Category Archives: St Gervais d’Auvergne

Saturday 25th March 2017 – I’VE JUST SEEN …

… the most extraordinary football match.

Puy-de-Dome League Division 4 and two teams – St Gervais d’Auvergne III at home to Charbonnières II. Charbonnières were streets better than St Gervais – they missed a sitter almost from the kick-off but took the lead after about 5 minutes with a soft goal through the St Gervais keeper’s legs.

All one-way traffic it was with Charbonnières making it look so easy, and only some last-ditch outstretched feet and some astonishing saves by the St Gervais keeper who, I reckoned, knew absolutely nothing about any of them, just being in the right place at the right time and diving the right way, prevented Charbonnières from running riot.

But it was all too easy for Charbonnières and after about half an hour they eased off for some reason or other, and I don’t know why. And then the inevitable happened. A harmless cross into the penalty area, the Charbonnières keeper palmed it away, the loose ball hit one of his own defenders on the back and rolled across the line into the net.

Stunned silence from the crowd.

In the second half, Charbonnières struggled to get going. St Gervais were quite awful but they were slowly growing in confidence, with the opponents becoming more and more frustrated.

And then it happened.

A cross from the wing into the centre of the field, a St Gervais player hitting it on the half volley, and there we were, a most unlikely 2-1 for St Gervais.

Even more unlikely was that St Gervais scored a third just minutes later!

As the game progressed, Charbonnières finally awoke and went back on the rampage, with some more outstretched feet and some very fortunate goalkeeping keeping them out. But they did pull one back from a free kick with just minutes to go.

In the final minute or so Charbonnières threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the St Gervais defence, and then we had a wild clearance out of the defence. The Charbonnières defenders had the idea of stepping up three paces to catch the St Gervais attacker offside.

But ohhh woe! Woe!

They were in the St Gervais half, and an attacker can’t be offside if he’s in his own half. The attacker picked up the ball, advanced totally unopposed on the Charbonnières goal and slotted the ball underneath the isolated keeper. 4-2.

And that was that. And the crowd are still shaking their heads even now.

The second match was between the St Gervais Second team and the First XI of Charbonnières, and this was much more evenly matched. Charbonnières took the lead with a good header, and as the game wound down towards the end, they slowed down the game. But two dramatic late goals from St Gervais turned the match around and Charbonnières then tried to speed up the game. But they couldn’t come back.

We had a few little niggles but all-in-all it was a good game.

But I’ll tell you something. I complained the other day about the lack of solidarity that I have received from most of my “friends” in the Auvergne. Today, there were several people whom I knew from Pionsat’s football team and while they all said “hello”, not one of them came to sit with me for a little chat, even though it’s been 18 months or so since I was last at a match and they all know about my health issues.

I’m really disappointed about that.

So last night was another bad night for me – awake in the middle of the night and then wide awake definitively at about 05:45. Up here in the attic (with a fire burning) long before the alarm.

After a brief rest I took a pile of boxes downstairs to Caliburn and loaded him up, and also put in some stuff from the verandah. Then I nipped off to the Intermarche at Pionsat for some bread and so on.

I didn’t do much when I returned, and after lunch I crashed out for an hour or so.

But before going to the football I removed almost all of the boxes from the attic and put them in Caliburn. That was heavy work and exhausted me completely. There’s still stuff to pack up here, but that’s Tuesday morning’s job.

And now I’m back from the footy I’m going to be doing the washing-up and then going to bed.

Sunday is a day of rest, but I bet that it won’t be.

Sunday 19th March 2017 -THAT WAS SOMETHING …

… of a disturbed night’s sleep what with the livestock in the roof. And there I was, thinking along the lines of Marshall Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke, and “Sunday is the one day of the week a man can get up at noon and sit around with his boots off without anybody hollering at him about it”. First Sunday for almost 18 months that I hadn’t set an alarm, and there I was, wide awake and up and about at 07:30 in the morning. I’m hoping that this isn’t going to be a regular occurrence.

After breakfast, morning was quite steady – at first – and then round about 10:00 I sprung into action. By 12:00, everything not needed in the back of Caliburn had been taken out, and all of the food, clothing and other items that will be accompanying me on the next stage of my journey – because there is going to be a next stage on my journey – were all arranged neatly inside. It’s amazing, all of the space, once I managed to sort it out. And I counted almost 30 of those black plastic crates that I had systematically looted and pillaged from the rubbish bin at the supermarket in Leuven.

After all of that, I needed a sit-down. And having relaxed, made some butties and set off for the football. None at Pionsat of course, but there was a double-header at Le Quartier. Mind you, their ground was deserted at 13:00 so I went for a drive down to St Gervais d’Auvergne. Nothing going on there either so I had my butties by the lake.

Back at Le Quarter at 15:00 for the second match, but there was sill no-one there so I nipped up to Pionsat to see what was happening. Apart from a new Salle de Fêtes being built on the site of the old Maison Ducros- Maymat there was nothing going on there either.

And so back here, I checked on the internet and it seems that I have the dates incorrect. No matches this weekend – it’s next weekend when it’s all happening. D’ohhhh!

And so I made up my bed in the bedroom. even if it’s colder down there in the bedroom, I’ll snuggle up under the quilt and sleep in the quiet and in the comfort tonight. I deserve that at least. And while I was in there I began to pack away some clothes too. No time like the present.

Tea was a vegetable chili and rice, and now it’s bedtime. I’m hoping for a better night than last night.

Friday 9th December 2016 – I HAD MY …

… early night, and I was quickly away with the fairies too. But I was soon awakened by some kid of beastie scratching away in the roof.I’d forgotten all about them, you know, and how they used to scratch away all the blasted time. I did recall how, on my first night asleep in the bedroom downstairs, how deep a sleep I had without being disturbed at all.

But anyway, this scratching went on for quite a while and I couldn’t get off to sleep while all of this was going on. It was so annoying. But anyway, I did finally go off to sleep and was wide awake again before the alarms went off.

plasterboard corner attic les guis virlet puy de dome franceAfter breakfast and a little relax, I made a start. The corner in the attic that had been left open for access to the cables and (whenever it might be) the water pipes for the solar heat exchanger, I cut some plasterboard quickly and screwed it up to cover the gap on both walls. And then I cut a bigger piece for the ceiling to close all of that up too.

There’s a hole too behind one of the beams that I hadn’t managed to fill in when I did the ceiling. I cut some wood offcuts and I’ve blocked that off now – well, sort-of.

All of this involved a huge run-around for bits and pieces of wood and plasterboard. All of this wore me out completely. I had to stop regularly for a rest and at the end of it all it took me until just after 13:00 to do a couple of simple jobs like that. It’s easy to see just how much this illness has affected me.

But one thing can be said – and that is the 500-watt ash-sucker that I had bought years ago with the aim of converting it into a vacuum cleaner. Seeing as how we were having another impressive day, I gave it a run out to clean up the dust and plasterboard. And it worked in spades too. It’s made an astonishing difference to everything, particularly once I’d started to attack the rest of the room with it. I should have tried this before, and I wish that I had more time to do it again.

