Category Archives: leuven

Thursday 14th September 2023 – THERE’S GOOD NEWS …

… and there’s bad news.

The bad news today is that the professor came to see me today to tell me that they have tried everything that they have in their armoury and there’s nothing left to try.

Mind you, she did say that she was impressed that I’ve kept going as long as I have. She told me quite frankly that when I turned up there seven and a half years ago for the first time, she was worried that I wouldn’t pull through at all.

Anyway, my sleeping patters are back to where they used to be. I awoke a couple of times during the night and I was fast asleep when the alarm went off.

There had been plenty of little travels during the night. An Asian woman who was the mother of a friend of mine – in fact the mother of a girl whom I knew. I thought that it was a girl whom I knew from school but it could well have been Castor had come down to the road into Tarporley from Chester. She was ever so upset because someone from the school had turned up in an awful panic and said that she hadn’t brought any of the children with her. They were all about to get into her car and be driven here but they all disappeared. None of them actually got in and she couldn’t find them. The mother was distraught. I said that that reminded me of a dream that I’d had ages ago that she had actually turned up with a group of other children at this spot and I went to fetch her but she was with her brother and they all said that they had something else important to do and couldn’t do. They just simply disappeared from the spot where I was standing. I thought that that was an amazing coincidence that I’d had that in a dream and then something almost identical had happened like that in real life.

There’s an interesting story about this girl whom I knew. When she started at school everyone agreed that she would grow up to be a real stunner. Anyway a good few years later I’d been delivering freight to Northern Ireland and was on my way back home and decided to stop off for some fish and chips and a beer.

At Galgate just outside Lancaster was a pub that brewed its own beer and a fish and chip shop next door so I went there. And who was serving behind the bar?

“What are you doing here?” I asked.
3I’m a student at the University and I work here sometimes to earn some cash”.

It goes without saying that every time there was some freight to go north, I’d be the first to volunteer

Coming up to Easter “what plans do you have?”
“I don’t know. I want to go home but I can’t afford the trip”
“Would you like me to come and pick you up?”.

So back at home we went out together for a few times until the famous night that I invited her back to my house. My old black cat was extremely antisocial and always went to hide when people came round but when she walked in, the cat went over, jumped on her lap and settled down
“Ohhh look! Even Tuppence likes her!” I thought

On the way home later I said to the girl “thank you for the lovely evening. I’d be really happy if you’d like to come round again”.
“Yes-s-s-s-s” she stuttered. “But you’ll have to get rid of that cat! I hate cats!”
And the rest, as they say, is history.

With Nerina, Tuppence never stood a chance.
“Ohhh look! A cat!” she said. And she’d bent down and picked up the cat and began to stroke her before Tuppence had even had time to react.
And the rest of that was history too.

Then we were in Nantwich, walking up Welsh Row towards the school. We met a girl whom we knew who was really quite excited, telling us that they’d had a visitor at school, someone really important. It turned out to be the King or Prime Minister, someone handicapped who needed help to move around but was one of the most important men in the Kingdom. He’d been to the field opposite the school

And finally I was having a big chat with a neighbour and a few other people, discussing globalisation and international commerce from an individual’s point of view last night.

There wasn’t long to hang around though because Alison was in a rush. We drove through the fog and mist to the hospital where I had to wait for an age to sign in.

The kidney specialist poked and prodded me as I told him my tale of woe. Not that it did me much good because although he listened quite intently, he didn’t change anything at all.

He did give me a prescription for the next batch of medication – three months of it too. I went and had the prescription made up and I’ve no idea now how I’m going to manage to take everything home with me.

The doctor had sent me off to give a blood test too and to my surprise (and yours too) the nurse had no problems whatever in finding some.

Next stop was the Social Services department. I’d received a bill for treatment which surprised me because there’s a direct billing arrangement with my health insurance provider.

No need to give a blood sample in the afternoon, having given one in the morning.

At the meeting with the doctor though she did the usual bit about asking me all kinds of questions and then doing nothing whatever to change anything that I’m taking. And then the professor came to see me for a chat.

There was some good news too, as I mentioned. The doctor considers that the state of my mobility is now non-existent so she game me a certificate to that effect.

That means that in principle (because insurance companies can be bizarre) I’m entitled to claim my travelling expenses. In other words, while claiming the train is out of the question, I can go by taxi, obtain a receipt and then submit it for review in the hope that someone somewhere will pay it.

Consequently I had a hospital porter push me to the front door in a wheelchair, and then had a nice new Mercedes taxi back to Alison’s house.

Once I was back here I had a little … errr … relax and then slowly began to pack my things.

Tea was more pasta and sausages and now I’m off to bed because I have to raise myself at … errr … 05:15. Alison wants to be on the road by 05:40 at the latest and I have a train at a wayside station at 06:28.

That’s something that I don’t want to miss because I shall be in a rush all day tomorrow.

And I’ll tell you something for nothing – I’ll be glad to be back home and I won’t be doing this again.

Saturday 9th September 2023 – ALISON’S SOFA …

… is one of the most comfy places in which I’ve ever slept.

There is actually a bed for me but to tell the truth, I can’t make it up the stairs any more so “arrangements” were made. Oh!!! How the mighty have fallen

For a change, I was the first awake (with no alarm) but the others soon came to join me and we sat outside in the heat and drank coffee.

Later on we headed into Tervuren. Alison knows a nice cafe where they do pastries so while they were tucking into pastries and coffee I had bread rolls and strawberry jam.

Up the street we then went to see Alison’s new house. It looks quite small from the outside but it’s a real labyrinth inside. We had the guided tour while she outlined her plans.

The sale was only concluded on Monday and she’s decided to have a pile of work done to it before she thinks about moving in

On the way back home we raided the English Shop for Ginger Beer, ice cream (I even found some vegan ice cream) and vegan food for me, then we came home to sit outside in the heat with ice cream and ginger pop like something out of an Enid Blyton novel.

We found a new vegan restaurant that does a buffet where you pay by weight so that seemed like a good idea.

We knew where it was but driving to it was another complication but we eventually settled down. And I’m glad that we went because the food really was delicious.

Back here now, everyone’s exhausted and gone to bed. I’ll be going too in a minute, but not before I exploit a remarkable discovery that I’ve made.

If I select more than one piece of music (like a whole album-full for example) and keep them selected while I go into “properties”, I can batch-edit all of the properties for each track simultaneously.

1994 was the first time that I played with “Windows” and it’s taken me that long to work this out.

What’s even more bizarre is that I discovered it by accident too.

One final thing – the dictaphone. There was some stuff on there from my nice, comfortable night. I had posted on a Social Network page that I was planning on leaving Leuven and going back home. Someone posted to ask if I could bring something back. I replied that it wasn’t possible so someone else asked me if I could bring back something else. I explained that that wasn’t possible either. It ended up with me being given a rather unfortunate heap of abuse.

There was also a dream about a load of Port Vale replica football tops which were not in Port Vale colours at all and a series of bad “knock knock” jokes told by a girl of about 4. And I’m glad that I can’t remember them. After all they won’t trouble my sleeping any.

Friday 8th September 2023 – THAT WAS A …

… horrible journey and I don’t ever want to do it again.

As usual, when I’m going away, I had a bad night’s sleep and spend much of the hours of darkness tossing and turning.

Nevertheless I was up and about (in principle) before the alarm went off

First thing that I did was to grab a shower and then I did a few last-minute things before going out for the bus.

The bus was there but the driver wasn’t so I had to wait a few minutes before he turned up. And then we set off with a bunch of kids who were staying at the youth hostel in the town and who had been for a morning run.

The bus threw me out at the port and I had a 200-metre walk to the bus stop around the corner where the next bus would pick me up. And it was this 200 metres so early in the journey that convinced me that my travelling days are over.

There was a 20-minute wait for the bus during which time firstly my cleaner went past and rearranged my backpack on my shoulders, and then one of the girls from the radio came past and said hello.

The bus didn’t drop me off at the station but across the road so it was a long walk. And with my carriage being right down at the far end it was something of a scramble to be seated before the train pulled out

Updating all of those files took an age, not helped by the fact that I had a little … errr …relax at some point, and we were late pulling into Montparnasse too.

What with one thing and another I’d decided long-since that I was going to throw caution to the wind and have a taxi across Paris, but the walk to the taxi rank was about as far as the walk to the underground, which is regrettable

The ride with a friendly taxi driver wasn’t as expensive as I thought, but my leg had collapsed again getting into his car so I wasn’t enjoying it one bit

To make matters worse I staggered into the Disabled Persons’ room and asked for assistance to board my train to Brussels but they told me to clear off because I hadn’t booked 24 hours in advance.

