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Friday 3rd December 2021 – JUST A QUICK …

… few lines because I’ve been busy this afternoon and this evening and now I’m absolutely exhausted.

Most of that though is due to the fact that I had yet another dreadful night, but we won’t go into that right now because you’re probably as fed up about these as I am.

After the medication and checking my mails and messages I went through the two recipes that I have and made a list of the shopping that I need to do. And then I nipped out to Biocoop for some molasses.

As I was on my way to Noz in the driving rainstorm the tyre fitter rang me up. My tyres hadn’t arrived so my appointment was cancelled. Nevertheless I went to Noz where they had some really nice alcohol-free beer that will be just the thing for the Christmas period.

At LeClerc I bought what I could but the range of French cooking accessories falls a lot short. No glacé cherries, no candied peel, nothing like that at all. And even worse, no essence of alcohol-free brandy in which to soak my fruit.

Back home later I had a coffee and spent the rest of the day trawling through my record collection for Christmas rock songs. In the end I managed to pull out about 15 or so and then I remixed them and began to write out the text for the radio programme for Christmas Day.

sea fog beach rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo December 2021During the course of the afternoon I went out for my walk although I don’t know why because the weather was just as foul as it had been earlier.

It wasn’t just the rain that was annoying either. There was a thick sea-fog and the view was no more than a few hundred yards.

But that was enough visibility for me to say that there was no-one down there this afternoon, and that wasn’t a surprise. I was the only one stupid enough to be out there in this weather this afternoon.

tiberiade baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo December 2021That isn’t actually quite correct.

There were some other people out there this afternoon, but they were out there of necessity, not through choice. As I peered out through the gloom a trawler came into view out of a low cloud.

The brief glance that I had seemed to indicate that it might be Tiberiade, one of the larger trawlers that operate out of the port. People still have to eat, regardless of the weather, and as long as they need to eat, the fishermen will still need to go out in all kinds of conditions.

lighthouse semaphore pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo December 2021Having taken what photos I could, I went off on my walk along the headland.

From the path at the back of the running track I could just about make out the lighthouse and semaphore down at the far end of the Pointe du Roc.

Although it’s only mid-afternoon, the lights on part of the equipment were already lit. Not that they would do much good because I doubt if you can see tham at any appreciable difference in this fog.

With no-one to disturb me, I carried on down to the end of the path and across the car park at the end.

mushroom pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo December 2021Nothing going on out at sea (that I could see anyway) and no-one sitting on the bench down below, which was no surprise either.

There was however this gorgeous mushroom growing on the bank and it reminded me of that beautiful mushroom soup that Nerina made for me once many years ago.
“That’s absolutely beautiful” I exclaimed. “Where did you find this recipe?”
“In an Agatha Christie murder story” she replied.

la grande ancre les bouchots de chausey omerta port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo December 2021It wasn’t just Tiberiade who had been out there braving the conditions this afternoon.

By the looks of things several others had been trying their luck and were unloading at the fish processing plant.

We can, I suppose, rule out L’Omerta because as far as I can tell she seems to live over there permanently now. But on the extreme left we have La Grande Ancre who pulled away from the quayside almost as soon as I took the photo, and next to her is, I think, Les Bouchots de Chausey .

As for the third boat, the blue and white one, I don’t recognise her at all.

After all of this miserable weather than I had encountered, I was glad to be home. I made myself a nice hot coffee and several plans for the future.

Later on I cleared the decks and prepared everything for the baking session. And I actually knew someone else who was attending the demonstration – my very first tutor from 18 months ago.

The demonstration was quite straightforward although my oven is quite a disappointment at this kind of thing. It took about twice as long as the recommended cooking time, and it would have been even better if I’d bought food-quality bicarbonate of soda rather than general-purpose quality.

treacle banana cake place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo December 2021So here’s the finished product. Not quite as crumbly as the previous versions have been but I suspect that the almond-flour and flax seeds might have contributed to that.

It’s supposed to be iced but I’m not sure how a treacle cake would taste with icing on it. I don’t think that marzipan would be a good idea either.

After the demonstration I grabbed a quick tea and then watched the football – Bala Town v TNS. As expected is was all one-way traffic and the score of 4-1 to TNS was not an exaggeration.

It’s not that Bala are a bad side. They have most of the team that was there last season but the quality of the league has increased dramatically.

TNS were always quicker and better and played some nice football. Bala played some nice stuff too on occasion but it was far too little and far too late.

Anyway, now I’m off to bed, and I’m going to try a little experiment. I’ll tell yuo all about it tomorrow if it works.

Friday 26th November 2021 – PHEW! THAT WAS EXPENSIVE!

And I don’t even have any photographs for my pains either today.

That is for two reasons too.

  1. there’s a howling gale blowing outside right now
  2. I have been busy all afternoon and couldn’t even find time to go for my afternoon walk

Before we start though, I’m not going to mention last night. You can read the dictaphone notes and make up your own mind.

A train had been requisitioned by the Germans last night and was heading off with all kinds of art treasures that had been looted. They had a man on the front with a machine gun to defend against saboteurs, all this kind of thing but in the corridor of the tender facing the engine driver was another German armed with a sub-machine gun. At a certain point the train ground to a halt and there was some panic going on outside. The commandant in charge said “we’ll get the guy with the machine gun on the crew to reinforce you” which of course caused panic because no-one there actually knew that they were being watched like this on the footplate. At the same time there was a strike going on with football players because of recognition with their previous clubs hadn’t been granted so they weren’t considered as being equal or equivalent footballers to the Premier League and weren’t being able to be picked for the Premier League sides but that was on the point of being resolved.

