used to be. There was some kind of discussion about Doctor Watson who had developed some kind of process that made eyebrows for children’s toys. He was talking about the method that he was using, that sounded quite logical in the dream but I can’t remember it. Sherlock Holmes had given him some advice and charged 2 guineas for the advice that he’d been given but Watson considered that it was really good advice and worth every penny because that was what made the difference between being good and being really excellent

A letter arrived for me from a guy whose surname was Ralf. I knew immediately what it was and I opened it. It was a time sheet and a cheque because I’d taken a lorry and a tanker for him overnight somewhere or other and that was my salary. It was the first-ever payment that I’d had for driving a lorry and that meant that I was a professional HGV driver. My father saw it but he didn’t think that it was enough so he telephoned this guy to tell him off. I had to wrestle the phone from him and tell Ralf to take no notice because I reckoned that it was OK and I wanted to drive for him again in situations like that. I was quite happy. He asked how it went and I said that we went along at a steady speed between 60 and 60 mph. Everyone else was going past me but the lorry was running so smoothly at that speed that I thought that I’d leave it there Everything else had gone fine and because I’d done it in the evening and overnight there was no traffic about so it wasn’t as if I was panicking or anything like that in traffic queues and so on. I quite enjoyed the experience. We chatted about a few other firms that we knew and seen on our travels and by the time the phone call finished I hoped that I’d made a good impression that he might call for me again if he had any more overnight jobs where he couldn’t find a driver.

We arrived at Granville bang on time and then, having called in at Carrefour for my mushrooms, I began the long, weary trudge back home – the trudge that is more than enough to finish me off.

And for some reason, my suitcase seems to weigh three times as much as it usually does. Never mind the apples that I brought back – I must have put the tree in as well.

bad parking rue des juifs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Regular readers of this rubbish that pathetic parking used to be a habitual feature of these pages, but I’m as fed up of talking about it as you probably are of reading about it.

However, sometimes the pathetic parking can’t be ignored, and this one here in the Rue des Juifs is one of those.

The reason why is that this is of course, as I have said before, a service bus route and there’s no conceivable possibility that an 8’6″ single decker service bus with an overhang front and rear can pass through that gap there.

But what does that matter to this delivery driver as long as he doesn’t have to walk more than two feet to deliver whatever it is that he’s delivering?

bicycle shelter place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022One final photo to take before I stagger into my apartment.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we saw them erect a bike shed in the Place d’Armes and then dismantle part of it again. So while I was away in Leuven they have come back and finished it again.

The next photo of it that I will take will be when someone will leave a bike in it – unless I happen to catch some goings-on behind of of the type that used to go on behind the bike sheds that we had at school.

But those photos will only be available in a plain brown envelope.

Back here I made myself a coffee and when I’d finished drinking it I started to back up the big computer with the files off the laptop that i’d created or edited while I was away.

And it will come as no surprise to anyone to hear that I crashed out for half an hour too. You’ve probably already noticed that I didn’t have my customary half-hour here and there on the way home.

Tea was the burger that I didn’t eat last night in Leuven, being out with Alison again. And they are quite delicious.

So now I’m going to relax for a while before I go to bed. I’ve done enough today and I think that I’ve earned my lie-in tomorrow. As long as I don’t have another ‘phone call when i’m trying to sleep.

Friday 11th March 2022 – I’VE JUST HAD …

… a lovely meal with Alison at the Greenway restaurant.

She finished work today early so she came into Leuven on the bus and we went off for an evening out. A vegan burger followed by a nice coffee in the Grote Markt and then I walked her back to the bus station.

Now that I’m back in my little room I’m writing out my notes and then I’m off to bed for I have an early start in the morning. My train to Brussels is at 06:33.

And if my night was anything last night, I won’t be having much sleep anyway because it was another highly mobile night with tons of stuff on the dictaphone. I started off in the USA last night. I can’t remember whom I was with but it was a guy. We’d gone to this kind-of students’ bar and there had been some kind of incident between me, this guy and the guy who was running the place. It started out as a kind-of light-hearted thing to which no-one took any offence. There were some people getting up some teams for football and we went to join them. We sat around in this room for over an hour and a half waiting for this particular game to start. Just before it was due to start someone came over to us and said that they were sorry that they couldn’t fit us into a team and we’d have to go, which annoyed me intensely for I’d been sitting around here for an hour and a half as had the guy with me and seeing as there were 2 of us they could have fitted us into a team quite easily, one on each side but for some reason they didn’t want us. We went back into another bar and someone from the administration of this club came in and saw us, and made some kind of comment so I made a few comments back. The situation quickly escalated. Some other woman who had the air of being a manager came over to try to give us a lecture I gave her a lecture back instead. She really wasn’t impressed with what I had to say which was hardly a surprise. In the end my friend and I decided that we would leave as we weren’t going to hand around with this kind of people and this woman who was some kind of student said that she was worth $400,000 to which I replied “that’s pretty small beer alongside my $3,000,000, isn’t it?”. That didn’t go down very well. It all finished with her saying that she was going to be taking her A Levels here starting in the summer. I said “let me give you a word of advice. Don’t take them in this place”. We moved outside and the guy asked “what do you mean by your $3,000,000?” so I explained. We passed some kind of marina full of all of these abandoned and burnt-out boats that looked as if they had belonged to a fairground at one time and had all been laid up, derelict and so on

A young boy had been killed and a young girl had gone missing from her school in the USA. They were going to write some kind of letter to this boy’s family and it was an extremely complicated affair and they were having to hunt for envelopes and paper and so on to write this letter. It took an age to do this and before they had even finished it there was a fight between two small children who were something to do with this disappearance. That was broken up but then there was a third fight between two similar children. This was all getting completely out of hand. Then a hurricane came to the area and everyone had to shelter in some kind of hurricane shelter at the school This missing girl turned up, accompanied by a boy called Darcy, someone who had had some kind of issue with his motorbike earlier in the school year and another boy who was there who was the leader of the gang who supposedly this boy and girl were with. Everyone was saying things like “how brave she is to come out of hiding because she’s bound to be questioned about the death of this boy”. It carried on a bit like this, I suppose.

There had been a huge civil engineering disaster and this whole building site had collapsed. There were all kinds of people on this site, not rescuing because no-one had been killed or lost but investigating it. I was involved because I’d been on there doing some kind of work and I had to re-excavate a trench that had collapsed with a pipe in it. It turned out that the person in charge was a young girl whom I knew very well. Basically she’d been surrounded by lots of friends but most of them had been there to ee how much money they could make out of her and out of this particular contract and they had all almost exclusively let her down with this particular work. She was called up before this inquisition/tribunal to investigate what was the final straw on this site. I unfortunately had to give evidence about what I had been doing, which was basically trying to put right a lot of this stuff that had been going wrong. This girl was practically in tears about everyone who had let her down. I was having to tell her the bitter truth about what was going on and about how one or two other people and I had been covering up as best we could to make sure that this project went ahead And even as this tribunal was taking place a cement mixer on another site overturned and on the site somewhere else overturned There were all kinds of incidents like this. Basically all this girl’s friends had come along to offer help to get this building off the ground but they had all taken out of it as much as they could and disappeared one by one until she was on her own to carry the can for the consequences

I was with a few people from school last night but we were probably in our 20s, something like that. One was a girl whom I knew quite well and she had a sister. Her sister (although it wasn’t her sister in real life) was another girl whom I knew from school and whom I’d actually dated at one time and whom I liked very much but her parents hated me. We’d been a group of us doing something and we’d finished it. It had been an extremely emotional thing, something to do with the war and something to do with the military, all this kind of thing and civilians caught up with it and fighting it, very disjointed, and included this woman driving this really old ERF or Foden articulated tanker about. When it finished and it was all over and we were walking back, I caught up with her. She was on her own now. Slowly this group of people reassembled and I managed to get her on her own and told her “I’m going to write a book about all of this”. She asked me what it was going to be called. “Oh I’m carrying a heavy load” I replied, from the song by “Free”. As we walked back to the village where she lived I asked about her sister. I said that I felt like asking her if she wanted to come to the cinema”. The girl said “yes, why don’t you?”. We went into the office where she was working. She was on her own so I said “do you fancy coming to the cinem0 at some time over the weekend?”. She replied that she had to do something on some night but she was free and asked “what did you want to see?”. I mentioned this spy thriller but she pulled a face so I asked “is there anything that you want to see? We’ll go and see that. I’m not bothered”. Just then a crowd of people burst into the office. Her parents, and a couple of people who ran the office where she was working. She was trying to hold a conversation with me. She asked me where I was working but before I could reply she was swept up in all of this commotion. I ended up sitting here talking to a guy about football. He asked if I was watching the football that night. The World Cup was on. I said “no. They never came to see me when I was bad”. I mentioned that if my team were playing in it I would watch it but he couldn’t work out what I was trying to say. He asked “do you watch any football around here?”. I replied “no. I go over the border to Wales to watch it. I go over the border to watch it but he still didn’t twig In the meantime I was trying to work out which car I was going to take. Jackie had asked me what I was doing for work . I told her that I’d sold the taxis but she said that she knew. There was all this commotion going on that no sensible conversation could take place and I felt that this was going to be another one of those occasions where I was going to have victory snatched from my grasp at the last minute.

But the opening part was extremely emotional and powerful about this war thing and I don’t know why this song fitted in but it seemed to be so apt – so appropriate.

After breakfast I made a start on collecting together the music for the next batch of radio programmes.

You will recall from just now that I mentioned a song by “Free” that contained the lyrics “Oh I’m carrying a heavy load”. And GUESS WHICH SONG came round first on the playlist to be featured on my next series of radio programmes?

After lunch I finished off the music and then wandered off to the shops.

dismantling market stall herbert hooverplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022As usual, I walked across the Herbert Hooverplein. It’s where the big market is held every Friday morning but being somewhat later today, almost everyone had gone. There was just the one guy here folding up his stall “like the Arabs and as silently steal away”, as Longfellow would have said.

