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Monday 5th October 2020 – IT’S AN ILL-WIND …

Kite Surfing Plat Gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall…. that doesn’t blow anyone any good, so they say.

And that certainly seems to be the case even with Storm Alex. You can see the waves and the whitecaps that have been caught by the wind, and there are a couple of kite-surfers making the most of the horrendous weather, and a very interested seagull intent on watching them at it.

It must have been the same ill wind that blew me out of bed this morning, because I was up and about this morning before the third alarm. “Up”, anyway. I’m not quite sure about the “about” though.

Storm Alex Waves On Plat Gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAfter the medication, I had a listen to the dictaphone. And while you admire the photos of the waves crashing down on the Plat Gousset in the aftermath of Storm Alex, I’ll tell you all about it.

Yes there was definitely something going on during the night but I picked up the dictaphone and promptly forgot it again. No idea what it was. But after a minute it all came back to me, as the skunk said when the wind changed. It was vaguely something to do with being at work. Someone whom I knew from school was there and someone else and we’d been spending a lot of time chatting. I wasn’t doing any work because I was retired officially. I was just keeping on going as long as they would let me so I was spending most of my time talking or reading books. One or two people had been to see me so we’d talked and then I’d been reading a book hidden in the corridors between the library shelves. It came to coffee time so I went to get my coffee.

Storm Alex Waves On Plat Gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallI’d met someone there and we’d had a chat, talkng about football and the football pitch down below. I said that I’d seen the Belgian Prime Minister playing there. This brought a howl of incredulity for he was a big guy, the Belgian Prime Minister. I said that it was only for a couple of seconds and he was substituted. But there were a couple of other people there having some kind of fitness thing. There were 2 guys there streets ahead of everyone else with their fitness so I asked if they should be signed up to a club. He said “no, they aren’t interested in football although they coach some team for their children, something like that”. Then I was on my own and carried on doing a load of stuff, messing around in this canteen. I thought that I’d better get back to my desk anyway so I picked up my breakfast and gently ran through the offices. That schoolfriend was there and he looked at me with a bit of surprise so I waved at him and carried on running to get back to my desk in a hurry and I couldn’t remember what happened next.

Storm Alex Waves On Plat Gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallSomewhat later there was an old couple and they had a job working for someone. because they had very long arms, or the husband had, long arms and very thin hands he was often asked to do some tasks. On one particular occasion he had to put his hand through a wheel or something to reach the other side to play about with something on the vehicle. He was doing this and suddenly the vehicle rolled back. Of course he had his arms through the spokes and that broke his arm.

Storm Alex Waves On Plat Gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallHowever at some point during the night I was trying to close the rear doors like Caliburn’s on a van. For some reason, when I pulled the handle down the pegs weren’t coming down far enough to fit into the bodywork to hold the door closed. I was with, I think, the same schoolfriend as before and no matter what I tried I couldn’t get these pegs to come out far enough. I thought that I could conceivably get in and close the door from inside and climb back out through the window because there was no glass in the aperture in the back (I was confusing myself by now with MY RED CORTINA ESTATE . Then I noticed that the doors were rotten and I thought that maybe I could get some more doors for it but for some reason I just couldn’t get this door to shut.

Storm Alex Waves On Plat Gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThe same ill-wind that was blowing us all into next week blew me into a frenzy this morning. Just for a change, I had a bad attack of motivation and I was able, to my own surprise and probably to yours as well, to sit down and in one swell foop I completed a radio programme from start to absolute finish.

It’s all totally completed, one hour’s worth of it, and been listened to and checked.

We had the usual break for lunch and afterwards, I had a little task to perform because Saturday’s Kefir mix is now good and ready.

Kefir Mix Place d'Armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallI took three juice-oranges and whizzed them into oblivion, and then strained the juice out through a conical sieve into a large 2-litre jug. Then I gently and slowly poured out the kefir mix through a mesh coffee filter into the jug with the juice, taking care that the grains of Kefir remained covered with liquid. There should be a couple of inches of liquid left in the jar.

Finally, I strained the combined liquid back through the coffee filter (which I had placed in a large funnel) into a couple of bottles and capped them.

Having done that, I added 40 grams of sugar to the liquid that remained, three slices of lemon and two halves of a fig, and then a litre and a half of water. That’s now brewing in the jar and will be good and ready by the time that I return from Leuven.

