Tag Archives: bruxelles

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.

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.

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.

Monday 28th December 2020 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow but pretty near enough. I’m curled up around a radiator in my little home from home in Leuven where I’ll be staying until Sunday.

And much as I like Leuven, it’s a pretty dismal state of affairs because firstly Alison is stranded in the UK by the new Covid rules and my appointment has now been pushed back until Thursday as I discovered today. So I could really have spent an extra two days at home, travelled on Wednesday and come home on Saturday thus saving a third day out.

But you live and learn.

What else you learn the longer that you live is that you can do it when you really try and so not only did I beat the third alarm, I was up and out of bed and running around while the 1st alarm was still ringing. And so plenty of time to tidy up, have a shower, take out the rubbish, back up the computer, send off a pile of radio files, make some sandwiches for lunch and cut a large slice of fruit bread to take with me for breakfast – pretty good and nourishing stuff, this fruit bread.

Tons of stuff on the dictaphone too, And what surprised me was that I was able to leave the bed so early with all of this going on. I’m surprised that I’d even made it back home.

I was having to make tea for Marianne last night and the guy she was having to sit with who was ill so I made them a kind of roast dinner as best as I could which didn’t look too bad. But I realised that on his plate I’d forgotten the gravy so I mixed up a white sauce and put it on his plate and went to add the gravy powder to mix in, but first I added chocolate powder. I thought “that will never do” so I scraped it off the plate and put another lot on. The next thing that I tried to put on was coffee powder and hat didn’t work either. It took about 3 or 4 goes for me to actually get his sauce right
Before that, I’d been out for a walk and there were a couple of people loitering around so we had a bit of an ad-hoc game of football and it was quite pleasurable. I came back into the house. Later on that evening when I was writing up my notes I couldn’t settle and I couldn’t make myself comfortable, moving from 1 chair to the next and 1 machine to the next, then trying to find some paper to write it out in longhand. In the end I settled on a shorthand notes reporter’s diary but found out that it was full. All the time my brother was asking me questions about this and that and I was trying to answer him as well, and I was trying to write out this report and I wanted to embellish it, to make it look a lot more than it is but I could never do it. I was getting so confused by the fact that I just couldn’t get comfortable and couldn’t make a start and couldn’t get anywhere with this
Art one time a girl dresses as a ballerina appeared on the scene and you could see according to the effort that she was putting into it and the way that she was walking and holding herself that it was a great big effort. I hoped that she would hold out physically and with the virus because it would be very sad if she were to succumb to it with all of this effort.
Later on I had to go and pick up Alvin from Hampton Close. I had my motorbike, my old CX and I decided that i’d go and pick him up. That went OK for a while until I got to Chester and I thought that I’d better programe the route to Hampton Close on my GPS because it’s years since I’ve been there. I spent ages fiddling around trying to make the GPS work. I had to drop off something at someone’s place and coming back I couldn’t make the GPS work. It took ages with all of this messing about to get it to go. The bracket broke off it and when I made it work I couldn’t programme it. It was all a nightmare, this journey was for some reason. Suddenly it worked and it was 18 minutes to there but I only had 15 minutes left but I thought that that’s not too much of a problem. He’s not going to be that concerned. Then I noticed on the back of the butty box the L plates had all faded off and you couldn’t read that it was an L plate. I was worrying about that for a while but suddenly realised that I didn’t need L plates on it because I had a full licence. Yes, I had to post off Ann’s present, that’s why I’d stopped and had to take it to the post office. Then Alvin came. he was there. I told him the story of my adventures which he thought was hilarious. We mounted the bike ready to move off to wherever we were going to next.

