Tag Archives: boulanger

Monday 17th April 2017 – I FELL ASLEEP …

… in the middle of Carry on Spying last night.It just goes to show you how tired I was.

And it was a deep sleep too. I remember very little until about 06:20 this morning. I must have been really tired, that’s all that I can say.

I wasn’t hungry this morning so I passed on breakfast. Instead, I had a few things that needed dealing with on the laptop. and once I’d organised that, I decided to go for a walk.

jullouville granville manche normandy franceIt’s only about 50 or so metres to the promenade from here. And although the weather wasn’t the best (whatever happened to the sunshine that greeted me yesterday?) it wasn’t all that windy, just for a change.

There’s a good view of Granville right over there in the distance to the left. About 6 kms away, so they say, and maybe they are right too. But I didn’t fancy going for a walk all that way this morning.

carolles plage jullouville manche normandy franceNow that looks more like it, though. Carolles-Plage is 2 or 3 kilometres down there (it looks a lot closer with the telephoto lens) and I enjoyed my visit there the other day when I was driving around.

As long as the weather holds out, it should be a nice walk all the way down there and there’s a café, if I remember.
An early-morning cuppa will do me good.

metal detecting jullouville manche normandy franceBut I can’t leave here without taking a photo of the people on the beach? We saw a few the other day at Agon-Countainville and we weren’t sure what they were doing.

But there’s no doubt whatever about what these people are up to. They aren’t raking around for shellfish or anything like that, they are metal-detecting. and finding one or two things too by the looks of it.

And knowing what is washed ashore on the beaches of Normandy every now and again, they might be in for something or a surprise too one of these days.

jullouville carolles plage manche normandy franceafter a kilometre or so, the promenade gives out and you have to descend onto the beach.

It’s quite hard work walking on loose sand (well, it is for me these days anyway) and so I headed down to the waterline, otherwise I might find myself in Dire Straits.

Luckily the tide was still out at the moment (but on its way in, I noticed) and so I could find some firm sand upon which to walk.

jullouville carolle plage manche normandy franceDown at the headland at the end of the beach were a few clefts in the cliffs. I was planning to creep in but there were too many watery ponds and loose rocks about and I didn’t really fancy the idea.

Instead, I went and had the most expensive coffee that I have had for a long time – all €3:00 of it. There is a downside to coming to live at the seaside, especially in the middle of the tourist season.

But I needed the break and to sit and relax. It was a long way down to here.

jullouville manche normandy francehaving refreshed myself appropriately and had a little repose, I headed back slowly up the beach, dodging the incoming tide. And it was a slow wander back too because I was feeling rather weary and had to stop a few times to catch my breath.

It gave me an opportunity to examine the sea front at Jullouville though, and I noticed several apartment buildings,
or blocks of flats, along the seafront. I shall have to go for another wander tomorrow and make suitable enquiries.

I’m sure that something will present itself.

boat in bay granville manche normandy franceThere was something white on the sea away in the distance somewhere round about St Pair sur Mer. And with a decent zoom lens you can actually enlarge, crop and paste so that you can see what it is.

It’s some kind of cabin cruiser out there, and that’s turned out to be a nice photograph, with Granville away there in the background.

What wouldn’t I give for an apartment in a block of flats over there? Preferably one that doesn’t have a hedge screening the view.

I picked up a couple of baguettes (one for tea) from a boulanger who knows how to bake bread properly, and then I headed off to the Tourist Information Office to pick up a brochure on holiday lets. I need to make further plans for the next few months.

kite surfing jullouville manche normandy franceI took my bread and salad stuff down to the promenade so that I could sit and eat my butty as the sun had now finally come out.

And here right in front of me was a guy kite-surfing. There were a few of them actually, but he was the one closest to the shore so I took a photo.

I was also engaged in conversation by a rather vocal local yokel, of which there seem to be several hanging around in the neighbourhood. It’s quite easy to spot the dikkeneks from Paris and single them out from the yokels who live around here.

Back here in my little room I made a start on doing something, but the next thing that I remembered was that it was 16:25 – I’d had a good doze off, and for a couple of hours too. That walk had taken it right out of me, as things seem to do these days.

It was a shame to waste the sunlight and so I went back out for a stroll around the town and on the beach. And then returned here for tea -the rest of my vegetables and the second baguette.

Now I shall be trying for another go at Carry on Spying but I’m sure that I’ll probably go to sleep long before I … ZZZZZZZ

Sunday 4th December 2016 – I’VE HAD A FEW …

… twinges just recently but last night I had a major attack of cramp. Both calves too and I was in agony for half an hour. First time for absolutely months and months and months. I’d almost forgotten all about them.

But eventually the pain wore off and I could carry on with sleeping – until the alarm went off.

I’d been back to Labrador as well during the night. That seems to be a regular route these days. It’s all clearly playing on my mind.

First into breakfast this morning, and all alone too. and my 08:05 I’d finished, been to the boulanger for my baguette and rescued three plastic crates from the skip at the supermarket.

The morning was spent doing some tidying up (which is not like me, is it) and getting my room ready for being away for a week or so. I have to make an effort, I suppose. I did some stuff on the laptop too and an early lunch saw me down the road and at Cailburn by 14:00.

We hit the streets and fuelled up and then had a very uneventful drive down as far as Paris. One thing that I had forgotten is that Sunday late afternoon it’s “red” rates on the péage in the direction of Paris and I really was nailed for that. It wasn’t half painful

The Franciliènne was packed too – end-to-end traffic all the way around and it didn’t clear either. Things only eased off when i left and headed into Melun.