A little later I was with someone (and I wish that I knew who it was) on a bicycle ride on holiday. I had a rucksack on my back and she had one on hers. We’d had some kind of incident that meant that she’d used my jeans as a mop so she’d had to borrow some jeans from someone for me. We were cycling and came to this bridge over a motorway. There were several lanes and a main road and a side road and a footpath etc. Several lanes went on a bridge over the top of the motorway while a couple went through a tunnel underneath. We cycled on and came to the motorway interchange. This was an awful, really complicated road junction. We were on bikes and the vehicles were running really quickly and not giving us much time to get into position because we wanted the lane far over in the centre. Eventually we managed to pick our way through the traffic without any excitement. We noticed on the map that someone who used to work for the radio lived here in a little cul-de-sac so we thought that we’d go to visit him. He had a bungalow in a kind-of close. When we arrived he was on the doorstep saying that he was just going to bed. he told us about an incident he’d had which involved the police which had left him feeling very bitter about whatever it was that the radio was. He went to bed but we were inside the house and used his bathroom, organised a few things. We noticed that there was an orange plastic skull sitting on his bed. We wondered what that was doing. Then my partner started to take stuff out of my rucksack to rearrange it which was uncomfortable seeing as I was wearing it at the time

And then there was a sandpit there (wherever “there” was) and a kid who was very much like me as a small child playing in it. Someone said something about how he could foretell the future in various respects. I mentioned that I’d had mine told for me and it wasn’t very complimentary

This cable had an olive-green and white speckly very thick-outer a cable with a very solid rigid central core that we could make into all kinds of shapes, but none of them were anything to do with what we were trying to do. And whatever that bit is all about is a complete mystery to me.

Some time later we were driving down the M6, a big group of us. A girl whom I used to know in Scotland was there as well, heading down. At a certain moment I recognised somewhere and said “this is the start of the Morecambe Bay holiday area, isn’t it?”. They didn’t know but we’d gone about half a mile and saw a load of surfers in the water. I mentioned that there was a town down here a little further where I’d been a couple of years ago and there had been an enormous flood. We’d spent our time swimming in what was the town square. When we arrived, the town square was flooded again so we had to drive round and find a place to park and then needed to find the solicitor’s that we were visiting the next day. I was sure that I knew where it was because I’d been here before. So we went and sure enough, this was where it was. Then we had to work out where we were going to stay. Everyone else was broke so we were talking about hostels and everything. Eventually they found some kind of bed and breakfast place that was quite cheap and were talking about booking it there but some people didn’t have any money etc

When the alarm went off I couldn’t get out of bed for quite some time but eventually I forced myself out and went for my medication.

Having checked my mails and messages I cracked on (and I really did too) with the work that needed doing. The sound-files have been sent off with the accompanying notes, and so have my questions for these perishing elves.

One thing that I noticed was that my server wasn’t saving the copies of my mails, which was no surprise as my mailbox was at 101%. I spent a very happy rest of the morning going through and weeding a pile of stuff that had built up in there that should have been deleted a long time ago.

What’s filling the place up is all of the piles of stuff that I’ve been receiving about my family so I went and downloaded it all and deleted it from my mail server. Now my mailbox is now at a more-manageable 73%.

One day I’ll download a mail-handling client like Thunderbird and download everything from the mail server.

There were several phone calls to make too. I contacted the insurance company about Caliburn’s windscreen and then I rang around for some new winter tyres for Caliburn.

When I was in the Auvergne 18 months ago I’d brought a couple of spare wheels back from the Auvergne because winter tyres are now obligatory in many départements in the centre where my farm is and it’s high time that I had some.

Hunting around on the internet I couldn’t find any bargains of the make that I wanted but somewhat closer to home, a tyre fitter could supply exactly what I wanted and on the wheels on the van they will work out even cheaper than the tyres alone on the internet.

Some other stuff is needed too for Caliburn. There’s a cracked mirror and a cracked rear light that the controle technique examiner mentioned, and of course if he’s having a new windscreen he’s having new wipers to go with it.

Rosemary rang me too and we had another one of our mega-chats

After lunch I wandered off to LIDL where I spent a fortune and can’t really see what I bought with my money, except that it was too heavy to bring all of it upstairs.

Next stop was at the windscreen place. The Insurance Company told me that the windscreen people would contact me but as I was driving past, I popped in. And as luck would it, they had a windscreen in stock and a vacant spec in their workshop at 09:00 on Monday morning.

From there I drove to the tyre fitter. he didn’t have the tyres in stock but I paid a deposit and he’s ordered them and they’ll be here on Friday morning. While I was there I bought some rust killer and some wheel paint. I may as well make his wheels look pretty

Final stop was LeClerc where I spent a fortune and once again I couldn’t really see what I’d bought for my money – except the four bottles of ginger beer that they had on special offer and the new slippers to replace my worn-out ones.

By the time that I returned it was 18:00 (where does the time all go?) so I made a coffee and ended up chatting to Liz for an hour.

Tea was a burger on a bap (now that I have baps and the correct burgers) with a baked potato and vegetables, and it was delicious.

Now I’m off to bed. I need my sleep – if I get any with this astonishing storm raging outside – as I have my Welsh weekend class for the next couple of days.

