Tag Archives: customs control

Sunday 11th September 2022 – WHILE THIS GUY …

kayak baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022… on his kayak goes paddling by the end of the headland at the Pointe du Roc, I was busy recovering from yesterday.

Far too tired to go to bed, and far too tired to do anything else after my exertions yesterday, it was rather late when I finally went to bed.

For a couple of hours I was having quite a good sleep and then all of the tossing and turning began and the rest of the night was quite disturbed.

If I had had the energy and initiative (both of which are sadly lacking these days) I could have been up and about a lot earlier than 10:45. But then again it IS Sunday and I’m entitled to have one day of lying in bed vegetating.

red powered hang glider place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022And as the red powered hang-glider goes gliding by overhead while I was out in the Place d’Armes, I was busy taking my medication and then sitting down to start work.

And work on a Sunday? Yes! Especially when I had a day like yesterday when I didn’t write up my notes.

It took much longer than I ought to have done too, but then again with it being Sunday I wasn’t quite as dedicated as I might otherwise have been. There are always interruptions, one thing leads to another and once you make a start you’ve no idea just how many other things there are.

And this took me up to lunchtime.

It was the usual Sunday breakfast of porridge, toast and plenty of strong black coffee, and a good proportion of my porridge ended up in the bin.

Whyever that would be I have no idea. It’s not like me to leave food that I have made. I usually have a very good idea of how much food I’m able to eat and this was just a usual proportion.

peche a pied pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022While these people scramble across the rocks with their equipment for the pèche à pied, I began to deal with the music for the next radio programme that I’ll be preparing.

Having been out all day yesterday I hadn’t paired off the music for Monday’s work and so I sat down to do it after my meal.

The joints went together really well and it sounds quite good. And I’m getting to grips with the idea of intros, and extended the one for Monday’s opening track so that there would be enough time to superimpose the introductory speech.

There was also a good lead-in for the speech from this week’s guest and that impressive as well.

And that took me up to the time for me to go out for my afternoon walk.

people on beach rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022The weather was much nicer today – in fact I had the window open again – so there was a good possibility that it would bring out the crowds.

There were plenty of people down there too just as I expected. Plenty of them in the sea too “taking the waters” and that’s quite impressive. We’re approaching the start of Autumn and everything will be cooling down.

The tide was well-out this afternoon – far too far out for people at the Plat Gousset to be taking advantage of it – so it was quite quiet down at that end of the beach. No-one in the water down there unless it was in the tidal swimming pool that I can’t see from here.

ile de chausey baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022And you can see just how far out the tide is right now.

We’re used to seeing the marker lights on the rocks at the end of the Ile de Chausey, but it’s rare to see them so far out of the water like this.

It makes quite a contrast from what we are used to seeing when we are looking out from here or going past on a boat.

That will explain the people that we saw just now on the rocks at the end of the Pointe du Roc on their way out for a bit of pèche à pied .

F-GIKI Robin DR.400-120 Dauphin 2+2, chassis number 1931 baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022While we were out here on the clifftop there was an aeroplane that had taken off from the airfield.

She’s F-GIKI, a Robin DR.400-120 Dauphin 2+2, chassis number 1931 that is owned by the Aero Club of Granville.

She was picked up on radar at 16:20 just offshore from here, flew over Mont St Michel, deep into Brittany and came back over St Malo, coming back in to land at 17:57.

My photo was timed at 16:17 (adjusted) so that’s probably about right. She must be under the radar just here.

cap frehel brittany Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Taking my life into my hands, I decided to restart my walks down to the end of the headland.

Fighting my way past the crowds, I came in the end to the bunker at the back of the lighthouse where there’s a good view out to sea.

The view out to sea today towards Jersey wasn’t as good as it might have meen but down the coast it was one of the best that we have had. Cap Fréhel was visible with the naked eye today, and even the lighthouse could be identified.

Having clambered up there to the top of the bunker I took a photo, and I’ve not enhanced it at all.

pointe de carolles Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022The view down the bay on the other side of the headland was just as good.

The Pointe de Carolles was looking quite beautiful this afternoon. The sun was catching it quite nicely and we could see the houses down there quite clearly. However they aren’t all that far away.

The hotels down at the head of the Baie de Mont St Michel are much farther away but even so, we can see them quite clearly this afternoon as well, in the background just to the right of the Pointe de Carolles.

It’s a shame that we can’t see Mont St Michel from here – that is, not until someone decides to dynamite the headland over there.

cabanon vauban people on bench pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022The walk down to the end of the headland was undertaken quite gingerly, sliding about on my gammy leg on the loose gravel and rough surface.

As we have already seen, there was plenty of activity down there with the kayak, the pèche-à-pied and all of the views. And so it’s no surprise that this afternoon there were a few people down there making the most of it.