There was nothing of any interest whatever in FNAC yet again. I’m beginning to despair of ever finding anything useful in there these days.

For a change I didn’t go and look in the cheap shops. I headed across town to the Origin’O or whatever it’s called to see if the low stocks that they had yesterday had been replenished.

And the answer to that is “no” – so it looks as if that’s the end of that shop from my point of view too.

house new building zongang Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022Something else that I need is a big bag of cumin. They don’t sell it in the size that I would like in Granville.

And so on my way down to the big “Exotic World” ethnic supermarket I nipped down the Zongang to have a look at the house that I mentioned yesterday.

It’s not actually as dark as I was thinking right now. But it’s mid-afternoon and I imagine that it’s a completely different proposition in the morning and evening when the sun is low in the sky.

Clutching my big bag of cumin (and also a small bag of cumin seeds) I headed back towards town.

medieval tower demolition site brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022Another place that I wanted to see today was the demolition site at the old Sint Pieter’s Hospital.

Although there seems to be a lot of traffic around there just now, nothing much seems to have changed. The old medieval tower is still standing, which is just as well, still sheathed in its protective coat of scaffolding and net.

They have some floodlights there, I notice, which seems to indicate that they work here after dark. I wonder what it is that they do because there isn’t anything evident, even if the pile of rubble on the left seems to be larger than last time.

demolition site brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022But the old block of buildings on the right that they started to knock down a few months ago – that’s still standing too.

It looks as if they have demolished all that they intend to demolish of that right now and they are going to leave it at that.

And so, as I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … if they are going to be building luxury apartments here, they are going to have to improve the view that the people will have from their windows. It’s not what I would call “very inspiring”.

demolition site rear of velodrome oude lievevrouwstraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022The site at the back of the little velodrome looks quite clear now.

Last month, I mentioned that it’s possible to pass through now into the Oude Lievevrouwstraat and they seem to have done some more tidying up at the back of where they erect the marquee when they have a function here.

That’s progress of a sort anyway.

On the way back to my little room I popped into Delhaize. Now I have more banana drink, vegan garlic mayonnaise and also a few vegan sausages.

But no grated vegan cheese anywhere, so I hope that the cheese that I bought from LIDL the other day will melt over my pizza.

Back here I tidied up the place for a while ready to leave early tomorrow and then wandered off to meet Alison when she told me that she was on her way.

We met as usual at the “Tiger” although as she was early, she came some way in my direction to meet me. We went to the “Greenway” vegan restaurant for a burger, and then for a coffee and a good chat in the Grote Markt.

night diestsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022late in the evening the buses for Alison to return home are quite irregular so she stands more chance of catching a bus at a more convenient time at the bus station.

It’s “sort-of” on my way back home I suppose so I accompanied her. The Diestsestraat was for a change quite deserted but the lights of the shops gave some kind of weird, eerie effect as we walked back.

Only 10 minutes to wait for a bus at the bus station so I hung around with her until it came. And it was just as well that I waited because it was running late.

Had it not turned up, there would have been quite a long wait for the next one and a cold draughty bus station is not the place to be hanging around.

fair martelarenplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022The other day I posted a photo of the shiny new Martelarenplein with most of its fencing removed.

It hasn’t taken long for it to be reoccupied, has it? It must be fairground time right now and all of the attractions have now moved in and occupied the square. That should keep the town busy for a while.

The walk back home was quiet and uneventful. I wrote my notes, finished off the tidying up and crawled into bed.

An early night and an early start tomorrow.

Thursday 10th March 2022 – THAT WAS THE …

… quickest “in and out” that I’ve ever had from a doctor at Castle Anthrax.

She asked me how I was, If I’d been ill, if I had any pains and if I had any tingling in my fingers

She then poked and prodded me about , asked me for my medication requirements and that was that. She cleared off.

And I made a mental note never to drink any strong ginger beer just before I’m due to be poked and prodded about.

Last night I was in bed early and with no alarm I was hoping to have a really good sleep but it didn’t quite work out like that. One look at the list if files on the dictaphone will confirm that.

There was some kind of competition going on with these Chinese girls. We had to pick 5 of them so I picked my 5 and they should have been packed in a cardboard box wrapped in tissue. But one of them burst into tears so I asked her why she was so upset. She said that it was because I knew nothing about her life prior to this competition and it was dreadful. I asked why she doesn’t simply tell me about it. The quicker she tells me, the quicker we can solve the problem. But she was extremely reluctant to do so and we had fits of tears and hysterics and all kinds of things but she still wouldn’t explain the issue. In the meantime there were other people choosing one of their 5 girls to marry and I was desperately wanting to marry this particular one but with all of this going on she wouldn’t let me get close enough to her to take hold of her.

Later on I was back here again. By now all of the prizes had been given. One of my friends of 19 had carried off loads of prizes but he still wasn’t given this ideal couple or this female couple or exciting couple. It seems that most of his girlfriends …. (fell asleep) … give half a chance I’d go back but she had to be willing to … (fell asleep) …

Meanwhile, it was all about this girl being sent off. One of the others had been sent off too. They had been disguised as something or other and positioned in between the window and the attackers to prevent the attackers from becoming too close. That’s all there was to this mystery and it was ever such a disappointment when I found out that it was simply that.

Nerina and I had this huge pile of money. I’ve no idea where it came from – I can’t remember. We were driving around Crewe (although it wasn’t Crewe and it wasn’t Brussels either although it might have been) trying to find a bank that was open. We ended up down all kinds of back streets looking for all kinds of obscure and offbeat banks. In the end we couldn’t find anything at all. We decided instead that we would go to Bonn because there would be bound to be something there. We ended up sitting at a table with a couple of people whom I knew from the EU (although I didn’t). One of them had a horribly disfigured face. We were talking. One of the people was quite a senior person and the subject of finance came up so I told them the French stein joke which of course made everyone laugh but I had to explain it to the guy with the disfigured face. They thought that Bonn was an excellent idea so we were planning on setting off. At one point we found a side street where I knew there was a bank and I tried to park with 2 feet on the kerb and 2 on the road to let cars go past although there wouldn’t be many cars going this way. There were bollards in the way and of course some car came down and couldn’t go past so I had to drive round again but that was through Brussels or wherever it was before we’d gone to this bar to meet these people

I’m not sure if I’ve dictated this I haven’t) but I was with someone called Allota Fagina, the Austin Powers character. We were going somewhere (that I couldn’t identify from the dictaphone) … old house that was derelict and part of it was falling down. In front of it was a new house. There were several old cars parked there including tow old early Austin A45s that had identical number plates ONA432. She asked whose it was so I said that the one that had fallen down was the one where Austin Powers’ grandparents lived, the one that is standing still is where his parents live and the new one at the front is where he lives. We carried on and all met up at the end of the street for a chat. In the meantime there had been a TV crew so there were lots of people and lots of reporters. They had actually filmed part of this trip and they’d filmed the arrival at his parents’ house where someone had been there and wanted the film crew to record his children because they weren’t going on any further to the end. There were several reporters dotted along the street to ask the questions and the TV crew picked up one of them and it was someone whom we knew. They asked her some questions to which she gave some very nebulous answers

I forgot to mention that at one point Austin Powers’ grandfather had disappeared. When they asked where he was, he’d actually gone off – he fancied a chicken to eat so he’d actually gone off hunting a chicken. Someone was saying that this was his current mode of life and interest hunting his food for his tea

Then we had a dispute between two neighbours. One neighbour had moved in and the one who had been there the longer tried to lay the law down to him but that hadn’t worked and there had been some kind of confrontation between them that had left the long-living neighbour in a bad light. He’d found out a few things about the new arrival that he was repairing a boat down at the bottom of his garden so he called the Council’s Enforcement Officer over to make a formal complaint. The new neighbour had caught them both discussing it and it was quite obvious that this was going to lead to a major confrontation between the two

And when someone (the nurse, in fact) telephoned me at 08:30 to ask if he could come round and inject me, that was that. Of course, there’s no danger of the nurse coming to see me here in Leuven. He’ll be back round to see me on Monday morning.

After breakfast I washed my clothes and had a shower, and then spent the rest of the morning working on choosing the music for the next series of radio programmes.

Having made my sandwiches I set off for the hospital, stopping off at Origin’O on the way. Alison had forgotten that I was coming so I had to buy some vegan food for tea.

And it’s not Origin’O now anyway – it’s changed hands. It’s now called something else whose name I have forgotten. But there’s only half the range of products and the prices have increased somewhat dramatically too.

If this is how it’s going to be, I can see yet another vegan food shop being crossed off my list.

cleaning balcony with cherry picker mural brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022On the way to the hospital this mural on the end of a café in the Brusselsestraat caught my eye – “Progress in your own fashion”.

Normally, I don’t feature any advertising on my pages unless I’m having a share of the profits but I thought that I’d include it because first of all it really is new and secondly, it really is an eye-catching piece of art that must have taken a great deal of effort to complete.

There was also a cherry-picker there too and at first I thought that it was something to do with the mural but it looks as if those men on there are cleaning the windows of that building next door. Although why they need a cherry-picker and why the can’t do it from the inside by tilting the windows over is beyond me.

building facade kapucijnenvoer Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022One building in the Kapucijnenvoer on which we have been keeping an eye is this one that backs onto the Zongang.

Last time we went past they were fitting the windows but over the last four weeks they seem to have made some dramatic progress. They are now busy building up the facade with some kind of machined stone blocks and it doesn’t look as it it will be long before they have finished.

We can no longer see the really nice building that is behind it and I bet that with the height of this building in front, it will be quite dark there. It’s a shame that a building as beautiful as that one has been consigned to the shadows.

new building kapucijnenvoer Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022The other building in the Kapucijnenvoer on which we have been keeping an eye is the huge one that is slowly going up further down the street.

