Tag Archives: 12 volt immersion heater

Sunday 25th December 2016 – SMAKELIJK!

Having worked to death the Crewe Bus Station toilets “Merry Christmas to all our readers” thing continuously over the past few years, we’ll talk about something else this year.

roast potatoes boiled carrots chicory leeks brussels sprouts onions seitan gravy christmas dinner leuven belgium december decembre 2016Like my Christmas dinner for example. Roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, carrots, chicory, leeks, seitan slices, onions, gravy and, of course, brussels sprouts. No Christmas meal is complete without them of course – properly cooked and not at all into a mush like most people cook them.

And it was absolutely delicious too, even if I had forgotten to add the garlic.

There was supposed to be Christmas pudding and soya custard for afters, but Alison had bought me a vegan chocolate Santa, and so that went down instead, washed down by a can of that alcohol-free raspberry beer.

Last night, we had the party at 05:00 but with my headphones on, I managed to avoid the worst of it. And it only lasted about half an hour anyway before boyfriend was escorted to the door.

And I was on my travels too. In some kind of Dragnet circumstance with two people, nominally police officers, but chauffeurs at where I worked. We had to go somewhere and we were told that we were to avoid a certain street which had now been converted into a dead end. So we set off, with me driving in an early 1950s Ford-type of sedan coloured a duck-egg blue and pale yellow. And sure enough, I missed the turning and ended up just where I’d been told where not to go. With two of us at the front and one at the rear, we picked up the car (which was now shaped like a canoe) and man-handled it through a tone-lined pond onto the main road. There, I pulled a bunch of weeds out of a garden there and was immediately confronted by the owner of the property who hadn’t wanted me to do that.

christmas lights grote markt leuven belgium december decembre 2016And so while you admire the rest of last night’s photographs, I can tell you that I was alone an breakfast, where there was nothing special arranged for the tenants.

And then down here, I unwrapped my Christmas presents.

Alison’s chocolate Santa I’ve already mentioned. But me, I bought myself a new laptop.

christmas lights grote markt leuven belgium december decembre 2016Actually, I bought it last year but what with one thing and another, I hadn’t opened it.

It’s another Acer, but a larger one with a numeric keypad and DVD player, and twice as much RAM as before.

You know that this one is not very good – it’s the slowest machine that I’ve ever used. It’s very lightweight and very economical, but the lack of speed was really getting on my nerves.

christmas lights grote markt leuven belgium december decembre 2016Transferring the files over is taking ages though. Not because it’s taking so much time (although it is) but I’m taking the opportunity to tidy up all of the directories while I’m about it.

It might be finished by tomorrow – who knows – and then I’ll have to start to clean up the storage issues that I have. I can save tons of space if I organise myself properly.

christmas lights grote markt leuven belgium december decembre 2016While I was making my butties at lunchtime (that’s a nice loaf that I have bought) I made the acquaintance of one of my housemates.

She’s a woman from Montreal, the Henri Bourassa area of the city, and so we had quite a lengthy chat (in French) about this and that. It was nice o remind myself of the city, seeing as how I’n not sure if i’ll ever be making it back there.

christmas lights grote markt leuven belgium december decembre 2016This afternoon I carried on with the new laptop and had a nice chat with Liz and her family on the laptop. Strawberry Moose joined in the discussion too, telling Dylan and Robyn how much he was looking forward to meeting up later next year.

And then, I went off to make my delicious tea.

Before I go off to bed for an early night, let me just tell you a little about something that I discovered last night.

Leuven is a really beautiful medieval Flemish city as you have probably seen, but 103 years ago, it was even more beautiful.

All of that changed in August 1914 when the Germans arrived, and in accordance with their policy of “Frightfulness” they set fire to the city centre, even burning the contents of the library that contained many of the oldest books in Europe.

And then in May 1940, they burnt it down again.

Many people, including, unfortunately, some of my acquaintances, criticise the French and the Belgian civilians for what they consider to be a “lack of resolution” in confronting the German Army

Leaving aside the fact that at least they were here, unlike the British Army that ran away across the Channel at Dunkirk, and the lack of resolution shown in the German occupied British territories such as the Channel Islands, where the civilian population sat it out with a German occupying force for 10 months after the War had passed them by, the British civilians never had to confront the issues that the French and Belgian citizens had to confront.

We’ve seen in the past the gravestones of civilians who died during both wars – gravestones marked “shot” or “executed” or “decapitated”. No British or American civilian ever had to confront that kind of treatment.

memorial plaque grote markt leuven belgium december decembre 2016Here in the Grote Markt in Leuven is this plaque with a list of names carved thereupon. 16 names, all civilians who were deliberately killed by the Germans in August 1914 as they were setting fire to the buildings of the Square.

This is the kind of thing that you find all over Belgium and France. Never mind being casual, haphazard victims of a bombing campaign or artillery duel, these civilians were simply purposefully murdered while going about their normal day-to-day duties and was a risk that every citizen in Occupied Europe had to run.

There was no escape.

Anyway, on that note, I’m off to do my washing up and then I’m off to bed. Will I have a good night tonight?

Monday 14th March 2016 – WELL THAT’S ME TOTALLY P155ED OFF!

I had my blood test at the hospital this morning, and the blood count has gone down yet again to 8.1. And that’s despite having a blood transfusion the other day. The operation that I had to go through 6 or 7 weeks ago has clearly done no good whatever and I might just as well have saved myself the agony.

The thing that gets me though is that no-one in the hospital seems to care. Here they are, messing about with allergy tests for a different medication to deal with the immunity issues following the removal of the spleen, and on Friday I’m in hospital for a scan on my lung to see where this blood clot (the one in my lung that I picked up in hospital) has got to.

But as to my underlying illness and the causes of it, and any potential solution – not a word!

What made me even more depressed about all of this is that while I was sitting in the allergy clinic with all of these patches and injections and so on, I was editing all of the photos that I took in Montreal and sorting out all of the notes that relate thereto. And then I got to thinking about just how much I enjoyed the city and how much I felt at home there. And then I reached a conclusion.