There’s a woman down there hiding in the bushes but I’ve really no idea what she’s doing, and the knee of someone sunbathing too.

Plenty of people wandering around on the lower path as well enoying the lovely afternoon.

port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Meanwhile, there has been something exciting happening in the inner harbour by the looks of things.

Both od the sailing ships, Marité and Shtandart, have left the port and are out at sea. Marité must have simply gone for a lap around the bay as she did yesterday, because she came back into port at 19:51 this evening.

As for Shtandart, it’s much more difficult to keep track of her. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that she has switched off her AIS beacon and so I’m not able to find out by reference to my radar where she might be.

For all I know, she might even br back in port but it’s dark outside so I won’t be able to see anyway.

Having checked the harbour this afternoon I headed for home.

customs patrol porte st jean Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022And this was something that took me rather by surprise. I’m used to finding police barrages all over the place and even customs barrages. Regular readers of this rubbish in one of its previous guises will recall that I’ve even been caught in a few of them.

But what I don’t understand is why on earth they would want to have a customs barrage underneath the Porte St Jean. It’s not as if they are going to come across too many foreign smugglers there or people driving their cars on red diesel.

In fact the funniest moment that I ever had with a French “flying customs patrol” was back in 2002 when they took ages to set up all of their equipment to check the fuel of a lorry that I was driving, only to find out that it was in fact petrol-engined.

Back here there were the dictaphone notes to transcribe. All of them. There was Hans, Alison, Caroline and me. Caroline was in a wheelchair. We came into a building to go upstairs. Caroline went up first because she was going to bring down Aunt Mary in her wheelchair so that we could go up and visit whoever else was in her apartment. We waited and waited but nothing happened. We went upstairs to the floor, going up the stairs. The lift came back and Caroline exiited pushing the person on a wheelchair. We asked Caroline what had happened. She said that the panel had fallen down and you can’t see the buttons to press. We walked in there and a cupboard in there had fallen over blocking the entrance to the lift properly so we just stood it upright. I went to pull Caroline in and this other wheelchair. I thought that I would be blocked in here so I’d have to go down with them and back up. I stepped out. Caroline asked “how do I get in now?”. Suddenly Hans took her wheelchair, folded it up, stuck it in her hand and pushed them both inside it. Alison looked at Hans and said “I thought that you’d do well living in France”. The lift didn’t move but we were now focusing on getting to this door. Caroline would have to fend for herself to make the lift go downstairs and back up again.

Later I was in a white Ford Transit van driving from Nantwich to Crewe. As we reached Wells Green there was a vehicle in the middle of the road turning right so I passed underneath him on the left. Just as I passed him on the left a Morris Minor Traveller came the other way on my side of the road and hit all down the side of the van. Of course I stopped. Some guy came over who said that he had seen the accident. There was a girl there so he pointed me out to her. I shouted to her to come over. She was shouting some guy’s name. I went over to her and asked her why she wouldn’t come over and talk to me about the accident. She replied “no, I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it” and continued to shout this boy’s name. I said “right, let’s call the police”. I picked up my phone to dial 999 but she ran off up the road towards Nantwich. I ‘phoned the police and told them that I was involved in this accident but the driver had taken flight. They said that they’d be here in a moment.

And then we were in a hotel somewhere. There was a big business meeting taking place. I’d arrived early and was waiting maybe for Alison to show up. People stated arriving, all these upper echelons. I was amazed about how they were behaving, insisting, demanding, peremptory with the staff. One guy whom I noticed was particularly revolting with them. another guy sitting near me who was sprawled out on his chair listening to his music, someone walked past and pulled the plug out of the wall accidentally as they were going past. He was outraged and called on them to come back but they can’t have heard and just carried on walking etc. But he had put his power cable across the aisle so what did he expect? Eventually I noticed that it was approaching 16:00 and we had things to do so I decided to go upstairs which meant disturbing this guy again which wasn’t very popular. There was some stuff on the floor by the seat that I thought was mine so I went to pick it up. he made a scene about it as it was his. eventually I made sure that I had everything I need and began to set off for my room. I was really embarrassed by the behaviour of some of these people checking in at this hotel. It wasn’t a good signal for any of them.

I can’t remember very much about this one. I was with Nerina and I’d gone away early for Christmas. She was saying something along the lines of “you can tell that you’re popular when people waited until after you’d gone to bring in their Christmas gifts for each other”. I replied that that’s not true at all because people give their Christmas gifts around before they themselves go on holiday. There were a couple of people who went on holiday before me who brought in Christmas gifts for everyone including me”. That’s about all that I remember

Finally I was watching the football last night as well. Mike Wilde of Connah’s Quay Nomads took a really quick throw-in down the touchline to one of his players who beat someone and passed inside where one of his team-mates was totally unmarked. He came into goal with a on-on-one situation with the keeper. he pushed the ball past the keeper and then tripped over his own foot. The referee blew his whistle to stop the game. Everyone in the crowd could see quite clearly that there was no penalty because he really did stub his toe in the ground going round a good 3 feet from where the keeper was. We were all bewildered as to why the game had stopped.

vegan pizza place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Tonight’s pizza was one of the best that I have ever made.