After lunch, I did a little more tidying up and then went down to pick up Caliburn. And he was ready too. And even more interestingly, the bill came to much less than half what I had paid in Brussels. He had checked the other side too, the one that they had done up there and told me that it was okay and any other sound that I might hear are not anything to worry about.

As an aside … "you’ll get used to these" – ed … I’d enjoyed driving my little Peugeot. Certainly showing her age, but she was still a fun car to drive around in and considering it had cost me just the diesel to borrow her, I had had a good deal.

Montlucon was next. I was early so I went for a stroll around, and then down to the tyre place. Caliburn now has brand new tyres on the rear to go with his good snow tyres on the front, and a reasonable spare too. Two more snow tyres next winter and then two more decent Hankooks in 18 months time and that will do for a couple of years.

With a full tank of fuel, I drove back here. It was 18:45 when I returned.

After tea, I had a relax again and now I’m going to have an early night. I’ve decided to hit the road tomorrow and head back to Leuven.

Thursday 8th December 2016 – LAST NIGHT, I DIDN’T …

… have such a good night’s sleep. I dozed off quickly enough, even with the radio on, but I was soon awake again when something loud came on the radio. And once I’d sorted that out, I couldn’t go back to sleep again for ages.

However,I must have done because the alarm awoke me. And then it took ages to leave the comfort and warmth of my bed. I’d been on my travels too for some part of it, wandering around somewhere with a young lady.

For the first part of the morning I pottered around and then set off for the garage to leave Caliburn for his wheel bearing.

peugeot 306 courtsey car garage jailot st gervais d'auvergne puy de dome franceThe courtesy car was there too this time. It’s a 1994 Peugeot 306 with 308,000 kilometres on the clock and a rear flasher that didn’t work.

There wasn’t any diesel in it either so I had to put 12 litres in it to get me about, an don my way back home I went via the Intermarché at Pionsat for a little shopping and to visit the bank.

Liz phoned me up too and we had a good chat.

After lunch I carried on with the tidying up in here, slow as it is, and then went down to see how Caliburn was doing. But he wasn’t ready and that’s something of a disappointment as I would have been on the road tomorrow had he been ready. Now, I have no idea when i’m going to leave here.

Tea was mushrooms, green beans, vegetables and pasta in tomato sauce cooked in the oven. And that was nice too.

So let’s have an early night and see what tomorrow will bring us.

Wednesday 7th December 2016 – AND SO …

… as it cooled down here last night I snuggled up underneath my quilt on the sofa. and that was everything that I remember until the alarm went off at 07:00.

By 07:15 and the second alarm, I was taking full advantage of the comporting toilet. And seeing as how it hasn’t been used for over a year and there was some stuff in there from before I left, I had living proof that my comporting toilet really does work.

It took me a while to gather my wits, which takes quite a long time these days as we all know, and then I went off on the attack. There were a few clean clothes hanging around in the bedroom so I put them away. And then I sorted out some work clothes.

Downstairs, I checked over all of the tyres. Two of the winter tyres are really quite good but the other two were border-line and I have been thinking about replacing them. In the end, after much thought, I’ve left them back in the tyre pile and just fitted the two front ones. Caliburn is front-wheel drive of course and so if snow tyres are going anywhere, that’s the best place for them. I’ll buy two new ones next year.

I reckon that the two new Hankooks that I’m having on Friday – they can go on the rear and then Caliburn will really be set up. In the spring I’ll put the work Hankooks on the front and run the rest of the tread off.

Hanging up the spare wheel in its cradle was rather fun. It took me ages to work out how it went, which is quite a surprise. It’s one of those things that once you work it out, it goes up in seconds and you wonder where the difficulty was.

Caliburn has been emptied, everything has been sorted out and piles of stuff discarded. It looks quite good in there now. There’s plenty of food in there to tide me over for much of the time while I’m in Belgium. It’ll keep me out of mischief for a while.

I went down to the garage but … shock!… horror! … the hire care hadn’t come back in. I can’t leave Caliburn because I have no way of getting back home again. And so I’ll have to come back tomorrow morning. This is getting to be quite uncomfortable.

Back here I made a butty and then took downstairs all of the crockery and cutlery that I use regularly, and washed it under the water butt. I feel a little more comfortable about that now.

I had a little tidying session and sorted out a few more things to take back to Belgium, did a little work on the website and then lit the fire to warm me up and make tea. Pasta, ratatouille, vegetables and a bit of boulghour and I was well away this that. And for the first time in I don’t know how long, I watched a film.

Now I’m ready to bed and I hope that I sleep as well as I did last night.

Tuesday 6th December 2016 – SO HERE I AM …

… back home again to stay for a few days if I can last out. The first time that I will have stopped here since November last year.

And I wish that I wasn’t here either. The internet is down, the ‘phone isn’t working, the room is covered in dust, some animal has made it inside and made a mess that I shall have to clear up. It’s all so depressing.

I lit the fire and that immediately awoke a hibernating fly that has been buzzing around my head all night. I can’t find half of the stuff that I need for cooking so it was a very rudimentary meal that I had, cooked in the oven bit of the woodstove so that’s something, I suppose. But I can’t see me being here for long.

On a more positive note, all that I can say about these Ace Hotels is that they live up to their names. I’ve paid twice the price for conditions and facilities that haven’t been as good as this. I had a really good sleep and was off on my travels again during the night, although you are probably eating your breakfast this morning so I’ll spare you the details.

Breakfast was superb too. In fact, everything about it was definitely good value for money from my point of view.

When they threw me out I went to the Tax Office and found that my hospital payments are all up-to-date which is good news. I did a little shopping and then headed out to Evaux-les-Bains. I was early so I tidied up a little (yes, just a little) in Caliburn. The garage where I have to go is a body shop as you might expect, and he had an old Ford Vedette V8 awaiting attention.

These are copies of 1940s American cars sold by Ford France, and when that company was nationalised after World War II, Simca took over the plant and designs and carried on making them. Simca Vedettes are reasonably common, but a Ford is rare.

So we have a plan for the repair, and he’s going to have a look at the rust that’s appearing on the nearside sill while he’s at it. I’m entitled to borrow a car while the repair work is being done, so I may as well have everything done all at once.

From there I had a delightful meander through the countryside. The wheel bearing is by now driving me mad so I went to see the garagiste there and we had a chat. He can fit Caliburn in Wednesday afternoon and Thursday which is good for me – it means that I can hit the road Friday night. He’s going to find me a hire car for a couple of days while Caliburn is receiving attention.

I’ll nip into Montlucon tomorrow morning and take two wheels with me. If the tyres have arrived, i’ll have them fitted. If not, I’ll leave the wheels and go back for them in the hire car. That means that I’ll spend the first part of the morning fitting Caliburn’s winter tyres on the front.

That’s what I should have done in the first place.

Thursday 19th May 2016 -I WAS OFF …

… on my travels again today.

I started off at the Doctor’s this morning at &0:00, only to find that my doctor is on holiday and it was a locum in attendance. That means that most of what I wanted to discuss was pretty pointless but I handed over a few letters from the hospital and had a form signed, as well as a quick check-up. My heart-beat is high but apart from that, things seem to be quite normal for now.