Plenty of room at the Première Classe on the edge of the city and the room was quite comfortable, even though some people in the room above seemed to be having a party. I had a really good pizza brought to me and then I crashed out for an hour or so.

Tomorrow after breakfast I’ll have part II of my journey, back to Montluçon at least. To do some shopping tomorrow evening and find a place to stay ready for part III.

Monday 21st November 2016 – TODAY IS THE DAY …

… that I celebrate – if that is the correct word to use – the first anniversary of my last night at home.

And what a tumultuous year it has been too. I’ve spent nights sleeping at friends, in hotels in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, in hostels, on floors, in hospitals, in student houses, but never again at home and how I am depressed as the seriousness of my position dawns on me.

Am I destined to spend the last years of my life living out of a suitcase and ambling aimlessly around around North-West Europe? What a horrible thought.

But one thing that I have learnt as I’ve been travelling around is that there’s no place like home. I have accordingly for the next three months and maybe even more, negotiated a good place in the hostel back at Leuven. It might not be much, and nothing like what I was hoping to have, but it’s the nearest place to home that I have right now. I have negotiated a good price with the option of a renewal, and in exchange I’ll be expected to do a little work, but I’m as happy as I could be with that.

I had a really late night last night and as a result was in no fit state at all when the alarm went off. It was a struggle to go down to breakfast (I was third, and yet there before the staff was) and then I crashed out again afterwards for a while.

The internet was, well, working something-like and so I found another pile of stuff about Labrador. And that took me ages too. For lunch, I finished off the bread that I had bought in Sedan at the LeClerc on Friday, so after lunch I nipped into Alle to the boulanger for a big loaf and across the road to the Spar for a lettuce.

orchimont vresse sur semois belgium october octobre 2016On the way back, I took a diversion and climbed high into the Ardennes to visit Orchimont.

I don’t know whether to call it a town or a hamlet or what because these days it’s been absorbed into the commune of Vresse sur Semois, and ohhhh! What a come-down that must be for the place because 800 years or so ago it was by far the biggest town in the area.

orchimont vresse sur semois belgium october octobre 2016Perched up here in its steep escarpment, it was at one time the capital of this region and had a fortified castle and city walls to defend itself and the region.

All of tha changed in 1635 when Louis XIII of France laid siege to the town, which was part of the Spanish Netherlands at that time.

fortification orchimont vresse sur semois belgium october octobre 2016

He brought 35,000 soldiers with him apparently, and no town can withstand that kind of siege for long. It fell on 11th May of that year and was burnt, with all of the fortifications destroyed.

When the road was brought here in 1878, it went straight through whatever remained of the remains of the fortifications. All that is left is this, and I’m not even sure if these are original.

orchimont vresse sur semois belgium october octobre 2016But you can see what a stunning defensive site the place occupies. This is the road in from the south.

The roads from the west and east are equally impressive – in fact the road in from the north – which you might have noticed in the first photograph, is the only one that is reasonably accessible.

The spur of the rock overlooking the road that we can see just here was crying out for a castle to be built on it, if you ask me. Any Medieval lord bent on increasing his power in the region, and some of these medieval lords were as bent as they come, would have been proud to have had his castle here.

eglise st martin orchimont vresse sur semois belgium october octobre 2016There’s a church here too, and I asked a local yokel who was taking a most extraordinary interest in me, to whom it was dedicated.

But he wasn’t much of a vocal local yokel and told me to go and enquire in Vresse sur Semois. Miserable ghit!

But seeing as how everything at Orchimont is St Martin this, St Martin that, I shall have a wild guess.

What I do know is that it’s far from being the original church. It dates from 1863 apparently, although I imagine that there has been a church here for 1500 years before that.

christmas trees sapin de noel orchimont vresse sur semois belgium october octobre 2016One thing that I have noticed since I’ve been out here has been an endless stream of farm tractors with trailers fully-laden with Christmas trees disappearing into the mists.

What I hadn’t realised is that Orchimont is the Christmas Tree capital of Belgium and North-East France. There must be 5,000 here all parcelled up ready for shipping.

That’ll keep them out of mischief.

With the laptop being a bit flaky just now, I’ve done a major back-up this evening just in case, and now having done some more research I’m off to bed.

I’ve had nothing to eat tonight so I’ll make a butty quickly and that will be that. I’m not up to much else.

Sunday 13th November 2016 – I DIDN’T GO …

… very far at all today. I made it down to the boulangerie on the corner this morning for my baguette. That was a stroll of almost 150 yards there and back I suppose.

And at tea-time I went an extra 50 yards there and back to the take-away pizza place for a mushroom and onion pizza for tea.

And that was my lot, I’m afraid.

Nevertheless I did have some good luck while I was out this morning. There was another black plastic storage crate in the bin outside the supermarket – a big one this time – and so seeing as it was quite early and there was no-one about, I made sure that I liberated that. These are really nice and useful, these storage crates. Nice and lightweight and easy to carry.

And I didn’t go far during the night either. Dunno if I went on a ramble because I don’t remember anything at all. I do know that I had to leave my bed several times though, especially round about 01:00 when someone came back and made quite a racket.

I was there for breakfast at the usual time, and after the boulangerie, I had something of a repose. In fact I had something of a repose on and off throughout the day. I must really have had a bad night last night.

But I did crack on with the website somewhat, and made another good find on the internet. A kind of database that has been created to record events, happenings and documents about Labrador. And there were the sailing schedules for the “Alphabet ships” – the ships of the Newfoundland Railway that worked the coastal settlements once Labrador had been attached to Newfoundland in 1876.

