Tag Archives: caen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wherever did I find the time to go to sleep?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the ticket office they proposed the following itinerary –

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

Only three hours later than usual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all I needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… that I want to be doing too often.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 16th October 2021 – THIS NEW WAY …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what usually happens.

Saturday 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.

Saturday 18th July 2020 – I’M NOT HERE

This morning, although I heard the three alarms, I didn’t get up until about 06:30. Tons of stuff on the dictaphone, as I discovered, so it must have been a very restless night.

We were in a classroom last night having a talk on climate change, this kind of thing. A question that came up interested me, about New Zealand. The lecturer was saying that all of the difficulties about New Zealand – in Iceland the volcanos and glaciers were pushing out the centre of New Zealand – rather, pushing it up, the centre of South Island and changing all of the weather. There were storms and this thing. I asked if this was going to be a permanent thing or a temporary arrangement. One guy in this classroom was making notes, doing it with a kind of hammer-press thing and it was making a racket even louder than a typewriter. I wanted to ask him to shut up if anyone was able to talk to me about my question, to which I never actually had the answer. There were a couple of girls in this class and I was quite keen on one of these. For some reason the question of cycles and motorcycles came up. These two girls rode motorcycles so I was thinking “should I buy a motorcycle too so that I can keep up with them?” and that way I can keep up with them and be close to them I suppose and so on. But it was a case of how long was this going to continue? Is it just a flash-in-the-pan kind of course and we’ll all go our separate ways in a week or is this going to be some kind of long-term situation. As usual, I was full of indeciaion yet again.

Later on I was back in my house in Winsford of all places. There was a lot going on there as if it was in Central London and actually a car. I was sitting there watching all these events going on behind me – a little old woman tottering back to her home and someone I was with running out and shouting after her. But this little old lady didn’t seem to hear. There was another older person with us. The three of us came back and the reason why I hadn’t heard anyone reply was that the 2 old women were talking really slowly. It seemed that they were taking this old lady to show her this Old People’s Home, whether there was a vacancy in it, something like that. Off they went and they were climbing up the steps just as an ambulance pulled up and dropped off a load of elderly ladies all on crutches. I was back in my house and a couple of rooms were really cold and a couple really warm. I had the central heating all confused. This was the first time that I’d been in this house for God knows how long. I got back in there and there was a small cupboard on the wall. That was where the food was. I thought “God I’d left my steps in Belgium”. I don’t know why I said Belgium. I had to open it and everything was all crammed into these shelves and I thought “where am I going to put my freezer now?” There’s no room to put that in the kitchen. I had a pack of drink and for some reason this drink needed to be put in another bottle so I cleaned another bottle with bleach and had to rinse it out. Of course there was all the calcium in the water and it took ages to try to run clean before I could start to use it.

Another thing that came was that I was on a bike cycling home and for some unknown reason I fell asleep when I was cycling and woke up to find that there were some girl cycling alongside me. As I awoke she sped off. I then had to go and retrace my steps. it was through this hilly area and I remember a few things of the route and got on a bit of route that I didn’t recognise at all. It was steep and windy. I thought “God, did i cycle through this in my sleep? I was doing really well!”. Then I came into a town and by the bus station were loads of people with skis and it turned out that this was a … march. This was a big ski resort and you flew into the airport and a bus from the airport brought you into the town. Right at the bus stop was the start of the chair lifts so it was the easiest place to go to if you wanted to ski after work. All these crowds there and I fought my way through. This woman said something about this but I can’t remember what the something was so I replied to her in French and said “it’s not a problem”. She said “I was referring to you” I replied that I have to get home so I have to fight my way through everyone to get home. Everyone laughed at that and that was when I ended up back at my house in Winsford.

Having gone back to sleep at some point I stepped right back into that dream again, right back into Winsford and right back into my house. The house had been built for 2 years but I’d only just moved into it. I’d had it that long that I hadn’t lived there. it was in the middle of some kind of shopping centre where all of these shops were half-built or quarter-built where the money in Winsford ran out. The didn’t have the money to finish off all of the shops to let. a very decaying place indeed it was. I was walking through there and there was another couple in front of me. the guy was telling the girl about how the election in May 2015 2 years ago had changed absolutely everything and the new party decided to stop work on the shops.

Later still we were in a water mill that produced electricity with the water wheel. This mill hadn’t been used for years due to some kind of faults and complications about a diesel fuel blower and all of this and had set the place alight. There wa s no way of getting any modifications for it and they needed to get some kind of money coming from the mill so they decided that they would open it as a water-powered mill and let nature take its course. I was there but everyone else was off looking for things but I was screwing up the sluice gates so that the water instead would pass through the main centre of the mill. I started to open the main mill doors and the water started to rush in there. it suddenly started to go at a hell of a rate, this, as if a huge flood had built up outside for hundreds of years. It was necessary for me to slow down the flow of water otherwise it was going to sweep away the mill.

After all of that I was surprised that I wanted to go away. That sounds like it was more than enough travelling to be going on with.

But the first task was to finish off the packing and start to load up Caliburn. Basically, I just threw the stuff in because the back of the van has a huge pile of old cardboard boxes in it.

When everything was packed and loaded I tidied up and took the rubbish down to the waste disposal, vacuumed the living room and kitchen and then washed the floor with bleach and disinfectant. While the floor was drying I had a shower and a weigh-in. And I’m keeping this weight down, although what I will be like by the time I return will be anyone’s guess.

Cleaning and disinfecting the waste bin was next and then bleaching and disinfecting the WC and sinks.

Once all of that was done We set off.

First stop was the dechetterie where all of the cardboard, the old Caliburn battery and the old electric kettle bit the dust.

Next stop was Noz. But there wasn’t all that much in there, apart from a few small tims of potatoes.

After that wes LeClerc for a full tank of diesel, a couple of memory cards and a few basic items of foodstuffs – nothing much at all.

Off to Roncey to Liz and Terry’s. Terry loaned me a brushcutter which went into the back of Caliburn – while I was there I tidied it up a little too but I’ll be doing some more tidying up in there as well as I go round

Liz made lunch and we all had a very good chat for a couple of hours.

Round about 15:00 I hit the road. 260kms to travel on the first stage of the journey. Via Caen, Liseux and Evreux. Eventually I ended up in St Marcel, on the outskirts of Vernon in between Rouen and Paris on the banks of the Seine.

Here there’s a hotel, the Hotel du Haut Marais, and this is where I’m staying tonight.

old cars 1913 panhard levassor duranville france eric hallOn the way down towards the banks of the River Seine we had a little interruption that delayed me somewhat.

As I drove through Duranville in the département of the Eure I came across a garage that had seven or eight old cars out on display, and that kind of thing is enough for me to stop and have a better look to see what is going on,

And I seem to have found myself at the garage of a dealer of vintage and historical vehicles and almost everything in this yard is available for sale if you have enough money, which I don’t.

strawberry moose old cars 1913 panhard levassor duranville france eric hallThe first car that I saw and which tempted Strawberry Moose out of Caliburn to come for a ride.

The car itself is a Panhard-Levassor of 1913 although what model it might be I really have no idea. Being a 2-door 2-seater it’s not going to be one of the Model 20s that Président Poincaré adored but that’s all that I can say.

The company was a big fan of sleeve-valved engines – ports in the engine casting to vent the gases, protected by a kind of rotating sleeve between the piston and the bore. Very quiet running but very heavy on oil consumption and a technique that faded away when conventional valve seating technique improved.

Some Panhards had sleeve valves and some were conventional, but I don’t know about this one.

old cars strawberry moose cadillac convertible duranville france eric hallThis car is much more like what you would expect to see in a place lke this.

One of the most opulent and ostentatious mass-market vehicles ever to hit the road anywhere, the Cadilac convertibles of the 1950s were the acme of bad taste in the 1950s. Big, powerful V8 engines and wallowing suspension were great on the open roads of the south-west where WE HAD LOADS ON FUN IN THE MUSTANG all those years ago, but in the crowded streets of the major cities they were a nightmare.

Nevertheless it was the kind of vehicle to which everyone aspired back in those days, and everyone had to be seen in one, just like Strawberry Moose and his new friend.

old cars Ford V8 pickup duranville france eric hallThis is a vehicle that will probably appeal more to the traditionalists and the practically-minded amongst us.

It’s a Ford “steppy” – a step-sided Ford V8 pickup of the design that when I first started going to North America 20-odd years ago, were still reasonably common on the roads over there but now you will be very lucky to see one moving about under its own steam on a day-to-day basis.

Possibly from the late 1940s or early 1950s was my first thought. In fact the unofficial Québec number plate that it has on the front (Québec doesn’t require legal plates on the front of its vehicles) suggests that it’s a 1952 model. If so, it’ll have the 239 V8 sidevalve engine in it.

old cars ford model T duranville france eric hallOn the other hand, 30 or so years earlier, just about everyone in the USA would have been seen in one of these.

“Every colour you like, as long as it’s black” said Henry Ford of his Model T “Tin Lizzy”, or “Flivver” as Paul Getty called his, so I’ve absolutely no idea at all what he would have had to say about this one in a bright lime green.

Te one advantage of cars of this era with separate chassis and body is that they could be cut about as much as anyone likes, and so you could buy them in all kinds of shapes and body styles. And if that didn’t suit you, you could customise your own.

This little pick-up is a beautiful example.

old cars ford modet t fire engine duranville france eric hallIt’s not the only Model T here at Duranville either. We have this one here to whet our appetite.

Or, rather, should I say “wet our appetite” because this is the former fire engine of the town of St Laurent in Québec. That’s a town that now no longer exists, having been conjoined to Montréal in 2002. But it’s an area of Montréal that regular readers of this rubbish will know very well because it wasOUR OLD STAMPING GROUND AROUND THE METRO DUCOLLEGE beFore I was taken ill.

As for the vehicle itself, it was new in 1924 and is said to be the first motorised fire engine of the city, serving between 1924 and 1944, and just imagine going out to fight a fire in that in the middle of a Québec winter.

She underwent a complete restoration in 2006/2007.

old cars dodge convertible duranville manche normandy france eric hallYes, as well as the cars outside, there was quite a number inside the building too as you can see and they let me have a wander around inside with the camera.

Right by the door was this Dodge Convertible. It looks beautiful from this distance but that’s because it’s had a full restoration by the looks of things. It wouldn’t have looked like this maybe 20 years ago, I bet.

