Tag Archives: AM96

Saturday 12th March 2022 – AS BARRY HAY …

… once famously said at a concert that I witnessed at Scheveningen in 1993, “there’s one thing that I gotta tell you, man, and that it’s good to be back home”

And he’s dead right too.

And I’ll tell you something else for nothing as well in that in the past I’ve been happy to stay out for as long as possible and even longer, but this little apartment perched on my rock surrounded on three sides by the sea is the first ever place where I’ve been keen to return.

Anyway, I digress.

When the alarm went off at 05:30 this morning I was already up and about. Having sleep issues can sometimes be an advantage.

It didn’t take long for me to make myself ready to leave either.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022Down at the Martelarenplein – the Square of the Martyrs – now that they have almost finished the resurfacing after all these years there’s a really beautiful view of the railway station.

It looks absolutely magnificent lit up like this, with the modern trainshed illuminated behind it. The modern bus station to the left is a disaster and the least that is said about that the better.

The story behind the Martelarenplein is that it relates to the events of August 1914 when the Germans, in a fit of rage, totally destroyed the city and reduced it to rubble.

Hundreds of civilians were caught up in the orgy of destruction and massacred, or later killed in reprisals for what the Germans considered to be acts of terrorism – events that have a parallel with events that are taking place elsewhere in Europe even as I write this.

It totally dismays me that after all of the destruction that has taken place over the last 108 years, some insane madman is doing exactly the same thing and that we as ordinary civilians are powerless to prevent it.

537 am96 electric multiple unit gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022With my early start, never mind the 06:33, the 06:14 was in the station when I arrived and I had time to leap aboard.

The train was the one that goes to De Panne and is made up of an AM96 unit, one of the ones with the tilting cab so that passengers can walk through when another trainset is coupled up.

There was a moment of panic when my telephone told me that I didn’t have a ticket. It seems that I’d been disconnected from the SNCB website. And so I switched my phone back on and for some reason it wouldn’t accept my e-mail address.

Just as well that no-one came to check my ticket.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4538 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022When I arrived at Brussels-Midi I went into Carrefour to grab some bread for breakfast, and then went to hunt down my train.

It was already in the station and to my surprise we were even allowed to board. It’s one of the old TGV Reseau 38000 Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam trainsets and it was absolutely crowded. There wasn’t a spare seat anywhere.

Once I’d found my seat, I spent the journey transcribing the dictaphone notes for the last few days. And I’d actually done half of them by the time that we arrived at Paris.

Bang on time too, which was nice, and I didn’t have to wait too long for a metro. As a result I was out of the underground and walking down the road in the open air towards the Gare Montparnasse in quite good time.

And aren’t I glad that I found this easy, comfortable way in the fresh air from the metro station to the railway station.

With an hour or so to wait for my train, I treated myself to a coffee and a nice relax while I waited for things to happen.

84566 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo March 2022No rpizes for guessing which one is my train.

It’s one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis trainsets that we always have. It was just a single 6-car trainset today and it was, like the TGV, packed out. No spare seats at all and I had a companion as far as Argentan.

Despite the abominable state of the track that had me thrown from side to side and made me realise why I never write anything while I’m travelling this route, I did manage to finish my dictaphone notes and I can tell you where I went during the night.

We were on a spacecraft last night. We’d started off with an equal number of each sex but many of the men had been killed when they’d landed on a foreign planet. Now there was just one man in charge and the rest were women and children. The children were gradually ageing and becoming young people. I was on board and we were still landing on strange places an being attacked by the local inhabitants and having to quickly close the door and scramble away. We landed on some kind of mountain and the guy said that he wanted to go to some kind of casino that night. A couple of us went for a walk around and we came to some kind of precipice where we could see straight down many, many, many thousands of miles below us a town that someone pointed out to us and said that it was Pompeii which was where this casino was. There was a huge, enormous palace construction somewhere that we could see and the person with us said that that was the palace of the Borgias. There had been some kind of incident with a loaf of bread as well that had been badly burnt on one end. I had that with me and I cut away the burnt end and I had both pieces in my hand. Then we went back to the spacecraft. When we went round a corner on this rocky path there was a girl, probably about 9, with blonde hair sitting there. She panicked when she saw us and couldn’t move. She had a cat with her. I tried to talk to this girl but of course she didn’t understand anything that I was saying so I started to stroke her cat. After a couple of times her cat started to respond to the stroking. I thought that if I managed to win over the cat I might win over the girl and we could rescue her and take her away in our spacecraft.

Later on we were out around Nantwich last night. We’d come down the Middlewich Road towards the Barony and turned right towards Chester when a strange machine went past. It had four huge wheels and it looked as if they had fish hook fastened to them. We could see what it was doing, that the fishhooks were digging into the ground as the wheels spun so that it go go past in all kinds of soggy and wet and muddy ground. It had a flat frame and someone was sitting on it working a couple of levers with handles and these wheels were really enormous, 4 of them, but very flimsy construction, very thin. We all made a few comment about that Somehow we all ended up in Crewe, near where the old Earl of Crewe used to be. There was some kind of discussion about Doctor Watson who had developed some kind of process that made eyebrows for children’s toys. He was talking about the method that he was using, that sounded quite logical in the dream but I can’t remember it. Sherlock Holmes had given him some advice and charged 2 guineas for the advice that he’d been given but Watson considered that it was really good advice and worth every penny because that was what made the difference between being good and being really excellent

A letter arrived for me from a guy whose surname was Ralf. I knew immediately what it was and I opened it. It was a time sheet and a cheque because I’d taken a lorry and a tanker for him overnight somewhere or other and that was my salary. It was the first-ever payment that I’d had for driving a lorry and that meant that I was a professional HGV driver. My father saw it but he didn’t think that it was enough so he telephoned this guy to tell him off. I had to wrestle the phone from him and tell Ralf to take no notice because I reckoned that it was OK and I wanted to drive for him again in situations like that. I was quite happy. He asked how it went and I said that we went along at a steady speed between 60 and 60 mph. Everyone else was going past me but the lorry was running so smoothly at that speed that I thought that I’d leave it there Everything else had gone fine and because I’d done it in the evening and overnight there was no traffic about so it wasn’t as if I was panicking or anything like that in traffic queues and so on. I quite enjoyed the experience. We chatted about a few other firms that we knew and seen on our travels and by the time the phone call finished I hoped that I’d made a good impression that he might call for me again if he had any more overnight jobs where he couldn’t find a driver.

We arrived at Granville bang on time and then, having called in at Carrefour for my mushrooms, I began the long, weary trudge back home – the trudge that is more than enough to finish me off.

And for some reason, my suitcase seems to weigh three times as much as it usually does. Never mind the apples that I brought back – I must have put the tree in as well.

bad parking rue des juifs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Regular readers of this rubbish that pathetic parking used to be a habitual feature of these pages, but I’m as fed up of talking about it as you probably are of reading about it.

However, sometimes the pathetic parking can’t be ignored, and this one here in the Rue des Juifs is one of those.

The reason why is that this is of course, as I have said before, a service bus route and there’s no conceivable possibility that an 8’6″ single decker service bus with an overhang front and rear can pass through that gap there.

But what does that matter to this delivery driver as long as he doesn’t have to walk more than two feet to deliver whatever it is that he’s delivering?

bicycle shelter place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022One final photo to take before I stagger into my apartment.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we saw them erect a bike shed in the Place d’Armes and then dismantle part of it again. So while I was away in Leuven they have come back and finished it again.

The next photo of it that I will take will be when someone will leave a bike in it – unless I happen to catch some goings-on behind of of the type that used to go on behind the bike sheds that we had at school.

But those photos will only be available in a plain brown envelope.

Back here I made myself a coffee and when I’d finished drinking it I started to back up the big computer with the files off the laptop that i’d created or edited while I was away.

And it will come as no surprise to anyone to hear that I crashed out for half an hour too. You’ve probably already noticed that I didn’t have my customary half-hour here and there on the way home.

Tea was the burger that I didn’t eat last night in Leuven, being out with Alison again. And they are quite delicious.

So now I’m going to relax for a while before I go to bed. I’ve done enough today and I think that I’ve earned my lie-in tomorrow. As long as I don’t have another ‘phone call when i’m trying to sleep.

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!

Saturday 15th January 2022 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not actually sitting in a rainbow, but sitting in my nice comfortable chair in my office thinking that Barry Hay was absolutely right when he said “there’s one thing that I can tell you, man, and that is that it’s good to be back home”.

And after one of the most uneventful journeys that I have ever had too.

