Tag Archives: attic

Thursday 23rd July 2020 – I’M WHACKED!

Yes, it’s been a very hard day today.

Having crashed out so definitively yesterday evening, I slept right through and even missed the third alarm. Only by a few minutes but nevertheless …

First task was to write up my journal from last night, in the middle of which Rosemary brought me a cup of tea. Even so, I managed somehow to crash out again.

Afrer breakfast we organised a few things and then set off.

First port of call was near St Priest les Champs to drop off the door. And as it happens, Rosemary knows the lady of the house so we had a chat for a while.

Second was Ingrid’s at Biollet where she made us a drink. We had a really good chat and then went round to pick up her trailer – a big single-beast trailer much bigger than I was expecting. But the bigger the better. I can fit more stuff in it.

caliburn trailer pouzol puy de dome france eric hallRosemary and I said goodbye to Ingrid and set off to my place.

Tons of stuff lying around there that was of no use to man nor beast and that was something that I was always going to do “tomorrow”. But it was depressing me seeing it all lying there like that so we heaved it all into the trailer regardless.

But as an aside, I need to work on my reversing. I’m somewhat out of practice and I made something of a dog’s breakfast getting the trailer down the track to my house.

les guis virlet puy de dome france eric hallOne thing that I wanted to do while I was there was to check on the pointing of the wall that I had built in 2012.

No cows in the field and no farmer about so we went in to check.

It’s all holding up remarkably well, all things considered, and I’m proud of the job that I did on that considering that it was my first proper effort at building a stone wall. But the joint between the lean-to and the main house wall is separating and if I do ever make it back I’ll need to refill that.

The dechetterie at St Eloy les Mines would be closed for lunch by now so we made our way back home for something to eat. Rosemary indicated some more rubbish that needed heaving into the trailer while she made the food.

This afternoon Rosemary had a bank appointment so I went off to the dechetterie where the old woman in charge directed me to the correct bay to unload it.

Back now to my house where I loaded up the trailer yet again. The concrete parking space is now clear of nonsense, some of the rubbish hanging around outside has gone too, and I’ve even thrown away some stuff in the verandah too. Plenty more to go at too, stuff that’s been hanging around for centuries and which probably will never be used..

bedroom les guis virlet puy de dome france eric hallWhile I was there, I went to check on the bedroom.

It seems to be unaffected by the rodent infestation so I spent some time in there sorting out some stuff in the wardrobes. There were a few bits and pieces that I wanted to collect that I’d stored in there for safe-keeping and so I rescued them.

The rest of the stuff that’s in there can remain for another day or until I move back down whenever

bedroom les guis virlet puy de dome france eric hallBut I do have to say that it was totally depressing to see the bedroom looking like this.

It took me four long years (not continuously, of course) to convert it from A RUBBLE-STREWN WRECK into wnat you see today, complete with fitted wardrobes and everything, and I was so proud of what i’d managed to build with my own fair hands.

And all in all, I reckon that I had no more than about three months’ use out of it before I was taken ill and rushed to hospital. That was the saddest part of all about this.

As for the attic, that’s had it, I reckon. And so has everything in there, I reckon. There’s little hope of salvaging anything from there although I did bring out a set of plastic drawers.

On the ground floor I did some tidying up – just a little. And there’s plenty more to go at in there too.

All in all, I could spend the rest of my life tidying up in there and still not see the end of it all. No matter what I did, I could never make that place look tidy

The dechetterie would be closed by now so I came on back to Rosemary’s, totally exhausted, with a full trailer behind Caliburn.

We had tea and a good chat, following which I had a shower and washed my clothes. And all of that was just as well too.

Plenty more work to do tomorrow- this little visit is far from over – not by any means. A good night’s sleep is called for so that I can be fighting fit. But there’s little hope of that.

Tuesday 28th March 2017 – I’VE LOST COUNT …

… of the number of times that I’ve stepped out of my life. Just thrown a few boxes of stuff into the back of an old car, said “goodbye cruel world” and moved on.

And yet, as I sit in my little hotel room in Poitiers, I can reflect on the fact that however many times I’ve done that in the past, here’s another time to be going on with, because I’m doing it again.

I’ve long-since come to the conclusion that I can no longer carry on at the farm. I can’t even drag myself upstairs, never mind a pile of wood, water, food, all that kind of thing. I can feel myself going downhill from one day to the next and if I feel like this now, what am I going to feel like in 8 months time when winter starts? Being too ill to move in minus 16°C with no heat and no mobile phone signal to call for help is not really such a good idea.

And so I need to move on now. While I still can. And so for the last week or so I’ve been packing up boxes of my more important stuff and bunging them into the back of Caliburn. And after a visit to the bank at 17:00, we hit the road.

