Category Archives: Belgium

Saturday 16th October 2021 – THIS NEW WAY …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what usually happens.

Saturday 18th September 2021 – JUST A FEW LINES …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 17th September 2021 – AFTER YESTERDAY’S …

… exertions it was no surprise to anyone that I was in bed by 20:45. But the difficulty whenever I do that is that I’m usually awake quite early and so I never seem to take advantage of it.

But if anyone thinks that I’m going to be out of bed at 05:40 and doing things when there’s no alarm set, they are totally mistaken. Even 07:20 was rather early but there’s no point in staying in bed if I can’t go back to sleep

At 09:00 I nipped downstairs to the “Match” supermarket in the basement for my bread for lunch. And some drink too. I’ve already finished off the 1.5 litres of iced tea and 2 litres of banana-flavoured soya drink that I brought on Wednesday night.

Back up in my room I finished off my notes from yesterday and then had a listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. I was with a couple of friends and we were discussing, of all things, rape. The girl said something like “rapists should all go on strike and down tools”. I replied that if all rapists downed tools, there wouldn’t be any such thing as rape at all. And despite the gravity of the subject, I was pretty impressed that I could come out with a pun like that while I was asleep.
Later on there was an issue about a socket not working. I immediately reckoned that there was a bad joint somewhere and the first joint that I tested came apart when I pulled it I was with a guy whom I knew so I asked him if he would hold a lamp at the socket while I held the wires togeter to see if this was the bad joing in question but he refused. I had to run off and try to find a light with a plug that would fit in the socket and try it myself.
Even later Rosemary was asking me about the Battle of Rhedae. I knew that it had taken place on the outskirts of Clermont Ferrand (which it didn’t – I was thinking of the Battle of Gergovie) so I went to fetch my Michelin guide to the Puy de Dome and had a good search through but couldn’t find it in there, which was no surprise seeing as Rhedae, which is these days believed by many to the the town of Quillan, is in the Razès in South West France.

class 18 electric locomotives gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo September 2021While I was busy working I was keeping an eye on what was going on outside down on the station.

At a certain moment a train from Oostende pulled into the station just as a train from Eupen and Welkenraedt pulled in on its way to Oostende.

But of them were powered by the typical Class 18 electric locomotives. The one from Eupen, furthes away from the camera, is being pulled by a locomotive whose number I can’t see, and the one from Oostende, closes to the camera, is being pushed by locomotive number 1819.

aeroplane going in to land brussels airport zaventem Belgium Eric Hall photo September 2021What else I could see from my window were aeroplanes flying from right to left just above the horizon.

Way over to the left is the Brussels National Airport at Zaventem. All of these aeroplanes are on the flightpath going into land there and there were quite a few too. At one stage I counted one every three or four minutes.

When I lived in Schaerbeek back in the early 1990s my apartment looked out right across to the airport way out in the distance and the aeroplanes that came in to land were clearly visible at night with their landling lights illuminated. They would come into land right in line head-on to my apartment and the view was fantastic.

universitaire ziekenhuis Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo September 2021Another thing that you could see from my window up here on the 5th floor was the Universitaire Ziekenhuis Leuven, the University Hospital of Leuven.

That’s the building, or buildings, I should maybe say, over there on the skyline on the right-hand side of the photo. And this photo will give you some idea of the size of the hospital. It’s one of the biggest in Europe, if not the World.

The thing that impressed me about this hospital is that while most hospitals give instructions zbout how to arrive there from the town centre, this hospital give directions from the airport.

It’s truly a cosmopolitan hospital and that’s what I want. Many hospitals and medical services are quite chauvinistic about their treatment, but not so the Belgians. They aren’t afraid to mention medical research that is being undergone in other countries.

class 21 electric locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo September 2021Another thing that I noticed pulling into the station was a rather elderly Class 21 locomotive.

These first came into service in the mid-80s, with 144 taking to the rails. There are Class 11s, Class 12s, Class 21s and Class 27s, with the latter being the most powerful and the former being the least powerful.

They were built by the Belgian BN/ACEC combine which is now no longer in business. And so since the Class 18s have arrived, these are gradually being withdrawn and dismantled as a source of spares for the big Class 27s.

Something else that came through the staion that I wasn’t quick enough to photograph, much to my regret was one of the new Bombardier-Alstom “M7” double deck multiple units that are currently on proving trials on the Belgian network. That would have been quite a thing.

With a nice quiet day I ought to have done so much more too but unfortunately much of the time was spent curled up on my bed having a little relax. No point in fighting it.

Later in the evening I caught a bus that took me out to Alison Wonderland, as her new home is called. She had some falafel left over from her barbecue so I cooked it while she went to the fritkot down the road for a bag of chips.

We had a nice meal and lengthy chat, and instead of singing for my supper I helped her move some heavy furniture around.

Once I’d recovered my strength Alison drove me home. I was totally exhaused and so with an early start tomorrow, instead of writing up my notes I crawled into bed and that was that.

Saturday 21st August 2021 – I’M BACK …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 20th August 2021 – WHEN WAS THE …

… last time that I actually threw away half a meal?

For breakfast I had just a slice of toast and I missed lunch too, so as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I must be sickening for something. That’s what usually happens when I go off my food.

Nothing but a slice of toast for breakfast can be explained by the fact that it was rather a late breakfast. The sound outside switched off at about 22:30, I had an early night and despite having to go for a ride on the porcelain horse early in the morning, it was about 10:00 when I finally crawled out from underneath the covers.

There had been plenty of time for a voyage or two during the night. I was told off last night for using the phrase “somewhere in Wales” to describe Rhyl. We were having a discussion about something that had happened and someone in a new radio show. When we were talking about it I happened to let that phrase go. A woman picked me up about this. I said to her “if you don’t like that phrase there will be a few other phrases later on that you will tell me off about. She came out with a couple of other phrases that she didn’t like me using as well. There was a man and a girl with me as well and I had the feeling that I was supposed to be really friendly with that girl but I can’t now remember how this started.