In fact the only thing that went wrong during the trip was that the ticket collector caught me having a crafty bite out of my butties. Since 3rd January 2022 it’s against the law to eat on public transport. So he had a good moan at me about it.

The morning started quite bizarrely because although the alarm was due to go off at 05:00 I had left my bed a long time before hand and was busy drinking a coffee and making my sandwiches when the alarm did go off.

Despite the somewhat reduced sleep, I still managed to go off on several voyages during the night. I’d picked up my daughter (!!!) from Crewe Railway Station and we had to go to Edge Hill in Liverpool to catch a boat so we hired a car and drove there. Everyone else stayed on the train. At Edge Hill we had to board this boat to go across the ocean but I can’t remember where now. It involved stepping onto this beach where there were 3 wild animals, an elephant, a tiger and a third animal. The tiger was extremely playful but nevertheless it unnerved me quite a lot as I was trying to walk around this island. It kept trying to pretend to stalk me by getting behind me and attacking me. I had to turn round to face it and chase it away. Then the elephant joined in and started to push me around with its tusk. This was starting to become really out of hand. I had the feeling that this elephant, if I let it, was going to do far more than just play around with me. I told the person who was with me, whoever it was, that if they didn’t do anything to control these animals the elephant was going to have a bullet through the brain. They insisted that it was just being playful but it wasn’t very playful as far as I was concerned and I was determined to deal with this elephant permanently either by having it taken away or else by the fact that I was going to shoot it and I’d do the same to the tiger as well if they didn’t organise themselves any better and control their animals

This was the dream about the “Hawkwind” group about which I’d been thinking. There were a couple of girls called Aral or Araf, something like that, who had joined as well but that was all it was really, about the two groups and merging together to perform those Hawkwind tracks that I had mentioned and I can’t remember anything else about it (and I’d love to know what I missed recording that made me dictate this in this particular way).

I was in Canada last night. I’d just arrived. I’d been to a car auction and there was someone there trying to sell one of these minivan things. He didn’t want very much money for it – about £700 or £800 – but it was a non-runner and needed a lot of work doing to it. It was really only suitable for using as a shed or something. There was a big argument going on between a woman and the auctioneers and a couple of other people about this. The next lot to be offered was an old panel van, the type from the 1940s or 50s. I was talking to the girl. This had no engine in it or anything like that so I said “well if it’s only for a garden shed this is what I’d use as it has no windows in it for a start. It turned out that she was only looking for $50 for it and that was much more reasonable.

Then I ended up at my niece’s house. She was saying something like they could only have one egg delivered by the ‘phone. She gave me a letter than hadn’t been opened and asked me to deal with it. It was something about some company stopping deliveries to the house. I rang them up to find out what had happened. It turned out that there had been a delivery to the house 2 years ago but no-one had signed for it so they were recommending to courier companies that they no longer delivered here. That would stymie just about everything for what was going on in Canada with her and so on so I rang up the tyre depot to speak to her daughter. I asked if she knew anything about this company. She replied that that was the company she dealt with. I asked her about this parcel. She said that she remembered it so I told her that she had to ring them back straight away and explain the situation to them otherwise we aren’t going to have any more deliveries. That will bring the business to a halt. She sounded drunk on the phone, something like that, and I couldn’t get any sense out of her. I carried on talking to her but it was still extremely difficult. Trying to give her the phone number was extremely complicated because she wasn’t paying any attention to anything that anyone was telling her. I thought “this is going to end in tragedy, isn’t it?”

martelarenplein leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022There’s a reminder alarm that goes off at 05:30 but at that time I was already down the street on my way to the railway station.

Of course I can’t go and look for a train without checking on how the work in the Martelarenplein is progressing. And the answer to that is, unfortunately, “slowly”. They don’t seem to have made very much progress at all since we were here four weeks ago.

It’ll probably be just the same when I come back here in four weeks’ time, if I do. At the rate at which I’m going, I’m not convinced that I’ll still be here in four weeks’ time. I feel as if my battery has gone completely flat.

557 am 96 multiple unit gare de leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022There’s a choice of three trains to take me to Brussels – the 06:08 stopper, the 06:11 that goes via the airport and the 06:31 direct, all of which arrive at roughly the same time so it makes no difference really which one I catch.

However, the airport train was one of the very comfortable AM96 multiple units. It was already in the station too and looked quite warm and inviting – it was absolutely taters outside – so I clambered aboard that one.

Having gone the long way round, it was 06:58 when it pulled into the Gare du Midi and that left me 45 minutes to wait for my train to Paris. I can cope with that, even if I can’t find anywhere warm and comfortable to sit. I hate these huge, draughty stations where you can’t ever keep out of the wind.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4538 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022Much to my surprise, the train was announced a long time before the usual 15 minutes. And even more surprisingly, we were actually allowed to board it.

It was quite empty this morning so we had plenty of space to spread out. Not the usual “crammed in like sardines” situation. I made myself comfortable and listened to my Hawkwind concert – the one that I had prepared on my way to Brussels on Wednesday.

And during the journey I did some more work on making notes on the Flatey Book and I could have done more than I did but to tell the truth, I had something of a “relax” for part of the journey.

At the Gare du Nord it took me a few minutes to find a metro ticket that worked, and then I was able to board probably the most crowded metro train that I’ve ever seen

place du 18 juin 1940 paris france Eric Hall photo January 2022At the Montparnasse metro station I came up into the Rue du Départ, plumping for the easier walk on level ground rather than up and down the steps in the labyrinth.

Behind where I come out of the bowels of the earth is the Boulevard Montparnasse and the Place du 18 Juin 1940. I wlked from down that way somewhere when I did my TRAVERSEE DE PARIS during the strike of public transport.

The walk in the opposite direction was quite straightforward and it’s quite depressing to think that I hadn’t thought about walking on the surface beforehand.

At the station it was much quieter than when I was here four weeks ago and I even managed to bag a comfortable seat with a power point.

84564 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo January 2022No prizes for guessing which one was my train to Granville.

And even more so when the red lights came on with about 15 minutes to go before we were due to depart.

When the train was called, we trooped off to find out seats. Mine was right down at the far end of the train near the driver. And once again, the train was empty. 12 carriages and I reckon that the passengers on the train could have had a carriage each.

On the way home I listened to my concert again and read a book about a cavalry unit from Michigan during the American Civil War. And tried rather unsuccessfully to eat my sandwiches.

84559 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022Our train was made up of two 6-car units and I’d been in the front unit. I hadn’t photographed that in Paris so I took a photo of it on my way out of the station at Granville.

First stop was at the Carrefour down the hill from the station. A pizza isn’t a pizza without mushrooms on it and they sell 250-gramme punnets at €0:99 so if I can’t go to LeClerc for my loose ones, I’ll pick them up here.

And that reminds me. I’ve run out of pizza dough so I need to make some more tomorrow.

The town was fairly quiet this afternoon with no tourists and I took the back way home anyway so I had even less to worry about – except for the ambulance that nearly ran me down in a back street. And then reversed back to have another go seeing as he had missed on the way past.

replacing bricks on wall rue des juifs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022Going up the hill towards home dragging my suitcase behind me was something of a struggle and I was glad to stop halfway up and eat my butties.

There was also some work on the wall in the Rue des Juifs that I’d missed. Some of the capping bricks had crumbled away and they have now been replaced. I suppose that they will be back on Monday to point them.

Back here I had a coffee and collapsed into my chair without moving for a good couple of hours. All of this travelling is exhausting me and the final climb is killing me off, I reckon. And if they can’t find the problem at the hospital, I suppose that I’m going to be stuck like this.

Tea was some of those small breadcrumbed soya fillets with veg and potatoes. Really quite delicious. I needed that.

And now I’m off to bed. I’m absolutely whacked after my early start and my trek home. A good sleep will do me good, so just watch someone phone me up or something.

Saturday 24th April 2021 – THERE ARE MANY …

… things in this life that I don’t understand. And the older that I become, the more I realise that the less and less I actually do understand.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a few weeks ago I was going through a phase of not being able to haul myself out of bed at any price regardless of however many alarms that I set and how loud and for how long I set them.

On Thursday I switched off the alarms so that I could have a lie-in and then on Thursday night before going to bed, I switched them back on.

The chattering birds outside my window, helped by the rattling fridge downstairs, awoke me at about 05:20. And not being able to go back to sleep, I lay awake waiting for the 06:00 alarm.

When I checked the time again, it was actually 06:10 and the alarms hadn’t gone off. It seems that last night I’d set them for 08:00 in error. And had I not been awake and instead slept right through to when the alarms would have actually gone off, I’d have missed my train home.

So what would have been the odds on that in similar circumstances a couple of weeks ago?