So four of the assistants there sat and watch me make my slow weary way all the way down the platform to my carriage right at the far end of the train.

There was plenty of stuff on the dictaphone from the night. We were back at school – some kind of sports day with competitions etc. We were with our own House and had to stay with our own House all day. There were all kinds of things going on in the way of competition etc. The final one was a football match so we all had to go to our various common rooms afterwards to prepare. It was then that I realised that in all my things I didn’t have any shoes with me do it looked as if I would be playing in my socks. I didn’t really fancy playing too much because of that so when they began to talk about goalkeepers someone asked a girl “have you ever tried to be rather rough with a goalkeeper when you have the ball in the penalty area. I replied “you can always try it with me and see what happens” but no-one seemed to pick up on it so I didn’t bother all that much. I went up to the common room to prepare. One of the girls was closing the door so I had to insist and make some kind of rude comment before she’d open it again. There was a girl there from about 2 years younger than us whom I knew. Her boyfriend was in our year. The two of them were together and there was another girl in a green check dress – our colours were blue so I don’t know where she was from and what she was doing in there.

Back into this dream again, I eventually made it into the room when they let me in and sorted out into houses except these two girls and I don’t know what was happening with one of them. The other one was with her boyfriend, and we were joking about the football with my ingrowing toenail on my right foot and wasn’t going to be very happy for it especially as I didn’t have my shoes etc with me.

Back once more into the same dream and we were all back in our groups again, going back up Welsh Row towards the Grammar School dressed in our school uniform. Something happened and one of the boys pointed to another one in our class and called him names because he was more interested in eating a bar of chocolate than playing football. There were a few other things like that too.

This was another dream that took place in connection with a school. This time I was in a bath and the water was coming out with such a force that I was sure that it would break the porcelain fittings etc so I was prepared to be dumped into the middle of the bathroom. Somehow the contraption kept on running which surprised me greatly.

still on the theme of children, there was something going on about therapy for children who had been troubled. It was like a drawing and colouring class. What they had for adults was like a painting-by-numbers where you could go along and paint yourself a picture and hope to get rid of stress and tension by doing that.

This final part looks as if it might be something to do with the previous one. There was something about a clinic, people who have financial health problems. Part of the therapy there for children is drawing. For adults they had a few of these huge “painting by numbers” outfits with pictures even taller than the people themselves. The adults could spend as many hours as they wished simply painting the image.

At Brussels I didn’t have long to wait but climbing into the train was next-to impossible on these double-deckers with their steep stairs. Next time I go to Leuven I’ll have to wait around for one of the local stopping trains. These are all on the same level, and a level that is level with the platform so there’s no trying to climb in.

Leuven was roasting hot when I arrived and the walk along the platform to the lift finished me off.

And for some reason my phone wasn’t receiving messages so Alison and Jackie didn’t know that I’d arrived.

Eventually we met up and roared off to meet Hans at the Airport.

Alison knew a lovely Indian restaurant in Sterrebeek so we went there and had a delicious meal. Then we cam back here and sat outside in the heat until God Knows what time chatting.

My sofa is comfortable so I’m going to get in it and sleep for a week. I don’t ever want to do that journey again. Not on any terms.

Friday 12th May 2023 – AS BARRY HAY …

… once famously said – “What else can I say except IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO BE BACK HOME

As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … out of all of the places where I have ever lived, the only place where I’ve ever experienced homesickness when I’ve been away is this beautiful building here with the spectacular scenery and wonderful neighbours.

Mind you, it was a struggle to get back here. having crowed so lustily about the outward trip, the return was nothing like the same.

It always seems to be at railway stations where it all seems to go wrong, as witness my rather dramatic and spectacular fall on a railway station in Montreal in October.

And so it was today. To pass through the automatic barriers at the Metro at the Gare du Nord in Paris you have to move smartly. I wasn’t smart enough and ended up being trapped as the barriers closed between me and my backpack. It took the combined efforts of three passers-by to free me from my trap.

And the struggle was clearly far too much for me because I had another bad fall straight away afterwards, and a couple of people had to pick me up because I couldn’t pick myself up.

One of the guys was going my way so he took my backpack and helped me onto the Metro as far as Montparnasse. Ahh well.

As usual, when I have a reason to leave the bed, I have a fitful restless night. And so it was last night. But when the alarm went off at 06:25 I was up quite quickly.

Once I’d packed, I was down to the railway station and as usual with the SNCB it was an antediluvian AM80 that came in this morning and I have all kinds of difficulties climbing into one of those. And climbing out at Gare du Midi in Brussels too.

The TGV was already in but they wouldn’t let us board for ages. And we had a “security issue” that delayed the loading even more.

The train did however set off on time and I spent the journey doing some research for my High Arctic photos of 2019. And you have to admire the naming conventions of James Rae as he roamed around the High Arctic explaining his reasons for the names that he gave to the geographical features that he encountered, such as, for example, Bence Jones Island in the Rae Strait “after the distinguished medical man and analytical chemist of that name, to whose kindness I and my party were much indebted for having proposed the use of, and prepared, some extract of tea for the expedition.’”.

One of the Inuit ladies I encountered on Devon Island gave me some of her native Labrador Tea to try. I shall probably have to name my new apartment after her because the tea was “much enjoyed”. She was so pleased that I enjoyed it that she performed a drum dance for STRAWBERRY MOOSE and I’m sure that you think that I’m making this up.

At the Gare du Nord I had my “issues” but with an aching leg and wounded pride I made it down the Rue du Départ to Montparnasse and my train without encountering anyone I know. And with catching a later train out of Brussels this morning I didn’t have long to wait.

The train was acually half-empty but for some reason they had me sharing a seat with someone. But once I was sure that evryone who was on was on, I went across the gangway and had a seat all to myself.

At Granville we pulled into one of the older platforms that the Caen-Rennes diesels use and with our train being higher you’ve no idea the struggle that I had to exit the train.

The leg is definitely weakened though because hauling myself into Caliburn was a struggle and I was back to how I was in January without the force to press the brake pedal properly. As I’ve said before, each time that I have a fall, it takes longer and longer to recover.

back here I made a nice strong coffee and came in here to collapse in a chair, from where I didn’t move for hours.

Earlier on, I mentioned my restless night. Tons of stuff on the dictaphone to prove it too. I’d bought a property last night. I’d paid a lot of money for it but I could afford it. It was in rural Normandy somewhere. We were discussing plans to move into it etc but I wanted to have a closer look at what was involved. I managed to dig up an old sale brochure for it from years ago where there was a house, an annexe and a Plaxton Embassy-bodied coach that had been converted into a race car transporter with some kind of car that had been modified for racing. There was a big garage and workshop area. I thought that this was absolutely fine if I could find someone else to come to share it with me. We’d be away with all of this if it turns out to be the same kind of place.

Someone wanted a letter posting but for various reasons they weren’t able to do it. They asked me if I would go. After much persuasion I went on the pushbike. The first thing that I noticed was that there were no brakes on it. I thought that I’d be really running a risk going all the way to the post box particularly as I’d have to cycle through Crewe town centre. But cycle I did, nearly knocking people over, taking wide turns and nearly ending up on the wrong side of the traffic island. I eventually reached the cinema which was absolutely packed because there was an extremely controversial film being shown. There were 2 pillar poxes outside, one of which had a stamp machine attached. I didn’t know which pillar box to put the letter because the time of the collections was exactly the same. It looked as if they were both receiving the correct attention. In the end I simply put it in the newer one of the two.

And then I was in a fast-food restaurant last night in the USA. I tool a banana. There was a guy there mopping the floor. He took three bananas and put them on the scales with mine. I told him to clear off and it led to a strange argument where he insisted that I was paying for his bananas. The clerk behind the counter also thought that I was. We had something of an argument for about 5 minutes. In the end I took my banana off the scales, pout $0:60 down on the countertop and began to walk away. That ended up into another discussion that turned out to be much more friendly and I’d no idea why. We ended up talking about shift rotas etc. The cashier showed me how her shift rota worked and how she had to change a few things round. I bet that you’re really enjoying these exciting moments.