Last time we were here we saw them beginning to fit the walls to the ground floor. And today, we’ve having to step back across the street to take a photo of it because it’s now mushrooming up quite quickly.

It’ll be interesting to see where it will be up to when I come back next month.

The climb up the hill was the usual exhausting agony but I made it right the way to the top without actually stopping for breath which is something, I suppose.

digging up pavement monseigneur van waeyenberghlaan Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022When I reached the roundabout near the top I did actually stop, but not to draw breath.

Something else on which we’ve been keeping an eye is the work, whatever it is, that’s going on in the Monseigneur van Waeyenberghlaan.

They have dug this up, laid electric cable, filled it in and then dug it up again more often than I care to mention. And look at the state of the paving at the side. I wonder how long it will be before someone trips over an uneven paving slab and does themselves a mischief.

At the hospital, my transfusion didn’t take long to complete, and I wonder why that was. Usually it takes hours but I was ready to leave at 16:30.

However I had to wait for a while for Alison to finish work and then we went round to her house for tea. She thought that my coffee cake was delicious and she was certainly right there.

Now, back here, I’m ready for bed. No alarm in the morning though because I’m having a lie-in to compensate for what I didn’t have today.

And so I wonder what will come along to disturb me.

Wednesday 9th March 2022 – I HAD A STROKE …

… of luck this morning.

There I was going down the stairs towards the front door when out of the lift came one of my neighbours.

“Are you off to Belgium?” she asked
“Yes I am” I replied
“Come with me” she said.

She was on her way to work so she took me and threw me out about 200 metres from the station and you’ve no idea how much I appreciated it.

That’s because I’d had a really bad night. I hadn’t taken one of those pills before I went to bed and I don’t know whether that’s anything to do with it, but it took an age to go off to sleep and then I awoke again at 04:30 and that was that.

Despite trying my best, I couldn’t go back to sleep and so when the alarm went off at 06:00 I was up and about quite easily.

By 07:30 I was ready to leave so I loitered around until 08:00 and then went off out where I bumped into my neighbour.

concrete pad gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Just or a change, I was at the station at 08:10.

That gave me plenty of time to have a look around to see what has been going on here. And this concrete pad is certainly new

It’s taken over two or three spaces of the railway station car park and unless I’m mistaken, it’s the area where electric cars could be charged too. So if they have been removed, where will the electric cars be charged now?

That’s something that is causing me a little concern. There’s a commitment to phase out new fossil-fuelled cars over the next 15 years or so and so they need to think long and hard about the necessary infrastructure and to have it in place long before the cut-off date – not leave it until the last minute.

And to install a whole new system of wind and tidal power generation. The wind doesn’t stop blowing and the tides don’t stop changing at night when everyone is asleep in bed and not using power. There will be tons of energy available to charge up vehicles if they organise themselves.

mural gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that when we were here last at the railway station they had a pile of scaffolding up inside the building.

Now that they have removed it, we can see what they were doing. We now have a lovely mural of Granville as it was in the days when we had wind-powered “Newfoundlanders” sailing out of the port to the Grand banks of Newfoundland for the cod.

“The cod were in largeness and quantitie … that they stayed our ships” wrote Richard Hakluyt in the 16th Century when he was discussing voyages to “The New World” that went via Newfoundland.

But that was a long time ago.

84567 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022For even more of a change, the train was already in the platform so I took my seat quite quickly.

You might be thinking that that means that the train started off bang on time, but in actual fact we were 5 minutes late leaving.

The train was packed and I had a rather irritable neighbour so while I was able to update the laptop, I wasn’t able to do any work. I read a few theses about medieval castles in Cheshire instead.

By the time that we arrived in Paris we had made up a couple of minutes so I had time to pop into the ticket office at the Metro to buy another set of 10 tickets. I’m running rather low right now

225 TGV Reseau Duplex Gare du Nord Paris France Eric Hall photo March 2022Travelling to the Gare du Nord on the Metro was quite painless – especially since I’ve found my short-cut in the open air.

My train to Lille – Flandres was already in. It is, as you might expect, one of the TGV “Reseau Duplex” double-deckers. Old and showing its age but quick and reasonably comfortable.

As usual we weren’t allowed to board it. There’s an 8-car trainset that comes in later and couples up to the rear of this trainset and then all 16 cars go back to Lille. We have to wait until it’s all coupled up and ready to go before we can board it.

210 TGV Reseau Duplex gare de lille flandres lille France Eric Hall photo March 2022This is the power car of the second trainset, photographed at Lille Flandres as I was leaving the station.

Our train was a few minutes late leaving, like the one from Granville, but that didn’t matter so much as there was plenty of time to walk across the city from Lille-Flandres to the Lille-Europe railway station.

There was even time to find a quiet corner at Lille-Europe and eat my lunchtime sandwiches before boarding my train. But I had to keep an eye out for the railway police who were cautioning people for not wearing a mask. And it’s difficult to eat your butties whilst wearing a mask.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 PBA gare du midi bruxelles belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022When I descended to the platform, the train was already in. It’s one of the PBA – Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam trainsets on which we travel quite frequently.

For reasons that I don’t quite understand, it waits here for about 20 minutes before departing. It’s more-than-likely due to the timing of the various connections that it makes with trains along its route.

And it was packed too and someone had taken my seat which was a shame, for I had rather looked forward to being out of my brain on the 5/15. I ended up sitting elsewhere, hemmed in and once more unable to do any work. I listened to “Colosseum Live” on the phone instead.

2730 class 27 electric locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022At Brussels-Midi there was a train to Leuven already so I didn’t have to hang around waiting.

Running (as best as I could) down the concourse I leapt aboard with no problems and settled down for the journey to Leuven.

When we arrived, I nipped down to the head of the train to see what was pulling us along. It’s one of the old Class 27 electric locomotives and we’ve had a few of these just recently.

Considering that they must be getting on for 40 years old, they are still clocking up the miles on mainline services with little sign of slowing down.

At the back of the station is the little supermarket so I went there and bought the bread, vegan margarine and stuff to drink. It saves on the weight that I have to carry back from the big supermarket later this evening.

martelarenplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022Now here’s a thing!

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that for the last however-many years we’ve seen (or not seen, as they case may be) the Martelarenplein, the Square of the Martyrs, all fenced off and covered while they have been renovating it.

Today though, apart from just one small area, all of the fencing has been removed and we can actually walk across the square if we choose to do so.

Not for me right now though. I’m tired and exhausted and and I can’t wait to find my way to my little room.

And once more I’m up a couple of flights of stairs and that’s killing me. Luckily the manager saw me struggling up the stairs so that might hopefully mean a change of room in the future.

Despite a nice hot coffee, I crashed out definitively, and for a good half-hour too.

electric three wheeled vehicle Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022You’ve no idea just how much difficulty I had trying to rouse myself to go to the shops for food.

Nevertheless, I’m glad that I did because I encountered this strange machine. It’s a three-wheeler and it’s probably electric because it was quite silent. But whatever it is, it was quite interesting to say the least.

At the supermarket I don’t know what happened there but the shopping bill was much less than it usually is. I don’t reckon that I bought any less than I usually do.

At some point I managed to find the time to transcribe the dictaphone notes. Last night started with a family thing again with my sister and her first husband. It was probably 01:00 and they were thinking about going to bed and I had all of my paperwork to do which involved those two. I had to set the time on Big Ben and a few other things too but I kept on having trouble seeing because the lights on this big tower clock were so dim that I couldn’t actually see how I was setting it. Occasionally it would all light up bright and I’d see that I’d done in incorrectly and had to go back but to be very careful not to wipe off everything that I had done so far – just go back 1 or 2 steps and start on. By now of course it was daylight. I could easily see what was happening and there were all kinds of things going on on this clock face – people laughing and cheering at it. In the end I had to set it by some kind of analogue means moving the hands because I couldn’t make it go correctly by doing it digitally. In the end I managed it but by now it was 06:40 and broad daylight. I had to be up at 10:00 and they had to be up earlier than that. In the end I said that I was going to bed. My sister’s husband said that he was going to lie in in the morning because he was exhausted. I thought “how does he think that I feel?”. On the way back they were rationing out some things for issue and showing me some kind of drink made by a well-known pop manufacturer in a very distinctive bottle. They said that last tie they had issued this it was 17 shillings and so many pence but now it’s just 4.5 pence and they can’t understand what has happened. I asked if it was generic stuff. They replied that it was so I replied that maybe the patent has expired so now it’s being cloned or something but they couldn’t seem to understand. Neither could I but I didn’t really want to because I was so tired

Later, I was in backwoods Canada or backwoods USA sometime in the 50s or 60s judging by the cars that were driving around. I was writing up someone’s memoirs from a set of old war letters, something like that. I’d gone to this house ad he’d let me have all of this communication and I was going through it making notes etc. Gradually one of two other people had let me have their stuff as well. The first guy was concerned that this was going to slow me down doing other people’s stuff as well but I explained that it was all part of the same thing. They gave me a time and said that I had to be finished by something like 18:15. He thought that time was dragging on but I said that I’d be back tomorrow and that seemed to be OK. Various people came to see me and talk to me about everything while I was there making all of these notes and what had happened in the past. It gradually worked out that I was writing stuff about current events as well for a more immediate publication. This was something that concerned all of the people in this area. But all of the cars were fantastic. Someone was driving a pickup where instead of having the pickup bed behind him it was something like an enormous American saloon convertible thing with just 1 seat for the person driving it and the pickup bed was at the side where the passenger would sit. There were all these kind of weird machines that looked like something out of the 50s and 60s

And then I was with Claude and Françoise last night in the Auvergne. They owed me some money and I had a few IOUs and we were settling up. While I was there I showed them how many US dollars I had. I explained about the time that I had to use the toilet in a cafe and I didn’t have any money to go in so I had to write out an IOU. I told them about a trip that I’d made to the USA with 2 girls. We’d roamed around the Midwest in a big American car which was a small Opel saloon from the late 60s, a type 1. On one occasion I’m not quite sure what had happened but these girls must have been in their night clothes in this diner. They had gone to the toilet to have a wash and brush-up but they came out in their night clothes as well. I asked what was going on so they said that they were going back to the car to change. I asked why they hadn’t taken their clothes into the ladies toilets and changed in there instead of doing it on the car park of this diner

Now that I’ve had tea I’m off to bed. I know that it’s early but I’m exhausted and I’ve almost fallen asleep twice. Hospital tomorrow so I’m lying in with no alarm.