And it makes poignant reading too. Never mind abandoned communities such as Battle Harbour, the “capital” of Labrador back in those days. That settlement has been abandoned as a permanent habitation for over 50 years under the Canadian Government’s controversial resettlement plans, and is now merely a summer fishing station. What is even more sad is that many of the mailboat ports haven’t simply been abandoned, they have long-since disappeared from the map and their names are no longer recorded.

Another surprise was that the owner came round to check up on the premises and we had a really good chat for a while. Who knows where our conversation will lead us,

But now, an early night again. I hope that I can have a good night’s sleep and an exciting travel.

Sunday 6th November 2016 – HOW MANY …

eric hall hotel imperial ostend oostende belgium october octobre 2016… Epichalls do you see in this photograph?

The lift here in the hotel is lined with mirrors and you can make some quite interesting images using all of the reflections if you feel like it. I mean, I’m always feeling like it and so I went to take a photo as I was going out for a walk.

I went out early for a loaf of bread. There is a boulanger in the vicinity but as you might expect, it’s closed for the holidays. But the Spar supermarket in the town centre is open and I could buy a baguette in there.

I’d had a really good night’s sleep last night. I had to leave the bed just once and how I wished that I didn’t have to leave it at all. I’d had some exciting travels too but just like all the time recently, everything disappeared as soon as the alarm went off.

I had a lie-in too. The alarm was set for 07:00 and a repeat at 07:15 as usual, but I set the snooze function for an extra 10 minutes. I was still first downstairs for breakfast too, and excellent it was yet again.

ostend beach strand oostende belgium october octobre 2016I said that I was out for a walk this morning, but it wasn’t a walk that I had, but some exercise. Get it out of the way early. A brief 50-yard dash down the promenade after my cap which had blown off in the gale-force winds. It was wicked out there today.

You can probably tell that, not only from the waves out there but also for the lack of people on the promenade. It was deserted this morning.

ostend beach strand oostende belgium october octobre 2016The sun came out while I was out there in the wind, and so I ended up going for a walk on the beach. Hardly a soul about as you can see, but there was something exciting going on out there offshore.

I’ve no idea what it was, but there was an orange rescue launch out there together with some kind of tug or similar boat that was spraying water everywhere. Maybe it was some kind of fire-fighting exercise, I dunno. But the camera on the phone is no good for this kind of thing in this kind of weather.

ostend beach strand oostende belgium october octobre 2016I carried on along the beach which was deserted despite the sunshine. The kiosks were locked up, as you might expect.

But just there further down on the left are the Royal Galleries. They were built at the turn of the 20th Century on the orders of King Leopold II during the Golden Years of the Belgian state and was intended to be part of a royal palace. Nowadays though, the complex is a luxury hotel, a room in which is well out of the pocket of people such as you and me.

Ther’s also the huge skyscraper block of apartments down there, and how I would love to have a studio right at the top of it.

I’ve had a busy, and successful day on the website today. And now, there are five extra pages loaded, one, two, three, four and five, all about the final 40 kilometres of Highway 138 on the border between the Province of Quebec and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It was quite an amount of work.

It’s a fairly controversial stretch of road, but nothing like as controversial as the 300 or so kilometres that the Quebec Government hasn’t built. You need to read what I’ve written to find out what is going on. It’s certainly a rather sad story.

I went back out later in the late afternoon for a coffee. Braving the howling gales and driving rain. It was definitely wicked out there this evening.

And to finish off the day, it’s Sunday so it’s pizza night. I found a tiny backstreet pizza place and I had a few slices of vegan cheese left. The pizza was delicious but once again, no-one in Belgium knows how to make a proper pizza base.

So now it’s early-night time. Only three more sleeps here and then it’s back to Leuven. And who knows where I’ll be after that.

Sunday 30th October 2016 – IT GOES FROM BAD …

… to worse.

Luckily, it’s something that hasn’t happened to me (except only indirectly) but I’m involved in this as much as anyone else.

Terry needed to move the mini-digger and asked me ages ago if he could borrow my Indespension plant trailer to do the job, to which I agreed. Then a day or two ago he told me that he would be round at my place this morning, but the penny didn’t drop.

Later this afternoon, I had a phone call. There’s a puncture on the trailer. Well, I had no idea that he was planning to move it today. And where is the puncture? Why, it’s about 200 miles away from home. I had no idea that he was going to go that far.

Of course, there’s no spare wheel. That was one of the things that I had intended to resolve over the winter, as well as fitting all of the rear lights that I had bought for it so that I could bin the trailer-board on the back, but as you know, I was otherwise occupied with my serious health issues and I’ve never been home since.

If you have insurance on your trailer you can call for assistance, but that’s another thing that never entered my mind seeing as how I am in no position to move it anywhere right now.

And of course, it’s Sunday, so now Terry is stranded. But luckily there’s a hotel near to where he is.

Tomorrow he needs to take the wheel off the trailer and take it to be repaired or replaced, but to do that, he needs to take the digger off the trailer. But there’s no diesel in the digger so he’ll have to go off and organise that first thing tomorrow. Except that he doesn’t have a fuel can.

As you can see, it’s another thing that has come to try us just now. When is all of this going to end?

I was asleep really early last night but my neighbours awoke me when they came in and they had the television on – not loud, I hasten to add, but I could hear it vaguely in the background. And once I did drop off, I had to go off twice down the corridor.

I’d been on my travels too, but I don’t have a clue about where I went or what I did. It all evaporated the moment that I awoke.

And wasn’t I organised today? Breakfasted, down to the boulangerie for my baguette and back here, all befor 07:45. that’s something of a new world record. But I spent most of the day drifting in and out of sleep. I had a good chat with Liz and Rosemary today and I’ve also been attacking the website. You remember that I travelled along the Trans-Labrador Highway when it was completed in 2010 and my account of that journey has been on line for a few years.