I’ve not taken some stuff that I wanted, and that’s for sure. The furniture that I had set aside, I’m not up to mountaineering across the barn to fetch it (yes, I’m beginning to realise that I’ve left this “moving” lark a little too late, haven’t I?”. And other things that I dearly wanted to take with me – well, I can’t find them anywhere as far as I have looked.

But a few things are notable by their consistency. I’ve always taken with me my LPs and my guitar (the Gibson EB3 bass) and they are all comfortable in the back of Caliburn. In fact, the guitar was the first thing to go in.

Howeer, to return things to their proper order, I had another good sleep last night. Tossing and turning a little as I seem to do these days, nevertheless it’s really comfortable in my bed. And then a nice early rising and breakfasting long before the alarm went off.

After a nice repose, I then attacked the barn once more, looking for some more stuff (that I didn’t find, of course) and making sure that I had forgotten nothing. And then taking down some more stuff to put in Caliburn.

Once that was all out of the way, I locked up the barn completely and then made a start on tidying up the attic and cleaning everything. I did have half a mind to take a pile of stuff down to the launderette to wash but that can al wait for some other time.

After lunch, Ingrid came round to visit me again and we blitzed the attic, vacuuming it and cleaning it from top to toe. It’s never been looking as nice as it does right now, that’s for sure. Everything else was loaded into the back and we sat down for a breather. THis was the first time that I’ve ever been ready well in advance of leaving. usually it’s all a last-minute rush.

Ingrid and I said our goodbyes and I went to Pionsat and the Post Office to stop my post deliveries. But as you might expect, the Post Office was closed. No idea what will happen about that now as I had dismantled the post box before I left.

At the bank I concluded the business that I had started the other day, and then we hit the highway. Me, Caliburn and Strawberry Moose. Only a vague idea of where we’re going to go. At the moment we are just going to drift around until we find somewhere nice to live. Somethind will turn up – it usually does… "it’s called “Prison”" – ed.

But driving through the mountains of the Creuse I was listening to Carole King singing “You make me feel like a natural woman”. Well, as it happened, I was feeling like a natural woman too, but where I was going to find one around there is anybody’s guess.

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

… the most extraordinary football match.

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

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

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

Stunned silence from the crowd.

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

And then it happened.

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

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

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

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

But ohhh woe! Woe!

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

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

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

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

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

I’m really disappointed about that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 9th December 2016 – I HAD MY …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 4th January 2016 – SO NOW WE KNOW!

28th January is the day that is set aside for my operation. I need to come into the hospital the day before, at 09:00, so that I can have a major blood transfusion prior to the operation. And I can guess why.

But as for the rest of the details of the operation, my card is marked ne veut pas recevoir des informations – “doesn’t want to have any further information”. Yes, what is going to happen is going to happen regardless of whatever they tell me about it, and if they start to tell me about it, I’ll just spend the next three or four weeks losing sleep worrying. Frankly, I’d prefer to be walking calmly across the car park, to be clouted from behind by a pick-axe handle and wake up to find that the job has been done.

As it is, I’ll be spending at least a week in hospital afterwards while I recover – if I do – and that’s something that ought to worry all of you a great deal because if it does all go wrong, then I’m going to come back and haunt the lot of you. Especially if you are a female reader. I wouldn’t mind putting the willies up quite a few young ladies of the female sex and I have a list already prepared.

We can start with a young lady who has featured on these pages before. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall my mentioning a girl described as “the one that got away” from my evil clutches 20-odd years ago. She’s put in an appearance or two on these pages since then, and there she was again last night. I can’t remember where I was going or what I was doing for the first part of last night’s journey, but she was certainly there and her card will be amongst the first to be marked.
But after a nocturnal ramble down the corridor to the porcelain horse and back into the arms of Morpheus, I had a different partner in crime and I can’t now remember who it was. But whoever it was, we were also in the company of a couple of regulars from the Carry-On team, Sid James and Joan Sims included. We were somewhere up the north -west coast of Spain near the cape, whatever it is called, where one turns into the Bay of Biscay. The cape is a kind of headland that shelters a bay to the north-east and there was a big run-down house overlooking the bay, with a big sandy beach, rather like a cross between the setting in And Then There Were None and the old house in Carry On Regardless. Everyone was planning on going down there for a couple of days so my companion and I decided that we would seed the house with all kinds of practical jokes. This worked in spades and we certainly succeeded in putting the willies up the rest of our company.

From there, I waited for the nurse who was to take the blood sample and then I could have breakfast, followed by a nice hot shower. I must make myself all clean and tidy for the hospital after all.

At Pionsat I went to the pharmacy for the next round of prescriptions and then to the Intermarche for some bread and tomatoes, and then off to my house to inspect the property and see what else was going on. It was cold in my attic too, although not as cold as it might have been.