Can you imagine it? Me, setting an alarm on a Sunday! Wonders will never cease.

Friday 9th December 2016 – I HAD MY …

… early night, and I was quickly away with the fairies too. But I was soon awakened by some kid of beastie scratching away in the roof.I’d forgotten all about them, you know, and how they used to scratch away all the blasted time. I did recall how, on my first night asleep in the bedroom downstairs, how deep a sleep I had without being disturbed at all.

But anyway, this scratching went on for quite a while and I couldn’t get off to sleep while all of this was going on. It was so annoying. But anyway, I did finally go off to sleep and was wide awake again before the alarms went off.

plasterboard corner attic les guis virlet puy de dome franceAfter breakfast and a little relax, I made a start. The corner in the attic that had been left open for access to the cables and (whenever it might be) the water pipes for the solar heat exchanger, I cut some plasterboard quickly and screwed it up to cover the gap on both walls. And then I cut a bigger piece for the ceiling to close all of that up too.

There’s a hole too behind one of the beams that I hadn’t managed to fill in when I did the ceiling. I cut some wood offcuts and I’ve blocked that off now – well, sort-of.

All of this involved a huge run-around for bits and pieces of wood and plasterboard. All of this wore me out completely. I had to stop regularly for a rest and at the end of it all it took me until just after 13:00 to do a couple of simple jobs like that. It’s easy to see just how much this illness has affected me.

But one thing can be said – and that is the 500-watt ash-sucker that I had bought years ago with the aim of converting it into a vacuum cleaner. Seeing as how we were having another impressive day, I gave it a run out to clean up the dust and plasterboard. And it worked in spades too. It’s made an astonishing difference to everything, particularly once I’d started to attack the rest of the room with it. I should have tried this before, and I wish that I had more time to do it again.

After lunch, I did a little more tidying up and then went down to pick up Caliburn. And he was ready too. And even more interestingly, the bill came to much less than half what I had paid in Brussels. He had checked the other side too, the one that they had done up there and told me that it was okay and any other sound that I might hear are not anything to worry about.

As an aside … "you’ll get used to these" – ed … I’d enjoyed driving my little Peugeot. Certainly showing her age, but she was still a fun car to drive around in and considering it had cost me just the diesel to borrow her, I had had a good deal.

Montlucon was next. I was early so I went for a stroll around, and then down to the tyre place. Caliburn now has brand new tyres on the rear to go with his good snow tyres on the front, and a reasonable spare too. Two more snow tyres next winter and then two more decent Hankooks in 18 months time and that will do for a couple of years.

With a full tank of fuel, I drove back here. It was 18:45 when I returned.

After tea, I had a relax again and now I’m going to have an early night. I’ve decided to hit the road tomorrow and head back to Leuven.

Wednesday 7th December 2016 – AND SO …

… as it cooled down here last night I snuggled up underneath my quilt on the sofa. and that was everything that I remember until the alarm went off at 07:00.

By 07:15 and the second alarm, I was taking full advantage of the comporting toilet. And seeing as how it hasn’t been used for over a year and there was some stuff in there from before I left, I had living proof that my comporting toilet really does work.

It took me a while to gather my wits, which takes quite a long time these days as we all know, and then I went off on the attack. There were a few clean clothes hanging around in the bedroom so I put them away. And then I sorted out some work clothes.

Downstairs, I checked over all of the tyres. Two of the winter tyres are really quite good but the other two were border-line and I have been thinking about replacing them. In the end, after much thought, I’ve left them back in the tyre pile and just fitted the two front ones. Caliburn is front-wheel drive of course and so if snow tyres are going anywhere, that’s the best place for them. I’ll buy two new ones next year.

I reckon that the two new Hankooks that I’m having on Friday – they can go on the rear and then Caliburn will really be set up. In the spring I’ll put the work Hankooks on the front and run the rest of the tread off.

Hanging up the spare wheel in its cradle was rather fun. It took me ages to work out how it went, which is quite a surprise. It’s one of those things that once you work it out, it goes up in seconds and you wonder where the difficulty was.

Caliburn has been emptied, everything has been sorted out and piles of stuff discarded. It looks quite good in there now. There’s plenty of food in there to tide me over for much of the time while I’m in Belgium. It’ll keep me out of mischief for a while.

I went down to the garage but … shock!… horror! … the hire care hadn’t come back in. I can’t leave Caliburn because I have no way of getting back home again. And so I’ll have to come back tomorrow morning. This is getting to be quite uncomfortable.

Back here I made a butty and then took downstairs all of the crockery and cutlery that I use regularly, and washed it under the water butt. I feel a little more comfortable about that now.

I had a little tidying session and sorted out a few more things to take back to Belgium, did a little work on the website and then lit the fire to warm me up and make tea. Pasta, ratatouille, vegetables and a bit of boulghour and I was well away this that. And for the first time in I don’t know how long, I watched a film.

Now I’m ready to bed and I hope that I sleep as well as I did last night.

Monday 5th December 2016 -DRAT AND DOUBLE-DRAT!

The other week, we discussed the problem of burst tyres on the motorway.

And so it should come as no surprise to learn that it was the turn of Yours Truly today.

Not quite on the motorway – in fact about 400 metres after I’d pulled off at Montlucon. But a flat tyre just the same. There’s a nail in it somehow.