I’d gone out for a walk and I was the other side of Sandbach close to the motorway. I’d taken the wrong route which I’d taken before which was a dead end and I had to retrace all my steps. This time though I thought that I’d push on and climb up this embankment at the side of the motorway into a field and walk along the field at the edge There’s bound to be a bridge that goes over at some point I walked on and by now the motorway had transformed into a canal so I was walking along the towpath of an abandoned canal. It gradually came into a little village. I was really enjoying this walk and thought that this is going to end bu around Middlewich way. It’s a long way home but it will be really nice and i’ll stop for an ice cream. I walked through this little village. There was a shop there with its shutters half down. I thought an ice cream would be nice but i’ll push on to the next village. At this point there was some guy messing around in the road. He couldn’t make up his mind whether to go left or right so I swerved round him, making some kind of remark but banged my hip on a parked car. he didn’t say anything aboutt hat but he was going on and on about what he was doing. So I dropped in that I was working on the radio and things that I was doing that I’d inflated. Then he had to go and sort out a puncture in his car so I took him as a passenger in mine which was strange because I’d been walking up to this point. There were 3 of us in the end in this car. He was still going on about his radio and I was still going on about mine. He was saying “that’s a fine hobby to have”. I said “it’s a bit more than a hobby”. We reached Middlewich in the end and he told me where he wanted me to drop him off. he asked how much he owed me for the ride. I replied “nothing. I hope that someone would do the same for me some day if I ever need it”.

But the walk around Sandbach and Middlewich reminded me of a walk that I’d been on during a nocturnal ramble when I’d set out to walk from Chester to Nantwich via, of all places, Wrexham. Or as the skunk said when the wind changed – “it all comes back to me now”.

christmas lights rue lecampion Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallHaving organised myself as much as I could, I headed out for the railway station.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we haven’t as yet seen the town’s Christmas light in all their glory but this morning they were illuminated. My route took me up the Rue Lecampion and we can see here exactly what they have done as far as this street goes.

In fact, it’s all rather underwhelming, isn’t it? I can recall the decorations from last year being so much better than these. It looks as if the town has been on an economy drive this year.

christmas lights place generale de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallA few days ago in the daylight we had a trip around the back of the kiddies’ roundabout in the Place Generale de Gaulle to see what they had been doing there.

This morning, the Christmas lights were illuminated here too and we can see how they are getting on now. On the left illuminated by a pink light is supposed to be a wooden polar bear, and I suppose that a blind man would be pleased to see it. And strangely enough, a couple of Christmas trees further along weren’t lit up at all. That’s a strange decision.

The newspaper offices at the end of the street are all rather garish and somewhat tasteless but I don’t suppose that there is any particular reason for them to bother themselves too much.

christmas lights cours jonville Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallFinally, I walked along the Cours Jonville.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a few weeks ago we saw the electricians stringing up the light in the trees down here with a cherry picker. With the lights being on, we can see their handiwork today. It’s all nice, bright and airy, but it doesn’t exactly inspire the imagination, does it? The could have done much more than this with the facilities that they have.

But I wasn’t going to hang about and argue. By now the rain had started again so I pushed off towards the railway station. And the farther I went, the more and the harder the rain fell.

gec Alstom Regiolis 84574 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallBy the time that I reached the railway station I resembled something like a haggard, drowned rat. But at least my train was already in the platform so once I’d stamped my ticket I was able to clamber aboard and find my seat.

Today I was right by the rest room and right in front of the luggage rack so it was something of a convenient seat. No-one sitting next to me either so I could eat my fruit bread and fruit in comparative quiet and luxury.

To while away the journey I uploaded all of the backup files that I’d done this morning and then started to go through to identify duplicate files and remove the earlier versions

snow near vire Normandy France Eric HallIf you think that the rain that we were having was pretty rough, we weren’t having it as rough as some people were.

By the time that our train reached the region in between Vire and Argentan the heavy rain had turned to snow and thrre was a lovely white colour in the fields all around the train as we sped on to Paris. It didn’t hold my attention for very long though because I dozed off to sleep. And when I awoke again near Versailles we had long-since left it behind.

We reached Paris more or less on time and compared to how it has been just recently, it was quite busy. And we had to wait a while for a Metro which was something of a surprise.

And somewhere along the route a couple of cleaners climbed into the train with a cleaning machine the size of a small zamboni. That disrupted everyone on board.

TGV Reseau Duplex 213 gare du Nord Paris France Eric HallWe arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris with plenty of time to spare and I was luck enough to find a seat straight away where I could sit in comparative comfort until our train was called. These big French mainline stations are draughty, windswept affairs with very little public seating.

