Tag Archives: bombardier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wherever did I find the time to go to sleep?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the ticket office they proposed the following itinerary –

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


Only three hours later than usual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all I needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… that I want to be doing too often.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 16th October 2021 – THIS NEW WAY …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what usually happens.

Saturday 21st August 2021 – I’M BACK …

… home right now, on one of the most uneventful journeys that I have ever had – at least, as far as the trains went.

Despite going to bed early I couldn’t sleep at all and I remember things like 01:00 coming round and I still hadn’t dropped off. Although I must have done at some point because there’s some stuff on the dictaphone. There had been an army patrol up in the High Himalayas, 2 jeeps and some soldiers. One of the jeeps had split off and gone somewhere and picked up 3 tyres. On the way back, one of the guys with the tyres had arranged to be dropped off somewhere so he was dropped off in this mountain pass which was quite a coincidence just as the other jeep came into view. The 2 jeeps carried on without him. he scrambled down the mountain which was honeycombed with German troops and the Germans were talking about the guys who were bringing the tyres, so this must have been a plan. In one of the buildings above the pass that the Germans were guarding was Caliburn. You could see from the German point of view that they were down there in the pass and on the hillside Caliburn suddenly rolled out of this garage, did a wheelspin start and was away. The Germans were throwing bombs at it and the windows broke but Caliburn kept on driving up this hill.

When the alarm went off at 04:30 I hauled myself out of bed feeling about as bad as I have ever felt, but surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to make everything ready.

The walk down to the station (and I do mean “down” because it is downhill) was pretty depressing – imagine having to stop to catch my breath when I’m going downhill. I’m clearly going downhill right now, and in more ways than one too.

Being rather early this morning, I was just on the point of entering the station when the 05:33 to Oostende pulled in. A carriage door opened right in front of me so I pushed my way onto the platform and scrambled aboard just as it was on the point of closing. No photo unfortunately but it was a Class 18 electric that was pulling it.

We pulled into Brussels-Midi with over an hour to wait for my train out to Lille so I had to loiter around. But then, I’d rather be hanging around at Brussels waiting for my train than in Leuven wondering if I’m going to make it to Brussels in time.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThe train this morning was, as usual, one of the TGV “Reseau 38000′ machines, number 4525 – or, at least, my bit of it was.

There are called “PBA” trainsets because they spend much of their time working the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam route, although the 07:13 which I susually catch is a train that goes to Strasbourg.

It describes a wide arc going via Lille, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Marne-La Vallée, mainly because the direct route through the Ardennes via Luxembourg isn’t of the correct standard for sustained high-speed running and upgrading will be extremely difficult.

It was a delightful journey to Lille because I had the sweetest, cutest passenger that I have ever had sitting next to me. She wasn’t particularly talkative which was a shame but it was still a pleasant journey.

TGV Inoui 225 are TGV Reseau Duplex gare lille flanders railway station lille France Eric HallThe walk down to Lille Flandres was a struggle too

The train that was going to take me to Paris was already in at the platform at Lille Flandres, as it usually is. You’ll probably notice the time on the clock as well. I’ve done a lot already and it’s still early.

Once more, it’s a TGV Reseau Duplex double-decker but undortunately there were no comfy sofas in the lounge area. I had to cram myself in and it wasn’t easy either with all of the luggage that everyone had.

Most of the journey was spent having a sleep because the morning had caught up with me by now

TGV POS 4408 gare du nord paris France Eric HallOur train was made up of two trainsets and, interestingly, the front trainset wasn’t another one of the Reseau Duplexes, as I discovered when we arrived at Paris Gare du Nord.

Instead, we have been pulled to pulled to Paris by one of the old TGV POS trainsets. That’s not something that happens every day, is it?

At Paris I stepped onto the platform of the metro just as a train was pulling in – perfect timing again. I shall have to do this more often. Luckily I was able to grab a seat and have a comfortable journey across the city.

84580 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris France Eric HallIt was just as well that i’d had a good rest because the labyrinth in the cellars of the Gare Montparnasse, up and down stairs and walking along these long corridors just about finished me off.

Luckily there was an empty seat in my little corner behind the coffee machine by the platform where my train was waiting because I couldn’t go much further. I sat down and had a good rest.

For some reason that I don’t understand, the wait seemed to be much longer than it is usually, and I couldn’t wait to be called forward and to settle down on my comfortable seat – well, I hoped that it was going to be comfortable.

At long last the platform – which we all knew anyway – went up on the noticeboard and we could all move off to our train.

And actually, it wasn’t as comfortable as it might have been because it was packed to the gunwhales today – there wasn’t an empty seat anywhere. I’ve no idea what was going on down the line, but whatever it was, it seemed that everyone In Paris was going to it.

Once the crowd thinned out, I managed to eat some of my sandwiches but my appetite has definitely gone again for now and I’ll save the rest of my lunch for later.

84581 gec alstom regiolis Bombardier B82652 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallWhen we pulled into the station I gathered up my possessions and cleared off towards the exit.

As I reached the end of the platform, another train pulled in. There’s another line that passes through the station at Granville – the line from Caen to Rennes.

In the past it used to take the direct route through Folligny but when they did some excavating work a few years ago they found that the curve that connects the Granville-Paris line to the line towards Caen was in reasonable order, so they refurbished it and brought the trains here.

Bombardier B82652 B82650 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallAnd just after I clicked the shutter, another train came into the station.

One of those (and don’t ask me which because I don’t know) is the train from Caen to Rennes, and the other one is the reverse from Rennes to Caen.

They all meet up here a couple of times per day so that passengers coming from Paris can travel on easily to places like Avranches and Coutances, and vice versa.

of course, if there’s any vice involved, I’m bound to be interested.

As I left the station I debated whether I ought to wait for the bus to take me home. In the end I decided to walk which was not the best idea that I had. While going downhill into the town was one thing, the rest of the journey back up the hill on the other side towards home was a different thing entirely.

crowds at exhibition working sailboats port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt took me an age to climb up the hill, with about a dozen pauses to catch my breath.

One of the pauses was overlooking the harbour. That’s interesting today because the festival of working sailing boats or whatever it’s called in now in full swing and there are quite a few people down there this afternoon enjoying it.

As for the greenery, it doesn’t ‘arf look nice, but wouldn’t it have been nicer decorating on a permanent that new car park that they resurfaced earlier in the year instead of having one big miserable mass of Macadam.

sailing boats port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallWith events like this going on, the place is bound to be full of working sailing boats making an exhibition of themselves.

Down there we have Marité of course and the other boat bears a very strong resemblance to Charles Marie but I can’t see her name at all from here.

Having recovered my breath, I carries on up the hill towards home, much more weary than I was when I set out. I can see that if things don’t improve over the next few weeks I shall be going to and from the station on the bus in future.

Back here I put away the food in the fridge and made myself an ice-cold strawberry smoothie to cheer myself up. Next, I poured the rest of the coffee from the flask into a mug and brought it in here to drink. And when I awoke about 90 minutes later, it was right by my side, stone-cold.

Football on the internet later – Barry Town v Bala Town. A rather entertaining 0-0 draw but it was always going to be 0-0 because both teams were rather lacking in firepower up front and neither goalkeeper was really tested. I don’t think that either of these two teams will be challenging for very much this season unless they can come up with something in attack.

For tea I just had a handful of pasta with some veg tossed in garlic, olive oil and black pepper. And now it’s ridiculously late and I can’t sleep so I don’t know about tomorrow. I’ll just go to bed and get up when I awaken, provided that no-one disturbs me first.

Saturday 17th July 2021 – AS BARRY HAY ONCE …

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

And having spent a couple of hours collapsed on my chair in my office, I can’t do any more than agree with him

This morning was a dreadfully early start – 04:25 when the alarm went off and I crawled out of bed feeling pretty awful, as you might expect.

There were my sandwiches to make and my packing to do and then a pile of cleaning up, and to my surprise it was all of 05:15 when I’d finished so I reckoned that I might as well head off for the railway station.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric HallOne thing about the camera on my telephone is that it’s not very good in the dark.

One of the construction projects in the town that has been going on for far too long with little signs of finishing is the rebuilding of the Martelarenplein, “Martyr’s Square”, outside the railway station. This is something that has been dragging on for years and it looks as if it will be going on for a long time yet.

It’s difficult to understand why these projects take so long to complete. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that there have been endless projects of all sorts going on here and which have dragged on and on and on.

class 18 electric locomotive 1812 gare de Leuven railway station 	Belgium Eric HallIt was 05:35 when I made it onto the station, to find that the train to Oostende was running late.

As I arrived on the platform so did the train and here’s a rather blurred photo of it, because the ‘phone isn’t up to very much in this kind of light.

The locomotive is one of the Class 18 electrics, the workhorses of the Belgian railway system, pulling a rake of double-deck coaches. I found a quiet spec in the front compartment over the bogie, and settled down for my trip into Brussels.

And no-one came to bother me, not even a ticket inspector. He was probably asleep in his compartment somewhere near the rear of the train.

sign about train cancellations gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric HallWe pulled into Brussels-Midi just after 06:00 and while I was here I had a look at the indicator board to see where my train might be.

But this notice caught my eye and it was worth photographing. The railway network in the east of the country has been badly hit by the flood and there are piles of trains that have been cancelled as a result.

“If you are implicated in this notice, please don’t come to the station. Postpone your journey” – in other words, there are no alternative means of transport to connect up these towns. That tells you all that you need to know about the damage to the transport infrastructure.

