Category Archives: caen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wherever did I find the time to go to sleep?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the ticket office they proposed the following itinerary –

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


Only three hours later than usual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all I needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 12th January 2022 – THAT’S NOT SOMETHING …

… that I want to be doing too often.

When I went to bed last night at about 21:15 I didn’t think that I would ever go off to sleep – tossing and turning around for quite a while.

But when the alarm went off at 04:00 I was fast asleep. However I was up and about quite quickly. There was even something on the dictaphone but all that I remember about last night was that there were 3 or 4 of us waiting to board a bus or something. When it came in, one of the guys stepped aside to let us on. We asked him why he wasn’t going to board. He replied that he was waiting for someone who hadn’t turned up yet.

That was the only thing that I can remember from last night.

By the time that it came to leaving the apartment I was champing at the bit to be off. I’d long-since done everything that needed doing.

fish processing plant port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022When I left the building I went to the viewpoint at the corner of the Boulevard des 2E et 202E de Ligne and the Boulevard Vaufleury.

In order to make sure that the camera was working correctly I took a photo of the fish processing plant. Plenty of light coming from the inside and a couple of refrigerated lorries parked outside so there must be plenty of work going on down there this morning, despite the mist that’s hanging over everywhere.

It’s been said that every “floating” job in the fishing industry creates four or five jobs on land and that’s easy to understand when you find out what happens in places like a fish processing plant.

One of the things that I would like to do is to actually go for a wander around inside but even if it were possible, they wouldn’t allow it in the middle of a pandemic.

The walk up to the station was done in darkness and solitude and to my surprise it wasn’t all that difficult. The Aranesp injections must be working.

Bombardier B82792 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022At the railway station my train was already in and at the platform waiting.

But I wasn’t interested in that right now. I had to track down the guard of the train. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that yesterday I couldn’t change the ticket for the train to Caen because with the train being cancelled, they had cancelled all of the tickets.

She wasn’t about as yet, but I made myself known to the driver and explained my situation. He’ll tell the guard as soon as she arrives and if it’s an issue she’ll come to see me.

Bombardier B82647 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022As it happens, the photo that I took just now wasn’t actually “my” train.

Well, it is in the sense that it’s not just a one-unit train but a two-unit train. The one you saw earlier was the rear half but I’m going to sit in the front half. There aren’t any reserved seats on this train and the farther you are from the entrance to the platform, the fewer people there are to bother you.

They give up the long walk and plonk themselves down closer to where they entered the platform.

The guard did come to see me and I explained my situation to her. I showed the guard the receipt for the purchase of the ticket and she waved me on with no issues.

The train was empty when we set off but by the time that it arrived in Caen it was heaving with people whom it had picked up on the way.

Bombardier Regio 2N 56629 gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo January 2022There was an hour’s wait at Caen due to having travelled on an earlier train, but the trip to Paris was pretty painless and I really enjoyed it.

It’s a Bombardier Regio 2N trainset and there are 447 of these rolling about on the French railway network. First hitting the rails in 2013, they are clean modern, comfortable and quick and I’d travel on these all day if I could. It’s almost enough to make me think about moving to the Caen area just to have the privilege of travelling regularly on them.

The 2N by the way stands for deux niveau, or “two decks”. These are double-decker units and didn’t the UK miss a trick when it heightened all of its infrastructure to allow the electrification of certain lines, and not heightening it enough for double-deckers.

One thing that was very important was that I snapped out of the deep, black depression in which I’d been for the last week or so. As soon as I boarded the train I made up a playlist of all of my favourite stomping Hawkwind numbers, the ones that I would play if I could lay my hands on a guitarist, a drummer and a violinist, because Simon House’s violin-playing on tracks such as STEPPENWOLF and DAMNATION ALLEY is absolutely phenomenal.

And then you have the full-length version of SPIRIT OF THE AGE and any one of another dozen that I could mention.

Mind you, the bloke in the seat in front didn’t like my singing much, so that was rather a shame for him, wasn’t it?

gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo January 2022The train arrived at Gare St Lazare on time and I had another nightmare occurrence trying to make the automatic machine read my ticket before I could leave the platform.

And in the ghostly, eerie, empty atmosphere of the railway station I could take a better photo than the one that I took last time. I’m not sure where everyone is becuase it’s usually packed. Maybe they heard that I was coming.

The trip from Paris St Lazare to Gare du Nord was straightforward – except that the ticket machine didn’t like a couple of my Metro tickets. It’s clearly not my lucky day to be travelling around, with all of these ticket issues that I seem to be having.

Thalys PBKA 4345 gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo January 2022There wasn’t long to wait at the Gare du Nord for my train to Brussels, and that’s one of the reasons why I came this way today

It’s a horrible station to hang around in, huge, cold, draughty and no shelter anywhere. When I saw the 2-hour wait for a train had I come to Paris on my normal train, I had blanched.

