Tag Archives: english shop

Saturday 15th August 2020 – I’VE DONE SOMETHING …

… today that I haven’t done since 2005. And this time even more so because while back then it cost me nothing, this time it’s cost me a lot of money.

But ask me if I care.

What I’ve done is to walk away from a hotel that I had booked for tonight and went somewhere else (far more expensive).

But more of this later. Last night I had a strange sleep – waking up at about 00:45 to find that the radio was playing. And then sleeping through until about 05:45 without moving. Not a single nocturnal voyage anyqhere to be seen

Plenty of time to do a load of paperwork and then I went down to breakfast. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling too well so I didn’t eat much which was a shame because there was tons of stuff there. It could have been an outstanding breakfast.

Unfortunately Jackie wasn’t available but Alison was free today as well as tomorrow so we agreed to meet up this afternoon.

Dodging the roadworks and the heavy showers, I set off for Leuven.

Friterie Marsupilami Route de Marche, 6600 Bastogne, Belgium eric hallThe Lady Who Lives In The SatNav brought me all the way through Luxembourg, where I fuelled up before crossing the Belgian border (fuel at €0:97/litre) and the Ardennes, passing through the town of Bastogne where I stopped to take a photo of another abandoned bus

It’s an old “bendy bus”, one of the articulated buses and judging by its number plate it comes from the town of Rotenburg in Lower Saxony but it’s now the Friterie Marsupilami, the FritKot on the Edge of Town.

There’s a fritkot on almost every corner in Belgium and this is certainly one of the more interesting ones. It’s closed though so I couldn’t find out what it was like.

It took me a good while to find Alison’s house – The Lady Who Lives In The SatNav having brought me into town in entirely the wrong direction. It was a nice afternon so we went to the English shop for a supplies such as vegan ice cream.

herons Kasteel van Leefdaal belgium eric hallLater on we went for a walk. We discovered a new footpath that eventually took us past the Kasteel van Leefdaal.

Here we could admire the wildlife swimming on one of the many ponds – mostly man-made ponds – around there

Not that I would want to go swimming on a pond like that. There’s that much algae floating aound on top that you could probably walk on it – or, at least, someone lighter than me could. I must keep on with the battle to keep my weight down.

swans Kasteel van Leefdaal belgium eric hallThe Chateau isn’t open to the public unfortunately and it’s hidden behind a rather large wall so you can’t actually see very much of it.

Currently owned by the Counts of Liedekerke it dates from the Renaissance period and replaced a previous building. There is known to have been a building on the site since at least the 12th Century.

Armed with our vegan ice cream, we then went back to Alison’s house for a chat. We must be both getting old because we ended up crashing out in the garden in the sun, something that we found quite amusing, although in fact it was a rather sad indictment of our states of health these days.

Alison had to go out later so I set off through one of the most wicked rainstorms that I have ever encountered. All of the road round by Braine l’Alleud was flooded and the traffic lights at a road junction had failed. That led to certain complications until we all managed to sort ourselves out.

strawberry moose silly belgium eric hallAs well as having A FAVOURITE TOWN IN AUSTRIA Strawberry Moose also has a favourite town in Belgium.

It goes without saying that as we were passing within a mile or two of the place, we had to go there. His Nibs is never one to pass up on a photo opportunity whenever he gets the chance, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

Having done that, we headed off down to peruwelz on the Belgian – French border and my hotel. But one look at it convinced me that this was not where I wanted to stay. Crowds of single men loitering outside, sitting on the steps or leaning against the wall. Crowds of them.

It’s the kind pf place that gave me a most uneasy, eerie feeling that I can’t explain. But always having been one to rely on my own intuition, I decided that it wasn’t the place for me so I went elsewhere.

Tea tonight was a plate of chips and a salad, and watching the people coming into the fritkot, I can see immediately why the infection rate in Belgium is so high. Despite all of the precautions that are supposed to be taken, the wearing of masks is, shall we say, rather casual.

And the roads in Belgium are appalling. They are much worse that I ever remembered them. They are just like in a third-world country and for one of the richest countries in the world, it’s an embarrassment.

Tomorrow I won’t have far to go on Belgian roads because I’m close to the frontier here. About a kilometre away, I reckon.

With any luck I’ll be over the border early tomorrow and then a leisurely drive home. It might take a couple of days to make it but I’ll be back by the middle of the week. It’s been a long time

Sunday 14th April – LUCKY ME!

I’ve had a free upgrade at the place where I stay when I’m in Leuven. Usually I’m in a small single room (with kitchenette and all facilities of course) but for some reason that I don’t understand, I’ve been given a comfortable duplex apartment and it’s very nice.

I shall have to come here more often.

Last night was a pretty bad night for some reason. I was very late going to bed and once more, I spent most of my night tossing and turning. This isn’t a very good sign for my day tomorrow.

Nevertheless I was out of bed very smartly and attacked the tasks necessary for my trip today to Leuven. Making sandwiches, packing, all these kinds of things. Even a little cleaning. There was still 20 minutes to go before I needed to leave to I took my shower – the one that I missed yesterday.

08:10, I left the apartment and a brisk stroll saw me at the station by 08:35. And I do have to say that “brisk” was the word. Despite having had a really short, bad night, I was feeling quite sprightly for a change.

repairing medieval city wall Boulevard des 2eme et 202eme de Ligne granville manche normandy franceAnd even in sprightly mode I made several stops along the way.

The first stop was in the Boulevard des 2ème et 202ème de Ligne to see how the repairs to the old medieval walls are getting on.