Later on I had my Mk IV Cortina and I wasn’t very happy with the void bushes on it. I’d replaced it twice and they were still not working so I decided to take it back to the garage where I had it from. That was in Pionsat but once again it was an enormous Pionsat with a big shopping area, crowds of people and a metro. It took me quite a while to work out which was the right garage. I left the Cortina there. They were very busy there and the guy was writing out notices for sale to stick in car windows and the woman was sticking them in the cars. They had an Austin A40 for sale as well that someone was trying out. I walked home and was just about to walk down onto the metro and my phone rang It was Liz saying “don’t you go looking for the keys?” I replied “yes” She said “you should have left them with the car shouldn’t you?” Just them Liz actually turned up and she walked with me back through some of the way that we had walked through some kind of building like an old access point to the metro. She was explaining that she was planning to buy it and this was what she was going to do with it which I thought was rather complicated and not particularly good but she seemed to be quite enthusiastic about it.

Even later I was going to a party somewhere so I was driving Caliburn. We were driving around the coast and all these ships – there was a huge queue of ships getting ready to leave the port, ships that I had never seen before. As we drove around the bay there was another ship there with a load of divers working from it. I wondered what was going on and I’d been taking plenty of photos of it. Then we turned up at this place where the party was taking place. I was in Caliburn following someone else. They had brought with them a pile of money in a jar, a pile of cards and a pile of envelopes, all from someone called Karla. She was saying that she was going to destroy the cards now that she was leaving but the envelopes would be a nice memento. I thought that this was the wrong way round, that you’d throw the envelopes away and keep the cards but apparently not. We went into this place and Terry was driving the other car. There wasn’t anywhere to park so he suggested that we should park somewhere else. I had a look and under a kind of hangar place there was room for about 30 cars but there were only 10 cars there so I could get Caliburn there quite easily. I couldn’t understand why he wanted to go and park somewhere else so I set about moving Caliburn in there to park.

Having typed out all of that the next step was to sort out the music for the next radio programme. And for a reason that I don’t understand, that took a lot longer than it ought to have done as well and I had to do quite a bit of searching to find the right sort of music

open air market closing down herbert hooverplein leuven belgium Eric HallLater on I headed into town for a wander round.

As regular readers of this rubish will recall, there is an open-air fruit and vegetable market in the morning on the Herbert Hooverplein. We’ve seen it quite often when we’ve been out early in the day but because of the time today, most of the stalls have gone and the last one is packing up.

There were a couple of shops that I wanted to visit, and ended up in Delhaize to buy some stuff for tea and the journey home tomorrow.

On the way back home I picked up my medication from the chemists. I’d left them the prescription yesterday but there was some stuff that they needed to make so I couldn’t take it away then.

Back here I crashed out on the sofa for a while and then did a little tidying up to prepare for leaving – but I’m going to be doing the rest of that tomorrow morning.

Just now I mentioned tea, and now despite it being quite early, I’m off to bed. I have a 04:30 start in the morning and a long way home so as it’s reasonably quiet, I’m going to make the most of it.

Thursday 18th August 2021 – THAT WAS A …

… much better night last night, due to the fact that there wasn’t any noise from the neighbouring room. Mind you, there’s some noise coming from there now so here’s hoping that they’ll shut up in due course before bedtime.

It still didn’t make for an uninterrupted sleep because I was off on my travels during the night and I must have gone for miles. I started off in the USA travelling south and I’d come into Georgia, still travelling south and something must have happened because the next thing that I remember was that I was in a car with half a dozen other people. The woman was driving so recklessly through these roadworks, knocking over all these bollards. We’d been driving down a highway and now we were threading our way through a town. Two of these people were talking about how grateful they were to this woman for picking them up because they would never have found someone else going their way after they had been rear-ended in their car. They were chatting away and I thought to myself that pretty soon I’m going to be going into a couple of new States that I don’t know. So I asked “how far are we from the Georgia Florida border?” The woman replied “we’ll be crossing the border in about an hour or so”. The dawn was just so dramatic. It changed from a dark night to bright sunlight in an instant. I saw that the sun was about a quarter high so I thought that I must have gone to sleep or something. We were talking about race cars. They were mocking my English language about Wimbledon so we ended up talking about tractor pulling. The guy said that he’d be too scared to try tractor pulling because that’s really something.

Later on I was in the far north of Canada somewhere with my friend from Munich, standing on a clifftop watching events unfolding. Dawn was just breaking. We’d been around and I don’t know where but we’d ended up somewhere near a village. It had only been the smaller schoolchildren who had gone to school that day. As dawn started to break there were sounds of sirens or a horn and I thought that it must be an icebreaker coming down the river. I wondered if it would be Terry Fox, the icebreaker that I knew. So we looked and it was a heavy lorry coming down there zigzagging from side to side as if to flatten all of the streets, going downhill backwards to this village. We went down to see and by now all the schoolchildren were assembling, all ages, ready to go into school. There was a shop there that we came across because we followed the lorry and it had stopped there to get diesel. We walked into this shop with all of these schoolkids around, looking at us because we were dressed differently and looked differently. It was a second-hand place with loads of second-hand books and everything. There wee a few guitars there so my idea was that we would have an impromptu concert but all the strings had been knotted together so we couldn’t actually play anything on them. That was a really disappointing thing because we were hoping to have a little bit of fun with them.

Later still I was at my lock-up at Smallman Road and it was in a terrible mess. My brother was there and he started to help me tidy up, something about which I wasn’t very happy because when people start tidying up you don’t know where they put things and you never find them But after half an hour it made an enormous difference and you could actually walk around places which you hadn’t done in there for years. I then suggested o get the stuff out of Caliburn like the two spare wheels and a pile of boxes, the snow chains and everything. That was what we did and started moving stuff around out of Caliburn but somehow I became all oily and we were going to be really dirty and getting these tyres out of the back and so on.

Somewhere along the way I was standing in a queue behind a woman who was buying pieces of broken chocolate but she took so long trying to take her money from her purse that I was sure that I was going to miss what I was going to do and I wished that she would get a move on.

After the exertions of the last couple of days I stayed in bed until 10:00 and when I eventually rose again from the dead I went and had my medication. After that I chose the music for another radio programme. That’s three now that I’ve done and I’ll do the fourth tomorrow, I reckon.

After I’d made my sandwiches I headed off to the hospital for my appointment.

summer flowers herbert hooverlaan leuven belgium Eric HallMy perambulations at lunchtime took me past the Herbert Hooverplein.

No market there this morning, and so instead I could admire the flowers. I’m not a flower person – in fact I once told my friend Lorna that the only time that you would find a flower on any photo that I took would be if there were an old car parked on top of it – but these are particularly beautiful.