That was about 90 minutes out of my day all told but nevertheless, by as early as 15:30 it was completed and ready to be heard. That was the moment for me to go out for the afternoon walk.

Fog in English Channel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere was an old headline in an English Newspaper about 100 or so years ago – “Fog In The Channel – Continent Cut Off”.

At the moment, it’s not the Continent that has been cut off by the fog but the Ile de Chausey. You can’t see a thing out there today, despite the howling gale that’s blowing around today. There is in fact a fishing boat that’s out here someone – I’ve seen a photo of it leaving port this morning in the storm – but there’s no possibility of knowing where it is in this kind of weather.

As well as that, I’ve no idea where anyone else is either. Probably at home, I reckon, because there was no-one at all out there this afternoon and I don’t blame them for one moment.

Waves Breaking Over Le Loup Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallWending my weary way around the headland I was met by an enormous blast of wind that almost bowled me over.

The wind was raging into the Baie de Mont St Michel and even though the tide was quite well out, the waves were being blown in with an impressive amount of force and the poor little Le Loup, the marker light that marks the rock at the entrance to the harbour, was taking the brunt of it.

The yacht school was not out there in the bay today either and that’s hardly any surprise at all. And that reminds me that I still have to go and talk to them about lessons. I should be seizing opportunities like this.

Les Epiettes Chantier Navale Port de Granville Harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallNo chance of running along the top of the wall in this wicked wind so I strolled gently along to the viewpoint overlooking the Chantier Navale.

We are now back up to four boats because we now have a nouvelle arrivante in there this afternoon. I couldn’t see a name on her but she looks as if the might be Les Epiettes, the boat that belongs to the French Département de Ponts et Chaussées – the Ministry of Roads and Bridges.

She’s certainly carrying the same official Government colours and so it’s an official boat, and Les Epiettes has been the one that has been around here in the area. We saw it over at the Ile de Chausey when we were there with Spirit of Conrad in July

Chausiais La Grande Ancre Coelacanthe Port de Granville Harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallWe know that there’s a fishing boat that’s gone out to sea this morning, but it seems that it’s the only one that is.

There are plenty of other boats moored in the harbour that haven’t put to sea today. From left to right we have Chausiais, the freighter that takes supplies and equipment out to the Ile de Chausey, la Grande Ancre, a small freighter that seems to undertake a variety of tasks from transporting tractors out to the mussel farm on the Ile de Chausey to going out to catch a load of shellfish herself.

On the right is Coelacanthe, the sister ship to Le Tiberiade that we have just seen in the Chantier Navale. She’s one of the biggest trawlers in the port so if she’s not out at sea then things must be nad out there.

Traffic Lights Porte St Jean Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that the streets of the old Medieval City within the walls are very narrow.

Just recently there has been a great deal of work done on the streets in there and it looks as if there is more going on there today. We have another set of traffic lights at the Porte St Jean so presumably they are working on the road in the one-way system somewhere in there. What I’ll have to do, if the weather allows me to go out this evening, is to go and find out where they are. I don’t recall seeing any notices about there.

By this time I was totally fed up of the wet weather so I turned for home and came in. There was a pool of water at the foot of the stairs, presumably blown underneath the door by the wind.

While I listened the radio programme that I had prepared, I went through the photos that I’d taken and edited them. And there was a distraction as I had to hunt down an image file that was lost in the depths of my computer.

Storm Alex Waves On Plat Gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAfter my hour on the guitar, tea was a stuffed pepper, seeing as there was a pepper remaining, followed by the last of the strawberry tart with coconut soya dessert, following which I went out for my evening stroll.

The wind had dropped somewhat by now but still quite blustery, and there were a few squalls of rain swirling around. Nevertheless there was still the heavy fog and it was difficult to see anything out at sea. There was no-one about at all which is no surprise so I ended up having quite a comfortable run all the way along the footpath under the walls in the wind and rain.

Once I’d recovered my breath, I carried on walking and eventually ended up at the viewpoint overlooking the Plat Gousset

Storm Alex Waves On Plat Gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt wasn’t difficult to gather what was going on due to the noise. You could hear it from half-way around the walls.

The tide is now about an hour and a half from high but nevertheless the waves are really intense in the storm and are crashing down with a considerable amount of force on the promenade at the Plat Gousset. Just imagine what it’s going to be like at high tide if it keeps up like this.