And they seem to be making really good progress and the new stone blocks that they are blending into the existing walls really look quite the part.

They have several sections to go at and it will all be looking quite good when it’s done.

street sweeper rue couraye granville manche normandy franceAnd despite it being early, I wasn’t alone in the street either.

I was being stalked all the way up the rue Couraye by the Sunday morning street cleaner. He was heading on quite nicely, making U-turns and going the wrong way down the one-way street to brush the other side, whether there was another car coming or not.

At least he was useful as some kind of pacemaker to help me on my way.

My cleaner was there at the station so I said “hello”, and then purchased a coffee from the machine. And then waited for the train because it wasn’t in the platform.

gec alsthom regiolis gare de granville manche normandy franceAnd fortune smiled on me too on the train. I had a very charming young companion next to me and although she didn’t have too much to say for herself, it’s the kind of thing that does my ego a great deal of good.

Surprisingly, I stayed awake for most of the trip. I ate my breakfast (crackers and mandarins) and settled down to read Carl Rafn’s Antiquities Americanae.

Written in 1837, its claim to fame is that Rafn was the very first person to take seriously the prospect that the Norse Sagas about the voyages to “Vinland” were actually based on fact and not mere fireside fiction, and he actually set in motion some kind of technical research and calculations to back up his theories.

His theories and calculations were dismissed by later hisotians, most notably by Arthur Reeves who wrote in 1914 “… If less effort had been applied to the dissemination and defence of fantastic speculations, and more to the determination of the exact nature of the facts …” and then proceeded on after 200 or so pages in his book “The Finding of Wineland the Good” to reach almost the same conclusions as those of Rafn.

But today, as we all know because we’ve been there and seen it, tangible evidence of Norse occupation has been discovered in the New World and although it’s not where Rafn expected it to be, my opinion is that the site at L’Anse aux Meadows isn’t Vinland at all but another unrecorded Norse settlement, and Vinland remains to be discovered.

We pulled into Paris Montparnasse-Vaugirard more-or-less bang on time and I strode off through the massed ranks of travellers down to the heaving metro station. There’s a change on the metro there too, because they have now put up crowd control gates on the platform.

The train was crammed to capacity and I had to wait a while before I could find a seat. I sat next to an African woman and her little daughter Adela who proudly told me that she was two years and three months old.

The two of them sang all the way to where I alighted, and I had the pleasure of telling mummy that it made my day to see a little kid so happy.

gare du nord paris franceAlthough it was cold and windy, it was so nice outside that I went for a good walk around outside for a look at what goes on in the vicinity of the station.

And now I know that if ever I forget my butties I won’t be short of something to eat because there were plenty of fast-food shops right in the immediate vicinity.

But seeing as I hadn’t forgotten them, I sat on a bench in the station, surrounded by a group of schoolkids and ate them (the butties, not the kids) and then went for my train.

thalys tgv PBKA series 4300 4322 gare du nord paris franceMy train was another one of the Paris-Brussels-Koln-Amsterdam “PBKA” trainsets.

And as I boarded it, fatigue caught up with me and I travelled all the way to Brussels in a state of blissful subconsciousness, to the strains of Traffic’s On The Road” – one of the top-ten best live albums ever.

My neighbour had boarded the train carrying, of all things a rolled-up carpet. I asked him whether it had run out of fuel, or else why he didn’t just unroll it and travel to Brussels on that.

However, as Kenneth Williams and Alfred Hitchcock once famously remarked, “it’s a waste of time trying to tell jokes to foreigners”.

sncb class 18 electric locomotive gare de leuven belgiumAt Brussels my train to Leuven was already in the station so I was able to reap the benefits of having pre-purchased my ticket on the internet. No waiting in a queue for a ticket or finding that the machines are out of order. I just leapt on board.

It was our old friend 1861, and that was crowded too for some reason. There seems to be an awful lot of people travelling today.

I suppose it’s with it being Easter weekend next weekend and everyone is off for their holidays.

I’ve already explained about my change of room, and once I was settled in I had a lengthy talk with Rosemary on the telephone.

toren oude stadsomwalling sint donatuspark leuven belgiumThat took me up to the time to go out and meet Alison. We went off for a vegan burger at the Greenway

Our route there took us through the St Donatus Park where we could admire the Toren Oude Stadsomwalling – the Tower of the Old City Wall.

This wall was started to be built in 1160. It had 31 towers, 11 street gates and 3 water gates. 2740 metres long, it enclosed 40 hectares.

It was superseded in 1360 by another wall roughly where the ring-road is now, and demolition began towards the end of the 18th Century.

There’s still a fair bit remaining, and on our travels we’ve seen quite a bit of it.

mural Jozef Vounckplein leuven belgiumAfter our burger we went for our usual coffee at Kloosters Hotel.

And on our way back to the car, weaving our weary way through the side streets, we came across this really beautiful mural in what I think is the Jozef Vounckplein.

I don’t recall having seen this before.

And good old Alison. While she was at the English Shop yesterday she found some vegan hot cross buns. So now I’m properly prepared for my Good Friday anyway.

On that note, I’ll go upstairs and try out my new bed. I hope that it’s as comfortable as it looks.

gare du nord paris france
gare du nord paris france

gare du nord paris france
gare du nord paris france

Saturday 10th November 2018 – THE BIG PROBLEM …

… with going to bed early is that there is quite often a tendency to awake early too. Early is one thing, but 04:48 is a bit ridiculous.

And even worse, I didn’t go back to sleep either I just lay there and vegetated until the alarm went off.

