Category Archives: caliburn

Thursday 18th March 2021 – HERE’S CALIBURN …

caliburn rue des noyers st lo Manche Normandy France Eric Hall… sitting waiting patiently for me in a little car park in the Rue des Noyers at St-Lô this morning.

And he didn’t have to wait very long because I was in and back out again even before the time of my appointment, and it isn’t every day that that kind of thing happens when you are dealing with French administration.

What does seem to be happening every day though (so just watch it not happen tomorrow) is that I’m leaving my stinking pit pretty quickly these days – just after the first alarm. This morning I was actually sitting at the computer working, having already had my medication, when the third alarm went off.

First thing that I did was to listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been. We started off with Doc Holliday, a third person and Yours Truly riding a freight train escaping from a crime that we’d committed. We were happily going on this train doing OK. There was a low branch across the railway lines. The locomotive somehow managed to avoid it but Doc Holliday who was standing up was hit by this branch and knocked off the train. We all had immediately to leap off the train. 2 guys on a horse had seen this incident and gave chase. They followed the train, found in the end that we weren’t on so they came back and found the 3 of us. They held us at gunpoint while we explained some of our story – not everything. The sheriff of the county agreed and told us that we could go. he told us the story of a couple of other outlaws who had been here. Someone showed us the house where they had lived which was now an old metal barn. All very interesting. Something happened that we were unmasked so we had to flee. As it was me and the other guy, not Doc Holliday, we had to scramble our way through this industrial estate climbing over fences, this kind of thing. One place where we had to climb over the fence had some bird netting on it and of course the more you climbed up it the more you pulled it off. It meant that the 2 of us had to climb this bird netting simultaneously moving our hands and legs at the same time so that the net would stay in place and we could scramble up it otherwise we would just pull it out of where it’s tied.

A little later TOTGA came to see me. She was telling me about a problem that she’d had. The people for whom she’d worked had gone bankrupt and they had found loads of drawings and missing assets and so on that had presumably been misappropriated by one of the previous directors. Now they were making enquiries about her and her wealth – an in-depth enquiry and what should she do about it? I made a couple of suggestions. At that moment Nerina shouted me – she was also around doing something in a different room, something like that or whether she came later. So I went to her and happened to mention this story about TOTGA. Nerina said “why don’t you talk to her and see what we can do?”. Just at that moment TOTGA shouted up something from downstairs so I replied, saying “come up here a minute”. She came up and I said “just sit there on the bed a minute”. She said “I’ll need a chaperone”. I replied “ohh no you won’t” to which Nerina and TOTGA burst out laughing. We explained the problem again to Nerina and she came up with a few suggestions that didn’t seem quite right to me but I don’t know what else to expect. Then I awoke with an attack of cramp.

Later still I was at Virlet busy tidying it up and decorating it. It wasn’t Virlet but one of these 2-up, 2-down terraced houses in Crewe. I was getting ready to do one of the living rooms. A friend of mine turned up with a kind-of interior designer. They had all kinds of ideas for everything on the inside so I left them to it as he was going to pay for this. There was a girl here as well and we were talking to her. She was wondering what to do, whether she was getting in the way so we told her to make the coffee. Luckily there was some running water at the place so she started on that. I went to empty the sink but the sink had been blocked and a whole pile of dirt and filth came into the sink before it all evacuated again. I said “thank God for that” then I had another attack of cramp.

This cramp thing is really getting on my wick now and I must remember to speak to my doctor at Castle Anthrax next week.

First job after the dictaphone notes was to attack the Greenland photos. Another pile of them are done and we are just about to get up steam ready to sail off down Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord on THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR. And considering that we are on a diesel-powered ship, if we can get up steam and sail off, it will be something quite astonishing.

Later on I had a shower and then Caliburn and I hit the streets. And we were half-way to Liz and Terry’s before I remembered that I was actually going to St-Lô so we had something of a sight-seeing trip.

15 minutes early I was when I arrived in St-Lô and having found a parking space at the foot of the city walls underneath the Prefecture, I then found a set of steps up through a sally port – steps that I hadn’t noticed before.

Consequently I was there 10 minutes early. And with no-one in front of me, I was seen straight away and was standing on the steps outside the building, all done and dusted, when the town clock struck 11:00

And I would have been out even earlier had I not signed the form in the place reserved for the chef de service instead of the interessé so she had to start all over again.

One thing about which I wasn’t very happy was that she took my current carte de sejour. So what I did was to make her photocopy it and put on it the Prefecture’s official stamp. One thing that I have learnt with living in Europe is that people like to see lots of paperwork all covered in official stamps and the more you have, the better it is for the various officials whom you encounter on your travels. And I’ll be travelling a lot just now.

rue des noyers city walls st lo  Manche Normandy France Eric HallBack down the steps to Caliburn and at the sally port I took a photo along the walls.

One thing that you notice about St-Lô is that much of the construction is “modern austerity” because after D-Day in 1944 the Germans dug themselves in here and the city was repeatedly bombed, with the deaths of hundreds upon hundreds of French civilians. Not for nothing was it known as “The Capital of the Ruins”.

Because of the devastation, rebuilding had to be quick without any regard for aesthetics and regular readers of this rubbish will recall that the cathedral here is half-built of breeze blocks, such was the state of things.

Caliburn and I drove to the railway station where we awoke a booking clerk who found my name in the database and was able to issue me with my rail tickets for next week as there is no automatic retrieval machine here. It’s important that I have my tickets in my hand before the day of my travel because the train leaves before the booking office in the station opens and if the ticket retrieval machine is out of order then I’ve had it.

Next stop was to the new LIDL on the edge of town and while the range of goods on offer was larger, there wasn’t all that much more in there that would have suited me and my diet.

LeClerc was pretty much the same. Bigger and more choice, but not for me. I did strike lucky in the sense that they had a special offer going on their litre-bottles of traditional lemonade – glass bottles with mechanical tops that I need for my brewing. Two bottles of that stuff worked out at €3:20, which is cheaper than buying two empty bottles from the housewares section.

While I was there I rang up Liz to see if Terry’s hard drive had arrived. No such luck, so I headed on home for a rather late lunch.

Having been rushing around like this all morning, it’s no surprise that I ended up crashing out for a while on the chair in the office. I can’t last the pace.

seagull on window ledge place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallBut I picked myself up for my afternoon walk and went outside, where I said “hello” to the seagull that seems to have taken residence on the first floor window of the next block.

The weather this morning had not been too unpleasant but it seems to have deteriorated while I was indoors because the wind has increased, the temperature has dropped and while there’s not as much fog around as there has been just recently, there is still more than you would expect given the strength of the wind.

So gritting my teeth and hanging on to my hat I set off along the path around the headland. There were only a couple of other people out there, and that wasn’t a surprise given the way things are right now.

Looking out across the bay towards the Brittany coast there wasn’t all that much going on over there.

seafarers memorial le loup baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAnd neither was there all that much more going on across towards St Pair and Jullouville.

Well, maybe there was, but if so, I couldn’t see it. We can see the seafarers’ memorial and then Le Loup, the light that sits on the rock at the entrance to the harbour. But the coast across there is nothing more than a misty haze.

From there I walked on down the path at the head of the cliffs. After all of the activity at the chantier navale just recently, it’s quietened down with just the same boats that were there yesterday. Plenty of people working on them, including my neighbour Pierre labouring away on Spirit of Conrad.

But I’ve given up predicting when they might be going back into the water. I’m not having much luck with that right now.

roofing college malraux place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallOn the other hand, they seem to be racing away with the roof on the College Malraux right now.

Apart from having almost finished the part of the roof that they stripped off a couple of weeks ago, they have now stripped off a neighbouring bay and they are busy replacing the laths on that part. I wonder what has caused the acceleration.

Back here in the apartment I had my coffee and then made a start on the arrears of Central Europe. And that seemed to be somewhat productive because I managed to research and write some text for about seven or eight photos in the time that I was working. With a bit of luck, I might finish this before the end of the decade.

Guitar practice was enjoyable – on the bass I was messing around with a solo for “Jumping Jack Flash” again and also Neil Young’s “Like A Hurricane”.

Tea was a burger on a bap with veg followed by apple pie again. And then a couple of things came up while I was trying to write up my notes. Firstly, Rachel rang me from Canada with some bad family news. Secondly, I won’t be making orange ginger beer again. I now know what a shrapnel attack looks like and I need another bottle with a mechanical stopper. At least I know that the stoppers on those bottles are stronger than the bottles themselves.

Tomorrow is going to be a day of cleaning up and washing down the walls of the living room and I’ll be doing the next lot of brewing in the bathroom.

Tuesday 27th October 2020 – CALIBURN HAS …

… gone off today for his makeover. He’s a teenager now of course, and I promised him a makeover for his bodywork as a treat, as the Controle Technique tester made a couple of remarks about it last time.

It’s not cheap – not at all – but buying a new vehicle is even less cheap. The garage where he goes every year says that he has plenty of life in him, the bodywork repairs will be guaranteed for five years, and I’ll be lucky, very lucky indeed if I get another five years out of my body with this illness. So there’s no point in doing anything else except getting him fixed.

waves on promenade plat gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallSo while you admire the waves from the latest storm smashing their way into the sea wall over at the Plat Gousset, let me tell you about my day today.

Rather – last night too because after I’d finished writing up my notes, and not feeling in the least bit tired I amended ANOTHER PAGE OF THE ARREARS to include the photos of the day and the voyages that I’d been on during the night.

And consequently, despite the lateness of the hour when I went to bed, no-one was more surprised than me (except you of course) to find that I was up and about – well, “sort-of-about” – when the third alarm went off. I shall have to do this more often.

waves on promenade plat gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallNothing on the dictaphone either, which was just as surprising. I must have had a really peaceful sleep last night for a change.

And so with no notes to write up, I had a go AT YET ANOTHER PAGE OF THE ARREARS. Well, sort-of, because there weren’t any photos taken that day and I didn’t go anywhere during the night either. So that ended up being something of a non-event.

Before I could take Caliburn off anywhere, I had to find the details of my rail journey at the weekend. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I always like to have my rail tickets in my hand long before the day of my journey.

That’s because on a couple of occasions the printing machine at the station is out of order and as the ticket office doesn’t open until after my train has left, I’d look rather silly if I left it until the morning of travel to pick up my tickets and found that the machine wasn’t working.

waves on promenade plat gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallSo having collected the necessary, Caliburn and I set out through yet another driving rainstorm to find our way to the garage where he’ll be staying for the next two weeks.

When the boss came in I handed him the keys and gave him a couple of extra instructions. he needs his annual service of course, he needs his brakes looking at, and there’s the controle technique due on the 5th November – and there will be fireworks if he doesn’t pass.

Mind you, it’s only an emissions check so there shouldn’t be too much of a problem about that – I hope. He runs well enough, which is why I’m keeping him.

mushroom Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallOn the way back home in the rain I walked down the main Route de Villedieu in the rain, but I stopped when I saw this.

It’s mushroom season now of course and you’ll find plenty of mushrooms in plenty of places, but growing in a flower bed at the side of the road is not one of the more likely places to find one, especially one as big as this.

And do you know how to tell if they are edible?

It’s really quite simple. Take a sample and eat it just before you go to bed. If you wake up next morning, then you know that it’s safe.

alleyway off rue couraye Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallJust for a change, after leaving the railway station with my tickets I walked down the “other” side of the Rue Couraye.

And it’s amazing the things that you see that you haven’t noticed before. Granville is honeycombed with little alleyways and surreptitious flights of steps and here’s one that I haven’t ever noticed before.

It leads down across the old railway line and over to the Boulevard Louis Dior, the road that leads to the Parc du Val es Fleurs where we went a good while ago to see all of the animals and where they had that marquee once.

working on shop front rue couraye Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallJust across the road from here, the workmen are being pretty busy.

There was a Home Decorating shop there – one with a ghastly aluminium 1960s-style of shop front that they had installed at some point and ruined the aspect of the building. It was sold a couple of months ago and since then it’s been sheathed in wood.

But now they seem to have taken that down and they are busy with the angle grinder cutting into the brickwork and concrete on the pavement. I don’t know what they will be installing there but I’m pretty sure that it will be an improvement on what was there before.

Back here I made some hot chocolate, cut myself off a slice of my banana bread – and then fell asleep in the chair. hardly surprising, I reckon, after all of this walking that I had done.

When I awoke there was enough time to make a good start on YET ANOTHER ONE OF THE BLOG ENTRIES that needed updating now that I’ve finished the photo editing and the dictaphone transcribing.

Plenty of photos and voyages in that one so it took me all the rest of the day, which isn’t surprising in itself considering everything else that I had to do.

kiwi grape kefir Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallFor example, after lunch my kefir needed attention. It’s been brewing for long enough.

Four nice, ripe kiwis were peeled and put into the whizzer with a few handfuls of grapes and whizzed around until I had a nice mushy liquidy pulp. This was strained through my filter stack into the big jug and the kefir out of the pot followed through the stack, leaving an inch or so at the bottom of the pot.

Everything in the jug was then strained back through the filter stack into a few bottles that I had washed and cleaned.

Then I set another batch of kefir on the way – 40 grammes of sugar, three slices of lemon, a fig cut in half and then the pot filled to within a couple of inches at the top with filtered water.

donville les bains rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallLater on, with the rain having stopped for a brief moment I decided to go out for my afternoon walk.

Crowds of people out there taking advantage of the moment of sunshine that we were having, even though it didn’t look too nice further down the coast towards Donville les Bains. I reckoned (and I was right too) that we would be having another good helping of rain any moment now.

And so no time to hang around. I pushed on around the footpath under the walls dodging the puddles that hadn’t diminished one iota from the last time that I was out.

You’ve seen the photos of the storm that we were having. The rain might have stopped (for the moment) but the wind had got up and was raging away to itself. For a few minutes I watched them crashing down on the Plat Gousset and then headed off across the Square Maurice Marland.

At a walk, I hasten to add. Too many people about for me to break into a run.

thora port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallNow here’s a nice surprise awaiting me in port this afternoon.

How long is it since we’ve seen Thora, the smaller of the two Jersey freighters, here in the harbour? I was thinking about her quite recently and here she is. There’s a huge pile of building material, wood and the like, all kids of stuff, on the quayside so it looks as if she is going to be taking all of that back with her.

But I wasn’t going to hang around at all. There was the storm brewing up yet again and I wanted to be home as soon as possible.

Back here I finished off the blog entry that I mentioned just now, and then had my hour on the guitar. And tonight I just went over a couple of old numbers that I could sing to, just to make me feel better. I wish that I could snap out of this depression that I’ve been in since August last year when a whole lifetime’s ambition was within my grasp and it just melted away through my fingers at the side of a windswept airport runway in the Frozen North.

Am I becoming all maudlin and broody again?

Tea was a stuffed pepper which, strangely, was one of the best and tastiest that I’ve ever tasted. I enjoyed that very much. And my slice of apple pie was even nicer. I’m even surprising myself with my cooking.

light on beach pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallWith the rain having now died down I went out for my evening walk and runs.

A run up the Rue du Roc and then another one down to the clifftop, and this was the sight that met my eyes. At first I thought that it might have been the reflection of the moon or something in a rock pool but no matter how I changed my position the light remained in the same position.

It’s not a beach down there – it’s where all the rocks are. And there are plenty of rock pools so it may be that there’s someone having a go at night fishing. And he’ll probably catch just as much in the dark as he might do during the day.

moonlight baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallMy walk continued on to the end of the headland to look out across the Baie de Mont St Michel.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a couple of days ago I tried to take a shot of the moon reflecting on the bay, but the wind was too strong to have a good attempt. Tonight was a little better, but still too windy to use the flat-topped post that I found, so I had to make do with wedging the camera up against the side of the bunker.

And that one hasn’t come out very much better than the previous one either, which is a shame. I must do better

joly france port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallFrom here I ran on down the path at the top of the cliffs as best as I could. Not because I was tired but because I had to dodge the huge puddles that were everywhere.

Sometimes late at night, we’ve encountered the Joly France boats coming in from a late-night trip back from the Ile de Chausey, but we won’t be seeing them out at sea tonight. Both of them are moored up over there at the ferry terminal.

Not much sign of life there either. They’ve all packed up and gone home a good long while ago, I reckon.

offices port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallHave we had a night-time photo of the port offices yet? It’s no use asking me as I can’t remember.

The offices are right by the gates to the inner harbour and anyone going into there has to make contact with the Port Officer first. But the gates are closed (you can tell by the red light) and so is the office.

The green light is there to tell pedestrians that it’s permissible to cross over to the far side by taking the little pathway across the top of the gates, a route that we have taken quite often.

On my way home I had a quick look down at the harbour. Thora has now left – that was a quick turnround yet again – and there was nothing else going on. I completed all of my runs, somewhat easier than of late. I must be easing up again, which can only be good news.

It makes me wonder where I’ll be by the summer. I’m not pushing myself to extremes like I did last Spring but I can feel that I’m starting to become ready to push myself on.

But right now, I’m going to push on (or push off, more like) into bed. A whole day at home (barring accidents), and as there was no Welsh course this week I intend to spend some time tomorrow revising what I’ve already forgotten – which is probably about all of it.

Another plan of action that I have is, seeing how well the reformatting of the laptop went the other day, to have a go with the little travelling Acer too and see if I can’t tempt that back into proper life. I managed to rig it so it worked well enough to extract the data from it but a disk format and clean installation might possibly do some good.

It was the slowest laptop that I ever had but it was also the lightest and travelled with me everywhere despite everything. It will be nice to make it go again. I’m not too optimistic but if I don’t try, it definitely won’t work.

And in other news, I had a “parcel” today in the post. More of this anon

Thursday 13th August 2020 – WHAT A HORRIBLE …

… day it was today.

It all started off during the night, seeing as it was something of a turbulent sleep and so it’s hardly surprising that there were tons of stuff on the dictaphone.