After last night’s disaster, I need all the beauty sleep that I can get.

Sunday 13th February 2022 – I DON’T EVER …

… want to have to do that again! NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET has got nothing on this!

But anyway, last night I was in bed by 22:00 with the alarm set for 05:00 and hoping to have a good sleep.

But that was some hope because I was off on my travels during the night and I must have gone so far that I really don’t know how I had any sleep at all.

At some point I was with a girl who has featured on several occasions in the past, usually with her brother who was a friend of mine and who both lived on a farm, but tonight she was with another girl – I don’t know who she was but I know that I know her. We were tidying up a pile of stuff, just generally chatting. The farmer’s daughter had to go out for something that just left me and this girl. The conversation turned round to that girl and me. I said that I don’t want anything to happen to her because I’m rather fond of her. This girl was rather surprised so I said “yes but I thought that most people knew that”. She asked if our farmer’s daughter knew that and I replied “of course she did”. “What did she do?”. “Nothing” I replied. “She had her own life to live etc”. I explained that we’d been out once or twice. She asked “what was she doing?” I said “it was just like this”. “Any snogging?” she asked. I replied “no unfortunately”. “Why on earth not?”. “I didn’t want to drive her away”. She wanted to know if she was married with kids. I replied that she was and had 2 kids. The conversation just drifted around like that. I thought that the farmer’s daughter would only be gone for a few minutes but it must have been ages that we were having this chat.

And before anyone grasps the wrong end of the stick, the fact that she is a farmer’s daughter has nothing whatever to do with Deep Purple.

Finally I was in the Army last night, looking through a pile of files and lists. No matter how hard I looked, all I could find were details of an assignment to the Entertainment Unit. They were all put in an envelope ready to be sent off to some kind of competition or show or something. There were all people there, including Jimmy Clitheroe but I couldn’t find anything in these service records and service history at all. This was really annoying. In the end there was a sergeant there who was responsible for the paperwork. I asked him and he pointed to these envelopes and said “but it’s all there”. I shouted that it wasn’t. I said that all it was was these application forms for this concert thing. I picked them up and dropped them in the bin. I told him precisely and in no uncertain terms exactly what I wanted. He started to go through the filing cabinet trying to find all this information.

Wherever did I find the time to go to sleep?

It didn’t take me long to tidy up and I decided not to make any sandwiches because I only get into trouble when I eat them and I’ll be home in time for a late lunch. So at 05:30 I had already handed in the key and was well off down the road.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022As I approached the railway station I went to have a look at the Martelarenplein.

We’ve seen this now every month for the last I don’t know how many years and and I have to say that for the last half-dozen or so months there seems to be very little, if any improvement.

Just like every building project in Belgium, they are really taking their time with this and at the rate that they are going, I reckon that I’ll be finished long before they are here.

05:50 when I arrived at the railway station so I had 19 minutes to wait in the freezing cold and wind before my train came in.

class AM96 electric multiple unit gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022The train this morning is the 06:09 from Landen to De Panne via Brussels Airport and the City Centre.

Today it’s one of the AM96 electric multiple units. Fairly modern, quite clean and comfortable and I’m quite happy to be aboard one of these.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I have mentioned their unique features before. When a train is made up of two trainsets, the rubber ring makes an airtight seal around the join and the drivers’ cabs swivel round out of the way so that you can walk from one trainset to the next.

We arrived at Bruxelles-Midi at 06:49, 28 minutes before my train to Lille. And this was when disaster stuck. There on the sign was “07:17 to Strasbourg via Lille cancelled”.

That was certainly a tragedy. With it being a weekend, the 07:47 direct to Paris doesn’t run either so that was that.

At the ticket office they proposed the following itinerary –

  • 08:17 to Lille Europe arriving 08:51
  • 10:42 from Lille Flandre to Paris Gare du Nord arriving 11:48
  • 12:59 Paris St Lazare to Lison arriving 15:31
  • 15:52 Lison to Granville arriving 16:43


Only three hours later than usual.

But if anyone thinks that I’m going to be waiting for almost two hours on a draughty, freezing cold railway station in Lille they are mistaken. I have another plan. But in the meantime I went to buy some food from Carrefour. I have a feeling that I might need it at this rate.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022Wherever I go, it has to start with the 08:17 to Montpelier via Lille

It’s one of the PBA (Paris Brussels Amsterdam) TGV Reseau 38000 trainsets and when I boarded it I could see exactly why my train had been cancelled. Two trainloads of people were “squeezed” into this one and it was still empty. I don’t suppose that they considered it worth their while to run the earlier one if it only had half the number on board that this one had.

There are a couple of small seats stuck in a corner by the baggage racks so I grabbed one of those and settled down while the train shot off into the void.

When it reached Lille Europe, I stayed on board. Next stop is Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and from there is a Reseau Express Regional (RER) D train that goes into the city centre and out to Orly. I can alight at Denfert-Rochereau which is 5 stops and 40 minutes away, and then it’s 3 stops on the traditional metro to Gare Montparnasse.

The chances are that with a good run I could still catch my 10:59 train to Granville.

So at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport I hurtled off the train and up to the RER platforms on the level above to find “No RER Service today to Paris”.

That’s all I needed.

Plan C involved legging it right across Terminal 2 (which is enormous) to the other side and the express buses that go to the Stade de France RER station. That’s on RER line D so I need to change at Chatelet. I would lose 5 minutes but who knows?

Strangely enough, whenever I’m at Terminal 2, I ALWAYS SEEM TO BE REQUIRED TO RUN.

airport express coach stade de france paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022at Gate 2F I leapt on board a waiting coach and we shot off round and round the ragged rock until we finally found the exit that took us out onto the motorway and into northern Paris.

And there we hit a pile of roadworks and a long queue of traffic and I watched the time on my fitbit melt slowly away as we tried to jostle our way into the only lane that was moving.

We eventually made it to the Stade de France railway station. My train was to leave Montparnasse at 10:59 and as I alighted from the bus it was 10:59 precisely.

Never mind, it was a good try. At least, with all of the running around that I had to do I must have lost a good few kilos.

train RER D gare de stade de france paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022Now that I’m here I may as well push on.

Down on the platform I waited for the train to come in. The next stop is the Gare du Nord anyway and that gives me plenty of opportunity to work out something else. There has to be a Plan D somewhere.

At the Gare du Nord I didn’t even come up into the daylight. Here is RER line E and the terminus of that is at Gare St Lazare (well, near enough anyway) so I may as well see what gives there.

printemps department store rue caumartin paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022Where the RER station emerges into the street is right at the back of the Printemps Department Store.

Round at the front is the Boulevard Haussman where you find the headquarters of SPECTRE and several other extremely exclusive premises. But as you might expect, I’m not going that way. I’m going in the opposite direction.

There may be a considerable amount of time to spare but I’m not going to go for a look around in Printemps. It’s the kind of place where people like us need a credit account in order to simply look in the window.

gare st lazare paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022When I was here last I didn’t have too much time to take a photo of the Gare St Lazare so here we are. We can see the clocks that we saw last time outside the building but from a different perspective.

And here, I had my only slice of luck today.

When I arrived I noticed that there was a train to Caen at 11:59, one hour earlier than the one to Cherbourg on which they had booked me. Now if there would be a train from Caen to Rennes that connects with it, I will be à la maison and sec as they say around here.

Sure enough, the train arrives in Caen at 13:58 and at 14:10 there’s a train departing for Rennes so I sallied forth into the ticket office with right and a certificate of cancellation on my side.

Bombardier Regio 2N 56670 caen normandy france Eric Hall photo February 2022Just by way of a change I met a very pleasant and helpful SNCF ticket agent who took one look at all of my paperwork (Government officials on the mainland LOVE paperwork and rubber stamps) and issued me with a ticket for the earlier train.

It’s one of the really comfortable and quick Bombardier Regio 2N electric double-deckers. I was in the front coach upstairs with about 2 other people so I could settle down with my bread rolls and have a crafty nibble.

When the ticket collector came round I showed him my original ticket and gave him all of the rest of the paperwork that I had and he hardly bothered to check them. I went back to eating my bread rolls and listening to Hawkwind again.

And I still think that the violin solo on STEPPENWOLF is one of the best that has ever been recorded.

Bombardier B82650 84555 gec alstom regiolis gare de granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022And here I am at Granville. My train is the Bombardier B825 on the left.

When I arrived at Caen it was already in and raring to go. It was quite full too and there are no luggage facilities, seeing as it’s a cross-country train. But I struggled aboard and eventually found somewhere for my suitcase and me.

There is no electricity on board these trains so I didn’t switch on the laptop. All the way to Granville I listened to COLOSSEUM LIVE on the telephone.

As I explained a while ago, I usually encounter interesting young ladies in peculiar situations whenever I listen to this album, such as in the High Arctic in 2018 and again a year later on the same ship in the same seat in the same place when I had two of the strangest encounters that I have ever had in modern times.

Today though, I’ve already had so many strange encounters, one way or another, that I probably wouldn’t have noticed another one by this time.