And this is what I just don’t understand – that I can actually do it when I have to so why can’t I do it when I don’t have to?

But anyway, there I was, up and about on time so I tidied everything up, made my sandwiches, packed up and headed off for the railway station.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric HallHere’s something that is extremely interesting.

Something else that regular readers of this rubbish will recall that not long after I came to live in Leuven in 2016 they closed off the Martelarenplein outside the railway station in order to completely refurbish it. And since then, it’s been all fenced off and the fences covered with tarpaulins so it’s impossible to see through it.

This morning though, some of the tarpaulin covering has been taken away and it’s now actually possible to see what they have been doing for all of this time.

And to be quite honest, it really doesn’t look all that different than it did before, although I do have to say that judging by how the place appears right now, there is still a great deal of work to be done. Another project around the town that has gone on far longer than it ought to have done.

So on the station, I didn’t have to wait too long for my train to come in.

automotrice am96 multiple unit 543 gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallThe train that I’m catching this morning is the 08:19 to the Belgian coast, calling at the Airport, and then the city centre before it clears off coastwards.

Just for a change, it’s not one of the depressing and dirty AM80 units but a much more modern AM96, the type with the rubber bellows and the swivelling drivers’ cabs. Bang on time it was when it pulled in and it pulled out on time too.

When we arrived in Brussels I still had 90 minutes to wait before my train came in so I went and sat in the main concourse for a while.

Once I’d worked out where my train would be arriving (there’s only a choice of 2 platforms for the Thalys and the train to Amsterdam pulled into one of them) I went up there to wait.

A few minutes later I was joined by a young lady. “This platform is quite big and lonely and there aren’t many people about” she said. “Would you mind if I waited near you? I’d feel safer”? She clearly didn’t know me very well.

Thalys PBKA 4331 gare de brussels midi railway station belgium  Eric HallSoon enough, a train pulled into the station at my platform.

It’s one of the PBKA (Paris – Brussels – Cologne – Amsterdam) units, number 4331, a nice clean and shiny one just out of the carriage wash. But it only had 8 carriages, numbered 1-8 which didn’t really suit me because I had a seat in carriage number 18.

My lady-friend had a seat in carriage 8 so she cleared off to board the train and take her seat. I had a few enquiries to make, such as to go and find an arrivals board to find out what trains were due to arrive in the very near future. That should tell me everything that I need to know.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4536 coupling up to Thalys PBKA 4331 gare de brussels midi railway station belgium Eric HallAnd I was quite right too. 5 minutes before my train was due to depart, a TGV was coming into the station from Amsterdam. And sure enough it pulled up at this platform and I had the pleasure of watching them couple up two trainsets together.

This one is one of the PBA (Paris – Brussels – Amsterdam) Reseau 38000 tri-volt trainsets, number 4536, and once it was all coupled up I could take my seat in carriage 18. It was really busy too which is no surprise seeing as it’s the only train to Paris this morning and I’m not sure whether there will be one in the afternoon either.

We set out bang on time and arrived bang on time in Paris too, and there the passengers had to run the gauntlet of a police barrage, checking papers.

Although I don’t have a valid Covid test result, I’ve been out of the country for less than 72 hours and have a Carte de Séjour to prove my address and residence status, so I didn’t have a problem. A really good plan, that, to apply for my Carte de Séjour when I did.

And I’ll tell you something else as well, and that is that the gendarmette who questioned me at the station can detain me for further questioning any time she likes. Actually, I should be being paid by the police force, judging by the number of times that I’ve had to help them with their enquiries.

The metro was quite rapid and when I arrived at Montparnasse I even managed to find a seat, which was just as well because I had a wait of about 90 minutes for my train. I could eat my butties in comfort.

82694 Bombardier B82500 84559 GEC Alstom Regiolis gare de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt was a 6-carriage train (the one on the right, not the Bombardier B82500 on the left) to Granville and it was packed.

Even worse, there were no reserved seats. But I was one of the lucky ones in that I didn’t have a neighbour so I could fall asleep and drop my laptop on the floor in comfort.

We were held up somewhere in the countryside by electrical current issues but we made up the missing minutes as we hurtled down the line towards the coast.

And when we arrived, actually a couple of minutes early, we’d somehow managed to throw out most of the passengers and there weren’t all that many of us left.

When I’d left Leuven this morning it was pretty cold but here in Granville we were having a heatwave and I had to strip off to walk home, down the steps and through the park.

citroen ami electric car parc de val es fleurs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIn the past we’ve seen some pretty awful and horrible-looking cars but this is one that really takes the biscuit.

It’s a Citroen Ami all-electric car and I do have to say that it’s one of the most hideous that I’ve ever seen.

The climb up the Rue des Juifs was rather painful in the heat and seeing as I’m not feeling myself right now, I had to stop for a breather half-way up the hill and that’s not like me at all. And I can’t blame the shopping that I was carrying because I’ve come up the hill with much more than this.

Having put the cold stuff away I came in here to watch this evening’s football.

And this was the match of the season – TNS, top of the table, against Connah’s Quay Nomads in second place. The Nomads do have some quality but they aren’t consistent enough to do it every week, whereas TNS are like a well-oiled machine and tick over quite smoothly.

Ordinarily we might be expecting a tight game but Nomads have been known to crumble at the most inappropriate times so I don’t think that too many neutral supporters would have had their money on the Nomads.

But while you always find the odd player here and there who has a bad game, it’s very rare to find half a dozen who are having a poor performance all at the same time. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the TNS centre-half pairing of Blaine Hudson and Ryan Astles were having a nightmare match.

Despite having 60% of the ball TNS never really did much with it and Connah’s Quay simply swept them aside. Michael Wilde, a player released by TNS a few seasons ago, scored a hat-trick and Jamie Insall scored a fourth while Astles and Hudson stood around watching them.

In the end TNS had 5 strikers on the field and while they did manage to score one early in the game, they never ever looked likely to trouble the Nomads back line and when they were awarded a penalty towards the end of the game, Oliver Byrne in the Nomads goal saved it quite comfortably.

It’s been about 20 years since I’ve been watching the Welsh Premier League and I have never ever seen TNS play so badly as they did today, although a lot of the credit should go to the Nomads back 4 and Callum Morris just in front of them who stopped almost everything that TNS tried to do.

One thing that I forgot to do until later was to listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. I’d started out with a former friend of mine and we were in Nantwich, Crewe Road end, going to visit some people. There were two girls there talking away and the guy was some kind of electronics guy and his house was a total tip worse than mine and there was stuff everywhere – all bits and pieces for making radios and so on. These 2 girls were young teenage girls busy talking away and at a certain moment I said to one of them “what language are you speaking? Is it Welsh”? They replied “no, it’s Slovensko”. So I asked “Slovene”? and they replied “no” so I asked “Slovak”? and they said “no” so we agreed that they were talking Czech. I was intrigued to know what they were doing while they were looking at all these bits and pieces. At the end of the road I looked out and there was an old guy on a walkframe, delivering the newspapers. It looked as if he had a paper round. I thought “it’s one way of keeping busy when you are old”. I went off into my shed, rooting around for something. There were all these old people standing around, not saying or doing anything, just standing there and it was making me feel uncomfortable. I of these 2 girls came in and she asked me for something. I couldn’t remember what it was she asked me but she saw it while I was searching through stuff so I let her have one. The other one came in and asked “where’s mine”? So I had to find one for her as well. I told her to make sure that she used it otherwise I’d be wanting it back.

Later on I was in Winsford with my father and a few other people, and Denise was there (as if that was ever likely to happen). One of my sisters was talking to Denise about operations, telling her about how she should have had a breast cancer operation a long time ago. Paul Ross rang up but my father was on the other phone so he couldn’t speak to him. Paul Ross came round and said that yesterday evening Dave Clark had died. We worked out that since Christmas we’d had 4 deaths in the immediate close circle and it was enough to make you wonder who was going to be next. Everyone looked at me but I said “as far as I’m concerned, it’s the creaky gate that hangs the longest, isn’t it”?

Anyway, now I’m off to make some sourdough mix and then I’m going to bed. No alarm in the morning and quite right too as I deserve a lie-in after my efforts today.

Saturday 27th March 2021 – THAT WAS PROBABLY …

… the most uneventful journey that I have ever had since I’ve been going back and to to Leuven.

It might have been all so different though. It’s a good job that I checked the telephone before I went to bed because I found that I had forgotten to set the alarms for this morning. And there would be very little chance of me awakening from the dead at 05:00.