An early breakfast meant that I had plenty of time left. So I finished off the entry for the third day of my High Arctic voyage and put it on line where you can see it in all of its glory, with a couple of dozen of the … gulp … 127 photos that I took that day.

Once that was done I had a shower and then headed off for the shops.

LIDL came up with nothing at all special, and NOZ wasn’t much better. Leclerc didn’t come up with much either. All in all, it was a very light shopping bill today. And that includes the gram flour from the Biocoop.

But I nearly spent a lot more than that.

Having a look around in the Second-Hand Shop they had a beautiful Ibanez 5-string bass guitar and I had a good play around on it for about 15 minutes. Then I had to tear myself away before I spent a lot of money.

But the printer!

According to the Leclerc website, they have an Epson printer on special offer – €15:00 cheaper than the equivalent on Amazon.

I like Epsons, for the simple reasons that firstly the ink is cheap and secondly the colour cartridges are separate so you don’t need to replace the whole lot when just one colour runs out.

The advert said that the printers were available on order from the shop so off I went. And the usual inept Je m’enfoutiste who couldn’t be bothered to look for it on the on-line catalogue went off to chat to a colleague, and came back to tell me that “they’ve all gone”.

Back here, I had a look on-line, and there were plenty left. So I ordered one on-line instead and it will be in the drive-in in a couple of days.

But I’m getting sick and tired of this modern trend of je m’enfoutisme where shopkeepers and shop assistants are kicking people out of their shops because it’s too much like hard work to try to sell them something.

And anyone who has read Alvin Tofler’s The Third Wave will recall that he foretold all of this nearly 40 years ago.

People argue long and hard in favour of “shop local” instead of shopping on-line, but at least the computer and the warehouse robots are keen and eager to fulfil your demand.

While I was finishing off my lunch this afternoon there was a ring on the doorbell. Liz and Terry turned up to say hello, have a coffee and to give me some shopping that they had brought back from the UK for me. Stuff for Christmas such as mince pies, mincemeat and Christmas pudding, seeing as the English Shop in Everburg let me down.

We had a good walk around the headland and the walls in the wind and rain, followed by a coffee in the cafe in the old town.

Later on, I started to work on the web pages for Day Three but ended up by falling asleep on my comfortable chair.

On awakening, I noticed that US Granville’s 2nd XI was playing against LC Bretteville Sur Odon, and kick-off was in 40 minutes time.

football stade louis dior us granville lc bretteville sur odon manche normandy franceNot wishing to hang around, I sailed off at a rapid rate of knots and was actually there 10 minutes before kick-off. I didn’t know that I could move so fast these days.

US Granville took the lead after just one and a half minutes. From their first attack they won a corner. The LC Bretteville Sur Odon keeper punched it out and a Granville player picked up the loose ball and drove it back into the crowded penalty area where it shot through a ruck of players straight into the net without touching anyone.

They had the ball in the net after 13 minutes too, but it was ruled out for a push on a defender.

LC Bretteville Sur Odon woke up after about 35 minutes and began to get on top. They almost equalised but a shot was kicked off the line by a defender.

The second half carried on with LC Bretteville Sur Odon clearly on top but a few unsavoury incidents which ended up with an LC Bretteville Sur Odon in the dressing room disrupted the game.

Three substitutes all at the same time refreshed the Granville team and, against the run of play, scored a dramatic second goal. A breakaway through the centre saw the ball blocked on the line not once but twice, but the third attempt on goal found the back of the net.

So a rather fortunate 2-0 win for Granville.

drawbridge pont levis old town walled city granville manche normandy franceBy now the rain had stopped so I had a good walk back home.

I’d taken the Nikon 1 with me and so I decided that I would have some fun with it in the dark.

As you know, I’ve not been able to get it to work as well as I would have liked in poor lighting, and the drawbridge into the old walled town here gave me ideas.

drawbridge pont levis old town walled city granville manche normandy franceI took several photos of the pont lévis, using different shutter, aperture and ISO settings, to correspond and compare with the earlier one which was taken on fully automatic settings.

Most of them were filed under CS, but this one turned out quite well.

1/13 shutter speed, f3.75 and ISO6400, and darkened slightly.

drawbridge pont levis old town walled city granville manche normandy franceBack home, while I was working on the photos, I noticed a couple of people nicely framed in the archway of the drawbridge.

I cropped out that part of the image and blew it up a little to see what it would give me, and it’s produced a nice effect.

However, it’s ended up being rather pixelated and that’s a disappointment. I don’t seem to be able to produce the quality for which I am looking.

Back home, I made myself a plate of mushrooms in tomato sauce with pasta for tea.

I’m ready now for an early night, especially having done 147% of my daily total, and I hope that I’ll be able finally to have a good sleep.

I need it.

Tuesday 30th October 2018 – IT WASN’T …

… the early night for which I was hoping last night.

Just as I was planning to go off to bed, onto the radio came one of the “Saint” radio programmes. Not the 1950s Vincent Price offerings, but the much-more-modern hour-long Paul Rhys offerings.

Apart from the fact that the scripts are much more exciting and much more realistic than the TV series and the Vincent Price programmes, the voice of Paul Rhys is quite hypnotic and he has a marvellous way of building up the tension. I can’t go to bed when he starts up. I have to stay until the end.

No idea if the body-clock worked last night. It might have done but I was in no mood to look at the time anywhere. I’d switched off the telephone and was intending to sleep until I awoke. I reckoned that I needed it.