Montlucon was the next port of call. I had to pay a bill at the laboratory that does my blood tests and then another bill at the tax office for all of the documents that the hospital gave me before I went off to Leuven. There’s nothing else outstanding that I cans ee for the moment, although I have a couple of bills to pay at Leuven when I return.

Once that was out of the way I went back home for an hour, most of which was spent chatting to Nicolette whom I encountered in the lane. She seemed to be quite concerned about my health, which is nice of her.

Caliburn had his controle technique at 15:OO and the garage had forgotten that I was coming. But they squeezed us in and of course Caliburn passed with flying colours. And then we nipped off to the other side of St Gervais d’Auvergne for his service. So he’s all done and dusted now and ready for the road.

Back here, I crashed out for an hour and then made tea. Microwaved potatoes and mushroom and lentil curry was on the menu followed by some of Liz’s home-made vegan ice-cream. And now I’m off to bed. I’m feeling even worse than yesterday and to make matters worse, my “upset stomach” has returned.

I’ll see if I can pick up where I left off last night because I was off on a few travels too. The first part involved my being somewhere on the continent – it may have been in Occupied Europe or a neutral country during the war but it was a big tower-block kind of building. I was talking to a woman there who was expressing her surprise that the top floor was occupied by the British Royal Air Force Bomber Command which was using the premises to direct the bombing attacks against Germany, whereas just a couple of floors down, the German Luftwaffe had offices used to direct fighter control against the British bombers. I replied that that wasn’t the only thing that was unusual – out in the grounds was a military hospital where half the staff was British and half was German and they were dealing with wounded soldiers of both armies.
From there, I found myself in Crewe in a huge traffic queue trying to go over Edleston Road bridge. I was in a driverless car – a while Volkswagen Karmann Ghia – and so I left the car to see how it would do. And it advanced quite nicely in the traffic, except that it was going too fast for me to walk after and with my illness I wasn’t able to run after it – and this really had be worried. I remember that on the bridge was an end-terraced house with the door round the side (which actually fronted onto Edleston Road) and it was actually my house. I was reminiscing about how many of these houses used to be built on the bridges in Crewe.
We haven’t finished yet, because there was a football match taking place between one of Pionsat’s teams and a team that consisted mainly of females and which only had 10 players. Pionsat were however struggling to get on top in this game and on one occasion they broke clean though the defence and the player had a shot but a defender stuck out a foot and diverted it out onto the post and out for a corner. From the corner the ball came in and the keeper missed it but a Pionsat player headed the ball in off the post for a goal. There were three Pionsat players in an offside position but they weren’t interfering with play so there was no reason why the goal should be disallowed but one of the defenders, a young man, argued so much with the referee that in the end he was sent off the field, which tilted the game even further into Pionsat’s favour.

I’ll see if I can pick it up from there.

Saturday 14th May – NOW …

… that was much more like it. That was the most comfortable sleep that I have had for weeks. It was a shame though that my room was on the ground floor on the outside of the building at the foot of the stairs because I was kept awake for ages by some family group chatting at the foot of the stairs before they went their separate ways, and badger me if it wasn’t them again in the morning waking me up again.

But when I was gone, I was really gone.

I was away with the fairies during the night too. The first part concerned one of these reality TV shows and in this case it was a group of people who were setting up a garage – how they had to clear out some derelict and abandoned place, sort out the stuff inside, secure some stock-in-trade and set themselves up to do some work. They had three or four front-ends of minis, complete with subframes and engines, up on a ramp leading to the upper floor. All of this seemed to be so familiar and I wondered if I’ve been here before on another one of my nocturnal rambles just recently.
A little later, I was interviewing some woman. She was a single mother who worked as a school bus driver out in the Macclesfield area and had been transferred to a different route which went higher up on the moors on the Derbyshire border and in the snow. I was interested to see how she was doing with the difference in driving conditions, but she said that she hadn’t noticed the difference.

Breakfast cost me €5:00 and I had my money’s worth too. And then afterwards, I had an hour on the blog doing some more updating – I need to keep on at it.

The journey down to here was uneventful, apart from the weather. Yesterday I was having 28.6°C in Leuven and its surroundings. This morning it was a mere 12.6°C at Melun and the weather gradually deteriorated. We had fog, hanging clouds, rain, all kinds of stuff and the temperature dropped as low as 9°C. Definitely not the summer weather we should be having.

I called in at the Carrefour at Moulins to do a pile of shopping – some tins to take back to Belgium next weekend and also some food to eat while I’m down here. I can’t nibble away at Liz and Terry’s supplies.

My house is totally overgrown with weeds and the like and it was a struggle to get in there. I really must do something about that sometime (although I’m not sure when). I had a scrounge around and rescued all of the washing which I’ll do tomorrow and give it time to dry out before I go back. I’m going back to chez moi a couple of times during the week to tidy out Caliburn and get him organised for the next round of visits.

While I was there, I sorted out the post. No bank card yet, but there was a nasty bill that my insurance should have paid but it seems that they haven’t. On Monday, I’ll have to get on the case.

In St Gervais d’Auvergne I bought the last loaf of bread in France and then came back here narrowly avoiding squashing a team of motorcycle scramblers out for a run around, and then crashed out for a couple of hours (no surprise here).

For tea, I’ve had baked potatoes, baked beans and veggie-burgers and it was gorgeous. Now I’m going to crash out again and I hope that I’ll stay in bed until Monday. I need a good, solid uninterrupted sleep.

Wednesday 16th March 2016 – HOW WE LAUGHED …

… when the nurse said something last night about it going to snow today. And so would you have done, given the glorious day we had yesterday.

But coming back from Montlucon, and passing through Villebret where you start to climb up into the Combrailles, I saw a few suspicious-looking white flakes being blown about in the sky. By the time I climbed up over the Font Nanaud and down the other side towards St Gervais, the sky was clear again but about half an hour after arriving back here, we got the lot. There’s now about 10mm of snow outside and it’s still falling.

Yes, and I have to go back (GRRRRR!) to Montlucon and the hospital tomorrow too. I arrived there nice and early but had to wait for almost three quarters of an hour before I was seen properly by the nurse. She examined where I’d been injected and where I’d been patched, and told me that there is some reaction so I need to return for further tests.

You don’t need me to tell you what I think of that.

But anyway, off up to the day hospital and the blood transfusion. My favourite nurse and my second-favourite student were there and once more there was a decent and convivial crowd in the room. We all had quite a laugh and a good time, which made us all feel better and helped the time pass by.

Lunch was the usual disgusting muck but at least it was something, I suppose. And although I was finished by 14:30 I told them that I wasn’t leaving until I had had my mid-afternoon coffee.

On the way back from Montlucon I got myself lost in the back streets trying to find the short cut to LIDL. I needed some of my vitamin B12 juice and some sparkling water, and I also bought a couple of big packets of crisps and some packets of sweets to nibble on while I’m driving to Leuven. And they sell 1-litre bottles of orange juice in there and they are just the thing to drink in the van while I’m driving but as usual, Bane of Britain forgot to buy any.

I was going to go back home for a couple of hours afterwards too but it was rather cold and that made me think for a moment, and then with the white stuff, I decided that being back in the warmth and off the road was a much better plan.