The weather being a little calmer tonight than it was on Saturday, so I could hang around for a little longer tonight. The photos are a little better too because of that but I’d love to be able to improve my technique. Don’t forget that I’m working on the edge of the technology that I have.

Road Works Rue Cambernon Rue Notre Dame Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallHaving watched the storm for a few minutes I turned round and ran off down the full length of the Square Maurice Marland.

Having recovered my breath I walked through the alleyway and down the Rue Notre Dame towards home. My eye was open for whatever it was that the traffic lights at the Porte St Jean were controlling, and here at the corner of the Rue Cambernon and the Rue Notre Dame I discovered the issue.

It was far too dark to look into the hole to see what was happening, but I could certainly hear the noise of running water. It sounds as if there’s a burst water main down there. The fact that parking is now forbidden on the way up to the church seems to indicate that they’ll be digging up there tomorroz.

Trawler Unloading At Fish Processing Plant Port de Granville Harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallBy now I was used to the weather so I went for a wander around the walls.

The other night we saw a fishing boat unloading at the fish processing plant but tonight there seems to be three of them currently unloading. There’s another one in the darkness just there too, and a few more over on the other side of the harbour looking as if they are making ready to leave for the open sea.

As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … my hat comes off to all of those heading out to sea in weather like this. I stood there and watched them too, and then turned on my heel and ran on back to the apartment.

Now that I’ve written my notes, I’m off to bed. I’m off on the train tomorrow to my appointment with Destiny so I need to be on form. I need to do some tidying up before I go and I must also remember to feed my sourdough before I set off.

It’s all go in here, isn’t it?

Tuesday 8th October 2019 – I’VE BEEN …

… Mr Computer Repair Man again today.

having revelled in my triumphs a few days ago about getting my old Acer Laptop up and running after it crashed out on me in the USA and being able to salvage all of the data, down at the office today Rachel bunged another old laptop at me to see if I could raise that one from the dead too.

I spent a couple of hours working on it and, as much to my own surprise as anyone else’s, it’s now up and running again with not only all of the data still intact but all of the programs too.

It’s an old 2009 Lenovo with a 1.3ghz processor running Windows 7, but now that it’s working again it’s quite sprightly for its age as long as you don’t try to do anything too ambitious with it, but for taking down to the storeroom to do an inventory (which is why it was here in the first place) it’s just the job.

And talking of the storeroom, I’ve checked again and we do have indeed a large supply of 165/80 x 13 and 185/70 x 13 tyres for Ford Cortinas, as well as several other obsolete sizes too for other makes, so I’ve been posting the info on various North American classic car groups to try to drum up the sales.

All in all, I’ve had quite a busy morning.

A relaxing morning too. Although I heard all of the alarms go off, it was about 07:00 when I finally managed to raise myself from the dead. And with no school run this morning I was able to have a leisurely start to the day.

Not to transcribe the dictaphone notes though. There’s a couple on there from during the night and I’ll have to copy those over as soon as I can.

For once, Cujo the Killer Cat co-operated with me so I was able to leave the house pretty much when I wanted to without having to hunt her down.

This afternoon was more running around. Taking the cheques to be posted (it’s that time of the year) mainly.

But I had another task assigned to me which I managed to accomplish. In the garage is a 2004 Dodge Ram 1500 pick-up with a major electrical problem. With my little home-made testing apparatus I can tell that there’s a live feed reaching the relays at contacts where no live feed should be. This points to a short circuit in the fuse box somewhere and these are impossible to repair.

The easy answer is to replace the fuse box but, to my amazement (or maybe not, because I’ve long-since ceased to be amazed at the antics of modern motor manufacturers) the part is “no longer available” from the manufacturers.

Consequently, with the repaired laptop (and I’m glad now that I repaired it), I’ve been scouring the scrapyards of North America and I’ve eventually tracked down a rear-ended Dodge of the correct year and model in a scrapyard in Colorado.

A photo of the part on that truck looks identical to the one here, and so that’s now winging its way northwards in our direction. And who knows? We might even be able to make this Dodge start properly without having to hot-wire it all the time.

Fighting off waves of fatigue yet again (and I’ve no idea why) I went to pick up Amber from cheerleading practice after school, only to find that our little visitor had stayed behind too. Never mind the crowded cab when we have half-a-million strong therein by the time we get to Woodstock, it was pretty cramped in there with three, but we managed all the same.