Unfortunately there’s no indication of what model it might be but it has the styling of a Dodge of the mid-late 1930s

old cars dodge convertible duranville france eric hallIt’s carrying a set of French numberplates issued within the last 3 years or so but there’s no other indication about where it comes from.

It’s not the kind of North American vehicle that I would have expected to have seen being sold in Europe at that particular time – after all, there was a quite a big volume-car marked in Europe at this time churning out all kinds of stuff that was as good as this at probably half the price.

There wouldn’t have been an “exotica” market back in those days, so I suspect that this is a comparatively recent import, like much of the stuff seems to be.

old cars barn find bugatti replica france eric hallThis of course isn’t a recent import, but it’s certainly a lot more recent than it looks.

Had this been a genuine Bugatti “30 plus” you wouldn’t find it in a place like this looking as if someone has dragged it out backwards from a haystack. It would have genuine alloy wheels on it for a start and be locked up in a vault somewhere because it would be worth a fortune.

My guess is that this is a replica, of which there are several examples available and on the road. It has a few quite modern features that you wouldn’t have found on the originals 90-odd years ago.

old cars dodge pickup duranville france eric hallWe saw a Ford stp-side pickup just now parked outside, but here tucked away in a corner is a Dodge pick-up of an earlier vintage, I reckon.

There was a series of lightweight Dodge trucks, the WD series (or DD series if made in Brampton, Ontario) between 1939 and 1947 of various carrying capacities between half a ton and one ton and if I had to guess, I would say that it’s one of these.

The position of the sidelights on the A-pillars suggests that it’s later rather than earlier but the absence of window vents suggests that it’s not one of the final ones made.

old cars buick 8 renault prairie 1952 mgb duranville france eric hallThis is a bit of an eclectic assortment of vehicles stuck away in a corner.

The MGB is of no interest to us of course but the big Buick 8 in the foreground is of course. Again, it’s difficult to say much about it except that because of where the spare wheel it is, it might actually be a Buick 8 Special of the late 1930s

The Renault at the back is a Renault Prairie of 1952 and if you want to see a close-up of one of these I’ll have to dig out my photos from 2007 because regular readers of this rubbish in a previous guise will recall that we found one in a scrapyard in France back in those dats.

Talking to the owners later, it appears that they have an agent in Québec who sources this kind of thing and has it shipped over from there. So much for yet another business opportunity then, unfortunately.

But right now I have other things to think about, like finding a hotel.

hotel du haut marais saint marcel 27950 eure france eric hallThere are several along the river but I need to be careful because one of th bridges is closed for repair. I have to track my way through all kinds of countryside before I arrive at Vernon.

And this is my hotel for this evening, the Hotel du Haut Marais at St Marcel. It looks as if at one stage it’s been one of the Accor group’s places but really these unit hotels all look so alike that there’s no way of telling.

Anyway, it’s a reasonable price without going too far and it’s comfortable. And I’m off to have an early night. It’s been a long day and there is plenty to do. A good night’s sleep will do me the world of good.

Tuesday 17th March 2020 – BLIMEY! WHAT A CHOICE!

The trains to Belgium are cancelled, as you might expect. And there are no trains from Granville tomorrow anyway.

So do I stay here and die of lack of my cancer treatment, or do I go by some other means and die of the virus?

But more about that later. Firstly, I managed to beat the third alarm again and had a decent start to the morning. I can’t wait to get to Leuven though because my stocks of medication are dwindling and I’ve already run out of one item.

The dictaphone came next of course. We had one of my sisters again in this dream and she was dressed up like some 1920s New Orleans dancer. I had to pick her up from school and she was all upset because they wouldn’t let her slide as in sliding up and down the ground on the ice. There was me, my sister and someone else, another person and we were in the car and we came to get out of the car when we were back home. I can’t remember now what she was saying but she was certainly acting very grown up for her age.
Somewhat later I was in a cruise ship that was coming in to dock somewhere. There were crowds of people on the railings. It was the end of the voyage apparently and we were all having to get ott. It was a quayside landing so everyone gathered their carry-on possessions and were milling around waiting for the order to disembark. There was a girl of about 10 there and I was having a chat to her, a little dark-haired girl. The order then came basically to leave so they started to leave. Then this girl came back so I don’t know what she was trying to do but she disappeared into the crowd so I didn’t get the chance to speak to her at that moment. I had my rucksack and my little camera so I was going to go off the ship to take a photograph and probably come back on as well and wait until later when it was the time to disembark. In the meantime there was something going on about the storage locker on board ship. They had a car and they were driving it into the storage locker. At first the owners of the vessel were very disappointed with this and very upset. But by the time that it came to the third time to drive the car in, they had come round to the fact that it was a good idea to have this storeroom opened. The third time they succeeded in bursting the lock but I’ve no idea now why it was that they wanted it open themselves.
There was another one of thsee nights where there was more going on too but if you are having your tea or something you won’t want to know about it.

After breakfast I had a look at some more digital files to split. I seem to have drawn the short straw with this today though because firstly, they were all very long and complicated ones to break up, and secondly, one of them just wouldn’t work at all and I’ve no idea why. Half of it was missing and / or unavailable and I’ll end up having to record this directly from the album one of these days.

As a result I was late going for my bread. We aren’t officially allowed out of our homes except for certain specified reasons, but “shopping for essential supplies” and “taking exercise in the vicinity of your own home” seems to cover that. We have to download a form off the internet each time we need to go out, fill it in and carry it with us

trawler english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallSo having printed out and filled in a form, I could go outside for a stroll.

There was no-one else out there at all walking around the headland, but that wasn’t the story out at sea. Regardless of the situation, people still have to eat and fish will be quite high up n the menu over the foreseeable future. As a result, we had a few trawlers out there doing their stuff.

Trawlers, maybe. But I bet that we won’t see Thora and Normandy Trader for quite a while. They’ll be keeping a respectable distance while all of this will be going on

yacht english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallSo no Channel Island boats and probably no gravel boats either. But there’s always other stuff.

If you’re out at sea you can neither give this virus to anyone else nor receive it and so taking to the water in your yacht seems to be a very sensible option. It’s times like this that I wish that I had a boat in which to sail.

All the time that I was out there, I reckon that all in all, there weren’t even half a dozen people out in the streets. But I learnt some tragic news at La Mie Caline. All non-essential businesses are to close for the duration of this outbreak. And despite being a bakery, their business has been classed as non-essential. Today is their last day of operation.

It beats me how anyone can consider a bakery to be non-essential, but I suppose that it’s do do with them having a café on the premises that they fall foul of this “public gathering” rule.

Back here I mused on the fact that having had to print out all of this paperwork et cetera, I hadn’t seen anyone official, never mind been asked to produce anything. But a friend who lives in Macon reassured me. She had had to take her cat to the vet’s but she had been stopped and asked for her papers.

There was a phone call too – and this has thrown my plans into disarray. Due to “other considerations” which are completely understandable, my appointment on Thursday with the nephrologist has been cancelled. I rang up the oncology department to confirm my appointment just in case but despite trying for an age, I couldn’t get through. Instead, I had a little … errr … relax and then finished off the radio project.

To back up the computer was next and then to load up all of the files that I need onto the portable hard drive that I take with me. No afternoon walk of course, much as I would like to go. The cynic inside me doesn’t take this as seriously as everyone else. I’ve lived through all kinds of things that we were told were going to wipe out the human race and I’m just wondering what’s going to wipe us all out after this.

Tea was an anything curry, everything left over in the fridge, followed by rice pudding, and then I had a shower.

Grabbing my stuff, I’m now ready to leave. I’ve decided that I’m going to go in Caliburn too even though I’ve nowhere to park him. But I’ll worry about that later, I suppose.

What I’ll do is to do the drive in two (or maybe more) stages, because it’s a long way. If I can get a couple of hours on the road tonight, park up in a lay-by and then continue tomorrow.

That is, if I get that far because movement is strictly controlled. While “travelling for medical purposes” is one of the exemptions, I reckon that they might raise an eyebrow or two at almost 700kms

But I set off, fuelled up at LeClerc and then headed for the motorway. No-one about at all and I had one of the quietest runs that I have ever had.

pont de normandie le havre france eric hallMy route took me to Caen and then in the direction of Rouen and Paris

But I turned off in the direction of Le Havre and skirted the outside of the city. At one point I had to drive over the magnificent Pont de Normandie over the estuary of the River Seine. It the time that it was built, in the early 1990s it was the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world and also had the longest span (856 metres) between the pillars of any other cable-stayed bridge in the world.

Although it no longer holds these records, it’s still an impressive structure and I would loved to have had a better photo of this but unfortunately Strawberry Moose wasn’t with me to take the photo. He’s stayed at home, for I don’t want him to catch this virus

le havre france eric hallFrom the top there’s quite an impressive view of the town of Le Havre and its port. Everywhere was lit up and it looked like something out of Space 1999 but I couldn’t take a decent photo of it which was disappointing.

I picked up the motorway again at the north side of Rouen (it’s bizarre that there’s no ring road around Rouen) and headed in the direction of Calais, turning off for Amiens and then Lille.

In between Amiens and Lille I found a Motorway Sevice Area and settled down for a couple of hours on the front seats of Caliburn. I’d remembered to bring my bedding with me. It’s about 01:30 and I’ve driven about 350 kms in 4 hours, which is good going. It’s important to pass beyond the Paris-Le Havre-Rouen-Amiens area in the dead of night because if there’s ever going to be heavy traffic, it will be in that sector.

But that was one of the quietest runs I’ve ever had.

Friday 17th January 2020 – I BET THAT YOU ARE …

stade michel d'ornano caen olympique de marseille us granville manche normandy france eric hall… all wondering where I’ve been with the posting of today’s activities, aren’t you?

The fact is that I didn’t get home tonight at all. In fact, it wasn’t until about 16:40 on Saturday that I put my sooty foot through the front door of my apartment.

And with not having had lunch either, I ended up running considerably later than planned. But then, that’s what plans are all about, aren’t they?

But anyway, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

It was another morning of missed alarms. Another 07:00 start and I really need to get a grip and get myself organised otherwise I’m just going to fade away.

But then after the medication I attacked the dictaphone in order to see where I had been during the night.