Today’s train is one of the usual TGV Reseau Duplex double-decker trains, old but comfortable and rattle along at a rapid rate of knots towards Lille. it was crowded too, although once again I was lucky enough to have a double seat all to myself so that I could eat my sandwiches in comfort.

And that bread that I made the other day is delicious. And furthermore, there’s half a loaf awaiting me in the freezer for when I return, along with the leftover frozen leeks, broccoli and endives.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 Gare du Midi Brussels Belgium Eric HallWe were a few minutes late arriving in Lille Flandres Railway Station so we had something of a scramble across town to the Lille Europe railway station for the TGV coming from the Midi that was going to take us on to Brussels.

By the time we arrived, the train was already in the station so making sure this time that it was in fact the correct train, I dashed on board to grab my seat. This time I wasn’t quite as lucky. I had a neighbour which meant that unfortunately I wasn’t able to spread myself out very much.

One thing that I forgot to do with this one was to check the times so I couldn’t tell how the journey went. But it passed off without any incident.

multiple unit automotrice AM80 303 Gare du Midi Brussels Belgium Eric HallArriving in Brussels I was in time for the 15:37 to Leuven and Liège. That was late pulling into the station and with a technician scrambling around in the drivers cab, it was very much later pulling out.

It’s one of the old, dirty graffiti-ridden AM80 multiple units and it’s high time that these relics of a bygone age were put out to grass somewhere but it brought us into Leuven and now that the rain had stopped I had a nice walk down to my hotel in the Dekenstraat.

For a change they’ve put me in a different room than usual, but it’s still an upgrade so I’m not complaining. And there was a little Christmas present for me too which was a lovely little touch.

Later on I went to the Carrefour and stocked up with shopping, but I forgot a few things like the vegan mayonnaise so I’ll have to go again. And I failed to notice that the tinned apricots didn’t have a ring-pull so I had to hack my way in as best as I could.

Having fallen asleep already while typing out my notes, I’m off to bed. No alarm – I’m having a lie in tomorrow. And then I have several days of Welsh homework to catch up with. There will be the dictaphone notes too, and another trip to the shops for the stuff that I forgot so it isn’t actually going to be very much of a day of rest

Friday 9th October 2010 – I’M GLAD …

… that I took Liz’s advice to vent my kefir in the bath.

That’s because it went up like the traditional four-bob rocket when I released the caps, and actually blew the caps and wires out of their sockets. So this will be a good batch. I hope.

Yes, for all my vicissitudes, I’m now back chez moi at the seaside and apparently I’ve brought the bad weather back with me. It was quite nice this morning, so I was told, but about an hour after I came back, it had clouded over.

This morning though, in Leuven, there was a heavy, damp, humid mist of the kind of which I’m so familiar, as anyone who has ever been in Belgium in the autumn will remember. I was up and about bang on the dot of the first alarm at 05:30 – just to prove that I can do it when I really try – and after finishing the packing and making my sandwiches, I headed out for the station.

SNCB 1906 Class 19 Siemens Electric Locomotive Gare du Midi Brussels Belgium Eric HallAt the station I had to wait 10 minutes for my train – the 06:21 to Blankenberge from Genk.

Being a shorter train than the usual Welkenraedt – Oostende train that I catch, it pulled up short of where I was standing. I had to run a hundred yards or two down the platform to the train. It was pulled by a Type 19 electric locomotive – basically the same as a Type 18 that we had on the way out to Leuven, but fitted with an automatic coupling system.

It was pretty busy too, even right down at the front where I usually sit. That’s quite a surprise at that time of the morning.

Thalys PBKA 4302 Gare du Midi Brussels Belgium Eric HallMy train to Paris-Nord was already in at the platform when I arrived – 40 minutes before departure, but we couldn’t board right now because while the passengers were there, the crew wasn’t.

This morning we’re going to Paris on one of the Thalys PBKA units – the ones specially-built for the Paris – Brussels – Cologne – Amsterdam service. They differ from the usual PBA units in that they are equipped to work on the German electric railway network.