But as you recall, if you are a regular reader of this rubbish, that I’ve done the journey twice since, once in 2014 and again in 2015 – both time is the opposite direction from east to west. There have been so many changes to the route that I’m going to write another book about it. And so I’ve started to merge all of the reports and photos into one.

That’s going to take me a good while, I reckon. Not the work of five minutes, that’s for sure, so don’t expect to see daily updates on line. .

It’s Sunday and so for tea tonight I had a pizza. Spinach and mushrooms and it was delicious. Best that I’ve had.

But now, I’m going to try for an early night. My body clock will be up the spout because of the change of hour, so I hope that I’m not disturbed.

Sunday 23rd October 2016 – IT’S SUNDAY!

And so in consequence I have had a day where I have done badger all of any importance.

Despite the lateness of the night and the fact that I had to leave my comfortable bed once during the night, I had a really good, deep sleep. I’d been on my travels too but as soon as I awoke, everything was wiped immediately from my mind and I remember nothing of it.

And I’ll tell you just how organised I was today – the alarms went off at 07:00 and 07:15 as usual, I was in the kitchen having breakfast by 07:30 and by 08:15 I was back in my room, having during that 45-minute window been out to the boulangerie for my Sunday baguette.

I’ve been sort-of-ish working on my website today. Nothing like as intensely as during the last few days. Following my visit to the north shore of the St Lawrence estuary a few weeks ago, I’ve been updating some of the pages as you know. This page is the one on which I’m working right now, and it will be expanded to two or three pages just as the one that I was working on the last couple of days (and which I mentioned yesterday) was expanded.

But as I say, I’ve not put my heart in it today. I had a little doze, had a chat to Liz, read some stuff on the internet and generally wasted some time.

But it’s not as if I’m worried. It’s Sunday, and I’m allowed to have a day off. I did manage to make it to the pizza place around the corner – after all, Sunday night is pizza night isn’t it?

So tomorrow, if I don’t have a phone call from the people who are doing Caliburn’s wheel bearing, I’ll carry on with the web pages.

Sunday 16th October 2016 – OOOH LOOK!

sncb multiple unit antwerp central station belgium october octobre 2016It’s a train! And it’s not in Leuven station either, is it?

Yes, I’ve been out and about today, and on my travels too. Nothing like a nice afternoon out, a change of scenery, a change of ideas and all of that. And to somewhere that I haven’t been for ages and which I quite like too.

Doesn’t this all make a change?

All in all, it was a really good day up to a certain point. Especially as I’d had a really good night’s sleep.

I was in bed reasonably early last night (something like 22:30 if I remember correctly) and more-or-less straight asleep. And the next thing that I remember was that it was 06:45. That was totally painless – I’ll tell you that. I’d been on my travels as well but don’t ask me where I went and what I did because I remember nothing at all.

And by 08:15 I’d breakfasted and even been down the road to the boulanger for my Sunday baguette. That’s what I call “organised”. I spent the rest of the morning working on my blog and by the time that I’d finished, it was completely up-to-date.

That on its own deserved a reward. And it was a beautiful day too, with not a cloud in the sky.

And so I hit the streets.

antwerp central railway station belgium october octobre 2016This is one of the most beautiful buildings in Belgium (yes, I’m still in Belgium) and I bet that you won’t know as what it serves until I tell you. You’ll never guess.

It’s not a palace, a court of an art gallery or a museum, but it is in fact a railway station – one of the most beautiful in the world. Antwerp Central railway station it is, and it’s a monument to everything that is great and good about Belgian architecture.

antwerp central railway station belgium october octobre 2016It took 10 years to build – from 1895 to 1905 – and replaced the original railway station that had been the terminus of one of the very first railway lines in the country.

And although you might not think so, it was hit by a German V2 rocket during World War II. While no significant damage appeared to have been caused, the shock waves from the blast had undermined the stability of the roof, which then in the early 1980s started to sag alarmingly.

glass roof antwerp central railway station belgium october octobre 2016The roof of the train shed is one of the most magnificent parts of a most magnificent building. It covers 12,000m² and was designed by Clément van Bogaert. To have demolished it (or even to have demolished the station, which at one time was being seriously discussed) would have been nothing short of an act of deliberate vandalism.

But wiser heads prevailed.The station was closed for a short while in the late 1980s and the glass was replaced by polycarbonate, which is about half of the weight of the glass and which seems to have resolved the problem.

We have seen on our travels around the Northern hemisphere some totally disgraceful acts of vandalism as classic railway stations have been butchered or even demolished to make way for the 21st Century.

antwerp central railway station belgium october octobre 2016Here in the Antwerp Central Railway station, they have been solving the problem of expansion in a way that is so simple and so straightforward that it’s a wonder that no other railway network or modern architect has tried it.

What they did was simply to expand downwards. The railway station is built on four levels – the newest and most modern level, to accommodate the TGVs, is on the fourth level down. It’s all so simple, isn’t it?

I went outside into the sunshine, because it really was a nice day. Here, I’m in the Meir

meir antwerp central railway station belgium october octobre 2016But we can’t go off down the Meir without looking backwards at this gorgeous building. yes, you’ve guessed – it’s the Antwerp Central Station again, designed by Louis Delacenserie, the city architect of Bruges and who was responsible for the restoration of the magnificent buildings in that city. And you can see why I’ve placed the station so highly on my list of magnificent buildings.

And if you look carefully at the plaque just above the entrance arch, you’ll see (although you can’t see it in this photo) the word Middenstatie – Middle Station in Flemish. That’s the original name of the Railway Station.