And that is that seeing as how no-one cares, then I don’t either. if nothing definite comes out of my visit to Leuven next week and they can’t sort something out, then I’m on the next plane to Montreal. I’ll find a quiet room in a house somewhere around the Cote des Neiges, which really is my favourite part of Montreal, and let nature take its course.

I can’t go on like this. it’s nothing short of purgatory for me to have to go through all of what I’m going through and for no good purpose either. I may as well not be here and be somewhere else instead, whether in this world, the New World or even the next world.

What didn’t help matters very much was that I had another one of those comfortable, reassuring dreams where everything went according to plan, our hero got the girl and we both walked off together into the sunset and all of that – something that never ever happened to me in real life and how I wished that it had.

I was back playing in my rock group from the 1970s again and we were totally unrehearsed – we hadn’t played together for years and we were featuring in a venue somewhere. This was downstairs in a basement somewhere, rather like Enoch’s in Crewe used to be, and we weren’t even sure what numbers we were going to play, never mind how we were going to play them. This went on and we didn’t have all that much idea about what we were going to do. We spent so much time discussing and debating it that we weren’t actually getting anything done. There were quite a few of our friends there, including one particular girl whom I fancied and who I was trying to impress, who were coming to see us and so we HAD to be organised. Came the afternoon of the gig and we decided that we would have a rehearsal. I headed off towards the rehearsal room, carrying my bass guitar and there was some girl, whom I had seen vaguely back in the past but I hadn’t particularly noticed very much, came over to me and asked me if my guitar was a Gibson SG. I told her to count the strings, which she did, and agreed that there were just four of them. And so I told her that it was in fact a Gibson EB3. We started to talk about bass guitars and musical instruments, and she said that she had a mandolin with four strings on it. Of course – a mandolin – that brings back Lindisfarne and “Road to Kingdom Come” and “No Time to Lose”, all of that kind of thing. We ended up having quite a chat about this kind of thing, and she said that she could actually play some Lindisfarne music on the mandolin. It’s always been my ambition to play in a folk-rock group like Lindisfarne so I egged her on to go and fetch her mandolin,which she did and we had a brief jam session. After that, we wandered off together hand in hand. As I said earlier, this was another one of these comfortable situations and I wish that I could remember who she was, or even what she looked like – rather different from the Girl from Worleston the other night whose face is still vividly fixed in my mind. Anyway, off we went, hand in hand and there were a few people loitering in the vicinity who noticed the pair of us together like that and gave a little smile to each other. We walked to a rocky wall where there were a few seating areas set into it at various levels – just flat, grassy areas. I invited her to sit down with me but she said that she had other things to do and didn’t have the time. I continued to encourage her to sit down, she continued to be doubtful and it was at this moment that I woke up rather dramatically and shattered the illusion, much to my dismay.
After the usual crawl down the corridor I ended up at the football – Nantwich Town in fact. And while Nantwich Town might have a new ground, down on Kingsley Fields, this match wasn’t being played there. And neither was it being played on their old ground at Jackson Avenue either, but in the street in London Road right more-or-less outside Churche’s Mansions. I was watching the game, with about 4 or 5 others (huge crowds they have in Nantwich), a couple of girls and a couple of kids, having a kick-around with the balls.There was a really strong, swirling wind blowing that was creating havoc and on one occasion, much to my surprise, I actually caught the match ball one-handed, swerving around in the wind as it went out of play and that was really impressive. For the rest of it, the conditions were really difficult and catching the ball, even a simple catch, was really difficult if not impossible. We were actually watching this at the back of a river and the house rear yards backed right onto it. One small boy was climbing over the back wall and the wooden fence on top and lost his footing, sliding straight down into the river and emerging all covered in green slime. That certainly looked unhealthy! All of these houses had basements that were well below the level of the water but were somehow really dry. I wouldn’t have liked to have lived down in there, although there were people quite happily doing so. There were two teenage girls watching this football match and they lived in one of the houses. At half-time they went back to their house where the mother was cleaning the room of one of these girls, and one of the girsl asked the other what she would like for breakfast. The other replied that she would like one round of cheese on toast with half a packet of crisps and a coffee. I said “breakfast? It’s getting on for 10:30 and most of us had eaten breakfast long before this match kicked off”. But anyway, the first girl dragged a big metal wood-stove out from a corner into the middle of her little basement room ready to fill it and light it to make the toast and put the kettle on. They asked me what I would like to which I replied that I’d had my breakfast a long time ago, but I’ll have a cup of coffee with them. They next asked me what coffee I wanted and what mug I wanted and I thought that they weren’t half making life complicated when all that I wanted was a simple cup of coffee.

But anyway, enough of this. I was up early enough, breakfasted and on the road by 07:40. And what a beautiful morning it was too. I was in Montlucon at the hospital by 08:30 and in the comfy chair by the power point at 08:40 too.

I had the blood test, as I mentioned, and then had the drain fitted, and then injected and patched with all kinds of things. My companion from the other day was there too and we had quite a chat. And while I might have won the “mine’s bigger than yours” competition by having the largest lump on my arm, I felt really sorry for her with all of the tests that she was going through and the mess that they had made of her arm. In consolation, I let her have my mid-morning cake to cheer her up.

We had quite a few moments of humour too, including when one of the others asked if she could leave the room to use the bathroom.
“You’re supposed to raise your hand” I retorted.
“Just like school” said someone else.
At least, despite everything else, there’s a good feeling of cameraderie there in that clinic and the nurse is a really good sport too, which is good.

But the bad side of this is that I’ve had a few adverse reactions so I need to come in again. I explained my situation, all of my hospital appointments and my visit to Belgium and as a result, exceptionally, they can fit me in provisionally at 09:00 on Thursday.

I mentioned that at this rate I ought to be looking for an apartment here in the vicinity of the hospital and asked the young girl here with me whether she had a spare bed in her room. She said she did, but her mother wouldn’t like it. I asked “who cares about your mother?” which made everyone smile, but didn’t have the desired effect.