It was about 08:50 when I awoke. And even then, I just stayed flat-out until about 11:00. There’s nothing like having a nice breakfast at something like 11:30 is there?

By now though it was raining and so I had a rather damp walk down to the bus station. And here I found that I have forgotten my bus tickets too so I had to buy another 10-trip ticket. I’ll have quite a collection of these before I finish.

no chips on belgian buses belgium october octobre 2018I didn’t have to wait too long for the bus – in fact, a matter of seconds. It took me longer to remember where I had put the bus ticket that I had just purchased.

And here’s a sticker that signifies the end of the western world, at least as far as Belgium is concerned. From now on, you are no longer allowed to bring your fritjes on board Belgian buses.

It’s another nail in the coffin of the traditional Belgian lifestyle. No longer do fritjes overcome everything.

There are roadworks in Everberg so the bus went a different way than usual. As a consequence I missed my stop and had a rather wet walk through the Flemish countryside to the English Shop.

The bad news here is that they are no longer stocking the cheap Waitrose Christmas produces, like mince pies and Christmas pudding. All that they are carrying this year is the more expensive stuff with all kinds of stuff that I can’t eat. Even the “Free From” mince pies have egg in them. So that’s ruled all of that out then, hasn’t it?

They only had two tubs of gravy browning too and that’s not really helpful either. I’ll get through those in no time flat.

It was something of a wet, weary trudge to the bus stop with all of the roadworks. And although I was on time, the bus wasn’t and I had to wait 10 minutes in the pouring rain.

Back at Leuven I nipped into the supermarket at the back of the station for a baguette and a tomato to take back to my room for a rather late lunch. I had some salad left from yesterday and some vegan cheese from The Loving Hut, as well as some fruit left over from my travels.

And then, shame as it is to say it, I crashed out yet again on the bed.

greenway restaurant parijsstraat belgium october octobre 2018Later on, I was back out again to meet Alison.

We went to the Greenway Thai Restaurant in Parijsstraat where we both had a very nice coconut curry, although apparently not as nice as the one that Alison had had last time that we were there.

There was no hurry this evening so we stayed around for quite some time and had a good chat about this and that.

We followed that with a coffee by the fire in the bar at the Kloosters Hotel around the corner and then she drove me home.

With having an early start tomorrow, I did a quick lap round the room and did some of the packing, and now I’m off to bed. There’s a long way to go tomorrow and I can’t afford to hang around.

So I’ll leave you with a few photos of the evening just to show that the Nikon 1 can do it when it really wants to. Unfortunately, it’s not usually when I want it to or when it needs to.

tiensestraat leuven belgium october octobre 2018
The Tiensestraat in Leuven

muntstraat leuven belgium october octobre 2018
The Muntstraat in Leuven

tiensestraat leuven belgium october octobre 2018
The Tiensestraat in Leuven again

the fourth hotel grote markt leuven belgium october octobre 2018
The Grote Markt in Leuven with the Fourth Hotel in the background.

town hall grote markt leuven belgium october octobre 2018The Grote Markt in Leuven with the Town Hall in the background

Martelarenplein leuven belgium october octobre 2018The Martelarenplein in Leuven

Friday 15th December 2017 – WHAT AN EXCITING …

… football match that was!

OH Leuven were playing SK Lierse, the team at the top of the table. It was a freezing night but everyone who entered the ground was given a Santa hat and a free glass of glühwein (I declined mine) so we were all in the festive spirit.

OHL played the best that I had seen them play for quite some considerable time and were a deserved 2-0 up at half-time. Their left-winger, this guy Storm who they signed from KV Oostende, was tearing them to shreds down the left flank. He didn’t know what to do with the ball when he got to the bye-line but at least he was keeping the SK Lierse defence busy.

But the result was inevitable. He received one kick too many and after 75 minutes he hobbled from the field. A few minutes later OH Leuven were effectively down to 10 men. Casagolda, the centre-forward, had also been the vistil of a few heavy challenges and he received one too many. With no more substitutes, he had to hobble on but was clearly out of the game.

This took the presssure off the Lierse defence and they could push much further forward. They inevitably scored a goal late in the game but Leuven hung on to win.

Last night, I settled down to watch a Boris karloff “Mr Wong” film – and that had the desired effect. Out in 30 seconds. And off to Gresty Road outside the Alexandra Social Club where I was with a couple of people watching this young boy and young girl looking for a place where they could get up to no good. “It’s a shame about there being no tress to hide behind here in the Arctic” said one of the people – and only anyone who has ever stood on the windswept car park between the Social Club and Jail House on the corner will ever understand the connection.

After breakfast I headed up to the bus station for the bus to Everberg and the English shop. I wanted my mince pies and Christmas pudding.

The bus ws jam-packed with kids – I’ve no idea where they were going. Nor had I any real idea where I was going but once I saw somewhere tha I realised, I alighted and walked the rest of the way, only to find that there was a bus stop right outside.

I found what i wanted (no Dandelion and Burdock though – I’ll have to make do with fiery Ginger – but the woman in front of me spent over €170 on things like sliced bread, jams and so on-everything typically British. It rather defeats the point of living abroad if you do that.

On the way back I picked up some bread and tomatoes and made myself a butty with the cheese from yesterday, and that was followed by a little doze.

Later, I headed into town to look at the Christmas lights at this end of town and to visit the Christmas market now that I worked out where it was.

And also down to Hema. I want a very small saucepan for doing sauces and the like and they had one to match another saucepan that i bought from there. €11:00 reduced to €8:80 so I’m very happy with that.