We were working on something for the radio. We needed a troupe of dancing children. We recruited a couple of kids whom we knew but we were short on numbers. I went past a sports field and there was a group of kids there. There were two who were controlling the crowd and dancing in time to some music that was going on in the background, a boy and a girl. They looked quite good so I thought that I’d go over to talk to them. I went over and said “hello”. They replied “we aren’t allowed to talk to strange men” … “obviously your reputation is spreading wider than you realise” – ed … “and there’s no teacher here at the moment”. I said “no problem. The headmaster knows me from something else so I’ll give you a note, you can give it to him and he’ll decide what to do”. The idea was to write a little note to the headmaster say what was happening and take the matter from there. Going through my pockets, first of all I couldn’t find a pen. I asked if anyone had a pen. One of the people standing around, I could see that he had some pens in this top pocket but he didn’t volunteer. Eventually I borrowed one from someone but then I couldn’t find any paper on which to write. I thought “here I am snatching defeat from the jaws of victory yet again!”.

Finally I wanted a new ladder so I was going to go to the DiY shop. Half a dozen people said that they wanted things so we all piled into my van and went. I bought my ladder and a couple of things. Someone else bought a roof ladder etc. Then I had to go to pay for it. Then we’d all go to sit in someone’s car. There were quite a few people crowded around in cars and it was really cramped. I told the driver to pull down the road and stop. I had to pay with a credit card. he said “ohh not another credit card”. I replied that it’s far better walking around the streets with a credit card than a wad of cash. I was about to give him a few other good reasons but the guy in the back began to be annoyed because we were driving through an area full of local police. For some reason he didn’t want to involve them. The guy in this car wasn’t going to stop. It looked as if he was going to take me all the way home to drop off this ladder and for me to pay him. Then of course I had to return to pick up everyone else and pick up Caliburn. I thought “for just a simple ladder, this is something else that’s becoming extremely complicated” and that wouldn’t be a first time, would it?

Tea was sausage chips and beans – some of the vegan sausages that I’d bought in Jersey and beans with vegan cheese now that I’ve found a reliable and hopefully constant source.

But I dunno about going to bed because as usual after all of this effort I can’t relax. Back in the old days when I was stressed out after chauffeuring around Brussels I’d go for a long run around the area where I lived. These days though I couldn’t even run for my life.

Thursday 11th May 2023 – THE GOOD NEWS …

… is that I don’t have to come back here until 13th September.

More good news is that there’s a new ice-cream stall in Leuven that has vegan speculoos and coffee ice cream. Right next door to my favouritefritkot too!

And even more good news is that I finally made it to the Asian supermarket and stocked up with fennel, fenugreek and cumin seeds. The Indian cuisine in my apartment can therefore remain on the menu … “PERSONSu” – ed.

On the other hand, the bad news is that I should be enjoying and making the most of whatever I can do and whatever health I have because it’s not going to get any better and it’s all downhill from here.

Despite all of the bits that they’ve taken out of me over the last few years, there are more signs of the disease in my heart and in my kidneys. And they suspect that the problem with the nerves in my leg is the illness taking a hold.

Add to that the brittle bones that I have due to the blood problems, and it seems that they’ve done all that they can. Hence the five-month gap between now and the next visit.

The doctor gave me a pile of stuff to give to my own doctor and he expects him to be keeping a closer eye on me in future.

So it looks as if things are going to be changing. I’ve already given instructions to put Strider up for sale. No point in paying out all this money on insurance if I’m never going to be using him.

One idea going through my head is to fly to Montreal, hire a car, drive down to empty Strider of all of my possessions, throw away or sell some of them and take the rest back to Montreal and rent a storage locker at Jarry like I used to do in the good old days

However, that’s a long way away yet.

It’s more to the point to talk about the rest of the day. I was in bed early and fell asleep quite quickly, which is hardly a surprise given how much exercise I had yesterday.

And apart from the odd tossing and turning here and there, I slept through until the alarm went off.

After a shower I headed off and caught the bus to the hospital.

First appointment was with the kidney guy. He gave me a good going over and was surprised to see the difference in my blood pressure between standing up, lying down, and standing up immediately after lying down. He’s never seen anything quite like it previously.

There was a long wait for the next couple of appointments so I went and found a power point and transcribed the dictaphone notes. I was in bed quite early and asleep quite quickly. I was away on some kind of interesting dream quite early when I had a huge attack of cramp in my sleep. That awoke me of course and the dream disappeared. The cramp stayed for quite some time. And I DO mean “quite some time”.

Later on I was in a court room. There was a case taking place about an inheritance. The plaintiff was some old woman who said that she’d been a nun and had waited devotedly on a guy for so very long so she ought to inherit some of his money. It went to trial and the defendant put into the witness box a friend of this old guy to testify, but as soon as he took the oath he repudiated all his testimony. He went over to the defending counsel and mocked him which didn’t go down very well. It looked as if the plaintiff had actually won by a mile. The case was adjourned for the final summing up that would take place on the Monday. But the friend made a special point of asking for all his phone records back that made the defence suspicious. He went through the phone records and was able to follow them up. He found out that there was something not right between the relationship between the friend and the woman concerned. He made further enquiries and had an adjournment for a couple of days. When the case restarted he smuggled in someone under a blanket into the court. He asked leave to adduce other evidence which he did. He asked the person under the blanket if she recognised anyone in Court. She immediately pointed to the plaintiff and described her as being some neighbour of the old guy or something to do with him but with no relationship whatsoever. Defending counsel asker her who she was. She whipped off her blanket. It was a little old woman underneath there. She declared herself to be the person the plaintiff was alleging to be. She could describe in intimate detail all her early life which was documented and a lot of personal stuff, and describe all about the home and the life of this guy and how she’d been living in poverty somewhere miles away but the defence in the end had managed to track her down and bring her into court. The plaintiff not only lost her case but she and the friend of the dead man who had repudiated his evidence found themselves in a lot more serious trouble than that.

Then I had exactly the same dream again except that it focused more on the start of this story when this kid was probably 6 or 7 years old on a pushbike fighting the boys etc and followed her through adulthood. And then her testimony. Of course it was much harder for the defendant to win but he still managed to pull it off in the end. All the members of his branch of his bank know about this guy just in case he pulls the same scam against somewhere else

Finally I was in bed and at 05:00 the phone rang. I was sure that it was a taxi job and I really didn’t feel like it at that time of the morning. I answered the phone and it was a woman. She asked if we could get together to sort out some insurance issue. I asked what she was talking about. She replied “the solicitors have now told me to contact you to settle the matter. I vaguely remembered something about an accident but no solicitor had been in touch with me. “You need to ask the solicitor to contact me to tell me that and I’ll phone you back”. We had this pointless discussion for about 10 or 15 minutes. Suddenly she was there in the room, a little girl from the Philippines or Indonesia or somewhere saying that her boss had come to stay with her and what the heck was her boss doing staying there when she should be staying in a hotel or something like that. She hated the idea of people taking advantage of her. I thought “this is 05:00. What is this to do with anything?.

Much to my surprise (and yours too) the nurse who took my blood sample did it first go with no pain at all. That was impressive. Not like the people at Avranches who on one of the days that I was there had to take five goes and I ended up looking (and feeling) like a dartboard.

My final appointment was for 15:30 so there was an hour to wait. And they called me to be seen at 17:45, and then only after I’d complained twice. Consequently I wasn’t in a very good mood at the time. Still, having spoken earlier in the week to someone in the UK who had to wait 10 hours for an emergency ambulance and then 12 hours in Casualty before they were seen, I don’t know why I’m upset.

Anyway, the meeting didn’t go to plan. One thing that I do know is that a heart transplant is out of the question. For that to be considered, you need to be in pretty good health and they reckon that the way I am at the moment, the rest of my body wouldn’t stand the shock.

The good news though is that I still have a heart right now. That proves that I’m not a Tory.

It was 18:45 when they threw me out, so it was a good job that I’d been to pick up the medication during the pause at midday.

And despite the rain, I decided to walk home. He’d told me that I need to exercise more, but that’s not easy on crutches of course so I have to do what I can.

At that time of night I didn’t expect the Asian supermarket but my luck was in, which was good news.

With my spirits flagging by the time that I reached the town centre, I went for a bag of chips at the Ali Baba. And finished it off with an ice cream from next door.

It was a long stagger back to the hotel but I found an easier, more convenient way to the hotel that involves much less athleticism. And I was flaming glad to find my way back home after all of that.

53% of my daily activity doesn’t sound a lot but it’s more than I’ve done just recently. No wonder I’m whacked.

So off to bed for an early night. I have to be up early because I have a train to catch in Brussels at 08:13. That’s not something to which I’m looking forward.