They are getting on for 25 years old now and surprisingly, are still in quite good and comfortable condition. I’m quite happy to travel on one of these any time. But not so many other people were. Admittedly the 07:35 is the first service to Paris of the morning, and also the cheapest, but there were very few people on board today and we could spread out.

Our train hurtled off from Brussels bang on time and we made such good time that we had to sit outside Paris Gare du Nord for 10 minutes for our slot for the final half-mile.

It was rush-hour of course in Paris – 09:13 when we arrived – and while the Metro was busy, it wasn’t crowded as you might expect. As I said on the way out, it seems that the business life of Paris has changed somewhat with the Corona Virus and that might explain the lack of custom on the TGV.

At the Gare Montparnasse our train was in the station already even though it wasn’t advertised yet. It’s because it’s the only one that has “NORMANDIE” written all down the side of it. No point in trying to board because it will be all locked up, so I took a seat on a bench and read my book.

84559 GEC Alstom Regiolis Gare de Granville Railway Station Manche Normandy France Eric HallAfter waiting around for 35 minutes, the train to Granville was announced we were all allowed on board.

The train set is one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis units. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we travel on one of these each time we go back and forth to Paris. There are 361 of these and they started to come into service in 2013. They were so successful that they allowed a whole raft of old equipment from the 70s and 80s to be swept away, and they are all that you ever see now on much of the French railway network, including the Paris-Granville service. I’ve never done the route in anything else.

And I was lucky in my neighbour today on the way back. She can sit beside me any time she like.

The voyage was pretty uneventful so I had a listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night.

I was back running the taxis again and I had a yellow Mk IV but was completely yellow, a tidy little car. There was a driver driving for me who lived next door to a Hackney driver but didn’t get on particularly with him. He was quite good at his job. When he came round to start work one morning I was in the middle of changing windscreen wipers over. I’d got them off an old car that we’d had, the wipers and arms, and I was busy switching them over to then new one, getting it ready to go out, the yellow one. This guy was going through the sheets writing out his list of jobs. There were a couple of jobs, long ones and he wondered why he hadn’t been given them. I didn’t know so I told him that it might be something to do with the fact that they didn’t think that the car would be ready by then. Then someone else from another taxi company turned up from Northampton. While I was busy changing the wipers the other driver started chatting to them asking their advice – should he put these jobs down on his sheet or not. I had all the wires – dunno why there were wires on this – tangled up and I was trying to untangle them, everything like that. The more I tried to untangle them, the more tangled they became.

Having done that, I merged a few more composite files and than quietly ate my butties.

Our arrival in Granville was a couple of minutes early. I’m not used to this. It was a pleasant if not tiring walk back home from the station, and the first thing that I did was to spray the bathroom with orange-flavoured kefir.

Most of the stuff that I bought was then unpacked (I forgot some) and then I swapped the files over from the portable computer onto the big office machine. I didn’t do as much as I wanted to do because, what with the early start, I … errr … had a little relax.

That’s possibly because I had the heating on in here. It seems that the cold has arrived.

Tea was taco rolls – there was some stuffing left over from Monday followed by a slice of Blackberry pie out of the freezer.

Later on in the evening I went out for a walk around the headland in the dark. And first thing that I noticed is that the old Opel estate that had been been abandoned on the car park for the last however many months has now been removed.

Les Epiettes Cap Lihou Chantier Navale Port de Granville Harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere was a strong wind, but nothing like as strong as it has been. Even so, I didn’t want to hang about. Instead I had a wander around and ended up at the Chantier Navale to see what was happening in there.

We’re down to just two boats now. Les Epiettes, the boat from the Département des Ponts et Cnaussées is still in there on the right, and the trawler on the left which is Cap Lihou is still in there. She’s been there for quite a while and probably now a permanent fixture.

My runs tonight were pretty disappointing. I only managed two and the second one of those was a little shorter than it has been of late. I need to work myself back into it again. Instead of going for my third run, I headed slowly for home. I’ve still managed 114% of my daily activity.

Having written my notes, I’m now off to bed. It’s shopping tomorrow and I need a few things to replenish the stocks. And there’s football tomorrow night too so I’ll be busy.

And what is left of my kefir is delicious.