Later on I was off to the football, and found another fritkot across the road from the nick. Their fritjes were excellent and I’ll go there again.

But forst i’m going to bed. I’ve had a very hectic day.

Sunday 19th February 2017 – WHAT A NICE …

… meal that was!

Alison took me to the Indian restaurant on the Grote Markt for a birthday treat. I had a lentil curry which was delicious. not as good as mine and certainly nothing like as good as you might find in a restaurant in Stoke on Trent, but for an Indian restaurant in mainland Europe it was excellent.

Just for a change I had an excellent night’s sleep. Well away with the fairies right until the alarm went off. And I was on my travels too. Back to the hotel that bore a startling resemblance to the place in the Ardennes where I stayed in November. I was there with some people, one of whom was a disagreeable person with whom I worked at that weird American company where I spent 12 of the most bizarre months of my working life. She was complaining (as usual) about something or other and I had to go down to sort it out. This involved descending (at breakneck speed) a set of stairs with two different doors at the bottom. One of them was the door into the main area but the other one would take me round the back down a long dark alley, and that was the route that I decided to take.

Alone again at breakfast, which suits me fine of course, and then back down here where I had some work to do. I have a meeting on Monday and I need to be up-to-date with my paperwork. So I went throught and sorted it all out yet again. And I now have much more of an idea as to what I need to know for tomorrow at 11:00.

I had a nice chat on the internet with some nice friends of mine and then went for lunch. Nothing to go on my butties, but I had the other half-uncooked demi-baguette from yesterday (they come in packs of two and I used one for my garlic bread last night) so I baked that and used some more of the packet soup that I had bought from LeClerc when I was in Sedan.

Alison came onto the internet – she was going to the English shop and would I like to go? Well, do bears go for picnics in the woods? I went for a quick shower and a shave too look pretty, and Alison picked me up and off we trotted. I bought some more Dandelion and Burdock, more Bombay mix, some vegan burgers and a big bag of oven chips. Now I have all of my food (except the lunch stuff) until I leave here, and there’s even tons of stuff left that I haven’t used. And that’s a surprise.

We passed by here where I could dump everything in the freezer compartment of the fridge, and then off we shot into town for coffee, the Indian meal and a very lengthy chat.

Back here, seeing as how I’ve started to celebrate my birthday early, I opened a packet of mint sweets that I had brought back from Canada. Just a few – the rest are for later.

And now it’s early night time – I’m busy tomorrow.

Sunday 29th January 2017 – WHAT A NICE …

… afternoon!

Alison sent me a message – “I’m going to the English Shop. Do you need anything?”

My reply was simple and to the point. “Why don’t I come with you?”

And so Alison came to pick meup and we went off to the shop. I came back with vegan sausages, vegan pies, dandelion and burdock pop and some Bombay mix. So that’s me set up for the next few weeks, isn’t it? The pies out there are delicious and go down well with spuds and veg. But I also have more kidney bean stuff and a pizza to eat too, so I’m not short of food.

After that, we went for a coffee and then for a meal. We tried a new fritkot as the usual one is undergoing renovation and … shock! horror! the guy in there knows me from somewhere. Dunno where, but he greeted me like a long-lost friend, and that’s uncomfortable. And he made a reference to where we had met but he spoke so fast that I didn’t understand it.

Last night, I had a good sleep – for a change. I tried the usual tactic of watching a Bulldog Drummond film in bed. And that was me stark out. I’d been on my travels too, to visit a couple that I know on the Wirral. But they had moved house and were living on the ground floor in a terraced house. It seemed that they only had one room – I asked about upstairs and they said that this was a different flat, and as for the other room, this was lived in by a girl who had some kind of unusual attachment to the male person in this couple. In fact, all-in-all, I know someone – or two people in fact – who would be very uncomfortable with the significance of this dream.

The trouble with going to bed early and crashing stark out is that you wake up early. And I was awake long before 06:00 too. but I didn’t go up for breakfast until the usual 07:00. I was on my own up there too.

And to my dismay I found that I’d forgotten my loaf yesterday. I had to go out and buy a baguette and even at 08:30 they had sold out. I had to have bread rolls instead.

But this morning has been busy. Editing a pile of photos and a few blog entries, discussing a few things with friends on the internet and watching a football match on the internet from yesterday.

So now, let’s try another Bulldog Drummond film. See if this sends me off to sleep. After all, it’s hospital tomorrow!

Saturday 7th January 2017 – I HAD A NICE …

… afternoon out this afternoon. But before I tell you about that, let me tell you a little about the morning.

And it was a morning too because although I had an early night, I couldn’t drop off to sleep again. In the end I put on one of the films that I had downloaded from archive.org and as you might expect, that did the trick. In fact it did so well that I can’t now remember which film it was.

Nevertheless, I was awake before the alarm and although it took a good while to find the strength to leave the bed, I was up there quite early. And I wasn’t alone either because my housemate came up there. She left the house shortky afterwards and it seems that I am now on my own again.

snow kruisstraat leuven belgium january janvier 2017After breakfast I had a peek out of the window and sure enough, we did have another fall of snow during the night and early morning. It’s not a lot but just about half an inch or so and it’s freezing cold.

Minus 3°C in fact and heavily overcast. I was planning on going to watch the football this evening at Brussels, OH Leuven against Union St Gilles, but it didn’t look as if it would be hopeful.

But I did have a nice surprise. A message from Alison. She’s in town and so did I fancy a coffee?

Accordingly I went and had a shave and shower, and changed my undies. After all, I have to look my best and smell nice. And having accomplished that, I went off uptown in the freezing sleet to do my shopping.