We were quickly ushered on board and once everyone was ready we hurtled off towards Brussels. Non-stop, direct, no messing around in Lille. That’s another good reason to come this way.

To my surprise we pulled into Brussels 2 minutes early. I wandered off to the Carrefour to buy lunch for a change. There’s usually some stuff there that I can eat, like some of their delicious buns.

Once I’d dealt with the question of food I was lucky enough to find a train almost immediately for Brussels Schuman.

Justus lipsius council of ministers of the european union rue de la loi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022When I arrived at the station I went up to street level and there was the building where I had spent 12 happy years of my life.

Well, not exactly because I was around and about in other buildings at various times, but that’s the Head Office. The very best ever thing that I did with my life was to fight my way into there. I often muse about how had I remained living in Crewe I’d probably still be driving a taxi or a bus.

Although I didn’t have an appointment at the bank, they saw me more-or-less straight away and sorted out my bank card issues. I should receive a new card in the post “within a week”.

Back at Brussels Schuman we had one of those conversations that you can only ever have in Belgium
Our Hero “do the trains still go from here to Leuven?”
Assistant at Information Desk “I don’t know”.

class am 86 multiple unit 931 gare de bruxelles schuman railway station belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022In the end a ticket collector pointed me in the right direction. Why I was having difficulty is that they don’t terminate at Leuven these days but continue on to Landen, so it’s “Landen” on the destination boards.

The train was one of the old AM86 multiple units and it came into ths station. These aren’t particularly comfortable and are rather lightweight compared to some of the SNCB multiple units but they have had plenty of use and they keep on going. Of the 52 that came into service between 1986 and 1991, there are still 51 of them running around, mainly in the centre of the country.

When the train pulled in at Leuven I went to the supermarket at the back to pick up some stuff and walked down here to my room. No upgrade again but I’m not all that bothered.

It’s freezing here in Belgium so I’m glad that I brought my winter woollies. I’m going to need them.

First thing that I did when I arrived in my room was to crash out, and that’s no surprise.

Later on I found the strength from somewhere to struggle down to the supermarket for the rest of the shopping and then back here to make tea.

Now that’s done, I’m off to bed regardless of the fact that its only 21:30. And with the alarm set for 08:30 I’m going to sleep until I wake up. I’m surprised that I’ve kept going as long as I have, with 137% of my daily exercise total done too.

But one thing is for sure, and that is that I’m going to stomp all my way home to Granville on Saturday. Every since back in my early teens when I discovered Radio Luxembourg, music has been my only constant and steadfast companion and immersing myself deeply into it has sometimes been the only thing that has kept me going.

One thing that I need to do is to have a rethink about the direction in which my life is going because things aren’t working out right now. Somehow I need to pay much more attention to the inner me and that almost inevitably involves music.

On THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR I was happy spending most of my time listening to COLOSSEUM LIVE and ON THE ROAD by Traffic and things only changed (for the better or for the worse, depending on how you look at things and I know how I look at them) when I stopped listening and went to do something else.

Perhaps I ought to listen to more music. I dunno.

Saturday 16th October 2021 – THIS NEW WAY …

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

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

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

During the night despite the lack of sleep I’d been on my travels again. We’d been having a history class at University but the teacher hadn’t turned up so we’d been running it ourselves. He finally turned up and started, going round the class talking to each one of us. He mentioned to me about going round to teach his daughter guitar if I was free at 17:30 that evening. When I left work I went to park up somewhere to wait. After a while I thought that I’d better ring Laurence to tell her where I was, that I’d be late. She had obviously been asleep because she was very slurred with a tired voice. She just muttered something about the management but I didn’t hear a thing after that. Then I realised that I didn’t have my guitar so I thought that I’d better return to the office and fetch it.

We were all in a car somewhere. We turned up at a house where we were supposed to be. I couldn’t get my car into the drive because the cars were parked too far close up. I had my brother move his car but there still wasn’t enough room which I thought was really strange. Then I realised that the one on the left was too far over so I pushed that out of the way so that I could drive in. Parked in there was the red Opel coupé of a girl whom I knew, really rusty and rotten. Whoever it was with me said “no tax again”. I replied “it’s taxed until June”. Then I had a closer look and it was June 1988 in the window. I said “that sounds just like her, doesn’t it?”. We walked round the back of the house to go in ready to see the lighting of the Christmas tree.

07:00 is the latest time for me to leave my digs because there’s an express train to Brussels at 07:33. But I was on my way at about 06:50.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021The work that’s taking place in the Martelarenplein outside the station is another one of these tasks that seems to be taking forever. It’s been going on for a couple of years now and progress seems to be very slow.

The fencing is still all around the work so it’s very difficult to take a photo, and the dark early morning doesn’t help very much either, but I did the best that I could in the circumstances.

