Tag Archives: Brussels

Saturday 20th November 2021 – IT SEEMS TO ME …

… that you’ either getting photos or dictaphone entries right now – one or the other and not both.

But over the course of the next few days things will be brought up to date. But then that’s the story of my life these days, isn’t it?

gare montparnasse rue du départ paris France Eric Hall photo November 2021And while we’re on the subject of photos and stories of my life, look at this photograph.

For four and a half years I’ve been struggling through the underground labyrinth from the Gare Montparnasse to the metro station, going up and down flights of stairs like there’s no tomorrow, struggling with suitcases and all kinds of luggage.

Today, I walked up two half-flights of stairs and then up an escalator, and then you can see what I have to overcome in order to reach the Gare Montparnasse. Down at the end of the Rue du Départ in the distance you can see the station, one street that’s straight and level, with the only issue being to wait for the traffic lights so I can cross the road.

How easy is this compared to how I used to travel?

It might have been even easier had I had a good night’s sleep last night. But I don’t sleep very well at all in the beds at this place in Leuven and last night was no exception.

martelarenplein leuven Belgium photo November 2021It didn’t take me long to tidy everything up, make my sandwiches and pack, and I was on the road by 05:35

When I arrived in Leuven on Wednesday I had intended to take a photograph of the Martelarenplein in the daylight but I forgot and so I took a photo on my way into the station.

Of course, you can’t see the work very well because there is a fence and a covering all around it and I have to poke the camera through whatever gap I can find.

martelarenplein leuven Belgium photo November 2021And the work has now spread pout right onto the front of the station building.

They are uprooting all of that now and it looks as if they are about to replace it with a different kind of paving block, and as for why they would want to do that I don’t know.

In the foreground we can see some more tactile pavement of the type that we saw on Monday, and in the background you can see the fence with the covering over it to stop nosy people like me poking cameras in to photograph the work.

08187 class 08 electric multiple unit gare de leuven railway station Belgium photo November 2021It was 05:55 when I set foot on the station platform.

Having completely forgotten that it was early on Saturday, I found that the next express to Brussels was at 06:33 and it was freezing. However there was a local stopper, an 08 class multiple unit, leaving at 06:08.

Although it arrives at Brussels-Midi at the same time as the express, it’s a lot warmer and more comfortable inside the train than sitting on the platform so I clambered aboard. And so I did, and we set off bang on time.

Thalys PBKA 4306 gare du midi brussels Belgium photo November 2021Our train pulled in at 07:00 and my train to Paris doesn’t leave at 07:43 so I had to loiter around in the cold for a while because like most railway stations, Brussels-Midi is a freezing, draughty station with nowhere to sit out of the wind and the cold.

The train was one of the PBKA – Paris Brussels Cologne Amsterdam – units and although these are quite old now, the are quite comfortable and I was glad to be able to be allowed on board early.

It was packed too, with hardly and empty seat. It seems that the 07:13 that I used to catch is no longer running so everyone piles on board this one. I had a young lady sitting next to me but she didn’t say a word throughout the whole journey.

Well, not that I would know too much about the whole journey because I was … errr … resting for about half of it.

As I mentioned earlier, the trip from the Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse was the easiest that I have had to date, but when I reached Gare Montparnasse, the wheels came off.

There’s already a 75-minute wait on the freezing, draughty concourse of the railway station but I did notice that the train that I should be catching hadn’t yet arrived from Granville. We were supposed to leave at 10:54 but it hadn’t even come in by then.

By now I was frozen to the marrow so I went of to buy a coffee and as usual, exactly as you might expect, while I was distracted the train pulled in so I had to struggle on board with a suitcase, a laptop bag, a bag with my lunch in it and a full mug of coffee and just two hands to hold it all.

84569 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021As a result I couldn’t take a photo of my train – I’m not an octopus – and of course it had to be the rear of a two-trainset unit so I had to do the best that I could at Granville.

It was 11:36 when we eventually set off and for a change I was feeling rather dynamic and I’m not sure why, but I actually did some work on the train back home which makes a change.

Another thing that I did was to finish off reading a book that I had started to read a long time ago, the account of Parry’s voyage in Hecla and Fury which resulted in the latter being left behind on a beach on Somerset Island in 1829.

Her anchors were recovered and regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we went TO SEE THEM IN 2014

84567 84565 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021Having left Paris 40-odd minutes laten we were just over an hour late arriving in Granville and that filled me full of despair. I really could have done without that.

First thing that I did was to take a photo of the front bit of the unit on which I travelled. And then I took one of the front of the unit that was pulling me along. That’s the one on the left.

Being so late they had hauled another unit, the one on the right, out of the sheds to do the return trip back to Paris.

On the way down into town I called in at the Carrefour. Whatever else that might or might not happen, I can’t do without my mushrooms for my Sunday pizza. Not at any price.

For a change I took a new route through the town centre to avoid the crowds and thus it was maybe a little easier to walk.

It was still necessary for me to stop a few times on the way up the hill towards here, one stop of which was at the viewpoint overlooking the inner harbour.

marite belle france joly france philcathane port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021We have Belle France and one of the Joly France boats, the newer one of the two with the step in the back, moored together just down below.

Marité is down there too of course and over on the far side is the trawler Philcathane, moored where the gravel boats used to tie up. It looks as if we’ve seen the last of them.

And on the quayside is another shrink-wrapped boat. This kind of work is proving to be quite lucrative for the little Jersey Freighters.

boulevard des terreneuviers Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021On the way up the hill I noticed that the diversion signs had gone and the Rue Cambernon was open to traffic.

Accordingly I glanced down the Boulevard des Terreneuviers to see what was happening to the workmen’s compound. And there it was! Gone! And never called me mother!

What I shall have to do on Monday on my way to my physiotherapy is to go and see how they have finished off the work there.

Back at the apartment I struggled up the stairs into the apartment and crashed down in my chair for a good while to recover. I’d had a long hard journey.

Having backed up my computer with the files off the laptop I then went for tea. I had some falafel left over from Leuven so I finished them off with some pasta.

No washing-up tonight as the water is cold. And it won’t be warm until tomorrow. Anyway I’m too tired to do it so I’m going to vegetate for a while and then go off to bed. A good sleep will do me good but that remains to be seen.

And next morning (well, afternoon actually) I was able to bring up to date the journal with details of my voyages. On Friday night I was in my Welsh class. There was a teacher and a girl and then I turned up. That made two of us. At first I couldn’t understand what was happening because my screen was just so different from how it normally was but I eventually settled down. The girl had to leave nut another guy turned up. We were talking about going to the restaurant but he asked me “have you eaten anything yet? Are you going for a meal afterwards?” I replied “I don’t have any plans as such”. Then the girl came back by which time we had a man teacher, a change from a woman and we had to go back to read this article that we had just read a couple of minutes ago.

Later on I was with Shearings and a meal that we were having as though we’d all been away for a weekend somewhere, all the employees. I worked out where the girls were sitting so I picked a seat that was behind there so I could see them. I put down my stuff and went to find some bread to toast. Someone turned up and sat at my seat. I made myself some toast and went back and had them clear off and I sat down. I wanted some more but couldn’t find any bread. In the end, in the kitchen I found a pile of fruit bread and made myself some toast from that. Someone else came and sat down on my seat again. I thought that I would move them again in a minute. Then there was no coffee left, no orange juice left. In any case these girls hadn’t come down. I thought “this is turning into a right old mess, this is”.

Wednesday 17th November 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow but sitting on the settee in my little room in the Dekenstraat in Leuven. It’s that time again.

After having a really bad night yet again, I was up and about fairly early and it didn’t take too long for me to sort myself out, make my sandwiches and coffee and do a little cleaning up (only a little) before I headed off towards the railway station.

fish processing plant port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021Before I went too far, I wanted to check to see that the NIKON 1 J5 was working properly and the dull sky of the early morning was a good time to try.

At the viewpoint at the corner of the Boulevard Vaufleury and Boulevard des 2E et 202E de Ligne overlooking the Fish Processing Plant. The plant was illuminated as the refrigerated lorries were loading up and I reckoned that if it would produce something reasonable out of this, there would be no need to nip home and fetch another camera.