There was some kind of big incident going on, a murder or something like that and everyone was having to be questioned. Castor and Pollux were there and it became a case about their grandparents. It was so that their grandparents whatever they must do they must not go on the next leg of this trip because the stress would do them a lot of harm. I had to remind people of what had been said about this and they had a look. Yes, they were going on the next leg of this trip. I was wondering how I could catch up with Castor and rekindle our friendship. So I really don’t know.

Later on there were half a dozen or so of us, one of whom was another girl whom I particularly fancied. She ended up playing golf with another guy, getting right down to the end. Totally ignoring me and the rest of our little group. You’ve no idea just how hard or difficult it was to be there last night watching her there with this other guy. I was really, really down on my luck as far as that was concerned. Whether or not she had any kind of feeling for him, all she was interested in was playing golf and they seemed to be really having a good time enjoying themselves. I awoke absolutely full of grief, would you believe and drenched in sweat. All kinds of emotions about this. It was really strange. I just felt so bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

Later yet we continued our tramp through this countryside towards the sea, a group of four or five of us. We met the girl again. She was being taught how to walk on high heels by a couple of people. She was totally ignoring us so we just carried on walking in this dry countryside towards the sea and we suddenly seemed to take a different way. Whoever was leading the party branched off down this dirt track instead of along the main road. It brought us out somewhere at a T junction. I asked “how long is it going to be before we get there” but no-one replied, basically as if no-one really knew but didn’t actually want to say so which was a bit strange seeing as we were being guided by some kind of fitbit or GPS or something like that.

There was much more to it than this but as you are probably eating your lunch or something like that, I’ll spare you the gory details. What was interesting was that a couple of times, after awakening, I went straight back into a nocturnal voyage exactly where I had left it. And that’s happening more and more frequently these days.

But at least it was a very welcome return for Castor who put in an appearance, although it wasn’t under any sort of circumstances that I would have welcomed.

The upshot of all of this was that I was awake long before the alarm went off and so I had plenty of time to catch up with some paperwork before Hans surfaced.

After a coffee, we went out to breakfast at the cafe across the road and then we went to REWE so that he could do his shopping. And I was impressed by the amount of vegan products – even vegan cheese – available in there now.

Having packed Caliburn I headed off into the sunset – definitely going west.

And all the way this afternoon we had one hiccup after another. Roadworks, diversions – you name it we had it.

road accident traffic lights schwieberdingerstrasse Enzweihingen germany eric hallThe road out of Stuttgart was gridlocked and it took hours to clear, only for us then to run into a serious accident in the Schwieberdingerstrasse Enzweihingen.

And I’ve really no idea what was going on here. We had a motorhome that had ground to a halt in the middle of the traffic lights and a lorry on the other side of the road parked blocking the traffic looking as if it’s had bits knocked off it.

There were crowds of peopel around watching the events and a couple of policemen taking details but no one, and I do mean no one at all, controlling the traffic and it was all total mayhem. We were sitting in this queue for ages trying to make some kind of headway.

road accident traffic lights schwieberdingerstrasse Enzweihingen germany eric hallAs we approached the junction, inching bit by bit over a period of about an hour we could see that there was another actor in our drama.

If you look closely to the right, you’ll see that there’s a car in the hedge too and it’s difficult to see how it’s come to be there in that position.

Eventually, after a great deal of trouble fighting our way through the chaos we managed to reach the open road. And if that wasn’t enough to be going on with, round by Donauworth the heavens opened and we had one of the most astonishing rainstorms that I have ever seen. The temperature plummeted by 13°C in a matter of a couple of minutes and the rain continued for a good few hours.

What made my bad day worse was that I didn’t realise that there are two towns with the same name in Germany and of course I had booked a hotel there. Consequently, when I arrived in the town after a drive off my route of 60 kms, I couldn’t find the hotel. As a result I had to drive 80kms in the other direction past where I started to find the correct Malsch.

By now it was 20:30 and there was no restaurant open anywhere (it was too late to start up the slow cooker) so that was that.

The hotel is a little dated but then again so is the price so I’m not complaining. I’m hoping to have a decent night’s sleep as I want to have a good day on the road tomorrow.

Saturday 8th August 2020 – IT’S FAR TOO HOT …

… to do anything right now. This afternoon, the temperature on the thermometer on the van showed 41°C at one point and that was confirmed by one of these roadside thermometers so I’m sure that it was correct.

hotel senica slovakia eric hallLast night was a really good sleep, and I slept right up to 05:47 when something awoke me – but I’m not sure what.

Nevertheless, I didn’t actually leave the bed at that time but … errr … somewhat later.

According to the dictaphone, I’d been on my travels too during the night. I had been going somewhere, driving and I was in Caliburn, I think. I was being followed by an old Morgan 3-wheeler with a couple in it, driven by a guy with a red handlebar moustache. They were piled up with luggage and seemed to be following me throughout all of my route across Central Europe and it was very interesting although I didn’t exchange a single word with them or anything like that and it was very intriguing to try to work out exactly what they were doing

And later on it was Welsh Cup day and there were 12 matches being played. 2 were postponed and some were being played later. We were going to go to Aberystwyth to watch the game. They were talking about this on the TV and radio which was nice. I was in Nantwich somewhere so I set off to walk. I got to round about Gresty, somewhere like that and there was a football stadium and there was quite a big queue outside. I climbed over the fence to get in, about 12′ high and I’m not quite sure why I would do that. I was hoping to meet the others, including my father apparently and we’d all go into the ground together. For some unknown reason it was half an hour to kick-off and I couldn’t find them at all. I wondered what had happened to them.

Having organised myself and packed my stuff, I said goodbye to my nice hotel and set off.

First port of call was the Billa Supermarket down the road where i bought some food for the journey – including some grapes. And bread was cheap too here in Slovakia, as I discovered.

Another thing was that I was impressed with the range of vegan food on offer – much better than anything that France could come up with in a mainstream village supermarket.

It’s a shame that I’m leaving the country today. I’ve always liked Slovakia. I spent several weeks here in the North-East of the country on the Polish border when I worked with Shearings and one of these days I’ll try to find the time to spend much more time here.

Having done the shopping for the next couple of days (I can’t buy too much and expect it to survive long in this heat) I set off and drove all the way south-eastwards through the mountains.

Driving through the town of Boleraz I had to do a U-turn and go back to check on something that I’d seen in someone’s garden here.

One thing that’s disappointed me is the absence of real Eastern European cars around here. No Gaz or ZIL vehicles, only one Skoda and not even any Moskvitches either come to that. I can’t believe that a whole lifetime of interesting vehicles has been wiped out of existence.

skoda 1203 van boleraz slovakia eric hallAnd so when I saw this old Skoda 1203 I breathed a sigh of relief.

This was Eastern Europe’s equivalent of the Ford Transit. Every businessman or tradesman owned one and they were the local ambulances and police vans too. You used to find them everywhere 30 years ago, but so far on my travels I’ve only seen one of them prior to this and that was on the road heading the other way.

Not that I would swap Caliburn of course, but I would love to take something like this back home with me to have some fun. It’s a real relic of the past, that’s for sure, and quite a curio too.

odos FOR 742 525 9 velky meder slovakia eric hallBy-passing Bratislava, I ended up in the town of Velky Meder on the border with Hungary.

A railway like runs through the town and there’s a railway station here so I reckoned that I would go along and see what was happening her. And my luck was in because there was a goods train here in the siding.

The locomotive pulling it is an FOR type 742 – a heavy shunter built for Czech Railways and now used all over the Czech Republic and Slovakia for hauling small freight trains and on occasion even passenger trains. It’s painted in the livery of the Ostravská Dopravní Spolecnost – a freight logisitics company from Ostrava in the Czech Republic.

The railway station and the surrounding area have a very sinister reputation, something that is quite ironic seeing as currently back at home I’m reading a book about the Serbian nation in World War I.

After the collapse of the Serbian Army in 1915 the Serbian soldiers, as well as a great many civilians, who didn’t manage to escape to Greece were arrested and subjected to a most appalling savagery by the Austrian troops. A Prisoner-of-War camp or, to be more precise, a death camp was set up here and there are mass graves all over the area that contain the remains of the Dead.

No-one knows how many Serbians and Montenegrin troops lost their lives here but a monument nearby records the names of over 5,000e known to have died here. I wasn’t able to find the monument or any of the graves while I was here. My Slovak isn’t up to anything much – certainly not for asking about this.

But on another note, if you come this way, don’t go looking for a town called Velky Meder because you probably won’t see a sign for it. You’re more likely to see a sign for Nagymegyer.

That’s because although we are north of the Danube, the frontier between Slovakia and Hungary, this whole area for a considerable number of miles around is ethnically Hungarian but was occupied by Czech Nationalist forces at the end of World War I.

During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia it was awarded to Hungary but recovered in 1945. Even despite the forced relocation of many ethnic minorities in the late 1940s the population is almost entirely ethnically Hungarian and almost everything is written in Hungarian.

So even had I been able to ask for the monument or the graves in Slovak, it probably wouldn’t have done me any good.

There was a LIDL in the vicinity so I stopped for a look around, and then crossed over into Hungary near the town at Gyor

Unfortunately there was nowhere suitable to park to take a photo of the border crossing so in due course I’ll pinch a still from the dashcam and post it. Even so, it’s more new territory for Caliburn and Strawberry Moose to visit.

Gyor was a nice place to drive around but there was nowhere to park and take a photo of the town. And in any case it was far too hot to go for a walk. I was melting.

Caliburn lunch stop Mákosdulo utca Gyor 9025 Hungary eric hall. In the end I found a nice sheltered spot by a small lake on the edge of town.

Here, wedged up in the shade between Caliburn and a hedge I ate my butty and afterwards did a little tidying up. And while I was here, I had a little snooze in the sun. I was at one point thinking about going for a walk in the sun but not in this temperature.

As an aside, I didn’t find out anything about this lake except that it’s one of about three or four in the immediate vicinity. And they all look very artificial to me although of course I wouldn’t know about that.

austin maestro Autós Motoros Oktatópálya gyor hungary eric hallOn the way to my parking place I’d seen a dirt road that crossed a railway line and then seemed to follow the river so I decided to go for a drive.

But I ended up stopping at the side of the road by an area that looked as if it might be a car park or something like that. For in there, parked and partially dismantled with no engine by the looks of things is an old Austin Maestro.

There are many vehicles that I would never expect to see in Eastern Europe, for sure, but the possibility of finding an Austin Maestro is something that I wouldn’t have ever considered. It’s certainly living up to its model name as a “Special” and I notice that it comes with factory-standard body rot.

caliburn dirt road river raba rabapatona hungary eric hallFurther along the road I turned off, crossed the railway line and drove down as far as I could go until I reached the river, when I turned right to follow it for a while.

The river is the River Raba, a 300 kilometre long tributary of the Danube, and the part that I am following seems to be a canalised deviation of it. Where I’m driving looks as if it might be a service track on top of a levee and the amount of dust and gravel that I’m kicking up reminds me all too much of driving along THE TRANS LABRADOR HIGHWAY.

The road went for miles and I was reaching the stage where I was wondering whether I would have to turn around and go back the way that I came. However eventually I came to a house at the side of the track and wheeltracks of a couple of vehicles heading my way convinced me to carry on.

war memorial rabapatona hungary eric hallEventually, having passed underneath a couple of other main roads that crossed the river on bridges, I came to an exit that brought me into the little town of Rabapatona.

The road into the centre of the village brought me past the church and there, in the churchyard, was a war memorial so I went to have a look at it.

It lists the dead of the village for the two World Wars, so there’s nothing special about that. It might have been interesting to see the dead from other conflicts too.

But what really caught my eye was what wasn’t on the memorial. If you look closely at the base of the memorial there’s a patch of a different colour. It made me wonder if there had been something affixed there that is deemed today to be inappropriate. All kinds of shenanigans occurred with Hungary and its political partners between 1848 and 1990.

moskvitch 2141 aleko pickup rabapatona hungary eric hallHaving moaned on earlier in the day about the lack of old Eastern Bloc cars to be found these days, I struck it lucky in Rabapatona.

This exciting looking vehicle is a Moskvitch 2141 Aleko, built during the period 1986-1997. Based somewhat on the old French Simca 1307, the early models were said to have been some of the best cars ever to have come out of the Soviet Union although after the end of Communism, anarchy at the car plant led to a rapid deterioration of quality of the later ones.

Although the saloon cars were quite popular, I can say without fear of contradiction that this is the first ever Aleko pick-up that I’ve ever seen. I didn’t even realise that they were made.

Fighting off the heat (in mid-afternoon it reached 41°C according to two different thermometers) I found my way out of the town and into the countryside, disturbing a wedding as I drove through another small town.

And eventually I managed to track down a hotel – the Hotel Minerva in Mosonmagyarovar. Another lovely 3-star hotel at a bargain price and the first time that I’ve spent a night in Hungary since 1988.

First thing was to have a shower and wash of my clothes, and then I crashed out on the bed for a couple of hours. Rosemary awoke me with a phone call so we had a chat for a while, but I was too late to make any tea.

If the heat lets me, I’ll have a good sleep and then I’ll be ready to move on tomorrow.

Time to think about going home, I reckon.

Friday 7th August 2020 – STRAWBERRY MOOSE AND CALIBURN …

strawberry moose border crossing okres skalika river dubrava cezch republic slovakia eric hall… are breaking new ground today. And here is the obligatory photo of Strawberry Moose and Caliburn, to prove that they were here. We mustn’t go forgetting that.

As for me, it’s 28 years and more since I last set foot in Slovakia – one of the very last coach trips that I did for Shearings back in 1992 before I left and I’m glad to be back because I happen to like Slovakia very much, despite the reputation that it has in certain quarters.

This morning I was awake at something resembling a normal working day. I’d heard all of the alarms go off and I managed to haul myself out of bed by about 06:30 – the first time for ages.

There was plenty of work to be done, such as listening to where I’d been during the night. I was going somewhere, driving and I was in Caliburn, I think. I was being followed by an old Morgan 3-wheeler with a couple in it, driven by a guy with a red handlebar moustache. They were piled up with luggage and seemed to be following me throughout all of my route across Central Europe and it was very interesting although I didn’t exchange a single word with them or anything like that and it was very intriguing to try to work out exactly what they were doing

Not just that but everything else delayed me to such an extent that I was rather late going down to breakfast. But afterwards, I came back here to pack and headed down to pay for my stay. It’s refreshing, the politeness in Eastern Europe. The guy at reception called me “sir” even AFTER I’d paid the bill.

Back outside I headed off south-east. 414 kms in the sweltering heat, roadworks and diversions everywhere.

old cars skoda estelle coupe Nezvestice czech republic eric hallBut after I’d been driving for an hour or so I suddenly found my self tagged on behind an old Czech car, a Skoda Estelle coupé. The “Estelle” was the name given in the Uk to a whole range of Skoda rear-engined cars produced from the mid-60s up until about 1990

In Czechoslovakia, they were identified by their model names, starting with the Skoda 1000MB in 1964 and then passing through the Skoda 100 all the way up to the last 136. As far as I can tell from the rear lights, this one may well be a Skoda 110 from the early 1970s.

Seeing it on the road somehow restores my faith a little in Eastern Europe. One thing that I’ve noticed on my travels so far has been a total lack of Eastern Bloc vehicles and that has been causing me some not inconsiderable dismay.

zdakov bridge river vltava czech republic eric hallAfter seeing the Skoda there wasn’t very much of note or of interest until I saw this magnificent structure right in front of me. This has to be something worth a good look.

It’s called the Zdakov Bridge, built between 1957 and 1967 and has a claim to fame in that at the time of its completion the span of its arch at just marginally under 380 metres made it the longest single-arch span in the World. However it’s subsequently been surpassed by many other bridges, particularly in China

The total length of the bridge is an impressive 543 metres and it’s just under 50 metres above the water underneath it.

river vltava czech republic eric hallThe river over which it passes is the River Vltava, the longest river in the Czech Republic at 430 kilometres long.

This is a tributary of the Elbe and so the general flow of water is northwards-ish from its source near the southern border of the country. It’s navigable by ships of up to 1,000 tonnes as far as Prague and then by ships of 300 tonnes as far as Ceske Budejovice.

Further on, progress is impeded by the existence of various hydro-electric barrages and only very small boats can pass up and downriver beyond there.

river vltava czech republic eric hallIn fact, that’s one of the reasons for the bridge here because the river has been dammed here by the Orlik Dam to create the largest hydro-electric dam in the country, with power of about 360mW. You can see some of the power lines in this photo.

The bridge is named for the village of Zdakov which is somewhere underneath us, flooded by the lake that was created and which we can see just up there. The lake is the largest along the river by volume but not by surface area and contains 720 million cubic metres of water for a surface area of 26km².

Built between 1954 and 1961, the barrage is 91.5 metres high and 450 metres wide.

river vltava czech republic eric hallSeeing as I needed to make a call of nature I decided to go for a walk along the river to see what might be happening here , and to stretch my legs as well.

The scenery was quite stunning and I really envied the people down there on the river cruiser that runs some kind of shuttle service along a navigable section of the river.

However, much as I would like to, I can’t spend all day sunbathing and admiring the scenery. I am running to some kind of timetable, although you may not believe it, and I have a long way to go today. The Czech republic is bigger than you think and I need to be making tracks.

And so I climbed back into Caliburn and continued on my way south-eastwards for a couple of hours.

For lunch I simply pulled up at the side of the road in the shade, had a nibble on some stuff and a little snooze for half an hour. I’m not as young as I was

Nuclear power plant Dukovany czech republic eric hallOhhh loook what i’ve found now. Had I known that I was going to pass by here I’d have brought a potato with me and had fission chips for lunch.

This is the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, which will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has ever played “Ton Clancy’s End War” (not that I ever have). The second Czechoslovak (and first Czech Republic) nuclear plant, built using Russian technology in the late 1970s and came on stream in the mid-80s.