And then I had a sudden shock. I’d noticed the time. I’d been so engrossed in what I was doing with the Central Station that I had completely overlooked the real purpose of my visit to the city.

I needed the tram 5, and I had worked out the route that it took, and so I headed off to a nearby tram stop to wait.

And wait

And wait.

And wait.

underground tram network metro antwerp belgium october octobre 2016Suddenly, I had a flash of inspiration. I walked around the corner and there was a flight of stairs leading down. I hadn’t realised this, and how I ground my teeth when I had worked it out, that trams 2,3,5 and 6 are called the “Metro” and they run through the city underground – not on the surface where I had been waiting.

And so about 20 minutes later than I had hoped to be, I finally discovered the underground metro system and then had to wait 10 minutes for my tram.

Damn and blast!

bosuilstadion royal antwerp football club deurne belgium october octobre 2016And here I am in Deurne, on the outskirts of the city. And this is the Bosuilstadion, the home of Royal Antwerp Football Club.

This was my destination for this afternoon and I’ve finally made it, 20 minutes after kick-off. And my odyssey isn’t over yet, because being so late, all of the ticket booths are closed.

A steward directed me to an office where I had to argue my way into the ground (I’m impressed with how much my Flemish is improving) and I ended up having to pay €25:00 for en expensive seat. They wouldn’t let me into the cheap seats.

bosuilstadion royal antwerp football club deurne belgium october octobre 2016And by the time that I finally entered the ground, I’d missed almost all of the first half. and I’d missed two goals too. 1-1 it was when I finally took my seat.

All of that I’d missed, and for €25:00 too. I fancied a cup of coffee after all of my exertions, but the unexpected €10:00 over what admission to the cheap seats would have cost me had cleaned me out.

I was not having a very good day today.

OH Leuven bosuilstadion royal antwerp football club deurne belgium october octobre 2016I didn’t mention that the reason for my coming here was that OH Leuven was playing away against Royal Antwerp. That’s them in the black strip – Royal Antwerp in the white and red.

I’ve been without my football fix for two months now and the easy accessibility of trains, the proximity of Antwerp to Leuven and the glorious weather was more than enough to entice me out of my cocoon to watch the action, such a sit might have been.

bosuilstadion royal antwerp football club fans celebrate second goal OH Leuven Deurne belgium october octobre 2016The Royal Antwerp fans are very happy – letting off a red smoke bomb and waving a huge club flag about.

And so they ought to be, too. They’ve just scored a second goal, a goal that turns out to be the decisive, winning goal.

And at the final whistle, It occurs to me that I have never ever seen OH Leuven do anything else except lose. I must be the Kiss of Death to OH Leuven.

In fact, from what I saw of the game, it was pretty miserable. There wasn’t much in the way of excitement and the goalkeepers didn’t really have to do all that much. The Royal Antwerp keeper was the busier of the two but he wasn’t really under all that much pressure.

Royal Antwerp had a player, the squad n°55, who was an exciting player when he had the ball. He looked the best player on the pitch at certain moments, but he only seemed to work in fits and starts and it didn’t seem to me as if he was all that keen to run and chase around when he didn’t have the ball – not that I would know all that much about it.

magnificent buildings meir antwerp belgium october octobre 2016I caught the tram back into the city and decanted myself out into the Meir. The Meir is the main shopping street of the city and where everything in the city goes on, and it’s also where there are some really magnificent buildings here.

I was lucky in that it hadn’t gone quite dark by this time, so the camera on my mobile phone could cope with the situation, such as taking a photo of the big Inno Department Store here, with the much-more banal Delhaize supermarket in the foreground.

meir antwerp belgium october octobre 2016My idea of a late evening wandering around the city taking some photographs came to a rather dramatic halt as the light disappeared.

Had I had the Nikon D5000 with me, it wouldn’t have been too much of an issue but cameras like that aren’t allowed in football grounds in Belgium so I hadn’t brought it with me – relying instead on the camera on the telephone, which doesn’t work very well in situations like this.

Instead, I went to sort out some cash and then went for something to eat. It’s Sunday, pizza night, I had bought some vegan cheese the other day and I’d seen a very democratic pizza place on my travels. It was run by real Italians too, and I ended up speaking Italian to them – and it’s been a long time … "two years ago last summer when you were in the Alto Adige in fact" – ed … since I’ve done that.

Brought back a few memories, that did. I must go off to Italy again.

multiple unit antwerp central station belgium october octobre 2016Down in the bowels of the station I waited for my train back to Leuven. I’d come on the line via Brussels Airport and Mechelen, so I decided to go back on the line via Lier and Aarschot.

Not that it would make any difference because it was pitch black outside at this time of night and I couldn’t see a thing.

The train was packed when we set off, and as the journey progressed, more and more people crowded in. 99% of the people on board were students, dragging their suitcases behind them. Leuven is world-famous for its University, which is huge, and I imagine that all of these students have been home for the weekend and are now heading back to their kots.

It can’t have been unexpected because the train had been extended from the normal size to accommodate the crowds. So much so that there was an announcement “for those of you alighting from the train at Heverlee, DO NOT travel in the first four carriages. Presumably they don’t fit alongside the platform there.

town hall leuven belgium october octobre 2016The train pulled into the Station and the train disgorged about 99% of its passengers. And like a huge tidal wave, they all swarmed up the main drag into town, dragging their suitcases behind them.

People were dropping off the end of the wave the further towards the town centre we advanced, but there was still quite a crowd as we passed the beautiful Leuven Town Hall, all lit up in the night.

And when I finally reached my hostel and installed myself in my little room, I could still hear the rolling suitcases rattling by.