As you might expect, I have no idea what kind of flowers these might be. “Yellow and white ones” would be my best guess.

cycling fitness machine grote markt leuven belgium  Eric HallFrom there I pushed on down the hill to the town centre and the Grote Markt.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that last time we were here we saw this container with a couple of exercise bicycles in it. And I’ve finally worked out what its purpose is.

It seems that in about 30 days time there will be some kind of cycling World Championships taking place and this is some kind of advertisement to publicise the event.

We’ll see how events unfold here over the course of the next few weeks.

river dijle leuven belgium Eric HallAnother thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall is that a month ago we had all of the rain and all of the floods in Belgium

At the height of the storm the river LOOKED LIKE THIS and you can see how different the river is today. The doorway down there shows that there was a couple of feet of difference in the height of the river.

The country is still reeling from the effects of the storm, but luckily we here in Leuven didn’t suffer very much – not half as much as some places over in the east by the German border.

demolition at rear of sint rafael hospital kapucijnenvoer leuven belgium Eric HallAs I pushed along the Brusselsestraat on the way to the hospital, I checked the big building site here.

They have swept away all of what was the Sint Pieter’s Hospital and it seems that they are now starting to demolish the rear of the Sint Rafael Hospital. This is certainly some kind of new development that wasn’t here last time I was in Leuven.

This part of the redevelopment of the site is something that I hadn’t seen on the plans so I’ll be very interested to see how this particular story unfolds.

soil deposited at sint pieters hospital brusselsestraat leuven belgium Eric HallPart of the plans for the redevelopment of the site include some landscaping of the area.

Something else that has turned up on the site since I was last here is a couple of lorry-loads of what looks like soil.

Presumably they are going to bulldoze it all over the site, and I hope that they will plant bushes and trees there as well while they are at it.

Here in the centre of the town there aren’t anything like enough trees and other greenery to revitalise the atmosphere and no effort should be spared to make the place look environmentally friendly.

old medieval tower brusselsestraat leuven belgium Eric HallAfter they cleared away the building and the rubble we noticed that there was an old medieval tower left behind on the site that had been obscured.

It has been protected by scaffolding and there’s some metal sheeting to cover it over. But right now it seems that they are starting work on restoring it – and not before time either. It should look really nice when it’s finished – I hope.

The walk up the hill to the hospital was a nightmare. I had to stop about a dozen or so times in order to catch my breath and when I finally reached the hospital I was obliged to take the escalator up to the first floor.

That’s something that has not happened since I first came here 5 years ago and it’s definitely a backward step.

The nurse who attended to me was very sweet and she can come and massage my clavicles any time she likes. The doctor on the other hand was somewhat lacking in his approach and I don’t think that he’ll be working long in the profession.

He certainly didn’t have the interest in his task – whenever I mentioned something else that was the problem it was “see your GP about that” – except that he said it in French because that the language that he used to speak to me. He didn’t have the least curiosity and that’s no good for a doctor.

My blood count has gone up from 9.0 to 9.2 although it doesn’t seem anything like it. There’s definitely some other underlying problem with the health issues that I’m having right now.

While I was here I made a start on transcribing the dictaphone notes (hence today’s notes) but Alison popped by to see me so we ended up chatting instead. I’ll have to do the outstanding notes tomorrow, unless something else crops up in the meantime.

building site kapucijnenvoer leuven belgium Eric HallOn the way home I went to have a look at the various building projects in the Kapucijnenvoer.

The big building that is receiving all of their attention right now is advancing. Not exactly quite rapidly but there is a great deal of surface area that is involved in this particular project and the volume alone will count for a lot.

It’s going to be quite a while before the building appears above ground level and judging by the thickness of the walls it’s going to be quite a substantial building too that is going to tower up above the surrounding building.

more demolition Onze Lieve Vrouwstraat Leuven belgium Eric HallMeanwhile, while I was looking at the groundwork here with one of my eyes the other eye was off roaming about examining what was going on in the background.

There’s part of this complex that runs round the back of the Onze Lieve Vrouwstraat in the distance and it looks as if they are now making a start on demolishing part of that – something else that I haven’t noticed on the plans of the site.

It seems that they are going to be making quite a clean sweep of the area and while I’m not sorry to see much of it go, there are some parts of it that have a certain something that will be missed when it’s gone.

building site kapucijnenvoer zongang leuven belgium Eric HallOn the way home I wandered off down the Kapucijnenvoer to look at the other building site that backs onto the Zongang.

While I was on my way up to the hospital there was a lorry there with the site crane lifting from the trailer a pile of concrete sheets that are presumably going to be the flooring. But by the time that I came back, they had all gone.

But the building is shooting up quite quickly, much quicker than we would expect, bearing in mind the speed at which other building projects are carried on in the town. Normally they take an age but they aren’t hanging around with this one.

building site kapucijnenvoer zongang leuven belgium Eric HallBut I don’t imagine that the people who are living in that nice house in the Zongang are particularly happy about this building.

While I was passing I peered through the new building out to the back, and you can see how closely they have built this structure to the house behind. This is going to cut out all of the light that would otherwise fall on the building.

There’s supposed to be a parking place for each of the apartments too and I’m not sure how they are going to fit any of that in on the site or in the little yard at the back.

site plan sint pieters hospital brusselsestraat leuven belgium Eric HallOn my way back home I went to have a look at the site plan of the redevelopment to see what this new series of demolitions might mean.

Unfortunately I didn’t check it as thoroughly as I might because I was rather distracted by the noticeboard giving the explanations. And I wonder what exactly is a “Honkhuis”. My imagination is running wild right now.

And so I’ll have to have a look at the noticeboard next time I go past there and make better notes of how the site is going to evolve. But at least I did notice that the culvert that covers the river there is going to be removed and the river will be exposed once more to the open air.

man running dog around velodrome brusselsestraat leuven belgium Eric HallThere is of course the new velodrome that they have built on the site of the old hospital.

On my way past it to the hospital there was no-one actually using it so I refrained from taking a photo, thinking that I’ll catch someone using it on the way back and photograph it then.

There was indeed someone using it, but not a cyclist. When I arrived some little girl was just cycling away from it with her mother. Instead I caught a man taking his dog for a run around it.

Not the best use of the velodrome, I have to say. I was expecting it to be much more popular with the youngsters than it seems to be.

new hardstanding brusselsestraat leuven belgium Eric HallThere’s some more work that’s been undertaken on the site since we were last here.