There are four nuclear power units in here, all of which are in operation and three of them have been modernised in the first decade of this Century. It produces in total about 1.4TW of electricity, some of which is exported to Austria.

It’s due to be decommissioned in the mid-30s and approval in principle has been given for a replacement unit on the site

mikulov castle czech republic eric hallSo pushing on along my route, I eventually come to the town of Mikulov with its beautiful Romanesque Chateau.

Just a cock-stride away to my right is Austria but I’m not going that way. i’m going past one of the most important historical places in the whole of the Cezch Republic. The first written mention of the place was in 1149 and 100 years later it was in the possession of the Dukes of Liechtenstein, passing to the Hapsburg dynasty in 1560, by which time it was known as Nikolsburg.

There was a medieval stone castle situated here built before the Dukes of Liechtenstein arrived here, although the one here dates from 1719 and completed in 1730 following a fire that damaged the original. This one was burnt out by the Germans retreating from here at the end of World War II and rebuilt in the 1950s.

It’s now a museum an is said to contain one of the largest wine barrels in Europe – a mere 22,300 gallons.

Being so close to the Austrian border there was a very great Germanic influence here in the town but after the end of World War II the ethnic Germans, who made up the bulk of the population, were “removed”. The large Jewish community here had been “removed” during the War and very few survived.

st sebastian chapel holy hill mikulov czech republic eric hallBut despite being one of the major centres of Jewish life in Moravia there’s a significant Christian pilgrimage chapel here too, the Chapel of Saint Sebastian on Holy Hill at the back of town.

The hill itself at 1100 feet is quite significant and is a nature reserve with a load of Protected flora and fauna but the Chapel is the main attraction.

Following a plague here in 1622 the Bishop of Olomouc authorised the construction of a chapel here that would resemble St Peter’s Church in Rome. However it underwent several alterations over the years to obtain its present shape.

There were many rumours about miraculous healings associated with the site and it became a centre of pilgrimage, with accommodation being created in the town and the nearby monastery to cater for the number that arrived.

The Chapel was abandoned in 1786 under the Emperor Jospeh II’s attempts to bring the Hapsburg Empire into the modern World following the death of his traditionalist mother, but having fallen into decay, a restoration programme began in 1861.

Every year since then, except in World War II, there has been a procession of pilgrims on 8th September. They come to walk the famous “Way Of The Cross” and to see the copy of the “Black Madonna of Loreto” that is kept here.

strawberry moose border crossing okres skalika river dubrava cezch republic slovakia eric hallontinuing on my way, dodging more and more roadworks and diversions, I crossed over into Slovakia round about 18:00.

It’s the Euro in Slovakia, much to my surprise, and so with what remained of my Czech Kronor I fuelled up Caliburn at a local petrol station near the border. This brings back many memories of travelling around Europe back in the 1970s and 80s.

And then I went looking for a hotel.

hotel senica slovakia eric hallHere I am in the Hotel Senica, in the town of Senica in between the border and Bratislava.

It’s a modern hotel on the edge of the city, very clean and tidy and, like most places in the former Eastern Europe, very good value.

First task once I’d installed myself was to set tea on the go, and then clothes-washing and a shower. It was so hot in here that after tea I crashed out again, but having worked out how the air-conditioning works, it’s a much-more reasonable temperature now.

And so I’m hoping to have a good sleep tonight and hit the road tomorrow. I’m not going to be travelling very far but nevertheless there is plenty to do.

But something else will turn up to distract me – it usually does.

Tuesday 4th August 2020 – STRAWBERRY MOOSE …

strawberry moose caliburn kyjov 348 15 Zadní Chodov czech republic eric hall… has Czeched in to his latest accommodation.

It’s not the first tile that Strawberry Moose and Caliburn have visited the Czech Republic. We were here IN MAY 2015 when we took the short cut from East Germany and Colditz Castle to Munich.

This time, we’re going to spend a few days exploring the town of Karlovy Vary, or Carlsbad as it was called in its days as a city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

We’re installed in our hotel already but we haven’t had a chance to visit the town yet because after the horrible night that I had had last night, I crashed out as soon as I sat down on my bed.

But returning to the beginning, having crashed out earlier yesterday evening, I awoke at about 23:00 and then I couldn’t go back to sleep again for hours. I remember seeing 02:30 come round, and probably a few other times as well.

Nevertheless, I was up at something reasonable, like 06:30, feeling like death again.

There was a pile of paperwork to do, such as transcribe the notes off the dictaphone

There was something going on like an exhibition or a fete or something. I was wandering around somewhere and i’d come across some old shoes of children and I’d stacked them somewhere to hide while I attended this fete. On the way back it was dark and I had awful difficulty finding them. In the end I found them and walked on home. It was a really steep slope and I walked up with someone else. A third person said something like “this is the right place to be to give yourself an alibi. They hadn’t known that I had only just got there. I said “no” and something about how I know people here so I could get down the front. I walked up this really steep slope with this woman. In the dark I had to grope around and eventually found the pile of shoes that I’d hidden. I walked on through this village and this guy accosted me and said “where are your shoes? Why haven’t you your shoes on?” I though to myself “God, is that the only thing he’s noticed?” I felt like giving him a right mouthful then I suddenly realised that I’d dropped some of this pile of shoes so I had to go back and get them. I walked back and retraced my steps and eventually found them. Then I put on some trousers and started to walk back thinking that I’d put on my trousers but I’m not putting on my shoes just for him. If he asks anything I’ll show him these shoes that I have in my hand that I’d now found all of. I also had a box and it was a matching mother and daughter swimsuit that I was going to give to someone. When I got to where I was supposed to be going with all these things they looked at this box and said “God I hope that they can get that in their luggage”. I was thinking that they could always undo the box and take the things out, can’t they?

Next task was to download the files off the dashcam. For some unknown reason the data cable wouldn’t work and I had to dismantle the machine to take out the SD card and insert it in the laptop. It took so long that I ended up with the hotel cleaner banging on the door.

Eventually I found myself back on the road again, heading north.

My first port of call was at Thomann’s at Burgebrach. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, my acoustic guitar is a cheap and nasty £25:00 cheap thing and after trying to play it at home more regularly than ever I used to, I’ve decided that I want a new, decent one.

Thomann’s is usually said to be the place to go but actually it was something of a disappointment. They didn’t have available what I wanted and the labelling and pricing system of the guitars on display is such that you need to be a contortionist with a magnifying glass to read the prices.

Furthermore, the stock isn’t labelled to tell you what kind of guitar it is.

As for the staff, they seem to be another lot of minimum-wage shelf fillers rather than assistants and have no idea how to engage with the customers. No-one seemed to be interested in talking to me and when I finally grabbed hold of a sales person, he didn’t seem in the least bit interested in my story.

In the end, having driven all the way there, I drove away empty handed, full of disappointment.

At Burgebrach I’m only about 180 kms or so from the Czech border. At the moment the borders are still open but they won’t be for long, so Strawberry and I went for a drive. It’s been five years since we’ve been there.

And despite the short distance, it took an age to get there. The roads are narrow, steep and winding and full of lorries and tractors trying to negotiate them. At one stage we passed a speed indicator that showed that we were travelling at all of 12 kph.

When we arrived at the border we found it unmanned so we just drove straight through. Unfortunately there was nowhere to stop to take a photo of the border sign. We had to drive on to the first village before we could stop.

kyjov 348 15 Zadní Chodov, czech republic eric hallThe village where I stopped was called Kyjov.

It’s not to be confused with the town of the same name that’s to be found in the centre of the country. This is a small village about 6 or 7 kilometres from the frontier with Germany, not too far from Planá in the region that used to be the Sudetenland.

The contrast between the rich West and the poor East is very apparent as soon as we cross over. It brings back all kinds of memories of times past when I used to come over what was the Iron Curtain 30 and 40 years ago. The modernisation of Eastern Europe is a very slow process.

The fuel in Caliburn started to run low so I took a deviation into the town of Marienbad, nowadays called Mariánské Lázne, and fuelled up there, seeing as fuel was cheaper here than in the West.

tatra lorry Becov nad Teplou czech republic eric hallFrom Marienbad I pushed on to the north-east and ended up in the town of Becov nad Teplou.

This was a very interesting place to stop, and for several reasons too, one of which was this gorgeous Tatra lorry. Eastern European vehicles have always held a fascination for me but unfortunately these days it’s very rare to see one running around. Everyone seems to prefer Western vehicles.

Eastern vehicles were heavy, primitive and rather difficult to drive but they were built to last for ever and easy to maintain. There would still be swarms of them on the road today had they not become unfashionable after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

ruined abandoned house hotel central Becov nad Teplou czech republic eric hallit wasn’t just the Tatra lorry that caused me to stop here at Becov nad Teplou. This magnificent building is enough to stop anyone in their tracks.

This is the Hotel Central and looking at it, it’s very hard to believe that at one time it was a luxury hotel. It was built for someone called Georg Rohm in 1876 and sold to a Maria Schmidt in 1892. She sold it on to someone called Franz Bachmann in 1901.

At the end of World War II Bachmann and his family, being of German origin, were expelled from Czechoslovakia and it was used as barracks by Red Army soldiers. After they left it was used as a barracks for miners and they stayed here until the mid-50s.

After being empty for a while it was restored by volunteers and became a Post Office and cafe but the economic situation in the country after the end of Communism meant that there was no money to maintain the buiding and it deteriorated rapidly until it reached the state in which it currently is.

And that’s a tragedy because it’s a beautiful Art Nouveau building with some wonderful features.

Over the road from the hotel is the local railway station. It’s on the line between Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázne (the old Marienbad) and I was lucky to find a pile of railway equipment hanging around there.

CSD Class M 152.0 multiple unit train Becov nad Teplou czech republic eric hallOver on the far side of the station were these two diesel multiple units with notices that they will be travelling to Mariánské Lázne.

Not knowing all that much about Czech trains, I reckon that these are two CSD class M 152.0 units coupled together. And if so, although they don’t look like it, these are quite elderly, having been built between 1976 and 1982 by Vagonka Studénka, a company which these days is part of Skoda.

They have undergone two series of modernisations, the latest being 2018, so it looks as if Czech railways is planning to have another 15 years of use at least out of these.

CSD Class M 152.0 multiple unit train Becov nad Teplou czech republic eric hallAnd this is another one of the CSD Class M 152.0 multiple units, all on its own this time.

This one is in the livery of Czech Railways rather than in the livery of a private operator and carries the logo “Regio Mouse” which is a marketing name given to these little trains running on the small local lines of the Czech Republic.

It’s a shame that I wasn’t able to go over and look inside them to see the interior. However I have seen a photograph of the inside of an unmodernised unit and they are quite primitive and basic, very 1970s in fact. I wouldn’t fancy the idea of going on a long-distance journey on one of these. They remind me of Crosville buses from the 1960s.

It made me wonder what the interior of a modernised unit would be like.

siemens dueweg regio sprinter AŽD 654 multiple unit Becov nad Teplou czech republic eric hallThis multiple unit is a much more modern unit.

It’s a Siemens Dueweg Regio Sprinter of the type that was built in Germany between 1995 and 1998. They are quite lightweight and were designed to replace trams and city buses on longer tram routes, and are a great favourite in Europe to run on reopened railway lines.

And it’s for that reason that the Czech Railways have bought some, and called them the AŽD 654 . A large number of railway routes were closed to passengers due to the financial crisis of the early 1990s and a few of them have been subsequently reopened, some being worked by these train sets.

Back in Caliburn I set off from here into the mountains for my destination, Karlovy Vary. A town better known to travellers of 130 years ago as Carlsbad, it was the place to be back in those days, the principal spa town of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where all of the rich and famous “came to take the waters”.

My hotel is a few miles outside the town in the small town of Brezova.

And don’t be fooled that it’s only shown in the advertisements as a short distance away from Karlovy Vary. That distance is measured in a straight line. But in actual fact to reach Karlovy Vary from here you have to go in a tortuous winding direction following the path that the River Tepla has carved through the mountains.

hotel st michael Hamerská 27, 360 01 Brezová, Czech republic eric hallAnd here’s my hotel – the Hotel St Michael here in Brezova.

It’s quite a beautiful hotel but it’s seen better days, that’s for sure. It would have been splendid back in the days of glory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but like everywhere else, it’s rather tired these days, just like me in fact.

After my rather busy day I’m quite exhausted and tired. I’ve smuggled my food and slow cooker into the hotel and made myself some tea, and then crashed out for a while. Now that I’m awake, I’m off to bed for a really good sleep, I hope. Tomorrow morning I shall go for an explore of Karlovy Vary.

Monday 20th July 2020 – TODAY WAS …

… something of a rather sad day. Nothing to do with anything that I have done, I hasten to add, but from a historical perspective – more of which anon

First off though, taking my bag off the bed, I noticed a rather large brown stain on the quilt. Somehow my bottle of gravy browning has leaked. So I had to scrub the quilt cover with soap to stop the stain fixing into the cover

Secondly, I still can’t make the internet work here. So having learnt the technique of USB tethering last night, I used it again, It’s not very satisfactory but at least it works.

That is, well enough to type up the notes off the dictaphone. There were some weird goings-on last night but unfortunately I can only remember a bit of it. There was a housing estate like Park Estate in Shavington and a house on there was all overgrown and filthy, full of weeds and the house was all infested with cobwebs. I was with a young guy. I don’t remember too much about how it started off but I remember that eventually we were driving around Park Estate together. We went to this house as we had to pick something up and this involved getting a third guy to go with us. There was a woman there and a guy – it might have been my friend from Stoke on Trent. In the meantime there was some discussion about someone else. As we were driving around this estate he said that he was the guy who did something or other. This young guy pointed out a building and said “that’s where that guy committed suicide 3 years ago. He gassed himself”. I could vaguely remember that so he said “yes, he had a washing machine that was for sale”. I was really interested. When I looked on my Social Network pages I found that he was born in Pwllheli. That was really interesting to me and I was very disappointed to find out that he had died. We got to this house and got a few things together. This living room was so untidy and no-one seemed to be bothered at all. Filthy, untidy, cobwebby. In the end to close the door it was just a case of pulling the curtains and kick a load of stuff out of the way. This woman was sitting there doing something said “yes, that’s fine”. We had to go outside then and get in my van ready to go but the other guy then started to move some sand and gravel and ash around. It was a case of getting a barrow-load of stuff, tipping it through a sieve and the stuff that passed through the sieve, throwing it away somewhere. All these long grass and weeds so he was doing that. At one stage he was pushing a load and went to tip it up and the barrow just folded up under the weight. He was cursing this and I thought to myself “now that they have messed up the wheelbarrow we might actually stand a chance of going”

Another thing that I mentioned on the dictaphone that I head when I transcribed my notes was “don’t forget to add that someone else’s flaming alarm awoke me at blasted 05:10 this morning”.

Having had a shower I went downstairs, made my excuses to the receptionist and then loaded up Caliburn. Reversing into the busy street was … errr … interesting, but eventually we set off and in the blistering heat, headed south.

burnt out houses at entrance to oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAfter a drive of several hours in the sunshine, I finally came to my first port of call.

My route took me round the city of Limoges on the ring road out westwards on the N141 toward Angouleme to reach what is probably the saddest place in Western Europe where the nadir of man’s inhumanity to man in the horrors of war was reached.

And if the burnt-out building on the hill over there in the previous photo hasn’t given you a clue as to where I am, then read on.

burnt out peugeot 202 square town centre town centre oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThis is the photo that everyone has seen and which comes to everyone’s mind when the subject of Oradour sur Glane comes to the fore.

The burnt-out shell of the old Peugeot 202 in the town square has featured in just about every article or every story that has ever been written about that tragedy that took place here on the 10th of June 1944 as a company of the Das Reich 2nd Panzer Division of the SS passed by on its way to the Normandy beaches.

And after they left the village, only 6 people who had encountered the Germans remained alive and all were seriously wounded.

memorial in cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe scale of the massacre can be gauged by plaques such as this that cover the cemetery.

Of the women and children rounded up by the SS, only one woman survived to tell the tale. All of the others regardless of age, from the smallest baby to the oldest grandmother, were brutally killed, in many cases by being burnt alive, in the village church by the soldiers.

No-one knows the exact number because the village was home to dozens of refugees who had been bombed out from elsewhere and who were not recorded on the census held by the authorities, but the best estimate is that 349 women and children lost their lives either in the church or while attempting to escape from the inferno.

the grange laudy on the road to the cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe fate of the men was no better.

In places like this, the men who had been rounded up were shot – in the legs according to one of the 5 who survived – so that they would be disabled. Then wood and so on was piled up on top of the injured men and set alight so that they burned to death.

In this barn, the Grange Laudy or “Laudy’s Barn”, one of 6 places of execution, 62 men were herded. 6 of them made a run for the door when the fire was at its height and 5 managed to escape completely despite their wounds, the 6th being shot down and killed.

In total, approximately 643 unarmed civilians were brutally slaughtered, and the village was burned down around them. Everything that could burn was destroyed.

So while I post the remainder of the photos that I took, which in most cases have little bearing on the text that accompanies them, I’ll tell you a story.

Each photo is captioned individually by the way with as much information as I have found to date. Click on the photo to see it. If you have anything to add, please use the link to the contact form bottom-right.

And so, the history of the village of Oradour sur Glane is somewhat complicated because, as you might expect in a tragedy such as this, quite a few romantic notions have been allowed to creep into the story and which may or may not have some foundation in fact, and I’ll do my best to avoid perpetuating any myth.

burnt out cars unknown makes and models road to saint junien oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallBut let’s start at the very beginning.

The name of the village, Oradour, is said to come from that Latin oratorium, which suggests that during the Gallo-Roman period … “you must NEVER say simply ROMAN in France” – ed … there was some form of place for prayer here.

Its first mention in print was in 1264 when it appears in the Chronique de Maleu, where it is stated that Oratorio supra Glanant belongs to the canons of the Abbey of St Junien.