Everyone was out this evening so I made myself some potato thins with onions, carrots garlic and assorted herbs with some vegan sausages, and it was delicious. Especially when followed down by one of the vegan muffins from the weekend.

Later this evening after tea I retreated to my room. I’m not feeling myself at the moment … “and quite right too” – ed … so some peace and quiet will do me good. I’m beginning to feel the strain and I really need a couple of days in bed to haul myself up again, but I doubt whether that will happen any time soon.

Looking at my schedule over the past three and a half months, it would have been pretty hectic for a younger person in good health. For an older person who is slowly dying, it’s been taxing to the limit and beyond.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday 7th October 2019 – JUST LIKE OLD TIMES!

Just pulling into the yard this evening with Amber after picking her up after cheerleading practice when Rachel stuck her head out of the door
“Could you go down to the tyre depot and pick up Darren?”

So I dropped off my passenger and headed off to my next job, musing that I ought to fit a meter under Strider’s dashboard and a taxi sign on the roof. When I sold my taxi business in 1989 I thought that I had put this kind of thing well-and-truly to bed.

But no. It was just like old times.

However, if anyone thinks that I’m complaining or that I’m unhappy about it, then that’s far from the truth. I was actually enjoying myself being out and about, especially with some decent music churning away on Strider’s hi-fi.

Actually, one of my old Mancunian acquaintances had made an appearance on my playlist. And as I listened to the words, I realised that they are really quite appropriate to the situation in which I have found myself these days as I struggle with my illness and events associated with it all.

The killer lives inside me: yes, I can feel him move
Sometimes he’s lightly sleeping in the quiet of his room
But then his eyes will rise and stare through mine;
He’ll speak my words and slice my mind inside
Yes the killer lives

Angels live inside me: I can feel them smile…
Their presence strokes and soothes the tempest in my mind
And their love can heal the wounds that I have wrought
They watch me as I go to fall – well, I know I shall be caught
While the angels live

And I too, live inside me and very often don’t know who I am
I know I’m not a hero, but I hope that I’m not damned:
I’m just a man, and killers, angels, all are me:
Dictators, saviours, refugees in war and peace
As long as Man lives…

Because, make no mistake, I am starting to struggle now. I had a really miserable afternoon yesterday and even though I was in bed early and had (for once) a really decent night’s sleep, I wasn’t feeling much better.

Luckily the girls had a lift into school so that I could take things easy this morning. I was in no hurry to surface. I had some food for breakfast, and a coffee, and then a play around on the laptop doing some stuff.

Zoe had told me when she left that she hadn’t been able to find Cujo the Killer Cat, so before I left I tried to hunt her down so that I could put her in one of the rooms where there’s no alarm sensor.

45 minutes I spent trying to find that blasted cat and when I went to the front door to accept a huge parcel delivery, there she was sitting on the bonnet of Strider. Outside all the time!

For most of the day I’ve been running around western New Brunswick fetching parts. It’s been really busy at work today. What added to the confusion was that just as everyone had something important to do, we had a delivery of 72 winter tyres and they all needed sorting and stacking.

Not only that, I’ve been doing my salemanship efforts today. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I’m something of an expert in Ford Cortina Mk III, Mk IV and Mk V, having made my fortune with them when I ran my taxi company. There are one or two in North America and someone posted on a forum that he couldn’t find any tyres anywhere to fit them

This place where I’m working right now is like an Aladdin’s Cave of treasures dating back years so I had a good look around. And sure enough, there are a handful just the correct size stuck down the back of the depot. And so I put an advert on the appropriate forum.

Back here, still in the driving rainstorm, i went to the Post Office on the way home to post the letters and then came back for tea. Plenty of pasta left over from the weekend, and rice pudding left over from last week. A meal fit for a king.

And then out taxiing until late. Just like old times.

But that’s enough for tonight, I reckon. I’m going to bed and I’m hoping to sleep. I need to pull myself round if I can but then again it’s been almost four months since my last blood transfusion, which I’m supposed to have every four weeks.

But do I care? Of course not. I’ve had a good time. And who wants to lie in bed at home to sit and stare at the bedroom ceiling anyway?

Sunday 3rd July 2016 – IF EVER I LAY MY HANDS …

… on whoever it was who came in at 04:20 this morning, went into the kitchen and started cooking eggs, they will spend the rest of their lived eating soup through a straw. To say that I was not very impressed with the noise that they made is an understatement to be sure.