With having set out so early, I was well in advance of my timetable and luckily, there was an earlier express train, the 07:21, so I didn’t have to wait too long because it was absolutely taters out here and I wish that I’d brought a coat..

class 18 electric locomotive 1903 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that came into Leuven was pulled by, despite its number, a class 18 electric locomotive of the type that we catch quite regularly.

In the darkness I couldn’t see anything of the journey, but we pulled into Brussels with 45 minutes to go before my train to Paris.

And sitting on a draughty station in this weather for that long froze me to the marrow. If there’s a waiting room at the gare du Midi I have yet to find it.

Luckily though, the train came in early and we were allowed to board pretty quickly, which was just as well

Thalys PBKA 4304 gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that I’m on is one of the PBKA – Pars, Brussels, Cologne, Amsterdam – trainsets, the one on the left in this image taken at the Gare du Nord in Paris.

having scrambled aboard the crowded train to warm up, I found myself sitting next to a Chinese student who was confused about the application of the Eurorail pass. He didn’t realise that there’s a supplement to pay on the TGV and so he was stuck for an excess charge.

This train is a direct one to Paris. No changing at Lille, which is good news for me because the walk is a painful one in my state of health.

As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … I don’t know why the train from Lille to Paris goes from a different railway station to the one that the long-distance TGVs use.

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

It’s actually quite a walk but it’s on the level with no obstructions and on a really good surface so it didn’t seem like too much effort.

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

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

clocks outside gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021According to my notes, I’ve never been to the Gare St Lazare before so I went outside for a look around as I had some time.

This was quite interesting, all of these clocks. It’s a design by someone called Armand Fernandez, known as “Arman” and not “Arman in Havana”, and was commissioned by the French Government in 1985.

The station is pretty cramped in its surroundings by other buildings and nowhere is it possible to take a decent photograph.

gare st lazare France Eric Hall photo October 2021Inside the station though, it’s light and airy, having been modernised and upgraded about 10 years or so ago.

It’s not very easy to navigate though as the destination boards and platforms aren’t very clearly indicated.

And while finding where the platform that I need is one thing, finding my way onto it was something else completely.

There’s a “magic eye” that reads the QR code of your ticket, but the eye isn’t where you expect it to be and it took me 5 minutes and the assistance of a passer-by to enable me to find a way to pass the barrier.

56643 class Z 56600 electric multiple unit gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021My train is a newish double-decker multiple-unit, a class Z 56600 Electric Multiple-Unit “Regio 2N” double-decker built by Bombardier and entered service in 2014.

It has all mod cons and is very comfortable. Furthermore it’s non-stop to Caen and it doesn’t hang about either, with a top speed of 200kph.

It’s certainly worth remembering this route for the future if ever there’s a perturbation on my regular route. And if they do electrify my line, something that is under discussion right now, we might even see these in Granville which would be nice.

gare de caen railway station Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021At Caen there’s a one-hour wait for the train to Granville so I could go for a walk around outside.

No problems with photographing the station here because there is very little to obstruct the view. i’ve actually been here once before, but not on a train. I came this way on the bus once when there was a rail strike and we stopped here for a breather

It’s not the original railway station of course. Like so many others in the battle zone in Northern France, it was heavily bombed during the early summer of 1944 to prevent the rapid deployment of Axis forces by rail.

eglise st michel de vaucelles caen Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Further down the street in the distance above the tram is a church that I think is the Eglise St Michel De Vaucelles.

There was a church on this site in the days of Charlemagne but there is no trace now of any remains from this period. The church that we see today dates from the early part of the 12th Century although it has been heavily modified since then.

It’s one of the starting points for the pilgrimages to the Mont St Michel.

By now it was lunchtime so I went back inside to eat my sandwiches and I actually treated myself to a mug of hot coffee. I’m really pushing the boat out these days, aren’t I?

bombardier 82792 gare de caen railway station Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that I catch from Caen is one of the Bombardier units that we have seen quite regularly in Granville.

It’s quite bizarre because there are only four power points per carriage and they take some finding. I had to wait for half the journey before a seat at one of them became vacant.

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

These trains are little branch-line rattlers and not as comfortable as the one on which I’ve just been travelling, but at least it does its job and brought me back to Granville.

marité philcathane belle france chausiaise port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Coming back home was easier than it has been recently. I only had to stop four times coming up the hill to home.

One of my stops was at the viewpoint overlooking the inner harbour. Marité is down there of course, with the trawler Philcathane across the harbour on the other side.

Down here close to me are Belle France, the new ferry for the Ile de Chausey, and Chausiaise, the little Chausey freighter in orange, grey and white.

By the looks of things too, there’s someone having a go at mending his nets on the quayside too.

sailing school baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Further up the hill at another one of my rest stops I could see that the sailing schools were in full operation today.

There are a couple of the yellw and orange ones having a sail about, but the black ones seem to be having a conference of some kind.

Arriving back at the apartment I made myself a coffee and reflected on how nice it was to be back home. And only four stops coming back up the hill with the load that I had in my suitcase was quite some progress compared to how I’ve been just recently.