Luckily, if there is such a thing that can be called lucky, regular readers will recall from 2012 when I had a blow-out on the M6 near Stoke on Trent, I’d pushed the boat out and bought three really good Hankook tyres. The fourth was a second-hand cheap tyre that I had bought because of the wheel that was attached to it. There was plenty of tread on it but I didn’t expect it to last very long. Anyway, it’s this one that has the puncture.

There’s a spare on Caliburn and that was a second-hand one that I bought for the wheel (it was the time when I was collecting a second set of wheels for the winter tyres). But when I had a look at it … well … I’ve thrown away better tyres than this. A fair amount of tread to be sure, but standing around for as long as it has has done it no favours. But at least I was mobile with not much effort.

selfish parking montlucon allier franceMy new enhanced mobility took me to the LeClerc supermarket where I stocked up with another big supply of food for Belgium. And while I was there, I had another big laugh at the selfishness of other drivers.

The driver of this car parked it up at the supermarket – and pretty badly parked at that – and walked away – and then turned round to come back and parked his car even worse, straddling the white lines.

The selfishness of people is astonishing, isn’t it?

Having done the shopping, I went off in search of some tyres. I’ve ordered two brand-new Hankooks and they will be delivered on Friday. They will be going on the front, the other Hankook that is still on the front will be the spare, and the nasty spare tyre will be going in the bin.

But I’m not thinking very clearly here. What I should have done was to forget about the new tyres, come back home and fitted Caliburn with his winter tyres on the front. And the money situation is going to be important because on the way down from Leuven, I could feel the other wheel bearing start to tighten up and that’s going to have to be looked at. It’s yet more expense that I can do without.

I had a decent sleep last night and the breakfast at the Premiere Class was quite good. And then I hung around there doing stuff until about 11:00. When they threw me out of the hotel I hit the road and drove steadily down to Montlucon

tacot railway station narrow gauge bourbon l'archambault allier franceI cut the corner off down at the end of the road and came back through Bourbon l’Archambault, and this building caught my eye.

You should all know what it is because I’ve taken you to see a few of these. It’s the old railway station of Bourbon l’Archambault and the railway concerned is the tacot, the metre-gauge railway network that covered the Allier during the first half of the 20th Century.

Built far too late to have a decisive influence on the country’s transport policy and built too cheaply, serving the layout of the terrain rather that the needs of the passengers (one commentator described the railway stations as decorating the abandoned landscape), the only surprise was that they lasted aslong as they did before road transport swept them away

There’s a new chain of budget hotels opening in France – called Ace Hotels. One has been built on the edge of Montlucon and so I went for a look around.

ace hotel montlucon allier franceAt just €49:00 per night, it’s excellent. Certainly the best budget hotel in which I’ve ever stayed. The only complaint is that there aren’t enough of them yet.

My view from the window was excellent, right across the motorway and into the Combrailles at the back. That’s where I’ll be heading tomorrow.

So in the meantime, I ordered a pizza and wasn’t that a disappointment? Overpriced, undercooked and crushed up on one side of the box – someone had carried it vertically.

I shan’t be going to that pizza place again.

Wednesday 8th April 2015 – GUESS WHO HAS BEEN A BUSY BOY THEN?

Yes, I’ve accomplished a lot today. It’s really been keeping me out of mischief.

I was up early too for a change. When the alarm went off, I was eating my breakfast. I must have been keen.

varnishing landing floor les guis virlet puy de dome franceFirst job was to varnish the floor and the stairs with the third coat of varnish. I gave it a good wallop and it was all over by 10:30. All it needed to do was to dry and set thoroughly – that’s usually about 48 hours. And then I can fit the skirting.

While that was drying, I went outside and had a look around at what jobs that I can be doing. First job was to start on the compost bin. But I didn’t last long on that as I remembered something else quite important to do.

new wheels summer tyres ford transit caliburn les guis virlet puy de dome franceAnd doesn’t Caliburn look nice with his new clean wheels?

Yes, I needed to change his winter tyres and fit the summer tyres. Of course, I have two sets of wheels so I really just change the wheels. And because they have been outside for 4 months, they were pretty grubby and so I gave them a really good clean and polish.

One or two of them have come up really well too, but I’m thinking that I might give all of the wheels a good clean, scrub and coat of paint over the summer. I’ll add that to the thousand other jobs.

Another job that I wanted to do was to fix the guttering on the house. This involved assembling the ladder now that I’ve recovered both the parts, but on my way up to the scaffolding I noticed that I hadn’t painted part of the fascia board where I couldn’t reach off the scaffolding. This meant that I had to reposition the ladder, and then I could deal with that.

While I was waiting for that to dry, I started to cut the lengths of wood that I needed to start to make the compost bin (which was where I started) but in a search for something or other, I started to tidy up the downhill lean-to. And I made some progress too, much to my surprise.

fascia board guttering les guis virlet puy de dome france After lunch, I put the second coat on the fascia board and then started to reassemble the guttering.

I’ve repositioned it slightly because in the past, it drained down to the roof of the verandah and into the water tanks there. Now, I’m having drop onto the roof of the lean-to at the other side, because it’s there that i’ll be digging the hole for the subterranean water tank.

It took a while to do that because I had to work out the levels and cut a few lengths to size. I did as much as I could (I need to check it in the rain and make sure that it works like it should before I glue it together) but when I went to move the ladder round to the side of the house to fix the downpipe, I noticed that it was already 19:20

Doesn’t time fly quickly when you are enjoying yourelf? That was enough for me and I called it a day. I’d earned my rest.