And here I am and there I’ll be in a moment – in bed. I’m not going for a walk tonight as I’ve walked far enough today (as well as going all around the hospital I had to go off to find the Records Department to pick up a copy of my file to take to Leuven).

And while I’m on the subject of files and records, I did ask the doctor there to prepare his file and records ready for me to pick up. And so I went to see his secretary and it will come as no surprise to you all to learn that he hasn’t done so. I told her “Friday at the latest” (well, actually vendredi au plus tard, but you get the idea).

So I hope that I have a more interesting and exciting sleep than I did last night. I was out like a light in a very deep sleep and the only recollection of what happened was what was on the dictaphone. And we were dealing with football issues yet again.

We were talking about the Controle Technique in football (well, exactly!) and one of the issues in this is that the player concerned has to take a penalty kick. Now it doesn’t matter whether the player scores or misses, or whether it’s saved by the keeper – it’s all down to whether the player is capable of kicking the ball in that situation. One player having his Controle Technique came out onto the field. He was wearing a red football shirt with his name on the back – a really long name that ended with Platini. He was preparing to take the kick but we noticed that underneath his shirt he was wearing a Father Christmas outfit complete with hood trimmed in white and with a white bobble – and his hood is up on his head. He runs in to take the penalty as soon as the whistle is blown, but almost immediately the whistle is blown again to stop the kick being taken, in order to order him to put his hood down so that the controller could see his head and face. And so he does, and then he runs in and takes the kick again. However the keeper is really quick off his line and manages to block the ball with his knees. The ball thus ricochets off his knees up into the air. Now the goal that they are using for this is actually an over-bridge, so it’s clearly the correct dimensions for a goal underneath it. The ball balloons up and over the bridge past the people who are crossing the bridge and then back down the other side and goes quite a way away. The man who has taken the penalty now needs another ball to do something different and so he climbs up the side of the cutting which this bridge crosses, and plucks another ball that was in a bush that was growing on the top of the cutting, so they can continue this Controle Technique.

After all of that, I was down here early yet again, breakfasted and off on the road at 07:30 with the coffee in my Tim Hortons thermal mug. The drive was pretty uneventful with no-one in my way and even though I stopped at the bank to add to the fighting fund, I was at the hospital for 08:20.

I spent most of the day dealing with my Canada 2014 voyage for the month of September. I’ve now arrived back on Nova Scotia (travelling backwards of course) but then I had to start from the other end at Montreal and reach as far as the Sorel – St Ignace ferry across the St Lawrence because there’s a gap in my notes. I know that they are there because I remember transcribing them and I’m sure that I’ve seen them, but they are probably out of order so I’ll need to find them – and the easiest way to find them is to start at the other and and file the stuff from there, and eventually I’ll come across them.

That’s a nice job for me tomorrow then, seeing as how I have to spend all blasted day in that perishing mausoleum.

Friday 11th March 2016 – JUST IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING …

… what happened last night with me not posting my blog, the answer was that by the time 20:15 came around, I was already tucked up in bed and out like a light. Crashing out was certainly the word – I had gone completely.

But then again, I’d had a hectic day – and one that had started not long after I had gone to sleep. And furthermore, it all started with yet another appearance by a girl who has been described on these pages as “the one that got away”. But for the second time in succession, she didn’t get away from my evil clutches last night.

Ohh no she didn’t!

I’d been out yet again in Nantwich, having been for a really good wander all around the Crewe Road End – Millstone Lane area of the town, having a good look at all of the houses and so on. And all of the area behind the houses on Millstone Lane, between there and The Crofts, had been cleared away, flattened and rolled out ready for a new housing estate to be built there. Even Flash Meakin’s hovel had gone. I wandered over there to make a brief inspection but the builders tried to chase me away. However, it was common land and so I had every right to be there, and I made sure that they knew it. And there I stayed. Having made my inspection, I wandered off to continue my travels and this is where I bumped into the aforementioned young lady. She was living on The Crescent apparently and so she invited me in for a coffee. We had a really good chat about old times and then she invited me to stay for dinner. So I prepared all of the vegetables and she cooked the food – a risotto it was. I was given a choice about what I wanted for dessert – beans on toast was mentioned (this is why I enjoy so much going on these nocturnal rambles – they are totally surreal) but of course I had some completely different ideas about what I wanted to have for afters. But I settled on a banana, which I suppose is rather symbolic. But then her young daughter came in and was telling us about how she had been threatened by some young boy who had somehow found his way into the house. She had been in the attic and had gone out onto the roof to see what was making a noise, and he had sneaked in behind her. When she came downstairs he surprised her. She was shocked and so the police were called and he was carted off, even though he insisted that he’d only done it for a dare. He ended up with 30 days inside and was ostracised by all of his friends. In the meantime, the two of us were carrying on chatting and the conversation came round to what was happening in the evening. I invited her to the cinema and her daughter thought that this was a really good idea. But her elder boy looked rather worried as if he was afraid of having his mum taken away from him. But there was no doubt that she was really keen to go to the cinema with me and I was of course just as keen to take her.

Yes, it’s a shame that things like this don’t happen to me in real life.

The alarm went off before I’d reached the exciting bit and it left me wondering about what would have happened had I been able to sleep in until the usual time of 07:45 instead of this wretchedly-early time of 07:00. I was feeling as if I’d been cheated out of 45 minutes of wishful thinking, but there we are, I suppose.

I was on the road by 07:40 and at the hospital at 08:35, managing to pinch the next-to-last parking space on the car park. The allergy clinic is weird, with just a half-dozen or so of comfortable seats, and with le being the first arrival, I had the pick of the chairs – right by the door by the power point. I had some kind of pattern drawn in biro on my arm, with initials and numbers, and then injected and some kind of fluid rubbed in. One or two of them flared up quite dramatically and the nurse measured them with some kind of hole gauge.

The nurse then found a sheet of something that resembled an aluminium-backed piece of bubble-wrap, peeled off the sticky front of it, stuck it to my back and then burst the bubbles so that, presumably, the product in each bubble would interact with my skin. I have to leave this on until Monday.

But if I think that I’m hard done-to, what happened to me was nothing to what happened to the young girl next to me. They drew some kind of chess-board on her arm and she had a huge number of injections, a couple of which flared up like nothing that I have ever seen before. One of them was starting to look like something out of Quatermass’s Experiment.

I felt so sorry for her that I let her have my cake that came with our mid-morning coffee. And then I invited her for a game of draughts on her arm.

One thing though that surprised me was that each one of us, on entering the room, had a drain put in our arms. Not that that was surprising, the surprising bit was that they didn’t use it for anything. Rather a waste of effort to me. But at least the nurse who did it had “the touch”. I hardly felt a thing.

But my results were such that I have to come back for a full morning on Monday, and an hour or so on Tuesday. And as for my Monday-morning blood test, the nurse will do it then and there as long as I remember to take my prescription with me.

We were thrown out at 12:00 and I went down to the Amaranthe. I bought some more vegan cheese and some mixed seeds, as well as a couple of hundred grams of muesli biscuits. I think that I deserved a little treat. But the Amaranthe is now selling Mozzarella-like vegan cheese (and this is progress, considering that even 18 months ago they didn’t stock any at all), although I didn’t buy any to try as it looked to be tainted. I’ll pick some up next time maybe.