We now seem to have some kind of hardstanding behind the velodrome, surrounded by a load of potted palms or whatever they might be. The purpose of this hardstanding is a mystery to me.

The way back home was accomplished without as much effort as I was expecting. I stopped at the chemist’s on the way back but she didn’t have everything that I needed so I’ll have to go back there tomorrow to pick up everything. I can do that while I’m having a little walk about

Now that I’ve had tea, and the music seems to have quietened down for a moment, I’m going to go to bed. No alarm in the morning – I’m going to have yet another lie-in. So here’s hoping that no-one manages to disturb me during the night.

Wednesday 18th August 2021 – WHAT A HORRIBLE …

… night that was!

It was alright until about 02:45 when the people in one of the rooms backing onto mine came back in from wherever they had been and put the music on.

And it was still going on at 11:00 this morning when I went out to the shops.

Nothing that I could do would get them to turn down the sound and telephoning the management was a waste of time too as the all-night emergency number was switched to the answerphone.

Luckily I managed to button-hole the manager this morning when I came back and told him what I thought about the situation.

He told me that he will speak to the people concerned. We shall see.

So most of last night was spent drifting in and out of sleep, and there are tons of stuff on the dictaphone. There was a little girl wandering around the complex here. I’d seen her once or twice and I caught up with her again the following day. I asked her what she was doing. She replied that she was looking for a donkey for some part in a film, something like that. We had a look around a few of the outhouses, places like that together, but we couldn’t see anything. We had a little chat and she went on her way. a little while later we bumped into some people who were also wandering around the apartment trying to sort out this music that was coming from another house in the street that backs onto here. It was a woman in her 40s and a couple of young people. We started to chat and the subject came up about this particular situation and the subject of this girl came up. Apparently she was her daughter and was 11. She asked me how she was and I replied that she was a little sunburnt but apart from that she’s fine. The woman said in that case I’ll leave her over in the UK. I replied “there’s no need to do that because she seems to be OK around here and I can keep an eye on her”. Then these people by now were loading something onto the roof of a Volvo, rather like a bed or something with a huge tubular metal frame. They were having to tie it on and I was having to help by holding the corners of these ropes so that they could tighten them up. Of course I had to concentrate for if I relaxed my grip this metal pole would go through the rear window. I remember thinking that I’ve moved some strange stuff in some strange fashions at one time but this beats just about everything.

Later on we were running a camp site, Liz, Terry and me, during the night. In the morning we had to apologise to people because of the noise that was being made because of the noise that was being made and we had to track down the culprits. We were generally tidying things up after people had started to leave and making plans about how we were going to develop things in the future. There was a sleeping bag piled up in a heap down at the bottom end of the course so I went to straighten it out, but there was a girl of about 7 asleep in it. We asked her if she had been the one making all the noise. She said “no” so we teased her – “doesn’t it have a cute little nose, that thing in that sleeping bag?” all that kind of thing.

later still, having been fired rather unceremoniously by Gill Leese for having read the newspaper, there was still an outstanding job that needed to be done, for us to take several lorry-loads of scrap to the scrap breakers. I thought that I’d go out and do that anyway because I wasn’t doing very much. By now everyone had gone. I got into a lorry that was fully-loaded, a rigid bulk carrier with trailer, and set out to drive it. Going through Nantwich and everywhere was quite easy but getting out towards Middlewich and Winsford, the road became a bit tougher and a couple of times I had to get out and walk and set the hand throttle so that the lorry would steer itself through the obstructions. There was one particular bit of obstruction that was very difficult to negotiate but someone came along with a tow rope to help me tow it through. Instead, he had the lorry wedged sideways in it and it was well and truly stuck. I thought “this is going to be a lot more complicated with Gill Leese than I could possibly imagine”.

Round about 09:30 I left my bed and went for breakfast. That was followed by a spell working on choosing the music for another radio programme.

Having only done half the shopping yesterday I went out later this morning to buy the food that I needed for lunch, otherwise I’ll be starving.

After lunch I had a shower and then chose the music for another programme, following which I went out to the bus station.

statue or sculpture of hot air balloon outside bus station leuven belgium Eric HallHere is something that I hadn’t noticed yesterday when I left the railway station.

Belgium, and Leuven in particular might be famous for many things but hot-air ballooning isn’t one of them. Most of the early balloonatics were French. So why there is a statue or a carving of a hot air balloon outside the bus station is something that has completely defeated me.

What I’ll have to do is to wander down that way and see if there’s a plaque affixed to it to give an explanation.

It’s quite new too. I don’t remember seeing it when I was here five weeks ago

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric HallMeanwhile, while I was here I went to have a look at the Maartelarenplein outside the railway station.

That’s been dug up now for longer than I care to remember and progress is taking place at a snail’s pace. This is a very long task.

This afternoon I had to go to the offices of the local bus company, De Lijn. I have some old multi-use bus tickets but they have been withdrawn. I had to change them for the new type.

Then I boarded a bus that took me to Alison’s new house, known in the locality as “Alison’s Wonderland”. It was her housewarming party.

war graves leefdaal belgium Eric HallInstead of getting off at her house I went on to the next bus stop at the church.

Alison had told me that there were a couple of British Commonwealth War Graves there from May 1940. I was half-expecting to see the crew of a Fairey Battle but instead, it’s two soldiers from the Grenadier Guards killed on 18th May 1940 during the British Army’s retreat from Leuven.

It’s a mystery though why the graves have been left here. It was common policy after the war for to inhabitants of these small cemeteries to be regrouped into a couple of large ones.

civilian war graves leefdaal belgium Eric HallThere were some civilian graves here too. Civilians were by no means spared from the fighting during the German push through Belgium.

From there I walked down to Alison’s for the barbecue. A few of her colleagues from work were there and we all had a chat for a while. But rather earlier than most people I started to feel tired long before events had really warmed up and so like a reporter from the News of the Screws I made my excuses and left.

There was quite a wait for the bus back to town, but the journey passed quickly enough and I was soon alighting at the bus stop across the road.

ambulance attending road accident tiensestraat tiensevest leuven belgium Eric HallThere was an ambulance across the road too with its blue emergency lights flashing.

By its side was a rather badly distorted bicycle that looks as if it’s been run down by a passing car, although there was no other vehicle that looked as if it might have been involved.