Wednesday 10th May 2023 – THIS WORLD IS …

… far too small for my liking.

There I was, struggling through the railway station at Paris Montparnasse making my way towards the exit when who should I fall in with but a friend of mine, Xavier, who works for Eurosport and who just happened to be in the station.

He comes to Granville occasionally and submits to the radio reports of his visits to various restaurants in the area.

Anyway, we’ve made an arrangement to meet up for a coffee and a chat next time he comes to the seaside.

As you can gather from the above, I’ve been on the move today and I’m currently sitting in a little room in the “Ibis Budget” at the back of Leuven station waiting for things to happen tomorrow.

Quite a lot has happened today already, including me being wide-wake at 06:15 this morning and up and out of bed at 06:30, a good half-hour before the alarm went off.

One thing that didn’t happen was yesterday, when I forgot to switch off the immersion heater.

So after having got everything ready Caliburn and I headed for the railway station. The car-park there was full so I had to park on the car park of the office down the hill and hope that they don’t become too upset.

At 08:20 I walked onto the station to find that the train was just on the point of pulling in. That meant that I had somewhere warm and comfortable to sit until departure at 09:00.

The train was crowded too and I had a nice, friendly companion but I didn’t speak too much to her because I … errr … relaxed somewhat.

Bang on time we arrived in Paris and after my chat with Xavier I went outside and begun the long and weary walk to the Metro. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, Gare Montparnasse was moved to a new location but they didn’t move the metro so it’s a long walk down the street, especially in the rain.

Down all the steps is somewhat difficult, but another difficulty that I’ve encountered is that with the seats being deliberately designed to be uncomfortable, I can’t haul myself out of them. It was a real struggle.

Luckily the escalator at Gare du Nord was working so I didn’t have that awful, desperate climb. And one big advantage of being on crutches is that I can have a comfortable seat in the special “disabled person’s waiting room”. I have to have some advantage out of all of this.

Everyone on the SNCF has been very helpful, but that’s more than you can say about the people on the TGV who don’t seem to appreciate just how difficult the smallest amount of disability might be.

And the TGVs aren’t designed for people on crutches, so my deepest regrets to the person sitting in the seat in front of me when my water bottle fell on her head.

It took a while to find my crutches at Brussels, which for some reason had gone out of my reach. Some young lady came to my rescue.

The lifts at Gare du Midi are quite useful once I found out where they were, and I only had to wait 10 minutes for my train to Leuven. It was another push-me-pull-you going to Liège and I have a great deal of difficulty climbing into these double-decker carriages.

Getting out at Leuven wasn’t easy either, and the steps down to the underground passage took some negotiating. I stopped at the supermarket for supplies on the way to the hotel and here I am.

On the dictaphone was some stuff from the night so I transcribed that. I was on a sailing yacht last night. We were coming in to moor at some kind of marina. I needed to do some work on the boat but I couldn’t get it to keep still. I had a rope but it wasn’t long enough to tie it to the jetty. Someone in a neighbouring boat gave me some kind of lecture about being unprepared etc. He threw me a rope so I went to tie my boat to it but it wasn’t long enough. I said “no problem. I have some here”. That involved shinning up the mast, tying together the two bits of rope, hooking them over a mooring column or whatever you call it. I had a load of other stuff in my hands. The other person in the boat asked me how I was doing. I replied “this is just crazy. I need three hands here. I can’t do anything”. I thought that if I drop something that will leave me with one hand free. Instead, I dropped everything including the keys. They bounced down onto the jetty and as luck would have it, they didn’t roll over the edge into the water otherwise I’d have had it. I thought to myself “I won’t ever do that again and be so lucky”. Everything that I was trying to do to maul this boat was going completely wrong and taking three times as long as it ought to have done.

And later I was at work, and on my way back to the office on a bus. It was a Sunday lunchtime. Someone was giving some kind of running commentary on what was happening in the street. He talked about a queue outside a fish and chip shop that Sunday lunchtime. As the bus pulled in to the stop next to where we were working I noticed that at the fish and chip shop there, there was no-one there at all. I fancied some chips and beans at that moment so I went back to my desk and wrote a message to the 3 people on my team and to 1 or 2 others whom I knew to see what their thoughts were about having some now or having some at 17:00 for the evening meal. But writing this letter, addressing it and sending it turned out to be much more complicated and time-consuming than it actually was. It should have been something simple and straightforward but I seemed to be making a mountain out of it.

The strain of everything caused me to have yet another … errr … relax and when I returned to the Land of the Living I found that Liz had been trying to speak to me, so we had a little chat.

There is no microwave here – I must have imagined it – but my cold curry was quite delicious all the same and it was a really good plan to bring it. But having eaten that now, I’m off to bed, early though it might be.

And so, how was the journey?

Tiring. Really tiring. And I have a pain in my right leg. But it wasn’t difficult – or, at least, as difficult as I was expecting it to be. If the return trip is like this, I won’t be too worried about doing it again but it would be nice if I could do it better.

Friday 3rd March 2023 – HERE I ALL AM ..

… not sitting in a rainbow but sitting on my comfy seat in my bedroom. I’ve made it back home.

With just the usual problems, such as losing my keys on the train and having to rouse the staff that was asleep in the office at the station. A good job that it was at the terminus and there was still another train to come in otherwise I would have been well and truly snookered.

And that reminds me of the old French joke –
“Frappe! Frappe!”
“Qui est là?”
“Lost qui?”

Anyway, after another miserable night’s sleep, I was awake yet again before the alarm went off. And after the previous night there was nevertheless plenty of stuff on the dictaphone to be going on with

I was out with an American policeman last night driving around California. he was showing me all these mountainous areas where people had moved in and put cabins. These were in some of the routes taken by wolves during their migration and the cabins were blocking the routes. I awoke quickly after that.

Later on I was at one of these competitions on TV about 2 items. There was an explosive shell. For some reason I began to look inside the shell casing. I dropped it and all of the gunpowder went everywhere all over the film set. We tried washing it away with water but of course that didn’t work. It froze immediately. Some girl was about to skate off and go right through it

I took a girl to the airport last night in a taxi. I don’t know who she was but I ought to. We were discussing the airport, saying how handy it was for us. She said that her father ran some kind of taxi service in the airport area. He’d bought a couple of limousines, a black one and a silver one with the idea of trying to get hold of some high-quality airport work. The chat went on for quite a while. We arrived at the vicinity of the airport. I grossly undercharged her for going and I’ve no idea why that would be. I only ended up charging her £6:00 or something like that. Going to the airport cost a lot more than that back in the day. It was an extremely interesting chat about her father and his 2 silver K135 cars

We were in Walsh class last night reading a paper on changing roles in society. It listed probably 10 roles like mending a fence, mending your roof, taking money to the bank etc. The discussion was about how modern people are now changing their way of thinking. The key word here was “remuneration”. We’re all older in our Welsh class. I was saying that I was up on my roof in August. Someone else said that they’d fixed their own fence the other week. It seemed that we were bucking a trend about this question of changing DiY into paid remuneration.

And so I was up and about and ready to go out of the door at 07:00. The train that came in at 07:10 was another push-me-pull-you double decker and I have a hard time climbing on board them. Someone having chained his folding pushbike to the disabled handrail didn’t help matters at all.

At Brussels Gare du Nord I left the train and found my way onto the concourse but the lift downstairs was out of order so I had a very delicate walk down the stairs. I’ll tell you something for nothing and that is that no matter how much better I’m feeling, it’s a totally different kettle of fish with a backpack on my back.

My bus was due to leave at 08:20 but there was no sign of it. All the others were in and gone, and ours finally staggered into the loading bay 40 minutes late. But there’s one thing about being a disabled passenger and that is that even though it’s difficult to climb up the steps into the bus, they let me on first so I can have the pick of the seats.

Between Brussels and Lille I had a very charming young lady sitting next to me and we had a lengthy chat all the way. It’s a long time since I’ve had such an erudite companion so if you read this, Pauline, un grand bonjour.

She alighted at Lille and I had another companion as far as Rouen. He didn’t have much to say for himself but he picked up my phone for me when it fell to the floor.

From Rouen to Caen I was on my own but we did have a moment of excitement when we were stopped in a police barrage and the bus was searched for drugs. Two people were taken off the bus to be interviewed but they were allowed back on afterwards.