The trains to Germany were cancelled too. With Liège 6 feet under water and the Rhine and its tributaries overflowing, all of that has taken a knock as well and it will be a while before these services are reinstated.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4513 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric HallLook at the time now!

It’s 06:37, I’ve been here for half an hour already, and my train has now come in. It’s one of the PBA – Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt trains that is running the 07:17 to Strasbourg. I take it as far as Lille Europe where I change trains.

We weren’t allowed on the train for 10 minutes while they cleaned it, and then we could all pile aboard.

And those of us on the platform side of the train were treated to the sight of a bag-snatcher snatching a bag from the train on the other side, the 07:00 to Marseille. The security staff managed to recover the bag but not the thief. The police turned up a couple of minutes later, presumably to make further enquiries.

We set off bang on time and I tried to work but there was no electricity on the train and the battery flattened itself quite quickly and that held me up.

At Lille Europe we all piled out and then there was the stagger across the town to Lille Flandres railway station.

TGV Reseau Duplex 225 gare du lille flandres france Eric HallThere isn’t much time to cross town before my train is due to leave. It was already in the station and the platform when I arrived.

It’s one of the TGV Réseau Duplex trainsets – at least, this end of it is, and I don’t know what’s on the front of it. I eventually found my carriage but these are quite cramped and there isn’t much room in the overhead luggage racks for all the stuff that I was carrying, so I dug myself in in the little phone lounge at the top of the stairs and there I sat.

It’s not possible to work there though so I spent most of the journey asleep. But at least the laptop and the telephone could recharge themselves while we were on the move to Paris.

TGV POS 4406 gare du nord paris france Eric HallAt the Gare du Nord in Paris I could have a look and see what the front trainset of my train to Paris was.

It’s one of the TGV POS units that used to work the eastern part of France and into Southern Germany until they were replaced by the next-generation machines.

Wandering off under my heavy load, because you won’t believe just how much this medication weighs, I made it to the platform of the Metro just as a train pulled up and to my surprise there was an empty seat right by the door.

It whizzed me off to the Gare Montparnasse where I wandered about aimlessly in the ill-signposted station until I found the correct escalator to take me up to the fourth floor from where the mainline trains depart

84572 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric HallMy train always departs from the platforms at the far end of the station so I wandered off that way.

There was one of the Normandy trains in at the platform and I assumed that it was mine. And there was an empty seat in that little corner that I discovered a few weeks ago from where I could keep an eye on things.

15 minutes to go, the platform number flashed up on the display screen and it was indeed my train that I had seen, so we all piled on board.

And I do mean “all piled” too because there wasn’t even one empty seat on the train. Travelling to Granville on a Saturday morning in summer with everyone going on holiday is not a very good idea. Of course I’m not usually here at this time of year – I’m usually wandering around Canada somewhere at this time of the year.

We were so crammed in that it wasn’t easy to work this afternoon on the train, but what I dd manage to do for yesterday’s journal entry is now on line and I’ll finish off the rest of it tomorrow maybe.

84567 gec alstom regiolis bombardier 82648 gare de granville railway station france Eric HallIt was quite a transformation when we arrived in Granville – bang on time with no obstructions or delays. Cold, damp and cloudy weather had given way to brilliant sunshine.

So while I stopped to organise my luggage I took a photo of the trains in the station. My train was a combination of two trainsets – I’d been in the rear one and here on the right is the front one.

To the left is one of the Bombardier units that works the service between Rennes and Caen and on which I’ve travelled a couple of times going to Coutances and St-Lô.

So into the heat I set off. Not down through the Parc de Val es Fleurs because I couldn’t manage the suitcase down the steps. Instead I went down the Rue Couraye into town.

old cars renault 8 rue couraye granville france Eric HallAnd I’m glad that I did because once more I came across another old car.

And this one is a real old car as well – A Renault R8. This was the car that was launched in 1962 with the aim of replacing the famous Dauphine and stayed in production until 1973 in France, although the model continued to be built in other countries until as late as 1976.

One of my teachers, Mr Firth, at Primary School had one of these and that one must have been one of the very first right-hand drive ones to roll off the production line. He took me to play in a football match for our school, my only representative honour, in early 1965.

old cars renault 8 rue couraye granville france Eric HallAs I was taking a photo of the car, some tourist walked right in front of me and spoiled my photo. I had to retake it.

But the whole town was heaving with tourists, getting in everyone’s way. At one point I ran my suitcase over the foot of someone who was obstructing the pavement. They really get on my nerves.

The crawl up the hill in the Rue des Juifs was appalling and I had to stop several times to catch my breath. I felt every step of the way in this heat and I don’t want to be doing this again if it keeps on like this.

Taking the bus is a sign of defeat, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, but one of these days pretty soon I’m going to have to throw in the towel. All of this medication is killing me

marite victor hugo port de granville harbour france  Eric HallOne of the places where I stopped to catch my breath was at the viewpoint overlooking Marité‘s place in the harbour.

People were streaming on board so it looked as if she was about to go out for an evening sail as soon as the harbour gates opened. I wasn’t going to wait around. Once I’d recovered my breath I carried on up the hill.

Here at the apartment I collapsed in my chair and here I stayed for a couple of hours. And then I managed to find the energy to put away the cold food and to drink the coffee that was in my “Adventure Canada” thermos flask. Still quite warm despite having been made over 12 hours.

Tea tonight was out of a tin, and then I came in here to write up my notes. And now I’m off to bed. I’m exhausted, I really am, and it’s just as well that I’m having a lie-in tomorrow. I need it.

Saturday 19th June 2021 – THERE WEREN’T ANY ..

… thunderstorms or lightning or anything like that during the night so once I dropped off to sleep (which wasn’t all that easy) I slept right the way through until the alarm went off at 05:00.

Although I did manage to crawl out of bed pretty smartish, it wasn’t easy and how I wished that I could have stayed in bed until a much more reasonable time – but that’s for tomorrow. There are plenty of things that I have to be doing today.

Firstly I had to pack. And then I had breakfast. There were some pineapple slices and some of the mango sorbet left and it was a shame to waste them. It’s not everyone who can have that for breakfast and I don’t suppose that I would like it on a regular basis.

Making my butties was next, and then the washing up, and finally emptying the fridge. And to my surprise all of that took just 40 minutes.

automotrice Am96 multiple unit gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallI arrived at the station in time for the 06:09 to De Panne. We’ve travelled on this train before when it’s been composed of decrepit and derelict AM80 automotrice multiple units but today we’re in luck. It’s a more modern AM96 unit.

These are the trains that have bellows at the front which make a perfect seal when a couple of trainsets are coupled togather. And in those circumstances the drivers cabs at the connecting ends swivel round out of the way

We cleared off bang on time for Brussels as I settled down in a seat right at the front of the train set. And for a change, I had my ticket checked. I think that in all the years that I’ve been travelling from Brussels to Leuven this week has been the first time that my ticket has been checked on both the outbound and the inbound journey.

We pulled into Brussels bang on time as well which is always nice. half an hour or so before my TGV is due to depart and to my surprise it was already called on the departure board, so I headed off to platform 5B

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4520 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallAnd as you might expect, it’s one of the TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt trainsets, known as the PBA (for Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam) trainsets. And the fact that it’s parked so far down the station platform suggests that a second trainset is going to come in from Amsterdam and couple up behind it.

The doors were open too so we could all swarm aboard and find our seats. The train was quite crowded and I had a neighbour. Life is clearly returning to normal after the Covid pandemic although whether this is too early is a matter of debate.

During the journey I was tidying up a few things on the computer with regard to the music and the time passed quite quickly. I hardly noticed the journey and we pulled into Lille Europe much sooner than I expected.

There was the usual scramble across the city as we headed to Lille Flandres and I still can’t understand why they don’t run the Paris TGVs into Lille Europe

TGV Reseau Duplex 209 gare de lille flandres France Eric HallThey don’t allow you too much time to struggle across the city, and when I arrived at the railway station the train was already there.

While I was sorting out my E-ticket on the app on my telephone I took a photo of my train. It’s one of the TGV Reseau Duplex sets – the double-decker TGVs that work the railway line. Proper high-capacity trains of the type that the UK should have had.

The loading gauge of British railways has to be one of the most restrictive of standard-gauge railways but starting in the 1960s when they began to electrify the main lines and they had to raise all of the heights of the bridges and bore out the tunnels so that the overhead cables can pass, the short-sightedness and penny-pinching of the British Government Treasury missed a trick here to do the job properly and raise the heights so that they can run double deck trains.

The railways in the UK have been plagued by a lack of capacity since the Beeching cuts that closed down most of the duplicate routes and they aren’t ever going to resolve the problem unless they bite the bullet and do the job properly.

TGV Reseau Duplex 215 gare de lille flandres France Eric HallBut meantime, back to our story. my train consists of two trainsets coupled together and it goes without saying that I’m in the far one.

Not that it’s a problem because in fact it means that I have less distance to walk at the other end. It’s another one of the double-decker trainsets and I’m in the lower deck. Once more the train is crowded and I have a neighbour. But that doesn’t stop me carrying on with the stuff that I had to do.

When we arrived in the Gare du Nord in Paris, I found the station heaving. It seems that everyone is getting back to normal which is a shame. The Metro was quite crowded and I had to stand all the way to the station at Gare Montparnasse.