And when I looked at it later, it’s come out much better than I expected. I’ve said before that it’s not that the camera is a bad camera, it’s that I’m pushing it to the limits of its capabilities.

baie de mont st michel port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021The photo encouraged me to have a little tinker with the settings and try to push the camera on a little more.

Here’s a nice wide-angle photo of the northern part of the Baie de Mont St Michel. The light on Le Loup is quite clear, as if a little blurred (which is hardly a surprise in this light at this speed with a hand-held shot) and the street lights around the bay from St Pair to Carolles are quite clear too.

It seems to me that the repair that I’ve had done to the camera is working well enough and now I’m tempted to send away the old NIKON D5000 that has never worked properly since I dropped it on A CONCRETE FLOOR IN QUÉBEC

The steps down the Rampe du Monte à Regret are still closed so I had to walk all the way down the Rue des Juifs and the Rue Paul Poirier which adds a few minutes to my time. But in compensation, the climb up to the top of the hill was much easier than it was the last time I dragged a suitcase up here.

There were only one or two stops to catch my breath and in reality I suppose that I could have pushed on regardless had I tried.

gec alstom regiolis 84563 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021The train wasn’t in yet so I had to wait for about 20 minutes for it to arrive.

It was just a 6-car unit today and there weren’t all that many passengers on board. I had a pair of seats to myself and that enabled me to back up my computer in peace and quiet for a change.

There was even 15 minutes when I could have a comfortable little doze to make up for what I didn’t have during the night.

The train pulled into Gare Montparnasse on time and once more I tried the route all the way down the Rue du Départ to the metro entrance. It really is much quicker and easier than going down into the labyrinth and clambering up and down all these flights of steps.

There was only one person in the queue at the kiosk at the bottom of the steps at the Metro entrance so I thought that this would be the moment to buy another pile of tickets as I’m running low.

However the woman in front of me, a Spaniard, was having difficulty with her French and was there for ages trying to understand what the guy behind the window was trying to tell her.

Eventually I managed to be served and I dashed down onto e very crowded platform where I had to wait a few minutes until an equally-packed train came in. We all scrambled aboard and I was lucky enough to find a seat.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4551 PBA gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo November 2021At the Gare du Nord I was still earlier than I used to be despite the encounter at the ticket window.

Consequently, as you might be expecting, we had to wait for an age for our train. There was already one trainset standing at the platform, one of the TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt “Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam” trainsets, but it was too much to expect that this was going to be mine.

Our train was going to be a two-trainset unit and the rear portion arrived from Lille rather late and had to be cleaned and tidied before we could board it.

TGV INOUI 216 are TGV Reseau Duplex gare de lille flandres railway station lille France Eric Hall photo November 2021It goes without saying that I would be right down at the far end of the train. However, although it took me longer to walk right down there, it means that I have less distance to walk at Lille.

It’s one of the TGV Reseau Duplex trainsets, and so once again we are travelling in a hybrid train made up of two different types of trainset. That’s becoming more and more of a regular occurrence.

Although we were late setting out from the Gare du Nord, the train made up the time by the time we reached Lille Flandres railway station. That was good news for me because I wasn’t in the mood to run down the road.

And the walk to Lille Europe was easier than last time too.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4519 PBA gare de lille europe railway station lille France Eric Hall photo November 2021As I walked down the steps (the escalator wasn’t working) into the station at Lille Europe, the train for Brussels pulled in at the same time.

That’s not an issue because there’s a 20-minute wait while they uncouple the front trainset so there wasn’t any panic. The trainset that was left behind was another TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam trainset.

Our train set off on time and I had a nice relaxing journey reading a book on the laptop all the way to Brussels

We were a few minutes late arriving in Brussels so I had to run for my train to Leuven.

push me pull you gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo November 2021However I gave that up when I found that the escalator to the platform was out of order. I wasn’t up to running all the way up the stairs with my suitcase. Instead I went and waited for the next one.

That one was one of the pushme-pullyou trains that run between Eupen and Oostende and as usual, the locomotive was at the rear end pushing the train along.

It was only 10 minutes behind the one to Hasselt and Genk so I didn’t have to hang around too long and for a change at the Gare du Midi it wasn’t too cold and draughty standing on the platform.

class 18 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station leuven belgium Eric Hall photo November 2021When we arrived at Leuven I had to hang a round for a couple of minutes to see what the locomotive was.

As I expected, it was one of the Class 18 electric locomotives behind (or in front of) which we travel most of the time. They provide most of the motive power to the long-distance Inter-City trains.

Once the train had pulled away I went to the supermarket at the back of the station for my drink and, for a change, my bread too. I’m not going to have time to go to the supermarket this evening so as long as I have my stuff for breakfast I’ll be fine.

cherry picker martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo November 2021Outside the railway station across the road in the Martelarenplein, there was a cherry picker parked up.

That can only mean one thing – and that is that the Christmas decorations will be going up any moment soon. It’s that time of year already.

The walk down to my little room was easier than it has been of late, and as I arrived I bumped into the centre manager. We had a little chat. After all, it’s been a few months since I’ve seen him last.

After a little doze I had a shower and washed my clothes and then went out to meet Alison. We went back to her house for falafel and chips, and a nice long chat..

Now I’m back here and I’m off to bed. I’ve had a hard day and I’m exhausted as you might expect. A good sleep will do me good and hopefully I’ll be fighting fit for my appointment.

And an early trip out to buy a breadknife as there isn’t one here and I’ll be struggling to cut the loaf that I had bought.

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.

Wednesday 13th October 2021 – IT REALLY TAKES …

… some believing that for the last four and a half years I’ve been flogging myself through the back-breaking, if not heart-breaking labyrinth that is the bowels of the Gare Montparnasse.

Let me give you the background to this.

The Gare Montparnasse is not the original site of the station. That site, where the legendary Granville train of 100-odd years ago failed to stop at the buffers and crashed into the street below is now the site of the Tour Montparnasse.

They moved the station back about 500 metres or so but they didn’t move the metro station, so you have to descent about 10 flights of stairs into the bowels of the station, walk 500 metres along a dingy corridor, and then climb and descend a succession of steps that take you over other metro lines, sewage pipes, water pipes and just about everything.

As I said, I’ve been doing this for four and a half years, sometimes even with some really heavy luggage and in my state of health and it’s been a nightmare.

But not any more.

Before I came away, I had a look at a street map and then at one of these live camera sites and I’ve had a change.

Today, I just went down one flight of stairs, outside the railway station into the open air for a walk of 400 metres down the Rue de Départ on the level to the corner of the Boulevard Montparnasse.

There, I went down an escalator, then down one flight of steps and I was on the platform. As easy as that, after all of this struggling for all of these years.

While I was doing it all, I was keeping an eye on the times and I reckoned that I’d arrived at the Gare du Nord 2 trains earlier than usual too.

So this morning I was up at 06:00 after another bad night’s sleep but I was hard at it from the start, making my sandwiches, cleaning up the place, disinfecting the drains and even washing the floor. I must be feeling better.

Plenty of stuff on the dictaphone too. I was with Nerina last night and We’d been out for a meal. I’d been somewhere, the bathroom probably, and when I came back the meal was ready. The waiter gave me a warning about the bottle of wine. When I looked at it, it was €24:00. I thought that Nerina had been pushing the boat out a little. We had a lengthy chat about this and that, with Nerina working on the taxis and everything. We were talking about old times here and there, mostly about her old times, not very much about mine. I’d received a card from someone whom I thought at first was her but she handed me another one. I asked about this 1st card. We had a look at it but couldn’t identify anything. She had some fun trying to guess then I had to go to take some papers over to someone to check because it was about a job abroad. I asked about it and the subject of these people came up. I asked him about them but he didn’t know them very well either and didn’t understand what this card was all about. At some point I’d gone to the vehicle wholesalers. They had a Vanden Plas, a big 4.0 litre one and I wanted some parts for it. I wondered if my parts account was still valid after all these years.