Having taken a photo of it, I crossed the road and headed for home and to write up my notes.

Now they are done, I’m off to bed to try to get as mush sleep as possible in case the music starts up again later. But I’m not setting an alarm, just to be on the safe side.

Tuesday 17th August 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was a really difficult walk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a state to be in!

Saturday 17th July 2021 – AS BARRY HAY ONCE …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 16th July 2021 – HOW LONG IS IT …

modern morgan 3 wheeler predikherenstraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall… since these pages have featured an old car?

At one time it used to be quite regular but these days it’s a lot more rare than it ought to be. And unfortunately, this vehicle here isn’t as old as it looks either.

As I was wandering down the Brusselsestraat on my way home I happened to glance down the Predikherenstraat where I saw this.

At first I thought that my luck was in and it might have been a real Morgan three-wheeler but unfortunately I was not labouring long under a disillusion

modern morgan 3 wheeler predikherenstraat Leuven Belgium Eric HallOne glance at the engine was enough to tell me.

ThIs engine is not a nice big 998cc JAP V-twin but an S and S engine, which tells me that this vehicle is less that 8 years old.

And that’s rather a disappointment because I’m really looking forward to finding an original JAP-engined Morgan from the 1920s and 1930s.

So after having taken a few photographs and having had a chat with another admirer I made my way back into town.

But all of that comes later. We need to start at the beginning.

When the alarm went off I was up early this morning and after the medication I came in here to transcribe my dictaphone notes. I was very much persona non grata at some kind of do involving my family and a couple of girls from my class at Grammar School. I can’t remember what it was about but something came up about, was it Welsh Independence or something? They were all sitting there saying that it’s all been done wrong and if it had been organised correctly they should have done this and this and this. I replied “if you don’t like the way it’s done don’t vote for it” so they said they weren’t and it became something of a slanging match. The younger girl who was there was then talking about a few things “well so-and-so will be coming and we’ll be having to do this down in somewhere” something or other and I was of the opinion that she was having a visitor but I couldn’t understand what it was all about obviously, having been left out of the loop for half a story so I checked my diary. There was nothing in my diary so I thought that I’d better write down a few notes. I went to the drawer to find a pencil. My mother asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was looking for a pencil. I found one but it wasn’t sharpened so I needed to find the sharpener to sharpen the pencil to jot down a few of these notes.

As well as all of that I fell asleep too. Only for about half an hour or so but nevertheless …

At about 08:45 I headed out to the hospital for my appointment.

market herbert hooverplein Leuven Belgium Eric HallSeeing all of the people walking along the Tiensestraat loaded up with all kinds of shopping tells me that it’s market day today, as if I wouldn’t have known it anyway.

Here at the Herbert Hooverplein is where it all begins and it spreads out through the Ladeuzeplein and down to the Bondgenotenlaan, swallowing up that whole area.

In the past we’ve been for a wander around the market but unfortunately today we don’t have time. I’m on my way to the hospital for my dermatology session. And so I pushed on down the hill in the Tiensestraat towards the city centre

Halfway down the hill I was almost squidged by a lorry that was reversing back up again having presumably made a delivery there.

cycling energy sprint oud markt Leuven Belgium Eric HallThe previous day I’d noticed something unusual in the Oud Markt – some kind of shipping container with a display screen outside it.

Today it was open so I could see what was happening in there. What we have are a few exercise bikes in there and people can go for a ride on them. Presumably the distance and speed that they travel is added onto the figure shown on the screen.

Normally I would have loitered around to see of anyone was going to have a go and if the total on the screen would increase but there wasn’t anyone around and I couldn’t wait all that long for someone to turn up.

river dijle brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric HallDown at the foot of the hill is the River Dijle.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, we’ve had an unbelievable amount of rain over the last 24 hours and it’s caused all kinds of devastation in the eastern part of the country.

The level of the river has risen quite appreciably since the rain started and even since I last saw it yesterday afternoon it’s risen by another few inches. Not quite as high as it was that day in 2016 when I was living here but another day or two of this weather will deal with that.

That rainstorm yesterday morning was terrific, in many senses of the word.

medieval tower sint pieters hospital brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that yesterday I talked about the old medieval tower that has now been unveiled to public view following the demolition of Sint Pieter’s Hospital.

Yesterday I’d photographed it by accident because I didn’t know that it was there. But now I do I went there forewarned and forearmed this morning and found a spec where there was a much better view.

It’s protected by scaffolding and corrugated sheeting so that seems to imply that it’s not going to be demolished during the redevelopment of the site and it might even be restored as part of this project that’s ongoing with the city walls further along at the side of the river.

There is some talk about uncovering the river just here too, and that will be interesting if they do that.

bicycle racks kruisstraat Leuven Belgium Eric HallAnother thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall is that a couple of months ago we saw them installing a set of bicycle racks in a couple of car parking spaces in the Kruisstraat.

At the time I remember speculating that these bicycle racks wouldn’t be receiving much use as there wasn’t a great deal of accommodation in the area

Nothing that I have seen since has changed my opinion. Despite there being space for about 40 bicycles here, there’s not even a handful and that’s how it’s been every time that I’ve walked past.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to actually work out what is going on in the minds of the City Fathers when they do things like this .

tactile pavement goedsbloemstraat Leuven Belgium Eric HallAnother thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall seeing are the roadworks around the Monseigneur van Weyenberghlaan and the Goedsbloemstraat.

Last time we were here we saw them finishing off the Goedsbloemstraat, working on the pavement by the traffic lights. What they were doing, which they have now finished, was to install some tactile paving, the corrugated pavement that gives indications to blind people that they are approaching an obstruction.

Regular readers of this rubbish in one of its previous guises will recall that I once met the girl who designed this tactile paving and we had a little thing going on that unfortunately led nowhere

When I arrived at the hospital I was channelled into the Dermatology clinic where the young trainee doctor poked and prodded me and took sample of my skin. She left me alone for 40 minutes too during which time I … errr … dozed off.

When she returned she had a chat with me about my skin issues, gave me a few prescriptions and then told me to clear off. They will “be in touch”.

On the way back to my digs I went to retake the photos that I didn’t take yesterday.

new building zongang kapucijnenvoer Leuven Belgium Eric HallWhen the NIKON 1 J5 died on me, I was on my way to take a photo of the new building that’s going up between the Kapucijnenvoer and the Zongang.