It’s no surprise that I dozed off for 10 minutes on the way home. And I immediately went off on a little wander. I was with another taxi driver and we were talking to a third. He had had the right to an engine in compensation for something but his wife at the time was now living with yet a fourth taxi driver and he had received this engine. He had fitted it into his car, “the T-reg”. I was surprised that after all of these years he was now back on the road but the reply was yes, it’s called “Creamony Cars” or something like that

Here at Granville on the right is the train that I should have caught. It beat me here (assuming that it was on time) by about 2 hours. And I don’t suppose that that was too bad because there was a moment when I was standing in front of the sign at the RER station at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport that I thought that I would never arrive at all.

The walk through the town was a nightmare. Even going down the hill was agony.

harbour gates closing port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022Climbing back up the hill up to my rock was even worse and it took me an age.

During one of my rather too frequent pauses during my climb I looked down at the harbour to see what was happening and I was lucky enough to see the red warning light flashing and the gates slowly closing.

So whoever might have been in the harbour loading up has now long gone and I won’t know who they are.

It was like Ice Station Zebra in here too when I arrived but ask me if I care. I made a coffee and collapsed into my chair.

No pizza tonight. I was too late to take some dough out of the freezer and it wouldn’t defrost so I had potatoes, veg and vegan sausage with vegan cheese sauce. It was lovely too.

Tomorrow is usually when I set an alarm for 06:00 and spend the day working on the radio but if anyone thinks that I’m doing that then they are mistaken. I’m going to bed and going to sleep until I awaken and hard luck on anyone who expects me to do anything. I’ve had a harrowing day.

Mind you, that could all change if TOTGA, Castor and/or Zero invite me to come with them for a midnight ramble. Imagine my sharing a room with Zero the other night and she not being there!

Saturday 12th February 2022 – HAVING BEEN DEPRIVED …

… of really good company for quite some considerable time, Alison and I had hatched a cunning plan last time I was here. Subsequently we had been in touch with Jackie in Köln and suggested that we meet up for a day and exchange our news. After all, it’s been two years since we last met.

And so, seeing as Aachen is halfway in between the two of us, we set off this morning by car.

Not that I was feeling too much like it because it had been another rotten night.

As I mentioned yesterday I was in bed early and although the party that started at about 00:30 wasn’t anything at all like last night but what did happen was that I had another series of regular voyages that overwhelmed the dictaphone.

We started off in World War I last night. There was something about this arty (do I mean “artillery”?) regiment that I’d encountered that had turned up at Ieper somewhere where there had been some crucial fighting in November 1914 where the Germans had been pushing either side of the British and a British salient had been created. This was one of the crucial moments of the war and of course the area was totally devastated. I was talking to a soldier from this unit. He was saying that they had only been in this particular area for a weekend or so. It wasn’t actually in the thick of the fighting but it was pretty close to it. We were talking about the area and the history because with it being in the cockpit of Europe it was a pretty vital place. Battles had been fought here for years and all kinds of stuff had been uncovered in the past but the war had come and obliterated everything. He said to me that it was all very interesting to me of course. We talked about some of the bodies that had been found here and one in particular that had belonged to a regiment that had had 100% casualties during a charge. A couple of other regiments that had gone to relieve them had also had 100% casualties. One body that had been found subsequently must have been something of a hero to have gone like that. This conversation went on for quite some time.

Later on we were going somewhere last night walking by a canal looking at an old ruined cottage there and some kind of crane with a platform dangling from the grab. This cottage had been burnt to the ground practically. It turned out that it belonged to someone and they had discovered several structural defects in it. They had been trying to repair it but the thng had caught fire and gone up. The crane and platform were there for when they needed to make a bridge to take machinery over there and demolish it. This was in the parish magazine that some woman not my mother had had and as she had a mailbox I couldn’t understand why she had had it every time. There were several other magazines, including one about cars and a foreign boy who lived there sad that he had put it for me. There were a couple of conjunctions so he said that he had written some notes for me. I chucked that away but this parish magazine was very interesting and so was another article about some kind of meeting that everyone had had, some exhibition or something. It seemed to me that for the environmental group that we were running we could have made a really good magazine out of all of this. We could have had some names and e-mails from the people who attended this meeting, made a really good newsletter and hoped to push on and do something like that every month or so.. This was my one big opportunity and it had gone

Meanwhile, up in my room I was sharing a room with Zero. She wasn’t there but the room was in a real mess. She had shoes all over the place so the first thing that I wanted to do was to tidy up her shoes so I said to whoever it was I was with – a woman – that I would have to find one of these plastic boxes to put all her shoes in. She produced one immediately but I came up with some excuse why we couldn’t use that because I wasn’t really ready to do it just then. Yes, imagine this? Me sharing a room with Zero and she isn’t in it!

There was something else about this woman too. Her mother was going into an old people’s home and was looking at one in Union Street. pointed out that the one in Shavington by the Vine pub was being expanded and having new rooms so maybe she could get her in there. I thought that Shavington would be a much nicer place because it was a smaller village, you can’t go far, you can’t get lost, everything that you need is there, shops and everything and with it being quiet there was less risk of being knocked down than an old people’s home in a rundown area on the edge of Crewe Town Centre. Whoever it was put my comments down to some kind of loyalty about Shavington than any kind of practical consideration which was a shame because I really did think that it was so much better.

I was also at Liverpool football ground last night. They were discussing the remodelling of the stadium and all the crowd had to fit into a room that was the size of a normal living room. They were discussing ways to make it more safe and fit more people in. I thought that if they were only going to be havng 50 people at the most then they are wasting their time, aren’ they? This discussion went on for hours about whether they should put this extra level in. I was saying that they could knock a hole through where the kitchen is and have a bar, stuff like that. It was really getting out of hand. And then the subject drifted round to players. There were some people from Crewe there. It seems that they were interested in taking on trial a player from Crewe and they were trying to work out which one it was. In the end they had to aska girl who worked at Crewe – they had to ask her her name and check her writing. In the end they came up with a name. They thought that it woukd be “somebody Thomas” and that immediately meant about three or four different players. In the end end they had an idea whom it might be and asked me to go and fetch him. I said “OK but tell me who it isn’t” so they said it was “something Thomas”, a double-barrelled surname to go and not fetch him. Then the conversation continued about players from Egypt and the Ukraine. Someone took the paper from me and gave me another paper and it was for a guy called Olivier Ochoi and that was now the player that I had to fetch to bring up here. I asked them “are you sure this time?” and the general consensus seemed to be “yes”.

On the subject of football it was also the Welsh Premier League Final between Newtown and Aberystwyth and was taking place somewhere I can’t remember. I was up early at 06:30 and drove all the way out to where it was. The were busy setting out the hall there for spectators to come along and watch the game. It was a big hall shaped like a figure 8 bit wuth 2 squares and a joining piece. In one of these was a TV and someone was busy arranging a TV in front of it so that he and his friends could watch it. I explained that last time there was a play-off final, in the other room they had a big 225″ TV and arranged all the chairs in semi-circles around to watch so I didn’t think that what he was doing was going to work. Having checked out the place I had then to go back home for all my stuff and the radio stuff because I was going to do some radio interviewing for the game. I went outside, it was still dark and the whole car was starting to freeze up. I had some trouble trying to remember what key it was because it wasn’t the usual car. I eventually managed to open the door and I got in. Some young boy opened the window at the back – it was a rear-engined car – and asked me if I needed any help for this, any help for that. I replied “no” so he asked what I was going to do about this, what was I going to do about that and kept asking so persistently. In the end I got out of the car, picked up his bike and threw it over the fence into a field. He had a run off after it but then he came back and tried to get nto the car and tried to steal something out of the car. I had to get out and go to deal with that

Anyway I stepped back into this dream about this football match. I was in this car and we had all arranged to meet at a service station on the A55. That was where everyone met up but no-one still knew where it was going on. I was sitting down there trying to pass the time waiting for a decision to be made. I ended up talking to someone. We had a really good chat and I was sorting through a few boxes of stuff that they had. When I looked at my watch it was 14:20. I looked around and everyone else had gone. I scrambled over to try to find someone now. I went to the reception desk to ask if they knew where everyone had gone. They said that is was something like “Fingland” but of course that meant absolutely nothing to me. There was only 40 minutes to kick-off and I hadn’t a clue where I was going to go. I thought “how on earth am I going to find out now where I’m supposed to be heading now that everyone else has gone and cleared off.

Anyway when the alarm went off I was out of bed fairly quickly and by the time that Alison arrived I was actually ready.

It was freezing outside as we set off, and we had a really good chat all the way to Aachen.

Jackie arrived at the station just as we did. We parked the car and then headed off into the centre.

barbarella cafe aachen germany Eric Hall photo February 2022Our day turned into trip to various coffee houses, restaurants and shops.

Alison knew a good café around the corner from where we had parked the car and so we headed that way. The coffee was really nice there and the cakes that the girls tried were delicious too. There may have been vegan cakes I suppose, but I didn’t ask. Having had toast for breakfast I wasn’t hungry.

It was in an area of the city that I don’t really know so when we left, I was surprised to find that we were only just around the corner from the Rathaus, and isn’t the German name for a Town Hall really appropriate?.

The main shopping centre is on the other side of the city so we headed off that way.

roman remains aachen germany Eric Hall photo February 2022The site is known to have been inhabited for almost 5000 years but perhaps its best-know period was that under the Romans from the beginning of the First Century until its evacuation, which appears to have taken place round about 383AD. No Roman coin has been discovered here later than that date.

There are plenty of Roman remains here in the city, especially those here in the Elisengarten.
We made quite a tour of the shops and the two girls found a load of interesting stuff to take home with them.

And as well as that, I wasn’t left out of the shopping either. I found some of that really nice vegan cheese that I used to buy in Montlucon, and the two girls bought me a pile of that lovely vegan chocolate for my birthday.

spa elisenbrunnen pavilion cathedral st folian church aachen germany Eric Hall photo February 2022From the shopping precinct we can see across the road to the Elisenbrunnen Pavilion.