Lunch was a plate of chips and vegetables at the Flunch, and then I went around the Carrefour and the Auchan for some shopping. There were no loose porridge oats, but the Auchan “own-brand” packaged oats were a reasonable price so I bought a few packets of those. I can’t be without my muesli now, can I?

I went home afterwards for a relax and to look for some more stuff that I forgot the other day. I still can’t find my Paint-Shop Pro disk but I did manage to find my dash-cam. I’ve also copied all of the dictaphone notes onto a rewritable DVD and onto a back-up drive, one thing that I’ve been meaning to do ever since I finished transcribing them.

I went to the pharmacie in St Gervais on the ay back here. I needed to pick up the medication that I ordered. The good news about this is that a month’s supply of the new injections only cost half of the price of the current lot, and then of course it’s only going to be once a day too. So that’s something like progress anyway. I shan’t be struggling quite as much for finances.

But the bad news about it is that the other injection that I need to take with me to the hospital next Friday – it’s more like an injection for a cow or a horse, judging by the size of the box. I don’t like the idea of that.

I also forgot to ask for some more boxes for my empty needles, and then I also realised that I hadn’t been to pick up my paperwork from the Archives at the hospital either. It clearly wasn’t my day. And on leaving the town, someone in a small silver saloon of which the registration number began CZ flashed his lights and waved at me. I wish that I know who it was.

Chips were on the menu back here, so that’s twice today. Not that I am complaining of course, because we have real malt vinegar here. And then I crawled off to bed – I didn’t even go out for my walk, but then that’s no big deal because I’d walked enough (at least, for my present state of health) today.

And with this patch-thing on my back, I’m glad that I had a shower yesterday.

And so are we” said terry.

Wednesday 9th March 2016 – I’VE BEEN OUT TODAY …

… and I didn’t feel much like it because it was taters outside and sleeting down too. But out I had to go.

Most important was to post my claim for medical expenses. As I said the other day, what my expenses to date (as far as has come in – there’s still plenty to go that hasn’t come in) come to is the equivalent of 3 months’ income. As soon as I can receive the reimbursement, the better I’ll be. It was well-worth the … gulp … $14:70 to post it off.

I had to go to the boulangerie too.When I left, the mobile boulangère hadn’t been by and we had run out of bread. You can’t leave bread to chance if you are going out anyway. And so I went to the wrong boulangerie, bought the wrong bread and when I returned home I found that the boulangère had been here anyway. But still, that’s what freezers are for.

Another place that I needed to visit was the pharmacie. The prescription that I was given for my new medication expires on March 16th so I need to order that now. And then I need another injection to take with me to the hospital when I go for the scanner on the 18th. It goes without saying that a remote pharmacie like the one at St Gervais wouldn’t have the stuff in stock and so I’d have to order it.

And so after visiting the Post Office I clambered back into Caliburn and drove round to where the pharmacie is – only to find that it had moved. Upon enquiring of a local yokel, I discovered that it had moved to just behind the Post Office, right by where I’d parked Caliburn.

But now everything ordered and I’ll pick it up on Friday afternoon on my way back from the hospital.

During the night, I don’t remember too much about my little wanderings. I remember having to take a group of kids somewhere – kids aged round about 4 and 5 – and so the first thing to do was to check them all to make sure that they were clean and properly dressed. And having done that, we could set off.Once we’d arrived at our destination, the kids went off to do what they had to do and I went into the hotel bar for a coffee. And who should be in there but a friend of mine. We ended up having a really good chat, and when I went to the bar, he asked me to fetch him a MacKay’s and something (I can’t remember what it was now). But anyway, a MacKay’s was a blend of whisky and the something was like a tonic water or ginger ale in a small bottle like that and the bill for this came to an astonishing £11 and more. I was totally surprised by this and so when I took his drink to him I asked him if that was correct – not that I minded paying for it but that I thought that it was really excessive. He assured me that the bill was probably about right, and I reckoned that I was glad that I don’t drink alcohol. From here, I had to go back and pick up my charges and make sure that that they were all present and correct and had everything that they had supposed to have.

What I’ve done today, now that my web server is back and running, is to finish the collating of the notes of my voyage to Canada for the month of October 2015, and I’ve made a decent attack on the notes for September 2015. We will then have the notes for August 2015, and then all of the notes for 2014. The notes and photos of much of the route that I did in those two years, together with some of my 2013 journey and some of my 2010 journey, can then be superimposed and make more of a travelogue than a blog. That’s what my aim is anyway.

So now that it’s stopped snowing again and the rainstorm has died down, I’m off for a walk and then an early night. But my walk around St Gervais (in the sleet) today has shown, at least to me, that my movements are freeing up.

I just wish that I could do something about this lump in my lungs. But, as my surgeon said the other day “we’ll see what this scan says and then we’ll see what we can do!”


Thursday 25th February 2016 – IN WHICH OUR HERO FINALLY GETS THE GIRL

And we aren’t talking about the Girl from Worleston either, but someone else completely.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall a girl who has featured a few times in my nocturnal rambles. She and I had something of a close encounter (but nothing like as close as I would have liked it to have been) over a period of a couple of years a good while back and ever since then she’s been described as “The One That Got Away”.

But she didn’t get away last night.

I was back in Nantwich, at the top end of Welsh Row right by King’s Lane, which was the back entry into our school. Up Welsh Row, hand in hand with a boy of her acquaintance, came the young lady concerned. They were both wearing the school uniform of my old school (which is surprising because the girl didn’t go there, and I don’t have a clue who the boy was). When they reached where I was standing, we started to have quite a chat, a laugh and a joke. I was teasing them both, particularly this girl, because something had happened in her past that related to a pile of younger children. I was therefore talking about her “15 children”, implying that she was their mother (which would of course have been absolutely impossible) and quite naturally, the subject of her “16th child” drifted into the conversation (well, it’s quite natural in any kind of conversation in which I’m involved). At first, she was not willing to participate in all of this teasing but as the conversation wore on she became more relaxed and joined in the fun. From here, we all ended up heading back into town. As we set off, the boy and girl were still hand-in-hand but by the time that we had crossed the River Weaver Bridge and up towards the Swine Market, the situation between the girl and Yours Truly had become such that the boy had disappeared and it was me walking hand-in-hand with her. We turned into Beam Street towards the bus station and the further down that we walked, the more evident it had become that we were now a “couple”. Turning into Market Street, we passed in front of the Civic Hall and who should come out of there but Mrs Hayes, the school secretary (although of course, it wasn’t her at all) and she gave us a really long, cold, withering stare. And so we continued onwards, down and round the corner into Churchyardside, passing all kinds of other people who knew us and who were noticing what was going on between us. There were crowds and crowds of people milling around outside the church – apparently there was some kind of service going on there and such was the size of the attendance that people had to assemble in the shops opposite the square and were being sent over to the church on batches of 100. By time we realised what was going on, we thought “well, sod it! Enough people have already seen us together so that the word of our new relationship will have already spread like wildfire around the school no matter what we were to do from here on” and so we walked off hand-in-hand into the sunse … errr … shop across the square. All very nice and homely, it was.