As is usual with these places it passes into the hands of nobles and then by a variety of marriages and inheritances it changes hands quite rapidly until the French Revolution which swept all of the nobility away.

It’s often been said that by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War it was a sleepy little village in the countryside, but I’m wondering just how much of that is simply poetic licence.

burnt out cars garage desourteaux oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIf you have a look in many of the barns and garages of the town, like this one here, there are the remains of burnt-out vehicles everywhere.

As far as I could see, I counted 32 of them that were plainly visible and it’s almost inevitable that there were others that I wasn’t able to see. There were other vehicles, such as the draper’s van, that were known to have been driven away by the German troops when they left.

No village with that many vehicles is going to be sleepy by the standards of 1930s rural France, surely?

tramway burnt out houses road to javerdat sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallFurthermore, there was electricity in the village, and even an electric tramway that connected the village to Limoges and you can see the remains of the line in this photo.

It’s quite true to say that there was a network of “tacot” – the narrow-gauge lightweight tramways that honeycombed their way all across rural France, but for the most part they were shoestring operations rather like the railways of Colonel Stephens in the UK, staggering on under a burden of financial uncertainty and barely surviving into the 1950s.

An electric tramway shows a degree of investment that would never ordinarily be seen in a “tacot” network. It seems that the population of the village must have been wealthy enough to have been considered a worthwhile target for the railway company under these circumstances.

burnt out houses on the road to st junien oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallDuring World War II 168 men from the village were conscripted into the French Army and at the cease-fire 113 of them returned to the village. The rest were either prisoners, displaced or lost.

That was basically the village’s only connection with a War that had largely passed them by, other than of course the arrival of different groups of refugees who came to the area.

The villagers were never really bothered by the pressures of occupation, being content at first with life under the Vichy regime.

Gradually as the war wore on they became more and more disillusioned. The general opinion drifted towards a yearning for liberation and an Allied victory and several people joined the Resistance.

Several more people assisted with the “rat lines” of exfiltrating evading Allied soldiers and airmen.

burnt out houses on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe Normandy landings were greeted with a great deal of relief and people began to look for the day that they could return to peacetime normality.

But this is when Das Reich entered the scene.

On the Eastern Front the 2nd Waffen SS Division Das Reich had been through the mill and at the 4th Battle of Kharkov in April 1944 it had been very badly mauled and had been withdrawn from the fighting.

It had been sent to south-west France, the area around Montauban, to rest and be reconstructed with new recruits.

burnt out houses on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe D-Day Landings had caught it in a state of unreadiness but nevertheless it was ordered North to confront the Allies.

What should have been a fairly pleasant journey northwards was fraught with problems as the resistance left no stone unturned in their efforts to delay the troops. Destruction of bridges, dynamiting the railway, ambushes in country lanes were the norm.

On the Eastern Front, no quarter was ever asked for or given and a decree of 3rd February 1944 signed by Hitler had made it clear that extreme action against the civilian population in the face of terrorist action was appropriate.

burnt out offices of the dentist M Regnier oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallDas Reich brought with them to the Western Front this behaviour and as their route north was littered with Resistance attacked, it was also littered with atrocities committed by Das Reich against the civilian population in revenge.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that WE VISITED TULLE in 2014 where Das Reich had hanged 99 civilians from lamp-posts, but the worst is yet to come.

The reason why Oradour-sur-Glane was chosen to be the site of the worst massacre of civilians in Western Europe in modern times has never been satisfactorily explained.

tramway and burnt out houses on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallA German officer, a certain Lieutenant Gerlach, had been carried away by the Resistance. Legend has it that the Germans suspected the village as being the home of the Resistants concerned, but this has never been established with any certainly.

It was however a day when there was to be a medical inspection of the inhabitants so everyone from the village and the surrounding neighbourhood would be in the vicinity of the schools where the inspections were to take place.

But whatever the reason, Sturmbannfuhrer Adolf Deikmann had received instructions to create “an event of the greatest possible terror” to quieten the resistance activity in the area.

burnt out houses on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAt some time between 13:30 and 13:45 the village is surrounded by a force of about 150 German soldiers.

And when I say “German” I have to be very careful because there were without any doubt several soldiers of Das Reich were Alsatian – from the French province of Alsace that was forcibly incorporated into Germany.

A German officer present, Heinz Barth, is quoted by the French author Jean-Jacques Fouché as saying “now we’ll see what the Alsatians are capable of”.

burnt out car unknown make and model on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallOne has to be very careful not to make or imply any kind of suggestion that the Alsatian troops in Das Reich took part willingly in the massacre.

The merest hint or suggestion brings down the wrath of at least one Alsatian ex-combatants’ association onto the heads of the author.

It’s not been unknown for these Associations to trawl the literary world for such allegations and to haul authors and historians before the Courts on charges of slander and libel. And while these cases are generally dismissed, it’s still quite an expensive and time-consuming process.

champ de foire looking towards town square oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne eric hallWhere we are standing is in the Champ de Foire, the marketplace of the village, with the burnt-out Peugeot 202 down at the far end.

The German troops advanced into town from all directions herding the civilians into the marketplace. By 14:45 there were almost 250 people there

Other troops were out in the neighbourhood rounding up the agricultural workers labouring in the fields while more soldiers made a systematic search of the houses for anyone hiding or attempting to escape and discovered something like 150 people hiding.

tramway from limoges near church looking towards javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThere is good evidence to suggest that some of the women and girls found hiding were sujected to sexual violence by the soldiers and several were shot dead or beaten to death on the spot.

And at this moment, to add to the confusion, a tram from Limoges pulled up in the town. One of the people on board leapt down as if to make good his escape but was immediately shot down on the spot and his body thrown in the river.

As for the two member of the crew on board, their papers were checked by an officer and ordered to return with their tram to Limoges.

eglise saint martin oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallBy 15:00, with as many as possible of the village now assembled in the Champ de Foire, the women and children, believed to be 350 in total, were led off to the Eglise St Martin, St Martin’s Church.

Boys over the age of 14 remained in the marketplace with the men.

As to what happened that afternoon in the church, there was only one survivor, Marguerite Rouffanche. She was questioned on several occasions and swore a deposition on 13th June 1944 before the Prefect of Limoges, according to a report prepared for the French Government 2 days later. Her story never varied from one moment to the next

inside eglise saint martin oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe women and children were herded into the church and once they were inside the Germans place some kind of large container in there.

This container had cords trailing from it and the Germans lit these cords. As a result there was a loud, enormous explosion and a huge thick wave of black suffocating smoke.

According to subsequent testimony, the aim was to bring down the roof of the church onto the people inside but the explosive charge was insufficient so the Germans threw hand grenades and fired bursts of machine gun fire through the door and windows in an orgy of slaughter.

missing roof of eglise  saint martin oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallOnce the Germans were convinced that there was no-one left alive in the church they heaped a pile of straw inside and set the church alight.

However there were a great many people still alive in the church. Several people who had taken shelter behind the altar attempted to escape from under cover of the smoke. There was a broken window behind the altar near to which they found a step ladder that was used when the curé had to light the candles.

A crying baby held by one of the escapees alerted the Germans who machine-gunned them all down. Marguerite Rouffanche, badly injured, managed to haul herself into the shelter of a nearby garden. She was the only survivor from the church. Everyone else was killed.

burnt out houses in the champ de foire oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAs for the 180 or so men and boys, they were kept waiting here in the Champ de Foire while the Germans searched the houses for any arms and ammunition.

The “official reason” that the Germans had visited the village, according to the survivors, was that the Germans suspected that there was an arms dump in the village. This was what they had all been told while they were waiting in the Champ de Foire

The Germans found nothing of any particular significance, so the next stage was that round about 16:00 the men were led off in groups of about 30 to various locations.

forge beaulieu tramway road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAmongst the places to which they were taken were

  • The Grange Laudy
  • The Forge Beaulieu (here on the right of this photo
  • The Chai Denis
  • The Garage Desourteaux
  • The Grange Milord
  • The Grange Bouchoute


burnt out garage near forge beaulieu oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAccording to the 5 survivors, after a long wait, the Germans opened fire on the men and boys, first of all aiming for the legs to cripple them.

And while they were still alive, they were covered with straw and other flammable material which was then set alight so that they were burnt to death.

At the Grange Laudy, 6 wounded men made a break for it under cover of the smoke. One was gunned down but the others made good their escape.

burnt out car unknown make and model near chai denis on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallHaving murdered all of the villagers that they could find, the Germans then turned their attention to the buildings.

The buildings were looted of anything of value and then set alight. During this operation many more civilians were discovered hiding and either pulled out by the Germans or attempted to flee the flames.

These were shot down in cold blood, and it was discovered subsequently that the bodies of some women and girls were in positions that suggested sexual violence.

forge beaulieu tramway road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallRound about 18:00 an engineer from the tramway turned up to find out what was going on. He was met by a mass of flames. He was also met by a German patrol who checked his identity and then told him to clear off and think himself lucky.

Also round about this time a tram from Limoges turned up, and a further one arrived two hours later. They too were searched, the identity of the passengers and crew were checked and they were all turned back.

Several other people attempted to reach the village from across the fields but met German patrols and were turned away.

burnt out car unknown make and model on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallLater on that evening most of the troops departed, taking away a great deal of the booty and leaving a detachment of soldiers secured in one of the shops to guard the village.

The discovery later on of several hundreds of empty bottles of wine and champagne in the building tells its own story of what went on during this night and it’s possible that the deaths of some of the girls and women occurred during this period.

Over the following two days the main body of troops returned and did what they could to clear away the human remains and render impossible any identification of the deceased, just as they would do on the Eastern Front.

All that they could find were buried in a hastily-dug pit behind the church.

burnt out peugeot 202 square town centre oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallDuring these two days a cordon of troops around the village tried to keep the civilians away.

However, some people, including the sous-préfet of the region, managed to infiltrate themselves into the village to see the situation.

What they saw rendered them speechless and their subsequent report need not be repeated, save one remark from the sous-préfet that the village was beyond help.

If you remember our railway engineer who was met by a mass of flames, it’s hardly a surprise.

burnt out cars unknown make and model near forge beaulieu oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIncluding the 5 men and one woman who escaped directly from the slaughter, it’s reckoned that in total about 30 people actually present in the village at the time survived.

One 8 year old boy waiting for his medical inspection saw the Germans arrive and ran away into the woods just before the cordon closed. Everyone else in his family was killed.

Two men took shelter in the drains and hid there until it was safe to leave, and then they sneaked off into the woods.

burnt out crushed car unknown make and model near forge beaulieu oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallOf those hiding in the houses, some managed to hold out amongst the flames until dark and then likewise sneak out into the woods.

One youth with a broken leg in plaster and who had been unable to attend the medical inspection nevertheless managed to make his way into the woods under cover of darkness.

Another dozen or so passengers from the tram that arrived in the evening also managed to slip away into the woods.

Everyone has his or her own story to tell about their own drama on that day in June.

burnt out houses on the road to the cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallOn 13th June, the Préfèt of the département and Monseigneur Louis Paul Rastouil, the Bishop of Limoges, visited the village and made a report of the incident to the French authorities in Vichy.

It’s in this report that the first suggestion is made that the Germans were retaliating for the kidnap of one of their officers, although the Préfèt added that the village was one of the calmest and hard-working in his area.

On the 14th of June the Bishop sent a strongly-worded protest to the German General in charge of the area, and 2 days later held a mass to mark the event. Several other masses were said and a ceremony was held in the Cathedral on 21st June despite the best efforts of the Vichy police to disrupt it.

burnt out houses on the corner of the champ de foire and the road to the cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallBy now, the Pope had come to learn of the event and his ambassador sent a strongly-worded rebuke to Marshall Petain, President of the Vichy Republic.

Petain in his turn summoned the German Ambassador to him and in a most untypical outburst told him inter alia ‘you’ve burnt our villages, massacred our children, profaned our churches and heaped shame upon your country. You are nothing but a bunch of savages”.

And I have often wondered about the German Ambassador’s response to that. It must have been very interesting, but history does not record it.

burnt out cars citroen possibly a rosalie and a peugeot 202 on the road to the cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallPetain didn’t stop there either.

He wrote to the German Chief of Staff and told him that even if bands of people, often inspired by foreign terrorists, are causing problems for the Germans, the depth and ferocity of the German response has gone beyond all bounds of all reason and threatens to undermine any hope of reconciliation between France and Germany.

The German Ambassador refused to transmit the letter so, not to be outdone, Petain caused a copy to be given to a General in Hitler’s entourage with a copy to the Pope.

burnt out lorry unknown make and model near grange laudy oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe village was never rebuilt. It was decided in January 1945 to treat it as a War Memorial and a new village was built several hundred metres away.

Meanwhile, the French authorities continued to make their investigations into the Massacre. A Court of Enquiry in Limoges set to work immediately and shortly later a German soldier who had been present at Oradour sur Glane fell into their hands.

He was tried and on 12th March 1946 sentenced to death for his role in the massacre. However the sentence was overturned due to the fact that at the time he had been a minor.

on steps of eglise st martin oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIt took 8 years for sufficient evidence to be amassed in order that some soldiers alleged to be present could be identified, and then some French laws needed be changed so that they could be brought to trial.

One notable absentee at the Court hearings at Bordeaux was the German officer commanding Das Reich, Heinz Lammerding. He was traced to the British Zone of Occupied Germany but inexplicably, the British refused to allow him to be extradited. He had been apparently tried for other war crimes and served a sentence, and so was deemed by the British to be purged.

The French were not amused, as one might expect. He was sentenced to death in absentia and there was even talk of sending in a commando squad to kidnap him. That came to nothing and he died peacefully in 1971.

burnt out cars garage desourteaux oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAmongst the defendants were 14 French soldiers from the Alsace.

That there were soldiers from the Alsace present at Oradour sur Glane has never been in dispute – the soldier who translated the orders from German to French in the Champ de Foire was unquestionably from the Alsace.

They all claimed that the Laws of Military Justice passed by the French did not apply to them as they were French, and in any case most had been conscripted into the Division.

The French response was to charge with treason the one, Georges René Boss, who admitted volunteering. He was found guilty and condemned to death. The others received various terms of imprisonment.

burnt out cars unknown makes and models oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe story doesn’t end here though – not by a long way.

There was a huge outcry in Alsace against the sentences and all kinds of turbulent events took place. In the end, the French Government voted a Law of Amnesty – a decision described by some as “shameful”. One author has suggested that the French Government preferred to placate a wealthy, industrialised region of France rather than a “poor rural community that posed no threat whatever to national unity”.

The 13 conscripts from Alsace were released and the one sentenced to death along with another Prisoner who had received a capital sentence were reprieved.

burnt out citroen traction avant 15 rear of church oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAs you might expect, in the Limousin there was uproar as the prisoners were released.

Many people who lived in the area and who had been awarded honours and medals by the French Government returned them in disgust.

Even a bronze plaque that the French Government had presented to the town in commemoration of the atrocity was returned. In its place the villagers erected a plaque listing the names of all of the Parliamentarians who had voted in favour of the amnesty, along with another plaque listing the names of all of the convicted men who had been liberated.

Even some towns that had been honoured for their wartime rôle by the French Government returned their honours.

burnt out cars unknown makes and models road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe French Government had erected a “Crypt of The Martyrs” to house the ashes, but the citizens refused to allow the ashes to be transferred.

As well as that, they refused to allow the Government to sent any representative to any of the ceremonies that took place in the village to honour the dead.

As the mayor of the new town said at the time, “to our feeling of great sorrow and our struggle for survival has been added a feeling of injustice, abandonment and even of some revulsion”.

burnt out car or van chassis road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIn 1981 in East Germany, the authorities arrested an old man who turned out to be one of the Company Commanders known to have been present at Oradour sur Glane, living in the East under a false name.

He was tried in East Berlin for various war crimes including that of Oradour sur Glane, during which three of the survivors gave evidence against him. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released in 1997.

It must have been an embarrassment to the French and British Governments that it was the East Germans who were most interested in pursuing the events of Oradour sur Glane.

burnt out shop insecure frontage road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAnd as subsequent events unfolded, the interest of the East German Justice system in the events here must have proved even more embarrassing to the West.

In October 2010 whilst searching through documents formerly held by the Stasi, the East German Secret Police, a researcher discovered a document that showed that the Stasi had conducted an enquiry into the massacre.

This document contained a great deal of incriminating evidence previously unknown to the French authorities. Furthermore, it identified many of the participants, of whom 6 were found by the German authorities to be still alive and living in what was West Germany.

burnt out cars maybe citroen b14 road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIn an enquiry undertaken by the German police, two of them denied being present at the time and the other four, aged 85 and 86, could not remember or were in no medical condition to be questioned.

As a result, in January 2013 several representatives of the German Justice system from Dortmund visited Oradour sur Glane in the hope of finding additional supporting evidence.

In January 2014, a former soldier, Werner Christukat was tried in Germany but found Not Guilty due to lack of evidence, a decision that was upheld on appeal. Although it was held that he was present at the time, there was apparently insufficient proof to suggest that he took an active role.

burnt out car maybe a citroen b14 road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIn my opinion, not having access to the full facts of the case, this is a most extraordinary decision considering the verdict that was presented against John Demjanjuk a couple of years earlier.

In Demjanjuk’s case, a legal precedent was set that mere presence at an act of war crimes was sufficient for someone to be found guilty of being an accessory, a principle that was subsequently successfully applied against several other people who had served the German cause during the War.

Suspects are still being PULLED OUT OF THE UNDERGROWTH AND CHARGED in accordance with the Demjanjuk decision even today, and so I am curious to see why it did not apply in the case of Christukat.

Despite “the continuing enquiries”, which are being carried out by the German Government due to the “Demjanjuk decision”, it is doubtful if any other person will ever be brought to justice.

girls school road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallEven today, the body that represents the soldiers from Alsace is active in this field.