Mind you, I’d already had a good sleep. I was in bed by 22:00 and I dunno how long I was awake but I only saw a few minutes of the film that I was watching, and that was that. And after the interruption in the middle of the night, I was off again – this time until 07:00.

And I was off too – several times down the corridor for a start, and then off on my travels. I don’t remember too much about it but it involved a bright light blue Ford Cortina saloon – either a mark IV or a mark V. But at least it was a voyage, and that tells you something about my bed. As I said the other day, I have slept in more comfortable beds than this, but not for quite a while.

Now, how do I know that it was 07:00 when I awoke this morning?

The answer is that the blasted church bells flaming well started off again, didn’t they? It’s a really good job that I’m going to bed earlier and earlier, otherwise I really would be upset. But when was the last time that I was up and about, breakfasting at 07:10 in the morning, long before the alarm, on a Sunday?

I was early down the road to the boulangerie too which was just as well as I had the last baguette – and that was before 09:00 too. I need to remember this as I don’t want to be stranded.

The bathroom received my attention too – I had a beautiful warm shower today and a good shave. And what with a change of clothes I look almost human now. This led to a visit to the launderette round the corner and for just €4:50 in the washing machine and €1:00 in the drier, I washed absolutely all of the clothes except the minimum that I could wear, and also the bedding from my stay up the road. The bedding is now ready to be taken back to Caliburn, which I can do tomorrow as I’m off to the hospital for 09:10 for my check-up.

Liz made an appearance on the airwaves too so we had a good chat while the washing was doing. Yes, there’s a free internet connection in the launderette and I’ll file that fact away for future reference.

Tea was pizza (well, it is Sunday) from the place round the corner and while I’ve had better (under-cooked pizzas seems to be a local speciality), this was the spiciest that I’ve ever had and it was really delicious from that point of view.

But lunch was a bit of a catastrophe. I had a good moan about my housemates yesterday as you remember, but today the kitchen was a disgrace. However, the cleaner told me that most people are here this weekend for the rock festival at Werchter and tomorrow almost everyone will have left the building. There will just be half-a-dozen or so people left.

So now I’m going to sit by the window and enjoy the pleasant evening – it’s not rained for at least four hours. And then an early night for my early start for the hospital.

At least the breakfasts are good in this place. There are no complaints from me from that point of view. You really win with the breakfasts.

Saturday 2nd July 2016 – SO WHAT ARE THE NEW DIGS LIKE THEN?

The first answer is “noisy”. The room that I’m in for the first 10 days is right next to the bathroom, the head of the stairs, the lounge and the kitchen. And furthermore, the outlet for the sink and the dishwasher (yes, we have a dishwasher) is behind a wall right at the head of the bed. Consequently, you can hear everything.

And there’s a rock concert on this weekend down the road at Werchter and there are quite a few people staying here who are visiting it. And when they come back the whole building knows about it.

It’s tired too, and so is the decor and furniture, and the tenants don’t do very much to help keep it clean and tidy – neither do they wash up after themselves in the main. As a result, the place might be clean at 10:00 but by 10:30 it isn’t, and it goes downhill from there.

But as for the breakfast, you just go in when you please and help yourself to as much as you want – I’m on the muesli, toast, jam, coffee and orange juice and plenty of it – and everything is topped up ready for the next day. The bathroom is clean and tidy and well-appointed, and my little sofa is really nice. While the mattress in my room here might have likewise seen better days, it’s a huge advance on the last place and once everyone had settled down for the night, I was well away and it was lovely.

And I was well-away too. I had a green car – it might have been an early Ford Cortina mark 111 estate – and my brother was thinking of painting it, helped by my father. I told them to not even imagine doing it if the masking off was anything less than perfect, but at that moment I had a huge load of concrete delivered and I needed to deal with it. First shovel stuck in it and I broke the handle in two – that led to me storming off in a sulk and that was that.

But it goes to show you what a decent bed can do.

But going back to my place, you really can’t believe this, that I’ve done it again. In North America I usually end up camping by a railway line and have sirens and hooters going off all over the place because I’ve forgotten to check the surroundings. Here in Europe, it’s churches. And there’s a church just across the road of which bells start up at 07:00 – so that was that for a lie-in.

But all in all, it’s less than €26 per night and I’m well-pleased with everything at that price.