Strange as it may seem, I was back in my house back in Gainsborough Road and it was an absolute tip (I know that I live in total chaos but it has nothing on how my house was, last night, I’ll tell you). There was stuff everywhere all over the place and there was the football on – it was the World Cup or something like that – the European Nations match and I was trying to watch it on TV but there was just so much disorder going on around me that I couldn’t. I went into the kitchen to get something and the place was in such a state clothes and bits everywhere and someone shouted something like “come on, your tea’s ready”. It turns out that my brother and a younger boy had been given their tea and it was probably about midnight or whatever. I went into the room and it was the back room and there was one of my sisters sitting on a chair. I hadn’t seen her for ages and she was talking to someone, another one of my sisters. I went up to her and said something like “what are you going to do tomorrow morning, if you get up early?” She said “I’m going to come and wake you up”.
It was some time shortly after that that we found a young boy hanging upside down by his feet in a four-poster bed. We pulled back the curtains of this four-poster bed and there he was hanging upside-down by his ankles. What was quite bizarre was that after going back to sleep after dictating the first part of it, I stepped right back into it where I’d left off. And it’s not the first time by any means that I’ve done that either.

There was lots more to this voyage too but as you are probably eating your meal or something I’ll spare you the unpleasantness.

Once breakfast was out of the way I attacked the radio project that needed finishing. And that took a lot longer than I expected too, basically because the 10-minute audio file that I had dictated turned out to be only 04:20 by the time that I had edited it and so I had to find a completely different song to end the show than the one that I had planned.

Anyway, I eventually managed to complete it and that was mu cue to go off and buy my dejeunette from La Mie Caline

trawler english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallHaving seen a white speck out in the English Channel I went to photograph it, only to find that I’d forgotten to put the memory card in the camera so I had to go back upstairs for it.

Downstairs again, I could photograph it and then in the comfort and safety of my own little office I could blow it up (the photo, not the object of course).

The result is inconclusive but probably a trawler-type of fishing boat I reckon. And you can see the Jersey coast in the background behind it. That gives you some idea of how far out the boat was.

chausiais joly france port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallOff then on my jaunt into town, but I didn’t get very far.

It’s all change in the inner harbour today. Chausiais and Joly France II have moved position. They’ve crossed over to the other side of the harbour and are now moored up in fromt of their sister over by the old cold store.

That’s a surprise for me. The only thing that I can think of is that they don’t want any debris from the car park renovation to drop onto the deck. And it also indicates that Granville and Victor Hugo are not going to be back home anytime soon

work chantier boulevard des terreneuviers granville manche normandy france eric hallYesterday, the regular readers of this rubbish and I saw them setting out a pile of “No Parking” signs in the Boulevard des Terreneuviers.

Today I went that way to see if I could pick up any clues about what might be happening down there.

Having had a look, I’m not really a great deal wiser. Apparently we are going to be having travaux – some kind of works – taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. That should be interesting to I shall have to go for my walk that way for a butcher’s.

spirit of conrad trawler mobile sling chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallThere was excitement too down at the Chantier navale too right now.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve had four boats in there this last couple of days. But in about ten minutes time we shall only be having three of them.

Spirit of Conrad is still there and so are two of the fishing boats but the third one, the blue and yellow one, is just about to leave the scene.

trawler mobile sling chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallHere she is, in the mobile sling, being lowered down into the water. And in a couple of minutes she’ll be sailing … “dieseling” – ed … off into the wild blue yonder.

So with another empty space in the place, does this mean that we are going to be having a new visitor?

But it also means that the tide is quite a way in, which also means that the harbour gates will be closed which also means that the path across the top will not be accessible and I’ll have to go along the rue du Port.

pressure washing heavy dumper lorries port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallAnd as I went along the rue du Port I could see strange goings-on on the boat-launching ramp down into the tidal harbour.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall having seen the dredging operations out by the ferry terminal and we had a look at the machinery the other day.

But today they are giving one of the huge dumper-lorries a good hose down with a pressure-washer, presumably to remove all of the silt that has accumulated thereupon while they have been working.

Off I went to la Mie Caline to pick up my bread, and then I headed back home.

What I spend the afternoon (with a break for lunch of course) was to deal with the Johan Gallon (the coach of US Granville)’s speech.

It’s been completed now, with all of my questions edited in, and I’ve been going through to edit out the joins, the silences and the stumbles. When that’s completed I’ll be going through and making another pass to remove the irrelevances and I’m hoping that I’ll have it done for Monday morning – at least, that’s the plan.

At 16:00 I called it a day, grabbed a few things together and then Caliburn and I headed for the hills.

First stop was at the dechetterie. The European Cardboard Box Mountain has now been consigned to a skip along with the old broken office chair and I can now get into the back of Caliburn if ever I need to.

Second stop was at Liz and Terry’s at Roncey.

We had a good chat and I gave them their Christmas present, after which we had tea. Burger and chips with salad followed by ginger cake.

Terry and I then headed off in Calburn down the motorway towards Caen and the Stade Michel D’Ornano. It’s the last 16 of the Coupe de France and Granville have pulled a plum out of the bag for this match.

They are “at home” against Olympique de Marseille but the match can’t be played at the Stade Louis Dior as was the Bordeaux match two years ago. There, there is a capacity of just 3,000 and it’s very uncomfortable at that size too.

But the Stade D’Ornano at Caen is free and has 20,200 places. Even so, it was sold out in about 4.5 hours but I managed to obtain 2 tickets.

We were doing really well until we hit the outskirts of Caen when a road accident slowed our progress. An hour it took to advance 6 kilometres.

Then we hit the traffic heading to the stadium, became tangled up in the mesh of red lights, and then I lost count of the number of roundabouts that we passed in the frantic search for a parking place.

Spotting an ad-hoc parking place, we quickly stuffed Caliburn into it and ran down the road towards the next roundabout. Not seeing the stadium, we asked a passer-by who sent us back where we had started. Brain of Britain had miscounted, and parked Caliburn at the roundabout right by the stadium.

stade michel d'ornano caen olympique de marseille us granville manche normandy france eric hallAs a result we missed the first 30 seconds of the game.

Having been frisked at the stadium we were allowed in, but finding a seat was impossible. We ended up standing, with about 100 others on the stairs, with a couple of people who had made themselves comfortable sitting on the top step complaining about the “new arrivals blocking their view”.

But at a time like this and in a crowd like this, it’s “every man for himself”. Sardines had nothing on us.

The first half of the match was a surprise to most people.

It was pretty clear that Olympique de Marseille were the better team but it was also clear that US Granville weren’t going to lie down and roll over. They were pegged back for much of the half, that’s for sure, but they were breaking away quite regularly and going forward down the wings, with William Sea throwing his weight around up front.

The Granvillais goalkeeper was the busier of the two but it wasn’t by any means a one-way street.

drummers stade michel d'ornano caen olympique de marseille us granville manche normandy france eric hallAt half-time we were treated to a display of drumming as the drummers marched around the touchline having a right old bang. There were also two teams of kids having a penalty shoot-out.

What was even worse was that I was dying to use the bathroom and desperate for a coffee but I had no intention of moving away from my good spec on the stairs having fought my way into it.

So we stayed put and waited for the second half to begin.

The second half carried on where the first left off , with Olympique de Marseille attacking, US Granville absorbing the pressure, and then hitting them on the break.

And then the match turned rather sour.

maseille had worked out early on that the danger men for Granville were little Lamrabette with his merry, mazy runs with the ball through crowds of players, and also big William Sea who was showing that despite his injury he still had what it takes to mix it on level terms with the Olympique Marseille central defenders.

As a result, they were flattening the two of them with regular monotony, but being very careful firstly not to do it quite enough to earn a caution and secondly to take it in turns so as no individual would be cautioned for persistent infringement.

It was saddening to watch a display like this from a team like Olympique Marseille against a bunch of amateurs and if that’s the idea of how Villas-Boas wants his team to play then he should be ashamed of himself.

Anyway, it had the desired effect because with round about 15 minutes to go, William Sea was finally fed up of being grabbed from behind every time he had the ball. He lashed out behind him with his elbow and unfortunately caught a Marseille player full in the face.

Having had a yellow card earlier in the game, that was that for Sea and he was off down the tunnel for an early bath and Granville were down to 10 men.

What was sickening about this was that the player who had been fouled them followed Sea to the touchline and taunted him about being sent off. A couple of Granville staff had to grab hold of Sea before he put the Marseille player over the stadium wall and out into the street.

stade michel d'ornano caen olympique de marseille us granville manche normandy france eric hallAnd that, I’m afraid, was that.

At the Press Conference I’d mentioned that the danger time in every game where the professionals meet the amateurs is the final 15 minutes when the lack of fitness shows through and the amateurs run out of steam. And even more so when you are only 10 against 11.

And so it proved. 2 minutes later, Olympique de Marseille went ahead. They added a second 10 minutes later and then deep into stoppage time, a typical US Granvillais “lack of concentration” about which I have moaned on more occasions than many in the past gifted them a third.

Although before the game the general feeling was that had Granville come home with a 3-0 defeat they would have done really well but after the match that we had seen, a 3-0 defeat was a travesty.

And the tactics of a team riding high in the French Premier League against a bunch of students, supermarket shelf-fillers, taxi drivers, teachers and the like have left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, including mine.

The drive home was no better than the drive out. We had to fight our way through the maze of traffic lights which took an age and then another accident on the way back had us queueing again for yet another lengthy period.

As a result it was 01:00 when we finally reached Terry’s, and he offered me a bed for the night. By that time and after all that, I was totally done in anyway so I took up his offer and here I am and there I stayed.

Friday 10th January 2020 – HE WHO LAUGHS LAST …

… usually lasts longest and loudest too. And that’s certainly the case with me and my rail ticket.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall my adventures at the railway station at Granville yesterday and how they wouldn’t exchange the return ticket because the return train was running – regardless of the fact that as the outward train was cancelled, I couldn’t get out to catch the one back.

Anyway, to cut a long story short … “hooray” – ed … I had an e-mail informing me that the return train has now been cancelled. So, off to the station tomorrow to have another go at sorting them out.

But talking of sorting out, I still haven’t sorted out this sleep thing. I heard the first two alarms go off and while I was trying to find the energy and courage to get out of bed, the third one rang too, so I missed that.

But anyway, that was the signal to leave the bed. I went and had my medication.

With a brief pause for breakfast I carried on with the radio project about the football. And by 09:45 it was all done and dusted. And even if I say it myself, it was pretty good and I’m pleased with it. It’s all been sent off now and it’s in the hands of the Admin who will decide whether or not to broadcast it.

And now to turn to important things. After their victory against FC Versailles 78, Granville have drawn none other than Olympique Marseille in the French Cup.