Back on the road I headed for Montlucon and tracked down the office where I need to go to pay for my blood tests. They’ve sent me a reminder. I didn’t stop and go in because there was nowhere in the vicinity to park and I didn’t have the time to walk any great distance. I went off to the Hospital for my interview with the surgeon and it was really busy – I found possibly the last parking place on the overflow car park.

The surgeon who will be operating on me is only a young girl (which is more an indictment of just how much I have aged than any criticism of her) and we had quite a chat, much of which was in Flemish. There has been quite a commentary on these pages about a certain hospital, the Universiteit Ziekenhuis van Leuven in Flanders – a hospital that has received several good remarks in its favour, and guess where this surgeon did her training? That’s right, the Universiteit Ziekenhuis van Leuven. And so it looks like I’m going to have the best of both worlds. I’m sure that if I ask her nicely, she’ll bring me a plate of fritjes.

In fact, I had quite a chat about my diet with one of the nurses there. She suggested a food hamper too.

In a desperate effort to kill two birds with one stone, I went up to the oncology department to see if they had received my blood results. Apparently not, so they rang up to enquire. Just 7.7, a decline of 0.3 in just 2 days. This is starting to become silly.

I do need to have a blood transfusion, according to them, so I explained about my 100km round trip to the hospital, explaining how it was wearing me out. But to no avail. They couldn’t do me now, sir. I’ll have to come back tomorrow. I went to the Carrefour and did some shopping instead.

We had a minor disaster on the way back. I’m using my Belgian bank account as a kind of fighting fund, but when I went to draw some cash out (there’s a branch here in Montlucon) I found to my dismay that my card expired at the end of December. That’s going to halt me full in my stride, without a doubt. I need to do something about this.

Vegan vegetable lasagne for tea (Liz’s gorgeous cooking is the one positive side of being ill, no doubt about that) and then another early night. I can’t keep it up like I used to, and having to go back to Montlucon means that I need another 07:00 start – never mind 07:45.

I shan’t be sorry when all of this is over, regardless of the outcome.

Saturday 19th December 2015 – MY PEACEFUL CONVALESCENCE …

…may well be over now – and for two reasons too.

Firstly, we have now been invaded by two children – Dylan aged 7 and Robyn aged 4. I suspect that that will be the end of lie-ins (not that 07:45 is a lie-in by my standards but it certainly is for children of that age who are excited by visiting their grandparents and the imminent arrival of Father Christmas) and the start of things like “read me a story” and all of that kind of thing.

Secondly, and much more importantly though, my blood test results came today. And my blood count has gone down – in the space of 72 hours, from 9.1 (which is already a good deal lower than the 13 that is the usually-accepted minimum) to 8.1. If the blood test that I will be having on Monday morning shows a similar decline, I suspect that I will be back in hospital by Tuesday morning.

This was confirmed by the District Nurse who came by this evening to give me my anti-coagulant injection. He took my pulse and the pulse-rate has gone up. With the diminished blood count, my heart is having to pump the blood around faster to keep up the same supply of oxygen, and this can create problems of its own.

Up in the attic last night, it took me ages to go off to sleep. In fact, I was still awake at 02:00 despite my very early night. But once I’d gone off to sleep I was right away with the fairies until the alarm went off at 07:45. Totally painless.

During the morning there were chores to do and while I wasn’t up to doing much in the way of heavy work, I did what I could. And after lunch, while Liz went off to the airport at Limoges to pick up her daughter and family, I went out – the first time for a couple of days.

There was a pile of stuff to take to the recycling, and for that there’s a little recycling point on the outskirts of Les Ancizes where there are a few of these containers. Everything went in there, and then I was off to the supermarket. Surprisingly, considering that it’s the last Saturday before Christmas, there weren’t very many people about. I was expecting the place to be heaving, but apparently not. father Christmas was wandering around looking totally lost, with no children around to entertain him.

I bought most of the things that I was asked to do but despite visiting a couple of supermarkets, one or two things eluded me. But what I did do was to find a nice quiet spec in the sun (because, at 18.3°C at 16:00 in the afternoon, it really was glorious) and read a book for a while.

Back at the ranch, it was pizza for tea. Everyone was to have pre-bought pizzas but Liz had bought me a pizza base so I made my own. Tomato sauce (Bane of Britain forgot the herbs, of course), onions, fresh garlic, mushrooms and grated cheese and it really was beautiful too. I couldn’t manage it all, so guess what I’m going to be having for Sunday lunch?

And after that, Liz returned with her family at 19:15 and all mayhem was let loose. I managed to stay awake until about 22:00 and then I went off to my attic. It’s been a long day, a short night last night and I need to be on top of my form. I’ve no idea what the future holds for me but I don’t think that it’s going to be so good.

Friday 18th December 2015 – EEEUUURRRGGGHHH!

That’s how I’ve been feeling today.