What was even more exciting was that I had someone coming bursting into my room this morning by mistake – she’s in the same room as this but downstairs. I wouldn’t have minded so much except that I was just putting on my underpants and … errr … adjusting my dress.

After breakfast I tidied up in here and got everything shipshape as if I intend to be here a while – start as you mean to finish and that’s not like me, is it?

I Went into town (not that it’s very far) at 12:00 to buy the food for lunch for the next few days and to pick up some olives from the market. And I was halfway down the road when the heavens opened and I got the lot. To make matters worse, when I was at the olive stall, the assistant decided to shake the roof to clear off the water that was collecting on the top. And you can guess where the water went, can’t you? I got the lot.

This afternoon I’ve been on the blog again – it’s a slow procedure right now – and then went out to buy my curry. I’m not sure what I had now because I can’t remember but it had chick peas in it and it nearly blew my wig off.

Now, I’m going to have a quiet evening and then have an early night in my comfortable bed. I started to watch a film last night and fell asleep halfway through it. I’ll try to watch the rest tonight.

Monday 30th May 2016 – ONE THING THAT I’VE LEARNT TODAY …

… is that I won’t be having my next chemotherapy session for quite a while.

It seems that in the opinion of the hospital, I’m far to ill right now to go through all of the stresses that chemotherapy will provide and they think that I ought to recover first.

I have to say that I don’t like the sound of that one little bit. As far as I’m concerned, being ill doesn’t make the slightest difference. I don’t see an issue about chemotherapy making me any more ill – I’ll be suffering just the same and the quicker the treatment starts, the quicker it will be over and the quicker I’ll start to recover. Waiting until I’m feeling better and then making me ill again is just in my opinion absurd. I only want to be ill once.

And if I don’t improve, then I won’t ever have the chemotherapy and then I’ll be back where I started all of these months ago and that’s really defeating the purpose of my coming here.

As you can tell, I’ve had a visit from the doctor this afternoon. She didn’t stay long and didn’t even give me a check-over – she just came to give me the news.

I had a really bad night again last night. I took ages to go off to sleep, mainly due to the fact that I had a really bad pain right across the right side of my chest. It just wouldn’t go away and I just couldn’t find a comfortable position. It was so bad that I felt like calling for some emergency help (now that’s not like me, is it?) but I managed to hang on.

And then once I did drop off, I kept on waking up time after time after time. I really can’t sleep properly at all in this place. But drop off I must have done, because I was off on my travels again.

I was in a house that I owned, in Nantwich down by Crewe Road end but it wasn’t a terraced house such as is there but a modern semi-detached property. I’d had the morning off work and was due to go in for the afternoon but all kinds of delays were holding me up. eventually, I’d sorted out my pushbike, found my heavy blue-grey overcoat, decided what cap I was going to wear (because it was teeming down outside) and eventually I set off. But it was freezing cold too and I decided that I needed my gloves so had to turn back. And this made me wonder whether it was worth setting out again as the office would be closed by the time that I arrived. But as I reached back home I noticed my red Ford Cortina estate, XCL 465X, in the drive and it had been driven in instead of reversed in, as I always do without fail when I’m parking. That took me completely by surprise.
And a little later we were at a huge Open University Students Association (OUSA) meeting and there were hundreds of us in attendance. I found my way in, nearly last (not like me) and struggled into a corner where there were several people whom I knew, including a girl called Jane who was in my class at school (what she was doing at an OUSA meeting is anyone’s guess). We were having a chat about old times when the meeting abruptly started. The first speaker, a woman we knew, started to talk but went so quick that we couldn’t make notes and everyone bellowed at her in unison to slow down and start again – which she did, but after a couple of minutes started to roar off again and we found it impossible to keep track of what we were saying.

The doctor wasn’t the only visitor that I had either. I had a hospital visitor come to chat with me for a couple of minutes and that was quite a break from my routine. She didn’t have much to say, which was no surprise, but she tried her best to cheer me up and encourage my morale and you can never criticise someone for that.

But while I was talking to her, I somehow managed to put my back out of joint and that hurt for ages. I’m definitely breaking up, aren’t I?

The rest of the day has been quite quiet. I’ve sat in the day room and, for a change, done some work (I need to keep myself properly organised and properly focused), and that’s really my lot. As you know, there’s not really a lot else that I can be doing right now. I need to exert myself a little but it’s not easy. Even if I were to find the motivation, there ust aren’t the opportunities just now.