I’d been skiing with a ski club, that one with Terry Large, I think. We’d been skiing in that mountain pass about which I dream occasionally. But when they were showing the films there wasn’t any snow there. There were a couple of army tanks going past. Someone went past in a big 4×4 pulling an enormous boat and managed to get it stuck. Everyone had to help it around this corner. I went up to see the film in the lounge after we had all come back and I couldn’t see very much of it because they had already shown it. We were only getting near the end. Then I had to pack and there were all kinds of things like oil cans, things like that that I had to fit into my suitcase. Then I thought that my bag, with all of my ski clothes in it, wasn’t there. I had to ask where it was but I couldn’t find the people to ask. Someone gave me a couple of e-mail addresses but I couldn’t understand them and they sighed with exasperation. In the end I copied them down. One of them said to tell one of these people who your sister is because he knows here and she was here a minute ago. I still didn’t have everything ready and I was worried about all of these cans leaking out in my suitcase and everything. While I was there someone talked to me about this pass. I said that I knew it very well because I only live 9 miles the other side at one time.

lorry emptying waste bins place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021On my way out of the apartment, I was glad that I actually had my camera at the ready because the refuse lorry was there.

As well as the bins for the household waste, the glass and plastic etc, there’s also a big bin for the waste paper. This morning the lorry was there to collect it just as I was leaving the building.

Had I been 2 minutes earlier I would have seen him dropping the lot into the back of his lorry but instead this morning I just managed to catch him dropping the bin back onto the ground.

That was an exciting start to the morning. I set off to the station with a bounce in my step.

fish processing plant port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Not that I went very far, trying to negotiate the pavement in the dark without falling over a bollard.

What caught my eye was the Fish Processing Plant, and what a hive of activity that was this morning. There has obviously been a good catch overnight because not only do we have 3 refrigerated lorries there this morning there is also quite a collection of other vehicles.

Continuing on my way through town towards the station, I reflected that taking a bigger suitcase with me, even though I’ve lightened the load, was a good idea. It was easier to pull and its bigger wheels were easier to manoeuvre. I actually made it to the station only stopping three times for breath.

SNCF Class BB67400 diesel 267455 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021When I arrivd at the railway station, my train hadn’t yet come in.

But we did have a visitor in there today, a locomotive that we haven’t seen here before. She’s 267455, one of the SNCF’s 228 Class BB67400 diesel locomotives.

Introduced between 1969 and 1975, they were the final evolution of the old Class BB67000s dating from the early 60s to replace what remained of the SNCF’s steam locomotives. For a great many years they were the mainstay of the heavy freight and passenger trains on the French non-electrified railway network.

But as for what she and her friend are doing here, that’s a mystery because we aren’t ever likely to see the kind of freight train coming here that needs a double-headed pair of locomotives like these.

gec alstom regiolis 84581 gare de granville railway station manche normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Before I could go and inspect the rear locomotive, my train to Paris turned up so I wandered off and clambered aboard. I was ready for a good sit-down.

My seat today was one in a four-seat place. While two of the seats were occupied, the one next to me wasn’t so once I’d updated the laptop I could have a decent sleep for a while.

The rest of the journey was spent reading an E-book about Polar explorers. One of these days, I’m going to make up my own map of the Frosen North and indicate thereupon all of the places of interest that the Polar Explorers of the Golden Age of Polar Exploration had visited.

gec alstom regiolis 84582 gare montparnasse paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021To my surprise, and everyone else’s, the train pulled in bang on time at Montparnasse, as you can tell by the clock.

From the platform I descended the flight of steps to the lower concourse and headed off into the wild blue yonder, boldly going where no man had gone before.

As I mentioned earlier, the journey was so much easier than going down into the bowels of the earth and fighting my way through the labyrinth to the metro station. I shall be doing this part of the journey again on a regular basis and I wish that I had done it before. I felt much more relaxed when I arrived on the platform.

Arriving earlier than usual at the Gare du Nord I had plenty of time to relax. I had a quiet sit-down on one of the benches to wait.

And that’s one thing that annoys me intensely – the waiting arrangements at the Gare du Nord. There isn’t a waiting room that I have found, in the traditional meaning of the words, and for one of the busiest stations in Europe the seating arrangements for people waiting for a train are really poor.

There can’t be more than 50 seats all told, and that is really sad. I remember how I was feeling after fighting the good fight through the underground and then finding that there was nowhere to sit to recover.

TGV INOUI 212 TGV Reseau Duplex gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021But one of the very few advantages about Covid is that because of all of the new procedures on long-distance trains, they are opening the gates early. I was one of the first on board.

Today’s train is, as expected, one of the TGV Reseau Duplex “double deckers” that are quite common on the French TGV network. They are starting to show their age now, which is probably why they are slowly being relegated to running the shuttle between Paris and Lille.

My first journey on one was years ago from Lyon to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport when I was on my way to Montreal and I wish that I was on my way to Montreal again right now.

TGV INOUI 226 TGV Reseau Duplex gare de lille flandres railway station lille  France Eric Hall photo October 2021The other end of our two-unit train was another TGV Reseau Duplex, as I found out when we pulled into Lille Flandres railway station.

And then I had the walk across town and up the hill to Lille Europe Railway Station and that wasn’t as difficult as it has been of late either with my different suitcase.

But what I don’t understand is why the train actually goes into Lille Flandres and not Lille Europe. They share the same track up as far as the approach to the stations and then split off to go their separate ways. And what you have is a relentless stream of people swarming out of the one station and up the road into the other

TGV POS 4401 gare de lille europe lille France Eric Hall photo October 2021at Lille Europe I didn’t have long to wait at all for the train to arrive from the Midi.

The train, at least, my end, was one of the POS units that used to work the lines out to Eastern France until they were replaced by more modern stock a couple of years ago.

That’s something else that has always puzzled me because the Rhone Valley TGVs are the ones that probably have the highest use of all of the TGV network and certainly the route from Brussles (and sometimes Amsterdam) to Marseille is the longest route that the SNCF runs.

Consequently I would have expected that to have to most modern, up-to-date equipment.

But anyway that’s another story. Continuing with this story, there was no-one sitting beside me on the train to Brussels either so I could sit and eat my sandwiches in peace. My stomach was thinking that my throat had been cut.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4513 PBA gare de lille europe railway station lille France Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that I was on was another two-trainset ones, and it was something of a hybrid, as I discovered at Brussels-Midi.

The front end is one of the Reseau 38000 PBA (Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam) trainsets that seem to have cascaded down onto this line recently from their more habitual route.

Leaving the platform at Brussels Gare du Midi was a nightmare though. We arrived on the platform that is on the same island as the Eurostar to London so most of it is closed off and there is only one exit working.

push me pull you gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021As a result As a result I missed my usual 15:34 train and had to wait until 15:56. There are four expresses per hour to Leuven but strangely, they don’t run every 15 minutes. Three of them come in at 10-minute-or-so intervals and then you have to wait for ages for the fourth.

The train that came in was the one that goes to Eupen and that’s one of these push-me-pull-yous, basically because there is no run-round for the locomotive at the railway station at Oostende.

And I’m still unconvinced by the wisdom of the heavy locomotive at the rear pushing the lightweight front of the train forward at high speed, especially over points and junctions. But then it works for the SNCB so why not?

scrapped class 55 diesel locomotives haren belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021For a change just recently we took the old low-level line out of Brussels which means that we go past the scrapyard at Haren.

The next few photos show locomotives that were formerly in store at Charleroi and were moved here a while back. Someone had photographed them at Charleroi and wondered subsequently where they had gone, so I had been hoping for an opportunity to photograph them.

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy thing to do from a moving train, but I did my best and I’ll be uploading them to this Social Networking page in due course.

scrapped class 55 diesel locomotive haren belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021These are SNCB Class 55 diesel locomotives, the “second generation” of mainline diesels introduced by the SNCB in the early 1960s.

There were 42 of them built for the SNCB and they were the mainstay of the Belgian mainline network on the non-electrified lines and the international network until the early years of this century, when they were relegated to minor duties.

The bodywork of these machines was built by the Belgian company BN, now a part of Alstom, but the engines are real diesel engines, all 16 cylinders of them, built by General Motors

scrapped class 55 diesel locomotive haren belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021They are now being withdrawn from service and scrapped but their 60 years of service is a testimony to their reliability.