When he learnt that German Prosecutors were on French soil searching for evidence, a spokesman from the Association des Déserteurs, Évadés et Incorporés de Force (ADEIF) “wouldn’t it be better for someone in High Authority (in Germany) to have come and given a public apology to those people from Alsace who were incorporated by force” into the German Army?

As you can understand, anyone writing about the massacre needs to tread carefully. Any criticism of the involvement of soldiers from Alsace in the massacre even more than three quarters of a century after the event is met with a full barrage of everything that the defenders of their role can muster.

burnt out car unknown make and model road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAnd it isn’t only the ADEIF that is on the warpath.

Revisionist history is all the rage these days as people, taking advantage of the death of eyewitnesses, now attempt to view the events through eyes of different colours and either deny their part in the massacre or shift the blame onto others.

These will inevitably be laid to rest eventually when the public records of the trial at Bordeaux in 1953 and the investigation by the Prefet of the département of Haute Vienne become available to the public and I for one can’t wait for that to happen, but these days people have a tendency to believe whatever suits their own opinion rather than be swayed by hard evidence.

memorial cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallBut retournons à nos moutons as they say around here.

The Association Nationale des Familles des Martyrs organised the building of their own Memorial to the Martyrs which contains the ashes of those who died at Oradour sur Glane.

But I wasn’t very happy about them being visible to public gaze, I have to say. There’s a glass panel in the monument through which you can see bones and ashes. For me, that was in rather bad taste.

visitor centre oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAs a result of a project going back to the late 1980s, on 16th July 1999 a Visitor Centre was opened at the village, complete with Ye Olde Gifte Shoppe, which was something else that I thought to be in pretty bad taste. It’s all completely different from when I came here the first time and when I brought Nerina here in 1991

It was opened by none other than the President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac accompanied by Catherine Trautmann, the French Minister for Culture. By now, the politicians from the Government were being allowed into the village by the population.

Francois Mitterand, who had voted in favour of the Amnesty in 1953 went there on 10th June 1994 but according to the local Press, all the inhabitants closed their window blinds in protest.

Unfortunately, since then the Centre has become the target for neo-Fascist revisionists who have been spraying the notices with graffiti saying such things as “Liars” and “Reynouard (a far-right Revisionist who has a whole list of convictions for Nazi apologia) is right” and things like that.

Several other French presidents have been to the village subsequently, and one significant visitor here, on 4th September 2013, was Joachim Gauck, President of Germany who came with the French President Francois Hollande. During this visit, Gauck gave a speech of apology and reconciliation.

One person who never, apparently came to Oradour sur Glane was Nicolas Sarkozy. He did however go to Colmar in the Alsace where, on 8th May 2010 where he publicly declared that the soldiers of Alsace recruited by the Germans were “not traitors but, on the contrary, victims of a real war crime”, something that went down like a lead balloon with the citizens of the Limousin.

In fact, this action of Sarkozy made me wonder whether the appearance of Hollande, Sarkozy’s opponent in the Presidential election of 2012, at Oradour sur Glane in 2013 might have been more of an opportunist nose-cocking at Sarkozy and a vote-winning exercise rather than any kind of personal sentiment, but sometimes I’m far too cynical for my own good.

But then again, Emmanuel Macron came to Oradour-sur-Glane in between the first and second round of elections for President in 2017, so I’ll let you make up your own mind.

And while you do that, I’m off to my next port of call. And I’ll leave you with one final thought about the events of Oradour sur Glane that has been missed by, as far as I can see, every commentator on the events.

And that is that the events here delayed Das Reich‘s journey to the Normandy battleground by three days and how might the course of the war have been different had they not been held up here? And how many lives were saved elsewhere because of the delay?

Even if nothing else, the events of Oradour sur Glane fulfilled one purpose that benefited the Allied cause.

So picking up a baguette and fuelling up Caliburn as I passed through the new village, I carried on south (stopping for lunch on the way).

strawberry moose Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallNext stop for this afternoon is the town of Chalus and its early medieval tower.

While Strawberry Moose works out how he’s going to take the keep by storm, I’ll mention something about our interest in this place.

Yesterday, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, we visited Chateau Gaillard, the castle of Richard the Lionheart, and we talked about the siege of the castle by King Philip after the death of Richard.

ruins Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThis castle would have been a much more important place than it would appear today.

There may not be much remaining of the fortifications here today but there are the remains of several stone walls such as these remains here . These might either be the remains of buildings or of walls, although the curved end is more suggestive of a former building in this particular case..

And the big pile of stones in the bacckground, I wonder where they came from and of what they were part.

inside great hall Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallBut what we are looking at here, in the Great Hall of the Manor House to which the tower belongs, is said by some to be the spot where King Richard died in 1199.

It’s certainly true that he was carried to somewhere round about here, but there are several candidates for the place of his death. Some sources suggest that he even lived for 6 days after being wounded.

The castle is situated today in the département of the Haute-Vienne in the Limousin, but previously, back in antiquity it was quite close to the border between the Périgord, which was not then part of France and the domaine of Counts of Limoges.

This border took on a totally new significance in 1137 when Duke William X died without a male heir, and his lands passed to his daughter Eleanor. She was immediately married off to King Louis VII but the marriage was not a success.

inside great hall Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThe couple divorced in 1152 and just as quickly as her first marriage, she married Henry, Duke of Normandy.

Henry’s grandfather had been Henry I, King of England and after the death of Henry I there had been the disputes over the throne of England between the late King’s daughter Matilda (The Duke of Normandy’s mother) and Stephen, nephew of the late King.

With no direct male heir to the English throne (Henry I’s son had been lost in the “White Ship” disaster of 1120), Stephen invoked the right of male progeniture and claimed the throne. This had led to Civil War in England

inside great hall Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallHenry had been campaigning against Stephen on behalf of his mother and the matter of succession was resolved in 1154 when Stephen died. Henry simply took over the crown by right of occupation, having no faith whatever in whatever promise Stephen had made.

This sent shock waves throughout the whole of the border area between Périgord – by now part of the region of the Aquitaine – and that area ruled by the Counts of Limoges.

Rather than being a boundary between two rulers of more-or-less equal stature, it was now an international boundary. Consequently a whole line of fortifications was either built or rebuilt by the Count of Limoges to secure his frontier.

view from Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThere was already an important road between the religious centre of Bourges and the port of Bordeaux in the Aquitaine. This passed by the town of Chalus and so the rocky outcrop was considered to be a logical place to build some kind of fortification that would protect the road.

Due to its strategic position it was subject to attack on many occasions, even once prior to the issues with Richard, but it is with Richard that we are particularly interested.

And for this, we need to turn our attention to the Third Crusade to Palestine.

While the object of the Crusade was the recapture of territory lost to Saladin after the disastrous Battle of Hattin, the Pope took the initiative to persuade Henry II of England and Philip of France to forget their disputes, take the cross and accompany the crusaders.

However Henry died before he could set out and his son Richard set out in his place.

view from Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThe Crusade was only partially successful and in 1192 Richard left Palestine to return to England. On his way home he was kidnapped by Leopold of Austria who had a personal grievance against him, and passed to the Holy Roman Emperor who held him to ransom. On payment of the ransom by the English, he was released.

While he had been imprisoned there had been several revolts against him, most notably by his brother John but also by the Counts of Limoges, and these continued.

During the rebellion of the latter a mercenary named Mercadier and his forces had attacked the castle on behalf of King Rechard.

The 38 local people present, men, women and children, fled to the tower and barricaded themselves in.

strawberry moose Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallMercadier began work on undermining the walls of the tower. And that would not have been easy because the walls are 3 metres thick, so I’m told.

Anyway, after 4 days of work, Richard came by to see how the attack was progressing.

While he was inspecting the works he was shot just underneath the neck by a bolt fired from a crossbow from the top of the tower roughly where Strawberry Moose is standing, and died of this wounds when gangrene set in.

And that unfortunately is that as far as Richard the Lionheart is concerned.

Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallSo now that we have set the scene, let’s go off on our guided tour of the premises.

The first thing that needs to be said is that while the tower here is original, the building probably isn’t. It dates from the enlargements of the 13th Century and I’ve seen a reference to reconstruction du logis du chateau en haut – “reconstruction of the lodgement of the upper chateau” – of 1280.

If that’s the case, this would be the garrison of the castle, where the defenders of the castle would lodge.

cellar Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThere’s a doorway in the wall of the building that leads into the tower.

And from here we have a choice of two directions – upwards and downwards. We are going downstairs into the basement of the tower, complete with a lovely vaulted ceiling and beautiful arched fireplace.

Back in the 12th Century it would probably have been lit by tallow candles, presumably on a round chandelier that would be raised up or lowered down from the ceiling, rather than the reproduction medieval flares on the wall either side of the chimney.

strawberry moose in cellar Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThere are two rooms underneath the tower.

We’re in the second room here. The entrance through which we walked from the first room is behind the pillar, under observation from Strawberry Moose who is presumably watching for English soldiers and mercenaries from the Perigord.

We’ve seen a few items of furniture around – in the previous photo and in this room. I’ve no idea if they are contemporary or reproduction but there certainly wouldn’t have been all that much furniture in a medieval building such as this. The occupants wouldn’t have been as wealthy or had as many possessions as is often depicted in Hollywood epics.

cellar Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallBack in the first room again you can see an example of the type of chandelier that I mentioned, although I doubt if it would have been as elaborate as this one.

Over to the left are the stairs down which we descended, and on the right is a doorway that leads out into the moat. For obvious defensive reasons, it’s doubtful that the doorway is contemporary with the construction of the tower and is more likely to be a comparatively modern alteration.

But I’m not going outside right now, I’m going back up the stairs, and right to the top too.

view from Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallAnd here I am, right up on the top of the tower and you can see the excellent view from up here.

Although it might not look like it from down below, it was in fact a real fortified castle and in this photo you can see part of the old walls of the place over there on the right with the remains of a little angled tower. I imagine that the walls continued round to the left of the line of trees covering that bank just there.

Even from this height you can see how the tower of the castle commands the view of the approaches to the butte. The main road that it covers is the one in the upper centre of the image heading slightly off to the right.

But now having had a good look, I’m going back downstairs and out through the door that we saw earlier.

Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallHaving passed through the doorway in the tower into what I reckon may well have been the old moat, we can see the difference here between the old, original buildings and the more modern construction.

There was a part of the chateau built in the Seventeenth Century by the Bourbon-Busset family who had been the owners since 1530, and in the absence of any other information and of any other suitable candidate, I would suggest that the Hall on the left of this photo might be the more modern part.

As an aside, the Bourbon-Busset family is an illegitimate branch of the Royal House of France, the illegitimacy being due to the fact that Louis de Bourbon, cousin of King Charles VII, married without royal consent and later kept the marriage secret in order that he could become Bishop of Liege.

strawberry moose Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallAnd so Strawberry Moose and I climbed to the top of the main tower to see the view, which you have already seen in a few earlier photos.

And climbing to the top of the tower isn’t easy, although it’s easier than it might have been because there is one floor missing from how it was originally. That was somehow lost in the renovations of the 1960s although this might be the damage that was referred to when in 1870 there was “a fall of stones” at the chateau.

But the first obstacle that you have to overcome is the actual entry into the tower because it’s not as straightforward as it might be. The door is about 30 feet above ground and you need to climb up a rather steep ramp to enter.

view from Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hall And although it might not have been as easy as that 900 years ago, I have actually seen an old drawing of the tower that seems to suggest that there was some kind of building at the side.

It’s quite possible that if this was the case, there may well have been a stone staircase inside that went up to the main door.

Once inside, it continues to be something rather challenging to reach the top.

statue of crossbowman Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallIn certain places the original circular staircase around the inside of the outside wall. In other places the staircase is no longer there and there is some kind of ad hoc ladder arrangement to reach the floor above. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

But once you do actually make it to the top, it’s well worth it because of the view. And not just of the view of the surrounding countryside either, but also because of the decorations in the garden. Like this crossbowman, for example.

The significance of this escapes me right now. But I did wonder whether it was on that spot that King Richard met his end.

flag of Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallFlying from the top of the tower is this rather beautiful flag.

Unfortunately I’ve not been able to identify it – it doesn’t belong to anyone who might have had any claim over the castle so it looks as if I’ll have to leave this for a while until chance plays its hand and I spot it somewhere else where there’s a legend.

But of course, there’s always my very knowledgeable readership. It might be that one of you lot might know. if so, please contact me using the contact link bottom-right.

strawberry moose grand piano Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallSo while STRAWBERRY MOOSE entertains us with selections from the classics, I’ll tell you a little more about the subsequent history of the castle.

After a siege by soldiers from the Perigord in 1265 in which the defending captain was killed, a fine levied on the attackers enabled the chateau to be repaired. It passed to King Philip in 1306 and in 1317 he gave it to one of his advisers, Henri de Sully.

As a result of various marriages it passed through several families, including the Bourbon-Bussets whom we mentioned earlier, and also the Borgia family of Italy, the family of Cesare and Lucrezia.

During the Wars of Religion it was attacked twice, in 1569 and again in 1591 during which attack it came under artillery fire.

ruined church Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallAs usual in a medieval fortified place, there would be a chapel or church. And the Chateau de Chalus is no exception.

What we have here is the Eglise Notre Dame – the Church of Our Lady of High Chalus. Building commenced in the 11th Century and in 1095 Gerald, Abbott of the Monastery of St Augustin of Limoges took up possession. It later became the parish church and was expanded in the 15th Century.

ruined chapel Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallSubsequently a new church, the Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Assomption was built in the village and the one here became disaffected. It gradually slipped into decay and began to fall down. A visitor who passed by in 1888 noted that there was much more of it still standing back then than there is today.

But on a happier note, what remains of the church was added to the List Of Historic Monuments on 25th March 1981

Interestingly, the entrails of Richard the Lionheart are said to be buried somewhere within the precincts of the church, although I couldn’t find out exactly where they might be.

Having left the scene, a long drive brought Strawberry Moose, Caliburn and me as far as Gueret where, due to the heat and general fatigue, we abandoned our efforts to continue.

A brief shopping excursion to LeClerc and then I installed myself in a Premier Class hotel cross the road where I had a shower to cool myself down, and washed my clothes. Internet once more very patchy so the USB-tethering came ito the fore.

Having made myself a dish of pasta and vegetables in the slow cooker, I lay on the bed and crashed out completely.

That was that.

All translations in the text from French and German have been done by me.

Saturday 18th July 2020 – I’M NOT HERE

This morning, although I heard the three alarms, I didn’t get up until about 06:30. Tons of stuff on the dictaphone, as I discovered, so it must have been a very restless night.

We were in a classroom last night having a talk on climate change, this kind of thing. A question that came up interested me, about New Zealand. The lecturer was saying that all of the difficulties about New Zealand – in Iceland the volcanos and glaciers were pushing out the centre of New Zealand – rather, pushing it up, the centre of South Island and changing all of the weather. There were storms and this thing. I asked if this was going to be a permanent thing or a temporary arrangement. One guy in this classroom was making notes, doing it with a kind of hammer-press thing and it was making a racket even louder than a typewriter. I wanted to ask him to shut up if anyone was able to talk to me about my question, to which I never actually had the answer. There were a couple of girls in this class and I was quite keen on one of these. For some reason the question of cycles and motorcycles came up. These two girls rode motorcycles so I was thinking “should I buy a motorcycle too so that I can keep up with them?” and that way I can keep up with them and be close to them I suppose and so on. But it was a case of how long was this going to continue? Is it just a flash-in-the-pan kind of course and we’ll all go our separate ways in a week or is this going to be some kind of long-term situation. As usual, I was full of indeciaion yet again.

Later on I was back in my house in Winsford of all places. There was a lot going on there as if it was in Central London and actually a car. I was sitting there watching all these events going on behind me – a little old woman tottering back to her home and someone I was with running out and shouting after her. But this little old lady didn’t seem to hear. There was another older person with us. The three of us came back and the reason why I hadn’t heard anyone reply was that the 2 old women were talking really slowly. It seemed that they were taking this old lady to show her this Old People’s Home, whether there was a vacancy in it, something like that. Off they went and they were climbing up the steps just as an ambulance pulled up and dropped off a load of elderly ladies all on crutches. I was back in my house and a couple of rooms were really cold and a couple really warm. I had the central heating all confused. This was the first time that I’d been in this house for God knows how long. I got back in there and there was a small cupboard on the wall. That was where the food was. I thought “God I’d left my steps in Belgium”. I don’t know why I said Belgium. I had to open it and everything was all crammed into these shelves and I thought “where am I going to put my freezer now?” There’s no room to put that in the kitchen. I had a pack of drink and for some reason this drink needed to be put in another bottle so I cleaned another bottle with bleach and had to rinse it out. Of course there was all the calcium in the water and it took ages to try to run clean before I could start to use it.

Another thing that came was that I was on a bike cycling home and for some unknown reason I fell asleep when I was cycling and woke up to find that there were some girl cycling alongside me. As I awoke she sped off. I then had to go and retrace my steps. it was through this hilly area and I remember a few things of the route and got on a bit of route that I didn’t recognise at all. It was steep and windy. I thought “God, did i cycle through this in my sleep? I was doing really well!”. Then I came into a town and by the bus station were loads of people with skis and it turned out that this was a … march. This was a big ski resort and you flew into the airport and a bus from the airport brought you into the town. Right at the bus stop was the start of the chair lifts so it was the easiest place to go to if you wanted to ski after work. All these crowds there and I fought my way through. This woman said something about this but I can’t remember what the something was so I replied to her in French and said “it’s not a problem”. She said “I was referring to you” I replied that I have to get home so I have to fight my way through everyone to get home. Everyone laughed at that and that was when I ended up back at my house in Winsford.

Having gone back to sleep at some point I stepped right back into that dream again, right back into Winsford and right back into my house. The house had been built for 2 years but I’d only just moved into it. I’d had it that long that I hadn’t lived there. it was in the middle of some kind of shopping centre where all of these shops were half-built or quarter-built where the money in Winsford ran out. The didn’t have the money to finish off all of the shops to let. a very decaying place indeed it was. I was walking through there and there was another couple in front of me. the guy was telling the girl about how the election in May 2015 2 years ago had changed absolutely everything and the new party decided to stop work on the shops.