But last night, I managed to watch the first of the “Inspector Hornleigh” films. And I must be mistaken when I say that it’s never been broadcast on British television because, sure enough, every 17 minutes or so we have the “revolving checkerboard” in the top right-hand corner that was put in by ITV to indicate that the commercial break would be along in 15 seconds and sure enough, you can tell from watching the film closely that the commercial breaks have been edited out. The quality too is very suggestive of VHS video, so it looks as if it’s been downloaded fom ITV onto a good-quality video recorder and then edited.

The film itself, the first-ever collaboration between Harker and Sim, doesn’t have the rapport that developed between them in the later films and Harker himself hasn’t developed the quick repartee and master of disguise that became his trademark in the later films. But there were certainly some priceless moments in the film –
Chancellor of the Exchequer – “members of the public shouldn’t go around robbing the Chancellor of the Exchequer with impunity like this!”
Harker – “quite right. It’s usually the other way around!”.

What with one thing and another, I had a really good night last night and you have absolutely no idea just how hard it was to pull myself out of my stinking pit this morning. I was well-away in the land of the fairies.

And after breakfast I was once more distracted because the site of the 3D program that I use was having a sale of items at $0:80 a throw so I spent the morning having a really good trawl through it. After all, I haven’t bought myself a birthday present yet.

This afternoon, in a totally new departure from my current existence, I went out and about. To St Gervais in fact. Liz’s new spectacles had arrived but a couple of things about them needed to be sorted out so I had to go with Terry as interpreter. And it was snowing there too. I know that it’s forecast for tonight here, and al of the way through to next Thursday too, but St Gervais, which is 100 metres higher up, is starting early.

This afternoon, I pushed on with the dictaphone notes for Canada 2014. I’ve made a considerable amount of progress too – so much so that I’m almost back to the point where I entered the USA from Canada in early September. If I can keep this up at this rate, I’ll be finished within a week and won’t I be happy?

I’ve made myself a pizza tonight and there’s enough left for lunch tomorrow. These big pizza sheets that Liz prefers to the round ones that I like do have their advantages.

Anyway, I’ve done enough for today. I’m going to have yet another early night and watch the second Inspector Hornleigh film.

And then, I wonder where I’ll end up tonight. And more interestingly, who will be coming with me?

Friday 15th January 2016 – THE ROAD TO MONTLUCON …

… wasn’t too bad this morning. I was up bright and early … "well, maybe not so bright" – ed … at 07:00 and by 07:25 I was on the road with a nice thermal mug of hot coffee to keep me going.

I took it fairly easy and although Caliburn slipped around in a couple of places we didn’t have any big issues. Even going down the Font Nanaud wasn’t anything like the challenge that I expected it to be, and by the time that I reached whatever the name of the place is in between Marcillat and Villebret, the road was pretty clear. All in all, it only took me 10 or so minutes longer than usual and I was parked up at the hospital by 08:30 as usual.

Mind you, I’d beaten all of the staff of the day hospital into work so had to hang around 10 minutes before the doors opened up. And then, being first in, I could have my comfy spec in the armchair in the corner by the radiator and the power point.

It was the student nurse who came to fit my drain and that filled me full of foreboding. She was the one who had had three tries the other week before abandoning the job and calling for a friend. But today, to my surprise, not only did she do it in one, it was the least painful of all of them.

And here we had the confusion, much to my dismay. It was the young doctor who had telephoned yesterday to summon me to hospital, and although he had probably told the nurses that I was coming, there had been some confusion about the ordering of my blood. Consequently, I had to wait until about 11:15 for the blood to arrive. Then we had the new marvels of modern 21st-Century technology for warming up the blood – to wit – me stuffing it up my jumper.

At about 11:40, someone brought me a nice hot cup of coffee. I’d only been waiting since about 09:00 (the first time that I asked). But in the meantime I’d not been idle. I’d downloaded another whole pile of stuff from and now I reckon that I have a whole decent set of radio programmes to keep me company. I’ll have to check to see if I can find The Men From The Ministry because I forgot about that.

Running so late, I ordered lunch, and ended up with asparagus and tomato for starters, rice and boiled carrots with a bread roll for main course, and then apple purée and an orange for desert. Not the most exciting meal that I’ve ever had, by a long chalk, but it was quite filling and actually tasted quite nice.

It was 14:50 by the time that they had finished with me and I was really disappointed by this. But every cloud has a silver lining, for Ingrid was in the hospital and due to finish what she was doing at 15:00. So go down to the shops or have a coffee with Ingrid? No competition really, is there?

By 16:20 I was on the road and by then, the return journey was a very different story. There had been a flurry of snow in Montlucon at lunchtime and everyone had rushed to the window to see it. But by the time I reached Villebret there was much more than just a flurry and it gradually worsened the higher into the mountains that I climbed. The drag up to the Font Nanaud (height, 934 metres) was exciting, especially as there had been no snowplough or gritter south of Pionsat (I eventually met one, coming towards me from St Gervais) and I was right behind a Mercedes Vito towing a plant trailer with a mini-loader on the back.

He of course had no chance, but he did his best. Rear-wheel drive is useless in this weather when you are pulling something like that and he was sliding everywhere across the road, fighting for grip. He ought to have realised that it was pointless and should have turned round on the old railway track bed to go back down, but he pressed gamely on.

It wasn’t very long before the inevitable happened. He completely lost traction, slewed across the road and came to a shuddering stop. I couldn’t stop to help him because I would have lost traction too so I chugged on over the top and down the bank towards St Gervais.

snow january 2016 centre ornithologique st gervais d'auvergne puy de dome franceThe conditions round by St Gervais weren’t quite so bad as up on the Font, and the farther south that you travelled, the easier the route became.

By the time I got to Phoen … errr … the Centre Ornithologique, things had cleared quite considerably and the roads were much easier to move about, which was good news for me.

snow january 2016 centre ornithologique st gervais d'auvergne puy de dome franceI stopped here to take a few photographs of the snow, to record it for posterity. St Gervais, over there on the hill about 100 feet higher up than where I am, looks particularly covered and you can tell by the sky that there’s more to come.

Pulling away from here wasn’t easy either, with a couple of traction issues to get over the ridges made by the car tyres in the snow. But I was soon off and back down here to dig myself in for the foreseeable future.

I have no plans for going out anywhere else until my next hospital visit. And that’s a thought to depress just about anyone

Just in case you are wondering, we had none of the usual suspects, no family members and only one slight mention of a place of my previous existence during my nocturnal rambles of last night.