And having complained quite long and quite loudly of the Byzantine pace of construction etc in Belgium, then perhaps I should try not to be so vocal in future because they are cracking on with this. It’s going up like a mushroom.

The big difference, I suppose, is that this is a private enterprise building a private building for resale to the general public, rather than a Public Authority work. The quicker it goes up, the quicker the developers can recover their cash.

Nevertheless I suppose that someone will remind me of this in 6 months time when the construction has stalled.

kids on bikes velodrome brusselsestraat Leuven Belgium Eric HallYesterday we went past this new velodrome that they have constructed. And what with the torrential downpour that we were having, there wasn’t anyone riding around it.

Today of course, the situation is different. The boards are now dry and all of the local kids have descended on the place. A few of them are gingerly feeling their way around whereas one or two of them really have got the hang of the principle of a banked velodrome and are pelting round it.

And like most things involving kids, it all ended in tears a few minutes later in a tangle of kids and bicycles as one came to grief and brought down half a dozen of the others. That was rather odds-on, wasn’t it?

market bondgenotenlaan Leuven Belgium Eric HallHaving dealt with the Morgan, the next couple of photos are going to be quite interesting.

This one here and the one below represent the same image more-or-less, but taken in different ways.

The first one is actually a still taken from a moving picture. I was interested to see what size the resolution of the video would be when I tried it on different screens, but the size of the screen didn’t seem to be an issue.

market bondgenotenlaan Leuven Belgium Eric HallNevertheless I took a still from the video to compare it to a still image.

As you can probably see, there’s quite a difference in quality as you might expect when the full-size images are compared, but reduced to the resolution that I use for publication, the difference is not all that much, which is a pleasant surprise.

Why can’t my dashcam produce images of this quality?

Feeling that I’d earned myself a little treat after my exertions, I stopped off halfway up the hill for an ice cream

medication Leuven Belgium Eric HallJust up the road is a pharmacy so I went there with my prescriptions to have them dealt with.

For someone who said that he wanted to cut down on his medication, just look at all of this. It’s going to be something of a logistics issue just taking this lot home with me on the train. It’s a good job that I have a decent shopping bag with me.

And the cost was astonishing, which is hardly a surprise when you see the amount that I was given. My bill at the pharmacy came to €253:00 which is the same as a year’s expenditure on food, I suppose. When I return home I shall have to send in my accounts to my insurers and see about some reimbursement.

This afternoon fighting off the sleep (not always successfully, I have to mention), after lunch I sorted out the music for three new radio programmes, so that’s another batch of all done and dusted. Things are doing rather well from that point but I need to have a go at a few live programmes.

nissan motor car tiensestraat Leuven Belgium Eric HallSome of the medication wasn’t available at lunchtime so I had to go back before they closed in the evening to pick it up.

But the number plate of this car parked outside appealed to my rather juvenile mind. I was thinking that it would be appropriate for quite a few people whom I’ve encountered.

One (or rather, two) of the items that the chemist gave me filled me full of dismay. It looks as if we’re back on the elastic stockings too. More and more, I can see myself returning to early 2016 and that’s not very good news..

After tea, I’ve done some tidying up and washing up and now I’m off to bed. Early of course, but I have to leave my bed at about 04:30. So I’ll finish this off tomorrow on the train (if I don’t fall asleep on the way back) and post it on line tomorrow night.

You’ve heard that before, haven’t you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 18th June 2021 – WHAT A NIGHT …

…that was!

Yes, I’m not too sure about the time but it was round about 03;00, something like that, when the storm broke. And what a storm it was too. I’ve bever heard anything quite like it. We had lightning, torrential rain, storms, high winds, all of that. It awoke me with a start and went on for at least 15 minutes.

It might even have been longer but I must have gone back to sleep.

The idea today was to have a lie-in to recover from my exertions but I don’t really call 08:10 anything like a lie-in at all. And getting up at about 08:20 was rather a waste of a good sleep.

There had been time enough to go off on a ramble during the night. I was going to Middlewich with my father to British Salt. We were there in the garage looking at everything that was going on and talking. I was worried about work and being late, all that kind of thing. After a while I said to my father “my Cortina is here, isn’t it?”. He replied “no it’s not”. I replied “God, how am I going to get to work?”. So he lent me a set of keys and said “here, take my car and you’ll have to come and pick me up afterwards”. I took his keys but I couldn’t remember where he had parked his car either. I had to have a look around the factory. I found a room with these gorgeous blue and green CZ175 motorcycles. They looked really nice, plus a few other bits and pieces that were there. There were tons of engines and gearboxes, stuff for coaches, all that sort of thing lying around there

Once I’d organised myself with my medication and the like, today’s task was to choose the music for three more radio programmes. And now that things are better-organised in my records, in theory it shouldn’t take to long.

Unfortunately things don’t work out quite like that. It’s all very well knowing what groups and artists are due to be played but finding songs that fit into the correct times is another thing completely. It took much longer than it ought to have done.

There was the usual stop for breakfast (toast and coffee when I’m on the road) and round about 11:30 I went off to the chemists for my medication. And the doctor at the :hospital had written the prescriptions for a three-month supply.

It would have been useful to have had a three-month supply of meds in stock for when I go away on my travels but that’s an exaggeration. I still have a prescription from the doctor in France to cash in and that’s my plan for one day next week.

While I was out I went to the Spar shop down the road. I’ve run out of banana drink so I picked up a carton from there, along with some ginger bread stuff. I’m not sure how I’m going to be doing for breakfast tomorrow and whatever is left, I can have with custard as a pudding.

There was a pause for lunch too but even so, by the time that I’d reached the music for the final programme, I was flagging.

Once I’d finished I began to check it but the next thing that I remember was that it was 19:20. I’d crashed out for several hours and missed my afternoon walk around the town.

Tea tonight was the other falafel burger with pasta and veg tossed in that vegan garlic mix. And after that I washed up and went to bed. I’m getting up at 05:00 in the morning and I need the sleep.

Thursday 17th June 2021 – THEY DIDN’T KEEP …

… me in the hospital. They soon kicked me out of the hospital yesterday and I’m back in my comfy little digs now where I started out this morning.

When the alarm went off this morning I awoke in a really damp sweat again. I staggered out of bed at 06:00 and the first thng that I did after that was to listen to the dictaphone. there were a couple of files on there – one from two nights ago that I had yet to transcribe, and the one for last night.