Later still we were in a water mill that produced electricity with the water wheel. This mill hadn’t been used for years due to some kind of faults and complications about a diesel fuel blower and all of this and had set the place alight. There wa s no way of getting any modifications for it and they needed to get some kind of money coming from the mill so they decided that they would open it as a water-powered mill and let nature take its course. I was there but everyone else was off looking for things but I was screwing up the sluice gates so that the water instead would pass through the main centre of the mill. I started to open the main mill doors and the water started to rush in there. it suddenly started to go at a hell of a rate, this, as if a huge flood had built up outside for hundreds of years. It was necessary for me to slow down the flow of water otherwise it was going to sweep away the mill.

After all of that I was surprised that I wanted to go away. That sounds like it was more than enough travelling to be going on with.

But the first task was to finish off the packing and start to load up Caliburn. Basically, I just threw the stuff in because the back of the van has a huge pile of old cardboard boxes in it.

When everything was packed and loaded I tidied up and took the rubbish down to the waste disposal, vacuumed the living room and kitchen and then washed the floor with bleach and disinfectant. While the floor was drying I had a shower and a weigh-in. And I’m keeping this weight down, although what I will be like by the time I return will be anyone’s guess.

Cleaning and disinfecting the waste bin was next and then bleaching and disinfecting the WC and sinks.

Once all of that was done We set off.

First stop was the dechetterie where all of the cardboard, the old Caliburn battery and the old electric kettle bit the dust.

Next stop was Noz. But there wasn’t all that much in there, apart from a few small tims of potatoes.

After that wes LeClerc for a full tank of diesel, a couple of memory cards and a few basic items of foodstuffs – nothing much at all.

Off to Roncey to Liz and Terry’s. Terry loaned me a brushcutter which went into the back of Caliburn – while I was there I tidied it up a little too but I’ll be doing some more tidying up in there as well as I go round

Liz made lunch and we all had a very good chat for a couple of hours.

Round about 15:00 I hit the road. 260kms to travel on the first stage of the journey. Via Caen, Liseux and Evreux. Eventually I ended up in St Marcel, on the outskirts of Vernon in between Rouen and Paris on the banks of the Seine.

Here there’s a hotel, the Hotel du Haut Marais, and this is where I’m staying tonight.

old cars 1913 panhard levassor duranville france eric hallOn the way down towards the banks of the River Seine we had a little interruption that delayed me somewhat.

As I drove through Duranville in the département of the Eure I came across a garage that had seven or eight old cars out on display, and that kind of thing is enough for me to stop and have a better look to see what is going on,

And I seem to have found myself at the garage of a dealer of vintage and historical vehicles and almost everything in this yard is available for sale if you have enough money, which I don’t.

strawberry moose old cars 1913 panhard levassor duranville france eric hallThe first car that I saw and which tempted Strawberry Moose out of Caliburn to come for a ride.

The car itself is a Panhard-Levassor of 1913 although what model it might be I really have no idea. Being a 2-door 2-seater it’s not going to be one of the Model 20s that Président Poincaré adored but that’s all that I can say.

The company was a big fan of sleeve-valved engines – ports in the engine casting to vent the gases, protected by a kind of rotating sleeve between the piston and the bore. Very quiet running but very heavy on oil consumption and a technique that faded away when conventional valve seating technique improved.

Some Panhards had sleeve valves and some were conventional, but I don’t know about this one.

old cars strawberry moose cadillac convertible duranville france eric hallThis car is much more like what you would expect to see in a place lke this.

One of the most opulent and ostentatious mass-market vehicles ever to hit the road anywhere, the Cadilac convertibles of the 1950s were the acme of bad taste in the 1950s. Big, powerful V8 engines and wallowing suspension were great on the open roads of the south-west where WE HAD LOADS ON FUN IN THE MUSTANG all those years ago, but in the crowded streets of the major cities they were a nightmare.

Nevertheless it was the kind of vehicle to which everyone aspired back in those days, and everyone had to be seen in one, just like Strawberry Moose and his new friend.

old cars Ford V8 pickup duranville france eric hallThis is a vehicle that will probably appeal more to the traditionalists and the practically-minded amongst us.

It’s a Ford “steppy” – a step-sided Ford V8 pickup of the design that when I first started going to North America 20-odd years ago, were still reasonably common on the roads over there but now you will be very lucky to see one moving about under its own steam on a day-to-day basis.

Possibly from the late 1940s or early 1950s was my first thought. In fact the unofficial Québec number plate that it has on the front (Québec doesn’t require legal plates on the front of its vehicles) suggests that it’s a 1952 model. If so, it’ll have the 239 V8 sidevalve engine in it.

old cars ford model T duranville france eric hallOn the other hand, 30 or so years earlier, just about everyone in the USA would have been seen in one of these.

“Every colour you like, as long as it’s black” said Henry Ford of his Model T “Tin Lizzy”, or “Flivver” as Paul Getty called his, so I’ve absolutely no idea at all what he would have had to say about this one in a bright lime green.

Te one advantage of cars of this era with separate chassis and body is that they could be cut about as much as anyone likes, and so you could buy them in all kinds of shapes and body styles. And if that didn’t suit you, you could customise your own.

This little pick-up is a beautiful example.

old cars ford modet t fire engine duranville france eric hallIt’s not the only Model T here at Duranville either. We have this one here to whet our appetite.

Or, rather, should I say “wet our appetite” because this is the former fire engine of the town of St Laurent in Québec. That’s a town that now no longer exists, having been conjoined to Montréal in 2002. But it’s an area of Montréal that regular readers of this rubbish will know very well because it wasOUR OLD STAMPING GROUND AROUND THE METRO DUCOLLEGE beFore I was taken ill.

As for the vehicle itself, it was new in 1924 and is said to be the first motorised fire engine of the city, serving between 1924 and 1944, and just imagine going out to fight a fire in that in the middle of a Québec winter.

She underwent a complete restoration in 2006/2007.

old cars dodge convertible duranville manche normandy france eric hallYes, as well as the cars outside, there was quite a number inside the building too as you can see and they let me have a wander around inside with the camera.

Right by the door was this Dodge Convertible. It looks beautiful from this distance but that’s because it’s had a full restoration by the looks of things. It wouldn’t have looked like this maybe 20 years ago, I bet.

Unfortunately there’s no indication of what model it might be but it has the styling of a Dodge of the mid-late 1930s

old cars dodge convertible duranville france eric hallIt’s carrying a set of French numberplates issued within the last 3 years or so but there’s no other indication about where it comes from.

It’s not the kind of North American vehicle that I would have expected to have seen being sold in Europe at that particular time – after all, there was a quite a big volume-car marked in Europe at this time churning out all kinds of stuff that was as good as this at probably half the price.

There wouldn’t have been an “exotica” market back in those days, so I suspect that this is a comparatively recent import, like much of the stuff seems to be.

old cars barn find bugatti replica france eric hallThis of course isn’t a recent import, but it’s certainly a lot more recent than it looks.

Had this been a genuine Bugatti “30 plus” you wouldn’t find it in a place like this looking as if someone has dragged it out backwards from a haystack. It would have genuine alloy wheels on it for a start and be locked up in a vault somewhere because it would be worth a fortune.

My guess is that this is a replica, of which there are several examples available and on the road. It has a few quite modern features that you wouldn’t have found on the originals 90-odd years ago.

old cars dodge pickup duranville france eric hallWe saw a Ford stp-side pickup just now parked outside, but here tucked away in a corner is a Dodge pick-up of an earlier vintage, I reckon.

There was a series of lightweight Dodge trucks, the WD series (or DD series if made in Brampton, Ontario) between 1939 and 1947 of various carrying capacities between half a ton and one ton and if I had to guess, I would say that it’s one of these.

The position of the sidelights on the A-pillars suggests that it’s later rather than earlier but the absence of window vents suggests that it’s not one of the final ones made.

old cars buick 8 renault prairie 1952 mgb duranville france eric hallThis is a bit of an eclectic assortment of vehicles stuck away in a corner.

The MGB is of no interest to us of course but the big Buick 8 in the foreground is of course. Again, it’s difficult to say much about it except that because of where the spare wheel it is, it might actually be a Buick 8 Special of the late 1930s

The Renault at the back is a Renault Prairie of 1952 and if you want to see a close-up of one of these I’ll have to dig out my photos from 2007 because regular readers of this rubbish in a previous guise will recall that we found one in a scrapyard in France back in those dats.

Talking to the owners later, it appears that they have an agent in Québec who sources this kind of thing and has it shipped over from there. So much for yet another business opportunity then, unfortunately.

But right now I have other things to think about, like finding a hotel.

hotel du haut marais saint marcel 27950 eure france eric hallThere are several along the river but I need to be careful because one of th bridges is closed for repair. I have to track my way through all kinds of countryside before I arrive at Vernon.

And this is my hotel for this evening, the Hotel du Haut Marais at St Marcel. It looks as if at one stage it’s been one of the Accor group’s places but really these unit hotels all look so alike that there’s no way of telling.

Anyway, it’s a reasonable price without going too far and it’s comfortable. And I’m off to have an early night. It’s been a long day and there is plenty to do. A good night’s sleep will do me the world of good.

Wednesday 24th June 2020 – I’VE BEEN …

baby seagull rue des juifs granville manche normandy france eric hall… out and about on my travels this morning.

So while you admire the photos of the baby seagull, which now seems to be very fit and healthy, I can give you the account of my day.

And just for a change, it got off to a very good start, for I was actually up and out of bed before the third alarm – something that doesn’t happen too often these day. Maybe it was the early night that helped there – if you can call 23:45 an early night.

baby seagull rue des juifs granville manche normandy france eric hallAfter the medication I had a listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night.

Last night there was a group of us working on a new history textbook for schools and this involved rewriting quite a bit of stuff that was already in it including a load of songs and so on. So we noticed that these songs to fit into the new way of things and it was quite difficult for everyone to get into the habit of hearing them in the new way and I remember my brother being particularly surprised at some of the changes made to the songs in order to make the songs fit the times more than anything else
There was something else going on during the night and I’ve forgotten a lot of it but I’d been caught doing something and been punished in some way by having to do something, carry out a few tasks and at the end of that time I was given £30:00 in 2x£15:00 vouchers to spend. Whoever I was with – it might have been Nerina – was really upset about that and demanded to talk to me about it. The guy who was watching me, I held up the two vouchers and waved them about to attract his attention and said that I was going into the building. Nerina came with me and I had to find a quiet room to have a discussion. There were about 6 rooms in this building and there wasn’t really one that was suitable – the walls were flimsy and there were people in adjacent rooms. In the end we found a room where the photocopier was and we were about to go into there. And that was when the alarm went off.

And even though it was Nerina who was with me for part of the evening I do have to say that regardless of any of our issues, I would much rather have her company on my nocturnal rambles than many of the others who have been putting in an appearance just recently.

I’m still not eating breakfast so having done a little work, Caliburn and I headed for the hills – Gavray, in fact.

tacot voie metrique gare de gavray manche normandy france eric hallWhen I arrived in the town I took a wrong turning and I’m glad that I did because I found something that I would otherwise have missed – an old disaffected railway station.

There was a “Light Railway Act” in France similar to that in the UK of 1896, and for a period of about 50 years the whole of France became honeycombed with what they called the tacot or “rattletrap” – a narrow-gauge voie metrique railway network.

It’s the kind of system that was highlighted in the Alec Guinness FATHER BROWN series of films in the 1950s of the books by GK Chesterton

tacot voie metrique gare de gavray manche normandy france eric hallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that we have seen plenty of examples of this on our travels, especially in the Auvergne where I used to live and also here in Normandy along the coast.

There was also a voie metrique that went across-country from Granville to Conde-sur-Vire, opened in 1910 and closed in 1936 (and we’ve seen lines closed much quicker than that too). That line passed through Gavray and there would almost certainly have been a railway station here.

That has always been one of the things that I’ve been aiming to do – to track it down – and having taken a wrong turning in Gavray when I was looking for something else, I find myself falling right on it, quite by chance.

kayaker english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallSo while you admire the photos of the kayaker and othe rpeople in various water craft out there fishing today, I was busy tracking down the garage that I had come to visit.

Eventually I tracked it down and the guy had a good look at Caliburn. He reckons that it’s perfectly possible to do something with Caliburn. There’s no rot except in one wheel arch – the rest of it is simply rubbing down, rust-proofing, zinc priming and about a ton of underseal.

He’s not going to end up as he did out of the factory 13 years ago, and it’s not cheap either. But with my lifespan that’s left there’s no point in buying a new vehicle just for three or four years.

Caliburn and I may as well go out together.

buoys speedboat fishing english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallSo I headed on back to Granville and I’ll wait for the estimate to arrive. But I’ve decided that i’m going to have it done anyway.

When I reached the outskirts of Granville I took the by-pass and joined the traffic queue heading south towards St Pair sur Mer.

Brico Cash was where I was heading, to see what they had on offer today as I haven’t been there for a while.

And the answer is “not an awful lot”. There wasn’t anything that caught my eye particularly although I picked up some French plugs. A couple of the appliances that I brought from The Auvergne when I was there just now still have British plugs on them.

fishermen zodiac english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallTraffic queues back here as well. I was stuck behind a grockle in a motor home admiring the blasted seagulls instead of advancing in an orderly fashion.

Back here there was still plenty of time before lunch so I had another look at the web pages that I’ve been amending.

That one is now completed and I’ve made a start on the next. I’ve now crossed over the border into Great Satan and I’m on my way to Bar Harbor in Maine.

cranes ferry terminal port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallBy now it was lunchtime.

It was beautiful and warm and bright and sunny so I made my sandwiches (home-made bread, home-made hummus and salad) and went and sat outside on the wall again.

Even though the tide was well out and there were no ships or boats in the harbour, there was still quite a bit of activity going on down there today, despite it being the lunch hour.

joly france cranes ferry terminal port de granville harbour  manche normandy france eric hallThere was a mobile crane down there and as I watched, it was joined by another one – the big mobile crane that comes here every so often.

The big crane extended its jib and they were both performing some kind of activity out there. I couldn’t see what it was, so I shall have to go out that way on my Sunday walk to see what has changed.

It can’t be anything too complicated because all the way through the manoeuvre … “PERSONoeuvre” – ed … one of the Joly France boats – the newer one – was moored right there and with the tide being out, it wasn’t moving anywhere else.

Back at the apartment I tackled the last week of my Accountancy course. I’ve finished it, not very successfully I have to say because I can’t remember all that much about what I just learnt.

That’s one of the penalties of old age. Two things happen to you then.
The first is that you forget absolutely everything that you are supposed to remember.
And as for the second thing – well, I’ve forgotten what that was.

crowds on beach plat gousset granville manche normandy france eric hallThere was the usual break for my afternoon walk.

Today, in the gorgeous hot sunlight I went for a walk around the walls of the medieval town. From there I could look down on the beach at the Plat Gousset and watch all of the crowds enjoying themselves.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and the brats aren’t in school so the beach was busier than normal, and that’s not a surprise. Given half a chance, I’d be down there myself.

crowds tidal swimming pool plat gousset granville manche normandy france eric hallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that a few weeks ago we saw the local council clearing out the old tidal swimming pool with a lorry and a digger – clearing out years of accumulated silt.

They’ve done a really good job by the look of it. It’s actually retaining some water and it’s attracted quite a crowd of people, splashing around in there.

And the people in the flourescent jackets – I’m convinced that they are the lifeguards, although how they are expected to swim while wearing those is anyone’s guess.

roofing place marechal foch granville manche normandy france eric hallMy walk went on along the walls and around to the viewpoint overlooking the Place Marechal Foch.

There’s been a roofing job going on on one of the roofs of one of the buildings down there for as long as I can remember, and they still don’t seem to have finished it.

Not long to go by the looks of things, but I recall having said that before. They were doing really well at one point but seem to have gone off the boil just recently.

lorry fork lift truck fishing nets port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallFrom there I passed through the Place Maurice Marland to check on my seagull chick, and then walked on to the viewpoint over the harbour.

There’s some activity down there right now. A lorry has turned up and there’s a fork-lift truck that looks as if it might be thinking about unloading the lorry. Does this mean that either Thora or Normandy Trader are going to be paying us a visit some time soon?

And we have another group of fishermen over there wrestling with a rather large fishing net

pointing medieval stone wall granville manche normandy france eric hallAnother thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall seeing is the works van that appeared on the city walls near where they did all of that repointing.

The pointing on part of it in the Parvis Notre Dame was pretty poor so i speculated that the work might be something to do with that, and it seems that I was perfectly right. There are two men down there cleaning it all up

You can see how much excess cement that one of the guys has scraped off the wall – it’s all lying on the ground behind the car.

Back here I carried on with the course and, shame as it is to say it, crashed out a couple of times too. This is really getting on my nerves.

But I finished the course in the end and there was time to edit a few more photos. Tomorrow I’m going to start the final part of my music course. I want that out of the way too.

After the guitar I made tea. There was some left-over stuffing so I added some kidney beans and tomato sauce and made taco rolls

yacht baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france eric hallSomewhat later than usual, iw ent out for my evening run. It was far too warm to go out at the usual time.

All the way up the hill and down to the cliff without stopping, saying hello to the itinerant sheltering under the tree. Out to the sea there was plenty of activity and we have already seen some of the boats. We haven’t seen this yacht though, sailing back from the Ile de chausey into port, towing its dinghy behind it.

It’s making me all broody again and I’m going to have to do something about all of this before too long.

fisherman picnickers pointe du roc granville manche normandy france eric hallJust for a change there was no family group picnicking in the old gun emplacement.