Not that I expected it to either, but there you go.

As for the blood test though, it’s on the limit of the blood transfusion level, but that’s not good enough for me. I’m off to Leuven next week – 800-odd kilometres by road – and I need to be on my best form for the journey. So what I’ve done is to change my little one-hour appointment back at the allergy clinic from tomorrow to Wednesday at 09:00 seeing as how there was a space, and then went up to the day-hospital and persuaded them to take me in straight afterwards for a blood transfusion. That way, then at least I’ll be in something-like reasonable health to undertake the journey. Coming back won’t be too much of a problem as I don’t have a time-limit for that so if I’m tiring out, I can take a good rest and carry on later.

But as I also said earlier, I’m thoroughly depressed by the way that all of this is panning out. I’m thoroughly hating the past, hating the present and hating the future too.

To cheer myself up, I went to Carrefour and the Flunch to have a plate of chips and vegetables but that was a waste of time as they were stone-cold. Liz had given me a little shopping list that involved going to Grande Frais and the Carrefour so I bought the necessary and looked for something else to cheer me up but there wan’t anything there that took my fancy. That’s always the case when you’re in the middle of a black depression – nothing will pull you out of the pit.

Back home – for only an hour as Liz wanted the shopping by 16:00 – I still couldn’t find my copy of Paint Shop Pro or anything else that I needed. But there was a little issue that the water in the home-made 12-volt immersion heater was off the temperature scale. I had to drain off 5 litres of the water and put 5 litres of cold water into it. I’ve also plugged the fridge into the main circuit so that it’ll now be working 24 hours per day. I’ll have to do something because with no-one there drawing any current, there’s tons of surplus electricity and it’s all dumped into the hot water.

Yes, 41 amps of surplus energy was being generated when I arrived and the cables to the immersion heater element were stone-cold – a far cry from 6 months ago when they overheated at half of that and I had to rewire everything. All of this, the temperature in the water and the amps that the cables are currently … "ohh! Very good!" – ed … handling just goes to show how much current was being lost by the rubbishy cables that I had been using. Decent cables, even half the diameter, properly crimped and soldered, is definitely the way to go and I wish that my soldering techniques would improve.

However, if things continue like this, my soldering techniques won’t be an issue.

I stopped for diesel on the way back and also to the pharmacie at Pionsat for the next lot of anti-biotic prescriptions (which wouldn’t have been necessary except for this spenectomie, and what a waste … "you’ve done that already" – ed … and then back to Liz and Terry’s.

After tea, which was a stir-fry with the stuff that I had bought earlier, I said “sod it!” and went to bed. I’ve had enough disappointments for one day. I’d already crashed out for half an hour on the sofa and it was beyond me to keep on going – not when I wasn’t in the mood to go on fighting.

Tomorrow is another day. Let’s see how we get on with that. Not any better, I bet.

I’ll leave you all to sit and read this rubbish – all 2322 words of it.

And serve you all right too!

Thursday 17th December 2015 – ANYONE WOULD THINK …

… that it was me doing the tiling today, not Terry. Half an hour after lunch I was well out of it – two trips to Terry’s van and back with some stuff for here had finished me off. And back here, I was crashed out on the sofa at 18:00 and in bed by 19:15.

I’ve clearly seen better days – that’s for sure.

But a lot of this could be put down to the efforts that I had made during my nocturnal ramblings. I’d started off with something like a huge contemporary discussion about the qualities of different Roman emperors – and I can’t remember now with whom I was having this discussion. But from there I drove back (it’s good, this time-travel lark) to Stoke on Trent. None of the usual Clayhead characters out in an appearance unfortunately, but I do remember at a roundabout (it might have been one of the newish ones at Longton) I was confused by the exits, took the wrong one, and ended up on the road to Tunstall (a fictitious road of course but one that has featured on my travels before). It then occurred to me that there was one of these old-time sweet shops (just like there is in Longton) somewhere on this road and so I kept my eyes open for it. I ended up walking through this decrepit shopping centre-type of place to try to find it, to the accompaniment of jeers from several people lounging around – and what was that all about?
But back home I ended up chaperoning a young Shirley Temple-type of girl (as if I’d ever be asked to chaperone anyone of the female sex?) who was taking part in a singing competition that was to last all of the weekend. I asked her what would happen if she had to wait right at the end of the competition before it was her turn to sing, to which she replied that there were tons of things that we could do while we were waiting – have a party, go to the zoo, read stories.

No wonder I was exhausted!

So after my blood sample and a painful breakfast, we went off to Pionsat and the bank. I need to build up the fighting fund with all of this going on. Shopping at Intermarche was next, and there we met Clare, Julie and Anne who were off to Clermont-Ferrand for a fun day out. I fuelled up Terry’s van, seeing as how I had some money for once, bought my stuff for lunch and then shot off to the house for the tiling

When we arrived, the batteries were fully-charged already and the water temperature in the home-made 12-volt immersion heater that I use as a dump load for the surplus charge was slowly rising. That tells you everything that you need to know about the weather that we have been having just recently.

We had a visitor too! In the jungle that is Lieneke’s field opposite my front door we had a sanglier – a wild boar. We couldn’t actually see it but we could hear it grunting away and see all of the shrubs and bushes moving around as it prowled its way around. Magnificent beasts, these sangliers – I remember being up on my scaffolding when I was pointing the eastern wall and watching those two herds approaching each other and the eventual confrontation.

And while Terry carried on with the tiling, I did some desultory tidying-up. But my heart wasn’t in it and I couldn’t even cut straight today. In some respects I was glad when Terry decided to call it a day.

We’re a long way from finishing (I like the “we” bit, don’t you?) but the most difficult bits have been done. And I know that I promised you all a photo but Terry closed up the house while I was outside washing off the tools, so you’ll have to wait until next time.

And now back here, I’m in bed having an early night but I dozed off for an hour, woke up, and now I can’t go back to sleep again.