And had I remembered to put the olives on it too, it would have been even better. I shall have to remember to make more like this

After breakfast i’d taken out a lump of frozen dough from the freezer and it had been defrosting all day. After my ginger beer following my walk this afternoon I kneaded it and rolled it out onto the pizza tray where I left it to proof for a while.

When it was ready, I assembled it and put it in the oven to bake, and when it was completely baked it was ready to seat.

Now I’m off to bed. It’s an early start in the morning with a radio programme to prepare. And then I have things to do. It looks as if everything is warming up again.

Thursday 9th April 2020 – TODAY WAS A …

… better day than some that I’ve had just recently. Mind you, that’s not to say that it was a good day. Just better.

It didn’t have the makings of a good day though. I’ve no idea what happened to the evening at all or where it went, but when I looked at the clock thinking that I ought to be going to bed soon, I noticed that the time was 00:40.

Obviously, leaving the bed at 06:00 or thereabouts was going to be rather difficult. But once again I slept through the alarms and it was 06:50 when I finally arose from the Dead.

After the medication, I looked at the dictaphone as usual. I had a new little girlfriend last night and she was ever so sweet. She was younger than me and I was a teenager. It was basically all about that and trying to make progress with a relationship. She lived a long way away from where I was staying so I had to travel quite a distance. I eventually found her house. I had seen something in the papers about a film in the cinema in a nearby town and I wasn’t sure if she wanted to go there but this way my plan. It was my plan for every week too – once a week take her to the cinema and just see how things developed. It all seemed really nice and lovely and warm and calm and relaxed and sweet and it was a dreadful shame that I had to spoil it all by waking up.

It wasn’t quite on a par with the “Worleston” dream that I had a few years ago and that I won’t forget in a hurry, but it was in that kind of ballpark area.

The digital file-splitting was straightforward this morning, although there were a couple of interruptions. Breakfast was one, and a phone call was another and I can’t remember now with whom it was that I was chatting.

The file-converting took up a good deal of time, and I was able to edit about 40 or so photos from Iceland in July 2019 while all of this was going on. I’m now up to photo 482 – just coming up to dock at Siglufjördur. And that’s day 8 of 31 and there’s a long way to go yet.

One task that I had been meaning to do for a while is to review the freezer and see what’s in there. The answer to that conundrum, having emptied out one of the shelves and given it a really good clean, is “not a lot”. The stocks have been going down nicely and the curry that I made yesterday is the only bulk-type of food in there now. It must therefore be time to make another aubergine and kidney-bean whatsit.

After lunch (more taco rolls of course) I carried on with the radio projects. And by the time that I knocked off at 18:00 I’d finished all of the text, dictated it and saved it to the computer. I could have done much more too except that I had a major crash-out at some point in the proceedings.

And that shouldn’t have been any surprise to anyone after last night’s late night.

And it means that I’ll have to carry on for longer than I intended, which means that this next project of mine will be delayed. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that in my apartment are two desktop computers, 5 laptops, about a dozen different external hard drives, a pile of memory sticks and an even bigger pile of memory cards.

What I’ve done is to buy a big 4TB external drive, and absolutely EVERYTHING from every data storage device in the house will be transferred onto it. I’ll then go through and weed it down so that there’s just one major back-up copy with everything and then retire a whole load of obsolete stuff.

Having different loads of data scattered all about the place is proving to be a distraction that I can well do without so I want to tackle that task as soon as possible.

After the customary hour on the guitars, spent mainly working out Al Stewart’s “Valentina Way” and Joni Mitchell’s “Carey”, I went for tea.

Spoilt for choice, I didn’t know what to make so I ended up with pasta and vegetables with tomato sauce and the left-over stuffing with a couple of handfuls of peanuts thrown in for good measure.

atlantic wall trawler baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france eric hallOnce I’d had the rice pudding and done the washing-up, I went for my evening runs.

Moving a lot easier today, I covered a bit more ground than usual which is always nice. I was at the end of the headland in no time and out there in the Baie De Mont St Michel, nicely framed between the bits of Atlantic Wall, was something moving out to sea

That bit of the wall is interesting though. When the war was over, they tried to move one of the bunkers. The put enough dynamite inside to shatter every single window withn a radius of 50 kilometres, yet moved two lumps of concrete about 20 feet.