The town was empty and there were only a few stalls on the market. And that wasn’t a surprise as the weather was thoroughly dreadful. I did my shopping at the Delhaize and that was all that I could stand. Freezing cold, with freezing hands, I came back here.

Alison and I had a coffee (or two) and then adjourned across the road to the fritkot for lunch. A bag of chips each did us proud, and then Alison came forward with a proposition. She needs a new ski-suit for a trip she’s planning and did I fancy going with her to help her choose?

We hit the road and headed for Wavre and the huge Decathlon sports shop. It was crowded with people, mainly kids preparing for the classe de neige. Although there was a huge selection of clothes, there was some kind of issues about sizes. Either very small or very large and very little in between, which was a disappointment for her.

There’s another big sports shop, the Intersport, at Herent on the other side of Leuven and so we headed off there, calling at the English Shop on the way where I could buy some more Dandelion and Burdock, some more Linda McCartney pies and, at long last, some vegan sausages. We stashed the pies and sausages in the freezer in the kitchen with the left-over croquettes, and then headed out to Herent.

They had some beautiful clothes there but as you might expect, the stuff that I liked and that Alison liked was by far the most expensive, and the more affordable ski clothes were, well, of …shall we say … lesser quality. Entertainment was provided by a two-year-old boy trying on a ski-suit and trying out the toboggans.

We went for a coffee afterwards and then Alison brought me home. By now it was too late, and too cold to think about going out to the football. I warmed up instead and then went for tea.

I’d remembered to buy the pasta so I had a second lot of my kidney bean stuff and, as I predicted, it was even nicer tonight. And now I’m going to have an early night and take advantage of the fact that I’m on my own.

But it was a really nice afternoon out – all in favour of a “change of ideas” every now and again and it’s always nice to be with friends. If I had more friends, I’d do this more often.

Tuesday 20th December 2016 – I MADE SURE …

… that I dropped off early to sleep last night.

What I did was to do something that I hadn’t done for quite a while, and that was that I got into bed and started to watch a film on the laptop. Sure enough, after only about 10 minutes or so, I was off.

But if I ever lay my hands on whoever it was who left the building at 02:40 this morning, slamming the door behind them, they they will know about it. Because I didn’t go back to sleep afterwards.

And it was just as well because the girl in the room next door was up and about at 06:00 and she wasn’t exactly quiet either. But then you can’t pick your housemates, can you?

Anyway, I was in at breakfast at 07:00 and out by 07:30 and back down here at work.

Meanwhile, I forgot to tell you about a couple of things that happened to me at the hospital yesterday.

parking uz gasthuisberg leuven belgium december decembre 2016For the benefit of those who don’t speak French, the sign on the back of the Fiat van says “Please don’t park within 3 metres …” of the rear doors, to allow the rear doors to open to admit a wheelchair.

And so the car behind is parked within 1 metre of it – right outside the entrance to a hospital.

I went up to the driver and asked him if a sign has to be written in both official languages (French and Flemish) to be legal, but as you might expect, my comment went clear over his head.

As Alfred Hitchcock once said to Kenneth Williams “it’s a waste of time telling jokes to foreigners”, and reminds me of the spoof Open University course on “Understanding Irony”, which actually received several applicants.

But it’s a sad reflection of the selfish attitude of many Belgians, isn’t it?

But the second thing was even more unnerving.

I walked up to the reception desk and the woman looked at me and said “ahh, Mr Hall …” Yes, I’m even being recognised by the clerical staff in the hospital now. This is uncomfortable, isn’t it?

ginger beer dandelion and burdock vegan mince pies custard pies bombay mix, linda mccartney vegan pies bisto gravy browning english shop kortenberg bertem belgium december decembre 2016Another thing that I have forgotten to do is to post the photo of the stuff that I bought on Sunday at the English shop.

Working clockwise around, we have Linda McCartney vegan pies, a vegan Christmas pudding, Bisto vegan gravy browning, a bottle of ginger beer, a bottle of dandelion and burdock, a bag of Bombay mix, some custard powder and, pride of place, two boxes of vegan mince pies.

Now I’m all set up for Christmas.

Later this morning I went down to Caliburn to sort out some stuff to bring up here and then went down to the Carrefour. I came back with a baguette and some tomatoes, some seitan slices (for Christmas dinner), some potatoes, some carrots and some leeks as well as a couple of pots of fresh spices.

That was because, for tea, I had boiled potatoes with fresh mint, carrots with fresh rosemary, leeks and Linda McCartney vegan pie covered in thick Bisto gravy. It made such a change from my usual fare and it was absolutely delicious. It all worked out fine too, much better than my pizza did. I shall be doing more of this, as well as looking at the possibility of baked potatoes in the microwave here.

High time that I was organised.

This afternoon I crashed out for a while and also did some work on my web pages.

Another thing that I did was to walk into the (unlocked) bathroom just as my nubile next-door neighbour was wrapping herself in a towel after her shower. Serves her right for not closing the door!

So now we’ll have another go at an early night. And I’ll hope for better luck too.

Sunday 18th December 2016 – I’VE BEEN …

train railway station leuven aarschot antwerpen centraal antwerp central belgium december decembre 2016… out and about on my travels again this afternoon.

A little saunter up into town took me to the railway station and my train, but I wasn’t going to Aarschot and neither was I going to Antwerp Central railway station either, but seeing that it’s nearly Christmas, I’ve actually just been to Nazaret.