This looks as if it’s going to become a regular feature. I wish it didn’t, though, and I could have a decent 8-hours sleep.

Sunday 15th November 2015 – I SHOULD HAVE …

… gone out this afternoon.

I had planned to go out to Menat for the football today. Two matches – one of the 2nd XI who play at the same level as Pionsat’s 1st XI, and the Menat 1st XI who play a couple of divisions higher. But then last night’s Pionsat 2nd XI match had been postponed until today and so I was wondering whether to go down there instead.

But then I had something of a late start today (well, it IS a Sunday) and then I had a bad attack of Writer’s Block and couldn’t make a start on what I had to do today. By the time I could tune myself into whatever I was going to do, it was too late to go anywhere and do anything. But at least I’ve finished the radio programme, eventually.

I’ve also emptied the beichstuhl today. The first time since I’ve been back home. And it needed it too. So that’s one job well-done. And with the temperature in the verandah being 19°C and then temperature in the home-made 12-volt immersion heater reaching 49°C, that was the cue for a shower. And gorgeous it was too.

Rosemary rang up for a good chat later, and we were on the phone for an hour or so. It seems from local gossip that our little ex-pat community is going to be thinned out even more, something that is surprising us because, by all accounts, it’s going to be an enormous backward step for the people involved. But then, what’s it all to do with us?

And in other news, we have had a definite candidate for not just “Quote of the Year”, or “Quote of the Decade” or even “Quote of the Century”, but what will probably end up being “Quote of All Time”. One of my “friends” on my Social Network who lives near Guildford posted, in relation to the events in Paris this weekend “… it could happen in Guildford or Bristol …”. it appears that the poster has totally forgotten that it DID happen in Guildford

And this just goes to prove a point that I have been saying for years. Atrocities committed by white-skinned Christian terrorists are totally forgotten, conveniently swept under the counter even by people who were exposed to the acts, whereas the mere threat of an attack by brown-skinned “terrorists” brings them out all in a cold sweat.

And why “terrorists” in inverted commas? That’s because one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. As a good example of this, certain white-skinned Christian terrorist swho had conducted a bombing campaign all through London in 1974 and 1975, convicted of 7 murders as well as a whole string of other serious crimes, were described as ‘our Nelson Mandelas’ by an MP who had served in the British Houses of Parliament for over 20 years and who was indeed a serving MP at the time he made the remark.

However, history conveniently overlooks all of this.

Wednesday 11th November 2015 – HAPPY BANK HOLIDAY

But it’s not really a day of celebration. it’s a day of memorial for the millions of civilians who were enticed into the ranks by all kinds of false promises (“it’ll be all over by Christmas”) and who died a desperate death in a waterlogged trench, quite often with no known grave and with no-one having any idea of their fate.

As for me, I had a lie-in until 09:40 and then after breakfast I’ve done precisely nothing.

That is, nothing of any much importance except for me. That 3D animation program that I use celebrated its 25th anniversary today and amongst the special offers available to members was a massive shed-load of clothing, hair and so on for an obsolete character that I still use. About $179:00 worth of articles even with my membership discount, and all on offer for today only at just $2:99. The only downside to that was that with my flaky internet connection it took over 5 hours to download it all and another couple of hours to install it.

I had just under 75 amps of surplus electrical energy today, all of which went into the home-made 12-volt immersion heater. The temperature in the water rose from 14°C to 59.5°C – that’s an increase of 45.5°C, which means that 1°C of heat was produced with about 1.7 amps of current – a far cry from the previous immersion heater that needed 8 amps of current to produce 1°C of heat. And not only that, the cables were stone cold too.

This is however all going to lead to another problem – namely what is going to happen in the summer. 75 amps is nothing compared to what I can have in July and August as we know. And with the water being warm from the previous day, an increase of temperature of this kind of magnitude with the amount of excess current that I can generate will mean that the water will be boiling, and that’s not a good idea with a plastic box. The answer to this is, I suppose, to make a second tank and have it so that I can switch the current on and off as required.

But today I made the most of it. I had a shower in the verandah and then a really good shave. That’s used up about 5 litres of the water and tomorrow I’ll fill up the tank if needed. If the temperature in the tank goes out of control, adding cold water should calm it down a little.

Tuesday 10th November 2015 – WE ALMOST HAD …

… two wheelbarrows up and running today.

I started off with the yellow wheelbarrow. That involved removing the old wheel, cutting down the axle of the wheel that I bought on Saturday so that the axle was the correct width, sleeving it internally with a length of copper tube, pumping a pile of grease up the inside, cutting down some threaded rod to the correct length to make a spindle, putting washers on the inside of the mounting brackets to keep in the grease on the spindle, and then passing the threaded rod through and bolting it onto the wheelbarrow through the holes in the mounting brackets.

All that then remained was to pump up the tyre with the portable compressor, and that was one wheelbarrow finished.

Then I turned my attention to the old B&Q wheelbarrow. The inner tube kept on going flat with that, and having dragged it through the wet concrete when we were concreting the parking, concrete worked its way inside the flat tyre and it’s ruined the tyre and tube.

And so I dismantled the wheel, took the tyre and tube off and filed them under CS, and then went in search of the wheel that I bought about 3 years ago. It took about an hour to find it, and when I measured it up for the wheelbarrow, I found much to my surprise that I’d already cut it down to size before.

So why hadn’t I fitted it?

Anyway, that needed sleeving on the inside and once more an off-cut of copper tubing came to the rescue. The spindle was made of threaded rod (I’d made this some time previously) and having packed the sleeving with grease, I then went to assemble it.

And then I found out why I hadn’t fitted it previously.

The fact is that the profile of the wheel and tyre is too high, so that there’s not enough clearance between the chassis and the bucket of the barrow. And so I’ll have to order a new tyre and tube, and I needn’t have bought the wheel that I did on Saturday.

Still, you live and learn.