Monday 26th January 2015 – I DUNNO WHAT’S HAPPENING …

… in the world right now. We in the rock community seem to be surrounded by death. Edgar Froese, the architect behind the Krautrock band Tangerine Dream passed away at the weekend, and we woke up this morning to learn that Demis Roussos, bassist/vocalist in the former Greek rock group Aphrodite’s Child, has likewise gone to play in that Great Gig in the Sky.

You’ve no idea just how depressing it is when all of your teenage idols shuffle off this mortal coil in a great big bunch.

Luckily, I awoke this morning, not without many vicissitudes, and the first job that I needed to do after breakfast was to put the winter tyres on Caliburn. If I’m going places, I need to be safe.

In the time that I had at my disposal I managed the front tyres, which are the most important on an FWD vehicle, and then shot off to Liz and Terry’s. Liz and I ran through the programmes that we were to record and then had lunch – a lovely vegan vegetable pie. I really am being spoilt these days.

The trip to Gerzat was uneventful, except for the miserable weather, and we found the new studios easily enough – Radio Arverne has changed its address. Very plush and very posh, but it needs a little refinement.

We didn’t stay long for a change and I was back here by 17:15 – including fuelling up (€1:072 per litre) at the Carrefour at Menetrol. I had a huge fire going and cooked a potato and lentil curry – enough to last me for three or four days.

And that’s my lot. It’s absolutely pouring down outside and I’m going nowhere now until Thursday morning when we record the Radio Tartasse sessions.

Sunday 23rd March 2014 – IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE …

… that last Sunday at Menetrol, at half-time during the footy, we were all lounging around on the grass sunbathing. If I had been to the football today, we would have spent half-time shovelling the snow off the pitch and building snowmen … "snowPERSONS" – ed.

Coming back from Liz at Terry’s tonight, it was snowing like crazy and the road between St Gervais and Gouttières, and over the Font Nanaud, was becoming difficult. Yes, I changed Caliburn’s snow tyres for his summer tyres the other day, didn’t I?

So with an early(ish) night last night I was wide awake, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 09:20 and so even with it being Sunday, I had an early breakfast. But the morning was so depressing – rain, hail, sleet, and probably plagues of locusts and the like too. Pionsat were playing the Chimps at Villosanges but
1) kick-off was at 13:00
2) the weather was positively atrocious
3) it’s a 90-km round trip
4) I wouldn’t be back til after 16:00, I was expected at Liz’s at 17:30 and I still had wome work to do on the radio stuff.
For those reasons I stayed behind and carried on working.

But the weather really is dreadful and (apparently) it’s going to be like this for all of next week. And we have a lot of travelling to do with the radio programmes tomorrow.


Monday 17th March 2014 – I HAD AN EARLIER NIGHT …

…than last night. In fact I was in bed by all of 04:00 would you believe? Carried awy again by some work that I was doing.

Even more surprisingly, having set the alarm for 07:30 this morning (we’re back at wrok as of today), I was awake – and wide awake too – before it even went off. I’ll probably pay for that later today but never mind.

I was quite busy during the night too. It was the week of beating the bounds in Wales where everyone has to walk – or run – around the borders of the country to satisfy themselves of the correct location of the markers. You could start at any time of the day that you liked, and I remember always starting at 10:20.

Sometime during the night I ended up in broad daylight in Birmingham (a city that I detest) with Zero. I on’t know why we had gone there but I was carrying a geren folder with all of her mother’s bankruptcy documents in there, as well as two rather large kitchen knives. Zero wanted an ice cream and a cake so we went into a cafe and while I was sorting her out, one of the serving staff picked up the folder and started to read the papers within. She then came over and asked us to leave
“Why on earth should we do that?” I asked
“Well, I’m afraid that you might use our premises to solicit donations from the large number of customers (there were about 4 in the cafe) who use or premises”.
She was surprisingly insistent, and even more surprisingly, made no reference to the two very large knives, and they were certainly large enough to frighten anyone.
I made a remark something along the lines of “the trouble with most people in Britain these days is that they are totally paranoid and immediately see things in a situation that simply aren’t there” but that cut no ice with her.

So now that I’m on summer hours, after breakfast I attacked the computer and restarted work on the website. That went on until midday when I knocked off the computer and ent outside to work.

I’ve promised 2 half-days on the garden each week and so I made a start on one of the raised beds, digging it over and weeding it, but I didn’t get far as I had to go to Cécile’s as there was a man due to come to check the septic tank. Accordingly I had a shower in the verandah (and we are talking about nothing to do with the Open University Students Association by the way) and then rounded up all of the washing from my holiday.

Once he had gone I came back via the Intermarche where I bumped into Jean Lauvergne and his wife and then when I was back here I had a couple more jobs to do on Caliburn. Firstly to change the passenger-side mirror. It was cracked quite a while ago but I caught in on something at Rennes-le-Chateau and that finished it off.

After that, I changed his tyres and he now has his summer tyres on. That took much longer than it should have – one of the wheels was rusted onto the hub and on another wheel the jack couldn’t find a good purchase. But anyway that’s sorted out and now Caliburn is ready for the summer.

buds on trees les guis virlet puy de dome franceI went back into the garden after and promptly broke the handle on the fork. It’s not my day is it.