So here I am now, back at home, tired out and spent up. It’s been an exhausting day and I’m spent up – and not for very much good purpose either as I’d missed almost half of my football match.

But never mind – I’ve had a nice afternoon out, even if the photos don’t do the journey any justice. It’s a shame that I couldn’t take the Nikon and had to rely on the camera on the telephone, but I’ve done the best that I can.

I hope that you all enjoy it.


Well, actually, yes I can because, believe me, this is par for the course as you all know.

I’m on the move tomorrow and so I need my passport which is in Caliburn up at the hospital. And so this evening at about 18:30 I set off in the early evening heat (because it was hot) up to the hospital to undertake this simple task.

It didn’t take me too long to arrive there, and I passed through the hospital to the back door to the Car Park where Caliburn is parked. And this was where I discovered that the door was locked.

From here, I must have spent about an hour or so walking through the bowels of the hospital looking for another way out (and what was quite interesting was that I spent all of this time in a “restricted” area and I wasn’t accosted once) and eventually, after much binding in the marsh, to find a way out. This involved something of an escalade, but never mind. I had (eventually) arrived.

First job was to start up Caliburn and take him for a little run around so that he doesn’t seize up. And then I tidied him up somewhat, found a tote bag that I need to go with me tomorrow, threw a pile of tinned food and other stuff into the tote bag, and eventually set off home.

On the way back I stopped off at the pizza place for a pizza (I had the sliced vegan cheese with me) and took it back to my new little room where I sat and ate it. And this was where I realised that I had forgotten the passport, which is still in Calburn!


And so tomorrow, instead of having a lie-in to gather my wits (not that there are so many that it takes me very long) I’ll be having an early breakfast and then staggering back to the hospital for the passport.

I hope that the back door will be open!

Yes – new little room. i’m back at the ranch again.

Last night in yonder house by the station I had a night that was not so good. It’s true that the kids were quite noisy for a while but the bad night was more to do with me than anything else. No breakfast of course, and so I had a (beautiful) shower and then set out to walk back to my place. I’d been on my travels too during the night but I’ve no idea where or who with.

It was a lovely morning and I discovered bits of Leuven that I didn’t know existed. I was also impressed by the total absence of littler on the streets, especially considering that the music festival is taking place. I stopped off at the boulangerie to buy a baguette for lunch and then finally arrived chez moi where I helped myself to breakfast. I consider that i’m entitled to it.

My room wasn’t ready so I sat outside on a chair and read a book for the rest of the morning, and ate my lunchtime butty while I was at it. 14:00 more-or-less was when my room was finished and so I nipped inside and closed the door.

It’s right on the ground floor right next to the door so I imagine that I’ll be awoken every five minutes by people coming and going, but it’s en-suite with the weirdest bathroom that I have ever seen. But on the whole, it’s not too bad. I even crashed out for an hour or so – the armchair there is extremely comfortable.

And then we had the performance with the passport, or lack thereof.

Now, I’m fed and watered (the pizza was lovely) and I’m off to be. I have a lot to do tomorrow and so I need to be at my best.

Not to mention this early start.

Sunday 3rd July 2016 – IF EVER I LAY MY HANDS …

… on whoever it was who came in at 04:20 this morning, went into the kitchen and started cooking eggs, they will spend the rest of their lived eating soup through a straw. To say that I was not very impressed with the noise that they made is an understatement to be sure.

Mind you, I’d already had a good sleep. I was in bed by 22:00 and I dunno how long I was awake but I only saw a few minutes of the film that I was watching, and that was that. And after the interruption in the middle of the night, I was off again – this time until 07:00.

And I was off too – several times down the corridor for a start, and then off on my travels. I don’t remember too much about it but it involved a bright light blue Ford Cortina saloon – either a mark IV or a mark V. But at least it was a voyage, and that tells you something about my bed. As I said the other day, I have slept in more comfortable beds than this, but not for quite a while.

Now, how do I know that it was 07:00 when I awoke this morning?

The answer is that the blasted church bells flaming well started off again, didn’t they? It’s a really good job that I’m going to bed earlier and earlier, otherwise I really would be upset. But when was the last time that I was up and about, breakfasting at 07:10 in the morning, long before the alarm, on a Sunday?

I was early down the road to the boulangerie too which was just as well as I had the last baguette – and that was before 09:00 too. I need to remember this as I don’t want to be stranded.

The bathroom received my attention too – I had a beautiful warm shower today and a good shave. And what with a change of clothes I look almost human now. This led to a visit to the launderette round the corner and for just €4:50 in the washing machine and €1:00 in the drier, I washed absolutely all of the clothes except the minimum that I could wear, and also the bedding from my stay up the road. The bedding is now ready to be taken back to Caliburn, which I can do tomorrow as I’m off to the hospital for 09:10 for my check-up.

Liz made an appearance on the airwaves too so we had a good chat while the washing was doing. Yes, there’s a free internet connection in the launderette and I’ll file that fact away for future reference.

Tea was pizza (well, it is Sunday) from the place round the corner and while I’ve had better (under-cooked pizzas seems to be a local speciality), this was the spiciest that I’ve ever had and it was really delicious from that point of view.

But lunch was a bit of a catastrophe. I had a good moan about my housemates yesterday as you remember, but today the kitchen was a disgrace. However, the cleaner told me that most people are here this weekend for the rock festival at Werchter and tomorrow almost everyone will have left the building. There will just be half-a-dozen or so people left.

So now I’m going to sit by the window and enjoy the pleasant evening – it’s not rained for at least four hours. And then an early night for my early start for the hospital.

At least the breakfasts are good in this place. There are no complaints from me from that point of view. You really win with the breakfasts.