It’s no surprise to anyone that I missed the 16:10 train to Granville. But there’s another one at 17:10 so I was able to grab a nice hot coffee. I hadn’t had too much to drink on board the bus, on the basis that what doesn’t go in won’t want to come out. 8 hours on a bus is a long time and the toilets are really inconvenient for people with mobility issues.

As we pulled into the station at Granville I checked my keys and put them into the outside pocket of my coat so that they were handy. When I reached Caliburn on the car park I no longer had them. In the confusion of organising myself to leave they must have fallen out.

It took a while to awaken the people in the station. Presumably they had gone off for a coffee before the next train comes in, but eventually they arrived and we did the necessary so that I could collect my keys. Serves me right for being disorganised.

Back at Ice Station Zebra I made a drink because I had a thirst that you could photograph. And then I watched the football. Connah’s Quay Nomads v Y Bala in the Welsh Cup semi-Final.

The Quay took the lead after just 35 seconds and from them on we had a right full-blooded cup-tie that was played with an extraordinary amount of skill. A really good advert for the Welsh Premier League.

In the second half Bala scored 2 quick goals to take the lead but with 10 minutes left the Quay equalised. We were heading for penalties when Bala popped up with a third and despite Connah’s Quay throwing everything including the kitchen sink at Bala in the dying seconds of the game they couldn’t find an equaliser.

They did actually have the ball in the net right at the end but with Jack Kenny holding down Alex Ramsey in the Bala goal, there was no way that the goal would be allowed.

And how I wish that Jack Kenny, who is one of my favourite players in the WPL, would stop moaning and protesting every time a decision is given against him. He’d be a really good player, one of the best in the league, if only he would stop being so petulant.

On the bus I’d eaten some of my butties so at half-time I fetched the leftovers and demolished them with a pear and a banana. And now I’m off to bed.

Tomorrow I’m shopping, and as I missed my St David’s Day, when I return I’m going to make some leek and potato soup for the weekend to vary my diet a little. I’m quite looking forward to that.

And I’m looking forward to my own bed as well. The hotel bed was comfortable, but it’s not mine.

And just a word before I go. Travelling everywhere on crutches is difficult, yet it would have been much more difficult without all of the help that I received from all kinds of people who showed me some extraordinary kindness as I went around on my travels.

It’s the kind of thing that restores my jaundiced faith in humanity and I am really grateful to everyone who helped me along the way.

Thursday 2nd March 2023 – JUST ONE LOOK …

… was all it took for them at the hospital to send me off for a blood transfusion. it was that obvious. They didn’t even wait for a sample of my blood.

No wonder that I’d been feeling like The Wreck Of The Hesperus for the last week or two.

They asked me a few pointed questions about some symptoms and when I answered in the affirmative that was all it took and I was off dragged to the Day Centre.

It was cold in my room last night and what with that and the general change in situation (because I’m having some real difficulty sleeping right now, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall) I hardly had any sleep at all last night and it was most uncomfortable. There was nothing whatsoever on the dictaphone, and that should give you a clue.

Breakfast was included in the price of my room so when the alarm went off I was downstairs quite quickly. Breakfast was actually quite nice although there wasn’t anything special to eat. And then back up here for a nice shower.

At 09:00 I was out of the door and across the road into the bus station and I didn’t have to wait long for a bus. It was quite crowded but I managed to find a seat.

Registering at the hospital was quite quick but then I had to wait an age to be seen because I’d arrived well in advance of my appointment. The doctor had quite a long chat to me and then went to fetch her professor who had an even longer chat with me.

They weren’t too happy that I hadn’t gone for my appointments at the New Year but I explained all of the issues that I was facing – how I couldn’t walk, how I can no longer go through Paris, how there were no buses running when I needed to leave etc etc.

It all resolved itself with them saying that they will arrange a few appointments for me in 3 months time and they would like me to attend.

We shall see.

It was a different Day Centre to the usual one. It was quite a hike as well so they stuck me in a wheelchair and sent for someone to push me. I had to wait about half an hour for someone to come and then we set off on our marathon hike.

At the Day Centre I had another long wait until a comfy chair liberated itself and then an even longer wait for the blood to arrive from the central repository. They found me some food and a few cups of coffee while I was waiting so it wasn’t all despair.

Everything took so long to organise that it was almost 18:30 when I finally left. Too late to go to the chemist to redeem my prescriptions and too late to go to pick up the spices from the Asian warehouse. Instead, I caught a bus back to town.

On the way back to the hotel I popped into the supermarket down the road and bought some bread and tomatoes. It’s going to be another long day tomorrow on the road and I’ll need some supplies.

And then I borrowed a knife from the restaurant and made some sandwiches here for the journey back home.

There’s a fritkot around the corner from here and you can’t come to Belgium and not have your supply of fritjes so I went down there later on and had my fritjes with some vegan loempjes that they had. One thing about being in Leuven is that with so many students here there’s a good range of vegetarian and vegan food.

So an early start tomorrow, probably without breakfast because they don’t start serving it until 07:00 and I’ll be leaving Brussels on the bus at 08:20 so I need to get a move on.

Wednesday 1st March 2023 – THAT WAS A …

… loooooooooooooooooooong day today.

14 hours I was on the road in total, give or take a few minutes. I left my home at about 07:10 and arrived in Leuven at just about 21:00.

Yes, I’m in Leuven. I’ve heard nothing from the heart people and nothing from the people who are dealing with my cancer, but regardless, the kidney people contacted me for an appointment.

Not that I’m all that bothered, because as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, after the events of October and November I’m pretty-much resigned to the inevitable, but I was interested in seeing, as well as I could, how I could cope with the travelling.

And so having gone to bed rather early last night, I was up with the lark at 06:00 and made some sandwiches and so on, and did a little organising.

Plenty of stuff on the dictaphone last night. My mother was a policewoman last night. She was interrogating a suspect or witness or something similar but was doing it at home. This was dragging on into the night and we as kids couldn’t go to sleep. In the end there was no real point going to bed so we were just sitting up waiting for her to finish. But it just went on and on. We’d go in regularly to ask how she was doing. She said that she wasn’t ready yet. We’d go in to pick a banana or something to eat. In the end one of my sisters went in. My mother said quite sharply that it wasn’t going to be finished before 05:00. This was the final straw as far as we were concerned. That was a ridiculous time for children to be still up and about waiting for their mother to finish her work.

This dream continued later on. We were crying out for toilet paper or tissues etc. Some guy came into the apartment where we were living with his arms full of rolls of toilet paper and just dumped it on the floor in one of the rooms and then left. We kids had to go in there to sort out what he’s just brought and check what we had then organise the bathroom with it.

Plus tard nous avons eu l’idée de reintégrer le chasson dans la famille qu’on a du faire alors le chef s’est adapté assez rapidement et le chat de la famille est poussé en dehos du groupe alors celà a provoqué une investigation comment on a fait commencer et c’est à ce moment-là qu’on a eu la série de la pied d’entre nous

So, a dream in French yet again. And I haven’t translated it because it’s total nonsense that makes no sense whatsoever.

Just after 07:00 I headed for the hills and Caliburn and we drove to the station where I was lucky enough to find a parking space almost right outside the door.

When the train came in, I headed off in the direction of Rennes, but only as far as Avranches where I alighted. Public transport is so messed up here that you end up going all round the Wrekin to get anywhere.

The bus came in at 08:55 and we drove through the snow (yes, the snow!) and ended up in Caen where we had a half-hour wait for the next bus. This was packed to the gunwhales but I found a seat eventually and we roared off to the big underground bus station at Bercy in Paris.

This time a wait of 45 minutes before the next bus came in. This was likewise packed but the driver made sure that I had a comfortable place by the door. We called at the airport and then all the way to Brussels, making a stop at a service station where I grabbed a coffee.

Stuck in the traffic for ages, we eventually arrived in Brussels rather later than planned so I’d missed the train that I wanted and had to catch a later train. The escalator up to the platform wasn’t working so I had a long walk to find the lift.

The train was a push-me-pull-you double-decker and climbing into these proved to be quite difficult as the steps in are quite high. I had quite a bit of difficulty and it was extremely awkward.

Having eaten my sandwiches on the way to Paris, I tucked into my potatoes and lentils on the train and that was a really good plan because they went down a treat.

Leaving the train at Leuven was difficult too but I managed in the end.

The hotel where I’m staying must have been wonderful 100 years ago. It’s certainly seen better days. It’s not one of my usual haunts but it’s right outside the railway station so I don’t have far to stagger. It’s expensive too, hence I’m only staying for two nights and coming home on Friday.