So with the alarms switched on and me fully dressed and not having had one of these new knock-out pill things that they have prescribed for me, I went to bed and slept right through, just awakening once and not having had an attack of cramp either.

As for whether there is anything on the dictaphone, you’ll have to wait for another day to find out about that.

When the alarm went off at 05:00 I leapt out of bed with alacrity and by 05:30 I’d packed, made my sandwiches, washed up, tidied up, handed back my keys and was halfway down the road to the railway station.

multiple unit am96 automotrice 569 gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallBang on 06:14 my train pulled into the station.

It’s one of the AM96 class of multiple units running the train to one of the smaller towns on the Belgian “Costa Stella”. We’ve travelled on quite a few of these and I happen to quite like them. They are quite clean, tidy and comfortable considering that they are over 20 years old now.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall, because I’ve said it before … “and you’ll say it again” – ed … when two of these sets are coupled together, the two driving cabs that are next to each other can pivot out of the way so that passengers can walk from one set to the next

Despite having to go round by the airport, we pulled up in the Gare du Midi with plenty of time to spare.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4523 gare du midi railway station brussels belgium Eric HallThe train for the next part of my journey – the trip to Lille Europe – was already in the station.

It’s one of the Reseau 38000 tri-volt units on which we’ve travelled quite regularly. The train is the 07:17 to Strasbourg that goes via Lille, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and then cross country.

Although the doors were open, there was a sign saying “do not embark” but after waiting around for 10 minutes freezing we all had a minor revolt and boarded the train regardless. It set off on time and roared off down the line towards Lille Europe Railway station where it arrived on time.

Then I had my 10-minute walk across the city to the Lille Flandres railway station. My leg was still giving me cause for concern but it was certainly better than it was on the way out after my fall. I made it quite comfortably with plenty of time to spare.

TGV Reseau Duplex 218 gare de lille flandres France Eric HallAt Lille-Flandres, my train was already in at the platform. It’s another one of the TGV Reseau Duplex sets that work the route from Paris to Lille.

My seat is, as usual, upstairs on the top deck and, just like the previous train, there was plenty of room to spread out, due to the low numbers of passengers riding right now with the Covid restrictions.

On the way into Paris I ended up having a little doze and awoke with a start as we were creeping into the suburbs. Bang on time yet again. I headed off for the metro and just as I set foot on the platform a train pulled in so I didn’t have to wait at all for my TRAVERSEE DE PARIS, with or without Bourvil to carry my suitcase.

84574 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris France Eric HallAt the Gare Montparnasse I went up the stairs down which I had fallen the other day, and say a train that looked like mine sitting at the platform.

It wasn’t indicated though so we had to wait around for about an hour or so. That’s the annoying thing about Paris main-line railway stations though. They are huge, draughty and there is nowhere for anyone to sit. I had to stand up leaning against a notice board, watching the police interrogate foreigners and the like and check their papers.

With about 20 minutes to go before our train was due to depart, the platform number came up on the station display board and e could make our way to the train. And it was indeed the train that I had seen at the platform.

84561 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt was a 12-car train made of two 6-car units and quite naturally I was in the second unit right down the far end.

Once we set off I spent some time working on the photos from my trip in 2019. I’m now on the Deadwood Trail in South Dakota, waiting for the Deadwood Stage to be heading on over the hills, where the Indian arrows are thicker than porcupine quills. I covered a darn sight more than 23 miles on that day.

To my surprise we pulled into Granville 2 minutes early. I gathered up my stuff and headed off down the steps to the Parc de Val es Fleurs into town.

On the way past, I called into Super U to pick up some mushrooms for my pizza tomorrow and then headed for home where I collapsed into a chair.

The football came on later – Caernarfon Town v Cardiff Metro. Caernarfon aren’t a particularly skilful team but they are an efficient team. Cardiff Metro, technically pretty good as you might expect, lack the skill to go with it and are extremely lightweight up front.

The Met’s central defenders are skilful and brave but they are probably the slowest, most ponderous pair that I have ever seen. Caernarfon won the match 3-2, a score that flattered the Met, having taken advantage of the Met’s central defenders by catching them too far upfield on two occasions and beating them to a couple of long balls over the top.

Mind you, Noah Edwards’ long-ball pass for the first goal is about as good as you’ll ever get at this level of football. It was an absolutely inch-perfect curving long-ball pass with the outside of the right foot. Just look at AT ABOUT 25 MINUTES INTO THE VIDEO (ABOUT 11 MINUTES OF THE GAME) and you’ll see what I mean.

For a couple of hours I did some tidying up on the computer and then went for tea. A burger that I had brought back from Leuven with a couple of the mountain of potatoes that are were still waiting for me here.

Now that that’s done, I’m off to bed. No alarm in the morning so I’m hoping for a good lie-in. I reckon that I need it after my day. Not that I had a stressful journey back. There won’t be another one as calm as that.

Saturday 27th February 2021 – THAT WAS A …

sncb class AM08 multiple unit gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall… long, long day!

And to give you some kind of clue about it, if you have a look at this image here you’ll see the time that this train is leaving the railway station at Leuven to make its way out to Halle.

It wasn’t even my train either. It was advertised as “Brussels” but it went along the city-centre avoiding lines past Merode, Schuman and that way. I had to wait another 20 minutes for my train to pull into the station.

Having gone to bed at some kind of relatively early hour (like 23:10) I staggered out of bed a couple of minutes after the alarm went off at 05:00. There were my sandwiches to make for lunch (and I’m glad that I did – read on), the packing, some tidying up, and then I could head off to the railway station.

sncb class AM96 multiple unit gare du midi bruxelles belgium  Eric HallIt was at 06:16 when a train to Brussels Midi came into the station. With it being Saturday morning, a lot of the early commuter trains aren’t running.

It’s one of the AM 96 multiple units, te ones with the doughnut ring around the front that make them airtight when two or more are coupled together. And an added novelty, when they are joined in tandem, the driving cabs at the join pivot out of the way so that passengers can pass from one unit to the next.

They are actually quite comfortable for multiple-units and they are quite often used on long-distance routes where passenger numbers don’t warrant a locomotive with carriages.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4524 gare du midi bruxelles belgium Eric HallWe pulled into Brussels bang on time and I noticed that my train, the 07:17 to Strasbourg, was already in the station. It’s one of the TGV Reseau 38000 units that we travel on quite regularly.

Strangely, and rather uneasily, there were several other TGVs there too. The 06:06 to Marseilles hadn’t left yet and the one after that to Bordeaux was still at the platform. That didn’t seem at all normal to me and I suspected that there was something afoot.

As we waited for them to open the doors so that we could climb in, a hostess came by. She told us that someone had trespassed onto the railway at Ruisbroek and been struck by a passing train. Nothing was heading south towards Lille until the mess had been cleared up.

With nothing else to do, we boarded the train – and waited. And waited.

After about an hour or so they announced that the 06:06 TGV would be leaving “imminently” so we all piled out of our train onto that one. I’d probably missed my train from Paris to Granville by now so it really didn’t make much difference but moving anywhere was better than not moving at all.

We’d been on that one for about an hour or so when they announced that this one wasn’t going to go out either. They would be laying on a fleet of buses to take us to Lille.

But no chance of that. We’ll be there for ever. One thing about train apps on mobile phones is that you can check for other alternatives. And in 5 minutes time there would be a train leaving Brussels for De Panne (coincidentally, the same train that I’d come into Brussels on, but 2 hours later) and 5 minutes after that train were to pull into Gent St Pieters, there’s a local stopping train via Kortrijk to Lille-Flandres.

And then 10 minutes later, there’s an express train from Lille-Flandres to Paris Gare du Nord.

That was enough information for me. I grabbed my things and ran.

sncb class AM96 multiple unit gare de lille flandres railway station France Eric HallAnd here’s my train from Gent to Lille, here in a platform at the Lille-Flanders railway station.

It was one of those mornings when I was fated to travel on a whole fleet of AM96 multiple units. The one that took me to Gent was an AM96 but I wasn’t able to take a photo of that because it was already on the platform when I arrived there and it pulled out almost as soon as I climbed aboard.

And then this one is an AM96 too, but a rather special one, for a few of the fleet are dual-voltage machines designed to run on the French and on the Luxembourg railway networks as well as the Belgian network so that they can operate some cross-border services like this one.

No-one controlled the passengers on either of these two trains – no ticket inspector or anything so I didn’t need to argue or negotiate, which is always good news.

TGV reseau duplex INOUI 210 gare du nord paris France Eric HallThere were ticket inspectors on the turnstiles to the platform where the train to Paris was waiting but they didn’t need much persuading to let me on board.