84576 gec alstom regiolis gare de montparnasse paris France Eric HallThere was about 45 minutes before my train was due to depart. There was only one “Normandy” train that was at the platform so I had a good guess that this one may well be the train for which I’m waiting.

When I was here last time I found a collection of seats near the platform so I bought myself a coffee from the machine nearby and took up position there where I can keep an eye on the train. I could actually see the departure board from where I’m sitting so I kept an eye on that as well.

Fifteen minutes before the train was due to depart the platform number flashed up on the main screen and on the departure board by the platform. I was right about the train and so I didn’t have too far to walk to board the train.

Well, I did actually because this is another train consisting of two trainsets and once more I was down in the far one. But then again, it means that I don’t have to walk so far at the other end.

Once more I had a neighbour, but only as far as L’Aigle, and for the rest of the journey I was on my own. I could eat my sandwiches in peace and work quietly.

The lady opposite me across the corridor was reading a book entitled “Ceux Qui S’aiment Finissent Toujours Par Se Retrouver” – Those who love each other always end up finding each other – and that brought back a few memories of the beginning of September 2019 and one of these days I might actually write up those pages that are missing from my blog.

gec alstom regiolis bombardier multiple units gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallWhen we arrived at Granville Railway station I took a photo of my train. Unfortunately I can’t remember the number and there are too many people obscuring the front where the number is displayed.

But today we have a full house of trains in the station. Here at Granville we also have trains that come into here that are travelling between Caen and Rennes. They are both in here today – on the left is the train to Caen and in the centre is the train to Rennes. They are both Bombardier trainsets.

But where has the hot weather gone? When I left here we were in a heatwave but now I’ve had to put on my fleece. And off I went down the steps into the Parc de Val Es Fleurs and into the town centre.

new entrance into car park rue des moulins Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallNow this is quite new, isn’t it?

When we left Granville on Wednesday morning there were a few guys with a digger and a lorry diffing out part of the flower bed and the road in the rue des Moulins. While I’ve been away they seen to have made a new entrance into the car park here and I’m not sure why they have done that because there seem to be several good entrances already.

This is another one of those things on which we’ll have to keep an eye and see how things develop because I’m sure that they wouldn’t have done this without a good reason.

It was a long hard road back to the apartment and I wasn’t looking forward to the climb up the Rue des Juifs.

swimming pool port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt looks as if we are going to be having a visit from Normandy Trader within the course of the next few days.

Halfway up the hill I had to stop for breath (having already stopped a couple of times beforehand) at the viewpoint overlooking the loading bay in the inner harbour. Marité isn’t in port but what I did notice on the quayside was the swimming pool.

What makes me say that Normandy Trader will be in port soon is that I know that she has the contract with the company that manufactures the swimming pools for transporting them over to the Channel Islands whenever anyone from the Channel Islands orders one, and they won’t leave then around on the quayside risking damage for too long.

big wheel eglise st paul port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallSomething else of interest that relates to another photo that I took as I was leaving the town was the Big Wheel.

It always arrives in the town and is erected in the Place Albert Godal for the months of July and August and we saw them erecting it. I mentioned at the time that it will probably be working when I returned and I was right about that too because it was going round this afternoon as I walked home.

As Barry Hay once said, “One thing that I have to tell you, and that is that it’s good to be back home” and he was right. I staggered into the apartment and dumped my stuff on the floor. Once I’d but the cool stuff into the fridge I came in here and collapsed into my chair.

During the course of the afternoon I did a little work. There were some notes on the dictaphone so I must have been off on a voyage during the night. It was my last week or so at work. I’d taken all of my files and all of my cases and everything into a quiet corner downstairs into an empty room. I’d been working through them to bring everything up to date before I left. One morning when I walked in, it was full of people. There were 4 coats on my chair so I asked “whose are these”? One guy who was hoovering up said that it was his. The other one belonged to some old woman. She said “Oh I thought that these places were free”. We sat down and had this lecture and I didn’t really want to attend. I wanted to get up to date so that I could leave. He was talking about something and it was to do with people who were going on treks, like pilgrimages in the Middle Ages. They were talking about how they would protect themselves from bandits etc. There was someone who could fire an arrow the length of a day’s march of an ordinary person. Someone pointed out that on page such-and-such it was quoted as being 18 miles. I had a look on that page and there was nothing like that at all. Then we all had to go off to another lesson. There was a guy trying to do something with some music but it was a total failure – he couldn’t get this music to work. His wife who had been doing the washing in the basement appeared on the scene. She made some remarks about him not being able to do it. Then it was the end of class and everyone was going home. Someone was wondering what the weather was like outside.

There was much more than this as well but as you are probably eating your meal right now so I’ll spare you the gory details.

A little later I crashed out for a couple of hours and I can’t say that I’m surprised.

Tea was out of a tin followed by apple pie and sorbet out of the freezer. And now I’m off to bed. I’m exhausted. A good sleep and a good lie in will do me the world of good so just watch someone come in and spoil it.

Monday 31st May 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow, but sitting on my seat in the office in the comfort and security of my own home. And am I glad to be back after all of this?

Blasted out of bed at 05:00 by the alarm, I’d made a coffee, filled the flask, made my butties, packed my bags and cleaned the digs by 05:30 and I was ready to roll. But it was far too early because I didn’t want to loiter about on the draughty Brussels Midi station so I relaxed for a while

At about 05:55 I hit the streets and walked off down to the station. And I’m not used to it being so bright so early.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will remember the Martelarenplein – the Martyr’s Square – just outside the railway station.

A lot has been said, mainly by me, of the pedestrian pace at which Belgian (and French) builders seem to work. Much of that is reflected in what’s going on here. It’s been under repair for a good couple of years and by the looks of things they are still a long way from finishing it.

Surprisingly I was on the station for just after 06:10 which meant that I had the choice of a couple of trains that were running earlier than the one that I intended to catch, and that’s always good news.

1904 class 18 electric sncb locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric HallThe train that I caught was the 06:19 to Oostende and that is my favourite choice of train if I’m ever allowed to choose.

It’s a rake of double-deck coaches pulled by one of the top-line electric locomotives of the SNCB stable, and I’m not disappointed. Despite its number, this is one of the Class 18 locomotives built by Siemens between 2009 and 2011. There are 120 of these locomotives in total and they have displaced almost every other type of electric locomotive from front-line duties, although we’ve ridden on a few others just recently.

There was a lady ticket inspector and she seemed to be quite satisfied that I’d correctly installed the SNCB app on my mobile phone and displayed the ticket correctly. I’m making great strides with this technology stuff, aren’t I?

The train pulled into Bruxelles Midi bang on time and to my surprise my train was actually indicated on the departures board. So I went up to the platform and there was a TGV already there. Not mine though. This one was going to Marseilles. Mine would be a-cumen in once this one had cleared off, so an attendant told me.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4539 gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric HallShe wasn’t wrong either. About 10 minutes later our train did indeed pull in.

It’s one of the TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt trainsets, the PBA (Paris Brussels Amsterdam) sets that we have occasionally, and the fact that it’s pulled up so far down the platform seems to suggest that there will be a train set coming from Amsterdam that will be coupled up at the back.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we saw them coupling up on another occasion that we were here just recently.

The train was actually quite empty and we all had plenty of room to spread out which was nice. I could get on with some work. And once more, the electronic ticket on the SNCF app that I presented to the inspector passed muster too.

And to my surprise, I passed muster at the Paris Gare du Nord Railway station as well. The gendarmette who inspected my Covid declaration from the hospital and my carte de sejour and waved me through without comment can detain me for further questioning any time she likes.

The metro was crowded – it seems as if despite the President’s entreaties, France has gone back to work. The casualty figures show me that this virus is very far from being beaten here and it’s all going to end in tears.

84556 gec alstom regiolis bb7200 507219 nez casse gare montparnasse paris france Eric HallAt the Gare Montparnasse what I reckoned would be my train was already in. It was the only Normandy train in sight.

Parked next to it is one of the BB7200 class of electric locomotives, the nez cassés or “broken noses” of the SNCF railway system. These, and their half-brothers used to be the mainstays of the high-speed long-distance SNCF railway network but now they are used for less glamorous purposes since the arrival of the TGVs.

It’s a long walk from the metro station to the railway station (they moved the railway station so that they could build the Tour Montparnasse on its site) and so I was exhausted. But I found some more seats that I hadn’t noticed before and one of them was vacant so I could sit in peace.

It is indeed my train – the back half of it in fact because it’s 2 trainsets coupled together. And I’m sitting in the rear trainset. The train is busy but I could still have a pair of seats all to myself which pleased me greatly.

And here’s a surprising thing. The ticket collector came up to me and instead of asking to see my ticket he asked “what’s your date of birth?”. So I replied and he said “bon voyage, Monsieur Hall”. This SNCF app clearly does more than it lets on that it does.

In the past that kind of thing would have bothered me greatly but everyone’s privacy has long since been eroded away. 30 years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing like I do but the authorities know where I am and what I’m doing no matter how hard I try to disguise it

84559 gec alstom regiolis Bombardier B82790 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallWe pulled into the railway station bang on time too and found ourselves parked up next to one of the Bombardier trainsets that works the Caen-Rennes line. At least I could photograph the front trainset from here

It had been a pleasant journey and to my surprise, despite the 05:00 start I’d only dozed off for about 10 minutes. But I’d only had some hot coffee, not anything cool to drink, with me and so having set out at that time, I now had a thirst that you could photograph.