They gave up after that.

trawler baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france eric hallFurther on round the other side, I was able to take a much better photo of it.

It’s actually one of these trawler-type of fishing boats, and what that’s doing down there I really don’t know because we don’t normally see them fishing so far down the Baie de Mont St Michel.

But what it probably means that with there being such a high tide right now, there’s much more to go at that hasn’t been got at any time in the past.

trawlers chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallFurther on round the headland I was able to see over the wall down into the chantier navale to see what was happening there tonight.

There’s been a continual shange of occupant down there just recently and last night, there were four ships in there. But they’ve obviously been doing some sort of work there today, because one of the ships has disappeared and they are now down to three again.

It’s just like a game of “Ten Green Bottles” in the chantier navale.

chausiais joly france port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallSo carrying on with my run down to the other end of the wall, there was a lovely view across the outer harbour tonight.

And there’s been some excitement in there tonight, and quite a lot of it too.

The first thing that you will notice is that Chausiais and Joly France have changed position. In fact I had noticed that yesterday but I had forgotten to mention it.

What this presumably means is that Joly France has gone out on a mission – presumably to the Ile de Chausey. Let’s hope so anyway.

trawler customs launch port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallBut even more interesting is what is actually leaving the harbour.

There’s a fishing boat on its way out, but that’s not really much of a surprise, but there’s also a Customs launch going out behind it.

“Going ou” implies of course that it has “come in”, right enough, but why would it want to come in here anyway? There’s no-one in the harbour who doesn’t belong there and no-one apart from the fishing boats has been anywhere just recently.

So that’s an interesting one. And on that note I came back to the apartment. Another 5 runs, and I’m working up a sweat now. That’s a good sign.

It’s extremely late now – and that’s because when I came in, Rosemary rang me up and we had a chat for an absolute age. But it doesn’t matter because toMorrow is Good Friday. And in accordance with usual practice there’s no alarm.

In theory I can sleep as late as I like. But you just watch someone come along and spoil it.

Monday 20th January 2020 – IT LOOKS AS IF …

carnaval 2020 rue paul poirier couraye granville manche normandy france eric hall… they are getting ready for Carnaval right now.

The one big event of the year here in Granville is the annual Carnaval. We’ve seen THIS TAKE PLACE BEFORE in previous years and this year it’s the period 21-26 February.

And so on my way out up town I noticed that while they were taking down the Christmas lights, they were also putting up the bunting and the location points for this year’s Carnaval in the rue Paul Poirier and the rue Couraye.

This year is passing by quicker than anyone thinks.

Last night, I had a frantic search around for my telephone before going to bed. I couldn’t find it at all and I needed it for the alarm. Eventually, after phoning myself up, I managed to locate it and I could go to bed in peace of mind.

Not that I needed it though. I was wide awake at 05:30 for some reason that I haven’t quite understood, and up and medicating when the alarm went off.

With just a brief pause for breakfast, I bashed on with my editing of the interview that I had had with US Granville’s Chief Coach and I finished it just about. 8:30 of question and answer there was, and it’s not too bad.

There was also time to look at the dictaphone and I had indeed been off on a voyage here and there. There was an OUSA meeting taking place in the USA so off I went. I was in this town looking at all of the food shops and saying to myself “God how I love being in the USA with all of this food on offer here, all of these bakeries and all of these things even though I can’t eat any of it”. The a girl came out – a young girl with glasses and she had a limp, something like that as if she had had polio and I recognised her. She was a student at the Open University … “no she wasn’t” – ed. We ended up having quite a chat and she was saying how she wished she could go to this Conference and so on and for some unknown reason I couldn’t get out of my head the phrase “give me your e-mail address and I’ll add you onto my mailing list”. I could have sent her loads of stuff and could have developed some kind of relationship with her, I suppose.
A little later on there was a group of us in a house and amongst these people was, of all people, someone who has made a dramatic appearance in my life just now … “it didn’t take her long to come a-voyaging with you, did it?” – ed … my brother and a few other people. It was my house in Gainsborough Road and the back part of the back garden was overgrown in weeds and we ended up having a game of cricket. I was the first to go into bat for my team which was my family and the aforementioned person was going along to bowl for her side. I took guard at the entrance to my house and she decided to bowl up the hill Clifton Avenue. She bowled an over that went nowhere near my bat so I couldn’t hit it and score any runs. She went off to get someone else to take over and I was thinking that I hadn’t even asked my family if they wanted to play yet. They would probably tell me to clear off. Anyway that’s how that ended.

Once I’d done that I had a shower and then headed off for my radio meeting, saying “hello” to the builder guy with the cement conveyor as I passed.