The train was one of the Reseau Duplex double-decker trains, nice, fast and comfortable. Up on the top deck there’s a kind of small sofa at the top of the steps intended for people to make and receive phone calls instead of doing so in the main seating area disturbing everyone.

They aren’t booked out to passengers so I made a beeline for the sofa and that was where I stayed for the entire journey in relative comfort. A ticket collector came by so I told her my story and she didn’t seem to be bothered at all.

All in all it was quite a painless journey from that point of view.

From Paris Gare du Nord I took the metro to Paris Montparnasse and then went to the station offices to tell them my tale of woe. They weren’t too bothered either particularly. It goes without saying that I’d missed my train but they gave me a ticket for the next one. It meant a wait of about 1 hour and 50 minutes but there wasn’t really any alternative.

84565 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallThis train was pretty busy. Luckily they had given me a seat so I was fairly comfortable on the way home.

While I’d been waiting I’d eaten my sandwiches so I spent most of the journey home editing my Greenland photos. It’s nice to have a laptop that is powerful enough to do all of that kind of thing. I managed to shift quite a few by the time that we pulled into the railway station at Granville.

It was 17:45 when I returned home – 3.5 hours later than I was intending. And more than 12 hours after I’d set out from my digs in Leuven. No wonder that I was pretty fed up. It meant that I hadn’t had my couple of hours chilling out before I had to start to do things.

Tea was out of a tin and then I listened to a repeat of my “Strife” concert. If you missed it, it’s available AS A PODCAST.

And now I’m off to bed. I’ve had a very long day and I’m exhausted. And no day off tomorrow as I’m having visitors.

Saturday 2nd January – I MANAGED TO …

… beat the third alarm out of bed this morning.

Mind you, I have to admit that I cheated somewhat. Not having gone to bed until late and needing to be on form, I reset the alarms to start at 08:00 instead of 06:00. I reckoned that that was a reasonable compromise, what with one thing and another.

First thing that I did was to have a listen to the dictaphone to see if I’d been anywhere during the night. In fact I’d been in Shavington but it quickly transformed itself into Crewe. There was a fire in the outskirts and it was slowly heading into town. We had things to do, we had to sit down there and I wanted to watch a football match or listen to one on the radio. We were making our way into this big building but it was clear that the flames were starting to get worse and I noticed in the end that I was the only one in there. Then someone else came round, a woman with a few things . I had a feeling that if I stopped she would stop too and that was going to be a bit silly so I explained to her about how dangerous the fire was going to be. In the end we went outside and there were a few people outside co-ordinating rescue efforts. One of the guys from the radio was in charge. We stood and watched for a couple of minutes then slowly picked up our things and moved away as we heard that the fire had now reached the outskirts of Crewe round Davenport Avenue and Nantwich Road. We moved away and I had the satisfaction in seeing that I was the last one to gather up my stuff and move away and I checked to make sure that everything was clear before we did so. It reminded me of a General and his troops retreating and how the General ought to be the last and making sure that the way was clear in order to do so just like in the Army.

In connection with the fire, later on in the night 3 objects came up for auction. There was a soldier’s compass, a soldier’s badge and a 3rd thing that I can’t remember what it was. I remember thinking that these would have come in handy if we had been in the fire and these were available. This was where the fire dream came in at this point just here and now and we found ourselves back in Shavington on the corner between Edwards Avenue and Edwards Close with this burnt and blackened paper shredded and flying around.

The next task was the Welsh homework. No matter what, I have to keep up to date with that. It didn’t take me all that long although it’s bcoming more and more complicated and took quite some research. Interestingly, we aren’t now being asked to asnwer questions, we are being asked to come up with questions to ask.

Afer a shower, I made some sandwiches and then, gathering them up, I headed off to the Railway Station.

sncb am96 558 gare de leuven station belgium Eric HallWhile I was waiting for my train to Brussels I was eating my sandwiches on the platform. And hence I was taken completely by surprise when the train came in early.

Our train today is one of the strange AM96 multiple units. When one trainset is coupled to another the rubber bellows make a perfect seal, and the drivers’ cabs at the join tilt round 90° so that passengers can walk from one trainset to another.

Our train pulled into Brussels Central Station bang on time, and walking up the steps I met my friend Esi.

Esi and I studied together and University when we both lived in Brussels years ago but she went back to Wales and I went on to France after we graduated. We’ve met up a couple of times since then when our paths have crossed in Brussels but earlier last year when Brexit became a reality she moved back to Belgium to cement her European rights.

The two of us went for a walk around the park opposite the Royal Palace where we chatted about our different adventures since we last met, and then went off to the Belvue Museum in the Place du Palais to meet one of her friends and then for a walk around the museum.

old cars fn 4 cylinder motorcycle belvue museum place du palais brussels belgium Eric HallThe museum is a fascinating place to visit. It’s all about the history of the country of Belgium since it won its independence in 1830.

There was plenty to see in there and I could have spent a lot longer in there than our alloted time slot. But for me, the pride of the place was this gorgeous FN 4. It’s the world’s first 4-cylinder in-line motorbike – block 4s and V4s had been made previously – and was made between 1905 and 1914.

This is a later one rather than an earlier one – you can tell that by the rear brake. This is a drum brake whereas the earlier ones had rim brakes rather like a pushbike.

Interestingly, to start it up, you had to pedal it until the engine fired up. No kickstart.

rue royale brussels belgium Eric HallOne of the more interesting things to see is the view from out of one of the windows.

This view is right up the Rue Royale, past the park where we walked just now, all the way past the old Jardin Botanique and all the way down to the Église Royale Sainte-Marie de Schaerbeek, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city but now sadly delapidated and more-or-less abandoned despite the fact that it was renovated 30 years ago.

After the museum, Esi had a few things to do so the three of us walked around the city running errands. We stopped for a coffee in the Central Station and then like the Knights of the Round Table, we went our separate ways.

sncb am08 08194 gare de leuven station belgium Eric HallAs regular readers of this rubbish will recall, there are 4 expresses every hour from Brussels to Leuven. However they are all bunched pretty much together and then there’s a long gap.

There is however a semi-urban stopping train that runs across the Metropolitan area and terminates at Leuven. We’ve caught it a few times when we went to watch the football at Tubize and one of them pulled into Central Station just at the right moment. It’s one of the modern class AM08 multiple units that was just coming into service as I left the city.

When it pulled up in the station we all piled out and I headed off back home to my digs, having first stopped to take a photo of the train

christmas lights bondgenotenlaan leuven belgium Eric HallWell, in actual fact, I didn’t head off hiome. I had a few things to do first.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that the other evening when I was wandering around the city in the dark, I took a photo of the Bondgenotenlaan from the Rector de Somerplein looking down to the railway station. Tonight, seeing as I was standing outside the railway station in the Martelarenplein, I could take a photo of the Bondgenotenlaan looking back down to where I was the other night.

Right down the far end of the street we can see the lights of the Stadhuis – the Town Hall – in the Grote Markt.

christmas lights tiensevest leuven belgium Eric HallWhile I was here in the Martelarenplein I had a good look around the neighbourhood to see what else I could see.

Where I’m standing now is on an overbridge that crosses the ring road – the Tiensevest – that is emerging from a tunnel underground. It’s one of the main throroughfares of the city with the railway station to my left and so just the kind fo place that you would expect to be brightly illuminated to welcome visitors to the city, but once again, it’s quite depressingly banal.

All in all, I’m rather disappointed with the Christmas decorations this year, not just in leuven but in just about everywhere that I have visited.

gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallTurning round further to my left there was a view between the buildings to the eastern end of the train shed of the station.

Behind it, there’s one of the hotels in the vicinity of the station and then a couple of office blocks. This is the area where it all happens.

Back at my little room it was teatime so I made a plate of pasta and vegetables and chick peas with tomato sauce. But just as I was sitting down to start my notes, Rosemary rang me up for a chat and we ended up being on the phone together for 1 hour and 38 minutes.

There was now some packing to do and then I have to go to bed as son as I can because I have to get up at 05:00 and you know how I feel about that these days.

As for my notes, they’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday 9th July 2020 – ANYONE CARE TO …

normandy trader english channel granville manche normandy france eric hall… guess who this is heading our way this evening?

While I was out on my evening walk I noticed it way out to sea and so I took a photo of it with the aim of enlarging it when I returned home to make sure that I was correct.

And just in case you haven’t already gathered, I’m now back home in my cosy little apartment in Granville after my journey back home on the train from Leuven

normandy trader port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallHowever, as it happens, I didn’t need to wait until I returned home to find out, because as I was running back home after my trip to the viewpoint at the Rue du Nord, into the harbour she came.