This was something like I’d joined the Army and I had a whole list of things that I wanted to do. One of the things was to go for a whole series of medical examinations but the map was so confusing and the details so confusing that I wasn’t sure when or where to go. In the end I set off to try to find the place. It was a staggering set of old buildings, old ruined medieval towers propped up with wood, old burnt-out houses, two cars that had collided outside a house all entangled in a big heap of metal. Just totally strange. Luckily I met one of the professors whom I knew and I asked her where I was supposed to go. She pointed me to the place, just opposite the shop. She showed me a side street as well and said “down there is the French educational building” or French school or whatever. So I set off for my medical.

So having dealt with that, I made a start on writing up the blog but the next thing that I remember was at it was 08:00. I’d crashed out for about an hour or so sitting on my sofa. But once I pulled myself round, made myself a coffee and carried on with the notes.

Once they were published I made some toast for breakfast and then chose the music for the next radio programme.

A shower and a clothes-washing session was next, followed by making my sandwiches ready for the hospital, and then I hit the streets.

people at tables in street tienestraat Leuven Belgium Eric HallAnd it was nice to see so many people taking advantage of the easing of the Corona Virus situations.

In the beautiful sunny weather and at lunchtime too there were crowds of people sitting at tables at the various restaurants in the town, like here in the Tienesestraat. And beautiful weather it was too. Summer has arrived at long last and the restrictions have been eased in time for people to enjoy it.

But I can’t help the feeling in the back of my mind that all of this is happening far too soon. We’ve already seen that the ease in restrictions in the UK has led to a rise in cases from less than 2,000 per day to the figure today of 11,007.

But as REACT – the body that surveys the spread of the virus in the UK – has said, the UK’s policy of just a single vaccination has been a failure. At least, in Europe, they’ve concentrated on double vaccinations.

road works amerikalaan, Franz Tielemanslaan brusselsestraat Leuven belgium Eric HallCarrying on down the hill through the town centre and out the other side, I came to the road junction of the Brusselsestraat, the Amerikalaan and the Franz Tielemanslaan

When we were here last month we had seen them working on the pavement there doing some remodelling. They seem to have advanced quite nicely with that and I do have to say that while I’m not too keen on the brickwork for the cycle path, it’s a vast improvement on the slabs of asphalt that they used in the Monseigneur Van Waeyenbeghlaan.

They seem to have moved on now and are doing some kind of work on the little square that is build over the River Dijle at the back. It’s going to be interesting to see what they are going to do there and how it’s going to look when it’s all finished.

velodrome brusselsestrat Leuven belgium Eric HallWhile we’re on the subject of how things are going to look in the future, I went along the Brusselsestraat to see how things were developing at the site of St Pieter’s hospital that they have spent the last year or so demolishing.

Part of the site has been cleared and they were erecting a huge wooden structure in the place of part of it.

There was a guy standing underneath a parasol nearby who came over to chat with me.He told me that they were building a velodrome on the site. Apparently it’s going to take 6 years for the whole of the site to be cleared and redeveloped, so as a temporary measure, they are erecting this velodrome.

The velodrome is expected to be there for three years before they will be starting to redevelop this part of the site.

clearing site of sint pieter's hospital brusselsestraat Leuven Eric HallAs for the rest of the site, they are clearing the site fairly rapidly as you can see.

They seem to have ground up the rubble into a fine powder and now they are loading it up onto a series of lorries which will presumably take it off to another site to use as infill or as part of a mix for some new concrete somewhere.

But it’s going to be a long time, I reckon, before they uncover the river that runs underneath the site. That’s certainly the plan, but we shall have to see how things develop.

Right now though, I’m continuing down the street on my way towards the hospital There is still plenty to see.

bicycle racks kruisstraat leuven Belgium Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that last time that we were here we saw them erecting some bicycle racks in the Kruisstraat. I mentioned at the time that I couldn’t see why they were erecting them there as there weren’t the clients there to use them.

Now that they have been here for four weeks we can see how things are developing here. And it looks as if my assumptions were correct because there can’t be more than half a dozen bikes and scooters there. Not like the bike racks elsewhere that are bursting to overflow.

At the hospital they gave me a Covid test, which was negative, of course. Then they took a blood sample and coupled me up to the stuff that they pump into me. And I had an interesting trilingual chat with the nurse who was dealing with me.

The doctor who came to see me told me that my blood count had increased to 8.9 and so I can go home. There’s no reason for the increase that I can see, and it certainly doesn’t seem like it. All that I can say is that Liz Messenger’s cake contains many secret ingredients and has magic properties.

But the doctor didn’t really have too many answers for the other points that I raised – the night sweats, the increase in weight and all of that. But next time that I come, I have four appointments at different units of the hospital, and we shall see how things develop at that point.

vegetarian menu frittoerist sint jacobsplein leuven belgium Eric HallOn the way home I walked down the Monseigneur van Waeyenberghlaan towards the Sint jacobsplein when the menu at the Frittoerist, the Fritkot in the Sint Jacobsplein.

It shows you how much things have evolved these days when even a fritkot can offer a vegetarian menu to the public. Mind you, this is Leuven, a town full of students where I’m sure that they outnumber the locals, as anyone who remembers my desperate search for accommodation here 5 years ago will recall.

At least the fritkot is open and accessible. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that the street here in front of the fritkot and the square behind it were dug up for well over a year and access to the place was rather difficult. Clambering over a pile of bricks and mud was not the easiest way to go about buying a cornet de fritjes.

building site kapucijnenvoer leuven belgium Eric HallDown at the end of the street is the street known as the Kapucijnenvoer where there is more building work being undertaken.

They are progressing with the development of this site, pourig ton after ton of concrete into the place. The base is now concreted over and they are building some kind of rooms down there. These might be private cellars for the residents or they might be machinery rooms for lifts, air conditioning, power plants and the like.

The rest of the subterranean labyrinth is quite possibly going to be used as a car park, but there is no ramp installed there right now.

And you can see the red-capped metal strengthening bars. It looks as if they are going to be building concrete pillars to support the building that’s going to be erected here. And by the diameter of the pillars, it’s going to be some substantial building.

building site kapucijnenvoer zongang leuven belgium Eric HallThere’s another building site in the Kapucijnenvoer on which we are keeping an eye. It’s the one in between the Kapicijnenvoer and the Zongang.