There were however plenty of people down on the viewpoint by the old watchman’s cabin and they were having a good time by the looks of things

Quite a few fishermen too, down there on the rocks casting their lines out into the water. It seems to be becoming quite a regular thing these days.

trawlers chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallMy run continued on along the path on top of the clifftop on the south side of the headland

No kids jumping off the sea wall tonight, but instead we seem to have had some activity down at the chantier navale. One of the fishing boats that has been there for quite some considerable time seems to have gone back into the water.

There were a few other people down there taking photos of themselves in the evening sunshine. All in all, it was quite busy.

crowds on port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallAnd not just there either.

Way across the port on the sea wall that protects the port de plaisance – the yacht harbour – there were crowds of people milling around tonight. They were certainly making the most of it.

As for me, I cleared off and ran all the way round down the Boulevard Vaufleury and the rest of my vastly elongated route round to the viewpoint in the rue du Nord.

people sitting on rock plat gousset granville manche normandy france eric hallThe tide is right in right now so the chances of finding any picnickers on the beach was extremely remote.

However that little shelf that we noticed a few days ago – that seems to be the place to be these days as there are a couple more people making use of it.

And I’m still trying to work out the optical illusion surrounding the guy on the left. It looks thoroughly weird to me.

beautiful sunset ile de chausey english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallThe people down there were enjoying another magnificent evening.

There were quite a few people up here enjoying it too, and quite rightly so for although it wasn’t as good as last night’s, it was still something special.

having watched it for a while I headed on home to write up my notes.

Tomorrow, it’s shopping day. There’s not much that I need but it’s stuff that I can’t do without so I shall have to go.

And then i’ll make a start on the last week of my music course. I want to get that out of the way before the weekend. It’ll give me a chance to do some other work that’s been sitting on the back burner for the last month or so.

High time I got a move on.

Tuesday 17th March 2020 – BLIMEY! WHAT A CHOICE!

The trains to Belgium are cancelled, as you might expect. And there are no trains from Granville tomorrow anyway.

So do I stay here and die of lack of my cancer treatment, or do I go by some other means and die of the virus?

But more about that later. Firstly, I managed to beat the third alarm again and had a decent start to the morning. I can’t wait to get to Leuven though because my stocks of medication are dwindling and I’ve already run out of one item.

The dictaphone came next of course. We had one of my sisters again in this dream and she was dressed up like some 1920s New Orleans dancer. I had to pick her up from school and she was all upset because they wouldn’t let her slide as in sliding up and down the ground on the ice. There was me, my sister and someone else, another person and we were in the car and we came to get out of the car when we were back home. I can’t remember now what she was saying but she was certainly acting very grown up for her age.
Somewhat later I was in a cruise ship that was coming in to dock somewhere. There were crowds of people on the railings. It was the end of the voyage apparently and we were all having to get ott. It was a quayside landing so everyone gathered their carry-on possessions and were milling around waiting for the order to disembark. There was a girl of about 10 there and I was having a chat to her, a little dark-haired girl. The order then came basically to leave so they started to leave. Then this girl came back so I don’t know what she was trying to do but she disappeared into the crowd so I didn’t get the chance to speak to her at that moment. I had my rucksack and my little camera so I was going to go off the ship to take a photograph and probably come back on as well and wait until later when it was the time to disembark. In the meantime there was something going on about the storage locker on board ship. They had a car and they were driving it into the storage locker. At first the owners of the vessel were very disappointed with this and very upset. But by the time that it came to the third time to drive the car in, they had come round to the fact that it was a good idea to have this storeroom opened. The third time they succeeded in bursting the lock but I’ve no idea now why it was that they wanted it open themselves.
There was another one of thsee nights where there was more going on too but if you are having your tea or something you won’t want to know about it.

After breakfast I had a look at some more digital files to split. I seem to have drawn the short straw with this today though because firstly, they were all very long and complicated ones to break up, and secondly, one of them just wouldn’t work at all and I’ve no idea why. Half of it was missing and / or unavailable and I’ll end up having to record this directly from the album one of these days.

As a result I was late going for my bread. We aren’t officially allowed out of our homes except for certain specified reasons, but “shopping for essential supplies” and “taking exercise in the vicinity of your own home” seems to cover that. We have to download a form off the internet each time we need to go out, fill it in and carry it with us

trawler english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallSo having printed out and filled in a form, I could go outside for a stroll.

There was no-one else out there at all walking around the headland, but that wasn’t the story out at sea. Regardless of the situation, people still have to eat and fish will be quite high up n the menu over the foreseeable future. As a result, we had a few trawlers out there doing their stuff.

Trawlers, maybe. But I bet that we won’t see Thora and Normandy Trader for quite a while. They’ll be keeping a respectable distance while all of this will be going on

yacht english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallSo no Channel Island boats and probably no gravel boats either. But there’s always other stuff.

If you’re out at sea you can neither give this virus to anyone else nor receive it and so taking to the water in your yacht seems to be a very sensible option. It’s times like this that I wish that I had a boat in which to sail.

All the time that I was out there, I reckon that all in all, there weren’t even half a dozen people out in the streets. But I learnt some tragic news at La Mie Caline. All non-essential businesses are to close for the duration of this outbreak. And despite being a bakery, their business has been classed as non-essential. Today is their last day of operation.

It beats me how anyone can consider a bakery to be non-essential, but I suppose that it’s do do with them having a café on the premises that they fall foul of this “public gathering” rule.

Back here I mused on the fact that having had to print out all of this paperwork et cetera, I hadn’t seen anyone official, never mind been asked to produce anything. But a friend who lives in Macon reassured me. She had had to take her cat to the vet’s but she had been stopped and asked for her papers.

There was a phone call too – and this has thrown my plans into disarray. Due to “other considerations” which are completely understandable, my appointment on Thursday with the nephrologist has been cancelled. I rang up the oncology department to confirm my appointment just in case but despite trying for an age, I couldn’t get through. Instead, I had a little … errr … relax and then finished off the radio project.

To back up the computer was next and then to load up all of the files that I need onto the portable hard drive that I take with me. No afternoon walk of course, much as I would like to go. The cynic inside me doesn’t take this as seriously as everyone else. I’ve lived through all kinds of things that we were told were going to wipe out the human race and I’m just wondering what’s going to wipe us all out after this.

Tea was an anything curry, everything left over in the fridge, followed by rice pudding, and then I had a shower.

Grabbing my stuff, I’m now ready to leave. I’ve decided that I’m going to go in Caliburn too even though I’ve nowhere to park him. But I’ll worry about that later, I suppose.

What I’ll do is to do the drive in two (or maybe more) stages, because it’s a long way. If I can get a couple of hours on the road tonight, park up in a lay-by and then continue tomorrow.

That is, if I get that far because movement is strictly controlled. While “travelling for medical purposes” is one of the exemptions, I reckon that they might raise an eyebrow or two at almost 700kms

But I set off, fuelled up at LeClerc and then headed for the motorway. No-one about at all and I had one of the quietest runs that I have ever had.

pont de normandie le havre france eric hallMy route took me to Caen and then in the direction of Rouen and Paris

But I turned off in the direction of Le Havre and skirted the outside of the city. At one point I had to drive over the magnificent Pont de Normandie over the estuary of the River Seine. It the time that it was built, in the early 1990s it was the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world and also had the longest span (856 metres) between the pillars of any other cable-stayed bridge in the world.

Although it no longer holds these records, it’s still an impressive structure and I would loved to have had a better photo of this but unfortunately Strawberry Moose wasn’t with me to take the photo. He’s stayed at home, for I don’t want him to catch this virus

le havre france eric hallFrom the top there’s quite an impressive view of the town of Le Havre and its port. Everywhere was lit up and it looked like something out of Space 1999 but I couldn’t take a decent photo of it which was disappointing.

I picked up the motorway again at the north side of Rouen (it’s bizarre that there’s no ring road around Rouen) and headed in the direction of Calais, turning off for Amiens and then Lille.

In between Amiens and Lille I found a Motorway Sevice Area and settled down for a couple of hours on the front seats of Caliburn. I’d remembered to bring my bedding with me. It’s about 01:30 and I’ve driven about 350 kms in 4 hours, which is good going. It’s important to pass beyond the Paris-Le Havre-Rouen-Amiens area in the dead of night because if there’s ever going to be heavy traffic, it will be in that sector.

But that was one of the quietest runs I’ve ever had.

Friday 17th January 2020 – I BET THAT YOU ARE …

stade michel d'ornano caen olympique de marseille us granville manche normandy france eric hall… all wondering where I’ve been with the posting of today’s activities, aren’t you?

The fact is that I didn’t get home tonight at all. In fact, it wasn’t until about 16:40 on Saturday that I put my sooty foot through the front door of my apartment.

And with not having had lunch either, I ended up running considerably later than planned. But then, that’s what plans are all about, aren’t they?

But anyway, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

It was another morning of missed alarms. Another 07:00 start and I really need to get a grip and get myself organised otherwise I’m just going to fade away.

But then after the medication I attacked the dictaphone in order to see where I had been during the night.

Strange as it may seem, I was back in my house back in Gainsborough Road and it was an absolute tip (I know that I live in total chaos but it has nothing on how my house was, last night, I’ll tell you). There was stuff everywhere all over the place and there was the football on – it was the World Cup or something like that – the European Nations match and I was trying to watch it on TV but there was just so much disorder going on around me that I couldn’t. I went into the kitchen to get something and the place was in such a state clothes and bits everywhere and someone shouted something like “come on, your tea’s ready”. It turns out that my brother and a younger boy had been given their tea and it was probably about midnight or whatever. I went into the room and it was the back room and there was one of my sisters sitting on a chair. I hadn’t seen her for ages and she was talking to someone, another one of my sisters. I went up to her and said something like “what are you going to do tomorrow morning, if you get up early?” She said “I’m going to come and wake you up”.
It was some time shortly after that that we found a young boy hanging upside down by his feet in a four-poster bed. We pulled back the curtains of this four-poster bed and there he was hanging upside-down by his ankles. What was quite bizarre was that after going back to sleep after dictating the first part of it, I stepped right back into it where I’d left off. And it’s not the first time by any means that I’ve done that either.

There was lots more to this voyage too but as you are probably eating your meal or something I’ll spare you the unpleasantness.

Once breakfast was out of the way I attacked the radio project that needed finishing. And that took a lot longer than I expected too, basically because the 10-minute audio file that I had dictated turned out to be only 04:20 by the time that I had edited it and so I had to find a completely different song to end the show than the one that I had planned.

Anyway, I eventually managed to complete it and that was mu cue to go off and buy my dejeunette from La Mie Caline

trawler english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallHaving seen a white speck out in the English Channel I went to photograph it, only to find that I’d forgotten to put the memory card in the camera so I had to go back upstairs for it.

Downstairs again, I could photograph it and then in the comfort and safety of my own little office I could blow it up (the photo, not the object of course).

The result is inconclusive but probably a trawler-type of fishing boat I reckon. And you can see the Jersey coast in the background behind it. That gives you some idea of how far out the boat was.

chausiais joly france port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallOff then on my jaunt into town, but I didn’t get very far.

It’s all change in the inner harbour today. Chausiais and Joly France II have moved position. They’ve crossed over to the other side of the harbour and are now moored up in fromt of their sister over by the old cold store.

That’s a surprise for me. The only thing that I can think of is that they don’t want any debris from the car park renovation to drop onto the deck. And it also indicates that Granville and Victor Hugo are not going to be back home anytime soon

work chantier boulevard des terreneuviers granville manche normandy france eric hallYesterday, the regular readers of this rubbish and I saw them setting out a pile of “No Parking” signs in the Boulevard des Terreneuviers.

Today I went that way to see if I could pick up any clues about what might be happening down there.

Having had a look, I’m not really a great deal wiser. Apparently we are going to be having travaux – some kind of works – taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. That should be interesting to I shall have to go for my walk that way for a butcher’s.

spirit of conrad trawler mobile sling chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallThere was excitement too down at the Chantier navale too right now.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve had four boats in there this last couple of days. But in about ten minutes time we shall only be having three of them.

Spirit of Conrad is still there and so are two of the fishing boats but the third one, the blue and yellow one, is just about to leave the scene.

trawler mobile sling chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallHere she is, in the mobile sling, being lowered down into the water. And in a couple of minutes she’ll be sailing … “dieseling” – ed … off into the wild blue yonder.

So with another empty space in the place, does this mean that we are going to be having a new visitor?

But it also means that the tide is quite a way in, which also means that the harbour gates will be closed which also means that the path across the top will not be accessible and I’ll have to go along the rue du Port.

pressure washing heavy dumper lorries port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallAnd as I went along the rue du Port I could see strange goings-on on the boat-launching ramp down into the tidal harbour.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall having seen the dredging operations out by the ferry terminal and we had a look at the machinery the other day.

But today they are giving one of the huge dumper-lorries a good hose down with a pressure-washer, presumably to remove all of the silt that has accumulated thereupon while they have been working.

Off I went to la Mie Caline to pick up my bread, and then I headed back home.

What I spend the afternoon (with a break for lunch of course) was to deal with the Johan Gallon (the coach of US Granville)’s speech.

It’s been completed now, with all of my questions edited in, and I’ve been going through to edit out the joins, the silences and the stumbles. When that’s completed I’ll be going through and making another pass to remove the irrelevances and I’m hoping that I’ll have it done for Monday morning – at least, that’s the plan.

At 16:00 I called it a day, grabbed a few things together and then Caliburn and I headed for the hills.

First stop was at the dechetterie. The European Cardboard Box Mountain has now been consigned to a skip along with the old broken office chair and I can now get into the back of Caliburn if ever I need to.

Second stop was at Liz and Terry’s at Roncey.

We had a good chat and I gave them their Christmas present, after which we had tea. Burger and chips with salad followed by ginger cake.

Terry and I then headed off in Calburn down the motorway towards Caen and the Stade Michel D’Ornano. It’s the last 16 of the Coupe de France and Granville have pulled a plum out of the bag for this match.

They are “at home” against Olympique de Marseille but the match can’t be played at the Stade Louis Dior as was the Bordeaux match two years ago. There, there is a capacity of just 3,000 and it’s very uncomfortable at that size too.

But the Stade D’Ornano at Caen is free and has 20,200 places. Even so, it was sold out in about 4.5 hours but I managed to obtain 2 tickets.

We were doing really well until we hit the outskirts of Caen when a road accident slowed our progress. An hour it took to advance 6 kilometres.

Then we hit the traffic heading to the stadium, became tangled up in the mesh of red lights, and then I lost count of the number of roundabouts that we passed in the frantic search for a parking place.

Spotting an ad-hoc parking place, we quickly stuffed Caliburn into it and ran down the road towards the next roundabout. Not seeing the stadium, we asked a passer-by who sent us back where we had started. Brain of Britain had miscounted, and parked Caliburn at the roundabout right by the stadium.

stade michel d'ornano caen olympique de marseille us granville manche normandy france eric hallAs a result we missed the first 30 seconds of the game.

Having been frisked at the stadium we were allowed in, but finding a seat was impossible. We ended up standing, with about 100 others on the stairs, with a couple of people who had made themselves comfortable sitting on the top step complaining about the “new arrivals blocking their view”.

But at a time like this and in a crowd like this, it’s “every man for himself”. Sardines had nothing on us.

The first half of the match was a surprise to most people.

It was pretty clear that Olympique de Marseille were the better team but it was also clear that US Granville weren’t going to lie down and roll over. They were pegged back for much of the half, that’s for sure, but they were breaking away quite regularly and going forward down the wings, with William Sea throwing his weight around up front.

The Granvillais goalkeeper was the busier of the two but it wasn’t by any means a one-way street.

drummers stade michel d'ornano caen olympique de marseille us granville manche normandy france eric hallAt half-time we were treated to a display of drumming as the drummers marched around the touchline having a right old bang. There were also two teams of kids having a penalty shoot-out.

What was even worse was that I was dying to use the bathroom and desperate for a coffee but I had no intention of moving away from my good spec on the stairs having fought my way into it.

So we stayed put and waited for the second half to begin.

The second half carried on where the first left off , with Olympique de Marseille attacking, US Granville absorbing the pressure, and then hitting them on the break.

And then the match turned rather sour.

maseille had worked out early on that the danger men for Granville were little Lamrabette with his merry, mazy runs with the ball through crowds of players, and also big William Sea who was showing that despite his injury he still had what it takes to mix it on level terms with the Olympique Marseille central defenders.

As a result, they were flattening the two of them with regular monotony, but being very careful firstly not to do it quite enough to earn a caution and secondly to take it in turns so as no individual would be cautioned for persistent infringement.

It was saddening to watch a display like this from a team like Olympique Marseille against a bunch of amateurs and if that’s the idea of how Villas-Boas wants his team to play then he should be ashamed of himself.

Anyway, it had the desired effect because with round about 15 minutes to go, William Sea was finally fed up of being grabbed from behind every time he had the ball. He lashed out behind him with his elbow and unfortunately caught a Marseille player full in the face.

Having had a yellow card earlier in the game, that was that for Sea and he was off down the tunnel for an early bath and Granville were down to 10 men.

What was sickening about this was that the player who had been fouled them followed Sea to the touchline and taunted him about being sent off. A couple of Granville staff had to grab hold of Sea before he put the Marseille player over the stadium wall and out into the street.

stade michel d'ornano caen olympique de marseille us granville manche normandy france eric hallAnd that, I’m afraid, was that.

At the Press Conference I’d mentioned that the danger time in every game where the professionals meet the amateurs is the final 15 minutes when the lack of fitness shows through and the amateurs run out of steam. And even more so when you are only 10 against 11.

And so it proved. 2 minutes later, Olympique de Marseille went ahead. They added a second 10 minutes later and then deep into stoppage time, a typical US Granvillais “lack of concentration” about which I have moaned on more occasions than many in the past gifted them a third.

Although before the game the general feeling was that had Granville come home with a 3-0 defeat they would have done really well but after the match that we had seen, a 3-0 defeat was a travesty.

And the tactics of a team riding high in the French Premier League against a bunch of students, supermarket shelf-fillers, taxi drivers, teachers and the like have left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, including mine.
.