Sure enough, it’s our old friend Normandy Trader coming in from Jersey.

And while her loading bay isn’t particularly full this evening, there are quite a few passengers – maybe as many as a dozen – standing on the deck just in front of the wheelhouse.

It seems that she’s as busy doing these repatriations as her friend Thora

As for me, I was doing my own repatriation this morning, heading for home after my stay in Belgium.

The alarm went off this morning at 05:30 and within minutes I was up and about. I made my sandwiches, packed my bags and so on and was well on my way having dropped the key off at the office.

roadworks Martelarenplein Leuven, Belgium eric hallBy 06:00 I was halfway down the road towards the railway station and that’s always a good sign.

When I was here last they were digging up the surface of the Martelarenplein to make some kind of underground parking and I was intrigued to see how they were doing with it

But as it happens, it’s all well fenced off and it looks in any case as if they are now at the stage where they are starting to resurface it. It seems that I have missed all of the excitement.

railpool bombardier traxx f140 gare de leuven railway station belgium eric hallIt was about 06:05 when I walked onto the station platform.

There’s a stopping train that goes out at 06:17 but an Intercity non-stop goes at 06:24 so I decided to wait for that. So while I was waiting I admired the freight trains that were passing through the station – dozens of them.

This locomotive is quite interesting. It’s one of the Bombardier Traxx F140 locomotives, although I can’t tell from here which model.

They are owned by a company called Railpool and that’s an interesting company. It was created by two German banks and owns all kinds of rail equipment including 42 modern electric locomotives that it leases to rail operators all over Europe whenever they have a shortfall of equipment.

sncb class 13 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station belgium eric hallThis locomotive is much more regular though.

It’s one of the SNCB’s Class 13 electric locomotives of the late 1990s with a maximum speed of 200kph. But they weren’t without their teething troubles due in the main to electrical interference from their equipment that disrupted the signals.

The class 18s, of which we have seen an awful lot, have come in and taken their place on the headline routes, pushing them back onto secondary duties. But they are proving to be remarkably resilient.

sncb am96 electric multiple unit gare de leuven railway station belgium eric hall5 minutes earlier than planned, my train came in.

It was one of the AM96 multiple unit sets that do the express working to Blankenberge and are quite interesting because when two are coupled together and the bellows seal them in, the cabs pivot out of the way so that you can walk through from one unit to the other.

We arrived in Brussels without any issue and much to my dismay the seats in the waiting area were all taped off. And I had about 45 minutes or so to wait for my train and I didn’t fancy standing for all that time.

Luckily this train came in early too and I had to run almost the whole length of the train to find my seat.

man not wearing face mask tgv brussels belgium paris france eric hallBut as I mentioned on the way out to Leuven on Monday, I’m appalled by the casual manner of some people in the way that they are wearing their face masks.

Seeing someone with their nose uncovered is quite par for the course, but this guy here on the train from Brussels to Paris went the whole way, 300-odd kms, with his face mask around his chin and nowhere near his nose and mouth.

His friend sitting next to him didn’t have his face mask on either when i went for a ride on the porcelain horse. I really don’t know what these people don’t understand about a pandemic.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt gare du nord paris france eric hallWe arrive in Paris Gare du Nord bang on time which is always good news, and I found a different way to the Metro.

Down in the bowels of the station at the line 4 platform I didn’t have long to wait before the train came in. And then I was whisked off through the catacombs down to Gare Montparnasse.

They’ve been working on that for a couple of years and it’s nearing completion. As a result I had to think for a minute about how to find my way to the train shed.

One good thing though is that we no longer have to go all the way down to the platforms at Vaugirard. Our train can fit into the main hall.

An hour to wait before my train but luckily I found a vacant seat so at least I was in some comfort

84561 gec alstom regiolis gare de granville railway station manche normandy france eric hallWe were called to our train about 20 minutes before it was due to leave, and that must be something of a record

Having stamped my ticket in the machine I scrambled aboard and found that, once again, I had a travelling companion. As I have said before, I don’t understand this social distancing thing in the station if we are all having to sit cheek by jowl in the train.

At L’Aigle there was an “incident” with a passenger and the police were called. I’m not sure what that was about but it didn’t take long and we were soon on our way. So much so that we actually arrived in Granville 5 minutes early which was quite impressive.

cherry picker clock mairie cours jonville granville manche normandy france eric hallMy route home was interrupted by a visit to the Post Office. A recorded delivery letter had come for me while I was away on my boat and I hadn’t had to pick it up.

So while I was passing through I called in for it. And outside the old tourist information office there was a cherry picker with a couple of guys on it working on the clock that’s there.

It’s been stuck at about 01:50 for as long as I can remember so it looks as if they are finally going to to do something about it.

And not before … errr … time either.

As Barry Hay once famously said, “one thing I gotta tell you, man – it’s good to be back home!” and he’s perfectly right too. I’ve lived in a great many places in my life and here in Granville is the only place for which I’ve ever felt any kind of emotion that might be described as “homesickness”.

Usually the kind of “homesickness” that I’ve felt is the kind of sickness that you have when you are sick of a place, but not here.

The travelling takes quite a lot out of me, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, so I didn’t do much. I sat and vegetated for a while.

At one point I was tempted to go and lie down on the sofa and watch a film. In fact I actually got as far as switching on the DVD player before I overcame the impulse.

Tea was actually the same as last night, which is hardly surprising because I used the stuff that I brought back from Leuven – pasta, veg and the second falafel burger – but this time with spicy tomato sauce.

The last slice of apple pie that was in the fridge too with some of the soya coconut dessert.

speedboat waves high winds english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallNone of the foregoing prevented me from going out for my evening walk and runs.

What actually did put a stop to it was the gale-force wind that had sprung up in the latter part of the afternoon. You can tell what was going on out there by looking at this speedboat that was moored offshore with guys in there fishing.

The swell of the waves was such that it was hiding the boat at times. That can’t be comfortable for anyone out there casting his hook and line into the sea, and I wouldn’t like to be the neighbour of any fisherman there right now.

chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallOut of the wind I managed to run along the top of the cliffs on the south side of the headland.

This takes me along the path overlooking the chantier navale where I can have a good look down to see what’s happening there. And once more we have a full house of 6 boats in there receiving attention.

As I have said before … “on many occasions” – ed … it’s good news for the town that they can keep so busy down there. It encourages people to bring their boats here

fishing boat baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france eric hallEven though I was out of the wind on this side of the headland, others were not quite so lucky.

This little fishing boat out in the Baie de Mont St Michel is having quite a battle with the elements as it struggles to make it back into harbour.

It’s not really the weather to be out there in a small boat like that I reckon. I’m glad that people have so much faith in their equipment.

sunset english channel ile de chausey granville manche normandy france eric hallMy run down the Boulevard Vaufleury was OK but as I rounded the corner I was hit by the full force of the gale and that brought me to a dead stop.

It was so powerful that I had to walk on round the next corner before I could continue my run to the viewpoint in the Rue du Nord. Unfortunately the sunset tonight wasn’t all that much to write home about although we did have a nice TORA TORA TORA moment.

No picnickers down on the beach tonight, which was no surprise in this wind. I for one wouldn’t be down there.

normandy trader port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallFrom the viewpoint I set out to run back to the apartment but as I passed by the end of the Boulevard des 2E et 202E de Ligne I could see our visitor had arrived.

The little fishing boat was coming into port, but she was following in the wake of Normandy Trader who had now made it into port.

You can see the crowds of people huddled on the deck just there. That must have been a really uncomfortable crossing standing on the deck all the way across the English Channel from St Helier in a wind like this.

normandy trader port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallNormandy Trader fought her way into the harbour and went off to moor at the quayside underneath the large crane that would unload her.

As for me, I ran off back to my apartment to write up my notes.

First of all though, there was the dictaphone to see if I had been anywhere during the night.

We had been at school last night and we ended up in little groups of about 10 of us doing something on Geography, talking about Iceland, places like that. One girl I particularly wanted to be with she ended up being in another group of 10 which quite disappointed me. I was with someone else in a pair in our group of 10. On going through the names I saw that one particular was in our group and I thought “why didn’t I get myself into a pair with her? Good Lord! I must be really slipping these days! I thought that there would be plenty of time to do that but then I realised that it was right at the end of the school year. For some reason the school year had gone really quickly and there wasn’t much time left. I was leaving anyway at the end of the year and all these opportunities I’d missed yet again.
Later on I was going back home from my holidays and we were having a look at my photos. Someone was saying somethign about the state and condition of places that I had been to. I said that I’d been to a lot worse than this and I had to search through my computer to see if I had any older photos. I came across the photos of 2002 when i was in the USA so we started to look through those. there were some really nice ones there but there were some really dreadful places that I’d seen. “Someone else said “yeh. I used to go on the Fred Trueman Estate or something in Crewe back in the 70s and God! That was a bit dire as well” and we ended up having a chat about all of that

Unfortunately I didn’t finish all of my notes. I ended up falling asleep, which is no surprise. So I’ll have to finish them off in the morning.