Still, maybe I’ll cheer up tomorrow.

Sunday 27th March 2016 – MY POSTILION HAS BEEN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

Well, not quite, but round about 16:30 this afternoon, in the middle of a thunderstorm and hailstone fusillade, there was a dull thud, the building shook a little and all of the power went off.

heavy storm clouds north sea zouteland netherlandsI went for a walk a little later and this was what I saw in the distance. Huge massing storm clouds over there, hanging over the North Sea.

In fact, we had heavy storm clouds all over the place and in the distance to the south (remember that Zoutelande is on the north-west coast of the Schelde estuary were some very clear thunder flashes. It is therefore very tempting to suggest that the hotel had been struck by lightning.

ship sailing up schelde estuary zoutelande netherlandsThat wasn’t all that was going on either. I’d been for a walk earlier while the housemaid made up my room, and was lucky enough to see a ship sailing up towards Antwerp, just offshore.

And excuse the lack of focus on the image – the wind was terrific and blowing me around like nobody’s business. This was the best of the images that I took, and that doesn’t say much for the others.

But talking of the housemaid, we had a little chat this morning. And the only language that we had in common was Italian. Imagine that in the Netherlands!

But those storm clouds that we saw gathering off the coast yesterday early evening finally arrived during the night. They hit my little room with such a force that I was immediately woken up, and when I went back to sleep, then half an hour later I was awoken once more.

This accounts for the dreadful night’s sleep that I had last night, and also for the number and variety of my nocturnal rambles. And believe me, there were dozens, quite a few of which didn’t make it to the dictaphone because either I fell straight back to sleep or else by the time that I found the dictaphone, I’d forgotten where I’d been.