I was on my travels during the night. I had enrolled on a computer repairing course with Terry, and we had started to learn a few basics. On one particular section, Terry remarked that he had once actually thrown away a computer that had suffered from the problem that we were resolving, because he thought that it was irrepairable. At the end of the day we all went outside and I went for a wander along the road between the cornfields and ended up at the border with the USA. Here I met up with pf all people, Zero (who accompanies me quite regularly on my nocturnal rambles) and we walked around chatting for a while. We then needed to go back into town but she said that she was tired and asked if we could take the bus. There was a bus – a school bus – waiting and so we climbed aboard but the conductor told us that this bus was going over across to the USA and so we needed to alight and wait for another.

After breakfast I carried on with my studies and I seem to be doing okay according to a test that I took this morning.

But here’s a thing. For about half an hour or so, we had about 21 amps of electricity going into the dump load. And while that’s not particularly exciting, the fact is that the cables were stone-cold as far as I could tell, and the temperature had risen by just over 5°C. Usually, for about 20 litres of water, a rise in temperature of 1°C in the water needs about 8 amps of current, and so it looks as if I’m getting twice as much current going into the water compared to previously. That’s how much must have been dissipated in heat down the cables.

Of course, it’s early days yet and I need much more current than this to prove the point, but at least it’s progress of some sort that there was no energy loss to heat down the cables.

I’ve tidied up a pile more downstairs and the table is looking clearer and clearer. I’m finding tons of stuff that I’d “lost”. But tomorrow is a Bank Holiday and that means a day off. When I start work on Thursday, now that I have a wheelbarrow I can start to move the stuff from out of the way at the front of the house and if the weather is good, I can cut up a pile more wood and move it much more easily.

Saturday 7th November 2015 – IT’S ALL HAPPENING …

… at the swimming baths at Commentry.

Firstly, I forgot my cozzy and had to go back to Caliburn to find it. Secondly, the big pool was freezing. 29°, it said on the temperature, but I reckon that that must have been Fahrenheit, not Centigrade. Thirdly, there was a group of kids aged about 7-8-9 playing on a couple of foam-rubber rafts down one lane of the big pool. They were having an enormous amount of fun, trying to row, totally out of synch and quite often in opposite directions. As a result, every now and again there was a squeal and half of the kids fell off. They clambered back on again and a short while later we had another squeal followed by a splash. And so it went on. They were having a great time and it was quite amusing watching them.

But the fourth thing was the most interesting. There I was sitting on the jacuzzi steps and some young girl swimming past under water grabbed hold of my foot. I thought that my luck was in, but it turns out that she was aiming for her boyfriend sitting next to me.

Ahhh well 🙁

But you can see what the weather was like today. Totally glorious. And there I was, having disconnected the 12-volt immersion heater (I don’t want it to fire up until I’m there to see what happens). In fact, I went off to Montlucon where I spent a King’s ransom. And it wasn’t as if I had bought anything special, except for 2 inner tubes for the power barrow and a new heavy-duty wheel for the yellow wheelbarrow. It was cheaper than buying an inner tube and tyre and I must get myself organised.

But at least I’m stocked up with tins, macaroni, rice and the like ready for when the winter bites. As long as I have plenty to eat, plenty to read and a few good films to watch, I could be snowed in here for amonth and I couldn’t care less

I didn’t meet anyone whom I knew around the shops either, which makes a change. I’m not sure what happened there.

Pionsat had a really good match tonight against Mozac. They won 3-1 and we had four of the best goals that I’ve seen for ages. Peach of the night was Pionsat’s second, which started off with, would you believe, a one-on-one between a Mozac attacker and Matthieu in the Pionsat goal. The ball bounced off Matthieu’s leg and, just for once, went upfield out of danger. It was played forward to Cedric who rode a few good tackles and, surrounded by two or three Mozac defenders, laid it off to Frédéric. He sold a beautiful dummy to his marker and stepped inside, giving him half a yard of space and he coolly spicked his spot in the corner of the net.

For once, Pionsat had the rub of the green, the benefit of a few unclear decisions, and they played like they ought to have played for the last three or four years. I’ve complained about their “powder-puff” approach to the game in the past but tonight they put in quite a few crunching tackles to make their presence felt. If only they had done this in the past, their position would be totally different.

I was on my travels last night again. Once more, as just a couple of nights ago, I was trying to catch an aeroplane out of Canada but I was running really late. During my stay there, I’d used three cars but I only had one to hand back and I was desperately trying to trace the others, and time was running out. It transpired that one of the cars was “in the bodyshop” and wasn’t quite ready. And so, I thought, there goes my return flight home. I dunno why I seem to have this on my mind at the moment.

But tonight, it’s Saturday and there’s a long lie-in, I hope. I’m all clean with clean clothes and clean undies and so what I’m going to do right now is to change my bedding. A nice clean me with clean bedding and a long lie-in and I shall be in my elephant.

Friday 6th November 2015 – THIS WEATHER IS WEIRD

Here I am, it’s the 6th November and I still have the fridge running 24 hours per day and not only that, at 19:00 this evening I was outside in the verandah with a bucket of really warm water having a gorgeous shower.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t with warm water out of the heat exchanger because the weather didn’t permit it. It started off quite well but round about midday we had a rainstorm and then it was clouded over for the rest of the day. The batteries didn’t charge right up and so we didn’t have anything going into the dump load. I ended up boiling 2 litres of water on the gas stove.

And that reminds me – I’m planning to go into Montlucon tomorrow so I ought to disconnect the dump load before I go. I want to see it in operation and make sure that it’s safe before I go off and leave it alone.

But with the rainfall and the lack of excess power I wasn’t able to cut any wood – once more. Instead, I started to tidy up outside somewhat (although it doesn’t look as if there is any difference). Once I’d sorted some of that out, I started on tidying up the ground floor in the house and I’ve made some progress in there. In fact, you can even see the top of the table now in places and you’ll be surprised at the things that I found. I know that I was!