The Stade Louis Dior is deemed to be unsuitable so the match is to be played at Caen. And even so, I’m expecting a healthy demand for tickets. Terry wants to come too so I did some searching about on the internet, found the website of the stadium and Lo! And Behold! There are two tickets for the football now sitting on my desk.

No intention of missing this.

spirit of conrad trawler chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallThat was the cue for me to go off into town to La Mie Caline for my bread.

On the way down there I passed by the Chantier navale to look and see what was happening. Spirit of Conrad is still there of course – I think that she’s moved in for the duration – but there’s a new addition today. The trawler at the back.

She must have slipped in on the morning tide, I reckon.

joly france ferry terminal port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallWe’ve mentioned just recently, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, the ships that are disappearing one by one from the port.

Granville went a few days ago, followed by Victor Hugo. Today though, it’s the turn of Chausiais to put in a disappearing act. Joly France is over there at the ferry terminal but she isn’t.

So I wonder where all of these ships are going. It’s a mystery to me.

old cars traction avant citroen light 15 rue du port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallBut here’s a thing.

Walking along the rue du Port after my little inspection of the Chantier navale my perambulations were interrupted by this car going past. a Citroen traction avant of course and a later model one at that. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen one of those on the road.

They are usually all black but I’ve seen the odd grey one and a white one, but I don’t recall seeing a blue one before. The one in my barn is black, by the way.

abandoned railway network rue du port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallPushing on (or pushing off, as the case may be) I eschewed the passage over the harbour gates and instead wandered on down to see what was going on at the old abandoned railway network.

We’d seen them yesterday digging up around the railway lines so I had promised myself a closer look. And sure enough, not only are they digging up around the lines, they seem to be pulling them up too.

It looks like the … errrr … end of the line for the railway network in the port

abandoned railway network rue du port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallAnd so it is too.

There was a workman wandering around the site so I buttonholed him and enquired about the project. It seems that they are going to be working on the car park and making it more attractive to visitors. This means that the rails have to go and they won’t be coming back.

Time for me to have to go too. I went off for my bread.

Back at the apartment I started to address the mountain of correspondence that had built up during my work-in. Pile of stuff needed answering and that is going to be today’s task, I reckon.

Mind you it might take longer than today, that’s for sure. Especially as I had another crash-out. This one a really good one too, just like the old days. Not a brief eye-closing affair but a proper deep disappearance into the void, curled up on my chair with no intention whatever of moving.

After lunch, there were the carrots. I’d bought 2 kilos the other day and they were lying about on the worktop so I attacked them too. They are all now peeled, diced, parboiled, drained, dried and and the freezer on the way to being frozen.

And how I wish that I had a bigger freezer because there is now absolutely no room for anything more and I need a bag of peas tomorrow.

la grande ancre english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallOut on my rounds this afternoon, there wasn’t a great deal of anything at all happening.

A few people out there taking the air of course, and the usual fishing boats heading towards the harbour. La Grande Ancre was out there looking as if she’s heading back from Chausey.

She had a tractor on her decks a few days ago and was loading the other day or two at the crane. So maybe she’s been doing deliveries.

Back at the apartment again I could finally get on with the correspondence and sent out about 6 long e-mails to wish people a Merry Christmas (I was that far behind!). Still tons to do and it will have to be done another time as I’m in a rush.

While I was putting away the stuff in the freezer I found a slice of vegan leek and tofu pie from 3rd February 2019. So in the oven went that and a couple of potatoes while I boiled up some veg and gravy on the stove.

And what a delicious tea that all made.

One thing that I would like to do is to make a couple more pies but there isn’t the room in the freezer to store them which is a pity.

Off on my walk around the walls tonight.

venelle st michel granville manche normandy france eric hallThe waves were quite impressive but it was too dark to see them properly so I went off for my run. I made 6 paces up the ramp before I ground to a halt – I’m not doing very well with this, am I?

No-one about at all so I carried on alone and passed this little street – the Venelle St Michel. I hadn’t really seen it before but it’s a good example of the streets here in the Old Town.

Three or four main streets, a couple of squares and the rest are all little alleys like these

By the time that I returned, it was the football. TNS v Newtown, and I don’t ever think that I have seen such a one-sided match as this ever before.

Newton were lucky, very lucky indeed to get NIL abut how on earth TNS only managed to score 2 goals with all of the dominance and possession that they had, we’ll never know.

Newton’s “attack” consisted of desperate long aimless punts upfield to no-one in particular and their two forwards hardly had a touch of the ball. They were substituted after about 70 minutes which was totally unfair in my opinion. It doesn’t matter how good you might be, you can’t play football if no-one gives you the ball.

And the man of the match? The commentators chose Ryan Brobbel but for me, it was Adrian Cieslewicz all night long. He had an astounding game down the right flank tonight.

On that note I’m off to bed. I’m so tired it’s unbelievable. I wanted to finish this before I went to bed but I’m afraid that there’s no chance of …


Monday 30th December 2019 – I BET …

tesla electric vehicle charging station gare de granville railway station manche normandy france… that when you first saw the photo of this car in this parking place, you thought to yourself “he’s off on this pathetic parking lark yet again!”

But not a bit of it. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall my perambulations around Paris two weeks or so ago and I featured one of the new electric vehicle charging points that are springing up like mushrooms all over the developed world (except of course in the UK, for obvious reasons).

Well, here’s another one. Or two, to be precise, right outside the railway station in Granville. As I said a couple of weeks ago, the world is racing ahead.

And quite right too. The EU is to phase out the production of the internal combustion engine by 2040. The biggest obstacle to electric vehicles is the lack of charging points, but this is changing quite rapidly.

Other things that I wish would change quite rapidly are my sleeping habits. What with one thing and another (and once you start, you’ll be surprised how many other things there are) it was about 01:45 when I eventually went to bed last night. 4:33 of sleep last night, of which 3:42 were classed as “restful”.

This is getting beyond a joke.

Even so, there was still plenty of time for me to go off a-voyaging. I had to get up early next morning and there was a bit of an issue. There were two girls at my house. One of them was part of my family but I can’t remember who she was and the other one was her friend who was staying with us. Round about 11:00 they got up and about 11:15 or 11:45 something like that they went out. That was the last we’d seen of them. We knew that they were going to a dance. There we were, sitting there, a big group of us, drumming our fingers on the table wondering where they hall they had got to. I thought that this is no good – I need the car. I have to get up in the morning and everything like that. Round about 02:30 they suddenly appeared back again. They’d been on a dance, off to a night club all this kind of thing and we were all making disparaging remarks about “WHAT time was it you went out this morning?” All of that kind of thing. These girls weren’t giving a straight answer because they were a bit embarrassed something like that about it. But the situation concerned one of my Cortinas. I’d been driving around in it and the MoT had expired a while ago. I remember thinking to myself that I ought to have this vehicle on two number plates so I can get two different MoTs which would overlap so that if one expired I’d just put the plates on it for the other MoT and run that for another few months and so on. I can’t remember what on earth that was all about but that was when I awoke for the first time – round about 04:00.
But later on there was something going on to do with the radio. Some young boy had been at the radio who was doing his stuff with very primitive equipment (something like I’m doing at the moment I suppose) and tired of being pushed to the bottom of the pile because of that he went out and bought some decent stuff which improved his quality and improved his output and annoyed all of his colleagues because he’d now got some superior kind of stuff.

It was something of a struggle for me to leave my stinking pit this morning, which should not be a surprise after the night that I had, but I did make it up before the 3rd alarm.

Having taken the medication I transcribed the dictaphone notes and then went for breakfast once the medication had worked.

After breakfast I checked my communications and found that Alison had replied to me with her plans for the weekend when I’ll be at Castle Anthrax. And so I could go ahead with making my travel arrangements.

Thursday 9th January
09:00 – Granville to Paris Montparnasse, arriving 12:05 – and in the main arrivals hall too if my reading is correct.
13:15 – Paris Gare du Nord – Lille Flanders arriving 14:18
14:41 – Lille Europe – Bruxelles-Midi arriving 15:17
and then a local train to Leuven
Sunday 12th January
08:43 – Bruxelles-Midi – Paris Gare du Nord arriving 10:05
10:57 – Paris St Lazare – Caen arriving 12:58
14:10 – Caen – Granville arriving 15:44.

Of course, all of this is somewhat … errr … facultative. It’s all very dependent upon the availability of transport in the middle of a General Strike and I can see myself as having as many exciting adventures as did the Knights of King Arthur as they went to visit Castle Anthrax.

With booking my accommodation too, and my local train between Brussels and Leuven, it was quite late when I went for my shower.

And SHOCK! HORROR! – I’ve gained 2kgs since my last shower. That can’t possibly be right and seems to indicate that my bathroom scales are about as reliable as the blood count readings from Castle Anthrax.

Off I went into town and up to the railway station (and the electric vehicle charging point) to pick up my tickets. And there was quite a pantomime about getting them from the machine.

That’s why I always like to pick them up before I travel. There’s no-one in the ticket office at the time my train leaves so if the machine has a seizure on the morning of my travel then I really am cooked.

At LIDL I spent more money than I was expecting.

One thing that I said that I would do is to take more care of my living arrangements, and forgetting to change my bedding for weeks isn’t helping things. Today though at LIDL they had some flannelette sheets on offer so I bought a couple. A dark blue one to go with one bedding set and a light blue one to go with the other.

They weren’t very expensive for what they are and the quality isn’t brilliant but alternating them around more regularly means that they will last somewhat.

On the way back home I picked up my dejeunette from La Mie Caline and then headed for home.

lorry emptying waste paper recycling place d'armes granville manche normandy franceAt the recycling centre across the road from my building the lorry had come to empty one of the containers.

Not being in any particular rush, I watched it for a while as it emptied the plastics bin. And then watched for a couple more minutes while the crew of the lorry went scampering around trying to catch the pieces of plastic that where Blowing In The Wind.

The moral of this story is – don’t empty the lightweight plastics containers in a gale-force wind.

Back at the apartment I had a few things to do that took me up to lunch, and once lunch was out of the way I had a little project to attend to.

My “recording sessions” take place at the moment using an external microphone with the dictaphone, and then plugging the dictaphone into the computer to download the files and then to enhance them etc with my sound editing program.

But there’s no reason whatever why I can’t plug the mike into the computer and then record directly and edit “on the fly”, which will save me a couple of steps in the process.