It seems that having done the radio programme for MY VERSAILLES TRIP totally alone and unaided from start to finish, I’ve trampled upon an ego here and there because not a single person said anything about it at all – despite the fact that it’s the second most-listened-to podcast that we’ve ever broadcast.

But they can’t be too dismissive because they told me that my interview with Johan Gallon will be broadcast TOMORROW (TUESDAY) AT 17:00 CET (that’s 16:00 UK time, 11:00 Toronto time).

Having worked my feet into the door now, I’ve suggested one or two more things that have been accepted, and there are a couple more that I have simmering away on the back burner.

Bhere was a huge dispute at the meeting about someone’s plan. The idea is to present the “Top 10 of the decade” films, music, TV programme, books etc. The plan is to ask the Literary correspondent, Music correspondent etc to suggest their choices.

A dissenter or two however suggested that everyone on the committee put forward their Top 10 and we have a poll.

No-one was interested in my opinion so I went for a ride on the porcelain horse while they fought it out. But in my humble … “quite!” – ed … opinion they are all wrong. People don’t listen to the radio to hear other people, they listen to hear themselves.

Had it been me organising this, I would have announced that I would be at a Saturday market on one weekend (say the 1st in the month) – then a Brocante the next 1st weekend of the month, a football match at another. anywhere where there is a crowd of people, and then interviewed members of the public to ask them.

Now that’s good radio. You never know what responses you are going to receive and some of them will be absolute gems as my Versailles programme proved. But no-one listens to an idiot, do they?

On the way back I stopped off at LIDL for the shopping where I forgot the bananas and something else that I can’t now remember what it was.

saviem sm6 rue des juifs granville manche normandy france eric hallAnd picking up my dejeunette at la Mie Caline, I came home. Not straight home though because I was sidetracked.

This vehicle is telling us that it’s a Saviem, and on the front wing is a badge telling us that it’s a Saviem SM6. Now as far as I’m aware (and I may be wrong) Saviem was absorbed by Renault and the marque was dropped some time round about the late 80s, and this vehicle is clearly later than that.

Furthermore, the SM6 was a medium-range lorry of about 7.5 tonnes and this certainly isn’t. And so I’ve no idea at all about this.

Having spent so long at this meeting, it was lunchtime already so I grabbed my butties while the grabbing was good.

After lunch, it was time to turn my attention to the radio projects. I’d offered a “live concert spot” to someone but he never came back to me so I resurrected a concert that I’d broadcast in the past.

That took much longer than intended too because you’ve no idea how difficult it is to write 3:07 of text when you only have the sketchiest of information. But at least it’s a foot in the door because I wrote to tell the agents of the artist that the concert was being broadcast and I invited them to send me some more stuff from some more of their artists for broadcast if they like.

Next month’s concert, if this guy still hasn’t got back to me, will involve some German input and I have a cunning plan.

Another reason for the delay was that I was using the new ZOOM H1 dictaphone that I bought. It took an age to configure it and an even greater age to find a memory card that would work in it (one out of five) and an even greater greater age to get it to work, but when I finally did, the quality is miles better than anything that has gone before.

As a result, I’m really impressed with this – almost as impressed as I was with my galvanised steel dustbin.

trawler english channel ile de chausey 	granville manche normandy france eric hallThere was the usual break for my afternoon walk. The high winds are back again and so there weren’t all that many people out there.

There was plenty of activity out there on the ocean waves though. The tide is quite high but nevertheless there were still several trawlers heading towards the harbour.

This one here for example, just sailing … “dieseling” – ed … in past the Ile de Chausey.

trawler english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallThere was another whitish blob right out there in the distance somewhere in the direction of the Channel islands.

Thinking that it might be Thora or Normandy Trader on its way into the harbour, I took a photo of it with the intention of blowing it up, because, despite modern anti-terrorist legislation, I can still do things like that.

But it’s actually another trawler heading into the harbour to unload its catch.

trawler baie de mont st michel entrance light port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallAnd that’s not all either.

There’s another one that’s even closer to home0 It’s rounded the Pointe du Roc and it’s now in the Baie de Mont St Michel on its way into port. Right now it’s just passing by the marker light that indicates the entrance to the port.

Yes, it’s all go out there this afternoon with these trawlers coming home.

customs inspection boat port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallBut there’s clearly been some excitement today somewhere because we have rather an unusual visitor in port.

This is one of the Customs launches and I don’t recall having seen one in here today. And there’s no traffic of any kind in port today – especially not over there by where he is moored – that might warrant the kind of attention that he would bring

So I dunno what’s going on with him, and I wasn’t about to go down there and ask him. I came back home instead.

Once I’d finished the radio programme I made tea. There was one of those vegan galette things left over so I had that with rice and veg and a thick onion gravy.

For my evening walk it was freezing outside and I was alone. So I managed my two runs again. But seriously, I didn’t see a single soul out there tonight.