Despite my very early night last night, and even though I was awake for about an hour or so (during which I wrote last night’s blog) I was well out of it this morning. In fact, I’ve had another day like I had a few days ago which, you will remember, I sat around all day and did nothing at all. Even Liz and Terry going out for an hour or so this morning to St Gervais, leaving me all of this time to get into mischief, failed to galvanise me into action.

The nurse as late too – 10:00 when he arrived. “A lot to do this morning” he said, and which for all I know may well be true and I don’t have a problem with that. I just wish that he had phoned to tell me, or mentioned it last night so that I could have seized the opportunity to have a lie-in. I would have appreciated it.

And so apart from spending most of the day being tired, what else have I done?

Ohh yes! I’ve moved myself and my possessions into the garret. The fact is that tomorrow night Liz’s daughter and son-in-law are coming tomorrow to stay for 10 days and bringing their two kids with them. The kids, aged 7 and 4, clearly need to sleep in the next room to mummy and daddy so that’s all of the rooms on the 1st floor occupied. I’m still here of course, simply because I can’t be anywhere else on my own right now, and so it’s the attic for me. Just like home, isn’t it? But not that it bothers me too much because there’s a rocking chair up there and a couple of agnostic guitars. But it’s a shame that, since I’ve been on the Prozac, I haven’t had the blues for months.

In other news, the results of my blood test from yesterday haven’t arrived. I don’t know what’s happened to them because they should have been here this morning – but that might explain why I’ve not been summoned to the hospital at Montlucon for a blood transfusion. I’ll doubtless have that pleasure to come.

And so apart from that, nothing special to report. I’ve not done much – I’ve not been out of the house. All in all, a pretty nondescript day. But tomorrow, while Liz is off to the airport to meet her family, there will be a list of tasks to perform and it looks as if I’ve drawn the “shopping” straw.

Aren’t I the lucky one?

Tuesday 15th December 2015 – I WENT OUT …

… to Montlucon and the hospital today – and thereby hangs a tail. I arrived early at the hospital, before the patient who was in front of me in the queue, and as it happened, the echograph machine was free. “Okay then, Mr Hall” said the nurse “you may as well go in now”.

So in I went. “You’re Mr X” said the doctor
“No, I’m Mr Hall” I replied. “Apparently Mr X (or whatever his name was) isn’t here yet”

And the net result of all of this was that I was in, out and gone, and sitting in the hospital café having a mug of coffee even before the official time of my appointment. That’s not something that happens every day.

What does seem to happen every day, or, at least, has been happening every day quite recently, is that I was on my travels again during the night.

Last night, I was working in an office where we had to calculate the value of cars used by sales people and work out some charge for annual use of them. I was inspecting a Daytona-yellow Mark II Ford Escort built in, would you believe, 2008 and carrying an 08 plate. But the car was filthy with a good deal of surface rust and a huge dent on the roof down the offside that looked as if a scaffolding pole had dropped on it (we almost had this once with Caliburn). I reckon that to repair the damaged roof, it would cost about £800. I lifted up the bonnet and it was bright yellow painted-over-rust with a reasonably clean engine but with a major oil leak (just like my Passat). I told the owner that he needed to put a different oil in it, to which he replied that he wasn’t on the Mercedes plan!
And talking of Mercedes cars, four of us then went off to do some checking up on the road, and we were in my Mercedes (I do have a W123 240D around at my house somewhere). We ended up driving up a railway line, one track of which was in excellent main-line condition and the other track (where we were driving) being all abandoned and overgrown. As we were climbing up the hill, a beautifully clean and shiny green steam locomotive came charging down the hill pulling a huge load of shiny black oil tankers and being chased by a light locomotive. Of course we all wondered what was going on here and we reckoned that the light locomotive was chasing the train to try to catch up with it (as if that was ever likely to happen). It never occurred to us, even when we reached the top of the bank and saw the incredibly steep climb up which the train had travelled, that the light locomotive had been banking the train up the bank and had just come off. But as we pulled to a halt at the top of the hill to open a gate at the side of the line that would let us off the line onto a dirt track, we were overtaken by a wildly-out-of-control machine something similar to Cugnot’s famous fardier, also painted yellow. As the fardier pulled back in line, it overturned onto its side. I immediately dashed out of the car to take some photos, but all that I had was my mobile telephone and I just couldn’t get any of the photos to come out properly and I was so frustrated.

I was so engrossed by all of this that after the alarm went off, I went back to sleep and it was a wild panic that saw me dash downstairs 15 minutes later. And it’s a good job that I did because the nurse was early to give me my morning injection.

I had a shower after breakfast and then set off for the hospital.

After the hospital I went, would you believe, for a walk. The first time since I’ve been ill that I’ve managed to do that. There’s a huge new shopping precinct that’s recently opened just opposite the Carrefour and so I went in there for a wander around, and did some Christmas shopping too. And then off to the Carrefour itself to do some more Christmas shopping.