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

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

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

That’s what usually happens.

Saturday 18th July 2020 – I’M NOT HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once all of that was done We set off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This little pick-up is a beautiful example.

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

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

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

She underwent a complete restoration in 2006/2007.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then the match turned rather sour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 11th October 2018 – I’VE BEEN OUT …

cabourg calvados normandy france… today,

Josée fancied a drive out to sit on a beach and was attracted by the sound of Cabourg, the summer home of Marcel Proust at the turn of the 20th Century.

So boldly going where I don’t ever recall having been before but I bet you any money that I have, because at one time or another either with Shearings or with Nerina I’ve worked my way along the whole coast of Northern France, for as Proust himself once famously said, “remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were”.

Thus Caliburn, Josée and I set off for the seaside.

Much to my amazement, I had a reasonably comfortable sleep last night and if I did go anywhere on my travels I really don’t remember. But whztever, I was up early, medicated and attacking the web pages for my voyage on the Good Ship Ve … errr … Ocean Endeavour long before Josée had even shown a leg.

As a reslt of my new-found energy I now have two amended pages – one web page with lots of stuff on it and another oage which is day two of my blog which although had been published a while back, now has some photos on it..

After breakfast Josée had the idea of going to sample the local products such as cheese, sausage and the like. Of course, she won’t find any of that around here in my apartment so we duly set sail into the town.

A rather large carrier bag and a coffee later, we found ourselves back in the apartment making butties for the route.

noah ark villedieu les poeles manche normandy franceIt’s about a two-hour drive to Cabourg (and more if you go through the centre of Caen, if you stop to do a little shopping and also if you stop for a bathroom)

And at one of the places where we stopped for a comfort break, we found that our biblical friend Noah was also there making a comfort break too.

I couldn’t resist taking a photograph to prove that he had been there.

As a result of all of this it was about 15:30 that we arrived in Cabourg.

trotting horses exercising plage de cabourg beach normandy franceAs the sky clouded over we ate our rather late lunch on the beach watching the horses and carriages exercising.

There’s a race track not too far from here and it seems as if trotting is quite the thing there judging by how they were exercising the horses today.

Wet sand is pretty good for exercise because it builds up the muscles of the horses and when they run on dry sand they have much more physical strength at their disposal.

josée constant plage de cabourg beach franceAfter lunch Josée decided to go for a paddle in the sea.

Of course it’s probably far warmer than where I last put my feet in the sea – at Etah in Greenland about 1300 kms from the North Pole, but nevertheless I stayed on dry land and watched her enjoy herself.

She told me that it was quite warm in there (comparatively speaking but of course she is from Québec) but I’ll take her word for that.

brittany ferries ouistreham caen portsmouth normandy franceI was far more interested in the activities down the coast.

We aren’t all that far from Ouistreham which is the ferry port for Caen and there are some big ships that sail out of there on their way to the UK.

There was one in the port when we arrived but at 16:30 flat it took off and set sail. I took a good photo of it, and also a good photograph of a seagull who decided to come and join in the fun.

cabourg houlgate calvados normandy franceTHere was still time to take one or two more photos of the area.

The towns down along the coast looked as if they might be likely subjects and while Le Havre, although well visible, was too fr away to come out well, the seaside resort of Houlgate didn’t have the same issues.

That has come out quite well despite the weather conditions because by now it was starting to rain.

It rained almost as far as Caen but then we were stuck in a traffic queue. That took a while to clear so we were later than anticipated. And we had the usual issue at the toll on the autoroute where they wanted to charge me for Class 2 instead of Class 1.

Back here it had been a beautiful day with blue sky so Josée went fpr a walk in the evening twilight while I attacked a few more things to do. And then we had tea.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that in 2012 I had been to a place in Québec called Harrington Harbour and I had spoken about a film that had been made there.

Josée actually knew the film so we found it on the internet and we sat down and watched most of it until she retired. And I quite enjoyed it, as well as recognising many places that I remembered.

But there was one thing that struck me about the film.

The “Doctor Lewis” is from Montreal and when he is installed in what is easily the best house on the island, he is heard to complain to his girlfriend about how primitive and shabby it is.

What this is implying is that the 90% of all Canadian citizens, those who live withing 50 miles of the US border, don’t have the least idea about the quality of life out on the Bas Cote-Nord – the “Forgotten Coast” – never mind places like Resolute, Grise fiord and Pond Inlet.

And if that’s the case, they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves

brittany ferries ouistreham caen portsmouth normandy france
brittany ferries ouistreham caen portsmouth normandy france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

naval patrol vessel plage de cabourg beach france
naval patrol vessel plage de cabourg beach france

trotting horses exercising plage de cabourg beach normandy france
trotting horses exercising plage de cabourg beach normandy france

trotting horses exercising plage de cabourg beach normandy france
trotting horses exercising plage de cabourg beach normandy france

Tuesday 10th July 2018 – BARRY HAY …

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

And so as I staggered in through my front door at about 21:50 last night I did have to say that I couldn’t have agreed more with him, even though I was confronted by the European Cardboard Box Mountain.