I’ve no idea where I was when I started off last night but it was a place that I certainly didn’t recognise, somewhere on the coast of the UK. It was a holiday resort, at a part of the town that was inland a little and high up with a view over the bay. There was quite a group of us and we’d heard that one of our rock heroes or bands was playing in this place at the carnival on the seafront. The word “Jubilee” was mentioned, and it turned out that Jubilee was a suburb of this particular town with access to the sea, so I was making a few enquiries to find out which trams we needed to catch to go there. There was a tram stop just outside the building where we were staying and I was trying to read the timetables and tram routes. But I was there for hours trying to find out which tram it was that went to Jubilee, with trams passing in front of me and all around me. In the end, I went back into the building, which was the hospital where I’d been a few days ago.
We then had an old woman putting in an appearance. I’ve no idea who she was but last night she was living next door to me and I had her doing quite a few of my affairs for me. I’d just turn up out of the blue and she’d do a few things for me and then I’d go off again. When I was there last time, and had her go along and do something for me, and as a reward I had paid for her haircut at the hairdressers. She said that she had only just been, so I told her to go again and have the same cut done, or something else, a second time. And so she ended up with almost no hair. She also said that next day she was going into hospital for an urgent operation but that cut no ice with me. I was supposedly in Crewe by this time, Alton Street or somewhere around there. I had wandered off somewhere and a couple of days later I was back, still looking for this Jubilee. I went into the local hospital and here I came across this woman. she’d had her surgery and I’d forgotten completely about it, so I had to pretend to be interested and to talk to her about it. I’d intended to go to see her later in the day in fact because this was really early in the morning when I arrived. But she was awake this early so we had the chat about her operation
From here I went off to work as a general handyman for some rich old lady. We were somewhere in an urban French environment and she took me with her, beckoned me to follow her around and through these old outbuildings into a large barn-type of place and through into a garage that fronted the street. I had to open the doors to let her friend in with a car. These buildings were full of what I thought were dead insects but she explained that they were immature crabs. She’d bought a huge pile of them but ended up with 100 too many but rather than take them back she’d just dumped them out of the car and they had all died. So we managed to bring the car in and then we went off, her beckoning me to follow once more up to a gallery place with a metal walkway. She’d erected a kind of metal fence around it that went around a kind of headland that she owned or had something to do with. It seemed that the neighbours had objected to the fence (it was merely strands of barbed wire) and so it had to be pulled up, so that was my job. Some guy who worked for some Civil Service body was watching me, telling me what a good job it was in the Civil Service and how I ought to apply to work there. But I was busy pulling up these stakes and coiling up this wire. He wanted to know what I was going to do with this wire so I replied that I was going to keep it – one of the perks of my job. He had quite a moan about that. meantime, I’d noticed that this wire was swinging around all over the road so I had to go down and coil it up properly. I’d also had to consult my telephone to see what was going on because someone else had started this job with me but had gone again, so I wanted to see where he was. However, I somehow managed to connect to a film on this telephone – a black-and-white film of the 30s with some film star appearing in it and I couldn’t stop it – each time that I tried to press “stop” or to switch it off, I had a “buy it now” screen. The volume was set quite loud – I couldn’t lower that and everyone in the area could hear it.

And so despite my trip to Montlucon today, I reckon that I’m still cracking up far more miles during the night. It’s hardly any surprise that I’m so exhausted these days.

But I do wonder what it is that they are putting in my food to make all of this happen.

Saturday 9th January 2016 – 2114 words!

Yes, that’s what you had yesterday, you lucky people. Serves you right!

I really ought to be charging you a fee for all of the work that I’m putting in these days. You don’t get all of this entertainment for free anywhere else, you know.

And that reminds me, if you have enjoyed or benefited from these pages, please make your next Amazon purchase by clicking on the links in the right-hand column. It costs you no extra, but I receive a small commission on the sale. I reckon that I deserve it.

But anyway, enough of that.

Yesterday, I was out yet again. In the cold, the wet and the wind. I’d finally managed to track down the person who needs to come and inspect this septic tank where we had all of the issues on Wednesday, and he agreed to meet us there at 11:00. So after breakfast and coffee Terry and I set off.

We made sure that we both had our telephones with us this time, and that we had the papers with all of the contact details, but that was clearly not enough. As we were passing through Montel de Gelat, Terry suddenly announced “blast! I’ve forgotten the key!”.

You really don’t need a key to enter any of the houses around here, but you do need some tools. And having gone down there in the FIAT instead of the Transit we didn’t have any of those. So Terry dropped me off at the house and nipped off to the D-i-Y shop at Pontaumur.

The inspection didn’t take long. The person who came had actually done a survey on the property a short while ago so he simply checked the system for leaks. He would copy the plans of the system from his previous report.

On the way back, the yellow light came on. We were running low on fuel. The nearest petrol station is 16kms away in St Gervais so I told Terry that he had better put his foot down.
“Why?” asked Terry
“Well, you want to get to the petrol station quickly before you run out of fuel”

Back here, I did some more of my course work in the afternoon, in between having a doze or two. And then after tea, we watched a film for a short while and then went to bed.

It’s hard to understand why I was so tired today because I hadn’t been up to all that much during the night compared to many of my recent ramblings.

From what I remember, which isn’t necessarily all that much, I started off with something to do with Antoine de Saint Exupéry – the French airman and children’s writer – although I can’t now remember what he was doing in my dreams, and why he would be there at all.
And then we moved off to the cinema. I was babysitting a girl of about 9 or 10 and so I decided that, in order to keep her entertained, I would take her to the cinema to watch a film. However we didn’t get to see much of the film because my brother (again!) was there and he insisted on distracting this girl by teasing her and generally annoying her – to such an extent that we had to move away to another part of the cinema. However, he followed us and carried on with his behaviour and so we had to move yet again. In the end, the only place where we could find some peace was in finding two empty seats in the middle of a crowded area where there were no other empty seats in the vicinity and so he couldn’t follow us and this girl wouldn’t be disturbed.
But from here, after a visit to ride the porcelain horse, I was back into a different country, in Canada to be precise although it didn’t look much like any part of Canada that I knew. I had a Mk IV Cortina estate that needed some attention and I’d been quoted something like $140 for the repairs. But when I went back to pick it up, it was still up on the ramps (complete with Czech numberplate, don’t ask me why) and the garage proprietor was busy removing my two spare wheels. Apparently, according to him, the tyres were no good although I disagreed (a strange parallel here with an incident involving Caliburn last May). So when I received the bill, it wasn’t for $140 but for almost $600, but he would “make me an allowance for the two tyres” (and no mention of the wheels, which I rather wanted back). I had to sit down and add up the bill in order to check that it was correct. And this bill was all in pounds, shillings and pence (decimal currency was introduced into the UK in 1971 but Ford Cortina Mk IVs were introduced in 1976 so there was clearly some logic here). It was a very complicated and involved account but I was doing it in my head. I’m quite capable of doing this, but each time I nearly reached the end, my brother (who had now put in yet another appearance) contradicted me over a figure, which I knew full well that I was right but his interruption distracted my train of thought and so I had to start again. And then he made another interruption. This was how it continued and I was wishing that he would clear off and go and annoy someone else. And not only that, do I make a fuss about my tyres? And my wheels? I really need my wheels back at the very least, but the reduction in the bill is important and I’m short of money so the discount is welcome. Strangely enough, I gave no thought whatever about the fact that I had been considerably overcharged compared to the estimate.

Thursday 31st December 2015 – I HAVE SPENT NEW YEAR’S EVE …

… in some strange places, but this evening will be about the strangest. I’m back in Montlucon, back in the hospital and in the casualty department connected up to a couple of pochettes of blood.