And the verdict?

It’s quite difficult and I’m glad that I did bring two crutches, not just one. When things are on the level I’m fine and I could in theory go for miles but carrying a backpack up hills and steps is quite complicated and I have real difficulty trying to carry a coffee cup too.

At one point I was thinking that I might be ready for another adventure with backpack and airline ticket but having done all this today, maybe I’ll leave it a while before making more plans.

But I got here, and that’s a miracle in itself

Thursday 8th December 2022 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow but sitting in a room in a hotel by the railway station in Brussels.

And I actually made it here without falling over and if that isn’t a miracle I don’t know what is.

But there is one thing about which I was right, and that is having spoken to several different people in the hotel, my missing possessions have yet to reappear. Every time I see someone, it’s “you need to see my colleague who comes in later”. At the moment I’m down to “seeing the cleaning staff” which, seeing as I’m leaving at 07:00, is going to be difficult.

The alarm went off as expected at 06:30 but I didn’t care all that much. It was about 08:30 when I finally arose from the dead.

There was some stuff on the dictaphone. Last night I was on my way to bed. It was midnight when my father turned up. I was so surprised to see him. He’d been out partying or something and came back and said “did you know that we had some taxi jobs on?”. I said “no” but I had a quick look at the book. There were 2 jobs, one of which was a trip to Colwyn Bay and the other was to a place called Kingsley near Wrenbury. I sent my father off to pick up this Colwyn Bay job and put a SIM card in his microphone. I went to get another car to head off. Then I heard a voice on the radio or something. I said to my mother “do you know if Alpha One has a radio on?”. She said something so I said “I’ve sent him to Colwyn Bay and I’m going to Wrenbury. Do you know anything about this Kingsley?”. She said that it’s a big place where a load of chartered accountants hang out, but that’s all she knew. I basically said “never mind. I’ll try to find it when I’m on my way out there”. I headed off for Wrenbury and this place called Kingsley. It was strange how my father turned up just as I was going up for bed, there were taxi jobs on and there was no-one around at all and I knew nothing about it.

It was a slow morning when I didn’t do all that much except fend off the cleaning staff who were trying to make their way into my bedroom. It was just like Mrs Mopp from ITMA and her “Can I do you now, sir?”.

Anyway by about 11:40 I was on my way. I left all of my “extraneous possessions” at the hotel reception desk and Alison will try to pick them up. If they end up going missing it won’t be too bad because there isn’t anything of earth-shattering importance in them and I shall still continue to live.

It was a slow struggle, and I do mean “struggle” down to the station. Slow and uncomfortable. Luckily there was a ticket machine in the subterranean passage so I was able to buy a ticket without having to go all the way across to the station building.

A train had come in early too and was waiting patiently at the station. A type 08 multiple unit on its way to Kortrijk so I climbed aboard and found a seat right by the door where I was joined by a young family with a hyperactive toddler.

At Brussels I alighted with difficulty and found an escalator down to the ground floor.

According to the map it’s 460 metres to the hotel and it was the longest and most difficult 460 metres of my life. All I had with me was my backpack with the laptop and that alone weighed a tonne but I staggered on regardless and to my great surprise I made it here.

Here the fobbing off about my possessions began but at least I have a nice room – not really surprising given the amount that I paid for it.

Later on I went down once more to see about my possessions and then out to the shop a couple of doors down for some food. I’ve had bread and tomatoes and a large bottle of orange juice and that’ll do me for tomorrow.

And tomorrow, assuming that I find my possessions, which is not always guaranteed, I’m off on what might be my final leg home. That’s going to be difficult although I’ve tried my best to make it as easy as possible.

To prepare myself, I’ve had a few naps but now I’m off to bed for a good sleep as it’s an early start tomorrow. Let’s see how we get on.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday 7th December 2022 – FOR THOSE OF YOU …

… who were keeping score, I made it as far as the railway station before I fell down the stairs there. A couple of kind passers-by and a railway employee helped me to my feet and bandaged the cut on my hand, and then a railway porter was summoned to escort me – well, rather half-carry me to the hotel because my legs had turned to rubber.

Previously though, I couldn’t summon up the strength to climb onto the bus and a passenger had to help me. And then at the station, I couldn’t climb up the kerb so I couldn’t go down the ramp from the bus station. I had to walk all the way up the side of the road and onto the station where I had my encounter with the stairs.

There’s no doubt about it. This is serious.

At least I had a good sleep last night. It took ages to actually drop off but once I’d gone I’d gone for good. The alarm awoke me and I even managed to go to the bathroom but I had to be shaken awake for them to give me a blood test and I really didn’t notice breakfast coming in. It was already on the windoowsill when I looked for it.

Later on the nurses came to visit me and they went through their usual questionnaire
Senior nurse – “have you been to the toilet this morning?”
Our Hero emerging from the toilet“errrr …. “

They gave me all of the medication that I needed to take over the next few days and also some of the paperwork. We had to wait for the rest.

The priest finally came to see me too but he had nothing to add to our discussion of Monday and it really was a waste of time.

After lunch the doctor came round and handed me the rest of the paperwork and wished me well, with that crooked smile on her face. The nurses came along after and took out the catheter from the back of my hand which was a great relief to me, that’s for sure. The pain was starting to get on my nerves.

From there I bravely staggered off to the showers for a good wash and brush up before I set sail. And then I changed into my own clothes.

Some of the stuff I’d packed before leaving and the rest I quickly gathered up and then said “goodbye” to the nurse who came to see me off.

There’ a sign on the wall from the rest area by the top of the steps near the entrance that “it’s 4 minutes” to the lift up to the ward where I had been living. The walk took me 25 minutes and I really did have to stop for a rest.

While I was there I took a gamble and went to book a room at the Ibis Budget Hotel at the back of the railway station. The bad news was that they only had rooms for tonight and not tomorrow.

Not to be outdone, I noticed that tomorrow night there was still a room at the hotel by the Gare du Midi in Brussels where I stayed when I arrived and where I had left some stuff. Consequently I booked the room there and with a bit of luck I can recover my things, if they still have them.

My journey down to the bus stop was slow, steady and painful and I’ve described my journey from there down to the hotel. And how I was glad to fall onto my bed.

in the evening I went across the road to the fritkot for some food. It was slightly easier without anything to carry so i have made an executive decision – and as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, an executive decision is a decision where if it goes wrong, the person making it is executed.

And the decision? I’m going to jettison absolutely everything that is not essential – everything – and just make a crawl for it with just the laptop and a little paperwork. No medication, no washing equipment, no food, nothing. Alison will come past at some point at her convenience and pick up what I’ve left and keep it for whenever.

If that doesn’t work then nothing will. Of my 700km journey I’ve gone about 5 kms so far and already had one accident. How many more am I going to have before I make it home? If I ever do.

Tuesday 6th December 2022 – I WAS RIGHT …

… about the plasma transfusion. I was knocked out for a couple of hours afterwards. It took that much out of me.

What else I was right about concerning this plasma was that it did come up by messenger, it was a nurse who coupled it up and I didn’t see a soul at all from the Oncology department.

Instead, I listened to the dictaphone. I was getting married but because I was now a priest I could perform the marriage myself, which I did. There was also another couple behind me who was wanting to marry too so I took the ceremony involving me. Of course being my first ceremony it ran on and on. These people behind were extremely impatient. I made something of a mess of my ceremony as a result of which it over-ran. Then I had to marry these two people. It was difficult because I could hardly remember the words. There was a question of writing out the marriage certificate. My brother was in the middle of writing one out for someone but had left it. I had to take out the carbon paper and put carbon paper in for my marriage certificate because everything had to be done in order. The people behind were urging me to get on with my certificate. I started but it was a nightmare. I had everything wrong, I couldn’t remember where the phone box was where I’d first met my wife. It turned out that it was right outside my brother’s house and that would cause some embarrassment to someone, just generally speaking I was making a total mess of it. It was taking hours and these people were extremely impatient. They said something to me that they needed this certificate urgently. I could see that whatever reason they were giving was now completely ebbing away. I felt embarrassed but I had to do mine first even though it was a total mess. I hadn’t even begun to think about witnesses for the certificates and my wedding party had broken up a long time ago. This was all going to be an extreme embarrassment.