That was what I would call rather bad planning, but seriously, you’ve no idea how much stuff I usually have to bring back and I simply couldn’t carry any more. I had quite a job carrying this lot.

Going down the steps to the Parc de Val es Fleurs was okay but even on the flat I was struggling. I wasn’t looking forward to the hill up to my place. But I cheered up watching a grockle try to park his motor home in a completely empty car park. I really don’t understand some of these people.

water leak rue des juifs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAt the foot of the Rue des Juifs there were temporary traffic lights and water all over the place. It looks as if there has been a burst pipe.

But surprisingly, despite the emergency and the big hole and the traffic lights and the vans, there wasn’t a single workmen (and not a married one either) about anywhere. It was about 14:15 so they all should be back at work after lunch.

The hill up the Rue de Juifs was not something to which I was looking forward. It’s pretty steep at the best of times and here I was, loaded up, not in the best of health, and I’d had an emergency operation a week or so ago and the stitches were still in.

But I shan’t get home just standing here looking at it. There’s no other solution but to press on.

people playing bowls bar ephemere place pleville pelley Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt’s most unlike me, I know, but I had to make several stops on the way up to catch my breath.

One of these stops was looking over to the Place Pelley where they usually play boules. There’s quite a crowd down there right now, presumably also taking advantage of the bar ephemere, the temporary bar in the shipping container that comes here in the summer and which we saw them unpacking a couple of weeks ago.

If I had had any sense I’d have come home that way and stopped off for a cold drink but I was in a hurry to go home. I took a deep breath, girded up my loins and continued on my weary way back homeward.

builders compound place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAnd what’s going on here then?

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we have seen over the past few weeks a corner of the car park of one of the other building in the Place d’Armes used as a builders compound but they all cleared off just before I came away and left the place empty.

But it seems that there is some more work going on somewhere presumably in the old walled city and they have set up the compound again. I see that I shall have to go for a walk out that way one of these days and have a good look to see what’s going on, and where.

You’ve no idea the size of the sigh of relief that I emitted when I sat down in my chair in the office, back home. It’s been a long hard slog in the 12 days since I was last here and I don’t want to have to go through all of that again. I transferred the files over and merged everything in – that’s the limit of the work that I did.

And despite the short night, I did actually manage to go off on a couple of nocturnal rambles here and there. And more than just a few too. I’m surprised that I kept going for as long as I did today.

First off was about a boy who lived just up the street from me when I was a kid. Last night he got divorced. I’d forgotten to tell everyone on the day but about a day or so later I remembered it. Anyway we were sitting around the table at lunch ansd he came along with his ex-wife and sat down at our usual table. A couple of other people who were usually there picked up their knives and forks to go away and he sent some kind of scathing comment after them. Of course I didn’t say anything at all. He looked at me and started talking to me about how well I knew Sandbach. I said “yes, I knew it quite well”. He asked “enough to take me somewhere tonight?”. I replied “yes”. So he mentioned a street called Volunteer Avenue (that’s in Nantwich by the way, not in Sandbach). “Do you know where that is?”. I said “yes” so he added “you can take me there and there’s a lot of money in it for you” – something to do with jewellery. He said “we have to leave at 04:00”. That was a bit inconvenient for me but I’d go because I don’t believe this story about money than anyone else. So I leased some sort of dummy office and fitted some kind of dummy recorder because I expected some kind of strange visit. While I was out fetching a coffee and people were talking to me a girl who I’d known and I knew her very well too (and I wish I’d remembered who she was) just walked up to my office as if she was going in. I thought “what on earth is happening here?”. She saw me so I said “what are you doing here?”. She replied “I’ve come to see if such-and-such an office is convenient for me and my boss”. “Really?3 I asked. “Why don’t you go in and have a look?”. “I can’t” she replied. “I don’t have the keys. It says that it’s locked for painting”. So I asked “why did you come here if it was locked for painting?”. She stammered some kind of silly answer at that point and I thought “yes, this is all just so crazy”.

Next up, I was in an office somewhere. I was overhearing a conversation from another desk about a woman who was trying to arrange some kind of exchange visit with a Government department in Germany about tourism. My ears pricked up and I said that I would be extremely interested in that. This woman looked at me with a puzzled look on her face. She had a little chat with me while she was having a chat with this other person. When she’d hung up on this other person she said ‘here’s my number” and it began with 5 zeroes, not 0049 as you would expect, and then a couple of other numbers “and I’m on extension 37 at the moment but this afternoon I’ll be on extension 38. Why don’t you give me a ring?”. So I asked her name and said “yes, OK”. I don’t think that my employers would agree to it but it was still an interesting thing to overhear.

Later on we were a group of impresarios organising musicians and dancers and all that sort of thing for different concerts all over the place. Roxanne was there and I told her a joke about Aunt Mary – Aunt Mary had died and it was actually quite funny but the answer to this was silence, which was one thing that no-one would ever have got. Roxanne delighted in telling it to everyone. We were trying to get this act together with these 3 or 4 dancers and so on. Roxanne told this joke to TOTGA but she didn’t understand it. There was something about ballet in it and I surprised TOTGA and Roxanne by actually being able to do these ballet steps without even thinking about it

Tea was burger and pasta followed by chocolate sponge (to my surprise it’s sill good) and coconut soya dessert.

And now having written my notes, I’m off to bed. And quite right too. I’m absolutely whacked. Tomorrow is Welsh lesson and then I have to look at these hospital appointments and condense the timescale because I have no intention of being away for another 12 days, that’s for sure. I can’t keep on going like this.

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.

Wednesday 21st April 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not stting in a rainbow but sitting in my little room in the back end of Leuven, comfortably installed as usual.

When the alarm went off at 04:25 I fell out of bed, fully-dressed because I was taking no chances last night and set about organising myself, making sandwiches, a flask of coffee, checking the packing and steam-cleaning the toilet which was in something of a deplorable condition (I’m letting the housework fall behind again unfortunately while I battle with other things).

Bang on 05:10 I it the streets and headed off to the station. In the pitch-black too as most of the street-lighting was out and I had one or two narrow scrapes, putting my feet on steps that weren’t there, that kind of thing.

82645 82790 Bombardier B82500 gare de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallWhen I arrived at the railway station, I was early and my train hadn’t yet arrived but there were some others in.

There were a couple of other trains there at the platform waiting for what I really don’t know. These are Bombardier B82500 multiple units and part of the huge modernisation plan of the SNCF over the last 10 or so years. From Granville they usually work the route between Caen and Rennes

When you hear people complaining about the filthy, unreliable trains of the SNCF you can tell that they haven’t set foot on a train in France for the last 15 years at least. There has been much more investment in French railways than in the UK for a start.

84565 GEC Alstom Regiolis gare de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAbout 5 minutes after I arrived, my train pulled into the station. It’s one of the usual GEC Alstom Regiolis trains introduced over the last 5 years or so, just in time for me.

This one is 84565 and it must be based here in Granville because I’ve travelled on it on several occasions. There was only 1 unit of 6 carriages and despite it being the only train of the day to Paris it was quite empty.

On the way into Paris I spent the time of the journey going through the computer and sorting out the music, and then going through and attacking a few of the duplicate files that have accumulated on various hard drives.

We arrived in Paris bang on time. The station wasn’t all that busy and I managed not to fall over today. I was quickly onto the Metro and reached the Gare du Nord with plenty of time to spare before my train left. So much so that they hadn’t even affixed the platform number and I had to wait for that.

213 TGV Reseau Duplex gare du nord paris France Eric HallOnce they posted up the platform details I could go off and look for my train.

Once again, it’s one of the “Reseau Duplex” trains that work the like from Paris to Lille Flandres. A double-decker, which shows just how far ahead Continental thinking is of British thinking, and I’m on the upstairs deck in corridor seat.

The train was pretty full this afternoon too. There’s a neighbour too in the adjacent seat but he had nothing to say for himself. And neither did I because, unsurprisingly, I fell asleep for part of the journey and the ticket collector had to awaken me.

The ticket collector gave me some good news too. The validity of my Senior Citizens’ Railcard has been extended by three months to make up for the disruption to travel.

But bang on time yet again we arrived at Lille Flandres railway station and I had to set off for my trek to Lille Europe and the TGV to Brussels.

sculpture place francois mitterand outside gare de lille europe France Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve seen plenty of weird and wonderful things on our travels.

In front of the Lille Europe railway station is the Place Francois Mitterand, named after the Socialist politician who, despite anything that General de Gaulle’s partisan supporters will tell you, was the longest-serving President in French history.

It’s a dreary, desolate, windswept place with little to relieve the monotony. For that reason they sometimes decorate the Square with all kinds of weird and wonderful artefacts, and today it’s the turn of these rather interesting artificial flowers to relieve the monotony.

But I didn’t hang around long to admire them. I had other fish to fry.

4515 TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt gare de lille europe France Eric HallWhen I arrived at the railway station at Lille Europe, I found that my train was already in at the platform even though there was 25 minutes before it was due to leave.

There’s no time like the present, so I wandered down to the front of the train to take a photo. It’s a rather weather-beaten and weary TGV Reseau 38000, the same models as the Thalys PBA (Paris Brussels Amsterdam) trainsets on which we travel occasionally from Brussels back to Paris.

Having taken my photograph I went and found my seat. The train is again a “short” one, just one unit of 8 coaches instead of the usual 2-unit trains. And although it was busy, there was enough room for most people to sit by themselves.