For lunch, I treated myself to a plate of vegetables and chips at the Flunch – a long time since I’ve done that but why not? I’m ill and I need to cheer myself up. And as an aside, diesel at the Carrefour is just 102:7 cents – when was the last time that you ever saw it at that price?

I went back home after lunch. I’ve brought upstairs another pile of wood and now there’s enough to keep me going for about a week once I return home. What with the food that’s already up there, I should be self-sufficient for a while. I also made a start on the tidying up and believe it or not, I can actually see a difference (even if no-one else might). However, there’s still quite a lot to do.

Back here, and it was raining too when I drove home. First time it’s rained for ages (or, at least, rained that I have noticed) and those new windscreen wipers that I fitted the other day don’t half do the business. I had the nurse soon after I returned and then I had tea. There’s no footy so I shall probably treat myself to an early night.

I think that I deserve it.

Monday 14th December 2015 – WELL …

… that didn’t work out quite as planned, did it?

I told you that I was going back home this afternoon to have a tidy-up, but it didn’t really work out quite like that. I did make it home with no problems but the first job was to unload Caliburn. There was all of the tiles in the back, as well as three big sacks of tile cement and grouting, a pane of glass, some floorboarding and a pile of other stuff too.

But although I moved all of the heavy stuff out of Caliburn, and one or two other bits too, but that was my lot, I’m afraid. It rather finished me off. I did manage a little later to make a door handle of sorts for the front door though, so my afternoon wasn’t completely wasted.

I blame a lot of it myself on what was going on through the night. I’d had an early night and started to watch a film, and that’s almost always guaranteed to send me off to sleep, just like it did last night.

And then I was on my travels again. With a fitful night, I don’t remember too much about it. But what I do remember was exciting enough. It concerns something like a vampire on the prowl over London and some kind of surgeon being implicated as the perpetrator. Doctor Watson was leaning out of the living room window at 221B Baker Street whilst musing to Holmes and recounting the 31 departments (are there 31? There were last night anyway!) in a modern Victorian hospital to which a surgeon might be attached. But I was exploring another avenue, a thread that led past a group of teenagers. I somehow managed to filter a message down to them with just enough information to provoke them, so as to see if it might smoke someone out of their cover. And sure enough, some girl rang me to thank me for the information which had helped them greatly. I tried to engage her in conversation, as part of my plan, but the line went dead – either we had been cut off, or (more probably) she had hung up. But I do remember being in my bedroom (wherever this might have been) which was a total tip (as usual) in a bed on wheels so that I could paddle it about the room. And I’d woken up at the usual time despite having had a late night but it was now in mid-afternoon and I was still in bed, not sure how I was going to manage to go back to sleep and also thinking that in five minutes I could have this room looking really tidy, so why wasn’t I doing it?

But that’s enough of that. I crawled myself out of my stinking pit at just before 08:00 and it wasn’t long before the nurse came. I had my injection and also my blood sample (and he burst out laughing when I told them how many goes they had had at the hospital to find my blood) and then I spent the rest of the morning working on the notes for my trip to Canada.

Coming back from home this evening I bumped (well, not literally) into Nicolette. She was taking their new dog Snowy (a younger version of Siroy who is unfortunately no longer with us). We had quite a chat and then I came back here, with Caliburn storming up the Font Nanaud, clearly enjoying being a quarter of a tonne lighter.

So tonight I’m watching Leicester against Chelsea and then I’m off to bed. I have the hospital in Montlucon tomorrow.

Sunday 13th December 2015 – YES FOLKS, IT’S SUNDAY!

And not only did I have to be up early, I was actually wide awake, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed long before the alarm went off. And on a Sunday too. How often does that happen?

What’s even more surprising is that I was well off on my travels during the night too. And because it was something of a fitful night too, with a couple of trips down the corridor, my memory of my voyages is only scanty. But they were phenomenal enough for a great deal of what happened to survive in order to make it down on paper.

We started off with me waiting somewhere on the south coast to meet a coach that was coming over from the Continent and I was to take over the driving back up north. And so I did, but I missed the entrance to the motorway, which meant that I had to go and find somewhere to do a “U-turn”. Across a staggered junction was a pub with a big car park and that looked just the place, but it turned out that this was the oldest pub in England. It seemed that the logical thing to do to cover up my mistake was to give my passengers 10 minutes to go to explore the pub and have a quick pint if they wanted. When the other driver said “good idea – there’s a cash machine here so I can get some UK cash” the cover-up was complete. I announced to the passengers that because he other driver wanted some cash, we would stop here and that would give them 5 minutes to look around. So I let them off, parked up the bus and then went into the pub – but I couldn’t find any of my passengers! They had disappeared!