Compare this to the British equivalent of these machines built by the North British Railway Company. The “Buy British” campaign in that period led to a company with very little experience of building diesels trying to build an equivalent machine “under licence”.

Because the loading gauge on British Railways is smaller than in Europe, the engines had to be mounted upside-down which meant that to perform even a simple maintenance task like to change an oil filter, the engine had to come out, so the downtime was enormous.

With the substandard design, substandard materials and substandard assembly procedures the project was a dismal failure. Breakdowns were common and even led to a fatal accident as a train gave out on busy main lines and was hit in the rear by a following train

The result was that not one of the British equivalents lasted any longer than 10 years.

class 18 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021When we arrived in Leuven I waited on the platform for the train to depart so that I could see what was pushing it along.

No prizes for guessing, of course. It’s one of the Class 18 electric locomotives, complete with recruitment posted for locomotive drivers. Business must be booming on the SNCB.

Here at Leuven I tried something else new. With plenty of space inside my suitcase I went to the supermarket at the back of the station and bought my drink there. It fitted nicely into my suitcase to bring down here, and it was at that point that I discovered that my laptop will also fit in there.

As a result it was a much easier walk down to my little room than it has been of late.

A little later on, having recovered my breath, I wandered off down to the supermarket for the supplies. And seeing as I’d already bought the drink and that I don’t need any fruit as I have an early start tomorrow, the walk back with a much lighter load than usual was much easier.

So having been fed and watered, I can no go off to bed and have a good sleep. Tomorrow I have no fewer than 3 appointments at the hospital as they continue to probe my case.

Saturday 18th September 2021 – JUST A FEW LINES …

… because I’m really not feeling like sitting down and writing War and Peace after the day that I’ve had.

As seems to be usual these days, I had a pretty disturbed night last night, not being able to sleep very much. It always seems to be the case when I have to arise early in the morning.

But arise early I did and I had plenty of time for my train. I was on the station at 06:15 in the freezing cold – winter is coming quicker than you might think

My train was the 06:33 to Brussels that arrived at about 07:05 so there was plenty of time for me to go to the supermarket and pick up a little something for lunch before my train left at 07:43.

Yes, half an hour later than usual, simply because my usual one had no seats left. But even though this train costs €30:00 more, I don’t have to change trains at Lille and stagger halfway across town.

We were 10 minutes late arriving in Paris Gare du Nord but there was still plenty of time to cross the city on the metro to Gare Montparnasse.

The train that was awaiting me was a two-trainset one of 16 carriages, and was pretty much empty. It looks as if they were just using one trainset pulling the second one as a positioning voyage. I’d slept for much of the way between Brussels and Paris, and repeated the exercise on the train between Paris and Granville.

In fact I was asleep when the train pulled into the railway station at Granville.

The walk downhill into town was quite easy but to be on the safe side I’d bought a can of go-juice at the Carrefour in the Rue Couraye.

The climb back up the hill in the Rue des Juifs was a nightmare as you might expect and I can’t go on much longer like this. It took me about four or five stops to make it up to the top, one of which was a nice long one while I drank the drink that I’d just brought.

Back here I sat in my chair and vegetated for quite a while. It’s good to be back home, as Barry Hay once famously said.

Later on I made a coffee and without moving from my chair I watched the football on the internet. TNS v Barry Town.

With the demise of Connah’s Quay Nomads and the strengthening of TNS over the summer, TNS are pretty unstoppable and this is how it proved to be.

Their 3-1 victory tonight was really a foregone conclusion but Barry’s defence was appalling. Their second goal came about because the Barry keeper didn’t dive to cut out a ball doing across inside his goal area at about knee-height.

For the third goal, Declan McManus was standing in an onside position on the goal line right in the centre of goal with not a defender anywhere near him for about 15 seconds before he was presented with a simple tap-in.

Round about 23:00 I finally summoned up the energy to leave my chair. I’ve had no tea tonight because I was too tired to make it and I’m just going to dash off a few notes before I go to bed. I’ll add the photos into the notes in due course when I’m feeling better.

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.

Tuesday 17th August 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not actually sitting in a rainbow but sitting in my little room in Leuven in Belgium.

Just for a change there were very few problems as far as the journey went but I have had a fraught time and I can’t go on like this for much longer.

This morning started fair enough as I was awake as soon as the alarm went off and there was some stuff on the dictaphone. There was something happening last night about Channel swimmers and there was even a dog that swam the Channel but in almost every one of these cases they were carrying drugs and the bag of drugs would split in their stomachs and almost all of them would die from drug overdoses just as they reached shore

Because of my condition I was having to move. They had offered to treat me at Chester General Hospital so I went to live in Connah’s Quay. That was several trips of 150 miles to organise everything . While I was there the new ferry out of Connah’s Quay, Castell Alun I think, was sailing through the sky brightly lit by the moonlight. I went to make myself a mug of hot chocolate which was just powder and boiling water. While I was there some people were walking past my house. They were talking about whatever it was that had to be 94 inches wide rather than 84, and they didn’t know where they would find something like that size. I didn’t know what it was that they were talking about because they certainly wouldn’t find a lorry that width.

To my deep regret I didn’t step back into that epic and memorable dream where I left off yesterday, and wasn’t that a disappointment?

Having tidied and cleaned up the living room yesterday for when the nurse came, it didn’t take too long to prepare everything ready to leave. Taking the rubbish outside was exciting though – I can’t believe that there was so much and I’m surprised that it didn’t walk out there all on its own.

In the absence of the NIKON 1 J5 I took with me the old NIKON D3000 fitted with the old 15-110mm lens.

houses on brittany coast Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt’s not as easy to pack as the Nikon 1 but a lot smaller, easier and lighter than the big NIKON D500.

First thing that I did when I was out there this morning was to take a few pics with the camera to make sure that it was working correctly.

The weather was really cloudy with just a few gaps in the clouds where the sun was streaming through. It was illuminating a couple of houses way over on the Brittany coast and so I reckoned that that was a good enough object to try out the camera.

And despite the haze on the water across there, it’s not too bad an attempt for a 9 year-old camera and lens of doubtful quality

joly france belle france ferry terminal port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallMeanwhile close to home, there was some activity doing on over at the ferry terminal as if they are preparing the boats for the morning crossings.

To the right of the image is one of the Joly France boats. She’s the one with the rectangular windows in “portrait” format and that tells me that she’s the older one of the two.

As for the one in front of her, hidden by the jetty, it’s difficult to say who she is. The brightness of her colours seems to suggest to me that she’s the brand-new Belle France but that is a mere assumption on my part.

It’s not the little freighter Chausiaise at any rate.

festival de voiles de travail port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallSo having made sure that the camera was working sufficiently well, I set off for the railway station

What has been catching my eye for the last few days has been the appearance of all of these tents and other weird things that have sprung up all over the harbour.

The tents now have their sides fitted so they are going to be some kind of exhibition rather than somewhere to shelter from the rain.

And the purpose of that rectangular enclosure is still something that I have yet to discover.

victor hugo festival de voiles de travail port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallDown on where the fishermen keep their gear and on the car park next door, they have erected a few marquees too.

There’s what looks like the hulk of a very small and old wooden boat.

Incidentally, I found out what it is that is to happen down there because there was an advertisement in a shop window that I passed. It’s the Festival De Voiles De Travail, the “Festival of Working Sailing boats” starting tomorrow and finishing on Sunday.

And it doesn’t make much sense to me to have a Festival to entice crowds down to the town and then erect it on the car park so that they can’t park their cars anywhere to visit it.

police blocking road rue couraye Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallFor a change I decided to go to the station via the town centre rather than the park because I didn’t think that I could get up the steps at the end.

Mind you, I was wondering whether I would be allowed to walk up the Rue Couraye because as I turned the corner into the street I encountered a police barrage and they were directing all of the traffic down a side street.

It’s not the done thing of course to photograph the police in the execution of their duty unless there’s a very good reason but of course I was more interested in the guy drinking his coffee outside the café on the corner, which I could photograph having been allowed to pass beyond the barrage.

broken down van rue couraye Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallOf course you are all wondering why there might be a barrage across the road.