And so I had the computer out of its cubby hole and plugged the mike in, and then had a play.

The result was awful. The sound level was abysmal, even on max input, and there was a persistent hissing on the recording. It needed so much “enhancing” to remove the hissing that it sounded as if i was speaking with my head in a bucket.

And so it’s back to the dictaphone while I think of Plan B. I hadn’t really realised just what good quality I was getting from the dictaphone with an external mike.

But all was not lost. It gave me an opportunity to reroute a few cables that needed rerouting, even if I did plug the HDMI cable into the incorrect socket and spent 10 minutes wandering why I wasn’t receiving a signal at the screen.

crowds on beach plat gousset granville manche normandy franceThat was the signal for me to go for my afternoon walk.

And what a beautiful afternoon it was. We had glorious sunshine even if it was quite low down in the sky. There were plenty of people out, even walking along the beach today seeing as the tide was out.

And the wind had dropped dramatically from how it was earlier too. And that was very welcome news.

crowds pointe du roc boulevard vaufleury eglise notre dame de cap lihou granville manche normandy franceIt wasn’t just around on the grassy field on the north side of the headland and on the beach that the crowds were massing.

Although they are the most popular places to be, they aren’t the only places. There were the hordes of people on the southern side by the big car park on the boulevard Vaufleury too.

They seemed to be admiring the harbour and the view across the Baie de Mont St Michel towards the Pointe de Carolles, as well as soaking up the best of the late afternoon sun.

joly france ferry port de granville harbour ile de chausey manche normandy franceWith the tide being right out, there wasn’t much action down in the outer tidal harbour. But there were a few things of interest though.

The other day we talked about NAABSA harbours – the “Not Always Afloat But Safely Aground” situation where ships are allowed to settle on the silt in tiday harbours where there isn’t enough water to keep them afloat.

Over there at the ferry terminal, Joly France is there, and as there is no water underneath her, she’s in a NAABSA state and it doesn’t seem to concern her owners at all.

chausiais port de granville harbour manche normandy franceShe wasn’t the only one either.

In front of her, likewise in a NAABSA state, is Chausiais, the new freighter that the owners of the Ile de Chausey have bought, presumably to provide a freight service over to the island, even if I can’t see what would be going over that couldn’t be carried in the hold of one of the ferries.

Still, we shall see in due course, won’t we? I sense a Cunning Plan.

That was my cue to come home where, shame as it is to say it, I crashed out, leaving my coffee undrunk.

And if ever there was a moment where I really did feel like hauling myself off to bed to crash out definitively, then that was it. But I fought off the feeling, even if I did feel like death.

As a result, my plan to attack the dialogue for my next radio project fell flat without very much progress having been made. I need to finish that one off as well as do another one by the end of the week, although I’m not sure quite when I’ll fit it all in.

But whatever happens, I mustn’t fall behind otherwise I’ll never get back in front again.

Tea tonight was a stuffed pepper with the stuffing left over from late last week. And I don’t know why, but it was the best one that I’ve ever made.

If anyone is interested in my stuffing mix, it’s as follows –
Start by boiling up some quinoa or bulghour with a little water and some really spicy chili powder, and leave it to simmer.
Meanwhile, dice up some onion, garlic (have to have garlic of course!), a tomato, mushrooms, olives and whatever else you might have lying around that is suitable, a handful or two of salted peanuts, and then some herbs. I use oregano, basil and tarragon, as well as ground black pepper.
Then, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a couple more of tomato sauce (not ketchup, of course!)
Mix it all up together and then add the bulghour or quinoa, which should by now be ready, and mix that well in too. You need your stuffing to be very moist, but not runny.
Cut round the stalk of the pepper and scoop out the core, the seeds and the pith. Then stuff it with your stuffing mix.
Into the microwave at medium-full (that’s 640 watts on mine) for 7 minutes 30 seconds while the rice and veg are cooking.
The when the rice is cooked and you’re rinsing it out with boiling water, give the pepper 90 seconds on max (that’s 800 watts on mine)

If you try it, let me know how it turns out, and let me know if you have any suggestions to make it differently. There’s a “contact me” link down at the bottom right corner of the screen.

channel islands ferries victor hugo port de granville harbour manche normandy franceAfter that I went out for my evening walk in the freezing cold, because the temperature has dropped dramatically. I was the only one out there, which was no surprise.

But while I was out there, I checked and sure enough, Granville really is back in the harbour, tied up alongside Victor Hugo.

It looks like her a-roaming is over for a few days.

And so was mine. For tonight anyway, I headed for home. I managed to fit in my run, although I was dead by the time that I reached the ramp and only made four or five paces up it.

It’s really disappointing that I can’t seem to push on and run for longer. I remember when I went back running in the mid-90s, when after a few weeks I suddenly found my second wind and could run for miles. I can’t seem to break this barrier these days.

Mind you, I’m not sure what I’m expecting at my age. It’s not every OAP who goes out running late at night every night, especially one who is supposed to be on his death bed. I should be grateful for what I can do.

This evening I didn’t see Minette the old black cat but I saw her mum who was on the doorstep chatting to a couple of people. So I had a little chat, wished them the compliments of the season and came home.

Now I’ve written up my journal, I’m off to bed. 6.5 hours of sleep if I’m lucky. That’s a luxury these days so I need to make the most of it.

But not quite yet. I’ve been listening to No Smoke Without Fire by Wishbone Ash. It’s an album that I’ve owned for probably 30 years but I haven’t heard it for probably 29 years. And while it won’t ever be anything like as good as the first couple of albums, I’m astonished that I haven’t played it more often because some of it is really excellent.

And as that finished, onto the playlist came Fur by Jane Wiedlin. Not an album that you would normally associate with me but Janet Marsden played it to me late one night and there are a couple of tracks on it that are totally unexpected in their brilliance. They bring back a couple of memories of one particular night in Crewe, and how things could have been different had I been in a better place in my head back then.

Sunday 15th December 2019 – AND FINALLY …

… I made it back home.

And the journey was exciting, but nothing like as exciting as the outward trip.

Once again last night I was in bed early with every intention of watching a film. But before I went to do so, I carried on listening to the radio programme to which I had been listening before I slipped beneath the sheets.

And that’s how I found myself a couple of hours later. Out like a light of course. So I switched off the laptop and went back to sleep.

During the night there had been a few voyages. And strange ones they were too.

There was a fancy dress party taking place and I had decided to go as a woman, don’t ask me why because I don’t have a clue either. I had the dress and tights everything like that and I went out all dressed up and people were looking at me rather strangely as you could imagine. But I ran out of time and didn’t have the make-up so I had to do without the make-up which spoiled the whole effect as you can imagine. But I went outside and there were all these people outside, cheering me on, men were pretending to chat me up, so on. There was Malcolm Madeley (!) and he clearly didn’t recognise me, something like that and he made some kind of offensive remark. I said “you want to get a grip, Malcolm” to which he suddenly stopped and disappeared. He realised that it was me. I had to walk round to Aunt Mary’s. I knocked on her door and the guy who was with her who was a guy a lot younger than she was but was something to do with our family from somewhere or other and these two little kids about 3 or 4 came out. We were talking about some kind of court case involving these kids. Aunt Mary was saying “well now they are here it’s only 5 weeks to go before this case”. But as these kids walked out of the step there was this pram coming the other way. It hit them and they flew through the air and actually landed on top of the pram. I thought “these kids are going to get hurt. They are always doing these kinds of thing, always getting hurt, all kinds of stupid accidents, breaking their arms, breaking their legs, something. But this time they were all right which was quite a surprise. Then we had to hobble off – me hobbling on my high-heeled shoes back towards picking up my car to go to this do again but it was this thing with the kids that was so surprising. And I’ve no idea what that was all about at all.
Later that night I was with someone last night and it might have been Nerina but it might not and we were in Northern Wyoming, somewhere like that. On our way to visit some battleground, somewhere like that of the Native Americans. The road was a really difficult road. It started off being a decent road but was all gravelly, a dirt road as you might expect. We were behind this lorry and there was a car coming the other way, a big jeep-type thing swerving in and out of the traffic and he nearly hit us going past this lorry. We were wide-eyed about that. The GPS was talking to us about this road, giving us a talk. We suddenly breated the brow of this hill and came to where all these dressed stones were, in a pile like some kind of wall. It was telling us that this was where the fort was this was the barbecue was, all this kind of thing .We dropped down the hill into the village by the river and there were ancient railway locomotives on display there. We went inside the museum and there were all beds there with people sleeping in them like they might have done 100 years ago, 2 or 3 to a bed, babies in the bed, all this kind of thing and newspaper reports about “how my parents are going back to the UK after visiting us”. It turned out that we were now in Newfoundland and Labrador for some unknown reason and we were giving a tour of this museum with all of these toys and artefacts going back 100 years or something and life must have been really primitive for people living there in those days. So we had a tour of this museum with these old toys and old dirty beds and dirty people sleeping in them and I remember saying to whoever I was with that we ought to be going as we have a lot to do and in any case I wanted to see these old steam locomotives but she was busy engaged there talking to people and she didn’t really want to come away.

But despite all of this, I was soon up and about when the alarm went off at 06:00. Beat the second alarm by a country mile.

First task was to make my butties because I had a feeling that this was going to be a long day. Tidying up everything and packing my bags and collecting up my shopping, I headed out for the station.

am96 multiple unit gare de louvain leuven railway station belgium december 2019I arrived at the railway station about 06:50 and didn’t have long to wait for a train.

There was a direct train at about 07:20 direct to Brussels but there was an earlier one from Genk at 07:08 that goes via the airport and on the basis that a bird in the hand is worth any number in the bush I leapt aboard that one.

It’s one of the AM96 multiple units built by Bombardier and delivery to the SNCB started in 1996. They have a peculiar characteristic in that the driver’s cab pivots round 90° so that when two or more of these multiple units are coupled together, the passengers can go through from one unit to the next.

My train to Paris was at 08:43 so I had about an hour to kill. I drew some cash out of the bank and then bought my raisin buns for breakfast from Carrefour.

Thalys PBKA 4302 gare du midi brussels belgium december 2019 I didn’t have to wait long because the train came in quite early and we were ushered up to the platform.

It’s one of the Belgian SNCB PBKA (Paris Brussels Cologne Amsterdam) train sets, number 4302 upon which we have travelled on previous occasions. These PBKA train sets are becoming somewhat long in the tooth these days, being first delivered in 1995, but they still rattle along at an impressive 300 kilometres per hour when there’s nothing in the way to slow them down.