And it will be late too because I’m not setting an alarm. I’m always exhausted when I come back so I’ll be having a lie-in.

Sunday 15th December 2019 – AND FINALLY …

… I made it back home.

And the journey was exciting, but nothing like as exciting as the outward trip.

Once again last night I was in bed early with every intention of watching a film. But before I went to do so, I carried on listening to the radio programme to which I had been listening before I slipped beneath the sheets.

And that’s how I found myself a couple of hours later. Out like a light of course. So I switched off the laptop and went back to sleep.

During the night there had been a few voyages. And strange ones they were too.

There was a fancy dress party taking place and I had decided to go as a woman, don’t ask me why because I don’t have a clue either. I had the dress and tights everything like that and I went out all dressed up and people were looking at me rather strangely as you could imagine. But I ran out of time and didn’t have the make-up so I had to do without the make-up which spoiled the whole effect as you can imagine. But I went outside and there were all these people outside, cheering me on, men were pretending to chat me up, so on. There was Malcolm Madeley (!) and he clearly didn’t recognise me, something like that and he made some kind of offensive remark. I said “you want to get a grip, Malcolm” to which he suddenly stopped and disappeared. He realised that it was me. I had to walk round to Aunt Mary’s. I knocked on her door and the guy who was with her who was a guy a lot younger than she was but was something to do with our family from somewhere or other and these two little kids about 3 or 4 came out. We were talking about some kind of court case involving these kids. Aunt Mary was saying “well now they are here it’s only 5 weeks to go before this case”. But as these kids walked out of the step there was this pram coming the other way. It hit them and they flew through the air and actually landed on top of the pram. I thought “these kids are going to get hurt. They are always doing these kinds of thing, always getting hurt, all kinds of stupid accidents, breaking their arms, breaking their legs, something. But this time they were all right which was quite a surprise. Then we had to hobble off – me hobbling on my high-heeled shoes back towards picking up my car to go to this do again but it was this thing with the kids that was so surprising. And I’ve no idea what that was all about at all.
Later that night I was with someone last night and it might have been Nerina but it might not and we were in Northern Wyoming, somewhere like that. On our way to visit some battleground, somewhere like that of the Native Americans. The road was a really difficult road. It started off being a decent road but was all gravelly, a dirt road as you might expect. We were behind this lorry and there was a car coming the other way, a big jeep-type thing swerving in and out of the traffic and he nearly hit us going past this lorry. We were wide-eyed about that. The GPS was talking to us about this road, giving us a talk. We suddenly breated the brow of this hill and came to where all these dressed stones were, in a pile like some kind of wall. It was telling us that this was where the fort was this was the barbecue was, all this kind of thing .We dropped down the hill into the village by the river and there were ancient railway locomotives on display there. We went inside the museum and there were all beds there with people sleeping in them like they might have done 100 years ago, 2 or 3 to a bed, babies in the bed, all this kind of thing and newspaper reports about “how my parents are going back to the UK after visiting us”. It turned out that we were now in Newfoundland and Labrador for some unknown reason and we were giving a tour of this museum with all of these toys and artefacts going back 100 years or something and life must have been really primitive for people living there in those days. So we had a tour of this museum with these old toys and old dirty beds and dirty people sleeping in them and I remember saying to whoever I was with that we ought to be going as we have a lot to do and in any case I wanted to see these old steam locomotives but she was busy engaged there talking to people and she didn’t really want to come away.

But despite all of this, I was soon up and about when the alarm went off at 06:00. Beat the second alarm by a country mile.

First task was to make my butties because I had a feeling that this was going to be a long day. Tidying up everything and packing my bags and collecting up my shopping, I headed out for the station.

am96 multiple unit gare de louvain leuven railway station belgium december 2019I arrived at the railway station about 06:50 and didn’t have long to wait for a train.

There was a direct train at about 07:20 direct to Brussels but there was an earlier one from Genk at 07:08 that goes via the airport and on the basis that a bird in the hand is worth any number in the bush I leapt aboard that one.

It’s one of the AM96 multiple units built by Bombardier and delivery to the SNCB started in 1996. They have a peculiar characteristic in that the driver’s cab pivots round 90° so that when two or more of these multiple units are coupled together, the passengers can go through from one unit to the next.

My train to Paris was at 08:43 so I had about an hour to kill. I drew some cash out of the bank and then bought my raisin buns for breakfast from Carrefour.

Thalys PBKA 4302 gare du midi brussels belgium december 2019 I didn’t have to wait long because the train came in quite early and we were ushered up to the platform.

It’s one of the Belgian SNCB PBKA (Paris Brussels Cologne Amsterdam) train sets, number 4302 upon which we have travelled on previous occasions. These PBKA train sets are becoming somewhat long in the tooth these days, being first delivered in 1995, but they still rattle along at an impressive 300 kilometres per hour when there’s nothing in the way to slow them down.

While we were waiting to move off, I had a quick look on the internet. The 13:54 to Granville was still down as running so I hoped that it would still be listed by the time I reached Montparnasse.

Bang on time we were, pulling into the Gare du Nord. I wandered over to the SNCF offices where they checked the trains. The 13:54 is still listed as running for the moment, but there’s nothing else going anywhere near Granville now for the rest of the day so it’s that one or nothing.

The girl stamped my ticket to Caen to effectively prove that I’d been to the SNCF offices (one thing that I’ve learnt since living in Europe is that European officials love paperwork and rubber stamps so you should never ever miss out on an opportunity to have a rubber stamp put on a document whenever there’s a crisis looming).

hotel terminus nord rue de dunkerque paris franceWell over three hours to go before my train, and the day wasn’t too bad out there so I decided to walk.

Unleashing the big Nikon D500 I took a test shot of the big hotel, the Hotel Terminus Nord, just across the road from the station.

There is also this rather bizarre statue here too, just outside the station and I’ve absolutely no idea what it’s supposed to represent. I imagine that it’s some kind of winged beast, but that’s about it.

river seine paris franceAccording to the route map that I consulted prior to setting off it was something like 5.5 kilometres as the crow flies between the Gare du Nord and the Gare Montparnasse.

But the way that I was planning to go, it worked out (I checked later on the fitbit) at 7.5 kilometres because I wasn’t going to miss out on a few of the sights while I was in the vicinity. Paris isn’t my favourite city – far from it in fact – but there are still places to see that ought not to be missed.

notre dame paris franceLike Notre Dame for example.

It’s been years since I’ve seen it and it doesn’t half look different now. On 15th April 2019 it caught fire and was very badly damaged. The roof has gone and it took the spire with it. It’s really in a sad condition like now and so here’s hoping that like a phoenix it will rise again from the ashes.

The estimates are that it will cost billions of Euros to restore it, although a considerable part of that money will be to restore parts of the cathedral that were in poor condition prior to the fire.

motor bike sidecar rue de buci paris franceAcross the Pont Neuf or “Bridge number 9” we’re in the Latin Quarter, so puer amat mensam to you, hey?

My intention was to go for a wander around for half an hour but I completely forgot, being sidetracked by this beautiful outfit here. A horizontal twin motorbike, which might have been an elderly BMW or a more modern Urals or Cossack, with a very period sidecar attached.

It’s not the kind of thing that you see on the streets every day and it took me completely by surprise.

inflatable polar bears boulevard st germain paris franceSomething else that took me by surprise was on the corner of the Boulevard St Germain.

It goes without saying that on my travels I’ve seen plenty of polar bears, but never one on a street corner in Paris. We’ve seen actresses standing over the air grids of the Paris Metro and seen their skirts disappear in the updraught, but an inflatable polar bear family is something else.

It made me quite nostalgic for the High Arctic and I wonder how I’m going to get there next year, having had a little disagreement with some people

tour de montparnasse rue de rennes paris franceBy now I was starting to flag a little, so it was with an enormous sigh of relief that I caught sight of the Tour de Montparnasse at the end of the street as I rounded the corner into the rue de Rennes.

It seems to have slipped my mind to mention that I was not actually travelling light today. I had my rucksack which was quite heavy anyway with this and that, and a carrier bag with with a pile of heavy shopping in it.