This morning I had the usual blood test and at 17:15 I had the phone call. Apparently my blood count has collapsed and it’s down to 7.2, which means that in 4 days I’ve lost 15% of my haemoglobin. There’s no Day Hospital tomorrow (yes, I now know the reason why I have blood tests on Mondays and Thursdays – that’s because the Day Hospital is usually open from Monday to Friday, Bank Holidays excepted of course, and they can call me in the next day if the results are bad) and so it has to be done in Casualty.

And so I rode off into a rather symbolic sunset – symbolic in many senses in that it’s the final sunset of 2015, bringing down the night onto the end of a rather significant year for me, and that I have a rather uncomfortable feeling that it’s bringing down the night onto a significant chapter in my life and that whatever happens to me once a new dawn breaks will be completely different to that which I’ve experienced to date.

new years eve sunset site ornithologique st gervais d'auvergne puy de dome franceNevertheless, at the Site Ornithologique just outside St Gervais, one of my favourite photography spots, I stopped to take a photo of the sun dipping down under the horizon.

And I wasn’t alone here either. Liz was here too. She was on her way back from the airport at Limoges, having taken her family back for their aeroplane to East Midlands, and she was impressed by the view too. We had a little chat and then I was on my way.

Evening meal for me, my “special treat” for New Year’s Eve, was a large packet of crisps, a packet of biscuits and a banana. There wasn’t any time to prepare any food back at Liz and Terry’s because the hospital wanted me in and out before the midnight rush of drunks began, and so I had to pick up what I could find en route.

At the hospital, I was lucky enough to find a parking space for Caliburn close to the casualty entrance, and once I was inside, I was whisked straight into the casualty ward and prepared for transfusion, with the second-most-painful insertion of a drain. And this is when I discovered that the claim, on the telephone earlier, that “the blood has already been ordered” was somewhat economical with the truth. It didn’t arrive until 21:30 in fact.

And in the meantime, I was in a small room right by the entrance to the Casualty Department. Ambulances, with blue flashing lights and sometimes sirens, were pulling up right outside my window and the electric door into the Department was right next to the door to my room, which was open. Each time I closed my eyes, an ambulance would pull up, the electric door would open, and I’d be wide awake. And then I’d close my eyes again ready to doze off and the procedure would be repeated. And as New Years Eve approached and the stream became a flood, I gave it up as a bad job and asked for a coffee.

Yes, some let the New Year in with a glass of champagne. I let it in with a plastic beaker of coffee.

By 01:30 they had finished with me, and they offered me a bed for the night in the ward at the back of the Casualty Department. I didn’t really feel too much like the drive back to Liz and Terry’s and in any case they would be well asleep by the time that I returned, so I gladly accepted the offer.

And here I’m staying until tomorrow.

Mind you, it’s hardly surprising that I wasn’t up to the drive back. I’d done quite enough driving last night on my nocturnal travels.

I’m not sure now exactly how I started out on my travels but I was definitely in my chocolate-brown Cortina 2000E, TNY143M, that has featured quite a few times just recently on my nocturnal voyages and I’m not sure why. But as our story unfolds, there was a huge argument in a car park that abutted, albeit about 20 feet higher up, onto the street where I was parked. It concerned some kind of illicit behaviour involving a taxi company or two, something that would be of great interest to me of course, being in the taxi business, and a girl was having a huge argument with the driver of a big black saloon car parked on the edge of this car park. The net result of this argument was that she grabbed hold of the driver’s briefcase and flung it high into the air. The case landed at my feet with the papers scattered everywhere so I quickly gathered up the papers, half-expecting the driver to come charging down the bank after his possessions. Instead, he got into his car and cleared off quickly leaving me holding all of the evidence, which would make good reading in the taxi licensing office. I walked back up the hill to the pizza place on the corner of the main road and ordered, inexplicably, a chicken pizza. While it was being prepared, I reckoned that I had better go and recover the Cortina and bring it up outside the pizza place where I could keep a better eye on it and its contents. So back in the pizza place and the server asked me if I wanted ham and some other meat on it – they hadn’t even finished preparing it, never mind cooked it. I had a feeling that this would go on for ever and I didn’t have the time to spare.
So never mind – I’d planned to go to the cinema that evening but I could go earlier and I could watch the film twice. But this meant going on the bus so off I went. And at the end of the first showing, it meant going back on the bus again, doing a round trip and then back to the cinema. And here on the bus this time around I met a girl, someone who had made a couple of cameo appearances in my travels during the autumn. The bus took us on a guided tour of the town and stopped at a big desolate area of waste land, with the driver telling us that this was formerly the old medieval centre of the town which had been demolished and a modern town centre built elsewhere. We were being asked all kinds of quiz questions about street names and the like too.
After the cinema I took this girl home with me, which I realised too late was probably not a good thing to do, because before going out I’d emptied out the van and having nowhere to store the stuff, I’d stacked it, all kinds of rubbish too, into the living room so there was hardly anywhere to sit. My Aunt Doreen (she who hanged herself almost 20 years ago) had been there and so I asked the girl if she would write a note of appreciation to Doreen. However, we couldn’t find a single blank page in any of the notebooks in which we looked. Clearly we weren’t doing so well here. I also asked someone else, who was present at the time, to take out a pile of vehicle hubcaps and dump them in the bin, but then I had a change of mind, thinking that they all might come in useful at some time.
From here I drove back to the family pile in Shavington, followed by my father and my brother (no idea how come they have appeared on my travels). And near the top of Gresty Bank before the corner where Dubberley’s farm used to be, in the road in the southbound lane was a woman with a trestle table doing the washing up. We had to wait until she had finished but she took so long to arrange her crockery that I emptied her washing-up bowl for her. However, the woman in the car immediately behind me was so close that I couldn’t reverse my car enough to go around this obstacle, so the car and I had to duck under the table.
Back at the family pile, I was horrified to see not only the state of the place but the fact that the house was stinking hot with the electric heating going full blast – so hot in fact that all of the windows had been opened despite the heaters being on. There was so much waste and untidiness (and the untidiness must have been bad if it upset me) that I reckoned that my father would be appalled when he arrived. But it was my brother who appeared first, so I challenged him about it, but he replied that our father wouldn’t be coming – he had gone elsewhere. In the hallway there was cat food all over the place but he said that it was the fault of my cat, who wouldn’t eat any of it.

The alarm went off at this point and after a few minutes spent gathering my wits (it doesn’t take very long as there aren’t too many of those) I came downstairs to wait for the nurse and the prise de sang.

Once he had gone, I could have breakfast but I’d run out of muesli so I had to borrow some of Terry’s. And then we had the confusion as all of our visitors prepared to leave. I had a few big hugs, which was nice as I don’t have too many of those these days, and it goes without saying that Strawberry Moose had quite a few too.

Once everyone had left, Terry and I had a coffee and a relax and then I went off to St Gervais with a shopping list from Liz. I try my best to do some shopping here once a week – it’s the least that I can do to recompense Liz and Terry for all of the effort they are making in looking after me. Mind you, I did manage to buy the wrong milk and so I rather blotted my copy-book here.

Vegan cheese on toast for lunch (I’m becoming quite partial to this these days) and then I sat down to alternately have a little doze, drink a coffee and to continue to write up my notes from my voyage around Canada in the Autumn.

And this was when I received “the call” …