Arriving once more on time, I went to look for my train to Leuven.

nederlandse spoorwegen class e186 locomotive 9184 1186 003 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThere was a few minutes to wait so I could have a look around and see what was going on at the adjacent platforms. Just across the way was this Nederlandse Spoorwegen trainset doing the run from Brussels to Amsterdam.

These are some comparatively old-style carriages with a modern class E186 electric locomotive at each end in a kind of push-me pull you arrangement. The locomotives are built by Bombardier and are based on the TRAXX designs that were developed for the Deutsche Bahn 20 years ago.

Even though the Nederlandse Spoorwegen units are quite modern, they may not be around for much longer. Word on the streets suggests that the Dutch are working on some high-speed multiple-unit train sets. These will be sold back to the leasing company who will redistribute them around other railway networks that use this type.

320 am 80 multiple unit gare du midi brusseks belgium Eric HallThere was just enough time to photograph the Dutch train before my train to Leuven pulled in.

It’s another one of the rather disreputable AM80 multiple unit sets – 40 years old and covered in graffiti. Old vinyl seats and lino on the floor.

But considering their age and what appears to be their general lack of care and attention they still rack up the miles on a lot of long-distance work that would have seen off many a more modern unit

The train was pretty busy too but again I was lucky to to have a seat to myself. And we arrived in Leuven without any inconvenience at all.

To my delight, my key was already in the safe so by 13:30 I was sitting down in comfort on the sofa eating my butties. And then I dozed off for half an hour. And I didn’t regret it at all after my exertions today.

fire damaged house dekenstraat leuven belgium Eric Halllater on I nipped out to the shops, but I didn’t get too far – in fact a house next-door but one to the complex where I stay.

There’s been a fire here, as you can see, and the building is boarded up. Nevertheless you can see the scorching on the brickwork above the door and the windows. It must have been quite a serious blaze.

The sign affixed to the wall next to the door states “declared uninhabitable since 26th March 2021” an I wonder if that’s because of the fire, or whether the fire is as a result of the property being declared uninhabitable.

So musing on that, I carried on my way towards the shops.

house rebuilding dekenstraat leuven belgium Eric HallOf course I had to pause to take a look at the house at the end of the street here.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I have passed a considerable amount of comment on the slow rate of the various projects that are being undertaken here and there around the city. And despite the time that this building has taken to be renovated, it’s still not finished.

It beats me what takes the time with all of this work. They used to build railway lines in far less time than this with just picks and shovels. I shudder to think of how they are proceeding with the demolition of Sint Pieters or the refurbishment of the Monseigneur Vanwaeyenberghlaan.

crowds st donatuspark leuven belgium Eric HallMy route took me past the St Donatus Park, one of my favourite places in the city.

One of the things that I like to do is to go in there for a wander around but this evening wasn’t quite so pleasant because I could hear the noise from a couple of streets away. I knew that it was going to be busy, and not just with inflatable figures either.

And sure enough, there were hordes of people making the most of the warn evening weather. Not much social distancing and even fewer masks too. It looks as if Belgium has suspended many of the health rules relating to the Corona virus. I wonder if they will end up regretting that.

medieval city walls crowds st donatuspark leuven belgium Eric HallWhile I was here, I took a photo of the crowds from this angle.

One of the things that I like about this park is the fact that there are several remains of the old city walls here. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve seen quite a few photos of them, but we haven’t ever seen a photo of them from this angle.

The gate at the far end was closed so I had to retrace my steps to leave the park. My route to the supermarket thus took me down the street and the short cut through the old Beguingage.

My luck was in when I was there. There were several vegan burgers and the like reduced by 50% for a quick sale so I bought a couple of packs to eat while I’m here. IN fact, I ended up spending rather a lot of money today.

road junction naamsestraat naamsevest under repair leuven belgium Eric HallOn the way back I went to look at the roadworks taking place at the junction of the Naamsestraat and the ring road.

When I was here last month they were already attacking it, and I suppose I was being rather optimistic to think that they might possibly have finished. The place is in quite a mess with all kinds of confusion with various side streets and pedestrian crossings closed off.

It took me a good while to find out where to cross. And then I had to fight my way through the hordes of pedestrians, cyclists and moped riders battling for the same amount of restricted space and I was nearly run down a couple of times. But lugging my heavy load on my shoulders I finally made it across.

ambulance Erasme Ruelensvest leuven belgium Eric HallWhile I was on my way home from the Carrefour I’d seen fleets of ambulances with their blue lights flashing, roaring down the road.

And a few minutes later they cam roaring back, still with their blue lights flashing. But where they are going on the return journey I really don’t know because the hospital is in the other direction.

Back here I made tea. Burger with pasta and veg in tomato sauce, followed by apricots (once I’d fought my way into the tin). And having written out my notes, I’m now off to bed. I’ve had a very long day and I’m exhausted. There’s plenty to do tomorrow before I go to the hospital too so I need my beauty sleep.

Need it more than most people in fact, and for the obvious reason too.

So much so in fact that it was a couple of days before I managed to listen to the dictaphone to see if I’d been anywhere during the night. Someone had died in a log cabin and I was investigating this with someone. We found a group of people and it was quite obvious that the story that they were telling us was false so we urged one of these guys, telling him that telling a false story was likely to be very dangerous because if we could prove that it was false it would discredit the rest of his story and he would end up being hanged. In the end he agreed that he had fired the shot as he had entered the room but fired into the darkness and gave a few other indications that admitted that he was perfectly correct in what he’d said, and whoever had killed him had been in there beforehand and they were making their escape when he and his party pulled up.

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.

Tuesday 10th December 2019 – I HAVE OFTEN SAID …

“and you’ll say more often too” – ed … that it is really nice to speak to people, especially friends. And that friends always come first before almost everything.

So despite the amount of work that I have to do and how much of it is piling up and how I decided that I would crack on and have a really good whack at some of the outstanding backlog, then spending … errr … 2 hours 16 minutes and 34 seconds instead talking to Rosemary on the telephone was nevertheless quite enjoyable, even if it isn’t getting the baby bathed.

Not that I’m complaining. Far from it in fact … “perish the thought” – ed … but I seem to be going one pace forward and ending up two paces backwards right now.

Last night was another late-ish night as I was working on project 005 and trying to sort out the mess that I’d made of the vocals. But seeing as I was getting nowhere, in the end I finally gave up and went to bed.

Not much time in bed last night – probably not more than four hours in the end, but still time to go on a voyage of some description. I was out and about being placed into a group of people for some reason or other. They were going through the names of the groups and there was one group with a name like Anvil Brown and the Red Shoes, something like that. I knew that there was a girl in charge of this group and running it so I immedately opted to go into this particular one. I went over to see her to present myself and it was at that point that I awoke.
Back asleep, a little late I was doing some photography with a group of young girls. I was wanting to do it my way instead of the way that some interfering busybody was trying to have me do it and which was totally wrong in my opinion, but I awoke pretty smartly there too so I’ll never know how that one ended either.
But strangely, these are two other circumstances in which I can see parallels with actual events, and it’s rather worrying.

Not so worrying that it’s disturbing my sleeping and waking patterns though. I managed to struggle out of bed before the third alarm and deal with the medication issues followed by breakfast, and then I attacked the vocals for my project.

In the end I gave it up as a hopeless task and re-dictated them. And with a little judicious “cut and paste” I was able to make some kind of progress. It took ages though before it finished and I do have to say that I learnt quite a lot while I was doing it.

There was an interruption though from a text message. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I had a message yesterday evening telling me that my train for Thursday had been cancelled due to industrial action. And so I booked a seat on the bus last night. And so today I had a message to say that my train has now been restored, as you might expect.

There was just about enough time for me to have a shower and clean up before heading to town. And HOORAY!!!! I’ve reached my target weight – a weight that I never thought that I would ever see again. But I’m not going to stop. I’ll keep on pushing my fitness regime. 12 kilos in 5 months means that in about 33 months I’ll be gone completely.

At the Grand Café I met this musician guy who showed me his songs. Luckily there are no glaring errors like in Alquin’s Mountain Queen where Dirk Franssen invites a girl to his house to “see the Morning Glory”, although I did reckon that he should change “the Poles are melting” to “the Ice is melting” in one of his songs. After all, Poland has a tough enough time as it is.

bombardier b82500 gare de granville railway station manche normandy franceFor my trouble I was given a coffee and a CD of this guy’s band, and from there I walked up to the railway station to chat to the clerk about the trains.

I had to wait half an hour for her to come back from lunch, so that gave me plenty of time to have a nosy around the station to see what was going on. And the short answer was “nothing”. There wasn’t a soul about and the train that does the route Caen – Granville – Rennes, a Bombardier B82500, was parked up and abandoned.

Something similar to the Marie Celeste, I reckoned.

alstom regiolis parked up on strike gare de granville railway station manche normandy franceGranville is also home to several of the GEC Alstom Regiolis trains too – the ones that perform the service between Granville and paris and on which I travel.

But they were all down there parked up in the sidings and slearly had no intention whatever of moving today either. This strike looks pretty much complete.

Eventually the girl in the ticket booth came back. And when she did, she knew even less than I did. “We won’t know until tomorrow” she said.
“What time?” asked our hero.
“After 17:00” she said. So that’s a lot of help then, isn’t it?

La Mie Caline for the dejeunette was next, and then the doctor’s. It pays to be on the good side of your doctor because when I asked him about a prescription for a ‘flu jab, “ohh, I’ve got some stuff here” and gave it to me on the spot.

normandy trader port de granville harbour manche normandy franceOn my way down into town I’d noticed that Normandy Trader was in the harbour again.