But I did notice that some of the more sheltered trees and bushes are now budding. That’s early this year. It can only spell doom as I’m not quite convinced that winter is quite over yet, even if we did have over 25°C.

We also had 170 amp-hours of surplus electrical energy today. That might sound a lot but it isn’t as much as yesterday’s 205 amp-hours, which is about a record as far as I can tell. But there’s a reason for this. Now that the days are lengthening dramatically and the sun is much higher in the sky, I’ve started disconnecting the lights of the house in daytime and plugging the fridge in there instead. That way it runs through the day and the current doesn’t pass down the overcharge circuit, which is still running too hot for my liking.

I’ll have to do something about that.

Anyway now I’m off to bed. A nice clean me and nice clean bedding too. Luxury!

Monday 10th December 2012 – And there I was …

… lying in bed going through in my mind the things that I should (and shouldn’t) have done during the day, and it was then that I remembered that I hadn’t written up the blog for today. Mind you, it was about 03:00 (I had a late night) and I wasn’t going to get up and do it at that time. Hence the reason that you’ve all had to wait for it.

It had been a comparatively busy day too for round here. An early start saw me bash on with the Christmas special and I made huge strides in putting down what I need to say. In the best traditions of the Open University, I just write stuff down as it occurs to me, and then go through and edit it later. Ohhh, the joys of “cut and paste”.

A break at lunchtime though because Terry came round to pick up his orders from the UK. Piles of stuff there was too. We agreed that, seeing as he knows all of the best contacts, he’ll order on my behalf the new winter tyres for Caliburn off the internet. Caliburn won’t know himself, what with all of these new tyres just now. He’s certainly having a good Christmas, even if no-one else is.

At the Anglo-French group, at first there was just me. Terry came in later and explained that he had had to fight a major blizzard round by St Gervais d’Auvergne, which explained why no-one from that neck of the woods appeared. Jex told me that Marianne was in hospital (she hadn’t been looking too well last time I saw her) and so that explained that. I’ll have to get on to her and see how she is.

Monday 19th November 2012 – WE WERE RADIOING …

… today

But I almost wasn’t.

Coming into Marcillat-en-Combraille I encountered a large red lorry, and the closer I approached it, the farther it drifted out across the road into my path.

I ended up with two wheels on the pavement and a big bulge in one of my tyres. And just before I come to the UK too. I could have done without that.

Just for a change, things went according to plan at Radio Tartasse and we weren’t there long. I put some diesel into Caliburn and then went down to Liz’s for lunch – hot-pot, apple crumble and custard.

That was followed by some of Cecile’s chocolate cake and Liz’s carrot cake, all the leftovers from yesterday evening, and very nice they were too.

Radio Arverne was surprisingly well-organised too and we didn’t stay long there.

I’ve been planning a new format for the presentation of the programmes and that seemed to work quite well – a vast improvement on piles of scattered papers all over the place.

Bernard the engineer finally managed to track down some of the programmes that were lost following his technical hitches in March and September but the rest are, unfortunately, irretrievably lost which is something of a shame.

Back to Liz’s for more coffee and carrot cake (I really am so lucky) and that was that

Tomorrow it’s back to work and I’ll be doing the flooring in the shower room I hope, unless I have any more interruptions.

That should keep me out of mischief for a while. 

Sunday 18th December 2011 – I’VE BEEN CHANGING …

… the habits of a lifetime.

It all started this morning when I was up and about at 08:15 and that was without an alarm clock or a phone call as well – and on a Sunday too, the day after coming back from a long journey!

And so having lit a fire up here in the attic to warm myself up, I spent the morning writing the additional notes for the radio programme on Tuesday

Later on, I was out working, and that’s a rare event for a Sunday too!

I started to unload Caliburn but that really didn’t make much headway as there are space issues. But all of the scaffolding is off and stacked and much of the heavy stuff has been removed.

The weather clouded over too, and so I took advantage of what light there was to change Caliburn’s front tyres and now he has his winter boots on. And I’m glad I did too as the ones that were on there were rather thin to say the least.

Off to Terry and Liz’s next to drop off a load of stuff and you have no idea how much better Caliburn was handling with his winter tyres. And I’m glad that I fitted them too, because once I got to about Gouttieres it started to snow and it was snowing heavily by the time that I was back home

Now I’m going to bed as I still have this streaming head cold that I picked up in the UK and an early night cuddled up in this warm room (and aren’t I impressed with my new fire?) under the quilt will do me the world of good.

Tuesday 22nd November 2011 – YOU CAN SEE …

… what I’ve been doing this morning, seeing as I can’t move the scaffolding until the wind turbine is raised up.

STAIRWAY to upstairs lean-to les guis virlet puy de dome franceI’ve been working inside the lean-to and I now have the five verticals in place for the stud walls with the staircase in between.

The gas bottle is in its home where it will be living. The kitchen will be in the house right behind there, so I’m going to have to run a gas pipe through the wall eventually.

The way that the gas bottle will be moved when it needs replacing is between the two uprights to the left in the rear wall. It’ll just about pass through there and then I’ll have to bring it around to the front and then out.

The stud wall nearest the doorway will be covered with tongue-and grooving and heavily varnished. There will be a cupboard there and a worktop, with a small water heater over the top, running off the surplus electrical energy.

The washing machine will be in that little corner and there will also be a sink.

Now I have my diamond core drills for going through the stonework, the world’s my lobster.