The Roman name of the town was Aquae Grannae – the waters of Grannus – and the most popular source from where the water can be obtained is from over there. However there’s a big notice by the outlet that says “not for drinking”. I should really have brought something in which I could have taken some water away.

Although it’s often said that the pavilion was built in the 1820s, it was in fact destroyed by bombing during World War II and this replica was built in the early 1950s.

Lunch was nice too, at one of these franchised bio restaurants down at the side of the spa. My salad was delicious. And then we went back to the shops.

As darkness fell we went for another coffee and then dropped Jackie off at the railway station for her train back home. At the station we fell foul of a German police patrol. “That’s why I moved from Germany” said Alison, and I could see her point. It was all extremely unnecessary and I admired her for her calm.

When she dropped me off at home I wandered round to the fritkot but they were overflowing with customers and weren’t taking any more orders before they closed. It was lucky that I had some pasta left.

There’s an 05:00 start in the morning ready for my trip home so right now I’m off to bed. Not that I’m expecting a better night that I’ve had just recently but we have to make an effort and if necessary I can sleep on the train.

Friday 11th February 2022 – THAT WAS A …

… horrible night last night.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I went to bed fairly early hoping to have a really good sleep. However at about 23:00 a party started up in one of the University houses at the back here.

At at 04:30 they were still at it and I hadn’t had a moment of sleep.

Eventually I must have dropped off because when I awoke, at 09:35, there were four files on the dictaphone. I was with my youngest sister last night. To my surprise we were actually boyfriend and girlfriend. We were on a bus doing a lap around a football ground so that we could watch the game but it was almost impossible to see it no matter where I moved to or where I sat or where I went. I tried to sit in all kinds of places. On one occasion I saw the goalkeeper catch the ball but it was behind the line so I indicated that it was a goal. He thought that the ball had come through the side netting into his hands. it was very much a one-sided match. That American guy Lamela was playing and someone said “look what they would have missed had he gone to Celtic”. Eventually the bus stopped because it was half-time. I hoped to find a better seat when everyone had got off. Then I noticed that just round the corner was a petrol station so I said to her “do you want to come along and have a coffee? See if they have a coffee there”. She was searching through her money – she had plenty there, all £10 notes. In the end off we went. She wasn’t very talkative and I had the impression that she wasn’t very happy. We went past a fish and chip shop so I said “would you like a bag of chips as well?” but it turned out to be a place that made venetian blinds. There was something going on about fires at football grounds and they were talking about Airdrie that had been burnt to a cinder and several other grounds where they had had fires, how at Dundee they’d had a big fire but it wasn’t the case at all of an opportunist suspicious fire because the chairman was young, keen and energetic and it had taken him years to rebuild his fortune after the fire even if the club had been refused planning permission to re-erect a stand and how many of their supporters had died in the fire. As they were explaining, my sister asked “how long do we have?”. I replied “normally 15 minutes”. I wondered how much of that time had already passed so I said “as long as it takes if we grab a coffee and are quick back”.

By now I was with Zero and the two of us were at some kind of water park or adventure park. What I’d heard was that they were going to freeze over a waterfall or part of it so that we could go skiing on it. I contacted my friends from the Wirral to see if they wanted to come. Sure enough, they turned up so I went to meet them while Zero was visiting this waterfall walking exercise. She was obviously having a whale of a time. They turned up but for some reason they weren’t very happy at all. My friend’s wife wandered off on her own and he hung around for a minute and then asked “do you want to have a beer or something and I have to go back to the car or something” and walked off in order to get a panda. Zero was enjoying herself but this was coming to an end and they were going to freeze over the waterfall so I had to find the wife. I walked all the way up this slope but I couldn’t see her. I bumped into a few people whom I knew and told them what was happening. They said “surely your friends will turn up to go skiing”. I said “no, they are coming up now”. I walked all the way up the hill but couldn’t find her at all. She had disappeared. Someone said “she’s just walked past at the end of the water wheel” so I decided to turn round and walk back to see if she was there. In the meantime all the kids came off this lake-walking thing so I thought that I’d better go and find Zero otherwise she’ll be the next person who is going to be lost.

I stepped right back into this dream again. The husband turned up and the discussion went on about porridge for breakfast. I offered him some porridge but he thought that it wasn’t porridge but something else. I was absolutely certain that it was porridge and I couldn’t understand why it was that he was saying something different

There had been some kind of incident on Moathouse Drive in Crewe. Someone had been arrested for it and I had to go along and give evidence. I was there making my statement and the person was brought in behind me to make their statement and it was my little Inuit friend from Uummannaq. While she made her statement I waited for her. I had a look round while I was waiting and came across a map of the High Arctic islands in Nunavut. When she finished giving her evidence I said that I’d take her home. I knew where she lived. I showed her this map, explaining to her about the Inuit in Canada and the outlying islands and she was extremely interested. She had some kind of pet like a mongoose or a weasel, something like that, and it was running around inside this room. I had to catch it and that wasn’t easy. It was a persistent animal. In the end I caught it and we both set off. Somehow I ended up back at my house alone with this animal. I let it loose inside my house, my house in Winsford. I’m not quite sure how it happened after that but with me having an empty room in my house and my brother living in all kinds of strange circumstances I ought to invite him to come and stay but it didn’t quite work out like that and I can’t remember how it finished.

After the medication I spent much of the day working on the remaining music for the next batch of radio programmes. All five of them are now prepared and there’s some good music in there.

There were several breaks of course, Breakfast, lunch, and then a couple of chats with Liz and Alison.

Later on I went for a walk around the town to stretch my legs.

dismantling market stall herbert hooverplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022My route took me down the Teinsestraat and into the Herbert Hooverplein.

It’s market day this morning and the square, and the adjacent Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein are swamped with stalls, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall having seen in the past but at the start of the afternoon they begin to pack everything up.

When I arrived this afternoon I was just in time to see the last couple of stalls being dismantled.

At FNAC there was nothing there that interested me. I had half a mind to buy a new voice recorder to replace my old Sony but they didn’t have anything at all.

With nothing that I needed to buy particularly, I didn’t go into ay other shop but instead headed across town to Origin’o, the vegan shop, for some more grated cheese, some vegan sausages and a dessert for Saturday night’s tea

rebuilding medieval city walls handbooghof leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022On the way back into town I came back via the Handbooghof to have a look at the repairs to the city walls around there

There isn’t actually very much to see because of the high fence that they have built around it. Apart from the decoration on the fence, we can make out something of what they have been doing and the different types of brick and stone that have been used.

Sourcing the material to rebuild it can’t have been easy though because I imagine that like most similar places, the walls will have been used as a quarry during the expansion of the town in the past.

At Delhaize there was a disaster. They had run out of the banana-flavoured soya drink that I love. I’ve had to make do with chocolate but it really isn’t the same.

Back here I crashed out for an hour or so, even before I had time to make myself a coffee. I’m not coping too well with things at the moment and the bad night just about finished me off.

So now that I’ve had tea I’m off for a very early night. Grab a few hours sleep before the party starts up again tonight.

Thursday 10th February 2022 – I’VE HAD SOME …

… really bad news today at the hospital. Kaatje, who is my social welfare adviser, is leaving her job at the end of March. She’s taking a year out to go travelling and to see where she’ll end up.

It goes without saying that I told her that if she ends up in Normandy she can pop in for a coffee but I really suspect that my visit here in March will be the last time that I’ll be seeing her.

That is really disappointing. I really quite liked her.

But that’s for later. Let’s begin at the very beginning.

This morning when the alarm went off at 07:30 I fell out of bed quite rapidly even though I didn’t feel much like it.

And when I saw the dictaphone I could understand why. There are no fewer than 10 sound files on the machine from last night. That means that I was dictating something into it on average every 45 minutes.

No wonder I was exhausted!

After the medication I sat down and chose the music for two of the next batch of radio programmes, seeing as I didn’t have anywhere to go this morning. One was more difficult than it might have been because a file or two that I wanted to use were corrupt.

What I had to do was to track down a copy of each one, download it, convert it to *.mp3 and then edit it ready for use. And seeing as this computer only has 8GB of RAM instead of the 32GB of RAM in the big machine back home in the bedroom, it took much longer than it otherwise might have done.

There was time for a shower and to wash my clothes and then to make my sandwiches ready to set off for the hospital.

Taverne Universum herbert hooverplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022Down the Tiensestraat in the rain I went, as far as the Herbert Hooverplein.

On the corner of the square is the Taverne Universum and we’ve seen this on several occasions over the last few visits here, all covered in scaffolding and its protective cover to protect passers-by from showers of slate and clouds of cement.

Judging by the rubble chute coming from one of the windows and leading into the skip, it looks as if whatever work is being done is being done on the inside of the building and so unfortunately we won’t be able to see what it is that they have been doing.

But I carried on down the hill and through the town centre, with nothing at all going on to distract me from my purpose of reaching the hospital before I ran out of steam.

footpath velodrome brusselsestraat oude lievevrouwstraat leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022Mind you, at what is referred to as the velodrome in the Brusselsestraat I came to a halt as I’d noticed something that had changed.

People were passing down by the side of where they erect the marquees for events every now and again, and a closer look at the situation reveals that the fence at the bottom of the site bordering the Oude Lieve Vrouwstraat has been moved.

That means that people can now pass from here into the latter street, with the idea, I suppose, that it will become a formal pathway in due course. Whether it remains or not once the proposed redevelopment takes place remains to be seen.

demolition site brusselsestraat leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022A little further on down the street at the other side of the Velodrome, the piles of soil and rubble are still here. No-one has taken them away.

The digger on top of the pile doesn’t seem to be contributing much to the general nature of the site and further to the demolition of St Pieter’s Hospital on which we are standing right now, the demolition of the building over on the right seems to have stopped.