Rosemary rang up when I returned home and we had a really long chat that went on for almost 2 hours – hence I’m running very late and things that I planned to do won’t be done yet again.

So a very late night tonight. I’m taking one pace forward, and ending up two paces behind.

And the apple pie was delicious.

Wednesday 14th March 2018 – SO HERE I AM …

… in my little studio in the Dekenstraat.

It’s smaller than the previous room, and what that means is that there is much less of it to heat and I’m all in favour of that.

And as far as I’m concerned, it’s a better room too. And considering that it’s a good few Euros cheaper, I’m more-than-satisfied with this.

I’ve been down to the Delhaize and bought some food, so tonight I had baked potatoes and a tin of Fajita beans for tea. Delicious it was too and now I’m alls et up for bed.

Talking of bed, I was bang awake this morning, right on the button at … errrr … 06:00. The old body clock seems to be doing just fine right now.

And that was something of a surprise seeing that I’d been on a rather unpleasant voyage. I was in my garden, back in Vine Tree Avenue of all places, doing some work there (not like me, is it?) and two boys came past. They started to throw coconuts up to the eaves of the house to see if they could knock down some more that were festooned across the front of the house (it all happens during the night, doesn’t it?) so I told them to clear off. They carried on doing it however and one of the coconuts fell down, missing me by about half an inch. So I told them yet again to clear off. They carried on and when yet another fell down right by me I manhandled … "PERSONhandled" – ed … them off the premises. They then started to mess about with the tyres of my car (a Ford Cortina mk III) and we ended up having something of what the French call a bagarre. I went to phone for the Police but they told me that I was wasting my time. There was one of me and two of them, I couldn’t prove anything and they would say that I attacked them in an unprovoked fashion.

So almost (but not quite – I wasn’t in THAT much of a hurry) beating the first alarm I set about making my sandwiches, preparing my … errr … samples (and I still can’t make this vacuum pump thing work no matter what I try) and SHOCK HORROR doing some cleaning up. That’s not something that happens every day, is it?

The rubbish went out to the bin outside and there was even some time left over to do a little work on the laptop.

On my way up the hill to the station I made an unexpected encounter of some very expansive woman who told me that she had booked to go to Tunisia and that her friend had let her down and would I like to go with her. And all the time I was thinking to myself “are they open already?

sncf gare de granville manche normandy franceEven more of a surprise – although I arrived 25 minutes before the train was due to leave, it was actually waiting in the station and so grabbing a quick coffee, I grabbed my place on board and in the warmth.

And here I breakfasted on the coffee and the biscuits that I had brought with me from home (due to certain inconveniences, I don’t have my medication and breakfast at home when I’m setting out early on my travels).

And it was round about here that I realised that I had forgotten my headphones. I’ll have to use these earpieces and I hate those.

general motors EMD type 77 locomotive avranches normandy franceBut at Avranches I perked up a little. Glancing out of my window I saw a “shed”, or “Wisconsin”, or “Red Death”, whichever nickname you prefer.

The notorious unreliability of British-built diesel locomotives caused the British railway operators to look elsewhere for their motive power and the “English, Welsh and Scottish” railfreight company went across the Atlantic to General Motors who supplied the EMD Class 66.

They proved to be so reliable in operation that more and more were brought over, leading to the scrapping to much of the native fleet. And as rail freight in the UK declined, some were sold abroad and regular readers of this rubbish will recall a few years ago that we saw one, still in its EWS livery, pulling a freight train in France.

They were so successful over here too that the SNCF ordered some for itself. these are called “Type 77” and they differ from the UK ones in that, inter alia, they are equipped with air conditioning, a microwave and fridge, and a comfortable (!) seat.

But don’t ask me if this a British import or a “77” because I can’t tell from here.

We were late leaving Granville but we arrived at Paris Montparnasse Vaugirard on time. And now I had to negotiate my way to Paris Gare du Nord via a new route, with the metro station on Route 4 being closed.

The new “revised” journey on the metro via the Porte d’Italie is rather longer – it takes about 50 minutes to go round instead of 42 or 43 minutes and I hope that that isn’t going to be crucial for the return journey. It is rather tight for time on the way back.

tgv paris gare du nord france bruxelles gare du midi belgiumAnd there seems to be a change to SNCF policy too. We noticed the train being parked up at the platform at Granville station this morning instead of parked up in a siding and arriving with five minutes to go.

And here at Paris Gare du Nord the boarding gates were open for the TGV almost as soon as it pulled in, rather than 10 minutes prior to departure. That gave us ample time to take our seats and it was all quite comfortable.

But we had the “flying customs” patrol on the platform and true to stereotype they picked on a passenger of African descent. I would have bet the mortgage on that one, as I’m sure that you would have done too.