I was pushed for time (as usual) just then but now I don’t have anything particular organised for the rest of the day so I went to pay a courtesy call.

But I didn’t have very much success at all. I shouted and shouted but there was no answer and so seeing as it’s inappropriate to go on board without an invitation, I wandered off and I’ll go back down there again in early course.

aztec lady spirit of conrad chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy franceAlthough the weather was failrly miserable, I decided to come the long way home all the way round the Pointe du Roc.

That route would take me past the chantier navale that we had seen in the dark last night and I could see how things were doing in there. As we can see, Aztec Lady is there in the foreground and in the background behind it we have Spirit of Conrad.

Both of them are still there receiving attention although there doesn’t seem to be anyone about down there just now.

la grande ancre storm baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy franceFrom higher up the hill we can see just how rough the seas are this afternoon.

There’s quite a heavy sea out there right now and La Grande Ancre – for I’m sure that it is she – has a battle on her hands as she fights her way across the baie de Mont St Michel towards the harbour.

And you can see how the weather has closed in across the bay at St Pair sur Mer

For a change just recently, I managed to make it home without falling over. I wonder where it all went wrong yesterday.

The first part of the afternoon after lunch was spent working on this teaser for this project of mine. That’s all done and dusted now and you can hear it here.

storm high winds waves sea wall port de granville harbour manche normandy franceThat led up to my afternoon walk time in the rain and the wicked wind. This storm that we’re having is blasting just about everything that gets in its way.

The tide is still quite a way out but even so you can see the mess that it’s making of the sea wall down here. Imagine what it must be like at high tide when the waves are at the peak of their force.

I wouldn’t want to be standing right there at that particular moment, that’s for sure.

seagull granville manche normandy franceRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that my photos are being constantly photo-bombed by the flocks of the feathered and flying creatures that live around here.

While I was admiring the scenery, another one came flying by right in the area where I didn’t want it to be so in order to humour the bird I took a photo of it with nothing else in the image at all.

Now perhaps it will go away and leave me alone to get on and do other things

fishing boats unloading port de granville harbour manche normandy franceAlthough the tide wasn’t right in, there was still enough of it in for the fishing boats to be able to tie up at the quay by the fish processing plant to unload their catch. It was quite useful to dredge out a little channel there so that the boats would have more time.

The cranses up on top are working full-tilt winching up the catch to the processing plant and to the large commercial vehicles that will take the catch off to market somewhere.

But underneath where the private and small-scale operators unload their catch, they are quite busy too. In fact, it’s a very busy port with a lot of fishing activity going on.

Mind you, it must have been a magnificent sight down there 50 years ago with all of the deep-sea trawlers that went out to the Grand Banks, and the working railway line down to the port and the trains that took the catch away.

Apart from that there wasn’t a lot going on, although I did have to give directions to a passing motorist and then I came back here.

One of the things that I’m doing is to work on a live project for 27th December, so I made a start. And despite it being in theory quite straightforward, it wasn’t ‘arf complicated because the raw material that I had to work with was full of holes. You’ve no idea the lengths to which I had to go to in order to make some reasonable patches, but in the end it sounds something like a live project – all 56 minutes and 4 seconds of it, so I need just under 4 minutes of talking. That will be a challenge.

Tea was the leftovers from Sunday evening, with a few oven chips to lengthen it out. Totally delicious it was too

donville les bains night granville manche normandy franceWhen I went out for my walk later in the evening, I noticed that there had been a change in the wind outside this evening. It had gone from being ridiculous to violent.

At times it was a real struggle to make any headway, so I didn’t hang about outside for too long. Just long enough to take a couple of photos including this one of Donville-les-Bains in the dark with that big floodlight thing shining away in the background.

But despite the wind I did my lap around as usual, even managing the full length of my run, and into a headwind too. Even I was impressed with that.

Rosemary rang me as soon as I returned home and now having updated my notes, I’m off to bed. All that I had planned to do this evening, well, it’ll have to be done some other time.

Story of my life, I suppose.

storm waves on rocks granville manche normandy france
storm waves on rocks granville manche normandy france

fog at sea english channel fishing boat granville manche normandy france
fog at sea english channel fishing boat granville manche normandy france

storm high winds waves sea wall port de granville harbour manche normandy france
storm high winds waves sea wall port de granville harbour manche normandy france

normandy trader port de granville harbour manche normandy france
normandy trader port de granville harbour manche normandy france

fishing boats unloading port de granville harbour manche normandy france
fishing boats unloading port de granville harbour manche normandy france

donville les bains night granville manche normandy france
donville les bains night granville manche normandy france

christmas lights place cambernon granville manche normandy france
christmas lights place cambernon granville manche normandy france

Monday 17th June 2019 – I’VE HAD A NICE …

… day out today.

Sitting in the sunshine on the edge of a flower pot outside a supermarket eating a baguette and tomato, it reminded me of the summer in 1977 that I spent hitch-hiking around Brittany.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, is it?

Last night I went to bed rather later than I hoped. And despite turning over in bed a couple of times I slept right through to the alarm.

And it is another occasion where whatever I had been doing during the night was simply wiped out of my memory the moment the alarm went off, before I even had chance to grab the dictaphone. I do however have some kind of vague memory of being depressed about the nominations for “Sports person of the year” for a Nabisco breakfast cereal competition, thinking that as far as I was concerned, never mind who might be likely to win, the best names were missing off the list.

With an early start, I had an early breakfast and then dealt with a mass of files off the dictaphone. We’re now down to 60 files – and once they are all done I’ll have to update the blog to include the entries that I missed.

repairing medieval city walls granville manche normandy franceAfter a shower (I need to look pretty) I headed off up the road for the station and the train.

I was interrupted on the way down the hill though because they were cracking on with repairing the city walls and I thought that I’d stop and have a little look to see where they have got to.

Every day they are going further and further along the wall ripping out the loose stuff and building up. But nevertheless they are still quite a way behind schedule, according to the statutory notice on the protective fencing.

road works rue couraye granville manche normandy franceAnd of course that isn’t all of the construction work that was going on either.

There was a diversion in the rue Couraye, sending all of the traffic off down the back streets so I went on to investigate what was going on. It appears that they are digging up the street for some reason or other.

The street is paved with small granite setts and they were digging them up round by where there was a grid. It’s right opposite the reopened Credit Agricole so I’m awaiting news some time in the near future of a bold bank robberry

bombardier x 76500 gare de granville  railway station manche normandy franceEven though I was early, the train was earlier still and was at the platform.

It’s one of the Bombardier X-76500 series of trains – the backbone of the French rural rail network these days. New, comfortable and smooth. A far cry from the old rattling Pacers that run around as best they can on the UK’s ailing network.

The was quite crowded too. This route has only been open for a short while since the reinstated the curve near Folligny and it is clearly doing the business.

gare de coutances railway station manche normandy franceIt was a very pleasant ride out to Coutances this lunchtime. It only took the train 25 minutes to reach there.

My appointment isn’t until 14:20 so that gives me plenty of time to go for a look round. I started off at the railway station because I’d never been here before. It’s quieter now that it used to be because in the past there was a direct line to Cherbourg via La Haye du Puits but that closed down back in the 1970s.

Nowadays trains follow the remaining line towards Caen and passengers for Cherbourg change trains at Lison

war memorial coutances manche normandy franceOutside the station and down the road a few hundred metres is a monument to the dead of the First World War of the town.

There are quite a few names on the memorial, giving you some idea of how much the French suffered during that war. In total, 1,357,800 French soldiers lost their lives out of a total population of 41,415,000 in 1911. That’s one-thirtieth of the population. To put it even more into perspective, in 1911 the population of France was 41,415,000. in 1921, the population was 39,108,000 – a decrease of 2,307,000

There were a few casualties listed for the Second World War. That wasn’t as disastrous in casualty terms because once the British front in the North-East of France collapsed and the Germans got in behind the French armies, the end was pretty quick.

hospital lower town coutances manche normandy franceIf you were to look at a map of Coutances, you would see that the hospital is just outside the railway station.

But that doesn’t take into account the topography. The town is built on the top of a steep hill and the railway station is perched on the side. The hospital is actually 100 feet or so lower down the hill.

And in any case, I’m not going there.

calvary rue de regneville Rue Geoffroy de Montbray coutances manche normandy franceInstead, I headed off down the hill towards the rheumatology clinic.

Down at the junction of the rue de Regneville and the rue Geoffroy de Montbray is this really beautiful cross. You see pleny of crosses and calvaries at road junctions in France, but I’ve seen few that have been as impressive as this.

And that reminds me of a story I once heard about a competition for the design of a calvary. And due to a misunderstanding on the telephone, one sculptor sent in the plans for John Wayne on his horse.

old cars renault estafette coutances manche normandy franceIt’s been a whike since these pages have featured an old car. But that’s about to change;

Down near the bottom of the hill parked in a little yard was this beautiful little Renault Estafette.

Not the first one we’ve seen – we saw one around Granville a year or so ago. And had this been 30 years ago we would have seen them everywhere because they were the archetypical French medium-size vans used by inter alia the Police.

There’s a Carrefour supermarket at the bottom of the hill and although I could see it quite clearly, finding the entrance was quite something else. But eventually I was inside and furnished myself with a baguette, some tomatoes, some bananas and a bottle of water.

Outside, perched on the edge of a large flower pot in the sunshine, I ate my lunch as I mentioned above.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Coutances manche normandy franceWhen we were in Coutances 18 months ago we got to see something of the Cathedral.