While we were waiting to move off, I had a quick look on the internet. The 13:54 to Granville was still down as running so I hoped that it would still be listed by the time I reached Montparnasse.

Bang on time we were, pulling into the Gare du Nord. I wandered over to the SNCF offices where they checked the trains. The 13:54 is still listed as running for the moment, but there’s nothing else going anywhere near Granville now for the rest of the day so it’s that one or nothing.

The girl stamped my ticket to Caen to effectively prove that I’d been to the SNCF offices (one thing that I’ve learnt since living in Europe is that European officials love paperwork and rubber stamps so you should never ever miss out on an opportunity to have a rubber stamp put on a document whenever there’s a crisis looming).

hotel terminus nord rue de dunkerque paris franceWell over three hours to go before my train, and the day wasn’t too bad out there so I decided to walk.

Unleashing the big Nikon D500 I took a test shot of the big hotel, the Hotel Terminus Nord, just across the road from the station.

There is also this rather bizarre statue here too, just outside the station and I’ve absolutely no idea what it’s supposed to represent. I imagine that it’s some kind of winged beast, but that’s about it.

river seine paris franceAccording to the route map that I consulted prior to setting off it was something like 5.5 kilometres as the crow flies between the Gare du Nord and the Gare Montparnasse.

But the way that I was planning to go, it worked out (I checked later on the fitbit) at 7.5 kilometres because I wasn’t going to miss out on a few of the sights while I was in the vicinity. Paris isn’t my favourite city – far from it in fact – but there are still places to see that ought not to be missed.

notre dame paris franceLike Notre Dame for example.

It’s been years since I’ve seen it and it doesn’t half look different now. On 15th April 2019 it caught fire and was very badly damaged. The roof has gone and it took the spire with it. It’s really in a sad condition like now and so here’s hoping that like a phoenix it will rise again from the ashes.

The estimates are that it will cost billions of Euros to restore it, although a considerable part of that money will be to restore parts of the cathedral that were in poor condition prior to the fire.

motor bike sidecar rue de buci paris franceAcross the Pont Neuf or “Bridge number 9” we’re in the Latin Quarter, so puer amat mensam to you, hey?

My intention was to go for a wander around for half an hour but I completely forgot, being sidetracked by this beautiful outfit here. A horizontal twin motorbike, which might have been an elderly BMW or a more modern Urals or Cossack, with a very period sidecar attached.

It’s not the kind of thing that you see on the streets every day and it took me completely by surprise.

inflatable polar bears boulevard st germain paris franceSomething else that took me by surprise was on the corner of the Boulevard St Germain.

It goes without saying that on my travels I’ve seen plenty of polar bears, but never one on a street corner in Paris. We’ve seen actresses standing over the air grids of the Paris Metro and seen their skirts disappear in the updraught, but an inflatable polar bear family is something else.

It made me quite nostalgic for the High Arctic and I wonder how I’m going to get there next year, having had a little disagreement with some people

tour de montparnasse rue de rennes paris franceBy now I was starting to flag a little, so it was with an enormous sigh of relief that I caught sight of the Tour de Montparnasse at the end of the street as I rounded the corner into the rue de Rennes.

It seems to have slipped my mind to mention that I was not actually travelling light today. I had my rucksack which was quite heavy anyway with this and that, and a carrier bag with with a pile of heavy shopping in it.

And even though I can see the Tour de Montparnasse, my walk is far from over. The railway station is a good few hundred yards behind the tower and then I have this enormously long hike all the way down the station to reach the Vaugirard annexe.

electric vehicle charging points rue de rennes paris franceWalking down the rue de Rennes I came across this wonderful sight.

Definitely a sign of the times, this is. With the European Union promising to phase out the manufacture of the internal combustion engine by 2040, there needs to be more electric vehicles on the streets. But there won’t be unless the authorities provide places where the owners can recharge them.

And so this charging station here shows how far along that road the French authorities are in this respect – in great contrast to how they are in several other countries, including the UK.

gare montparnasse boulevard de vaugirard paris franceOn that shocking note I went past the Tour de Montparnasse and there in the distance behind it is the Gare Montparnasse.

The original station, the one where the Granville train failed to stop all those years ago and went hurling across the concourse and out of the end wall into the street, was actually on the site of the tower. And that explains why when the metro from the Gare du Nord throws me out at the “Montparnasse” metro station, I still have this very long underground walk to the Montparnasse railway station.

Yes, they moved the railway station but they didn’t move the metro station with it

Looking at my watch, it was 12:00 or thereabouts when I reached the Gare Montparnasse. 90 minutes or so it had taken me, and that was really impressive considering that I’m not at all well and I had my heavy load to lug around with me.

Mind you, it’s not something that I want to do too often because I was pretty nigh exhausted after that. I was pretty much at it non-stop, without a rest. Next time I do it, if there is a next time there will have to be a pause-café somewhere along the route.

There was a long wait for the train but we were allowed on board earlier then usual. And so we had a longer wait for the train to leave, seeing as its start was delayed by 15 minutes.

Without a ticket I had to sit anywhere in a vacant seat. And so of course it goes without saying that it was reserved to someone else so I had to move.

The ticket collector came by so we had a chat about my ticket, in a delightful conversation where I spoke in French and he replied in English.

alstom regiolis gare de granville railway station manche normandy franceAnd that was one thing.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that having gone for time after time after time in the past without having my ticket checked, it was checked on every train today. Probably a grève de zèle or “work to rule” going on too. So it was just as well that I’d been to the SNCF office to declare myself a “stranded traveller” and have my ticket rubber-stamped by an official.

After all of that I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we reached Vire. And we pulled into Granville bang-on time despite the extra stops that we had and the 15-minute delay.

thora port de granville harbour manche normandy franceHaving left the station and feeling surprisingly fit considering my long walk today, I walked back through the town to the apartment.

While I was going up the rue des Juifs I looked over the wall and there tied up at the unloading quay is our old friend Thora. She’s come in on another trip from the Channel Islands.

This evening I’ve not done much. Finished off the falafel with some veg and cheese sause, and I declined the opportunity to go for a walk. I reckon that with 162% of my daily activity carried out, I’ve done enough. No wonder I was exhausted.

But now I can’t sleep. So I’ll probably be awake for ages but we’ll see how it hangs out. I have a busy day tomorrow.

And as an aside, there were plenty more photos from where these came from that haven’t made it onto this page. If you want to see them, which I hope you do, you need to go to THIS PAGE.

Monday 9th December 2019 – I HAVE NEVER EVER MET …

… so many people so gifted with the art of expanding so little thought into so many words.

It’s true that I have said this before, but here I am saying it again under different circumstances. Like at another one of these volunteer meeting things.

Following my exploits at that meeting with the kids from Greenland the other day, I was invited to take part in this twinning committee because “my mother tongue is English and I speak French pretty well”

And so there in the upstairs room in the Grand Café they were going on about “we could do … (X, Y and Z) … but the stuff is in English so if only we had someone to translate it into French” – and there I was sitting right next to and right opposite the two people having this discussion who both had totally forgotten that I had translated from the English to the French at that meeting the other week. “There’s someone here who could translate it for us” said another person, and pointed to … another (French) woman sitting at the corner of the table.

And in order to introduce myself to the others, I had to make a little speech of introduction to the rest of the gathering, so I began with “there are six people in Greenland who I know really well …” and named them. And a few minutes later someone said to me “surely you know … (Mr X) and (Mrs Y) and (Master Z) and (his pet gibbon)” who were not among the people whose names I had mentioned.

Obviously, people not taking the slightest bit of interest or notice of what I have been doing or saying.

The conversation carried on about not very much for two hours, except for who could speak the longest and say the least. I was effectively shunted off into obscurity, musing to myself that these are the kind of meetings that should be held standing up, outside, in the pouring rain. And then all of the work would be accomplished in probably a tenth of the time, and much more effectively too.

But it’s my own fault. I paid the €15:00 membership fee as soon as I arrived. Had I held out until the end before waving the folding stuff about, I imagine that they might have made more of an effort to engage with me until they had managed to chisel the cabbage out of my sweaty little mitt.

This morning though was just as bad. Apparently I had to go with someone to interview someone in English. I thought that we were doing that a couple of weeks ago but it was merely a telephone call. Today it looked like the real thing but when we arrived, it was simply a case of going for a meal with this British guy with the purpose of arranging a date for the interview.

It’s all complete, total and utter chaos and what made it worse was that when we were outside this restaurant the British guy and I were having a chat and the French guy who was trying to set up this interview said afterwards to me “if only we had the gear hear to record that. It was exactly what I wanted!”

Had I not needed him to drive me home from Avranches, I would have beaten him to death on the spot.

That’s not the worst of it either. The way to do this interview is to prepare a list of questions. I ask them of this English guy and we record the answers. We then superimpose a French person asking the questions into the recording and then I do a translation into French with a nice British accent and it’s overdubbed so you can hear the British guy talking in the background but hear the French (with accent) over the top.

It’s such a simple thing to do and I can do it all in half an hour here at my desk but the guy who thinks that he’s running the show (as distinct from the guy who is supposed to be running it) feels that he needs to be there and to do it in a way that is about 10 times more complicated and gives nothing like the same effect.

As I’ve said before … “and you’ll inevitably say again!” – ed … the lack of professionalism is really annoying me. And these are hours of my life that I won’t ever get back and I don’t have all that many to spare.

The proof of all of this was that I was up until quite late last night working, trying to catch up with the arrears of work (some hope).

And just as I was about to go to bed the gale got up, we were hit by a tempest and as I opened the bedroom door there was an enormous flash of lightning – just by way of a spontaneous greeting to me.

Despite the late night I was off on my travels last night, with Batty Bat (and it’s been YEARS since she’s accompanied me on a nocturnal voyage) and TOTGA. I’ll spare you all of the gory details because you’re probably eating a meal right now and I don’t want to turn your stomachs. But what was surprising about this particular journey is that encompassed several events that have or had a parallel with events that have or had taken place in real life and one event in particular that has been going through my conscious mind for the last week or so. It was quite surprising when I heard it on the dictaphone.

With a Herculean effort I was out of bed before the third alarm and after breakfast I attacked the outstanding project that needed to be done by today.