I took the opportunity to empty some stuff out of Caliburn. In fact there’s some food in there still that I bought in August and seeing as it’s mostly tinned stuff, it can stay there for now. But taking some stuff into the barn I found quite by accident the big drill for which I was looking the other day. Isn’t it always like that?

And so I now smell nicely of coconut and my nice clean clothes smell nicely of hint of soap. On that note, having crashed out for a short while just now, I’m having an early night. I deserve it.

Thursday 5th November 2015 – HAPPY BONFIRE NIGHT!

I hope that you all had a good bonfire. I’m gripping the edge of my seat waiting for the news, to see if anyone has managed to successfully emulate the feat of Guy Fawkes and his colleagues. The shambles that is in power in the United Kingdom deserves to have a barrel of gunpowder ignited underneath them so that we can replace them with a real caring, sharing Government that, instead of grinding down and kicking the poor and weak, gets to grips with the bankers and the ex-pats who have actually been responsible for the UK’s financial mess. Vietnam had the correct idea in this respect, but you would hardly credit the Conservative Government with solving the crisis in this fashion, no matter how much the bankers might deserve it.

And so I carried on with my studies this morning, admiring through the skylights the nice bright blue sky that was beating down upon me. And so no surprise as to what happened as I finished and went outside to work.

Yes- it immediately clouded over and that was that as far as chopping the wood went.

Instead, I attacked the 12-volt immersion heater again and now that is finished. And not only finished, but insulated, the thermometer fitted, the wiring in place, fitted to the charge controller and filled with water, waiting for the sunshine. I’m intrigued to see how this 6mm cabling holds up. I’m not too optimistic about this but at least it’s all properly soldered and bolted up, and the wire itself is in much better condition.

It’s been heat-shrinked too. I found my box of heat-shrink tubes and with the gas pistol I could heat it all up properly. And the wires are threaded through individual holes in the pattress that protects the ends of the heating element, so that they run very little risk of touching each other.

I even found time to make a wooden box to keep my fruit and veg. In truth I didn’t actually make it – it’s the old beichstuhl from before I fitted the permanent one into the shower room. It’s not been doing very much and it is in the way, so I fitted a new top, cleaned it out a little, and “hey, presto!”.

Rosemary was on the phone twice today too. The first time was for advice about oil to put in her chainsaw and the second time was to offer me a few words of encouragement and support as she somehow sensed that I’m not feeling all at the races right now.

but now I’m off to bed and a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow id Friday and I hope that the weather tomorrow afternoon is fine as I want to cut up more wood and I need a good shower too.

In other news, I’ve had two replies from acts whom I’ve contacted about providing live music for Radio Anglais. Ross Neilsen has sent me a concert and an Australian group, Alpha Omega, has allowed me to download one of their concerts from the group’s website.

Things are looking up!

Wednesday 4th November 2015 – WELL I DIDN’T …

… cut up any wood today either.

Awake once again after the alarm went off, then after breakfast I cracked on with my studies and I’m making progress. So much so that I’m actually enjoying this course. It’s certainly making me think, which is what is the aim of it all, after all.

I had a phone call too. “Your order is now at the transport warehouse. To arrange an appointment for delivery, please call 0899 …..” But what kind of tree do these people think that I have fallen out of? For a start, I don’t have any orders outstanding. But secondly, I know all about these 0899 phone numbers. They are not free-phone numbers but uncontrolled premium rate lines and telephone companies should be censured for lumping them along with the other “08” numbers because a call to a 0899 number will cost you about €130 a time. It’s not free like you might be thinking, and telephone companies should identify them properly.

Beautiful and bright it was, this morning but by the time I went downstairs the sun had gone in and we were all overcast. Not enough power to run the chopsaw so that will have to wait for another time. Instead, I attacked the 12-volt immersion heater.

It’s all assembled now and there are no leaks as far as I can tell, and so I went to make uo the cables. And first off, I can’t find any 10mm cable despite turning the house and the lean-to upside down. In the end, I’ve had to use 6mm cable and that’s not doing to be enough.

I crimped the ring terminals onto the cables and then cut off the insulation because I’m going to solder them on. And so that meant hunting around for the solder and the little gas pistol. I eventually found them but the gas pistol wouldn’t work, no matter how much gas I put into it. In the end I dismantled it, only to find that the jet was blocked with a piece of solder. Pushing that out damaged the jet and so the subsequent flame was pretty much uncontrollable and took ages to solder up all of the cables.

So even though it was 18:55 when I knocked off, I felt as if I’d done nothing at all today what with all of this nonsense.

Tonight I’ve had a tea too – pasta with vegetables, boulghour and tomato sauce. I felt like it too, for the first time for ages.

Tuesday 3rd November 2015 – I DIDN’T …

… manage to do any wood-cutting today. But there’s a good reason for that – in fact, 6.5mm of it. Yes, for the first time since I’m not sure when, we’ve had a persistent rainfall throughout most of the day.

So I was awake at 07:30 but it was about 08:15 when I finally crawled out of bed. And after breakfast I cracked on with my studies. I’m really getting into this.

I didn’t have lunch today either, but I was downstairs working. Or, at least, trying to work. But with more than 10 weeks away from work I can’t find half of the tools that I need, despite turning the house upside-down a couple of times.

But what I’ve done it to start work on the new Version 4 of the home-made 12-volt immersion heater. And I’ll tell anyone before we even start that this one is not destined to last very long. The plastic box isn’t anything like as strong as I would like it to be, and it’s rather brittle. It shouldn’t be brittle as that will be more likely to crack up under heat. I need a proper water tank or, better still, a copper-sided container of about 25 litres. I must look into this properly.

But at least the holes are drilled into it and the tap and element fitted. It’s now sitting on a dry dusty concrete floor so that I can check if there are any leaks.

But one design change that I’m doing (apart from the obvious one of repositioning the heater element so I’m not falling over the wires) concerns the element. It’s two x 250-watt elements connected by bridge pieces and held together by screws into captive nuts. You need to undo the screws to connect the wires and then screw it back together and this is one of the faults – that you can’t tighten up the screws sufficiently tight to prevent arcing.