I consider that to be a highly appropriate place to visit at this time of year.

nazaret belgium december decembre 2016You’re probably wondering just where Nazaret might be, and what there might be to see in Nazaret to attract my attention.

The fact is that Nazaret can be reached by train from Leuven and a good brisk half-hour walk at the side of the railway line and then along the road in the direction of Lisp, and I’m sure that you think that I’m joking too.

But I’m not

lierse sk Herman Vanderpoortenstadion lier lisp belgium december decembre 2016What there actually is in Nazaret, or actually in Lisp because it’s apparently across the commune’s border, is the Herman Vanderpoortenstadion, otherwise known as Het Lisp, and that’s the home ground of Lierse SK, the football club of Lier.

That’s my destination for today, because OH Leuven are playing there today. Everyone tells me that I ought to get out more, and so going to watch OH Leuven fits into that plan.

lierse sk Herman Vanderpoortenstadion lier lisp belgium december decembre 2016The stadium is quite a modern stadium and there was a fair crowd in here today. The atmosphere was good – quite noisy, which makes a change from Tubize the other day.

I was sitting in the stand at the back of the goals with a pile of old men (somehow it seemed quite appropriate) and there can’t be anything more Belgian that sitting in a stand at a Second-Division football match clutching a bag of fritjes

It’s another place where there’s no fritkot between the station and the football ground and that’s a rather desperate state of affairs here in Belgium.

cheerleaders lierse sk Herman Vanderpoortenstadion lier lisp belgium december decembre 2016I’m glad that I arrived at the ground in plenty of time because one of the most exciting features of the game is the pre-match entertainment.

We actually had some cheerleaders out there dancing away. Something of a motley crew rather like the ones whom I saw in that diner on the Interstate near Bangor, Maine, a few years ago, but cheerleaders just the same.

It was a shame that their routine was rather sedate, but nevertheless it warmed me up a little.

lierse sk Herman Vanderpoortenstadion lier lisp belgium december decembre 2016We also had a parade and a triumphal arch with enormous flags to welcome out the players to the pitch. It reminded me like something of a Nuremburg Rally in the mid 1930s.

But I did have a little smile about the standard bearers. And I’m sure that you don’t need me to describe them because you can imagine them yourself, but I will do all the same.

They were all probably in their late 20s and 30s, large, overweight and wearing glasses and you’ll see them in every similar organisation carrying buckets and that kind of thing.

lierse sk Herman Vanderpoortenstadion lier lisp belgium december decembre 2016As for the match itself, it started slowly but gradually through the first half OH Leuven began to impose themselves.

The more pressure that OH Leuven applied, the more apparent it became that it was the Keystone Cops playing in the Lierse SK defence. If you thought that Pionsat’s defence was chaotic at times, you haven’t seen anything yet.

But if Lierse SK had the Keystone Cops in defence, OH Leuven had Laurel and Hardy playing up front. To give you just one example of many, Casagolda missed a free header into an empty net from three yards out and his striking partner, the big Macedonian striker Jovan Kostovski following up, shot into the side netting when it was far, far easier to score.

The only surprise was that it took OH Leuven to score. While two Lierse SK defenders dillied and dallied about clearing the ball, Kostovski stuck out a boot in between them and lifted the ball over the keeper into the net.

And as you might expect, we had two different teams out there in the second half. I was expecting OH Leuven to go out there and score three or four more but instead, sat right back and allowed Lierse SK to bring the game to them.

By about 60 minutes, Lierse SK started to play good attacking football and from then, they went on the rampage and it all began to look rather uncomfortable for OH Leuven.

We had a couple of penalty calls and despite some rather weird decisions that the officials had been calling, they had the penalty decisions just right.

The most controversial was a loose bouncing ball in the penalty area that Gillekens dived for and pushed away. There was a collision with a Lierse SK attacker but in my mind, there was no doubt whatever that Gillekens was playing the ball – in fact he had managed to have both hands to the ball in order to push it away – and the collision was after Gillekens had played the ball.

No doubt in my mind whatever that it was not a penalty, but he didn’t half receive some abuse from the crowd for the rest of the match, particularly when on two occasions he was over the goal line (but the ball wasn’t) when he caught the ball.

lierse sk Herman Vanderpoortenstadion lier lisp belgium december decembre 2016But it was inevitable that Lierse SK was going to score, with the amount of pressure that they had been applying.

Right on 90 minutes too and it was a penalty as you might expect. The ball definitely hit the arm of a defender from a cross on the goal line, and it did indeed divert the ball, but it was one of these harsh decisions where the player’s arm was right by his body and there was no intent whatever to play the ball with the arm.

A penalty, yes, but just sheer bad luck.

railway station lier belgium december decembre 2016And so I walked back to the railway station at Lier in order to come back to Leuven.

And as I walked down the side of the railway line I noticed a train leaving the station. “I bet that that’s my train” I mused to myself, and when I arrived at the station, I found that it was too!

Ordinarliy I would have had to wait another 55 minutes for the next train but a friendly neighbourhood guard on another train told me how I could go to Leuven on the Liège train, changing at Aarschot.

christmas decorations leuven belgium december decembre 2016And so what else have I been up to today? While you admire some more photos of the Christmas decorations at Leuven I’ll tell you about it.

Despite a somewhat-disturbed night that involved a trip down the corridor, I was fast-asleep when the alarm went off this morning.

But I’d been on my travels too, to the abandoned communities of Hebron and Okak on the day that they were being abandoned (which, or course, was not the same date but never mind). And I’d entered into a “relationship” with a young Inuit girl, just as many kablunas did when they arrived on the Coasts of Labrador.