Thursday 30th June 2016 – MY LAST NIGHT …

… here in my little garret under the eaves. So I intend to make the most of it by doing nothing at all. Actually, there isn’t much to do anything about, as you well know.

But while I was out buying my baguette at lunchtime (I just went to the boulangerie down the road rather than spending reckless money in the Delhaize) I went to check on my new place. It’s still there and not burnt down, and I was able to pick up all of the details about it.

During my stay (of 77 days, I have to say) I will have to change rooms twice, so I’m not complaining too much about that. I just hope that it will be more comfortable than here, and that the facilities are better. From what I saw of a room when I went to visit, it looks okay. I hope that it lives up to first impressions.

Last night’s sleep was much more reasonable. Although I was up and about a couple of times, it was 07:25 when I awoke definitively and I was downstairs eating my breakfast when my alarm went off.

I was going to have a shower today but we seem to be back on the cold water again so I’ll have to wait. See what it’s like tomorrow or else christen my new place accordingly.

Tea was vegetables for couscous with a handful of chick peas, some mushrooms, some boulghour and rice, followed by sliced spicy cake and soya yoghurt. Delicious it was too.

It was rather slow progress on the blog updating today, and I’ve reached as far as 11th September 2010. The reason for this slow progress is that half a dozen pages, just written quickly late at night at the appropriate moment, merited an enormous amount of research and subsequent expansion as well as the addition of piles of photos to improve the illustration. All of this has taken a considerable amount of time but it’s well-worth it.

And, of course, we’ve had the rain today, haven’t we?

So I’ll be off to bed in a few moments to make the most of the last night on the floor on this very tired and sad mattress. See if I can have a good sleep.

But I’ll tell you one thing – and that is that I won’t be sorry to be somewhere else. I don’t regret coming here because it served its purpose when I was practically homeless, and it was only €11 or so per night. but it has really tried my patience and I can’t wait to get into a real bed.

I hope that it lives up to it

Tuesday 28th June 2016 – I HAD A BETTER …

… day today, although you might not think it.

I slept better for a start and I always feel beeter when I’ve had a decent sleep. Not that this was decent by any means. I was still up and down a couple of times during the night, and up properly at 06:00, but I’m sure that I must have slept rather better than I have done in the pst couple of weeks.

The weather brightened up too, and as far as I can remember, it didn’t rain today. That’s a first. I just went out for a slow walk to a local boulangerie and bought a rather expensive baguette. But I didn’t spend anything else – and I might have been tempted had I gone to the Delhaize.

The water retention issue hasn’t improved any, but I’ll be seeing about that over the course of the next few days.

I’ve had a good day working on the updating of the blog. I’m now up to 5th August 2010 and I’m quite pleased about that. if I can keep it up, it will be totally up-to-date by the time that I’m ready to leave here, with time to spare, I hope.

Downstairs in the kitchen at teatime I had a good chat to Phoung, the Vietnamese girl. She didn’t want to talk about life in Vietnam, which was unfortunate from my point of view, but we chatted quite a lot about loads of other things.

So now I’m going to have an early night – if I can. The girl in the next room has visitors round and they are a little rowdy at the moment. I hope that it won’t go on for too long.

Sunday 26th June 2016 – I’M DISAPPOINTED …

… with that pizza place that I’ve been using. I had an under-cooked pizza a couple of weeks ago, I seem to remember, and tonight’s was even worse. What was even more depressing about it was that while a few weeks ago he might have had a valid excuse, seeing as how the place was packed out, but tonight I was the only customer in there at the time that I ordered.

And so I shan’t be going to that place again – not that it’s a big deal because there’s another pizza place just round the corner from where my new place is and I’ll give that a try. I still have plenty of my sliced vegan cheese left.

Talking of vegan cheese, I had a cheese butty today. There wasn’t enough hummus left for a decent butty, especially as with it being Sunday it was a big baguette from the boulangerie down the road. But with a good supply of vegan cheese, a big tomato and a pile of salad (and a couple of olives) it was delicious.

Mind you, I’ll have to do a big “shop” tomorrow as I’ve now run out of lunchtime stuff.

Last night was a slightly better night as far as I was concerned. I was late dropping off to sleep – long after midnight – and awake early – 05:20 in fact – despite having been up once or twice during the night. But after the 05:20 trip downstairs, I went back to bed, back to sleep and it was 08:20 when I awoke.

I’d been on my travels during the night too – with the mother of a girl who has featured a couple of times in these pages. We were in Marcillat en Combraille and I had to take her home, which involved going into the town square and back out the other side. However she told me of a shorter way through the town that missed out going round the square. It was puzzling to me how come I didn’t know this particular way.

Straight after breakfast, which did include my two bread rolls, I went down to the boulangerie. Although the bad news is that the jam had gone off. I managed to salvage some of it but the rest went into the bin. It’s already been salvaged once so it’s no big deal. I’ll have to buy some more if there’s none supplied in this new place.

Sunday was shower day too, so now I’m nice and clean. But it was touch and go because the water wasn’t very hot. I don’t know what has happened there. I had to make the most of the cool water. It wasn’t very pleasant but still …

As far as the blog goes, I’ve now finished the month of June. Tomorrow, I’ll be starting on July if I have the opportunity. I want to see how my water retention issues go because if there is no improvement I’m going to try to blag my way back into the hospital.

Not that I want to of course, but I can’t go on like this.

Sunday 19th June 2016 – NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT!

I had to leave the comfort of my stinking pit once during the night, but I was soon back in it and fast asleep. And the next thing that I remember were the bells of the local church summoning the faithful. I tried to count the peals of the bells but was easily defeated by the crazy campanologist so I had to look at my phone to find out the time.