And ohh me miseram“well, puer amat mensam!” – ed … I miscalculated the timing and ran 5 minutes short of my hour. A frantic search found a piece of music exactly the correct length, and then I needed a vocal explanation to go with it. Which I recorded incorrectly.

strange sunlight effects baie de mont st michel st pair sur mer granville manche normandy franceToo late now for my shower, I shot off for my meeting at the Centre Agora.

One thing about being late for my meeting is that had I been on time five minutes earlier I would have missed this glorious light. I’ve spoken … “at great lengths” – ed … on several previous occasions, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, about the peculiar lighting effects that we can sometimes have around here and we’ve seen a few examples, but there has been nothing quite like this one.

This is one of the best that I have ever seen.

At the Centre Agora I made another suggestion but this one suffered the same fate as the other suggestions that I have made – viz kicked into the long grass. And then this abortive drive to Avranches with people who have nothing better to do with their lives.

Back here again I cracked on and finished the project that needed finishing and then I attacked the following one that I had already prepared. The music was ready and just needed the sound so I dictated that and began to edit it when i discovered that I had forgotten a track.

Down into town for this other meeting and on the way back I had a text message – “your train on Thursday is cancelled due to a strike”. So much for that!

aztec lady omerta spirit of conrad chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy franceOn the way back home after the meeting I went the long way round in order to clock up the kilometres and also to see what was going on in the Chantier Navale.

We stall have our three boats in there – Spirit of Conrad, Omerta and Aztec Lady but never mind them for a moment. Just admire the photograph.

It’s quite true that I’ve taken many photos that have come out far better than this one, but the fact is that this one was taken with the little Nikon 1 and if it could take photos like this all the time I wouldn’t be so reluctant to rely on it.

Whenever I go out on foot for any distance I take that one with me because it fits nicely in the pocket, but its night-time photos have usually been something of a disappointment.

With my train being cancelled, the first task when I reached home was to see what Flixbus had to offer me.

Nothing at all from Avranches, but there is a bus going from Caen at … errr … 08:00 that morning. So it looks as if Caliburn and I will be having an early start. The station car park at Caen is quite expensive but I’ll be badgered if I’m going to leave him in the street for four days.

But something happened to me today. Walking up the hill towards my meeting at the Centre Agora this morning, I suddenly came over all queer. And then tonight, I had another fall. Luckily onto a raised grass surface so I did myself no damage. But what’s happening here?

Tea was the rest of the leftover curry with rice and veg followed by the last of the pineapple with sorbet. Now I’m carrying on working as I listen to a “Traffic Live” concert. A brilliant band, Traffic, especially live.

Tomorrow I have a couple of things to do in town as well as cashing in my rail tickets, but I want to finish this project on which I’m working as well as doing another one at least before I go.

There’s tidying up to do too, so I’m hoping to be on form. But I doubt if I’ll have an early night. Far too much to do!

Monday 2nd December 2019 – MY FITBIT …

… has told me some surprising things in the pas, but none more surprising than what it told be today.

Having coupled it up to the laptop while I went for my shower this morning, it told me that over the month of November I had performed 103% of my daily fitness routine – the first time ever that I have gone over the 100% for a month. I’d done almost 350,000 steps and I’d travelled an unbelievable 261 kilometres on foot.

Even more interestingly, I had run for a total of 1 hour and 27 minutes.

And if you think that it’s not all that much to crow about, remember that I’m slowly dying and that three and a half years ago I couldn’t even walk.

The hospital wants me to lie about in bed and take it easy to preserve my strength for the struggle that lies ahead, but there’s no chance whatever of that. In the words of Neil Young, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”.

And I’m going to go with a bang, hopefully with a nubile nymphet a quarter of my age. That’ll give everyone something to talk about, won’t it?

However, there wasn’t much to talk about last night. I was in bed rather later than I would have liked, and up and out of bed long before the third alarm.

As for the dictaphone, not a word. It seems that I didn’t go off anywhere during the night and that’s a disappointment. As I have said before … “and you’ll say again” – ed … there’s far more excitement going on during the night when I’m asleep than there ever is when I’m awake these days.

In fact, probably my only hope of ever grabbing hold of a nymphet a quarter of my age will be at some point during a nocturnal perambulation.

With nothing to transcribe from last night, after the medication I attacked the backlog of dictaphone notes. With an interruption for breakfast and another one for a shower and clean-up, by the time that it came to leave the apartment the backlog was reduced to a mere 25.

And it goes to prove my point about these nocturnal ramblings because I seem to have passed through the extremely turbulent seas full of whirlpools and turmoil and moved back into calmer waters where I can carry on doing what I do best, whatever than might be.

It’s Monday so I have my regular Monday morning meeting at the Centre Agora at 10:00.

Just for a change I was late getting away, which was a disappointment because when I realised that I had forgotten to bring the little Nikon 1 with me.

That’s the camera that I usually take with me when I’m walking out because it’s small and light, and easy to carry in my pocket. And if I don’t ask it to do too much, the results aren’t all that much less in quality than the big Nikon D500.

health and safety issues erecting christmas tree place pierre semard granville manche normandy franceAnd how I wished that I had remembered to bring it because the camera on the telephone is total rubbish. But it’s the best that I had with me so it had to do.

Nevertheless I would have loved to have had a decent high-quality shot of this beautiful image of them preparing the Christmas tree at the Place Pierre Semard.

Health and Safety in the UK would have had a field day, seeing this kind of thing going on. As Isambard Kingdom Brunel once remarked late in his life during an enquiry into procedure at the beginning of the Railway Age, “what would be said of such a mode of proceeding today?”.

erecting christmas tree place pierre semard granville manche normandy franceBut here’s a more normal photo of them erecting the Christmas tree. It’s nothing like as exciting, is it?

So I carried on to the Centre Agora for our meeting. I had a couple of ideas that might have been useful but because they came from me and not from any of the organisers, they were discreetly brushed aside.

But not to worry. I’ll just keep to doing my own little job and let them get on with it. I hate empire-building but it seems that i’m stuck with it right now. At least they didn’t ask me to make the coffee.

After the meeting I walked all the way back home, calling in at LIDL for a few bits and pieces. Carrots were reduced to half-price and as I’m running a little low, I bought a kilo to freeze.

How, though, I don’t know because there’s no more room in the freezer. I really did make a mistake buying this one. It’s far too small for me.

On the way back I picked up my dejeunette (they are recognising me now in La Mie Caline) and bumped into someone who had been present at the meeting just now.

After lunch I started on Project 004. I need to have about four or five all organised pretty quickly as there seems to be no-one working over the Christmas period and if I want to have my stuff dealt with, it needs to be in by 15th December at the latest.

By the time that I knocked off, I’d done all of the music that I need. I just need to do the speech but I can’t do that yet as my mixer panel still hasn’t arrived and I don’t want to use the dictaphone again.

fishing boats marker buoys ile de chausey granville manche normandy franceWe had a pause as usual for my afternoon walk around the headland.

The wind had died down somewhat and with the sun being out it was quite a beautiful day. The fishing boat that was out there at the northern tip of the Ile de Chausey was having a good time

And so was Gribouille, the big ginger cat who came for a stoke.

eastern jersey channel islands granville manche normandy franceBut out there today the skies were totally clear and while the Brittany coast was in haze, the view over to Jersey was the clearest that I have ever seen it.

We had some good shots of the Brittany coast the other day while Jersey was shrouded in haze, but it was the other way round this afternoon.

We’ve never seen the eastern corner of the island looking like this.

east central jersey channel granville manche normandy franceThat’s St Helier there, and that’s about 54 kilometres away from where I’m standing right now.

We’ve seen the town before, but never with this much clarity. While it’s a tribute to the quality of the camera and the lens, it also has a lot to do with the weather too.

Probably more so in fact.

west central jersey channel islands granville manche normandy franceSo as you admire some more of the beautiful Jersey coastline to the west of St Helier, I carried on with my walk.

Surprisingly, given the really nice weather, I counted no more than 5 other people out there taking in the air around my circuit.

This was really a day for being out and about

western jersey channel islands granville manche normandy franceWhile you look at the western corner of the island of Jersey, I went to have a look to see what was going on in the chantier navale.

And the answer to that question isn’t “nothing” as you were probably expecting, but “nothing any different from the last few days”.

Just the usual suspects and no new additions.

And that reminds me. I haven’t seen a gravel boat for ages and ages. I wonder why.

boats port de granville harbour manche normandy franceIt’s no surprise that there isn’t a gravel boat right now and I wouldn’t expect to see one because the tide is well on its way out just now.

All of the boats in the harbour are slowly setting down on the silt in the tidal harbour.

Except for the yellow and white on. That’s careening over quite alarmingly, although careening is a well-known technique in old ship-repairing. Ancient mariners in leaky ships would find a harbour like this where they could careen their boat to one side to repair the bottom of the boat.

And when the tide came back in and the boat would float up with the rising water they would turn the boat round so that when the tide went out next they would careen it over so that the other side was up and they could repair that.

pointe de carolles plage cabanon vauban baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy franceThere was no haze down at the bottom end of the Baie de Mont St Michel either. The hotels at the foot of the Mont St Michel were standing out quite clearly and that’s without any effort on my behalf or that of the camera and lens.

The Pointe de Carolles looks beautiful in this weather and the Cabanon Vauban that we visited a couple of times is perching proudly on the top.

Even the little town of Carolles-Plage and the beach is looking quite nice with its reflection in the damp sand

Back here I did a little (just a little) tidying up. The big suitcases for which I don’t have a place, I lifted up the mattress and the bed base and put them underneath the bed. I only use them once a year so they don’t need to be out in the way.

Another thing that I needed to do was to book my next trip to Leuven and Castle Anthrax. As you might expect, it’s on Friday 13th of December.

One of the things that I had been considering was to take myself off into Germany for a couple of days but there was nothing suitable. So I’ve booked my return journey for the Sunday.

And due to rail works, there’s no 08:13 again so I’m on the 08:43. And having to come home via Paris St Lazaire and Caen, I’ll be back 10 minutes early if all goes according to plan even with a wait of over an hour at Caen.

But it’s going to be an exciting trip back because I don’t know the way back across Paris from Gare du Nord to St Lazare and I don’t have much spare time if I miss my way.

Tea was a stuffed pepper, and it was quite delicious too. They’ve been selling some cheap spicy tomato sauce with garlic in Noz so I’ve bought a few jars of that and it adds a certain something to my stuffing.

trawler english channel granville manche normandy francePretty cool outside tonight, so there wasn’t anyone about at all as I went for my eveing walk.