So having crashed out good and proper last night at about 21:30 after my marathon session around the northern half of the Somme front line, I was up and about at about 05:40, long before the alarm.

I’d even found time to go off on my travels too, where I ended up in a comfortable household with a woman from Shrewsbury (and who could pronounce it correctly too) and her two teenage daughters. It started off by my having received a huge packet of documents – deeds for Reyers, deeds for Expo, life assurance policies and the like. It turned out that I had finally become fed up of my bankers and closed my accounts. I needed to file the documents away safely and so I reckoned a safety-deposit box that I had in a bank would do. But then it turned out that I had of course closed the bank account so I wouldn’t have access. A self-storage unit might do, but I didn’t think that that was permanent enough. So o the way home I stopped, parked my car (which was pale green) on a bad corner and applied some kind of dry shampoo to my hair (it was long) to clean it. But cars kept on bumping into mine and pushing it further around the bend so in the end I had to abandon the procedure (and the top off my shampoo tube which I had dropped on the floor somewhere) and drive the car away. I passed several petrol stations where I could have obtained some water to rinse my hair but later found that I could comb it out – except for where it had been badly applied and I ended up looking like a pineapple. This woman was going through her paperwork too, and reckoned without actually saying it that although she came from a good family background she had been adopted. I was explaining about how I’d been born on one side of Shrewsbury (which I hadn’t) and how I’d lived fora while on the other side of the town (which stretching the imagination a little, you might say is true).

Somehow I still didn’t feel in the mood to do too much so I had a shower and a tidy up, packed everything away, said goodbye to the most bizarre landlady I had ever met in my life (and, believe me, I’ve met a few) and loaded up Caliburn – who still had his wheels on which surprised me greatly.

And I forgot to take a photograph of the hotel too.

It was looking miserable and cloudy, and I could even smell the rain, but anyway I set off on my travels, remembering this time to stop at the LeClerc that I had found yesterday evening to pick up stuff for lunch (but forgot my breakfast too while I was at it).

Dodging the roadworks and following the diversions, I eventually arrived at Albert and called in at the Super U to find some breakfast. But not before I was accosted on the car park by someone who was clearly looking for a job. Much as I admired his initiative, I couldn’t do anything for him of course, but this is the second time (the first being at Soissons a good many years ago) that I’d been propositioned like this.

Breakfast was taken at the side of the road in Albert and then I went for a wander around the town.

Albert is of course famous as being the main British assembly point behind the lines, and for the fact that it was visible (or, at least, the spire of the church is visible) from the German lines at la Boisselle. Consequently it was under heavy artillery fire throughout the war.

There’s the famous church of course, with its statue of Mary perched on top, offering up Jesus to the clouds. And the legend that God would reach down and take up the baby if a virgin ever walked past.

With it being such a magnificent target, the Germans naturally aimed at it, but after it had been hit and almost fallen (and French engineers had chained it to the tower) another legend grew up that differed according to whoever you spoke to.

Either

  1. whichever side that knocked down Mary would lose the war
  2. the war would not end until Mary had been knocked down

As it happens, it was the British who knocked it down in March 1918 when the town had fallen to the Germans in the Spring Offensive.

From Albert I headed off to Dartmoor Cemetery a mile or so to the east of the town.

This is a famous cemetery, and for a couple of reasons too. Firstly, it’s the last resting place of a couple of people called Lee. They are father and son who fought side-by-side on the Somme and were killed on the same day almost in the same place.

The second reason is that it’s the site of the grave of Harry Webber.

In 1914 his three sons joined up for the War and were accepted as officers. Harry Webber then petitioned the War Office, offering to serve the British Army in any capacity they liked, so that he would have the privilege of saluting his three sons.

After all, he had plenty of free time, having just retired from the Stock Exchange at the ripe old age of 65.

Despite being refused on many occasions, his persistence led him eventually to be appointed as a Lieutenant Transport Officer to one of the Regiments on the Somme.

And it was there on the Somme that he was killed by a shell.

Aged 67 at the time of his death, he is the oldest known battle casualty of the War.

Next stop is Mansell Copse and the Devonshire Cemetery.

Here, the Devonshire Regiment had to charge down a hill, across a railway line and up the other side into the German trenches at Mametz. And while the artillery had blown away most of the wire and most of the defences, there was a well-protected machine gun built into a substantial cross in the civilian cemetery halfway up the other side.

Captain Martin, who was said to be a keen modeller, went home on leave just before the battle and made a clay model of the battleground, and on his return just before the battle told his colleagues where he thought the machine gun would catch him and his men.

And sure enough, after the battle had passed over the spot, they found his body exactly where he had predicted.

The War poet William Hodgson wrote
I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,

And I suspect like most sensitive people, he maybe had an idea that he would be one of them.

