Saturday 6th August 2022 – AS BARRY HAY ONCE …

… famously said, IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK HOME.

And, shame as it is to admit it, it was good to have Caliburn at the railway station too because the train can be 15 minutes late arriving in Granville, I can go to do a pile of shopping in Lidl, and still be back home before the usual time that I would have been had I walked, and without any of the stress and fatigue.

Just as well too because apart from the fact that it was a scorching afternoon that would have burnt me to a frazzle had I tried to walk, I’d had another bad night. In fact, when the alarm went off at 05:30 I was already up and about tidying the room.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Never mind the 06:33 to Oostende, I was well in advance for the 06:09 to Knokke via the airport

For a change, I was out of the building quite rapidly and soon at the Martelarenplein. That’s been under renovation for years too so it’s really nice to see it almost clear of the evidence. Just a portaloo and a little compound to go.

But by the looks of things, Birnam Wood is now on its way to Dunsinane, and presumably intending to travel there by taxi too because it’s just behind where they are that the taxis line up to take away the passengers.

And you can see the time on the station clock just above the trees.

glad road sign martelarenplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022It goes without saying that I’m quite happy too. Especially as I’m on my way home.

Seriously … “just for once” – edGlad is Flemish for “slippery”. What this sign is referring to is that there’s a spiral cycle ramp just here and when it rains and the water comes cascading down it’s quite treacherous.

It beats me why someone would want to bring a horse up there, but I was going to go for a closer look but there were no little girls around to come with me, presumably something compulsory, judging by the accompanying sign.

sncb 535 am96 multiple unit gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Bang on time the 06:06 pulled in so I clambered aboard that and headed into Brussels via the airport.

It’s one of the class of AM96 multiple units with the rubber bellows end and the driver’s cab that tilts away when two or more trainsets are coupled together. These are quite comfortable, compared to some of the trains that work this line.

Not much luggage space though which is rather sad for a train that goes back and to via the airport. When the train is full we’re all somewhat overwhelmed with suitcases, although it was quite empty today.

ukrainian refugee centre gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022At Brussels I had a few things to do there so I was glad that I was on the earlier train.

First thing to do was to check the Ukrainian Refugee Centre to make sure that it was still operating. It was all closed up when I went by but that’s presumably due to the early hour. It looks as if it’s still operating in normal times.

Second thing was to draw more cash from the one-armed bandit. I don’t use very much cash at all these days, preferring to pay by card for everything but nevertheless it’s still handy to have some floating about.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that as a result of years of bitter experience, I keep €50 tucked away in my phone case and another €50 tucked away in Caliburn just in case I forget my bank cards when I’m on my travels, and I’ve had to rely on them more than once.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4537 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022There was only a short wait after that because much to my surprise, and everyone else’s too they posted the train to Paris half an hour before the next one so we all swarmed up to the platform.

Today’s train consists of two trainsets, each of 8 carriages. Mine is a “PBA” trainset, one of the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam Reseau 38000 tri-volt units. Quite elderly now but still quite capable of cruising for hours effortlessly non-stop at speeds of over 300kph.

Despite their age, it’s still by far the most comfortable and quickest way to travel to Paris. Many people think that an aeroplane might be quicker but it takes an age to travel from Brussels to the airport at Zaventam and then from Charles de Gaulle to the centre of Paris.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4533 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022The other trainset is also a “PBA” and that’s a surprise. We’re quite used to having hybrid trains consisting of different types of trainsets.

Everyone suged aboard and I could understand why they posted the train earlier too. There were 16 carriages on this train, all of which except the two buffet cars have 108 seats, and there wasn’t an empty seat on the whole train.

Getting that lot on board would take much longer than 15 minutes.

My seat was squashed in a corner out of the way so I passed the time of the journey choosing more music for my radio shows and keeping myself to myself.

Paris was heaving too. I was lucky enough to grab a seat on the Metro and we whizzed through the drains quite rapidly.

At the exit at the Gare Montparnasse Metro station a couple of people offered to carry my suitcase up the stairs for me, which was very nice of them. I didn’t take up their offer as I have to do all that I can to maintain my autonomy.

Nevertheless I am glad that I found that easier walk down the street instead of struggling through the labyrinth.