Ohh yes, 09:47. That’s what I call a lie-in. When was the last time that I had a decent sleep like that?

I’d been on my travels too, driving a sports car in some kind of rally. as far as field positions had gone, we had finished down the field but bearing in mind the individual start times, we were well out in front in the classifications and I was expecting, with all kinds of confidence, to leave the field behind me the next day. But on setting off, the tractor-digger that I was towing behind me suffered a collapsed digger arm and that seriously delayed me as it wouldn’t raise back up. Of course, the idea of switching on the engine to start up the hydraulic pump never ever occurred to me.

After breakfast, I went for a pleasant stroll down to the boulangerie down the street – the one that I looked in the other day – for my baguette. I’ve run out of hummus so it’s vegan cheese, tomato and olives today for lunch. For a change, it was quite nice weather outside but it soon clouded over. The weather is really miserable right now and no-one would ever believe that it’s flaming June.

vegan deli vegan cheese carrefour belgiumAnd while we’re on the subject of vegan cheese, I forgot to post a photo of my exciting discovery from several days ago. So now’s the chance to catch up with the outstanding issue.

As you can see, it’s the same brand of vegan cheese that I discovered a month or so ago, but this time it’s a Cheddar cheese substitute. THis is quite an exciting discovery and will definitely make my cheese butties taste much better.

This afternoon, I’ve been on at the Titanic public enquiry again – the American version. Today, I’ve been reading a great deal of nonsense from some of the passengers – the most important part of the disaster according to one woman was a sailor sitting next to her in a lifeboat lighting up his pipe, and another passenger regretting that sailors were put in the lifeboats to row and that their places should have been given to some of the “gallant and heroic First-Class male passengers who gave their lives so that those wretches could escape”.

But I have said before that I have no time for Senator Alden Smith who chaired the enquiry, but this nonsense about “what is an iceberg made of” has finally been put to bed.

You remember that we said the other day that the American Press of the day ridiculed him for asking the question – on the basis that “everyone knows that icebergs are made of ice, which is water”. But we had an Arctic expert giving evidence today who stated that icebergs are full of rocks, and it’s those rocks that could easily split the iron sides of a ship and cause the damage that led to the sinking of the ship. So Senator Alden Smith had the last laugh after all, although you would never expect the American Press to apologise.

hercules motorcycle leuven belgiumIt was such a nice evening that I went for a walk into town. And I’m glad that I did because I encountered a motorbike that I didn’t recognise, so I went for a closer look.

This is a Hercules, a German make of motorcycle – a company that was famous for producing a Wankel rotary engined bike and which ceased production in 1996. There was nothing to indicate anything more about this bike, but it’s a single-cylinder four-stroke of about 125cc, something like that.

We don’t have a classification for old motorcycles so I’ll file it under “old cars”.

leuven town hall belgiumThe Town Hall in the city centre looked absolutely splendid in the late evening sun and was well-worth a photograph. It does make you wonder just how splendid the city must have been before the Germans burnt it to the ground in 1914 and blew it to bits in 1940.

Now that I have my vegan cheese I could go for a pizza, after all, it is Sunday. And I had a beautiful vegetarian pizza that went down well. And a lovely walk back home where I polished off the rest of the cake with some soya custard-substitute.

Now, I’m going to have an early night. I have a busy day tomorrow at the hospital.

Thursday 16th June 2016 – I’VE BEEN OUT GALLIVANTING …

… this evening.

Alison was coming into Leuven so we arranged to meet up and go for a meal, a coffee and a chat. And so, as indeed you might expect, when it was time for me to go off to meet up with her, it started to rain.

However, at least it did prompt me to have a shower, a shave and a change of clothes so it can’t be all bad, can it? And I must say that I needed it all too. And in another major step forward, I’ve tracked down a launderette so I can give all of my clothes a good going-over as soon as I have a bag full.

The launderette is actually on the way to the boulangerie, and seeing as how I had a full complement of everything that I needed today, I reckoned that instead of the supermarket I’d just nip to the boulangerie to see what it’s like. The baguettes cost €1:25 but they are enormous and I had something of a struggle to eat it all. And while I was in the kitchen preparing lunch I was joined by one of the students and we had quite a chat. Not only that, one of the girls is leaving on Saturday and there’s a party for her, and they have invited me to attend. Isn’t that nice of them?

I didn’t have the sleep that I wanted last night. I awoke twice with the urge to visit the porcelain horse and it’s a flaming long way down (and an even longer way back) especially in the middle of the night. But years of living in a van have taught me a trick or two and I have come well-prepared for eventualities like this. One day, I’ll explain my littie secret to you.

I’ve been on the internet for much of the day, reading the report of the American enquiry into the sinking of the Titanic. I read the British Board of Trade report years ago but the other day I came across the American one. This is very interesting because it was the first of the two enquiries and there was a huge argument recorded in its pages between the officers on one hand and the seamen of the other hand about whether the Titanic split in two before it sank. Most of the seamen who expressed an opinion were firmly of the opinion that the ship had split in two, whereas the officers disputed this idea.

The conclusion reached by the inquiry was the ship had not split in two, and at the British enquiry, the point was not pursued as firmly. Yet when the wreckage of the Titanic was discovered and filmed, they way that it was lying on the sea bed left no doubt that the ship had indeed split into two before sinking.

I met Alison at the parking of the Sint Jacobsplein and went for a walk through the rain into town. Yet another gorgeous meal at the city centre fritkot followed by a coffee around the corner, and then a slow wander back to Alison’s car, seeing as it had stopped raining by now. It’s nice to be sociable and meet up with friends.

Back here, I’m having a little late night for a change. Serve me right for drinking that coffee!