The drive home was no better than the drive out. We had to fight our way through the maze of traffic lights which took an age and then another accident on the way back had us queueing again for yet another lengthy period.

As a result it was 01:00 when we finally reached Terry’s, and he offered me a bed for the night. By that time and after all that, I was totally done in anyway so I took up his offer and here I am and there I stayed.

Tuesday 5th November 2019 – CALIBURN HAS GONE …

… to the garage today for his annual service and Controle Technique.

He should have gone sometime towards the end of June but as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I was dealing with other issues like a broken right hand and a damaged kneecap which meant that I couldn’t drive.

And then I was heading off on my mega-adventure.

So this is the first time that Caliburn has turned a wheel since about the middle of June – 5 months – and then it was only around the block. So all in all, he did very well. There was a dashboard light illuminated when I set off but after about 10 minutes it went out again.

And talking of things going out, you won’t believe what time I was going out of bed this morning. Up and about and actually working at … wait for it … 05:45 and when was the last time that I was up and about long before the alarm? Even without a late-ish night?

But it’s not all about the new lean, keen, mean me. I woke up with the most incredible pain in a place that many men will understand and although the pain eased off somewhat, it was still giving me grief. So no point in lying in bed when there are things to do.

An early start means an early medication and an early breakfast, and being well-advanced with the dictaphone notes backlog, I could hit the streets with Caliburn.

There was a brief stop at the Centre Agora to pick up a recording kit. I have piles of audio to record in the near future and the quality of the dictaphone isn’t good enough.

Caliburn was then dropped off at the garage and I’ll tell you what’s frightening about all of this. I’ve only ever been there twice, the last time in June 2018, but the guy there this lunchtime saw me and said “ahhh – Mr Hall”. I don’t like the sound of this one little bit.

On the way back, I went into the cheap electrical shop where I’ve bought some stuff before and today I fell in love with an oven. Then down to LeClerc for a bit more shopping. Not too much though because this audio kit is quite heavy.

The route back took me by surprise because I walked all the way back up the hill to here from town without even stopping and I’ve not really managed that too often in the past.

After lunch I made a start on project 002 and the audio kit came in very handy, although it took me a while to work out how to use it. And I was so impressed that I was thinking about getting one of my own – until I saw the price. Now I’m trying to find something similar but cheaper.

sun effects tora tora tora baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy brittany franceAs usual, I went out for my afternoon walk at about 15:45 as usual – a nice mid-point between lunch and tea.

Round the headland again, and the sunlight is still playing tricks. We had yet another delightful TORA TORA TORA effect out there across the bay over onto the Brittany side between Cancale and St Malo.

You can see how this strange light is playing havoc with the colours of the sea out there

sunshine carolles granville manche normandy franceAnd that wasn’t all the excitement about the sunlight either.

The way that the rays of the sun were shining through the gaps in the clouds over there had illuminated the promenade between Jullouville and Carolles just as if it had been some kind of actor on a stage.

All of the surrounding countryside was in the darkness and this little area was properly bathed in sunshine.

storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy franceGiven the foregoing and the lack of comment about any high winds, you could be forgiven for thinking that Tempete Amelie has abated.

But not a bit of it. Although the wind has calmed down somewhat (but not very much) we are still having the heavy rolling seas coming in from mid-Atlantic.

They are pushing along and smashing into the sea wall with some kind of incredible violence as you can see.

storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy franceBut as well as the one just above with the huge rolling wave, this one here is one of my favourites.

I waited just an extra second later before I pressed the shutter on the camera and while the wave has rolled away, I’ve captured the spray splattering down on the top of the sea wall and splashing everywhere.

It’s not very likely that I’ll be able to take another photo quite like this, right at the best moment.

fishing boat joker port de granville harbour manche normandy franceThere was a fishing boat in port … “there were about a dozen actually” – ed … that caught my eye.

At first glance, Joker looked rather too much like the very ill-fated MV Darlwyne for comfort. But of course it isn’t.

However if someone were to tell me that it was a direct descendant of the aforementioned I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised.

And talking of ships in the harbour … “well, one of us is” – ed … I had a nice mail (this contact form thingy really works!) this morning from some of the crew of Normandy Trader, a ship that has featured on these pages no fewer than 26 times, admiring my photos and inviting me aboard next time she’s in the harbour.

That’s a nice plan

There wasn’t enough time for me to finish off the audio work so I need to do that tomorrow. But for tea I had a scrounge around in the fridge and found some onion, green pepper, mushrooms and a few other things so I cooked some lentils and made a curry.

There’s enough for two days too so I’ll use the left-over stuffing in some taco rolls tomorrow and the rest of the curry on Thursday.

half moon granville manche normandy franceOutside, there were some thick clouds scudding about in the wind.

But just as the right moment the clouds parted and I had a lovely view of it. Just for a change, the camera was quite handy too and so I was able to take quite a good shot of an Autumn half-moon.

It’s come out quite well considering that it was hand-held and taken in a hurry. When I was taking all of those last year I was using a tripod and going for a slow exposure.

For my walk in the wind I was all alone, except for Minette the cat sitting on her windowsill. She still remembered me and allowed me to give her a good stroke.

And I had my run too – and even managed to run half-way up the hill at the end of my usual straight. You’ve probably noticed from the photos of the waves and the spray over the harbour walls that the wind has changed direction today. For a change I had a following wind.

carolles granville manche normandy franceWe had a photo earlier of Carolles bathed in sunshine.

Tonight there was no sunshine of course but the atmosphere was beautifully clear despite the clouds and I could see Carolles perfectly lit up tonight by the street lights along the promenade

Again, no tripod so it was hand-held and it’s not come out too badly. But some of the other night-time photos weren’t up to much.

So before I go to bed I’ll just have time to do half a dozen web-page updates. I promised myself that I would do that every day and I do need to catch up with the arrears of work

But no reason to go out tomorrow (I doubt that Caliburn will be ready) so I can do plenty of work if I put my mind to it.

That’s some “if”.

diving platform granville manche normandy france
diving platform granville manche normandy france

ile de chausey granville manche normandy france
ile de chausey granville manche normandy france

storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy france
storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy france

storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy france
storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy france

storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy france
storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy france

storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy france
storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy france

storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy france
storm high winds tempete amelie port de granville harbour manche normandy france

moon hidden by clouds granville manche normandy france
moon hidden by clouds granville manche normandy france

jullouville granville manche normandy france
jullouville granville manche normandy france

rue paul poirier granville jullouville manche normandy france
rue paul poirier granville jullouville manche normandy france

Tuesday 22nd October 2019 – HATS OFF …

… to Caliburn. Stood outside on the car park for four months without turning a wheel while I was on my travels. So I gave his ignition key a turn this morning and admittedly after something of a struggle, his engine did fire up.

So I left him ticking over for 10 minutes to warm his engine up. I’m impressed.

The bad news though is that the garage can’t fit him in until the 5th of November and that’s filled me with dismay.

But hats off too to Grahame, one of the regular readers of this rubbish, who has just passed his citizenship test for Austria and is well on the way to having an Austrian passport.

So that’s Alison in Belgium, Jackie and Hanzi in Germany, Rhys in the USA, Rachel in Canada, and I of course have my permanent residency status for France and will be organising my French nationality once I get myself straight. Now we have Grahame in Austria.

What we are actually witnessing is a new 21st Century diaspora, an “involuntary mass dispersion of a population from its indigenous territories” as those of us from the UK who are capable of doing so are renouncing our heritage and moving forward to the Brave New World.

Usually, diasporas are associated with an unwanted element of the population, such as Scottish Highlanders, Acadians, Jews and the like being expelled from their home. But this new phenomenon consists of a different kind of person, something like the inverse where it’s the more mobile, more resourceful, more energetic person who is taking the initiative.

And these people are spreading out all over the world, as you can see from just my very small circle of friends. They are taking their considerable skills away from the UK, to the detriment of that country, and into their adopted country. The UK’s loss, the rest of the world’s gain.

And I couldn’t care less for the UK.

Yesterday I was going on … “and on and on” – ed … about my fourteen hours asleep yesterday. And so it goes without saying that I would be paying for it in early course.

Like last night.

I was in bed “something like” and dozed off for a short while but awoke pretty quickly. Lying in bed tossing and turning, this wasn’t doing me any good at all so round by 01:30 I gave it up as a bad job and hauled myself out of bed to carry on working.

It was a good idea too, because I was able to push on quite rapidly with the updating of the one of the websites that I had mentioned yesterday.

As well as that, I uploaded all of the photos – all 4,000 or so of them, up to the computer where I’ll begin to edit them in early course.

One of my friends was on line too, unable to sleep, so we had something of a chat.

Round about 06:30 I was overcome by fatigue so I took to my bed. I was out like a light and remained so until about 09:30.

Feeling like the Wreck of the Hesperus (although I have no idea where I might find it, except at Norman’s Woe of course) I staggered out of bed and it took me a while to organise myself.

Medication and then breakfast of course, followed by (at long last) a shower and a good tidy up of myself, for which I was extremely grateful because I needed it, and then I set the washing machine on the go with a load of clothes.

And I worked out that I spent FOUR MONTHS away from home with just

  • three tee-shirts
  • three sets of underwear
  • two pairs of trousers
  • two fleeces
  • one set of Arctic underlayers

Travellig light, you might say, except for Strawberry Moose, who took up far more space for himself and his affairs than I ever took for me.

As promised, I took my morning walk. Just down to the Super-U supermarket for some tomatoes, lettuce, fruit, onions and garlic. It was necessary because I didn’t have anything in the apartment, and it gave my morning walk some point.

It was a beautiful day today so I went and had lunch sitting on my wall overlooking the cliffs. The sunshine was delicious and there was a lizard out there enjoying itself.

This afternoon, I paid for my next year’s web hosting
which reminds me – if you enjoy what I write, please make your next Amazon purchase by using the links aside. It costs you no extra but earns me a small commission that helps defray my webhosting expenses
and then ordered a new bracelet for my fitbit. And that wasn’t as easy as it might have been either.

Another thing that I did was to contact three music shops about something that I need. And, once again, as yet there is no response from any of them. As I have said before, people complain about there being a recession and yet they don’t have too much interest in replying to genuine business enquiries.

All this money that I want to spend and no-one seems to want me to spend it with them.

The afternoon walk was beautiful. The weather was gorgeous and there were crowds of people milling around outside in the sun. Even a few kids running in and out of the sea, clearly having loads of fun. After all, we are in the school holidays.

Back here, I carried on upgrading the site that I’m working on, as well as negotiating with my web host about an upgrade to the server that he uses. It looks as if we might be moving into the 21st Century, something that will please me greatly too.

And in between all of that I’ve also spent an hour or so playing on the guitar – the bass of course but mainly the acoustic six-string. And I’m working on three numbers that I want to play competently on a six-string within a week or so.

But these are beautiful lyrics.
She’s got a smile that it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky

Now and then when I see her face
It takes me away to that special place
And if I stared too long
I’d probably break down and cry

Sweet child o’ mine

She’s got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I’d hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain

Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I’d hide
And pray for the thunder and the rain
To quietly pass me by

Sweet child o’ mine
I wonder if they remind anyone of anything in particular?

Tea was pasta and vegetables tossed in olive oil, garlic and black pepper (and I forgot the sea salt) and delicious it was indeed. Followed by a very lonely walk around the headland in the calm bright night.

Bedtime now, and I hope that I might be able to sleep for a while tonight. There is so much to do and there I was looking for a break after my exertions.

Wednesday 10th October 2018 – WE ARE NOT ALONE!

Yes, there I was at the station here in Granville at 13:55 when the Paris train pulled in and disgorged a pile of passengers, amongst them my friend Josée from Montréal.

She’s on holiday in France for a few weeks and is calling by to inspect my premises and see how things are.

I must admit that I’m very popular these days. When I lived back on the farm for 9.5 years I didn’t even have a handful of visitors. I’ve had more than that in just the last months since I’ve been properly installed here. Either I’ve become much more popular in my old age or else the sea has an attraction all of its own.

It was early (for me, anyway) when I went off to bed last night. And I was stark out pretty quickly too. But it didn’t last and by 23:35 I was awake again.

From here on I didn’t think that I had gone back to sleep again but I suppose that I must have done because the alarms awoke me at the usual time.

It took me a while to heave myself out into the Land Of The Living and even longer to drag myself into the kitchen. But at 08:35 I was standing under the shower having a good hose down. Have to look … “and smell” – ed … my best, don’t I?

The washing machine had a good run out too with the clothes and the bedding. I have special new sheets and quilt cover etc for visitors – after all, no-one would like to sleep in any bed covering that I have slept in, no matter how many times it has been washed.

Tidying up was next – the place now looks as if someone normal lives here – and I even found time to vacuum the floors, clean the sink in the bathroom and to clean th toilet.

By now the washing was finished so seeing as it was a really windy day, I hung everything up to dry in the window in the bedroom, having opened the window first of course. After all, it was a nice sunny day outside as well.

Shopping was next on the agenda so Caliburn and I hit the road in the direction of LIDL and Leclerc. Nothing of any importance (except a magnetic strip for the knives for whenever I install the third stage of the kitchen) but it was still a substantial bill. My living standards are improving, as well as having to buy enough food for two people for a few days.

jaguar mark 10 granville manche normandy franceWhile I was at Leclerc I’d nipped across the road to the Sports shop to look at the rucksacks, but I was sidetracked by a car on sale at the executive car sales place.

It’s a Mark 10 Jaguar from the early 1960s and I’ve seen much worse examples of these than this one.

In fact, when I had my taxis I had one of these that was a total wreck. We had a Daimler 420G that was intended to be used for weddings, and had the same running gear and other parts that were fitted on the Mark 10s.

jaguar mark 10 granville manche normandy franceSo when we were at McGuinness’s scrapyard in Longport once and someone was bringing in a Mark 10 for scrap, we did a quick bit of negotiation and it ended up on my trailer heading for my little yard in Crewe.

The intention was of course to break it for spares but I ended up being overtaken by events.

But as for this Mark 10 here, these are huge cars as you can see, they take a lot of maintenance and have a tendency to evaporate overnight into a pile of iron oxide.

Someone has had a good go at stopping this one – but for how long? It would be well beyond my capacity these days to keep it on the road.

When Josée arrived, we went the pretty way back to the apartment and she immediately fell in love with it. We made a big salad with all kind of stuff going in it and it was delicious. We did well there.

After that we went for a walk around the headland and a little rest at the halfway point where I took a few photos of her (on her ‘phone) looking out to sea in a thoughtful pose.

A little later we went to the bookshop in the rue des Juifs. Josée always likes to buy a book from each place that she visits.

On the way back we stopped at the bar in the old town for a drink and she had something to eat. I think that she needs to brace herself for a vegan diet over the next few days.

The eveing’s plan was to watch a film and so I chose Louis de Funès and Les Folies Des Grandeurs – one of my most favourite de Funès films. But Josée is still in jet-lag so she went off to bed after 20 minutes.

I won’t be long either. I may as well take advantage of the possibility of an early night too, but not before I’ve finished listening to Colosseum Live.

I’m back here again, aren’t I?

Thursday 4th October 2018 – I CAN TELL …

… that things are going downhill as far as my health is concerned. I’ve had a very bad day today.

So having crashed out last night definitively at about 22:00 (and no surprise there) I was wide-awake again at 02:15 on the dot and up working at 02:40. Which meant that I wasn’t disturbed in the least by the internet connection dropping and restarting at 02:30 onwards, and pinging the telephone each time that it did so.

There was time to go on my travels too – up to the High Arctic once again where I was disguised or pretending to be an Inuit, saying goodbye to everyone. And it was one of those protracted, long emotional goodbyes that somehow managed to take several days as I visited many of the places where I had recently been (and several other places that I didn’t recognise either).

By the time 06:00 came around I was ready for my medication. And this was followed by breakfast. Muesli, apple puree grape juice and coffee. Back to our usual habits. and then back to work.

But I couldn’t keep going, which was hardly surprising. I curled up on the bed and that was that until 13:00. Out like a light.

When I awoke the coffee that remained in the percolator had burnt. That wasn’t much good. I had a bit of a stagger around to regain my composure, and at about 14:30 I decided to go out.

LIDL and LeClerc were the destinations today. Caliburn started perfectly after 5 weeks of pause and that was good news.

We didn’t buy anything special apart from a twin-USB plug for Caliburn but the bill still came to about €50:00. Supplies were pretty low with having had a clear-out before I came away.

But I saw my first “F” plate while I was out. That was hardly a surprise. I reckoned that they were due to come out at the beginning of September.

Back here I had a struggle to fit the frozen food into the fridge. I’d forgotten that I’d made a ton of frozen meals before going away. And having bought a pile of fresh mushrooms (they were on special offer) I’ll be making some more too.

By the time that I had done that and made my sandwiches it was 17:00 so I went to sit on the wall in the late-afternoon sun. One of the lizards came to visit me too which was quite nice. Clearly haven’t forgotten the pear droppings.

But back here, I couldn’t keep going and by 18:00 I was back in bed.

21:00 I awoke and found to coffee gone cold on the chest of drawers by the bed. There’s no doubt that I’m going downhill.

And the raging thirst is back. And as I have said before, that’s always a very bad sign. It usually heralds the start of a bout of ill-health and after all that I’ve been through just recently, that’s hardly a surprise.

But I shall keep on going. Still some life left in the old dog yet and I intend to make the most of it. But as TS McPhee once famously wrote
I’m like a ship on the ocean that’s rolling from side to side
But I’m not drunk I’m just dissatisfied
It’s not my body but my mind I can’t control
I have everything I need but still…..I want more

I’ve done everything that I’ve ever set out to do
I become so well known that they’ve put me in who’s who
But I’ve reached the limit and I don’t know what to do
If I can’t go no further I’ll have to go back…..to being poor