It didn’t take long for me to discover why either. There’s a large van that has broken down on the road junction and as I passed the driver, he was busy telephoning for a dépanneur.

While I was recovering my breath from the climb so far I could take a photo of it, and then I could press on. But it was a long, hard climb up the hill for some reason today and I really didn’t feel anything like as well as I ought to have done or indeed have done in the past.

This was a really difficult walk.

84559 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallWhen I arrived at the railway station, my train was already there so I could go along and find my seat. And I needed it too because I was exhausted.

My knee gave out while I was trying to climb into the carriage and it really was a most undignified entrance as I fell inside, dropping all of my luggage, and then trying desperately to stand up again.

Eventually I found my seat and I could set about updating the portable computer with the files that I’d copied earlier off the big computer.

And I had a very cute and charming young companion on my trip to Paris but unfortunately she wasn’t the chatty type so we didn’t say very much at all to each other.

84584 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris France Eric HallMuch to my surprise, and yours too after all of the recent events, we arrived at Gare Montparnasse bang on time to the minutes.

The next bit wasn’t quite so easy because there had been an abandoned piece of luggage found by the entrance to the metro and so it was all closed off while they fetched someone to examine it.

It took them about 15 minutes for them to clear the problem and we could advance. Everywhere was crowded as you might expect although I did just about manage to find a seat.

And that was just as well because trying my best to rush down the long corridor and up the steps had finished me off.

224 TGV Reseau Duplex gare du nord paris France Eric HallMy late arrival at the Gare du Nord meant that I didn’t have too long to wait for my train to Lille Flandres.

As usual, it’s one of the TGV Reseau Duplex double-decker trains, and in order to board it we had to show our vaccine passes and then our rail tickets, which meant that juggling two different screens consecutively on the mobile phone wasn’t an easy task when you have a handful of luggage.

The voyage was quite uneventful and we arrived at Lille on time. But by now the cloudy day had turned to light rain so walking down the road to Lille Europe was at least quite refreshing, even if it was not easy

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4517 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallAs I walked onto the railway station at Lille Europe my train pulled in at the platform.

It’s one of the “Paris Brussels Amsterdam” or PBA Reseau 38000 tri-volt trains, and inside it was chaos as no-one was sitting in the correct seat. But I quickly turfed out the people from my seat and took my place.

For a change I was on my own on this train so I could stretch out on my way to Brussels.

At Brussels they had a barrage as the police were checking vaccination passes. The queue stretched for miles and it wasn’t long before people began looking for a by-pass. I followed them through as well and left the queue behind.

big wheel foire du midi brussels belgium Eric HallUnfortunately the delay meant that I had missed my usual train to Leuven so I had to wait for about 15 minutes for the next one

While I was waiting, I was sitting on a concrete kerbstone watching what was going on all around me. It’s the time of the year right now when we have the Foire du Midi, the big funfair that takes place outside the Gare du Midi.

They have a big wheel too just like the one that we have at Granville and from where I was sitting I could see it going round. There are usually a few other large attractions too but they were out of my view unfortunately.

And it’s much more interesting at night too when everything is all illuminated.

push me pull you gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallEventually my train pulled up, and it was another one of the pushme-pullyous that we have on the Oostende-Welkenraedt route as there is no run-round for the locomotive at Oostende.

It’s brought with it the rain too, as you can see. Luckily I’m underneath the platform canopy but you can see how much is teeming down by looking at the photo. It’s raining cats and dogs right now.

This train was pretty packed too but with being at the front of the train I could grab a seat quite easily before the crowds who had swarmed on board at the centre of the train filtered down my way.

There are a couple of single seats right by the door so I grabbed one of those and I wasn’t bothered by anyone else.

1882 class 18 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallAt Leuven I could wait and photograph the locomotive that was pushing our train.

It’s one of the class 18 electrics – the workhorses of the SNCB these days, and why is it that there is always someone who makes a special effort to walk in front of you when you are photographing something?

The rain was coming down quite heavily by now and I struggled to reach my little room. And I had to come up the stairs on my hands and knees as it was the only way that I could get myself up them.

There is shopping to do as well so after a rest of about 90 minutes I headed off down the road. Just as far as Delhaize because I didn’t have the strength to go to the Carrefour.

And I only bought stuff for tea and a loaf of bread for toast in the morning too. I’m having to do my shopping in two loads because I don’t have the strength to carry everything back up the hill in one go.

Now that I’ve had tea and written my notes, I’m off to bed. No alarm in the morning because I need a good lie-in to recover. And then I’ll have to go down the road and buy the stuff for lunch.

What a state to be in!

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.

Wednesday 16th June 2021 – NOW HOW ABOUT …

hellmans vegan garlic mayonnaise leuven belgium Eric Hall… this to go on my lunchtime butties?

This is something quite new in the shops. I’ve never seen it before. And I shan’t have to worry about visits from vampires during the night because I tried some of it with my pasta and vegetables and believe me – it took the varnish off the door when I breathed out. This was definitely a good buy and no mistake. It’s the kind of thing that will put hair on places I don’t even have places.

But be that as it may, let us return to our moutons as they say around here.

That is, around France, because Im not in France right now. I’m actually in Leuven because it’s time to visit Castle Anthrax again.

At 06:00 when the alarm went off, I leapt out of bed – sort of, something like – and the first task of the morning after the medication was to peel, dice and then blanch a kilo of carrots that I’d bought on Monday. And then I put them to drain in the sink.

Secind thing was to make a coffee and then make some sandwiches etc for my lunch. Packing my stuff and then giving the kitchen a good clean and disinfecting and, of course, taking out the rubbish before it walked out on its own.

At 08:05 when I went out this morning it was already scorching hot. Heaven alone knows what it’s going to be like at 15:00. But heaving my pack up onto my back I set off down the hill in the Rue des Juifs.

street repairs rue des moulins Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallDown in the town there was already some excitement going on in the Rue des Moulins.

They had a concrete cutter and a digger down there, sticking a pile of earth in the back of the lorry down there, and the workmen are busy admiring the hole that they have dug. For a moment I was wondering if I should go over and fall in with them but instead I pushed on.

At the railway station, my train wasn’t in yet so I had a nice relaxing sit on a bench on the platform while I waited for the train to come in.

GEC Alstom Regiolis 84581 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere wasn’t all that long to wait. The train pulled in round about 08:45. Just one six-car unit instead of two six-car units coupled together.

Climbing aboard, I went off to find my seat. For some reason or other that I don’t understand, they had me sharing a 4-seat combination with a couple of other people. No chance of my supporting that idea so I grabbed an empty seat where I could sit all on my own.

Having had a very late night last night, I wasn’t up to doing all that much but I did managed to copy onto the laptop all of the files that I’d backed up onto my memory stick. And the music ones took some sorting out. I’ll have to research the albums that I cropped the other day and work out which song goes where.

Our train was delayed at Argentan and so we arrived 10 minutes late at Paris Montparnasse. But there was no delay on the Metro and I arrived at Gare du Nord with plenty of time to spare.

TGV INOUI 206 TGV Reseau Duplex gare du nord paris France Eric HallJust as I arrived at the station concourse the train from Lille Flandres was just pulling in.

It’s one of the TGV Inoui Reseaux Duplex trains that we travel on regularly – one of the double deckers, but we aren’t allowed to board it yet. There is going to be a delay because these days they give the train a deep clean before we’re allowed on.

As soon as the cleaners had finished they announced the train, and there was a mad scramble of passengers towards the gate. And there as a slight delay from my part because it took me a minute or two to work out how the rail ticket on my phone works.

TGV INOUI 206 211 TGV Reseau Duplex gare du nord paris France Eric HallThe train is actually two eight-car units coupled together and so it goes without saying that I was in the second half down at the far end of the platform.

And you’ve no idea of the confusion that I caused trying to find my seat, because it didn’t exist. Even the ticket collector couldn’t find it.

On close examination however, we discovered that I’d gone into the wrong carriage. I’d gone in through the correct door but at the top of the stairs I turned right instead of left and hadn’t noticed that I’d walked over the bellows into the next carriage.