He was a Lieutenant in the Devonshire Regiment and he too met his death in the attack on Mametz on 1st July.

At Carnoy, in the village square, this was the casualty treatment centre for this part of the front.

General Rawlinson had asked for every ambulance train on France to be standing by behind the lines to evacuate the wounded. There were 20 of them, but the Quartermaster-General sent him just three.

As a result, some wounded men had to lie here in the open for as long as five days before they made it back to a hospital.

One soldier, with a slight wound to the foot, discovered when he arrived at a hospital after all that time that the wound had turned gangrenous and his entire leg had to be amputated.

That’s one of the reasons why the cemetery at Carnoy is so large, but only a handful of graves are “unknown” – they mostly all came from the casualty clearing station, having died in that five-day period.

One Captain, Captain Neville, was in charge of four battalions. He gave each one a football and ordered each battalion, at the start of the battle, to kick a ball all the way to Berlin.

Two of the footballs made it back to Blighty, but Captain Neville didn’t.

Up on the ridge at the top of Carnoy, I’m standing on the German front line looking right across to the Devonshire’s trench at Mansell Copse.

Somewhere not too far from where I’m standing, although I can’t see it because of all the wheat, it the crater caused by the Kasino Point mine. This blew away a large proportion of the German defenders and as it was blown late, took the defenders completely by surprise.

This was one of the reasons why the attack on this section of the line was so successful, and the village of Montauban, a couple of kilometres behind me, fell quite quickly.

The British front line soldiers were through quite easily, and sat waiting for the second line and the cavalry, because they had completely broken the front and there was nothing now between them and Berlin.

But at this moment, unfortunately, General Rawlinson lost his nerve. Having heard of the disasters on the other fronts, he could not believe that there had been a breakthrough here at Montauban and refused to order the second line and the cavalry forward.

He noted in his diary as early as 12:15 on that day that “there is no hope of getting the Cavalry through today”.

Meanwhile, the British first-line troops were sitting staring at empty fields and empty forests, and did so for two days, and when Rawlinson finally did order his reserves forward, it was too late.

The Germans had refortified the line by this time and the slaughter started again.

Had Rawlinson only kept his nerve, the War could have ended 12 months earlier. But then that was Rawlinson’s big failure. he hated Kitchener and had no faith whatever in, in fact he had nothing but contempt for Kitchener’s “New Army” of civilian volunteers. They may not have been as well-trained as his beloved regulars but they certainly played their part.

And he was a born-and-bred infantryman too and had no understanding of and no faith in the cavalry either, and no concept of the panic that a well-handled cavalry division could create behind enemy lines.

Not quite relating to the First Day on the Somme, I went just down the road to the Military Cemetery at Guillemont Road.

One of the people lying in here is Raymond Asquith. He was the son of Herbert Asquith, the British Prime Minster at the time.

So having concluded my visit to the Somme Battlefield, the next question was bound to be “what to do next?”

Heading towards home was the obvious answer and I decided that I would at least reach Rouen before I thought about a place to stay.

But Amiens was awful. There were roadworks all the way through the centre and what should have been a 15-minute drive turned into over an hour.

And from then on it just seemed to get worse.

I had to stop not far outside Amiens for lunch. and also a little half-hour doze. And as usual, I felt a little better after that.

But my better humour didn’t last much longer. Not long after my little pause I came across yet ANOTHER “road closed” sign, and we disappeared down yet ANOTHER enormously long diversion.

But it’s an ill-wind that doesn’t blow anyone any good, and we eventually ended up just a couple of miles away from the autoroute that runs down the coast from Abbeville. So at least I was able to hot-foot it to Rouen and make up a little lost time.

But I lost it all in Rouen because, once more, there were road works just about everywhere and we crawled through the city and it took us ages.

Just WHEN are they going to build a by-pass around it? It’s totally crazy having all of this traffic on the city streets.

On the edge of the city I put in some diesel and then settled down on the autoroute just to get clear of the place. Caliburn was running quite well with just a little vibration that’s sprung up from somewhere, and we were bowling along quite nicely, so I just kept going.

Still three hours to home though, but only 2 and a bit via the motorway if you don’t mind the péages.

And one of my friends had told me a very useful tip. I’ve been paying “Class 2” for Caliburn because he’s over 1m90 in height, but apparently vans of Caliburn’s size are really “Class 1”, and apparently I ought to argue.

So at the first péage passage, Caliburn was classed as “Class 2”. So I pressed the button and explained. Sure enough, the tariff changed over to “Class 1”.

At the second péage, still “Class 2”, but as soon as I pressed the button to call, the tariff changed automatically to “Class 1” and a voice from Control said, before I’d even had time to say anything “I’m sorry. I’ve changed it for you”.

So this is a well-known phenomenon that doesn’t even need explaining, and when I think of all the times that I’ve travelled on the péages in a van and all the excess tolls that I must have paid and how I’ve been ripped off, and how the autoroute companies have been there ripping off van drivers for 15 years.