From close to, it was impossible to have a reall good view of the entire building but from down here in St Pierre de Coutances the view is absolutely excellent. You can really have a good idea of the size of the building.

The cathedral dates from the 11th Century although it has been redesigned and rebuilt on a regular basis. It was built on the site of a church dating from the 5th Century that was destroyed in a Viking raid, and it’s quite possible that there was a religious establishment on the site before then

possible abandoned railway building st pierre de coutances manche normandy franceOn the way to the clinic, walking along the Granville road through St Pierre de Coutances, I passed a building that resembled very closely a railway building.

It had all of the style, architecture and patterns of other small railway buildings that I have already seen while I’ve been out and about on my travels.

I doubt very much that it was a railway station though because there are no “running in” notices on the side of the building, like you would expect to see in similar circumstances so I shall have to reserve judgement.

abandoned railway line st pierre de coutances manche normandy franceAnd as I was musing about all of this, I walked past a track that had every possible indication that you could wish that it might have at one time have been a railway.

It’s signposted as a walk out to the Pont de la Roque, the ruined bridge that’s a memorial to the Liberation of France out near the coast.

I’ve not as yet been able to trace any record of a railway line going out to there, but it certainly looks very “railway” to me.

rue du tram Pont de Soulles st pierre de coutances manche normandy franceFurthermore, I made another little discovery in this respect some time later.

On the way back, in the immediate vicinity but just around the corner in the Pont de Soulles, I discovered a street called rue du Tram.

And so I can see that I will have to be doing some more research into this, although I would have liked to see the tram that could have climbed up that bank without very much of a run-in.

railway viaduct Pont de Soulles st pierre de coutances manche normandy franceIt’s not only the bank that the tram would have had to negotiate, there’s a considerable disparity in altitude.

The road from which I took the photo of the rue du Tram passes underneath this enormous viaduct, over which passes the railway line on which I’ve just travelled from Granville to Coutances. If we assume that the terminus of the tram was near the railway station, then I imagine that the route must have been something like a roller-coaster ride, down from the station and then back up here.

However, returning to our story, at the clinic I didn’t have to wait too long. I was seen pretty quickly, given an ecograph, and the specialist diagnosed that I had a hygroma. He wanted to draw some fluid off the knee (which I will have to take to the laboratory for examination) so stuck a hypodermic in my knee – right in the most tender part of it.

I have never ever in my life been in so much agony.

water pump in wall house Rue du Pont de Soulles Coutances manche normandy franceOn the way back I called at a pharmacie. I found one in the rue du Pont de Soulles but I was distracted once more.

Almost next door to the pharmacy, there in an alcove in a wall is an old hand pump for pumping up water, presumably from a well or a spring. It’s certainly an interesting place to find one

Meanwhile, in the pharmacy, I asked them to deal with the prescription that the specialist had given me. I have to make up a mix of 50% water 50% clinical alcohol and apply it to a patch that I have to place on my knee. For no longer than 20 minutes (because it will burn otherwise) three times per day.

Clocher de l'ancienne chapelle des frères Augustins rue des teintures coutances manche normandy franceFrom the pharmacy there was a stiff climb up some very narrow streets towards the railway station.

The rue des Teintures is pedestrianised from halfway up, which is just as well because it’s very narrow and twisty. But there’s a beautiful view of parts of the old city that I have never seen before, such as the old chapel of the Augustine monastery.

The old bell-tower is classed as a Historic monument by the French authorities, and quite rightly so in my opinion. However I can’t find out very much about it.

gare de coutances railway station manche normandy franceThere was a three-hour wait for the train back – this new line only has four trains each way per day. So it was a good job that I had taken a book with me and that I had bought a bottle of water.

So while I was waiting for the train I was reading my book, drinking my water and … errr … having a little relax.

A train from St-Lô pulled in but to my surprise it terminated here and then set off back. It’s not like there’s a lot of traffic on the line so I would have thought that they might have run on to at least Granville.

bombardier x 76500 gare de granville  railway station manche normandy franceEventually my train came in – bang on time too which is always good news. There weren’t too many empty seats, which surprised me, but I managed to find a place of my own to sit and relax.

And for the first time for I don’t know how long, there was a ticket collector on the train who was actually checking the tickets. I’d bought mine on line before setting off, so I was quite okay.

I was soon back in Granville. I’d missed the laboratory, but I was just in time to see all of the shops close up. 19:00 already. Where did the day go?

trawlers unloading fish processing plant port de granville harbour manche normandy franceThere was a lot going on down in the town that I saw as I was climbing up the hill.

It goes without saying that with the tide in and the gates open, there was a line of trawlers unloading at the fish-processing plant. I just wish that I could remember what it was like back before 1992 when the Grand Banks were open and the port was heaving with deep-sea trawlers.

And even earlier too, when the railway line was operating and all of the catch was taken away by rail. I shall have to go to the library and do some research into the dockside railway.

wedding party bride photographed port de granville harbour manche normandy franceThere were a couple of people gazing over the wall at something going on down below, so I joined them.

There was a bride down there having her photograph taken amidst the plastic rowing boats. And I’m not sure why because it wouldn’t have been the place where I would have wanted my wedding photographs to be taken.

And that wasn’t everything either. On the way up the hill I’d seen a big black-and-white cat dash across the road, run up a tree, knock a pigeon out, dive out of the tree and drag the stunned bird off in triumph.

Well done him.

Rosemary had rung up while I was out. She rang me back later and we had a really good chat for ages.

For a change I didn’t feel like a big tea, so I just had a nibble here and there. Now I’m off to bed to relax my knee and have a good sleep.

And I need it too. I’ve done 125% of my daily target today – 9.8 kms. And much to my surprise, I don’t feel any worse than I did before I set out.

But I shall probably sleep tonight. I had a little doze here and there in the station but I’ll need more than that.

gare de coutances railway station manche normandy france
gare de coutances railway station manche normandy france

old cars renault estafette coutances manche normandy france
old cars renault estafette coutances manche normandy france

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Victoire Rue des Teintures, coutances manche normandy france
Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Victoire Rue des Teintures, coutances manche normandy france

fire drill firemen st pierre de coutances manche normandy france
fire drill firemen st pierre de coutances manche normandy france

motorcycle training school st pierre de coutances manche normandy france
motorcycle training school st pierre de coutances manche normandy france

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Coutances manche normandy france
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Coutances manche normandy france

voie de la victoire Pont de Soulles st pierre de coutances manche normandy france
voie de la victoire Pont de Soulles st pierre de coutances manche normandy france

rue des teintures Centre Hospitalier de Coutances manche normandy france
rue des teintures Centre Hospitalier de Coutances manche normandy france

Clocher de l'ancienne chapelle des frères Augustins rue des teintures coutances manche normandy france
Clocher de l’ancienne chapelle des frères Augustins rue des teintures coutances manche normandy france

bollards with metal inserts rue des teintures coutances manche normandy france
bollards with metal inserts rue des teintures coutances manche normandy france

Clocher de l'ancienne chapelle des frères Augustins rue des teintures Centre Hospitalier de Coutances manche normandy france
Clocher de l’ancienne chapelle des frères Augustins rue des teintures Centre Hospitalier de Coutances manche normandy france

Wednesday 20th March 2019 – AND HERE I AM …

… back in the comfort and safety and privacy and warmth of my own home.

And how much I like being here too. i’m glad to be back.

However, as seems to be usual these days I had yet another bad night. I always seem to whenever I’m travelling. Going to bed early doesn’t help, especially when you have found the radio alarm clock and set it to work, so that you can watch it tick on past 03:35.

But at some point I must have gone off to sleep because I was awoken by the alarm. and I’d even been on something of a voyage too – doing something with the Wales football team from last night.

Once I was awake, I didn’t hang about. I was up (almost) immediately and with everything already packed, I was on the road even before the alarm at 06:20 went off.

class 18 electric locomotive gare de leuven belgiumAnd to such an extent that never mind the 06:42 train – I was on the 06:32 to Oostende.

You can see it pulling in, 2 minutes late, being pulled by one of the Class 18 electric locomotives from 2011

As a result, I was in Bruxelles-Midi station even earlier than normal. I had plenty of time to go to Carrefour for my raisin buns for breakfast.

4538 Thalys TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt gare du midi brussels belgiumSurprisingly I didn’t have too long to wait at Bruxelles-Midi even though I was in early.

We were called up to the platform somewhat earlier than usual, and when we arrived on the platform we found that our TGV was already in.

It’s another one of the Reseau 38000 “PBA” (Paris Brussels Amsterdam) transets, number 4538

My neighbour was a nice young lady but she was extremely taciturn. She just sat gazing out of the window all the way to Paris Gare du Nord and I had a little relax.

At Paris, I dashed down into the Metro and leapt aboard the train, only for it to be held up at almost every station. In fact, the journey that usually takes me about 45 minutes took just about 65 minutes. It’s a good job that the TGV arrived on time.

My train to Granville was on time too. My neighbour was an elderly lady who needed quite a lot of attention which meant that I didn’t accomplish as much as I wanted to do.

But in my reading of “Wineland the Good” by Arthur Reeves, I came across something quite interesting. Reeves refers to some documents relating to the discovery and voyages to Vinland – the ‘Breve Chronicon Norvegiae’ – that were discovered in the files of the Earl of Dalhousie and which dated to the mid 15th Century.