Despite having had a little doze on the way into Paris, that didn’t stop me from having another little doze on the way to Brussels. I’m really feeling it these days.

SNCB bruxelles gare du midi belgiumIn Brussels, I missed the 15:52 train to Leuven due to issues with the ticket machine, so I had to wait for the one at 16:03.

That was an old-generation train with the plastic bench seats in a 3-plus-2 configuration so it wasn’t very comfortable. But it brought us here all the same, and at quite a rapid speed too so I didn’t complain too much..

And then the trudge up the road to the Condo Gardens

And so, here I am in my little room. I’ll have a good sleep, with a shower in the morning ready for my treatment. And I’m not looking forward to that.

Tuesday 31st May 2011 – THE EVIL HAS LANDED!

And I’m now curled up in the back of Caliburn fast asleep in a cut-off of the A5 at Markyate.

pont de l'arche franceThis morning though, I was curled up on a car park at Pont de l’Arche on the banks of the River Eure. Quite painless here, it was.

And where those cranes are in the distance, that’s the River Seine.

The two rivers are quite close together, separated by a low earthen bank and run parallel to each other for a considerable distance.

pont de l'arche franceThe town itself is quite beautiful and has quite a history.

There’s a Roman road that passes near here and with this being one of the easiest crossings of the rivers, there was a Roman camp not too far away.

It’s considered likely therefore that the origins of the town were in the civilian settlement that would have been here to service the Roman camp.

pont de l'arche franceIn the early Medieval period sometime in the 9th Century, the presence of a bridge across the rivers here was recorded.

This bridge was guarded by two fortresses, one at either end. It took the Vikings four months to reach Paris during their invasion of 885, much of which was due to the spirited defence of the forts.

The Viking encampment is just outside the town at Damps – which was the argot, or slang for “Danish”.

l'église Notre-Dame-des-Arts fortifications pont de l'arche franceLike most towns in strategic positions, it was fortified and in places, traces of the fortifications can still be seen.

But even where the fortifications no longer exist, it’s very easy to imagine just where they might have been and how they might have looked.

And remember my pet theory about churches and fortresses? That’s exactly the kind of place where you would have had an early Medieval fortress,
isn’t it?

l'église Notre-Dame-des-Arts pont de l'arche franceThe church itself, l’église Notre-Dame-des-Arts, dates from the 16th Century and is in what is said to be the “flamboyant gothic” style. I won’t argue with that.

The stalls are quite interesting – they are said to have come from Bonport Abbey when it was dismantled after the French Revolution.

The altar is a baroque creation of the 17th Century and there is also a magnificent organ donated by Henri IV.

pont de l'arche franceThe town is actually of some significance in British history.

It was a favourite haunt of Richard the Lion-Heart, who was of course Duke of Normandy, during his battles with King Philippe II of France and fighting took place in the vicinity.

And in World War I the Royal Flying Corps had a big depot here that reconditioned and repaired aeroplane engines for the front-line squadrons.

So now I’m moving on.

Rouen was not a problem (for a change) although I wish that they would build a by-pass around the town and I arrived in Boulogne for a late-ish lunch. The big LeClerc on the edge of town came up with some goodies, and then I went for a stroll around the town.

I wasn’t stopping though, I had other fish to fry.

batterie todt battery audinghen pas de calais franceOn the coast between the two villages of Audresselles and Audinghem are what are known as the Batteries Todt – the “Todt Batteries”.

Fritz Todt was the German Minister for Armaments and Munitions in the early days of World War II prior to his death in 1942.

One of his tasks was the overseeing of the forced labour gangs, and another was the construction of the border fortifications.

batterie todt battery audinghen pas de calais franceHis “Todt Organisation” undertook construction of the Atlantic Wall – the system of fortifications that protected the French and Belgian coasts from invasion.

Part of the fortifications consisted of four massive concrete bunkers, each one of which contained a huge 380mm gun, the kind of which was fitted to some of the biggest battleships.

batterie todt battery audinghen pas de calais franceThese could fire shells well over 30 miles on a good day and so the Kent coast was well within range.

This would make them a natural target of RAF Bomber Command and so these gun emplacements were build with roofs and walls of reinforced concrete 3.5 metres thick, and were protected by 9 75mm anti-aircraft guns.

batterie todt battery audinghen pas de calais franceConstruction began in August 1940 and the first shell was fired on 20th January 1942, although the official opening was on 10th February.

There was a field of fire of 120° and so they had a pretty good control of the Channel and the Kent coast.

Nothing could move over there without the Germans seeing it and being able to fire at it.

batterie todt battery audinghen pas de calais franceEach gun required a crew of four officers and eighteen men, and with all of the tasks that had to be performed, a force of 600 men was involved.