They seem to be making some rather rapid progress on this particular site and that makes quite a change here in Belgium. It’s going to be some kind of block of flats by the looks of things, but on a restrictive site like that, the apartments are going to be rather restricted in size. It’s another one of these “we shall have to see” situations.

All that I can say is that it’s a shame that the nice building behind it that was revealed by the demolition of whatever was on this site previously is going to be obscured by the building that they are erecting. And I can bet my bottom dollar that whatever they are going to erect here won’t be anything half as attractive as the building behind it.

digger being taken away from building site sint pieters hospital brusselsestraat leuven belgium Eric HallBack now in the Brusselsestraat on the way into the city centre I went past the site of the demolition of St Pieters hospital.

And to my surprise there’s a big lorry here that seems to be taking away one of the big machines that has been working on the site for the past ever so many months.

What is so surprising about this is that even though the building has been brought down, they are still a long way from clearing the site. And with them in the near future having to lift the culvert off the river here, they are going to need all of the heavy equipment that they can get.

Maybe they are taking it off to work elsewhere and they’ll be bringing it back in due course when it’s needed back here.

crowds of people watching football zeelstraat leuven belgium Eric HallOne of the things that I have to do today is to go along to the bank and withdraw some money as I’m rather short of ready cash.

Going into the town wentre the crowds of people were all sitting on seats in the public areas watching the football, just like here in the Zeelstraat. Belgium are playing Denmark in the European Championships and it seems to be the thing here that rather than sit lone in the comfort and privacy of your own home, you go out and sit in the square with the crowds.

Having arranged some cash I set off to meet Alison and while I was on my way through one of the back squares stumbled across a new ice cream parlour. They had two varieties of vegan ice-cream – chocolate and moka – so despite the dreadful service in the place I eventually walked away with my prize.

Alison and I went for a meal at the Greenway Vegan Restaurant. I had a red pepper burger and Alison had a Thai wrap. And then we went off for a coffee and a chat.

Aliso had to leave early so I came back home – totally hot and sweaty, drained of blood and having walked 124% of my daily activity. No wonder I was exhausted. And so I hauled myself off to bed thinking that I will write up my notes tomorrow.

Wednesday 16th June 2021 – NOW HOW ABOUT …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 30th May 2021 – MY LAST DAY …

… In Leuven – for about a fortnight. I’ve made up my mind that I’m going home tomorrow.

I’ve booked my train and for a change I’m going in luxury. There’s a TGV that leaves Brussels half an hour later than the one that I usually catch and goes directly to Paris without messing around in Lille. It costs an arm and a leg but I don’t have much choice as I can’t face the struggle around Lille. I just want to go home.

Last night I watched a film right through to the end and was half-way through watching another before I fell asleep. This insomnia thing isn’t working all that well, is it?

With it being Sunday I slept right the way through until the guy in the next room started bellowing on the ‘phone to whoever he was talking to. He made several phone calls during the day and each time he came and stuck his head out of the window to make them. I’ve no idea what’s the matter with some people.

Whatever he was up to didn’t stop me going off on a nocturnal wander-around during the night. I was out looking for a car and we were looking at all kinds of American cars that had been parked up somewhere. There were tow big saloons that I had my eye on. One wasn’t too bad but the other was a bit more grotty and the gearchange was notchy. That was at on the back of a Ford step-sided pickup truck and the steppy actually started and moved about under its own steam. So I was asking a friend what he thought about the 2. There was also a big pickup there that was a car-drived pickup based on one of these flamboyant Chevrolet type things from the 1950s. It has loads of logs in the back – 5 or 6 huge tree trunk things in the back that would come in handy for firewood. I was wondering about that one as well but I hadn’t at that moment got that one to move before I awoke

What I’ve done today is to book my trains. 07:47 from Brussels and 10:50-something from Paris. With no printer here I had to set up some apps on my mobile phone to do that. One for the SNCF of course, and one for the SNCB for my rail ticket from Leuven. There’s a train at 06:34 that arrives at Brussels at 07:04 and that’s the one for me. I won’t have long to wait in Brussels.

As well as that, I’ve done the notes for another radio programme. That’s three that I’ve done this last week – it’s taken me much longer than it would have done at home of course, but it’s the most difficult part. I’m going to see if one day later this week I can do what remains of all three programmes so that I’ll be right up to date.

When that is done I’ll be over 5 months ahead, which is the plan. I went to be as far ahead as I possibly can, firstly because I want at some point to go off on another mega-voyage to Canada whenever their borders open, and there is also a second reason that I will let you think about.

It wasn’t easy to do those notes for the simple reason that I kept falling asleep during the afternoon. And that’s why I want to be home as quickly as I can, because if I arrive back at 14:00 without too much effort, which seems to be the plan right now, I can go for the comfort and safety of my own bed when I hit the wall.

There’s shopping to be done as well, so I think that maybe Caliburn and I will go for a drive on Tuesday afternoon.

But one thing that was interesting about me crashing out during the afternoon was that I managed to go off on a ramble. There was a change-round in the sleeping arrangements in our house which meant that I had to sleep in the bath. That was right down at the end of the house in the coldest room in the house. When I got into there there was water in the bath that I had to drain out, which caused someone elsewhere in the house to make a remark. It was freezing in there too so I looked around and the heater was on so I didn’t understand that. Someone came to interrupt me to say that they needed to move a load of scrap across somewhere with this baby to film this for a film so I went along as this lorry with the scrap bumped across this old cobbled port area. We turned a corner and everyone was waiting there. The scrap and the baby were unloaded and the filming took place. I was half-expecting them to ask me to appear but they didn’t. They told me that because the baby had done so well I could take it to an acting school so I went off there with it and found it to be the same place where TOTGA’s daughter was attending.

Sunday is pizza day, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall. But not today. I would have to buy it outside of course, but my argument is that if I eat out of the stocks on hand, it’s less stuff to carry home. And I’m not up to carrying stuff home right now

Alison came to see how I was, which was nice, and she brought me some vegan white chocolate from her trip to Aachen yesterday, which was even nicer. As I have said before, I don’t have many friends, but I go for quality, not quantity. My friends are the best in the world.

So having only set foot outside to accompany Alison to her car, I’m off to bed. The alarms are set for 05:00 and I’m not looking forward to that, so I need all the sleep that I can get.