They must have made millions out of van drivers illegally over the years.

By the time that I reached Caen I really was flagging but I decided that with just an hour or so to go, I’d keep going. If I really felt bad I’d stop for another doze at the side of the road.

But here we are, back at home. 500 or so kilometres with just a brief doze and another stop for fuel. A far cry from when I could do 1000 kilometres non-stop without batting an eyelid, even after a full day’s work, but it’s still the longest day that I’ve had for several years, and it’s also after a good day out around the battlefields.

I ought to be really proud of myself, but to be honest, I’m just too tired to care right now.

Thursday 21st June 2018 – I WAS WRONG …

… about doing a few bits and pieces and then having an early night last night.

Yes, its a real puzzle. That’s a couple of times that I’ve been so wrong just recently and that’s not like me at all. But then no-one can predict what is going to happen when it comes to dealing with the Worst Bank In The World.

There was an e-mail sent to me from them about this payment.
“In order to action your request we need to speak to you … please get in touch on ******** by 17:00 (UK time) on 21/06/2018…If no reply is received by the date and time quoted, your payment request will be cancelled.”

It’s timed at 18:30 which, coincidentally, is the time that their International Branch closes. But it arrived in my mailbox at just about 22:00.

So the bank that refused TWICE to speak to me about this transfer now wants to speak to me about this transfer.

The mail also read “We have been unable to contact you on the telephone numbers we currently have recorded on our system” which is hardly a surprise seeing, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, the bank entered my phone number incorrectly in its database.

But nobody speaks to me like this, least of all anyone who has so much of my money as they do. And so I hit the customer services department’s all-night line.

A 25-minute wait was not guaranteed to improve my humour at that time of the night and when I finally did speak to someone, the help that he gave me was “call back in the morning”. So he had an earful too.

After a great deal of discussion and much insistence on my part, I was eventually put through to the all-night complaints line. The girl there refused to listen to my complaint and after the discussion became rather heated, she hung up the phone on me.

And so I spent the next half-an-hour tracking down the on-line complaints department.

And do you want to see what you get when you click on the link to the on-line complaints service? It’s a real Third-World Bank isn’t it?

But I’m nothing if not persistent and I eventually tracked down a method by which I can make a formal complaint. And now they have had a 3,000-word formal complaint from me about all of this.

It also goes without saying that I didn’t call them back today either. I’ll call them tomorrow and if they don’t make the payment I’ll be closing all of my accounts. A man can only take so much garbage from the Worst Bank In The World.

The result of this was that I was completely stressed out after a couple of hours of extremely heated argument. In the old days I would have gone for a run – guaranteed to calm me down. But I can’t run these days, so I ended up having the worst night for quite some considerable time. None of my relaxation techniques seemed to worK

So much for trying to lead a stress-free existence these days.

Despite everything, I did manage to crawl out of the bed at an early hour, and following a shower and breakfast, Caliburn and I hit the road.

We called at Roncey to pick up Liz and then we went off to IKEA.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a year ago I bought the first instalment of furniture for this place, and I needed a second load.

However I’ve not managed to make it there in Caliburn, and as Liz wanted to go to purchase some bunk beds for her grandchildren who will be arriving shortly (much to Strawberry Moose‘s delight as they are amongst his most devoted fans). So today was the day.

We had a lap around buying the small stuff and making a list of the big furniture. Then we went for lunch, and I lost the list, so we had to go around again.

And having made a second list, we could buy up the stuff that we needed and load up Caliburn.

All in all, it took much longer than it otherwise might have done because there were plenty of coffee stops as we went around. It’s hard work looking for furniture, and even harder work hauling it about.

Back at Liz’s we unloaded her purchases and she made a baked potato, salad and beans for tea which was very nice. Saved me a job.

Caliburn and I returned home to find that there was a music evening in the town and all of the roads were closed. It took some negotiating to find our way back here.

Interestingly, despite the dreadful night and the exertions of today, I’ve not crashed out at all. Bizarre, that. maybe it’s because I’ve been keeping busy today and the adrenalin levels have been high. Perhaps I ought to argue with more people more often?

But not tonight. I really am going to try for an early night.

Tomorrow is another day as we all know.

I wonder which b@$t@rd$ are going to come along and spoil it.

Tuesday 8th May 2018 – THAT WAS A LONNNNNNNNNNG DAY.

And it started with the alarm at 06:20 as usual.

By 06:30 I was up and about and by about 07:15 I was breakfasting.

A spin through the apartment to make it look something like respectable and then to complete all of the packing. There was even time for a quick shower (and it was quick too, seeing as I’d switched off the water last night.

At 08:30 I was down in town buying my bread for sandwiches and a half-baguette to eat with my lentil whatsit on the bus – and I also bought two half-litre bottles of water.