It wasn’t until the 29th of September that the guns were finally silent, captured by the North Nova Scotia Highlanders from the 3rd Canadian Army during “Operation Undergo”

batterie todt battery audinghen pas de calais franceTheir attack was preceded on the 26th of September by 532 bombers which dropped a total of 855 tonnes of bombs. And you can see the damage that they caused here.

Although there is no record of any “Grand Slam” 5-tonne penetration bomb being dropped in this raid, they were being employed elsewhere in the vicinity against German “special artillery” and I can’t imagine anything else that would do this much damage.

english channel kent coast cap griz nez pas de calais franceIt was a beautiful late afternoon/early evening and so I wandered off to my little haunt on the top of Cap Griz Nez.

There’s a nice, quiet little car park where I have spent many a happy hour (and several comfortable nights).

And there’s also a stunning view from here right across the English Channel.

english channel kent coast cap griz nez pas de calais franceWith a really good telephoto lens you can see most things when there is nothing to obstruct your vision, like trees and the like.

Over there to the left of the ship you might be able to make out the Richborough Power Station between Sandwich and Ramsgate.

You’ll probably have to click on this photo to see a larger image in order to see it more clearly.

cap griz nez pas de calais franceSitting here with my binoculars ship-spotting, at one time I could count as many as 42 ships in sight.

Not for nothing is the English Channel described as being the busiest sea lane in the world.

It’s so busy that in fact that ships have to “drive on the right” when they are sailing through the Channel, just as they do when they enter the harbour at Halifax.

cap giz nez pas de calais franceMy train isn’t quite late and so I could sit here and cook myself a meal in the back of Caliburn. I did remember my gas stove for once.

Having eaten and washed up, I went back up to the scenic viewpoint to watch the sun set on the British Empire. I reckoned that that was rather symbolic.

At the appropriate time I drove up the coast to the Channel Tunnel terminal and we whizzed through on the train to Folkestone.

But we had some excitement at the Tunnel terminal.

A French Customs official came out of his hut, looking all official and the like, and flagged me down. I thought that this was going to be a search or some other interaction of some unpleasant sort, but far from it.

Caliburn, being fully-signwritten as you know, attracts a considerable amount of attention when he’s on his travels and this Customs Official had seen the signs.

He wanted to talk wind turbines and seeing as I was running a little early, we had a lengthy chat. The result is that he took a card and he’ll be in touch.

Even though I was starting to feel tired, I make it a rule never to stop until I’m around the M25 an heading north. Having to negotiate the M25 in daylight hours is a pointless exercise – I’ll be stuck there for a week.

03:00 is definitely the time to be round there, and by 04:00 (yet again) I was pulling into a little truncated road that I know where the A5 has been diverted.

Not the first time I’ve stayed here. We parked here the night in 1973 – a dozen of us in a hired Bedford CF van after watching the Speedway World Finals at Wembley.

Friday 1st April 2011 – I’M OFF YET AGAIN

Today was the day when I had to go back to Brussels to rescue the Minerva.

This meant sorting out Terry’s trailer and then checking over Caliburn to make sure that he’s ready for the road. Once that was organised, I needed to check myself out to make sure that I was ready too, and then make a flask of coffee and a pile of butties for the route.

What with this and that as well, it turned out to be a full day’s work and I needed to clean myself up yet again before I was ready.

As a result, it was later than usual when I set off to drive the 700-odd kms to Brussels in Caliburn, and I couldn’t go as fast as usual either towing the big trailer behind me. There’s a speed restriction for vehicles towing trailers, although you would never ever guess it from the way that they move about here.

And didn’t I have an exciting time too?

Actually the drive was quite uneventful and nothing much happened until I crossed the Belgian border at Couvin, apart from stopping for fuel, a pizza and some coffee from the flask at Auxerre.

But at Couvin in the town itself there was probably a dozen or so officers from the “Flying Customs” having a meeting – in the middle of the road just round a sharp bend. And it was just like 10-pin bowling as they scattered all over the place as Caliburn and I came steaming around the corner. It’s a long time since I’ve had such a laugh.

The chief of the Customs told me what he thought of me, and seeing as it was late and I was tired and my patience deteriorates the more tired that I am, I told him what I thought of him and his persons as well and we had a “frank exchange of views”. 

Anyway so he p155ed off as I suggested that he did, and I drove to Charleroi where I fell into a police barrage. Everyone was being stopped and their papers checked and the like. I was asked if I had had an alcoholic drink and would I mind blowing into this bag (random checks are permissible here). I replied that if he found anything in my breath I would give him €5 and of course my money is perfectly safe.

I made it as far as the motorway services at Nivelles and here is where I’ll be bedding myself down until the morning. I hope that I have a good sleep because I’m absolutely whacked.