One part of it has come down, as we can tell, right behind the digger but despite the passage of time no further demolition has taken place.

As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … if the buildings around here are going to stay then they need to be tidied up because I can’t think that anyone paying the kind of price that they will be required to pay for an apartment here will be happy with the view that they will have.

medieval tower demolition site brusselsestraat leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022While we are here, we’ll have to check on the medieval tower that was uncovered when they demolished the hospital.

It’s been covered up for the last few months though, in scaffolding with a roof on top and with netting around the outside, presumably to protect it from the work that’s going on all around it.

But it’s the piles of rubble that are intriguing me. If they are serving no purpose I would have expected them to have been taken away a long time ago. But if they are to be used in the regeneration of the site then they need to get a move on before the rain washes it all away.

medieval tower handbooghof leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022Last time that I took a photo of the old medieval tower I mentioned something about the view behind me.

That reminded me today that maybe I ought to take a photo of the view behind me so that you can see what I mean about the old medieval walls there in the Handbooghof.

All of that section of the city wall, such as it is, is under repair at the moment as you can see. And not before time as I’ve posted a few photos of this part of the wall showing its deplorable condition.

We can’t see what they have been doing because of the wall that they have erected in front of it so we’ll have to wait for a while until the wall has gone before we can examine their handiwork.

building site kapucijnenvoer leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022From there I pushed on along the street and round the corner into the Kapucijnenvoer.

There are a couple of building sites on which we have been keeping an eye over the last few months. This one, backing on to the Zongang, was at one time proceeding rather quicker than I would have expected, being Belgium, but things have slowed down just recently.

The windows are now fitted, but seeing all of the gaps around them shows the quality of the workmanship in new buildings these days. They’ll stuff the joints full of expanding foam and and cement over it, and then wonder why in 10 years time they are having water infiltration issues.

building site kapucijnenvoer leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022The other building site in the Kapucijnenvoer is further down the street on the other side of the road.

This is going to be some massive undertaking judging by the amount of concrete that has gone into it.

They are now at the stage of installing the vertical dividing walls. We can see some of the concrete reinforcing matting that has already been fitted, waiting for the shuttering to be installed.

The walk up the Monseigneur van Waeyenberghlaan was a nightmare this afternoon. I wasn’t in any kind of mood for that.

What didn’t help was that seeing as it is February, I was dressed in my winter clothing, but the temperature was 12°C and I was overheating. It really was a most uncomfortable climb up the hill.

digging up the pavement monseigneur van waeyenberghlaan leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022We’ve seen this in several occasions just recenly.

At the top end of the Monseigneur van Waeyenberghlaan a few months ago they were digging up the verge and laying an electric cable. Since then they have dug it up a couple of times since to presumably repair what it is that they damaged on the previous occasion that they dug it up.

It’s always the final couple of hundred yards that finishes me off because it becomes steeper and steeper the higher up you go and there’s a part by the bus station that must be at 45 degrees.

That’s the straw that always breaks the camel’s back.

1st buds 2022 universitaire ziekenhuis leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022A little earlier I mentioned something about the temperature today and how we don’t seem to have had anything like a winter.

And here are the first buds that I have seen so far in 2022. This is ridiculously early but nevertheless it underlines the fact that the winters, such as they are, are warming up these days and nature is responding earlier and earlier The first buds that I saw in, for example, 2019, WERE ON 8th MARCH.

At the hospital I was surprised that the doctor actually came to see me before the nurse could couple me up to the machine that they use.

The doctor was another one of these very keen, very helpful, very enthusiastic types and we had a very long chat. Once again, the question of Counselling reared its ugly head and as I said last time, I would hate to be the person who draws the short straw and has to probe the depths of my subconscious mind.

The big issue is that my heart and my knee are giving me major problems, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall. Apparently I am doing all of the right things and “everything will improve if you just give it time”.

However, time is something that I don’t have. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that with the main illness that I have people start to die off after five years and no-one has lived longer than 11 years. I was diagnosed with it 6.5 years ago and judging by some of things that were going on in the past, I’ve had it a lot longer than that.

So basically I’m living on borrowed time as it is and I don’t have the time for the heart and the knee to improve.

And that’s probably the root of all of the frustrations that I’m feeling right now.

The good news (for there is some) is that I can abandon two of my medicaments. I think that that brings me down to 12 per day now, a couple of them more than once a day.

There was the dictaphone to listen to, as I mentioned earlier. There was something to do with a group of people and a guy who was running it but whether they were all colonists or something I don’t know. Something had happened and gone wrong and all the people had overpowered him. He put up a heck of a fight but nevertheless they brought him down to the floor and were sitting on him etc. There was some woman in charge of the operation and the guy was pleading with her “let me go, let me go, give me another chance and I’ll sort things out”. I was listening to this somehow, I’m not sure how, thinking “yes, we’ve heard all this before and that it as high time that these people took matters into heir own hands and sorted out their own freedom in their own way”.

There was something else going round the Social Network from the Open University about some illness or other so I posted on there that my partner had had cancer and died and a couple of years later I’d developed leukemia so the moral of this story is “if you have something to do, do it and don’t wait”. Immediately 2 people entered into conversation with me via private chat. One was someone from the Auvergne like a German friend of mine but it wasn’t him and the second person was someone I knew once in Northampton. The result of this was that I was up in the North-west of England and he came along and picked me up. There was someone else there as well so there were three. I knew that he lived somewhere on the coast of Scotland, and it turned out that it was at Ardrossan but it was no Ardrossan that I ever knew. When we arrived we drove under the Admiralty Arch and I thought that this would be a nice place to photograph, the arch and its explanatory panel. We ended up in his house. His kitchen was in a glass conservatory. We could see the harbour and the storm and the boats being tossed about by the waves and lost in the spray. He made himself some toast and didn’t offer it to anyone. We were there chatting about not very much. Someone asked me if I had seen the dog of something travelling south so I said “no”. They explained that it was some kind of wind phenomenon. Strangely enough, at that moment I awoke and I could smell toast al the way through the building where I was staying.

We were also in Paisley last night but it was nothing like any Paisley I ever knew but surprisingly it was associated with Morton Football Club. There had been someone who had died, some respected senator or some such and a big funeral had been organised for him. We were up there, three of us again, driving around in my car. At the back of the town centre was acres and acres and acres of demolition sites where all the old tenements had been knocked down. While we were driving around one of them we came across loads of cars from the 1950s that had been dumped and vandalised. It was very strange in these modern times to have cars like this lying around on waste ground. We did a U-turn but somehow managed to become stuck in the demolition site of a factory but extricated ourselves and went back and I tried to take a photo. First of all I couldn’t get the aspect right for this old Ford Consul Mk II, an early model, not the 375. I couldn’t make this photo focus on what it was that I was wanting and I couldn’t actually see the car at one time even though it was quite clear on this demolition site that we had driven past just now. All of a sudden the camera began to malfunction and nothing was happening at all. The girl with me was becoming rather impatient. In the meantime a woman came by with 2 tiny children. One was in a blue and white hooped top and the other wasn’t. I said something to this little kid about “you don’t want to be wearing that kind of clothing around here. It should be blue and white (or do I mean black and white, the colours of St Mirren who play in Paisley?). His mother laughed and said something and wandered off. I was still messing around with this camera and this girl was becoming very impatient. She said “can’t you fix it?”. I replied “yes, if I had somewhere clear and plenty of room etc in which to work”. She replied “let’s go into this house”. It was a house that we weren’t quite sure if it was abandoned, empty or so on. I thought “I’m not going in there to strip down my camera. You never know who is going to come in”. But she was extremely adamant. In the end I said “I’ll sit on the edge of the pavement and do it” which I thought was a good compromise but she was still going on about going into this house and that was the last thing that I wanted to do

There was also something about some Glasgow family appearing on the TV. There were loads of outcries about how they didn’t want this family representing them on the UK stage somewhere. Some foreign Government going on about how they don’t want these Lefties coming along invading their country from the UK.

I’m not sure whether I dictated something about our Welsh class where I came back in and they were listening to all varieties of music and said that you each have to choose 10 songs so we can stream them. I asked “how do you mean? I have to download off the internet or from my own personal collection?”. They replied “however you like” and gave me the settings that you have to use. At first I couldn’t think of a ten that I would record because I would want to be using my style of music but the others wouldn’t like that. There had to be some kind of compromise somewhere. In the end I managed to sort out 10 of them including ZERO SHE FLIES and GRASSHOPPER
which as regular readers of this rubbish will recall play some kind of rôle in my voyages during the night. They were talking about the door handle that used to stick but “we’ve fixed that now so there’s no problem there”. I asked them what they had done but they weren’t too keen to tell me but they said that the cuckoo clock had gone which I thought was a real shame. They said “there was something the matter with it and Mike took it away” because he was in charge of all of this. I was hoping that it would find its way back sometime soon.

When they threw me out of the hospital, Alison came to pick me up and we went round to her house and cooked tea while I cuddled a cat. We also had a very long chat which passed much more time than expected and so it wasn’t until late that I returned back here.

No alarm in the morning, what with no hospital appointments, so I’m having a lie-in. That is, always assuming that my night isn’t as disturbed as last night’s was. 10 sound files is an impressive number and must be a record – a record that I don’t want to break.

Unless I’m accompanied by TOTGA, Castor and Zero of course, and then I can go for as many rambles as I possibly can.

Wednesday 9th February 2022 – HERE I ALL AM …

.. not actually sitting in a rainbow, but sitting in my little room here in Leuven, after one of the most uneventful journeys that I’ve ever had.

man with giant teddy gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo February 2022One of the only two things of note about this journey took place in the Gare du Nord in Paris.

There, I came across a guy with an enormous teddy-bear strapped to his back, with the bear carrying a backpack.