Dalhousie is of course not too far away from Roslin and the presence of these documents up the road may well provide some kind of link that led to the voyages of Henry Sinclair and their relation to the strange carvings at Roslin Chapel.

gec Alstom regiolis 84559 bombardier x76500 76619 gare de granville railway station manche normandy franceDespite almost everything, our train pulled in at Granville bang on time.

Here it is in the station, parked up next to the train to Rennes – one of the Bombardier X76500 series of multiple-units.

As an aside, I’ve discovered that I can actually catch a train from Granville to St Malo if I change at Dol de Bretagne. And there’s talk about laying on a direct train some time in the future.

loading supplies normandy trader port de granville harbour manche normandy franceThis time I managed to walk all the way back home, admiring Normandy Trader being loaded up at the quayside as I did so.

There seems to be an enormous amount of goods down there waiting to be loaded up on board. That should keep them out of mischief for quite a while with all of that.

Seeing as there were some men around there today, I should really have gone down to talk to them.

repointing medieval city walls granville manche normandy franceFurther up the hill, I noticed that they were working on the city walls.

Part of the pavement has been closed off for as long as I have been there due to some loose stones that have been falling out of the wall, and I had heard some story that they might be doing some work on it.

So it looks as if they have already started. Probably hammering the loose stones back in and repointing the walls.

And as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I spent a couple of summers doing that on my house and it’s a long, heavy, difficult job.

Back here I had a really good relax for a couple of hours before attempting the unpacking. Definitely feeling the strain.

Tea was easy too. One of the portions of shepherd’s pie out of the freezer with veg and gravy. However, the slice of chocolate cake that i’d left out of the freezer had turned. But those in an airtight container in the fridge were fine and there was some soya dessert left.

night st martin de brehal granville manche normandy francelater on, I went for my walk around the headland. It was quite pleasant out there but yet again I was the only one out there.

There was still a touch of light left – enough to take a few photographs of the coastline, like this one of St Martin de Brehal.

It’s come out really well, all told and I’m quite pleased with it.

So now I’ll go to bed. There’s not much food in here so it’s a shopping day tomorrow. A nice walk up to LIDL I reckon.

I’ll see how I feel.

night donville les bains rue du nord granville manche normandy france
night donville les bains rue du nord granville manche normandy france

night st malo brittany baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france
night st malo brittany baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france

night cancale brittany baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france
night cancale brittany baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france

night baie de mont st michel jullouville granville manche normandy france
night baie de mont st michel jullouville granville manche normandy france

night trawler baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france
night trawler baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france

Wednesday 20th February 2019 – AFTER YESTERDAY’S …

… difficulties, today was different. I felt much worse.

To my own surprise I managed to haul myself out of bed at some kind of smart-ish time. And I completed my packing by simply stuffing everything into my rucksack (something that will cause me a great deal of anguish and anxiety in the future) and then heading out to the station. I was definitely feeling the strain of everything that had happened.

train to quievrain leuven belgiumWith having bought my ticket on line, I didn’t have to wait for my ticket and could take my place on the platform. With 15 minutes to wait, I was feeling the strain of standing up by the time that the train pulled in and I wasn’t looking forward to the rest of the trip.

So tired and ill and totally fed-up, I boarded my rather blurred and shaky (because I couldn’t stop my hand shaking) train to Quievrain (the old border crossing to France) and curled up as best as I could as far as Brussels Gare du Midi

45 minutes to wait at Brussels, but I didn’t want to go for a wander around or even go for something to eat. I couldn’t stomach any food even though I hadn’t had enything to eat since yesterday lunchtime.

4537 Thalys TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt gare du midi brussels belgiumLuckily I found a seat, even though it was in the cold, draughty waiting area. And there I waited until my train was called.

It was another one of the Reseau 38000 PBA sets that we had today and it was 10 minutes late departing, due to the arrival of the connection from Amsterdam that couples up behind it.

And there was a freezing fog all over the landscape that meant that even with the little leeway in the journey timing, we were unable to make up any of the lost time.

But a 10-minute delay isn’t of any great importance in the normal run of things, but as we have said, things just now aren’t normal.

What made matters worse was that just as I descended onto the platform at the Metro, the train that was waiting there pulled out before I could board. And the one that I eventually clambered aboard was held up for a couple of minutes by a power failure.

Nothing was going to plan.

Just for a change, I used the travelators to move around in Montparnasse. The Gare Montparnasse was moved 30 or 40 years or so ago (I can’t remember exactly when) when the Tour Montparnasse was built.

But they didn’t realign the metro or rebuild the metro stations so you have a very long – almost 1km – walk down in the bowels before you reach the station, and once on the station, the longest walk within any terminal of any railway station anywhere in the world that I have ever visited before you reach your platform.

It’s good for clocking up the fitness miles, but not good enough if you are in a rush or your train is late. Nevertheless, I managed to arrive at my train with 15 minutes to go. It’s a good job that it wasn’t like last time where even running flat out – or as flat out as I can go these days – I only just managed to leap aboard.

First thing that I did on settling down in my comfy seat was to go to sleep. And that was all that I did – occasionally drifting into some kind of semi-consciousness here and there.

gec Alstom regiolis 84573 bombardier x76500 76620 granville manche normandy franceBy the time I got to Phoe … errr … Granville I was totally wasted.

But there was time to photograph the train – another GEC Alstom Regiolis of course – but with one of the Bombardier X76500 class of automotrices alongside it.

This has oulled in just two minutes earlier from Caen on the new curve off the Caen-Rennes line.

These trains were built specifically to replace a whole generation of earlier multiple-units and to provide a higher capacity on the lines.

We’ve travelled on these before from Riom to Lyon and they are very comfortable

No problem about being exhausted though. There was a bus in just 15 minutes time and so in yet another change to the habits of a lifetime, I waited for it and had a ride back home.

Past the quay where Thora was tied up, but I didn’t take much notice.

It was cold in here so the heating and the hot water were switched back on straight away. I just dumped my stuff in the living room and that, dear reader, was that. I went to bed.

Wednesday 19th September 2018 – WE FINALLY STAGGERED IN …

… to Lester P Pearson Airport quite early – as in something like 02:20 or whatever. A far cry from our intended 20:00, wasn’t it? And then the interminable file through customs, immigration and baggage collection.

I was well on my last legs right now and so I was rather glad that no-one crossed my path.As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I don’t really become tired when I’ve had a very long day. Instead of tiredness it’s my irritability that increases and I’ve had some interesting and exciting encounters after a 36-hour working day.

At the Sheraton Gateway hotel, check-in was easy and I departed to my room. By now I’d gone beyond the threshold of tiredness and couldn’t sleep. It was 04:00 when I finally tucked myself up under the blankets and waited for dawn to come.

Sometime during the night I must have gone to sleep because the 08:00 alarm awoke me. The 08:08 and the 08:19 alarms also awoke me. I was having a bad morning.

Something like 09:30 when I hauled myself out of the stinking pit into the shower. And then we had the dramatic search for the clean clothes which I was convinced that I had put into my rucksack, but apparently not. In the end, the dirty clothes had to do.

Breakfast finished at 10:00 so I made it with 30 seconds to spare – only to be told that it wasn’t included in my booking and that I would have to pay extra. I dropped my coffee and orange juice as if I had been scalded and legged it quick.

And then had to leg it back equally quickly, for I had discovered that I had left my camera back at my pseudo-breakfast table.

I went off to Tim Horton’s instead and made contact with the rest of the world. A mere 91 messages on my social networking site awaiting my attention. I dealt with about 5 and discarded the rest.

The coffee, orange and bagels did their best to cheer me up, and so I went for a walk around to see the sights. And there I bumped into Aaron and Deanna doing the same. We had a little chat and then just like the Knights Of The Round Table, we went our separate ways.

Checking in the suitcase was reasonably straightforward. I could even fit a few more bits and pieces into it to make my rucksack more manoeuvrable. The “security” was interesting too, with a few more of these jobsworths who don’t have a clue about what they are doing, trying to make themselves look important.

Having bought bagels to eat for lunch, I was surprised to encounter a “Subway” inside the security area. I bagged a footlong vegetarian to eat, and I can save my bagels for later

Our ‘plane to Fredericton is a Bombardier Q400 R003 – a much-more modern version of the Dash-7 that we had to go from Yellowknife to Baffin Island. Clean and tidy and comfortable (although the leather on the seats was showing its age).

I forgot to note its registration number so if I can see it on the photo I can tell you all about it in due course.

The flight attendant had a weird sense of humour – “if you don’t like the on-board service, there are four emergency exits …”. That’s the kind of humour that I appreciate.

It was something of a shock to arrive in Fredericton. It had been warm and sunny in Toronto but here it was wet and windy – and cold. In fact the cold was more of a shock than anything else. It had been cold of course in the High Arctic but a different kind of cold and it didn’t feel half as bad as I was feeling right now.

Rachel and I drove back into town where she picked up some things that she had ordered from Kent Hardware. I fuelled up her car for her and then we went for a coffee at Tim Horton’s, where she told me that while I had been away, my father had died.

I think that she was expecting me to show more emotion than I did, but the fact is that I ran out of emotion about my family a very long time ago, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

Anyway, I shan’t bore you with my problems.

We drove back here and Rachel rustled up something quick to eat. Meantime I had a chat to Darren, Amber and Hannah. It’s been a good while.

And then I staggered off to bed. It’s been a very long day with lots of interruptions and I’m thoroughly exhausted.