I then drifted off again on my travels, into a hospital where it seemed that isolation and disinfection was the theme, and back out of the other side, and so on until I ended up back at home (wherever that might have been), packing with Nerina to go on holiday together. We had a pile of dolls to pack but one was far too big to go in Nerina’s suitcase so I said that I would put it in mine. We ended up on a plateau at the back of Lyon. Before we had left, we’d been given a few enigmatic and cryptic postcards of small bourgs – there was obviously a mystery involved in all of this but we didn’t know what it was and these postcards were the clues. We’d managed to work out where these villages might be (the plateau at the back of Lyon) but we couldn’t identify them, so the next step was to ask. The first person whom we asked knew the villages depicted on the postcards. We asked if there were any houses for sale there, with the idea that we’d have an estate agent take us there, but he said that he would take us up there if we would meet him at his office at the back of the church. And so we did, and it turned out that he was the local gendarme. He had to prepare his car, so he said, and so we went to give him a hand, and it was an old, rotten white Renault 19 with no glass and no wheels, and tied onto a trailer with ratchet straps. While we were preparing it to leave, the phone rang. It was the woman who was looking after George, my old taxi driver, while we weren’t there. She said that his catheter had come out and what was she to do. I told her to telephone the District Nurse but she refused flat – there had clearly been some kind of issue between them. “Well okay” I replied. “I’ll be home in a bit” which can’t have been much comfort because normally she finished at 18:00, it was now 20:00 and we were a world away, in the mountains at the back of Lyon in southern France.

So lying here for a while vegetating, and when the alarm went off at 07:45 I was ready to leap into action. Well, the spirit was – the flesh was a little weaker than that. Nevertheless, when the nurse came round for the injection, I was up and about, ready and waiting.

But apart from that, nothing much else has happened. I’ve torn myself just four times off the sofa where I usually sit – twice to go for a ride on the porcelain horse and twice for meals, and that’s my lot.

What I have done though was to find another course about the development of aviation in World War I and so I had a play with that this morning. And the verdict was that it was rubbish. It just glossed over the subject, spending a lot of its time on “token-womanism” which has nothing to do with World-War I aviation, a lot of time discussing the Wright Brothers (and not a single word about Richard Pearse and his ground-breaking work on ailerons), and being full of inaccuracies – the classic howler being the lecturer talking about the “Me-109” and not the “Bf-109”, which is its correct designation.

Yes, an awful course.

But as for me, I’ve decided that if the weather is as nice tomorrow as it was today, I’m going to go back home after lunch and tidy up my attic – try to bring a little order into chaos. We all know that Nietzsche said “out of chaos comes order”, but Nietzsche had never visited my attic.

But I think that I ought to make some kind of preparations about putting my house in order. I have no idea what the future might hold for me but it’s very likely that I’ll be back there sometime. At the moment I’m feeling reasonably healthy so if I can move another big pile of wood upstairs there will be enough for a week or two and that should help me out considerably. And then if the place is clean and tidy (or as clean and tidy as I can reasonably make it) then it will be fairly welcoming for when I have to go back.

I can’t keep on being a house-guest here for ever.

Thursday 10th December 2015 – IT WASN’T ANYTHING LIKE …

… as good last night as it had been for the previous two nights. It was another night of tossing and turning in bed for a couple of hours in the middle of the night and while I did manage to wander off on my travels, I don’t remember a thing about it.

The nurse came round early enough for my morning injection and also to take a blood sample. I have to go through this routine twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, as well as my twice-daily injections of anti-coagulant.

Later in in the morning, Terry had to sweep the chimney. It’s blocked up a little and the boiler here isn’t drawing to well. At least that’s his excuse. The real reason is that there will be a couple of Little People here over Christmas and Father Christmas will need to have a free passage into the house.

I think that I have it tough with having to stand on a step-stool and reach out of my attic windows with a very long brush to sweep the snow off my solar panels. To clean his chimney, Terry has to dismantle one of his attic windows, climb out onto the roof and then climb up onto the chimney stack. Then he can brush the chimney downwards from the top. He’s built a soot trap into the wall on the ground floor and all of the soot falls down into there where it can be shovelled out and vacuumed up.

After that, I cracked on alternating between having a doze and doing my revision. That kept me going until 18:30 when I had a most unwelcome phone call. It seems that my blood count is down again and I have to go into the day-hospital tomorrow for a blood transfusion.

An early start, a drive to Montlucon, an injection and then a blood transfusion. I’m not looking forward to tomorrow at all.

Thursday 13 August 2015 – FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE …

…I’m ready well in advance of time to go.

Well, I’m not. I have been looking for three days for the $200 that I drew out of my Canadian Bank before leaving last October, so I’m having to go without it. And now I know why I drew it all out too. My Canadian bank card expired back in May!

So I hope that my European cards work, otherwise I’m going to have a couple of problems.