And after breakfast, I had to get a wriggle on. Alison was planning to go to the English Shop after lunch and did I want to go?

It meant that I would be in a dreadful rush to catch my train and so I went for a walk uptown to the railway station so that I would have my ticket all ready for what I reckoned would be a dash to the train.

kids in bakfiets leuven belgium december decembre 2016And on the way back, we had another one of these “Only in Belgium” moments.

Here in Belgium and in the Netherlands, we have what is called a bakfiets, a bicycle built to carry goods. And here we have a mother who has decided to go out for a bike ride with the kids on a Sunday morning, and what she has done is to simply chuck the kids into the bakfiets.

barrel organ man leuven belgium december decembre 2016The barrel organ singer from yesterday was there too, but this morning he wasn’t singing – just turning the handle of the organ.

I had a good look at his barrel organ, and it’s one of these sheet music things where the sheets are rather solid and have punched holes so that the pegs that work the notes of the organ that are required to be played are operated by the holes in the sheets. Spring pressure keeps the pegs inoperable, but the holes allow the corresponding pegs to open, and that’s how the music was played.

christmas decorations town square leuven belgium december decembre 2016Alison came round as arranged at 12:45 and by this time I was outside waiting for her – the quicker we get away, the quicker we come back.

It was quite crowded in the English Shop but there was a really good selection of products that had just come in and I was able to stock up with some very useful articles.

They are stored in Caliburn right now, and I’ll show you a photo of them after I’ve been to rescue them.

Shock! Horror!

christmas illuminations leuven city centre belgium december decembre 2016The train was two minutes late, which is most unlike Belgium, and as we unloaded at Aarschot the train from Liège pulled in bang on time so we had to run to the next platform. This train was absolutely packed and I had to fight my way into a seat.

And I crashed out too for 10 minutes on the train. It had been a long walk.

But the train arrived back in Leuven bang on time and we had the usual tidal wave surge up the street into the town and passed the Christmas decorations that by now were all lit up.

christmas illuminations leuven city centre belgium december decembre 2016It’s certainly much nicer here in the city centre with the illuminations, isn’t it? And as it wasn’t all that cold right now, I hung around to take a few photos.

As we’ve seen, the camera on the telephone is nothing like as good as the Nikon D5000 but as you know, we can’t take “professional” cameras into football grounds these days and so the phone is the best that I can do.

christmas illuminations leuven city centre belgium december decembre 2016So having spent a good 20 minutes walking around the city centre and the lights, I came back to my little room in the hostel.

It’s Sunday night, and that means pizza. And with my little trip back home when I was able to pick up some more stuff, I’d come back with my pizza tray and in my new cooking mode, I decided to make my own pizza.

And having bought a packet of these half-baked half-baguettes, I made some garlic bread too.

christmas illuminations leuven city centre belgium december decembre 2016But it didn’t work out too well. The oven here doesn’t seem to work – only the grill – and so my pizza was burnt on top and uncooked on the underside. I’ll have to rule this out.

The small table-top oven works reasonably well and I’ll have to use that the next time, although a pizza won’t fit into it. I’ll have to cook it in two halves.

After pizza, I had plenty of things to do, but I just crashed out.

I’d had a long, hard, busy day.

Saturday 12th November 2016 – I HAD A NICE …

… four hours out with Alison today.

She came round at about 11:00 and we went off to the good cafe down the street for a coffee and a chat. We were there for quite some time too.

Once we’d finished we went for a walk to look at a couple of shops and then went down the road to the ALDI where Alison did some of her shopping. And then over the road to Spit, the huge Charity Shop just there. And there was tons of good stuff in there too, much of which is at a decent price. I could quite happily furnish a small apartment from there.

There’s a Troc in the vicinity too, somewhere in between Leuven and Mechelen. The prices in there though are totally ridiculous, even though the stuff looks really good quality. But here’s something that you can buy me for Christmas if you can’t think of anything better – they had a late Medieval suit of armour in there. Wouldn’t that look nice standing up in the corner of my house? But €895 was a bit ridiculous really, although nothing like as ridiculous as the €12,500 they wanted for a bronze fountain that looked like a good well.

Alison took me later to the English shop. There’s a fish and chips van that parks up there a couple of days a week but that wasn’t what excited me. They had vegan pies which will go down nicely with some new potatoes and vegetables, but the highlight was definitely the vegan mince pies. I’ll be back there a few days before Christmas, that’s for sure.

On the way back I picked up a baguette at the Carrefour by the football ground and had lunch once I returned. following that I did some more research for my web pages on Labrador. I’ve found a couple of really good sites of interest on the internet – one that lists every known community in Labrador in about 1910 and the access port where appropriate (and there’s tons of interesting stuff on there) and secondly, an interactive map that shows the location of almost every known geographical feature in Labrador. I could really lose myself in those sites.

For tea it was pasta with a tin of chick peas and vegetables and tomato sauce. and then a nice relaxing evening.

This afternoon I’d crashed out for an hour or so but that is probably something to do with the disturbed night that I’d had. It took me ages to drop off to sleep and when I finally did, I was up and down several times too.

I’d been on my travels too, out to the Coasts of Labrador where there was a very narrow strip of land in bewteen the cliffs that narrowed even more just where I had to cross over the mouth of a small river. There was a young teenage girl with me too, rather like a girl with whom I’d had a lengthy discussion once when I was out on the North Shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence in May 2012. Although what she was doing suddenly making an appearance I have no idea.