What I’ve done is to do away with the bridge pieces so that I have the two elements separate. I’ve put nuts and bolts in through the holes on the elements and what I’ll be doing is to run two sets of wires, not just one, to the immersion heater, and bolting them up rather than screwing them. This will mean that the joints will be tighter thanks to the bolts, and that with two wires then there will be less amperage running down each cable so they won’t heat up as much.

Another advantage of this is that in the summer with all of the excess energy that we receive, I can start a second immersion heater and disconnect one set of wires from one of the elements on the first one and wire them to one element on the other immersion heater. That way I’ll have 50 litres of water and that will warm up quite steadily.

But these aren’t long-term solutions of course. I must have a proper immersion heater with proper joints and a proper element connection. But trying to find anything suitable is well-nigh impossible.

Back up here I sat down to watch a film but went straight to sleep for half an hour. And for tea, I had my lunchtime butties.

Now, I’m off to bed. See you in the morning.

Saturday 31st October 2015 – ALL THAT I REMEMBER …

… of my voyage last night was being in another grim little bed-sitter (rather like the one in Hong Kong the other night) but this time with a view over a large green open space that was being used as a public park. The boundaries of the park were a ridge with a stone wall at the top and then a road at one end, the road on which was my room on one of the sides, at the bottom was a kind of wood or copse, and I couldn’t see the other side of the park very clearly.

But I wish that I could remember what was going on.

I was up nice and early in the sunlight and after breakfast carried on with some work that I had been doing.

That took me up until lunchtime when I headed off to St Eloy and the shops. A kilo of grapes at €2:29 went down well – they really were gorgeous – but I didn’t buy anything else apart from the usual.

That was, until I went into Cheze. I bought most of what I needed (eventually after a good search) but no water tank. So I’ll have to make one out of a plastic box and hope that that can keep going. And I met a guy from the football club in there too.

On the way back I met Rob and Nicolette out walking the dog, and then I came back here and had a nice quiet evening – there’s no football this weekend.

So tomorrow will be a lie-in, and then I’ll see what tomorrow might bring me. Cold fruit juice, I hope, because I’ve left the fridge running all night again.

Friday 30th October 2015 – ALL GOOD THINGS …

… come to an end. And today, the home-made 12-volt immersion heater that I use as a dump-load for the excess solar energy finally ground to a halt.

Mind you, I’m not surprised. What has surprised me is that it lasted as long as it has – about 4 years if I remember correctly. It’s a 500-watt industrial 12-volt water heater element that I can pick up by the dozen in the USA, fitted into the side of a 25-litre plastic storage box and sealed in with rubber gaskets, and a simple tap. The whole lot is stood on a thick sheet of polystyrene insulation, with some of this thick space-blanket insulation wrapped around it, and a plastic lid covered with an off-cut of a sheet of polystyrene-backed plaster-board. Down on the inside of the space-blanket insulation up against the plastic side is the sensor of a maximum-minimum thermometer.

It’s wired in (with a 70-amp fuse) to a 60-amp Solar charge controller that I have reverse-wired so that instead of being “on” and switching off when the batteries are fully-charged, it’s “off” and switches on when the batteries are fully charged – and so when the batteries are fully charged and the charge controllers on the batteries switch off, the current that would otherwise be lost is diverted down into the water heater element and so heats up the water in the immersion heater for washing up, washing, and all that kind of thing.

And so why did it all go wrong?

The answer is that it hasn’t really gone wrong. A year or so ago I noticed that the positive wire to the immersion heater was heating up dramatically, and so I rewired it. But the thread stripped in the connection on the element so I had to find a small nut and bolt. But I couldn’t really fit a spanner into it so that it wasn’t particularly tight.

Today, I went downstairs to the fridge to fetch something to drink, and I could smell the burning plastic. There was something or a record of 37 amps going down the cables and this was simply too much for the bad joint and the wire was so hot that it was melting the insulation.

I hadn’t designed it particularly well – I can do much better than this, and in any case I don’t have any rubber joints for the element which I’ll need to take out and remake the joint, and so that’s a task for next week if I remember to buy the things that I need tomorrow at the shops. However, I have plugged the fridge back in so that something is being done about the excess current.

And so what else have I done today?

Apart from work on the laptop, which you can take as read, I’ve been tracking down some wood. I went to rescue the wooden box that I used to use to keep my fruit and vegetables in, but I pinched it last year to store my potatoes. But that didn’t work as the potatoes all went off and the wooden box is ruined (but I did in passing cast an eye on last year’s compost and it’s brewing beautifully!) and so I need to make another one.

I found a 50cm pine plank and some 40mm aluminium angle and I’ll be using that on Monday to make my new fruit and veg box.

As well as that, I went to check over the Kubota mini-digger. The reason for that is that the battery in the Kubota tractor is finished and I need a new one, so if I’m ordering one it makes sense to order a second for the digger – after all, that hasn’t run since the end of November last year.

But much to my astonishment, the mini-digger fired up straight away with no difficulty. And so I checked it over and left it running for a good hour or so to warm everything up and top up the battery.

I spent some time downstairs tidying up the ground floor too. It’s now looking as if you might be able to see the floor if I keep up like this. But I need to make a great deal of room as pretty soon I’ll be starting work down there and I’ll need the space.

Last but not least, I had a shower. 33°C in the verandah and 59°C in the 12-volt immersion heater, and so I cleared a corner of the verandah, fetched a bucket of hot water with some cold mixed in, found the pouring jug, and hey presto! Now I smell like coconut. I finished it off with a shave too, so now I’m all ready for the weekend.

But I could have done with a shave and a shower last night, as I was on my travels again. It was Marianne who had the pleasure of my company, going to the airport for a flight to Portugal. At the last minute she asked why I didn’t come with her, so with three hours to go before take-off I nipped off to my apartment for some clothes and the like, and to run one or two errands.