A great number of lights out in the English Channel though. Plenty of fishing boats were out there tonight, like this one slowly chugging back to harbour.

I remember saying a few days ago that I don’t think that I’ve ever seen as much fishing activity this close to shore in previous years.

trawler english channel granville manche normandy franceWe’ve seen plenty of activity in the bay near Bréhal-Plage just recently too and that’s something that I haven’t noticed previously.

There’s another fishing boat out there tonight having a go at trying to haul in a decent catch.

As for me, I continued my walk and as usual broke into a run on my little track. And I made it all the way to the ramp and half-way up there without too much effort.

So back here and I’m off to bed. 146% and 11.7kms today. Start the month as I mean to go on!

Wednesday 20th February 2019 – AFTER YESTERDAY’S …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing was going to plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 25th November 2018 – I WAS REALLY …

… Looking forward to my good night’s sleep, having made a determined effort to have an early night. But it all went wrong round about 01:45 when I awoke with a severe attack of cramp. So severe was it that all of my usual methods of relaxing the muscles failed to work and I ended up hopping around the apartment in agony until I could reset the leg;

It didn’t take me long to go back to sleep either. And when I did, I was away with the fairies again. On board ship, yet again, but this time on the way to Whittlesea Bay where Mrs Povey was busy organising the support for the local carnival. I really must stop listening to all of these episodes of the Navy Lark.

The body clock was working fine and I was awake before the two alarms. As a fall-back I have configured an older mobile phone to work as an alarm clock when it’s important, in case we have another upgrade.

No breakfast – just to back up the computer onto the travel memory stick attached to the keyring. And then to make my sandwiches, pack my rucksack,take out the rubbish and do some cleaning up.

trawlers fishing quay port de granville harbour manche normandy franceIt was raining outside, so I sorted out my raincoat again and had a rather wet and weary trudge through the dampened streets.

The tide was in so there were several fishing boats tied up at the quay by the fish-processing plants, unloading last night’s catch.

This one here has a great set of lights for seeing what it’s doing. It might be the same brightly-lit one that we’ve seen on a couple of previous occasions just now.

christmas lights rue lecampion granville manche normandy franceThe town was quite deserted, as you might expect at this time of a sunday morning.

I mentioned the other day that they had begun to install the Christmas lights and I’d noticed last night that some of them were illuminated.

And so I suppose that I had better take a photo of them illuminated while there is no-one abot.

gare de granville manche normandy franceAt the station I reckon that whoever had used the coffee machine before me had had a hot chocolate, because my coffee didn’t half taste strange.

There was a very friendly cleaner on the railway station and we had a very interesting while waiting for my train to arrive. There are all kinds of changes happening on the railways with the Caen-Rennes trains being diverted to pass by Granville, the doubling of the line between Dol-de-Bretagne and Avranches and the reinforcement of the shuttle service between Pontorson and Mont St Michel.

This is all good news, because there has been some talk about the possibility of closing the railway station and putting everyone on buses. But here we have an example of stopping one of the buses here (the bus to Folligny station) and increasing the rail connection. I’m keen to see how this is going to develop.

The train wasn’t all that full at first, although I had a couple of people witting opposite me. But slowly, little by little, the train filled up as advanced towards Paris. By the time that we arrived at L’Aigle the train was packed.

Somewhere between L’Aigle and Verneuil sur Ayre we stampeded a herd of deer in a field by the railway line. It must be that time of the year now, with the hunters starting to come out.

As we pulled into Paris, I admired the courage of the lady opposite who started to reapply her lipstick as the train rattled over all of the sets of points. I didn’t get to see the finished job but it must really have been something

The station at Montparnasse-Vaugirard wasn’t quite the chaos that it has been for the last few Sundays but it was crowded all the same. The Metro was pretty crowded too and I had to stand all the way up to the Gare du Nord.

At Gare du Nord I was lucky to find a seat where I could eat my butties but we had a rather curious incident there.

Some woman pushed a goblet with money in it under my nose. Thanking her, I took the contents. It was several Moroccan coins and a British sixpence. I put them in my pocket.

She then made a gesture, pointing to her mouth, saying “money – eat”.
I told her that she would break her teeth, eating money.

She then pointed to her belly, saying – “eat – baby”
I replied that if she has eaten a whole baby she would get indigestion.

This kind of desultory conversation continued for a few minutes and then she wandered off elsewhere.

tgv paris gare du nord franceOur TGV was packed to the gunwhales. Not a spare seat anywhere.

Luckily I was one of the first on board so I didn’t have to scramble for my seat, which was right down at the far end of the coach.

I spent most of the journey in a deep and profound sleep – with just one awakening to let my seating companion out, and another one for me to visit the bathroom.

sncb brussels gare du midi eupen eric hallWe were bang on time in Brussels but so was the 15:42 to Leuven, which meant that I missed it. But there was another one right behind – at 15:56 to Eupen

That was 5 minutes late so there was quite a crowd gathered for it. Luckily I was right at the front so I was able to grab a seat but those who boarded the train at the middle had to walk the whole length of the train before they could find somewhere.

Here in Leuven it was freezing cold and foggy and I had a bitter walk all the way to my digs.

I’m in a room at the top overlooking the courtyard – I’ve not been in one of these before.

christmas lights tiensestraat leuven eric hallTonight is pizza night so I had a stroll into town in the rain to the place that does my special pizzas.

They’ve put up the Christmas lights in the Tiensestraat, although they seem to be somewhat feeble. I was expecting to see much more than this.

It’s a sign of the times, I suppose.

Back here, I had my tea, and then a shower and clothes wash.

And it seems that I’ve forgotten to bring a spare pair of trousers so I hope that these will dry for the morning.

With the computer locking up, I decided to have an early night. 121% of my daily activity is enough for any man and I have a busy day tomorrow?

rue lecampion granville manche normandy france
rue lecampion granville manche normandy france

Thursday 11th October 2018 – I’VE BEEN OUT …

cabourg calvados normandy france… today,

Josée fancied a drive out to sit on a beach and was attracted by the sound of Cabourg, the summer home of Marcel Proust at the turn of the 20th Century.

So boldly going where I don’t ever recall having been before but I bet you any money that I have, because at one time or another either with Shearings or with Nerina I’ve worked my way along the whole coast of Northern France, for as Proust himself once famously said, “remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were”.

Thus Caliburn, Josée and I set off for the seaside.

Much to my amazement, I had a reasonably comfortable sleep last night and if I did go anywhere on my travels I really don’t remember. But whztever, I was up early, medicated and attacking the web pages for my voyage on the Good Ship Ve … errr … Ocean Endeavour long before Josée had even shown a leg.

As a reslt of my new-found energy I now have two amended pages – one web page with lots of stuff on it and another oage which is day two of my blog which although had been published a while back, now has some photos on it..

After breakfast Josée had the idea of going to sample the local products such as cheese, sausage and the like. Of course, she won’t find any of that around here in my apartment so we duly set sail into the town.

A rather large carrier bag and a coffee later, we found ourselves back in the apartment making butties for the route.

noah ark villedieu les poeles manche normandy franceIt’s about a two-hour drive to Cabourg (and more if you go through the centre of Caen, if you stop to do a little shopping and also if you stop for a bathroom)

And at one of the places where we stopped for a comfort break, we found that our biblical friend Noah was also there making a comfort break too.

I couldn’t resist taking a photograph to prove that he had been there.

As a result of all of this it was about 15:30 that we arrived in Cabourg.

trotting horses exercising plage de cabourg beach normandy franceAs the sky clouded over we ate our rather late lunch on the beach watching the horses and carriages exercising.

There’s a race track not too far from here and it seems as if trotting is quite the thing there judging by how they were exercising the horses today.

Wet sand is pretty good for exercise because it builds up the muscles of the horses and when they run on dry sand they have much more physical strength at their disposal.

josée constant plage de cabourg beach franceAfter lunch Josée decided to go for a paddle in the sea.

Of course it’s probably far warmer than where I last put my feet in the sea – at Etah in Greenland about 1300 kms from the North Pole, but nevertheless I stayed on dry land and watched her enjoy herself.

She told me that it was quite warm in there (comparatively speaking but of course she is from Québec) but I’ll take her word for that.

brittany ferries ouistreham caen portsmouth normandy franceI was far more interested in the activities down the coast.

We aren’t all that far from Ouistreham which is the ferry port for Caen and there are some big ships that sail out of there on their way to the UK.

There was one in the port when we arrived but at 16:30 flat it took off and set sail. I took a good photo of it, and also a good photograph of a seagull who decided to come and join in the fun.

cabourg houlgate calvados normandy franceTHere was still time to take one or two more photos of the area.

The towns down along the coast looked as if they might be likely subjects and while Le Havre, although well visible, was too fr away to come out well, the seaside resort of Houlgate didn’t have the same issues.

That has come out quite well despite the weather conditions because by now it was starting to rain.

It rained almost as far as Caen but then we were stuck in a traffic queue. That took a while to clear so we were later than anticipated. And we had the usual issue at the toll on the autoroute where they wanted to charge me for Class 2 instead of Class 1.

Back here it had been a beautiful day with blue sky so Josée went fpr a walk in the evening twilight while I attacked a few more things to do. And then we had tea.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that in 2012 I had been to a place in Québec called Harrington Harbour and I had spoken about a film that had been made there.

Josée actually knew the film so we found it on the internet and we sat down and watched most of it until she retired. And I quite enjoyed it, as well as recognising many places that I remembered.

But there was one thing that struck me about the film.

The “Doctor Lewis” is from Montreal and when he is installed in what is easily the best house on the island, he is heard to complain to his girlfriend about how primitive and shabby it is.

What this is implying is that the 90% of all Canadian citizens, those who live withing 50 miles of the US border, don’t have the least idea about the quality of life out on the Bas Cote-Nord – the “Forgotten Coast” – never mind places like Resolute, Grise fiord and Pond Inlet.

And if that’s the case, they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves

brittany ferries ouistreham caen portsmouth normandy france
brittany ferries ouistreham caen portsmouth normandy france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

josée constant plage de cabourg beach france
josée plage de cabourg beach france

naval patrol vessel plage de cabourg beach france
naval patrol vessel plage de cabourg beach france

trotting horses exercising plage de cabourg beach normandy france
trotting horses exercising plage de cabourg beach normandy france

trotting horses exercising plage de cabourg beach normandy france
trotting horses exercising plage de cabourg beach normandy france