Gare Montparnasse was heaving with people this morning but then the first Saturday in August, that’s hardly a surprise. And I was lucky to find a seat next to an electric socket that actually worked so I could charge up the phone and listen to a live concert of Steve Harley and Nick Pynn which has one of the best versions of “Riding The Waves” that I’ve ever heard.

84558 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo August 2022The train back home was as usual a Gec Alstom Regiolis

Once again we were called early to the train which was once more just as well, and for the same reason as before. 2×6-car units and not a spare seat anywhere.

Lucky me! I had a lovely travelling companion but she didn’t say much and I carried on choosing music, reading a couple of books and … errr … falling asleep as we all went West.

The car park at the station was heaving too and leaving took quite a while. But I’m glad that I took the opportunity to go to Lidl because I could stock up with stuff for the next few days.

You’ve no idea how glad I was to be back at my apartment. I struggled up the stairs not once but twice with my stuff and ended up having quite a long chat with my neighbour from upstairs and we put the world to rights for a while.

Once I’d installed myself inside I made a nice strong coffee and a couple of rounds of toast – the first stuff that I’d eaten today and it was 15:30.

While I was drinking the coffee (two cups) I backed up the big computer in here and even before I’d finished the coffee I’d fallen asleep again. This time it was a good one and I was gone for about an hour and a half.

Tea was what I should have had last night. Alison coming by yesterday was a surprise so we had eaten out and I brought the stuff back with me today. It’s a shame to waste it.

There was the dictaphone to deal with at some point too. I was cooking some food in the oven. There was some stuff in there that I’d bought and there was a pie in there, something like that. I put the pie in what was really the vegetable container in the fridge but that was in the oven. When I went to turn the pie over to do the other side I noticed what i’d done and had to take it out. I went to pull the vegetable tray out but it was made of glass and really hot. I dropped it on the floor. Luckily it didn’t break and didn’t damage my pie. I had to look around for a pyrex bowl in which to put my pie so it would heat up properly in the oven while everything else in there was cooking

Later I was in charge of a gaol last night in Alabama or Georgia somewhere in the USA. There was turmoil because the State declared itself independent from the USA and everything changed. The townspeople wanted to take control of the gaol because there was an Afro-Caribbean prisoner in there who they wanted to summarily execute. I’d arranged for my men to be in the prison so that there would be no violent takeover. Anyway the people came in. I was standing there with a loaded shotgun. They considered that to be provocation. One man sidled up towards me supposedly out of my vision to try to overpower me but I stepped back and drove the butt of the shotgun into his stomach. I’d sharpened the butt of the shotgun into a point so it was like a spear. It pierced his skin and that took him by surprise. We ended up in a back room where I stabbed him several more times with this shotgun. He ended up unconscious on the floor. I walked back into the room with the shotgun in one hand and an automatic pistol in the other and asked “what happens now?”. That took them completely by surprise that I’d managed to overpower this guy so easily.

Finally Zero’s dad had given me a small red FIAT car that was in really good condition. I’d brought it in through my front door and into the house to give to Nerina, the idea of the house being that he couldn’t claim it back just in case there was a problem because I wasn’t sure about how reliable this gift was going to be. Then I had to go and do some work on the computer so I went upstairs to my office . I’d arranged all the furniture at one time that meant that I couldn’t see the computer screen from where my desk was so I had to rearrange it all back again. While the computer was warming up there was a programme on the internet about some kind of race through these fields by the people of this village. They had become so bogged down in the mud etc that they’d had to bring dogs in to tow them out. One of the competitors had to stay behind because they had a pair of chains to use to attach these dogs to all the teams. Instead of being clear favourites they were way down the field by the end. The judges had to mark their lateness as being compulsory rather than voluntary and that was controversial. The judges had to stay there really late to mark this particular leg so they weren’t happy either. It was all rather chaotic

It’s been an age since Zero has come for a wander with me during the night but every now and again her father pops up uninvited. He’s obviously “The Banquo at my banquet, a cuckoo in my nest”. Why can’t he send Zero instead?

So now I’m off to bed. I’m exhausted and a good sleep will really do me good, I reckon. I’ve been invited out tomorrow but I don’t know if I shall go. I’m not feeling up to it right now so we’ll have to see if I’m feeling any better in the morning.

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