Of course, it goes without saying that I went over to him and told him how much I admired his choice of travelling companion. And then of course that led to a discussion that involved STRAWBERRY MOOSE.

And that of course served to remind me that it’s been 18 months since His Nibs and I last went on an adventure, when we did our tour of Central Europe, and two and a half years since we last set foot on North American soil.

And like me, he’s getting itchy feet. We need to be on our way somewhere, moving about.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4520 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022The second incident of note took place on board my train at Lille Europe.

There was a couple sitting in my seat and at first they refused to move, insisting that the numbers on the seat in front related to their seats. It was only when I asked them if that meant that the people in seats 75 and 76 had to sit on the luggage rack that they reluctantly agreed to move.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have bothered and would have sat somewhere else but there was something about this couple’s attitude that rubbed me up the wrong way and these days my good humour evaporates much more quickly than ever it used to, especially when I’m confronted by intransigent people.

Apart from that, it’s been a very fair day today. When the alarm went off at 06:00 I was (for a change) out of bed quite quickly, made my sandwiches, had a coffee and, to my own surprise never mind yours, steam-cleaned the kitchen, including washing the floor with disinfectant.

l'omerta fish processing plant port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022At 08:00 or thereabouts I left the apartment with my gear and headed off for the station.

First … errr … port of call was the viewpoint overlooking the fish processing plant where I checked the NIKON 1 J5 to make sure that it was working.

The fish-processing plant was this morning’s first subject. It might be early in the morning but there are plenty of people down there working as we can see. All of the lights are on in there and there’s a refrigerated lorry down there waiting to take away the catch.

And L’Omerta is still down there where we saw her yesterday, sitting on the silt.

dawn st pair Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022Although it was still dark, the sun was starting to rise.

The sky in the distance over at the back of St Pair sur Mer is becoming lighter with a beautiful pink tinge.

What they say around here is “Red Sky at Night, Shepherd’s Delight. Red Sky in the Morning, Avranches is On Fire”.

And as I was on the point of taking the photos, most of the streetlights in St Pair sur Mer went out and what would have been a glorious photo suddenly turned into something rather more banal.

On that note I headed off down into town and then out the other side and up the hill to the railway station.

modernisation gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022It only took me 25 minutes to reach the station this morning, with only one stop on the way, which is progress of a sort.

And at the station, I had a surprise. There has in the past been some kind of vague talk about some improvements at the station and today, they had fitted out the entrance hall with a pile of scaffolding.

It looks as if it’s “all systems go” and it will be interesting to see what they’ve been up to when I come back next month.

You can see the yellow boxes there. They are for passengers to use to stamp their tickets before they board the train. All paper tickets have to have a timestamp on them to make them valid.

84571 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022Despite my being there early, the train was already on the point of pulling in, and that was a welcome sight. I didn’t have to sit outside in the cold.

Today I had a seat all to myself right next to the toilet so I didn’t even have to walk very far.

There was all of my work to back up from the large computer and while I was doing that I listened to my Hawkwind “concert” again. I stomped all my way to Paris, except for the 10 or 15 minutes when I was … errr … resting.

We were bang on time in Paris and the trip on the metro to the Gare du Nord was straightforward, especially my little walk along the street and I can’t understand why I didn’t check this before.

There was a bit of a laugh though. The metro was crowded but I managed to find a seat. A woman grabbed the seat next to me and beckoned to her daughter, who was about 11, to come and sit on her lap instead of standing up hanging onto a strap.

“I think that that’s a bit too baby” I said, which brought a smile from daughter and a sigh from mother, and despite repeated entreaties, daughter steadfastly refused to sit on her mother’s lap all the way to the Gare du Nord.

tgv inoui 225 tgv reseau duplex gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo February 2022Having exchanged pleasantries with the guy with the teddy-bear, I went to find my train to Lille Flandres.

As usual, it was one of the TGV Reseau Duplex double-deckers, looking as if they are in need of a little paintwork these days. Nevertheless they are quite comfortable, even if there is only one power point per seat.

This afternoon I was lucky because I didn’t have a neighbour so we didn’t have to fight over the power point and I could carry on listening to Hawkwind and reading my story about a Michigan cavalry unit in the American Civil War all the way to Lille.

And for a change, I was on the lower deck. No fighting with the stairs

TGV POS 4404 gare de lille flandres railway station France Eric Hall photo February 2022At Lille I found that we had brought another trainset with us – one of the POS units from eastern France so once more it was something of a hybrid train.

In fact, it actually brought us because it was certainly coupled up at the front of our trainset and there weren’t any passengers at all on it, so I imagine they’ve taken advantage of our trainset to carry out a positioning voyage.

We were 8 minutes late arriving at Lille so we had to push on rather rapidly to Lille Europe for our train from Montpelier to Brussels. Some young woman was looking rather lost so I brought her with me and we had a nice chat. However when we reached the station she disappeared off somewhere else and that was that.

There were a couple of minutes to spare so I used them wisely in eating my butties, and then I had my little … errr … discussion on my train.

The journey to Brussels doesn’t take long so I didn’t mess about with the computer. I listened to an album that I’d stored on my phone.

Colosseum Live, one of the greatest live albums ever, and something bizarre usually happens to me whenever i hear it.

In the Canadian High Arctic in 2018 I had a strange encounter with an interesting young lady whom I met on board THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR while I was listening to it, and in The Canadian High Arctic in 2019 on the same ship sitting in the same seat on the same deck listening to the same album, I had an even more strange encounter with another even more interesting young lady, about which I’ll write one of these days.

However, to my dismay, nothing whatsoever happened this time to ignite my curiosity.

class 27 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022A train to Leuven was already in the station when I arrived – a push-me-pull-you – so I scrambled aboard, and we set off, at a snail’s pace, down the line.

When I arrived at Leuven I went to see what was pushing us and to my surprise it was one of the old Class 27 locomotives. 60 of them were built in the early 80s and they were the first of the modern generation of electric locomotives.

“Powerful” is not the word to describe these locomotives. One of this class pulled a train of 70 carriages, the longest passenger train ever assembled in the world, so I’ve no idea what was the matter with mine going so slowly.

At the back of the station is the little Match supermarket so I went there to buy the bread and drink for the next couple of days and then headed for my room

cherry pickers martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022In the Martelarenplein they had a couple of cherry-pickers but they were parked up and it wasn’t easy to see what they had been doing.

Back here I didn’t have an upgrade but instead I’m in my usual room up two flights of stairs that kill me having to climb them.

After a coffee I … errr … relaxed for half an hour and then walked down to Delhaize for my shopping. I bought everything that I need and even “won” a trolley token from one that had jammed in an abandoned trolley. A trolley attendant saw me wrestling with it and gave me one from his pocket.

At some point I finally managed to catch up with the dictaphone notes. I was up in the Scottish Borders last night with a couple of young girls whom I met there once upon a time, at the festival indoor. The two girls were dancing. They were carrying bottles of drink around and I’m not sure why because they weren’t drinking them. We’d filmed them dancing, as well as quite a few others. We were watching it, and I can’t remember now, but she was most offended when she saw them dancing with the alcohol and had quite a lot to say about it. There was something about food too, making queues for the food and serving the queue, how if you had your food in one room you couldn’t go into another but eat in that room etc, something to do with the fact that some parts were licensed as a takeaway and some weren’t. It was all quite complicated. We were talking about my flat-bottomed boat festival. The film went on to talk about it and said about how these two girls would be invited to attend as well but of course the older one by this time had been killed so it was totally irrelevant.

It’s surprising, this little voyage, particularly about the death of one of these girls. In real life I’d actually met them a couple of times and then after one of our meetings, the older one was actually killed. She was driving to work early one morning when a German tourist who had driven up from Dover through the night without stopping pulled off the M74 onto the wrong side of the road and hit her head-on.

In her ancient and frail Open Corsa, she didn’t stand a chance.

Regular readers of this rubbish in one of its many previous guises will recall that the after-effects of this accident were quite considerable and are still rumbling on today

Later on we were back at the Scottish Borders again later and there was another girl there in between the age of these two girls, probably about 15 or so. She was dancing as well but I can’t remember where this started or why it was significant.

My friend Marianne was in hospital so I’d been staying in her apartment. I’d been there for five months from September until February. There was some talk that she might come out very soon so I’d had to have a good go round and tidy everything up and make sure that everything was where it was supposed to be, all of her clothes and everything, find her bank cards, find her money and all that. It was extremely complicated. At one point I found her cassette player so I put some music on and was listening to that while I was working. When I’d finished in the bedroom I couldn’t make up my mind whether to leave it on or switch it off. In the end I switched it off but this was something extremely emotional, all of this.

I was with Lise last night (and who is Lise?), on my way home in a car. There was some kind of news report about an Italian who had done something and taken an Israeli person hostage. I was driving home and I came to the road junction which I thought that I needed but for some reason I couldn’t see clearly out of the car. I ended up driving past so I had to find a place to turn round. I came to a place in a village where I could turn round but parked in a field were a couple of steam traction engines, all overgrown and covered in weeds, creepers etc so I went to take a photo of them. No matter how I tried I couldn’t find a decent viewpoint. In the end, after a while, I gave it up as a bad job, went back into the car, turned round. Then I noticed several ruined buildings from the Middle Ages so I stopped to take a photo. All these kids swarmed around me and kept on standing in front of the lens so I didn’t have a clear shot. Then the camera wasn’t recognising the lens. This was proving to be extremely awkward. In the end I was having to push these kids out of the way but the more I pushed, the more they formed back and kids started appearing from everywhere. I never did take that photo.

And that wasn’t all either. But as you are eating your tea right now I’ll spare you the gory details.

Now that I’ve had my tea, I’m off to bed. It’s early but I’m exhausted and I have my hospital appointment tomorrow so I need to be fighting fit. 123% of my daily activity deserves a good rest.