Once I’d done all of that, I had to return to the airport so there I was, driving through North London (flitting in and out of another nocturnal ramble from ages ago) on my way to Brussels Airport. The road was certainly very familiar to me, but I wasn’t convinced that it was the road that I should have been taking. But I arrived at the airport and reached the security gate with just 15 minutes to take-off and I still had a long way to go, not to mention passing through the “security”. And here I was, panicking in case I missed the flight, which was looking more and more likely as time passed by.

Monday 26th October 2015 – AND THERE I WAS …

… deep in the arms of Morpheus, when the alarm went off. And I sat bolt upright and as I did so, all memory of where I’d been and what I’d been doing was completely wiped away.

After an early breakfast I reviewed everything that I’d written, collected up some music and then shot off to Marcillat, dodging the tractors on the way.

Recording the programmes didn’t take long, but what did take a good while was to find the events for the next month. We hadn’t been sent the dates by the tourist information office and the office was closed today. But scrounging around produced enough events to make up a decent programme or two.

Back at Liz and Terry’s, we had lunch (I had what was left over from last night) and vegan ginger cake, and Terry and I made some plans for the rest of the week.

Recording the Radio Arverne sessions was straightforward too and then Liz and I went off to do some shopping. With grapes at just €2:49 a kilo I bought a supply, but it goes without saying that they didn’t make it home.

In exchange for a coffee, Liz showed me how to use my mobile phone as a modem to power my laptop and now I can use my laptop anywhere in France provided that there’s a mobile phone signal, even if there isn’t a wi-fi signal.

Back here I had some work to catch up on and I made a quick meal too. But what has caught me by surprise was that with not having used the inverter at all today, of the 200 amp-hours of solar energy that I received today, 168 amp-hours of it went into the 12-volt immersion heater and the temperature went off the scale. Consequently I went and had a really good washing-up session of plates and dishes.

Tomorrow, what I’ll be doing depends upon the weather. If it’s raining, I’m off to Terry’s. But if it’s dry, he’s coming around here.

Sunday 25th October 2015 – I’VE RARELY SEEN …

… such a one-sided football match as this. It wasn’t that Charensat were any good because they weren’t – it’s just that Pionsat were so flaming awful. For the first half, the whole team was asleep – their bodies were out on the pitch but the rest of them were miles away. For the second half, three or four of them managed to wake up and it was slightly better, but equally, three or four could have stayed in the dressing room for all the good that they did and no-one would have missed them. Pionsat, relegated from the 1st Division last season, are going to be spending several long, cold winters in Divison 2 if they can’t get it together.

Time and time again, Charensat swarmed right through the Pionsat defence as if it wasn’t there (which it wasn’t) and there were about 20 one-on-ones with Matthieu in the Pionsat goal. A few he saved, but by far the most of them were ballooned miles over the bar or miles wide of the post. The Charensat finishing was appalling. On one occasion Pionsat’s defence, such as it was, stayed around arguing with the linesman for not giving an offside instead of following up the ball while two of the Charensat players beamed down on Matthieu. He saved the first shot and had his defence been playing like grown-ups they would have intercepted the loose ball at the very least. But instead, the ball fell kindly to the other Charensat player, who blasted it about 30 feet over the bar, unmarked from about 10 yards out. This was totally embarrassing, from both teams’ points of view.

In fact several Pionsat players spent so much time arguing with the ref and the linesman instead of following the ball and it was totally unnecessary. Players of Pionsat’s experience should know better. In fact, one of Pionsat’s attackers, too busy arguing with the ref instead of concentrating on the game, was caught offside in what would have been a marvellous attacking position had he been paying attention.

Charensat did score one goal, and how they were limited to one is totally beyond me. They were completely in control of this match. And then we had the totally unbelievable. Matthieu kicked a long high ball right out of the area high up front. Cedric leapt up and headed it on over the defence, and Nico, running on, lobbed it over the keeper for the equaliser. The ball didn’t touch the ground until it was in the back of the net.

But like I said earlier, it’s going to be a long hard couple of years for Pionsat.

Now this morning, I would have had a lovely night’s long sleep except that Bane of Britain somehow confused things so that the reminder for the radio programmes went off this morning instead of tomorrow morning.

And I was on my travels too. I’d been in the far north of Labrador in a vehicle which was like a “Bigfoot” but with a car body of the late 1940s and how that cruised over the uneven roads. Back in civilisation I’d met up with Nerina again and we’d spent a while in a cheap hotel in some dingy town before I had to leave. Given the price of the return ticket on public transport, I went to the darker side of town to buy a really cheap car (I actually did this once in 1995 when I was in London and ended up with a £70 Ford Cortina instead of a Eurostar ticket, and on another occasion it was cheaper to hire a car and put the petrol in to drive from London to Bath rather than pay the fare for the train). Anyway, we had a good look around all of this area at the cheap cars for sale and one of the vehicles at which I was looking was a BMC MG-1300 in white and pale green. I was wondering whether I should ask her if she still had her Wolseley but I decided that it was best not to sho too much interest.

After breakfast I had a relax and didn’t do too much at all. But by about 13:30 the temperature in the verandah was 19°C, the temperature in the 12-volt immersion heater was 36°C thanks to the sun that we had and thus the fully-charged batteries, and so I had a tepid shower in the corner of the verandah with the warm water and a jug. And nice it was too, especially now that I have clean clothes too.

Still plenty of time before I needed to go and so I cut my hair and made myself some butties, and then I was off to Charensat.

After the football match I went round to Liz and Terry’s to rehearse the radio programmes that we will be recording.

viaduc des fades gorges de la sioule puy de dome franceThe way that I went is not a road that I take very often. It’s from St Priest down to the Barrage des Fades and for the first time today I noticed that at a certain spot there’s a stunning view of the Gorges de la Sioule and also of the Viaduc des Fades from an angle from which I’ve never seen it before.

We did what we had to and Liz made a beautiful vegan meal complete with ginger cake, and Terry and I made a few plans.

Back here, I haven’t done much and I’ll be having an early night. We have a lot to do tomorrow.