Not that I needed the water but with only staying two nights in Leuven I don’t need to take a full carton of soya milk or fruit juice (and I won’t be there in time to do an evening shop) so two strong half-litre bottles at, would you believe, just €0:29 each is the cheapest way to deal with these issues and who cares about the contents at that price?

I’m nothing if not resourceful.

Having made my butties and packed everything, Liz turned up bang on time as I knew she would and we set off for Avranches and a look around to get our bearings. And then we went for a coffee.

While I was saying goodbye to Liz a couple of cars drove past on the motorway heading east, pulling trailers upon which were a couple of vintage cars from the 1930s. “How interesting” I thought.

flixbus 712 gare avranches manche normandy france bruxelles gare du nord belgiumMuch to my surprise (and everyone else’s I suspect) the bus pulled in bang on time. A nice modern Mercedes 6-wheeler.

It was packed too – only a few free seats so I chose a seat next to a rather attractive student-type person of the female sex. If I’m going to be hemmed into a seat on a bus, I may as well take advantage of it.

We reached Caen at 13:30 for a lunch stop so I sat outside and ate my butties in the sun while the drivers had a break.

At 14:00 we were back on the road and went via Rouen (where my travelling companion alighted), Amiens (where we overtook those two old cars that I mentioned earlier), some tiny wayside village where just one person alighted, and Lille to Brussels North Station. Arrival time was programmed at 21:00 and we arrived at … errr … 20:58.

I was impressed.

interior flixbus 712 franceAs for the bus, it wasn’t as comfortable as a North-American long-distance bus and certainly not as comfortable as the train. We were all just a little cramped in here

However not having to drag a heavy suitcase across Paris was a huge plus as far as I was concerned. And it was that which made the difference.

I wouldn’t abandon the train for the bus under normal circumstances, but it was certainly an acceptable substitute at half the price. And when I have my huge suitcase to move about with me on a Canada trip I shall be giving this matter of the bus some very serious consideration.

sncb brussels gare du nord leuven belgium may mai 2018There was a 20-minute wait for a train – an Intercity Express direct to Leuven so I was quite lucky about that.

And we nearly had a “Nicole Gerard” incident too. So engrossed in my book that I almost missed my stop. Mind you, she was even more engrossed than that and when she looked around her, found herself to be in the carriage sidings and had to be escorted back to civilisation by a cleaner.

Being decanted out of the train in something of a rush I had a pleasant perambumation down here and seeing as I was late found my room key in the safe on the wall.

My room is small but quite nice but it’s right on the front and there was a street party last night. The row was intense.

As well as that, I have some noisy neighbours so I’m not too happy. Trying to crash out here, but it’s almost impossible. Not to mention a thirst that you could photograph.

But my tea – the lentil-mix stuff that I made last night – and bread, all of which I ate on the motorway between Gent and Brussels, was delicious. A good plan, that.

Monday 8th May 2017 – SO THAT’S ME …

… selling my body on the streets of Granville from now on, after what I spent in the IKEA in Caen today.

About a third of what I need as well, so it’s going to be an ongoing process. But what I have already bought will make a huge difference, once I summon up the effort to unload it all out of Caliburn.

It goes without saying that I fell asleep mid-film last night. And I was off on my travels, ending up at a hotel where I was to be staying. I had a car full of stuff and told the people not to worry – I’ll just dump it all in the room that I usually have, totally overlooking the fact that it was still only 07:00 and there were probably people still asleep there, never mind the room being prepared and ready.

Back here though, I was wide awake at 06:30 and up and about breakfasting by about 07:15. I managed my shower too – which was really nice – and then I was all outside ready for Liz who was turning up at 08:30.

Driving through the pea-souper, we were at the IKEA at Caen just after 10:00 and went to the café for a coffee to gather our wits before launching the attack.

Just by way of a change, I was quite disorganised – although that’s more the fact that I’ve never done this kind of shopping in IKEA before. In fact, it took up until 14:30 to make the first pass for all of the bits and pieces.

But then I was made aware of this system whereby for just €25 extra, you can go from department to department, simply registering your requirements with the information desk there, paying at the express checkout,and then waiting for about 90 minutes for them to pick it up, load it onto the trolleys and push it out for you.

In other words, the first pass took about 4 hours. The second pass took less than an hour and then the 90-minute wait. And I had three big trolley-loads of stuff too.

There’s a service whereby they will send someone to help you load your car too, so while we were waiting, we started to load Caliburn ourselves. And we had him loaded up and gone before anyone came – that’s how efficient we were.

Back here, we just unloaded the essential and heavy items between us, and a very friendly passer-by grabbed hold of one end of the bed to help us upstairs too, which was very nice and neighbourly.

So now I’m completely exhausted. Too tired to make tea. I’d be going to bed too but the mattress has to wait 48 hours to uncurl itself before it’s possible to sleep on it.

And so it’s the sofa for another two nights anyway. And I’m not going to hang about.