But once I was sorted out, I had a good sleep all the way to Lille Flandres.

We had a curious incident after we left the station. Some woman was asking some passers-by “which is the way to Lille-Europe?”. I told her “follow me, I’m going that way” and she did – for the first 100 yards and then she shot off ahead.

She must have known the way after all for she was standing outside the station smoking a cigarette when I caught up with her.

The train wasn’t in yet so I was able to sit down and eat my sandwiches in comfort

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4523 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallWhen the train pulled into the platform we all swarmed down the steps.

It’s one of the tri-volt TGV Réseau 38000 train sets, known colloquially as the PBA, or “Paris Brussels Amsterdam” sets. This time there was no problem finding my seat and I spent most of the journey reading an e-book while my neighbour spent most of the journey speaking to someone on the telephone.

At some point I must have dozed off because the rattling over the points as we came into Brussels awoke me. And so I packed my things.

Having gone through all of the procedure about Covid tests, Passenger Location Forms and the like, there was no control at all at the railway station and I felt quite disappointed.

There was a train to Leuven and Liège on its way into the station so I ran off to platform 15.

am80 automotrice 390 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThe train was another one of these disreputable Am 80 automotrices or multiple units.

Old, tired, dirty and graffiti-ridden, they should have been put out to grass a long time ago from that point of view. But they are quick and reliable, and perform a lot of long-distance work like Brussels to Luxembourg and the one on which I’m riding – the Belgian Coast to Liège.

If these trains were cleaned, the graffiti was removed and they were given modern interiors with a modern seating configuration, they could keep going for another 40 years.

When the ticket collector came down, I couldn’t find my ticket on the SNCB app on my phone. Luckily the ticket collector could. We learn something new every day.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric HallThe heat at Leuven was searing and I burnt myself on the metal handrail on the steps down from the passenger walkway

But from up there, there was a good view down onto the Martelarenplein. I’ve taken a few photos of that just recently but usually from ground level. This is the first opportunity that I’ve had of taking an aerial view and so I wasn’t going to miss it.

The heat was really oppressive as I struggled around the ring road to the Dekenstraat. I had to stop a few times to catch my breath. At one point I was overtaken by some weird kind of solar bicycle but he cleared off quickly before I could photograph it.

At the Dekenstraat I found my room – another one of the upmarket duplexes. They are very good to me here, giving me a free upgrade whenever there’s one vacant.

Having sorted myself out I sat down to do some work. There was something on the dictaphone from the night but the only thing that I remember about it was being on a bus coming out of Hanley down the Etruria Road. Suddenly it had to manoeuvre into the outside lane, round in front of a couple of cars then off to the left down a slip road onto the “D road”. The slip road had all kinds of houses alongside it and it was cold and foggy and it hav been snowing heavily. I asked the driver what was happening. He said that the police had told him to go that way so that he didn’t have any other choice. I asked him “what about the people who live in Longport and places like that?” He replied “that’s rather a shame but the police have told me to do this and this is what I have to do”. Then I awoke in a really cold sweat again. There was much more to it in this dream and I think that my ex-friend from Stoke on Trent appeared in it somewhere

Having finished that I had more things to do but instead I crashed out on the sofa. I awoke with a start at 18:45 and there was shopping to do so I had to nip out smartish because they close at 20:00.

road works naamsestraat naamsevest leuven belgium Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve been watching the roadworks down at the junction of the Naamsestraat and the Naamsevest.

They are now at the stage of resurfacing the road so I reckon that in another three or four years they might actually have it finished. We all know how quickly they work here in Belgium.

Normally I would be going to the Carrefour but I didn’t have the strength tonight so I ended up at Delhaize. And I was only just in time too because as I was queueing up to pay, they switched off the lights in the shop.

In order to get back up the hill and return to my digs I had to have an energy drink. But I made it back and made myself tea – falafel burger with pasta and veg – with the latter all mixed up with that garlic dressing. Pudding was pineapple slices with sorbet.

There was the intention to write the journal entry for today but instead I fell asleep again. When I finally awoke I just went to bed to sleep it off. I can write up my journal tomorrow.

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.

Wednesday 19th May 2021 – YOU’RE PROBABLY WONDERING …

… about why it’s taken me so long to put my notes of today’s travel on line.

The truth is that last night with 164% of my daily total of effort recorded on my fitbit, I crashed out completely at about 21:15 and crashed out properly too – in bed under the bedclothes and out like a light. I vaguely remember waking up again at about 23:20 but that was my lot until 05:20 the following morning.

And that’s another mystery, isn’t it? Whenever I do go to to bed really early I can’t seem to make the most of it and end up waking early, except on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago.

But returning to our moutons, as they say around here, Wednesday is the day that I travel to Leuven. I was up and about at 06:00 as usual as the first alarm went off.

First task was to make myself a coffee, and then make a thermos flask of coffee for the journey. Those water bottles that we received for our expeditions on board THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR really are the business.

Making my sandwiches and so on for breakfast and lunch was next, the sourdough and the ginger beer needed feeding too so I attended to that. It will be interesting to see if there’s another eruption of the sourdough while I’m away. To be on the safe side, I’ve put the jar in a bowl to stop it going everywhere.

Having done a few more bits and pieces I headed off down the road towards the railway station, realising after about 200 yards that I’ve forgotten to pack any clean clothes. Too late now to do anything about it now.

people on terrace rue lecampion Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallDown in the town I noticed a few changes hat have taken place since I was last here. Cafés can now open their terraces to the general public.

Many of the city centre cafés don’t have terraces of course but the local council has given them authorisation to set up ad-hoc terraces on the street in front of their premises. And even though it’s a cold, damp 08:15 or thereabouts on a midweek morning, there are a few clients who couldn’t wait to sample the delights of which they have been deprived for so long.

Draymen too delivering beer barrels and crates too. That’s a welcome sign too.

But I still think that it’s far too early to be opening up like this with casualties the way that they are. I can’t help having the feeling that it’s as if the Government has given up the fight against containing the virus and relying on the vaccination programme. This is all going to end in tears.

beach cabins on lorry cours jonville Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallBut there are other more positive signs of summer too, as I noticed further along at the junction in the Cours Jonville.

As I waited to cross the street one of the Council lorries pulled up in front of my. It was pulling a trailer and was loaded up with the beach cabins off the Plat Gousset.

At the end of the season the cabins are taken off the promenade to keep them safe in a compound in the Council’s maintenance depot. They don’t leave them on the promenade through the winter

Regular readers of this rubbish who will recall having seen the winter storms smashing their way onto the promenade at high tide will not be surprised by this. Coming back at the start of the season and finding a pile of matchwood waiting for you isn’t the way to run a seaside resort.

gec alsthom regiolis 84555 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallAt the railway station my train was already in and waiting for me so I could go and find my seat and sit down. And that was just as well because with not feeling very well, the walk up there had thoroughly exhausted me.

It was only a 6-car unit too – just one of the GEC Alsthom Regiolis sets that we usually have – so it was pretty crowded this morning. I had a companion sitting next to me, but that didn’t stop me sleeping for the first part of the journey.

The rest of the journey was spent updating the laptop. This morning before setting out I copied onto a memory stick the files that had been updated on the big computer since my last trip to Leuven. I have one of these tiny 64GB memory sticks attached to my keyring which I use as I travel about to copy files from one computer to another.

The Gare de Montparnasse was still quite empty – full life hasn’t yet returned to Paris (and quite right too) – and it was easy to find a seat on the Metro train to the Gare du Nord. I always walk down to the end of the platform at railway stations because I’ve noticed that the crowds seem to congregate at the middle so the ends of the trains are usually much more empty.

At the Gare du Nord there were very few people around yet again so I took full advantage by buying another carnet of 10 tickets. I seem to be going through them quite quickly these days.

TGV Reseau Duplex 216 gare du nord paris France Eric HallAs I arrived upstairs at the terminus where I catch my train, a train from Lille pulled in and I reckoned that this will be mine going back out again.

We won’t be allowed on it for quite a while because they have to clean it thoroughly these days before we can get back on, so I spent the time looking around. I can tell you a little about my train while we are waiting.