Later on I was holding a football training session last night. There were several kids there and several senior players from clubs like Manchester City, Liverpool and Birmingham City etc. We’d been playing there for most of the morning and it became lunch. I gathered everyone around me and said that I’d treat them all to lunch so I needed to collect their order. People were giving me orders for fish and chips and cans of drink. I was writing it down ready to go off with Caliburn to buy everything. One of the Liverpool players said that he would use the lunch break to practise his techniques about this and that and also try to commentate to see how a commentator would be. Of course all the ears of the young kids pricked up. They all decided that they’d stay too so that they’d have some experience with this Liverpool guy. Another senior professional said that he’d stop. The 2 Manchester City guys said that they’d go home and come back later but almost everyone there decided that they’d stop to see what this Liverpool guy could do for themselves in their lunch break. I had a feeling that this lunch break was going to run into a fortune but nevertheless I’d promised so I took everyone’s order for fish and chips or whatever and canned drink and made arrangements to go off to buy them

Who else I didn’t see was the priest who told me that he would be back to see me today, and although the doctor from yesterday came by to gloat earlier in the day, she didn’t “come back to see you later” as she said she would either.

Not of course that I’m worried. As I told Liz when we were chatting on the internet and as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’ve met their sort before and they don’t worry me in the slightest. It’s just one more raccoon skin on the wall, as the delightful saying goes, and the world will still turn round regardless of their best efforts to throw a spanner into my works.

What was much nicer – so much nicer in fact – was that the Iranian refugee who is nursing here and the student nurse who has featured regularly in these pages, both came to see me to say “goodbye”. We had quite a chat, much to the chagrin of the other patients on this side of the ward who were presumably waiting for attention, but they will just have to wait.

And so tomorrow I shall wake up slowly, go for a shower, change into my own clothes, throw my possessions into a red and white spotted handkerchief, attach it to a stick, throw it over my shoulder and set off to meet my fate.

One thing that I did say to the doctor was that as it’s 600 metres or so through the hospital to the bus stop, I’ll be organising a sweepstake among my friends around the world on the internet to see how far I get before I fall over.

And that reminds me. The physiotherapist from yesterday came to see me today to take me for a stagger down the corridor and a crawl back.

She was insisting that I have one of these two-wheeled, two legged perambulator things but I flatly refused. I walked in here and I’ll be walking out. I can’t see why my condition in this respect should have deteriorated so much while I’ve been in the care of the hospital and if it has, then that’s their problem rather than mine.

This led to quite an argument but I stood firm. I’m not walking in normally and going out like a handicapped person. It defies all logic.

She then asked me whether I would like to do some kind of cycling exercise. I replied “how would I know? I’m not the physiotherapist – you are” and that led to another argument.

Anyway, she brought in a kind-of bicycle thing that you can use while sitting on a chair. She set it up for 15 minutes in 1st gear and left me “to care for another patient”.

As she hadn’t come back by the time it stopped, I worked out how to configure it and set it off for another 15 minutes but in 8th gear. As if 1st gear is going to do me any good.

When she came back she took away the machine and disappeared without even checking the data on the computer screen. All of this therefore sounds pretty pointless to me.

What wasn’t pointless was the amount of sleep that I had last night. I must have fallen asleep quite quickly because I awoke with a start round about 23:15, presumably because of something on the Old-Time Radio.

So having switched off the computer I tried my best to go back to sleep and must have gone back to sleep because I awoke once more with a start at 06:00. And again at 06:30 when the alarm went off.

For some reason I was absolutely wasted and couldn’t move from my bed. But what surprised me was the silence. It was as if everyone had been beamed up by aliens and I was the only person left on the ward. However, eventually a clattering of bedpans from down the corridor brought me to my senses, such as they are.

But anyway I was unable to leave my bed before breakfast and consequently I was rather late making a start today.

Perhaps I ought to mention that there was a Welsh lesson today with it being Tuesday. I was dipping in and out as different people came to visit me but I made it through to the end although it could have passed off rather better.

We’ve discussed all the excitement today and that really is that I suppose. Things need to calm down now because tomorrow I’m on the road again, as I said earlier.

A good sleep will probably do me some good but it will all pale into insignificance if I can’t get out of the door.

What a state to be in, hey?

Monday 5th December 2022 – SO THAT’S THAT THEN.

On Wednesday I shall be out on my ear. Complete, presumably, with the dressing on my left shoulder but without the virus, without my mobility and without an answer to the dozens of questions that I have asked.

And without the possibility of going for this physiotherapy thing either. Apparently there are strict criteria about who is and isn’t permitted to go and I don’t fit.

So what are the possibilities of going home?

  • having an ambulance (actually a Voiture Sanitaire Legère) to take me to my door – at a cost of €3600
  • having an ambulance of the hospital deposit me anywhere I like within the borders of Belgium
  • being shown the door here and left to fend for myself

Quite obviously, the first option is out of the question. It’s an absurdity.

The second option is out of the question too. Being deposited at Quévy or Doornik where I don’t know anyone or anything, don’t know where the railway stations or the hotels are – those kinds of options are out of the question too.

And so n°3 it is. I’ll stagger to the bus stop if I can, take the bus to the railway station and then head for the Ibis Budget at the back of the station and plan my next move.

Of course, going home and arriving as quickly as possible is my goal and I can’t wait to to be in the comfort and safety of my own four walls. But if I have a fall I’ll find myself in the Casualty department. The hospital isn’t the only thing that can play at going round and round in circles and eventually disappearing up its own catheter.

The doctor took quite a delight in telling me this. You could see her trying to suppress a smile as she spoke. She actually said “although we know that you’re not in any fit state” to make my own way home, or something like that. You can imagine the guffaw that that brought forth.

The Social Services woman just sat in a corner trying to pretend that she wasn’t here so I took a great deal of delight trying to drag her into the chat, much to her dismay.

Of course you can imagine how this developed. I told her that if this had happened 40 years ago no-one would have believed it. But what would have been satire 40 years ago is now very much the norm these days and no-one bats an eyelid any more.

Half an hour after they had left, bang on cue, the priest turned up – the one who saw me a while ago. He asked how I was so I told him the situation. He was appalled as you probably are by the whole situation.

So seeing as I had his attention I rather bent his ear with my problems. I concluded my rant by saying that the Byzantine administration is totally divorced from reality. He described it as an administration disjoncté (we were talking in French) and that’s a phrase that I’ll remember for future use.

In the end he wandered away. Somehow I’d managed to beat him down. I don’t think that anything will actually come of this but as I have said before, “throw a lot of whatsit onto a wherever and some of it might stick”.

Actually, I’m rather lucky. Their plan was to heave me out tomorrow morning and then I’d have to come back in the afternoon for my appointment with the Oncology department. But they agreed to let me stay until Wednesday and the Oncology department will come to me on Tuesday.

In actual fact, what I bet will happen is that instead of coming to me, the oncology department will send a messenger with the plasma and a nurse will couple me up. No-one from the Oncology department will set foot in here.

That would be in accordance with usual practice from the departments involved in my (lack of) care.

On the good side though, once more my friends have rallied to the flag. I was chatting to Rosemary later on the ‘phone and she said “why don’t you come and stay with me? Get the train down here”.

This is on a par with Rachel’s offer to fly over from Canada to look after me. As I’ve said before, I don’t have many friends but those I have are the best in the world.

Unfortunately I had to decline Rosemary’s offer. If I’m going anywhere, I’m going home. I need to have my things around me, regroup my forces, and make plans for the future. if I’m going to stay at home and let nature take its course, I won’t be able to negotiate the long journey home from Rosemary’s whenever it becomes necessary,

Last night I needed to regroup my forces because I had something of a rough night. I went to sleep late but awoke at about 03:00 with the computer and the Old-Time Radio going and my headphones on. I switched everything off and tried my best to go back to sleep. But that wasn’t easy.

It was a very tired and exhausted me who dragged himself out of bed when the alarm went off at 06:30. I was playing about on the laptop when the student came to see me. She told me that my breakfast would be delayed as they needed a blood sample.

When she came back with all of the equipment she told me that she’d heard that there was a lot of trouble trying to find one of my veins and that they moved about quite a lot.

Nevertheless she crawled all over me inspecting my arms until she found something that she thought would do. “Be brave” I urged, so she dived in with her needle. It was the most painless that I have ever had and she cried “look, it works!” and I was so pleased for her.

When she’d finished I asked her how she’d managed to do it so well if it was so difficult and my veins moved around so much.

“Before I come to work” she said “I practise skipping with a rope to keep myself fit.”

She also tells me that she has a deep-sea diver’s licence and has been scuba-diving around the odd wreck or two. Here’s a girl who has a lot to say for herself.