Mind you, it was touch and go that I got here in time this morning. I’d been out in Eastern Europe in a city that straddled the border between the East and the West. I was in the east with a party of people (as it happened, people with whom I worked in Stoke on Trent) and we were in a coach or a train that wasn’t moving but the seats were comfortable. Anyway, who should turn up but Nerina, with her Afro haircut of the early 90s. She sat next to me and ended up sharing my bunk, and I could see all of the people looking around and quizzing each other as to who she was.

I asked her how she had made it over to here – did she come by rail through the East, because I was interested in the trains that she might have seen, but she had come to the railway station in the West and walked across the border, which disappointed me.

So first job was the washing up. And that was when I made a startling discovery – that I had brought some water up last night to do the washing-up, and then left it on the side and went to bed. I’m definitely getting old, aren’t I?

And then there was the beichstuhl that needed emptying, cleaning and refilling, such delightful jobs that I have.

I’ve also cleaned the waste bins and isn’t that a first?

Liz came for me and we went to the mairie to pick up a Certificat de Domicile but as I expected, it’s closed for the holidays. I must remember to ring up on Tuesday! I did meet Valentin there though, loading up the Commune’s little van. We had a good chat and it seems that he’s re-signed for Pionsat this year, and that’s good news! I’ve no idea why he went to play at Terjat.

piaggio APE brasserie de la gare montlucon allier franceLiz and I went for coffee in the brasserie opposite the station.And while we were there, this interesting Piaggio APE pulled up just opposite.

I had a brief chat with the owner but he didn’t say very much. But he didn’t mind me taking a few photos of it (it’s always polite to ask).

It brought back a few memories of the Piaggio APE50 that we discovered on waste land in Brussels and which now resides – or it did, the last time that I heard anything about it – in Stoke on Trent

SNCF single unit diesel passenger train franceHere’s my train – a little single-unit diesel. I’ve not been on one of these before. But it’s nice, clean and comfortable – a far cry from anything that you find on the rails in the UK.

And we set off bang on time too, which is another far cry from life on the rails in the UK. And one thing that I like about France – “we regret that the toilet on board the train isn’t functioning. If you need this service, please make yourself known to the guard who will arrange for a longer stop at one of the stations that we visit”.

Mind you – I was half-expecting that we would be offered the possibility to pull up on the main line at a suitable hedge.

I didn’t realise that there were two railway stations in Montlucon – but I do now!

The line to Riom is what can best be described as “bucolic” – what one writer once wrote as a “merry, mazy ramble” across the Auvergnat countryside. I’ve advanced about 25 kms but it’s taken me an hour and a half and about 90kms to do it.

diesel multiple unit riom puy de dome lyon franceAt Riom it’s pouring down – a real torrential downpour – and my train is bang on time. And then this is where I realise that it’s lunchtime and for once in my life I’m caught without a supply of food about my person.

By the time I reached Vichy it had stopped raining, but it had started again at Tarare.

place part dieu lyon franceFirst stop at Lyon was at the Subway for a very late lunch. And it was at here that we had the usual Subway dialogue-
Our Hero – could I have a 12-inch with nothing but crudités?
Serving Wench – do you want cheese with that?

trolley bus lyon franceThere are trolley buses in Lyon these days – I hadn’t noticed that before. It seems that all of this “obsolete” transport of the 1950s – trams, trolley buses – was not obsolete at all. In fact, it was a hundred years ahead of its time. And it seems to be doing its work here in Lyon too because the streets are much less crowded than any other European city that I’ve visited recently.

As for my hotel, it’s 5 or 10 minutes away from the station. It’s modern and clean and tidy, with all of the services to hand. I had a lovely vegetarian pizza (I always bring my own cheese) for tea. It seems that this idea of flying out of Lyon, at least to here, is paying off in spades.

And as good an idea as it might have been, it could be even better too, believe it or not, because there’s a cheap budget hotel – the Athena – with rooms at €58:00, actually built into the station block. A walk of about 50 yards.

I shall have to look closely into this, but not tonight because although it’s only about 22:00, I’m crashing out.

Tuesday 21st July 2015 – I PASSED …

… the inspection today. Rosemary came by and gave the place her seal of approval.

And so she should have, too. I was awake long before the alarm went off, having my breakfast by the time it finally did, and then, fortified by a pot of strong coffee, I attacked the house.

The attic is tidier now then it has ever been since I have been living in it and there is no doubt about that. The rubbish has been taken out and the composting bin emptied and cleaned.

The bedroom had a good clean-around too and I even managed to bring a little order into the chaos that is the ground floor where I’ve been working. All the tools have been put away, the floor has been swept with all of the sawdust now in a tidy pile, and there are pathways through the tulips where one can tiptoe without breaking one’s neck falling over something.