It’s one of the old TGV “Reseau Duplex” double-deckers that they use on high-volume routes. The first time that I had travelled on one was a few years ago when I went from Lyon to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on my way to Montreal, and doesn’t that seem like a lifetime ago, the way things have been this last year or so?

sncf locomotive 522228 class bb 22200 gare du nord paris France Eric HallWhile I was looking around I came across this beautiful machine.

Anyone who has travelled on an express train in France before the days of high-speed high-capacity multiple-units will have been on a train pulled by one of these. It’s locomotive 522228, one of the class of BB22200 locomotives that flooded the SNCF network back in the old days and are the epitome of French long-distance travel.

The Nez Cassées or “Broken Noses” began to be introduced in 1975 and a total of 205 were introduced. Some of them have even been timed at travelling in excess of 200 kph. But in 2012 they began to be withdrawn for breaking and that marks the end of this era of traditional travel. And that’s a tragedy

TGV Reseau Duplex 215 gare du nord paris France Eric HallEventually the details of our train were posted up on the board so we could all swarm down to platform towards our seats.

As you might expect, mine is down at the far end of the train, which I suppose isn’t too bad because it means that I don’t have so far to walk at Lille Flandres. It’s a train of two-units coupled together and, surprisingly, we have two units of consecutive numbers.

This wasn’t quite as full as the rain on which I’d come from Granville so I had no neighbour. I could eat my lunch in comparative comfort and read my E-book.

It’s a book written in 1918 and talks about the early history of flight, AIRCRAFT AND SUBMARINES: THE STORY OF THE INVENTION, DEVELOPMENT, AND PRESENT-DAY USES OF WAR’S NEWEST WEAPONS by Willis J Abbot and makes several claims about powered flight taking place before the Wright Brothers but by people other than the usual suspects Gustave Whitehead and Richard Pearse.

It’s a fascinating read about submarines because there is little research that has been done into the German U-boat campaign of 1914-18 compared to what was done in the Second World War and the massive tomes of CLAY BLAIR

Interestingly, there’s an obscure reference in Abbot’s book to the fate of the Hunley – the world’s first killer submarine. He says that divers a couple of years after the end of the American Civil War found it still embedded in wreck of the Housatonic, although no mention of that was made when Itzé and I WENT TO VISIT THE HUNLEY after it had been recovered.

Our train pulled into Lille Flandres railway station bang on time and so I set off in the damp atmosphere down the road towards Lille Europe Railway Station.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4518 SNCF TGV POS 4403 gare du lille europe France Eric HallOur train was already in the station but there was 20 minutes before our train was due to depart so I had plenty of time to take a photo of it.

Once again it’s a train consisting of two train sets. Mine is 4518, one of the TGV Reseau 38000 tri-volt trains, the same type as the Thalys PBA trains that work between Paris, Brussels and occasionally Amsterdam. It’s coupled up to 4403, one of the POS units tat formerly worked the eastern TGV network.

its neighbour 4402 is the train that holds the world speed record for conventional train travel, having reached 574.8 kilometres per hour on 3rd April 2007.

push me pull you sncb locomotive gare du midi brussels belgium  Eric HallThe train that took me on to Leuven from Brussels Gare du Midi was one of the SNCB “push me pull you” units with the locomotive pushing it from the far end.

And I was lucky to catch it too because there was another barrage at the station with the police checking the travel papers of people getting off the train. I was paperless, as you might expect, so I had to bluff pretty hard to be allowed officially to enter the country.

But I know what to do for the next time that I arrive in the country, and I can see that I shall be having to change my travel habits.

But anyway, they let me in and I could head off for my train.

sncb series 55 locomotive 5503 haren brussels belgium Eric HallFor a change, our train took the older route that passes by the huge railway rolling stock depot at Haren, and alongside the area where they park the redundant locomotives prior to scrapping.

Amongst the locomotives in there today is 5503, one of the Class 55 diesels of the SNCB. This was a generic design used by many railway companies in Europe, and this particular model was built by BN, a Belgian company now part of Bombardier, and powered by General Motors EMD engines.

It’s a testament to the efficiency and reliability of the GM engines that 60 years after their introduction there are still plenty of them still in existence. The British version of these, powered by the unreliable and inefficient and, for all intents and purposes, irreparable North British engines that were cheap licensed copies of a MAN diesel engine, never even made 20 years.

To give you some idea, because of the narrow British loading gauge, the engines had to be mounted upside-down so that to even do a simple job like draining the oil and changing the filter, you had to take the engine out.

sncb automotrice am75 haren brussels belgium Eric HallAlso ready to go to the breaker’s yard were a few of the AM75 multiple units.

When I was working for that American company 15 years ago I would have been pleased if one of these had arrived at Jette railway station to take me off to work instead of one of the ancient units that usually took me, but these days they are long obsolete.

Introduced in 1975, there were 44 of these train sets introduced. There are one or two of them still circulating around on the network round by Antwerp and Charleroi and are the oldest multiple units left in action on the SNCB railway network, but I suspect that they won’t be around for much longer.

But I’m interested to see what the next generation of multiple units will be like.

sncb class 18 locomotive 1886 gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric HallAt Leuven I could see which locomotive had been pushing us towards Eupen.

It’s 1886, one of the Class 18 electric locomotives. There are 120 of these locomotives, built by Siemens between 2008 and 2011 and replaced a variety of different locomotives from previous generations built in the 1950s and early 1960s.

From the railway station I staggered off to my accommodation. And it really was a stagger too because I didn’t enjoy the walk at all. And I didn’t have an upgrade today. The place is busy so I’m in a single unit, although bigger and with a double bed, something that you don’t have in a basic single unit.

My trip to the shops was later than usual, and for 2 reasons too. Firstly we had a torrential rainstorm and I wasn’t going out in that. And secondly, I needed all of this time to gather my strength.

roadworks naamsestraat naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric HallBecause I wasn’t feeling very energetic, I took the shorter route along the ring-road to the supermarket, and ended up at the junction of the Naamsestraat and the Naamsevest.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve seen the roadworks at this junction for the last couple of times that we’ve been here, and there still appears to be no change. They aren’t making much progress here, which seems typical these days with building work, and I wonder how they are progressing with the other work we’ve been watching.

Anyway, at the Carrefour I did my shopping. They had burgers on special offer and also some reduced vegan sausages so I bought them for the next few teas But I forgot the vegan mayonnaise for my sandwiches which was a shame.

roadworks naamsestraat naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric HallOn the way back I passed by the roadworks again, which we can see now from a different angle, and then headed on for home

The walk back with the shopping exhausted me and the climb up the stairs to the 2nd floor finished me off. I made myself some food, a burger with pasta and veg, and that was that. I’d had enough for today and so I was going to go bed straight away. I can finish my notes tomorrow.

it’ll also give me a chance to listen to the dictaphone to see where I went during the night because there was a file on the dictaphone to indicate that something had happened during the night.

Nerina was actually involved in this although I didn’t have the chance to see her. I had to go to see someone who had built some kind of magnificent motorbike and was busy building – I dunno, circus or fairground attractions out of old cars and so on so I thought that I go and talk to him about perhaps getting a bike or doing some work or something. He lived on Stoneley Road – no, not Stoneley Road – near where the Hunters Lodge is. So I went down past Nerina’s but she wasn’t there, and I got to this house. I knocked on the door but no-one came. It was a bungalow and the front door was at the side of it. I put my head into the garage but there was nothing in there but I was tempted to go for a really good look around, which I did. When I came out I bumped into a couple who were most surprised to see me. I was most surprised to see them – it didn’t half look suspicious. I explained what I was doing. The guy started to be really aggressive in a light-hearted, funny way saying things like “when they said this kind of thing to Clement Freud on 20 Questions he became most upset, things like that. This went on for a couple of minutes. I ended up being cornered by this man and woman. She was telling me all about the stuff that he was building but e guy was being all aggresssive. Suddenly they ushered me into the house. There in the living room was a load of people all wearing black, motorbike types in black t-shirts, black leather waistcoats and so on and they had all kinds of things in there like cars that were turning into circus attractions, that kind of thing, all together. Someone I knew who was a friend of mine, either my former friend from Stoke on Trent or Rhys (yes, you have a mention, Rhys), said something about having to go and tax his motorbike. I made some kind of comment about my motorbike needing taxing as well, even though it wasn’t MoT’d. That’s where it ended.