And even though I can see the Tour de Montparnasse, my walk is far from over. The railway station is a good few hundred yards behind the tower and then I have this enormously long hike all the way down the station to reach the Vaugirard annexe.

electric vehicle charging points rue de rennes paris franceWalking down the rue de Rennes I came across this wonderful sight.

Definitely a sign of the times, this is. With the European Union promising to phase out the manufacture of the internal combustion engine by 2040, there needs to be more electric vehicles on the streets. But there won’t be unless the authorities provide places where the owners can recharge them.

And so this charging station here shows how far along that road the French authorities are in this respect – in great contrast to how they are in several other countries, including the UK.

gare montparnasse boulevard de vaugirard paris franceOn that shocking note I went past the Tour de Montparnasse and there in the distance behind it is the Gare Montparnasse.

The original station, the one where the Granville train failed to stop all those years ago and went hurling across the concourse and out of the end wall into the street, was actually on the site of the tower. And that explains why when the metro from the Gare du Nord throws me out at the “Montparnasse” metro station, I still have this very long underground walk to the Montparnasse railway station.

Yes, they moved the railway station but they didn’t move the metro station with it

Looking at my watch, it was 12:00 or thereabouts when I reached the Gare Montparnasse. 90 minutes or so it had taken me, and that was really impressive considering that I’m not at all well and I had my heavy load to lug around with me.

Mind you, it’s not something that I want to do too often because I was pretty nigh exhausted after that. I was pretty much at it non-stop, without a rest. Next time I do it, if there is a next time there will have to be a pause-café somewhere along the route.

There was a long wait for the train but we were allowed on board earlier then usual. And so we had a longer wait for the train to leave, seeing as its start was delayed by 15 minutes.

Without a ticket I had to sit anywhere in a vacant seat. And so of course it goes without saying that it was reserved to someone else so I had to move.

The ticket collector came by so we had a chat about my ticket, in a delightful conversation where I spoke in French and he replied in English.

alstom regiolis gare de granville railway station manche normandy franceAnd that was one thing.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that having gone for time after time after time in the past without having my ticket checked, it was checked on every train today. Probably a grève de zèle or “work to rule” going on too. So it was just as well that I’d been to the SNCF office to declare myself a “stranded traveller” and have my ticket rubber-stamped by an official.

After all of that I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we reached Vire. And we pulled into Granville bang-on time despite the extra stops that we had and the 15-minute delay.

thora port de granville harbour manche normandy franceHaving left the station and feeling surprisingly fit considering my long walk today, I walked back through the town to the apartment.

While I was going up the rue des Juifs I looked over the wall and there tied up at the unloading quay is our old friend Thora. She’s come in on another trip from the Channel Islands.

This evening I’ve not done much. Finished off the falafel with some veg and cheese sause, and I declined the opportunity to go for a walk. I reckon that with 162% of my daily activity carried out, I’ve done enough. No wonder I was exhausted.

But now I can’t sleep. So I’ll probably be awake for ages but we’ll see how it hangs out. I have a busy day tomorrow.

And as an aside, there were plenty more photos from where these came from that haven’t made it onto this page. If you want to see them, which I hope you do, you need to go to THIS PAGE.

Tuesday 7th Auguat 2018 – JUST HAVE A LOOK …

railway accident granville manche normandy france… at the front of the train that brought us back from Paris this afternoon.

If you look carefully, you’ll notice all of the marks and dents on the front cowling around the coupling hitch. That’s right – I’ve been involved in a railway accident (well, of a sort) on the way back home.

It’s all happening to me these days, isn’t it?

Even though it was a (comparatively) early nigbt for me, I was totally flat out until the alarm went off. No noisy neighbours, no power cuts, nothing to disturb me.

We had the usual morning performance but instead of a shower I went out early to the SPAR supermarket down the road. A baguette, tomato, banana and a reel of plaster. I’ve noticed that with all of the walking that I’ve done just recently I have a blister on my little toe and I need to pad it out.

Today I have vegan cheese (from the Loving Hut yesterday) and tomato butties, with a banana for pudding. And having plastered my little toe, I can’t remember what I did with the rest of the reel of plaster. Age is certainly catching up with me.

Having packed, I checked out and walked through the burning early-morning sun to the station, where I just missed the 09:09 train.

486 am96 multiple unit leuven belgiumBut not to worry, the 09:19 train from Genk to Blankenberge was not far behind so I didn’t have long to wait.

It’s one of the AM96 class of multiple units, built in 1996 and although they might not look it, they are capable of 100mph, which is just as well because I didn’t want to hang about.

And even though it was packed, I managed to find a comfy seat.

It was a good plan to arrive in Brussels early as it gave me an opportunity to visit the bank that’s in the vicinity. I managed to cancel the monthly payment for the parking in Leuven, but as for activating my bank cards for use outside the EU, apparently there’s a problem. The copy of the electricity bill that I presented to the bank last time as proof of identity of my change of address has been rejected. I need to contact my own branch to see what I have to do next.

Anyway, I don’t have the time to go to Schuman so this is something that I need to do by writing when I arrive back home. Just one more task added to the heap.

thalys tgv bruxelles gare du midi belgium august aout 2018The TGV pulled in a couple of minutes late. It’s one of the first-generation ones and they are now starting to age and are showing it.

Little patches of corrosion appearing around the most exposed places and just painted over. It makes you wonder what they are like where you can’t see – not the kind of thing for a nervous passenger when you are hurtling along at 300kph.

Apart from that though the voyage was quite uneventful. Except, of course, that I somehow managed to be convinced into lifting down all of the baggage of a group of Dutch women. And I reckon that it would have been so much easier for them to have bought tickets for the kids instead of stuffing them into the cases – unless it was lead off the local church roof that they were transporting.

10 minutes late arriving in Paris, but it didn’t matter one jot because the metro was strangely deserted and I arrived at my platform in a new record 35 minutes. And had I done that the other day I might just have caught my train.

The train to Granville was busy but I was in luck (for a change) – at least at the start of my journey anyway.

eiffel tower sacre coeur montmartre franceNot only was the seat next to me empty but I was on the north side of the train.

Not only did that mean that I was out of the sun, it meant that after all this time I finally managed to take a good shot of the Eiffel Tower.

And not only that. If you look on the horizon to the right of the image you’ll see Montmartre and the Eglise de Sacre Coeur.

You aren’t half having your money’s worth, aren’t you?

solar farm surdon normandy franceWe rolled on and on through the countryside, with me rolling in and out of sleep (just by way of a change).

In the past I’ve seen something that looked very much like a solar farm just across the road from the railway station at Surdon.

And so being in the right place at the right time I was able to confirm that it is indeed a solar farm. That’s quite interesting.

heavy storm granville manche normandy franceAnd so off we set again to continue on our route.

The weather was slowly starting to deteriorate by now and by the time we arrived in the vicinity of Vire it had changed dramatically.

The skies had gone completely grey and overcast, and it looked as if we were on the point of receiving a right old pasting.

anvil cloud storm granville manche normandy franceA little further on we were presented with a perfect example of an “anvil” storm cloud which you can see  right in the middle of the photograph.

And when we stopped at Vire, we were met by a torrential rainstorm. There was a terrific gale blowing that was whipping up all kinds of dust, vegetation and other objects.

It really was impressive.

We carried on through the weather, but we didn’t get far.

railway accident villedieu les poeles normandy franceAbout half-way between Vire and Villedieu-les-Poeles we ground to a halt, right across a level crossing, to the dismay of a couple of farmers and motorists who were trying to cross.

After we’d been stopped for five or ten minutes, we had an announcement. Apparently a very large branch had blown down off a tree alongside the railway line in the storm, and we had hit it.

We had to have the train inspected to make sure that there was no significant damage and that it was safe to continue.

As a result we were a good 40 minutes late arriving in Granville, and I had a brisk walk home.

port de granville harbour gate opening manche normandy franceThe storm that we had had in Vire had clearly passed through Granville as well because the streets were littered with all kinds of debris.

But I was much more interested in this particular sight just here.

I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen the harbour gates actually in the process of opening, but I was in luck today because they were actually in operation as I walked past;

They are open for about six hours a day, I reckon. 90 minutes before High Tide, and they close 90 minutes after High Tide.

And not long after I returned, we had a torrential rainstorm. That put me off going for my evening walk – not that it mattered because I have done 109% of my daily effort.

But one thing that came out of this voyage, and that was that instead of taking my backpack and a small suitcase, I crammed everything into my new large backpack and took that.

And it worked just fine. There was an issue with the zip but I felt much better with it and I was certainly much more mobile. I shall have to do that again.