And you did hear me correctly. “Morning”. Despite having had a bad night’s sleep I was up with the lark this morning and outside fairly early, just for a change. That enabled me to get cracking.

And not “this afternoon” either.

One of the projects that we have on the go for Radio Anglais is to do a programme about researching the history of your house.

And Marianne rang me to say that she had such a project to do this afternoon and would I like to go with her to the Mairie and look through the records. Do bears have picnics in the woods?

extracts of property records mairie pionsat puy de dome franceI’m glad that I went because it was extremely interesting there and I learnt an awful lot. But then again that is the point of going.

Records in France in the local mairies go back as far as 1833 (in places where the Germans didn’t burn them) and it’s fascinating to see the evolution of a property.

What is even more exciting is to see o the local tax rolls the reason for tax reductions. Just taking one example, a whole list of rate reductions on certain plots of land in 1884 clearly show exactly where and how the “new road” to St Eloy was built.

extracts of property records mairie pionsat puy de dome franceWe were there for hours going through everything, but it’s not always good news that you unearth.

The problem is though that searching through records can show up many surprises, some of which can be extremely unpleasant. And such was the case today. There’s a kind-of diary circulating around Pionsat, in which the author recounts quite freely a host of detail about his private life, including his birth almost 70 years ago.

But quite interestingly the Deed of Gift of this property back in the 1950s shows that the civil status of his mother was “divorced in 1936 and never remarried”.

So who was the fellow she brought back with her from Paris when she came to resettle in the village in the late 1930s?

The plot sickens.

But at least I’ve had my snow tyre fitted on my new wheel so I’m ready for winter.

I’m also ready for bed. Last night’s late finish and this early start this morning had finished me off.

Saturday 19th June 2010 – Now is the winter of our discount tents.

now is the winter of our discount tents camping exhibition montlucon allier franceWell, it was something like that that Shakespeare (or Bacon) wrote in “Richard II” – and quite right too.

If you click on the pic to enlarge it you’ll see exactly what the weather was like today – miserable, grey and overcast. And in a desperate attempt to drum up business the local sports shop in Montlucon was having a tent demonstration. I suppose the idea is that you go and have a look and choose the one that has let in the least water.

The end of season sales are going to be exciting stuff – all these shops having bought all of this summer and camping gear and no-one will have bought anything. There will be tons of stuff on offer.

I also went to the tyre fitters to have Caliburn’s new tyres fitted. And seeing that I’ve spent so much money in there this last week he let me off the puncture repair from the other day which was nice of him. But I’m not too impressed with the scrapyard at Durdat.
“Have you got any 15-inch wheels for a Ford Transit?”
“No we haven’t” replied the manager
“Not even on that one there?” I said, indicating a late-1980s Transit that was partly dismantled down in the corner but still had its 4 wheels on.
“No. Sorry”.
You can’t even give money away to people these days. It’s too much trouble for someone to go down the yard with a trolley jack and a wheel brace. Of course in the good old days before Health and Safety you could go down the yard yourself with a trolley jack and a wheel brace but Central Government has put paid to that.

It’s quite ironic really – they talk about saving natural resources and energy and so do all that they can to encourage recycling, and then another Government department comes along and does its best to stop you recycling anything. Car scrapyards has been one of the earliest forms of recycling and is sooo environmentally-friendly yet they are doing away with it so that you have to buy new stuff thatnks to the arm-twisting that the Auto Lobby applies to politicians. I spend a lot of time in scrapyards – many things that I use in my Renewable Energy projects are from old cars – 12-volt clocks, cables, fuse boxes and the like and I don’t really know what I want until I go down a yard and have a nosey around.

But I digress.

I had no plans to but anything in Brico Depot and so the bill of over €160 took me by surprise. But it’s all useful stuff, including the huge drum of wood-treatment for the new barn roof timbers, 4 sacks of cement in case we need it for the roof and three sacks of chalk for me to do the end wall.

I drove off from LIDL with my two cartons of orange juice on the bonnet of Caliburn and when I got to the swimming baths at Neris les Bains there was one still on. How about that?

And I’m nice and clean now for a change, and talking of change I’ll be changing the bedding too so that I can make the most of it. Tomorrow I was supposed to help Katie at the brocante but she’s called it off – apparently they’ve announced a torrential downpour all day. But so that I wouldn’t be lonely, Bill rang me up. His car has broken down and if it’s not a simple repair he will need me to tow him back from St Eloy les Mines tomorrow.

Saturday 12th June 2010 – Long Distance Runaround

Well … errr … Yes. No wonder I’m feeling Fragile “That’s quite enough of that” – ed. 

american mikado 2-8-2 steam locomotive 141 R 420 montlucon allier franceAnd I bet you never ever imagined that there would be a steam locomotive involved in today’s rubbish either. Especially not a North American “Mikado” 2-8-2, but nevertheless, here you are.

And in case you are wondering all about it, I’ll tell you more of this anon.

Just for a change for a Saturday I woke up early “lucky Early” – ed and after breakfast I went to fetch the two spare wheels for the caravans.

And I know that they are here in my barn. I remember very well having a blow-out on each of the two caravans when I brought them down here and changing the wheels at the side of the road. And I know exactly where I put the wheels with flat tyres when I arrived here too.

But the way things are around here, if they aren’t in their proper place then I’m well and truly snookered.