The hospital tomorrow, and they are going to be checking my heart. At least I have one, which shows that I’m not a Tory. And I’m thankful for that.

Saturday 24th April 2021 – THERE ARE MANY …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 27th March 2021 – THAT WAS PROBABLY …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 24th March 2021 – WHAT A HORRIBLE …

… day I’ve had today.

Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong today and I’m thoroughly fed up. Instead of arriving at my room at round about 16:30 it was 20:45 when I limped miserably through the door.

The day started off OK with me being out of bed just after the first alarm and I even had a shower and fed the ginger and the sourdough. For some reason though I didn’t do any tidying up. I just didn’t feel like it and that was the start of the day going wrong.

But anyway I set off into town and the railway station.

unloading lorry port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that yesterday we saw a lorry at the loading bay in the inner port dropping off a pile of stuff.

This morning there was another one there dropping off another big load of stuff down there, as I noticed as I walked past. It’s almost a certainty that one of the Jersey freighters is on its way in and my money is on it being Normandy Trader.

Having observed it all for a few minutes I headed off down the hill and through the town, going the back way to the railway station again.

84563 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallMy train was already in the station when I arrived so I clambered aboard. Today, it was just 6 carriages, not twelve as usual, and it was pretty empty.

And then all our problems began.

We ground to a halt somewhere along the way and sat there for 50 minutes. It seemed that a car had tried to beat the barrier of a level crossing but failed. We had to wait until they had come along to drag the car away before we could proceed.

As a result, we were an hour late arriving in Paris Montparnasse and I had missed my connectons to Belgium.

And here things became even worse. As I was going down an escalator my legs simply gave way underneath me and I fell heavily to the ground. And I didn’t even have the strength in my legs to pick myself up. A couple of passers-by had to help me very shakily to my feet.

The pain in my right leg right now tells me that my right knee has collapsed.

Having missed the 13:15 to Lille, the next train was at 15:42 and that filled me full of despair. This is what happens when you try to travel in the middle of a pandemic.

TGV Reseau 213 gare du nord paris France Eric HallIt was necessary to wait almost 2 hours, two hours that I couldn’t really spare, before we could board our train.

It’s one of the TGV Reseau double-decker units on which we travel quite regularly to Lille. This train wasn’t particularly busy either and everyone had a seat to themselves. It left Paris a few minutes late but pushed on quite rapidly and we made up the time. We arrived in Lille Flanders railway station bang on time.

Now I had to walk across town to the Lille Europe railway station and in my state I wasn’t looking forward to that. It was something of a disreputable stagger down the street for my part.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4518 gare lille europe France Eric HallThis is the front end of the train that I was going to catch to Brussels. It was two units coupled together and I was in the rear one.

And I was really glad to see it because I discovered to my dismay at Lille Europe that my next train out of Lille Europe to Brussels was at 18:11. A wait of about 80 minutes. That wasn’t at all what I wanted to hear but there was nothing whatever that I could do.

When I was in Paris I’d looked to see if there was a “Thalys” direct to Brussels. Indeed there was but that meant waiting around at Paris even longer and an extra cost of €68:00 to save about 20 minutes.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4510 France Eric HallAnyway, my train turned up on time.

Like the front end, the rear end is another one of the PBKA Reseau 38000 units. I suppose that they have been decanted onto this route seeing as much of the TGV network has closed down under the new Covid restrictions.

This train was quite empty too. Despite it being the only train for several hours, it was almost empty too. I had a nice little sleep on board for 20 minutes until we arrived in Brussels and I awoke with rather a start as we pulled into the Gare du Midi.

Being now hopelessly late I had a look in the tow supermarkets in the station for some food as I was in no state to walk all the way down to the ones in Luven later and they would probably be closed by the time that I arrive.

But with nothing at all that I could buy so I went up to catch my train the Leuven.

multiple unit am80 automotrice gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallIt’s another one of these disreputable AM 80 automotrice multiple units that must be the next sets to go for the chop, old, dirty and graffiti-ridden as they are.

But it was on time, such as it was, and brought me on time into Leuven where negotiating the steps in the station was not the easiest thing that I have done.

Luckily the chip shop around the corner was open so I grabbed a bag of chips and headed for my room. And here I had to wrestle with the door of the safe in order to extract my key. It was not easy as the combination did not accord with the one that they sent me.

But in the words of Marshall MacMahon, “j’y suis, j’y reste” – “here I am and here I’m staying”. I’m not up to going anywhere right now as I’m in agony and I’ll have to do better than this tomorrow if I’m going to make it to the hospital

There’s shopping to do to and I’ve no idea how I’m going to manage this. All will come clearer tomorrow after I’ve had a good night’s sleep and I’m going for that right now.

In fact I had to wait until the following morning before i could listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. I started off with Marianne going to North America. I pulled up on the airport car park like we would do every 4 weeks when we went. The first thing that we noticed was that there were 2 cars, an MGB sports car and another one that were there the last time that we went. Marianne said “ohh look! There they are again”. “Yes, they are probably saying the same thing about us”. We went into the airport, sat down and had to wait. I noticed that there were a couple of other couples whom we knew by sight who had been with us on previous voyages there. Marianne asked for a breakfast so I went to find the cafe kind of place. They made some toast and a couple of other things and some coffee and I had a slice of toast as well. I took them back out and dropped them on the table but she wasn’t there. She was off doing something. I put the stuff on the table and went to the bathroom. In there I met 1 of the guys whom I’d just mentioned who’d been with us before, and we had a little chat. I looked in the mirror. My hair was overgrown, needed cutting and I was dressed so untidily, shirt and tie everywhere. I thought “God I really could have done with tidying myself up before I’d come away but it’s too late to worry about that now. I went back outside and Marianne had this huge fried breakfast, mushrooms, bacon and egg, beans, sausages, everything and I wondered where on earth she’s got that from. But she was there tucking into this breakfast.

Later I was in New York going to pick up THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR. The night before, I’d met a couple of people, I’d been staying in a …. and so on. We all had to bring our baggage around on board ship the next day. The next morning I was up early and I bumped into a young Japanese American boy who had flown in from South Africa. We had had a chat about the flights to South Africa, all kinds of things. There was a third person who was not actually going with us on this trip. The 2 of us, we set out to go somewhere. Off we went and walked around the town a little looking at the sights. We somehow became separated – he wandered off with this other person. I thought that I had better start back to the ship. I couldn’t realise or remember what time I had to be back. I had this feeling that I was going to be horribly late so I started o panic a little. I ended up in Crewe at the top end of Victoria Street thinking to myself that I would have to get to the boat. it was just them that Julie Driscoll started to sing “Wheel’s On Fire”. As I was walking down Victoria Street I could hear that song playing.

Before that there had been something about the Army. A couple of us had been in the Army and we’d been rounded up to go somewhere. We weren’t particularly military and the Sergeant-Major who was with us was a bit of a swine. It was quite obvious that we were rubbing each other up the wrong way with the way that we were behaving because we had no military precision whatsoever and he was extremely annoyed by this. The place was a total tip and we wanted it tidying up but it was one of those places that was so untidy that we didn’t know where to start. When we first got to this place there was a girl there and we helped her with one or two things and then she went. Then it came round to the time ready to go early in the morning so we started to tidy up. There was some kind of hoist or breaker that we had to bring upstairs. We went downstairs to look for it but down there was even worse with tools and machinery everywhere. We couldn’t find what we were looking for. There were a few things that might possibly have been it but he didn’t seem to think that they were. This ended up being rather a hunt for this rather than a tidy-up. This girl came in and asked if anyone could fix a light for her because the plug wouldn’t reach. The Sergeant and I went to do it. We managed to find an extension cable that we had to cut into 2. This place was just not being tidied up and it was now 17:00 and the next group of people would be arriving imminently. We didn’t have this place tidied at all and it was really looking a mess.