I even managed to give some attention to the shower room, and I emptied and cleaned out the beichstuhl, even though it didn’t need it, but one can never be too considerate to one’s guests.

All in all, Rosemary was impressed and awarded me half a melon, which went down a treat for pudding this evening. She arrived at 14:00 and was here until 18:25 – some flying visit! I treated myself to a shower too, although I had to wait until 19:45 and the water had cooled down to a delightful 38.5°C – the temperature at 18:26 was a mere 42.0°C – not far off the highest that it has ever been.

I don’t mind visitors as long as I know that they are coming. It’s a good opportunity and incentive for me to tidy up and clean the place. And it does need it sometimes. I ought to pay much more attention to my accommodation.

But I’m surprised that I had the energy to do all of that this morning, seeing as I had been on my travels again. I was in a Ford Cortina estate (they aren’t half featuring quite regularly in my nocturnal ramblings these days) and testing the handbrake by the simple expedient of rolling backwards down a hill on this new housing estate and pulling on the lever. Of course, in this case the handbrake didn’t work and the car gathered speed. The houses at the bottom loomed up rather too rapidly for my liking and so I did a handbrake turn (with no handbrake, of course!) to pull up parallel to the kerb. A tabby kitten came out of the house right by where I was stopped and so I started to stroke it. Then the cat’s owner came out to see what was happening, and it was none other than a girl who has been previously described in these pages as “the one that got away”. Anyway, she invited me in for a coffee and we had a really good nostalgic chat about old times.

Saturday 18 July 2015 – THIS IS NOT SMOKE FROM A FIRE

hanging cloud forest valley les guis virlet puy de dome franceOf course it isn’t. This is one of the typical Auvergnat weather phenomena that one encounters around here – a hanging cloud. And it’s blowing up the valley through the trees in my forest.

That’s right. We’ve had a storm here today. And much to my (and everyone else’s) surprise, the weathermen had it right too because they forecast it for today. The first time since I don’t know how long – at least 25 days – that we have had rain apart from two small showers. 12.5mm of rain fell during the hour that the storm raged late ths afternoon.

This morning, I crawled out of bed with some difficulty and hit the road straight away. I Was at Brico Depot by 08:45, in time to have a couple of mugs of coffee. And buying the tongue-and-grooving (and a bag of 8mm nuts bolts and washers that I can’t find around here) didn’t take long.

So why did it take until 10:00 am to leave the car park?

There was a white Ford Ranger, just like Strider, on the car park. British plates too, and while I was admiring it, the owner and his wife appeared. He’s from Devon, a new arrival and a footballer. His wife is from Belarus and knows Minsk, which was one of my old stamping grounds behind the Iron Curtain in my Salopia Saloon Coaches days. Consequently, we had an enormous amount to talk about.

Off then to LeClerc and shopping. And that was supposed to be a quick visit where I was going to buy everything regardless of price in the interests of speed. But as it happened, while I was being dealt with by the cashier, I realised that I had forgotten to weigh my fresh veg. Dashing back to the scales, there was only one working and the queue was a mile long. I was obliged to abandon it all and ended up going to LIDL which was disappointing, because I could have saved a pile had I bought half of the rest of the stuff in LIDL anyway.

Back home here for midday and bumped straight into Lieneke who is now here. And then I came back and watched the weather change, doing a pile of tidying up in the attic too.

And today was the first day in I don’t know how many weeks that I had to heat up the water in order to do the washing up. That tells you how bad the weather was today

So tomorrow, I’m having a lie in and a day off. Recharge the batteries before I start back to work on Monday. It’s going to be a hectic week.

Tuesday 14th July 2015 – HAPPY BASTILLE DAY

That’s right – the story goes that the reason why the French stormed the Bastille on 14th July was because it was a Bank Holiday, all the shops were closed and they had nothing better to do.

But I had plenty to do, such as trying to find this insurance sticker. I’ve waded through all of these papers and some have been filed, some have been put tidily in a box and the rest have been filed under CS. But as for the insurance sticker, well, not a glimmer of it, I’m afraid. I’ve no idea where I might have put it.

The only thing now is to contact the insurance company and ask for a duplicate. And then that will guarantee that the original one will come to light immediately.

I’ve also done the notes for four days’ travel around Labrador and I’ve now arrived back in Newfoundland. I’ve also done some research as well and found a few really good e-books about the region that I have saved to read at my leisure.

Not only that, I’ve collected the details for a couple more months of radio rock shows and made up the icons for the albums so that I can build playlists.

But all of that was later first job, before I’d even had breakfast, was to make some muesli, seeing as how I’d run out.

All in all, I’ve had a busy day, despite it being a Bank Holiday.

Finally, I’ve made a huge aubergine-and-kidney-bean whatsit and that will keep me going for four days. It won’t take much to warm up, the food for the next few days, and it won’t make much washing-up.