In the end I turned over the four piles of tyres but they weren’t in any of them and that has really got me puzzled now. But no matter – off to Liz and Terry’s to get the two off the trailer. And I really didn’t want to do that as I need those two to stay inflated so that I can move the other caravan chassis around but it really can’t be helped.

viaduc des fades gorges de la sioule puy de dome franceThe trailer wasn’t there of course, it was out on a chantier with the scaffolding and so I had to go around there to liberate the wheels.

This chantier is taking place at the old railway house at the Viaduc des Fades, about which I have written a great deal in the past and there’s an excellent view of the Viaduc from there. As you might expect, his calls for a photo.

So having liberated the wheels, it was off to Commentry to the tyre place. And it was indeed the guy who I had met at the autocross back in 2008 and who reckons he can source all kinds of unusual tyres. So having posed the question, he replied “well, I’ve switched the computer off now. Come back Monday afternoon and I’ll order them. We might have them by Tuesday night”.

But Tuesday morning the tractor needs to be on site so that’s no good. Off to St Eloy les Mines to the new tyre place. And the only 13-inch tyres that he had were “reinforced” – not even “commercial van”. And there he was, insisting that they would be good enough. I don’t like the guy at that place and I never did and I’m not putting any old tyres on that trailer just for the sake of it.

So off to Pionsat to referee this challenge match. And the pitch all overgrown and full of weeds and two players practising their golf on it.
“When’s this match taking place then?”
“September” Matthieu replied.

Ahhh well.

But in for a penny, in for a pound. I had an unexpected couple of hours of freedom and an urgent task to undertake so I went chaud-pied to Montlucon to the tyre place at the back of Carrefour – he who had done me proud with tyres for Caliburn in December.
“What’s it for?” he asked
“A caravan chassis that I’ve converted into a trailer for carrying heavy loads. The existing tyres just collapsed under the load”
“What kind of load will it be carrying? A tonne?”
“At the very least” I replied

So a rummage down at the back of his storeroom produced three 10-ply steel radial commercial van tyres. “These will do you fine” he replied.

Downside is that I can’t have them fitted until Monday as he is full to the brim. But that gives us Monday afternoon to play about with them.

He is also having a sale on tyres for Caliburn – buy two and get the second half-price. And I need two to go on the front as I don’t want to wear out my snow tyres. These will set me back €216 which is a far cry from the €272 that I was quoted back in December. All of this is working out expensive.

So then I realised that I hadn’t done all my shopping (I’d bumped into Bill in Carrefour and while we were waiting for the tyre place in St Eloy les Mines to open, we went for a coffee) so off I popped to the Intermarche at the back of LIDL.

rotary snowplough allier franceThe parking borders on to the railway line and there was a crowd of people gathered around the fence peering through it. It seems that it’s some kind of Open Day at the railway roundhouse and there were several old and interesting objects on view.

One of the things that caught my eye was this delightful rotary snowplough. It’s not a patch on the rotary snowplough that I saw at Chama in the Rocky Mountains in 2002 of course, but it’s quite impressive for around here.

french sncf diesel railcar montlucon allier franceFrance’s railway – the SNCF, or Société Nationale des Chemins-de-Fer Français – underwent a huge modernisation programme in the 1950s and 1960s just the same as most Western countries. Steam locomotives were retired from service and diesels took over.

Everyone who travelled around France in the 1960s and 1970s will remember the typical red-and-cream diesel multiple-units and railcars that replaced the steam shuttles and it was nice to see a couple of them on display here.

american mikado 2-8-2 steam locomotive 141 R 420 montlucon allier francePride of place, however, has to go to the Mikado. It’s a 2-8-2 in Anglophone notification, although the French, who count the axles not the wheels, would call it a 1-4-1.

It’s one of the R class – number 420 in fact, and was built by Baldwins in the USA just after the war as part of the “Marshall Plan” to re-equip the European rail network after the ravages of World War II. France ordered 1340 of these (to give you an idea of how much of the French railway network was destroyed during the war) but only received 1323.

american mikado 2-8-2 steam locomotive 141 R 420 montlucon allier franceThe other 17 are lying at the bottom of the sea off the coast of Newfoundland, due to the ship that was transporting them – the Belpamela from Norway, sinking in a heavy storm on April 11, 1947.

The type remained in service with the SNCF until as late as October 19th 1975 when R.1187 performed its last duty.

R.420 had been stored by the SNCF but was put up for sale in June 1976. Luckily it fell into the hands of a preservation group in Clermont Ferrand.

american mikado 2-8-2 steam locomotive 141 R 420 montlucon allier franceIt is one of the 12 survivors of the class, although the fate of three of these is hanging in the balance since the company that was restoring them went bankrupt.

It underwent a full restoration and was passed fit for rail service in March 1982. Today, it’s the equivalent of the British “Flying Scotsman”, performing steam excursions.

As an interesting aside, in July 1987 the locomotive was officially classed as a French Historic Monument.

Tonight was the cheerleaders or majorettes competition in St Eloy les Mines and I was planning on attending. Piles of girls in skimpy costumes chucking sticks about and sometimes even catching them – but after today’s exertions I don’t think that I could stand the strain.

I hope Terry is grateful for all the sacrifices that I’m making on his behalf  so that we can get his show on the road! Missing out on a display of girls in skimpy clothing is not something I would do lightly.

And in other more depressing news, here, in the comfort and safety of my own attic, I have been flaming well stung on the leg by a perishing blasted wasp!