Before she left she took my blood pressure etc. And after all of her mountaineering it’s hardly a surprise that half an hour later a qualified nurse came by to take my blood pressure again.

“Your blood pressure was rather high just now” she explained.

“Ohh really?” I asked. “I wonder why”

The rest of the day has passed between falling asleep and being shaken awake for something or other.

There was a new physiotherapist who took me down to the door at the end of the corridor. It was the usual stagger down there and a rather undignified stumble back here. It’s clear to almost everyone that never mind the 600 metres to the bus stop – I can’t even make 60 metres right now.

She had me doing a couple of exercises afterwards and I managed to tear a muscle in the side of my thigh. This bodes well for Wednesday, doesn’t it?

The doctor passed by during the morning too, presumably to soften me up for the meeting this afternoon. There are very strange things happening in this place, to be sure.

At some point I transcribed the dictaphone notes. I dreamt that all the nurses were trying to do something to me, pulling me about some on one side of the bed, some on the other so I couldn’t actually roll over into a comfortable way for them. I suddenly awoke and found that it was 02:15 and I still had the headphones on and the radio on the computer was still going. It was a programme about doctors and nurses coming to the bedside. I had something of an imaginary fight trying to deal with the skeleton of this situation before I realised what was going on and decided to go to sleep.

I’m not sure if I recorded this but somewhere during the night I dreamt that there was probably 20 people sleeping with me last night, all officers in different army regiments who had somehow come down to see where I was and what I was doing, and who I was doing it with, and ended up sleeping all around me. What I’d done was that I’d awoken early and switched everyone’s alarm clock around so that they would all be awoken at the wrong time, or each person would be awoken at the wrong time so that I could have a lie-in that particular morning

While I was asleep in the morning I was dreaming that I was Ali Baba. I was actually at an office and we were having a Christmas party. It was a fancy-dress parade and I’d bought everything for the people who worked for me, some little presents. When they’d all left after this party in this room that the office was throwing I changed into someone who was half-naked and climbed into some kind of silver sack kind of thing, a mesh sack, and went into the room where the party was taking place as Ali Baba in his laundry basket. I went to have a look and there were all kinds of stalls over at one end of the room with flowers and Christmas wreaths etc. There was some kind of stall selling DiY tools, all old kinds of stock that you’d typically find in a market stall including liquid easing oil at £2:99 a tin, like a reasonably-sized spam tin size. It was all quite interesting, this old stall selling these tools that were there. The strange thing was that no-one too any notice of me. I thought that my costume of Ali Baba was extremely ingenious but no-one made any kind of comment about it whatever. I was quite disappointed about that.

So right now I’m off to bed I’ve had enough for today and with the Oncology department becoming involved it’s going to be a tiring day.

And then there’s Wednesday and leaving here too. I’m not looking forward to that but even so, I need to be on form.

Sunday 4th December 2022 – I WAS RIGHT …

… yesterday when I said that Sunday would be pretty much the same as Saturday. But then, it was no surprise, was it.

One of the minor differences though was that when the doctor came to see me, I was in bed. I hadn’t had my morning wash yet.

She didn’t have anything new to tell me and I didn’t have anything new to tell her. However I did have a lot to say for myself (as you might expect) which was cut short by her saying “Mr Hall, we’re just going round in circles”.

As indeed we are but until she (or anyone else for that matter) answers the questions that I raise, what did she expect?

Anyway she cleared off mid-discussion and I’m sure that you never expected anything else.

They are still intent on expelling me, even though my blood count, that rose from 6.6 to 8.8 after the blood transfusion the other day, had fallen to 8.5 by Friday.

For the benefit of new readers, the accepted blood count for a healthy individual is between 13.0 and 15.0. The lower the blood count, the faster my heart must beat to convey the necessary oxygen to the various parts of the body. The critical limit is 8.0 by the way.

And as is pretty evident, my heart can’t keep on beating at this rate for ever. Vous avez le coeur du champion – “you have a champion’s heart” said a doctor at the beginning of all this back in 2015 and it’s only that which has kept me going. If it begins to fail, then I will have real problems.

And so now you know why I’m so concerned when my heart and my breathing start to show signs of breaking down, and why I’m on the warpath when they seem to be ignoring my concerns.

There were a few concerns about the events of the night.

The computer and Old-Time radio was still running at 23:15 so I switched it off and tried to go to sleep. I was still awake at 02:00, having spent some of the time surfing the internet on the mobile phone because I couldn’t go off to sleep. It’s really hard to sleep, light sleeper or not, when nurses and patrolling doctors have meetings right outside your open door.

Something else was that I allowed my imagination to run off on its own for a while and that will be important later.

I was having a really bad night. I was awoken at about 05:15 by a nurse who asked something like “where did I get something or other?”. I really can’t remember anything about it but I remembered what it was that she wanted to know but I’d forgotten now but I can remember when she said it what it was.

I was also at one time thinking or talking to a girl whom I knew from school and asking her next time why doesn’t she wear a skirt instead of jeans or trousers?. But where that came in I don’t know. I’d actually been thinking a lot about her before I’d gone to sleep while I was tossing and turning, as I mentioned earlier, so that was possibly something to do with it too

There was also something more than this too but if you’re eating your tea right now you don’t want to know about it.

After all of that I didn’t go back to sleep. When the alarm went off I made it to the bathroom, weighed myself on my return (I’m still below my upper target weight) and settled down with my laptop.

“You’re starting early” said the doctor who came in at that point. And I don’t think that she was prepared for the torrent that that comment unleashed.

Breakfast was late again and from then on the day just drifted. Much of it was spent either being asleep or shaken awake, which is no surprise after the catastrophe of last night.

Later in the afternoon Rosemary rang me for a nice chat and I had a lovely internet chat with Liz, although I think that I took her by surprise.

What must have been an even bigger surprise was my niece Rachel. She’s appalled, really appalled, by what’s happening and she asked me whether she should come over from Canada to look after me. And that’s the nicest thing that anyone has said to me for quite a while.

Of course I declined. I can’t drag someone a quarter of the way around the world. I’m pretty sure that as long as I manage to make it home I can manage to look after myself with a bit of help from the neighbours.

But right now I’m going to look after myself in bed. There’s a meeting about me tomorrow, to which I’m not invited of course, when they will discuss my future. I bet that they’ll vote to expel me on Tuesday morning.

And seeing as I have an appointment at the Haematology Department on Tuesday afternoon, will I have to come back for the appointment or will they simply cancel it?

We are living in interesting times.

Saturday 3rd December 2022 – IT’S THE WEEKEND …

… and so it’s been quite quiet in here yet again.

There was a brief visit from a cardiologist though but she didn’t even give me time to sit down. She did come into my room and bellow my name while I was shaving and as a result I have a cut upper lip.

When I did come out, she pounced on me before I’d even had time to sit on the edge of the bed. She gave me the usual platitudes so I sent her packing with a flea in her ear by giving her my usual spiel about what I reckon is going to happen on Tuesday next week.

As Hawkwind once said, YOUR ONLY REAL PROTECTION IS FLIGHT and she adhered to Michael Moorcock’s counsels.

That’s really about all of the excitement today, although one of the nurses – and not a student nurse either – seems to be starting to become a little over-familiar. As if I don’t have enough on my plate.

Last night though was another strange night. I went to bed late as you might expect, and couldn’t go to sleep for quite a while. I’d turned off the computer (and the Old-Time Radio) at some point but still didn’t go off to sleep. I was left hanging on for quite a while.

At some point I must have fallen asleep because the alarm awoke me at 06:30. And so I had a listen to the dictaphone. I awoke 3 or 4 times and saw someone’s father kicking an animal. It might have been a beaver or something each time that I awoke. It was so real that I almost called someone to make a note of it because it really seemed as if that was what he was doing each time I awoke around 01:45.

After breakfast (which was rather late today) a nurse turfed me out of bed so that she could change my bedding. I cleared off for a wash and that was when I had my encounter with the doctor from Cardiology.

On several occasions I fell asleep – and deep sleeps too – only to be awoken by various nurses for various treatments and on one occasion for lunch.

And we’re back on the old soya burgers that I don’t like again. That was a shame after the nice burgers that we had had yesterday.

Apart from a chat with Liz today, nothing else has happened, except this over-familiar nurse. It’s been as boring this afternoon as boring can be.

Tomorrow will be the same too, I reckon, so I need to have a good sleep to prepare me for the effort that I’ll need to make o keep awake.

It’s all go, isn’t it?