Anyway, from what I do remember, I was in XCL, my red Cortina, and back at school (or, rather, a school in France, not my old one). I was an adult by this time and I only went back to school very occasionally, because I was studying Geography and History in my own time, but I would call in to the lessons if ever I was going past the school because I wanted to take the school exams and I needed to make sure that I was in touch with the course. As a result, I didn’t really know any of the children there. One afternoon, I’d bought something – some new seat covers or something for XCL so they needed wrapping. I had my yellow rucksack with me, which had now transformed itself into a school satchel. I’d turned up at the school and I can’t remember now how I had arrived but as I arrived, I remembered that there was something that I wanted. I had to walk all the way back to the car in order to get what it was that I wanted. As I walked out of the class there were all of these kids hanging around the door like you find at a school. It was the afternoon so there was a triple-period, but it was only the final two lessons, a double-period, that were history lessons but I had plans to do something in the period immediately after lunch. As I walked out of the school towards my car, I was singing “Daydream Believer” or, at least, trying to because I couldn’t hit the notes. I was devastated because I was hoping to sing it really well and show these kids a thing or two, but I just couldn’t get the notes.
A little later, I was back playing cricket and our team had unfortunately been skittled out. I was the last batsman remaining and I had to survive the last over so that our team would win. But it was now pitch-black and you couldn’t see a thing, and the bowler was bowling from around the corner behind the wall. All that I could do was to put my bat in the way and hope that that would block the wicket. For the final over, we started to have some friendly banter and the bowler said that he was going to bowl underarm at me. He took up a position about a foot from my wicket ready to bowl. I had to explain to him that he couldn’t do that – it was a no-ball. He could bowl underarm at me as much as he likes and no-one will say a thing, least of all me, but you have to bowl from back at the other crease, 22 yards away, just as you would do for bowling any other kind of ball in a cricket match. But it took me ages to get this to sink into this flaming bowler’s head.
A little later, I was back at work driving my car about and I’d been summoned into the office – it was a Sunday morning – but there had been some war that had gone on and it had been won by we westerners. However, there had been a few bits and pieces of unpleasantness that had come out of it. I needed to go to use the bathroom but for some unknown reason I had forgotten all of the vocabulary so I said what I could remember. This didn’t, for some reason, go down very well so I thought “sod them! I’m doing the best that I can and no-one can do more than that and it’s their look-out if it doesn’t suit”. But it was a bright sunny day and so I went on my motor-bike from the north-west of the city and there had been a heavy rainstorm earlier that day and now everything was flooded out. Now I couldn’t come my usual way into work because of this and at one stage I was riding through a park and on a pavement and then down the wrong way in a one-way street with water up to the axles on the motorbike, following some kind of lorry that was tearing up the roadway in this park. I’d finally arrived at work, and found that my boss had been searching through my drawers for something. He found some of Roxanne’s clothing that I was keeping there and he was proudly displaying it all around. I asked him “is this all yours?” to which he replied with a ribald joke. I said to him that it was Roxanne’s and I would like to have it back so he eventually gave it back to me and I stuck it back in my drawer.
After the next bout of thunderstorms I was back at another place of former employment with someone who was formerly a very good friend of mine. We were visiting the richest farm in the UK, run by the richest UK farmer and his wife. There were some tunnels that had been discovered on this farm and having inspected them, we noticed that they had been lined and that there was electricity going right down there. I immediately thought of a tourist attraction and so I button-holed the woman when I saw her and asked her about them. She replied that the intention was indeed to make them into a tourist attraction and so I wanted to know more? Was it World War II? Was it the Vietnam War? She replied that from what she had been able to find out, they went back to the 5th Century, which immediately suggested the collapse of Roman Britain to me. I was immediately aroused by this and so I intended to be the first person to go down there. I asked her if she knew to where these tunnels led, but she didn’t. However, it was her intention to explore them one of these days, so I immediately pencilled myself in to go and explore these tunnels with her. We would travel miles and I would invite someone from the University – I’m not sure now if I mentioned the OU – to accompany us. To me, it was absolutely marvellous and exciting.
After a very brief return to the arms of Morpheus, I was awake again thanks to the storm. And I can recount that I had been to see the Queen. I’d taken this puppy, which was really the star of it all, although I’m not sure quite why and so we were going to do a stage show with it when the puppy would be presented to the Queen. We were hoping that this puppy would be house-trained and behave itself in view of all of the excitement and not let itself down. This led on to a debate about cleaning. Tourism was still in its infancy and no-one really seemed to know how to clean up a place properly (as if I’m any expert) except for a dustpan and brush. Everyone was hoping that everyone else would prove to be the expert on cleaning up the building.
But the final part of my night-time voyage was easily the most exciting and astonishing. You remember yesterday that I mentioned the navigator whose body is in the Commonwealth War Graves part of the local cemetery? Well, last night, whilst deep in the arms of Morpheus, I set out to find his pilot. The voyage, which started out to be simple enough, took me, and two Ministerial cars and assorted Government officials to a small urban cemetery in the East End of London (where, incidentally, the pilot was not buried and I knew this, yet my journey still took me there) despite the obstruction of a well-known London solicitor who had instructed the two members of his staff who were assisting me not to give me too much help in my enquiries because, as I was later to discover, he was interested in the case from a personal point of view. In fact, being early for a 13:00 appointment, I suddenly made a decision to divert to this small cemetery one more time as I had suddenly made a dramatic realisation. I ended up inspecting the paperwork of an old woman who had just been laid to rest there, and was just about to make an Executive decision (and executive decision is one where if it’s the wrong decision, the person making it is executed) when the alarm went off. And how frustrated was I?

But none of it was wasted because this morning while waiting for the weather to brighten up, I did manage to track down some further information. Flying Officer Angus Peter MacLeod (for it is he), service number 63376, was flying as navigator in Mosquito Night-Fighter II serial HJ935 for pilot, Flight Lieutenant Basil John Brachi when they were lost over the North Sea on 29th January 1944.

And now that I have found out the serial number of the aeroplane, I can tell you even more. The plane took off at 01:15, one of seven from West Raynham in Norfolk on a “Serrate” mission, which was to pick up the radar emissions of the German night-fighters’ “Lichtenstein” equipment, and then follow the emissions to the source (ie the night-fighter) and shoot it down. However, the starboard engine of the Mosquito failed and so Brachi turned for home. A short while later, the port engine failed and so Brachi and MacLeod bailed out. No trace was ever found of Brachi or of the aeroplane, but the body of MacLeod was washed ashore near here on 5th May 1944. And here he lies.

I’ve not done too much today – not even been for my mid-morning (or mid-afternoon) coffee. I didn’t have the courage to go outside very much. Mind you, this weather didn’t encourage me too much.

but I did go out this evening and one of the little restaurants here directed me to the fritkot which is now open. And I had fritjes for tea, just for a change. And tomorrow, the ice-cream parlour in the town opens up. Of course, I shall have to go to give it an official visit.

apart from that, I’ve had a shower today and washed my clothes. And depressingly, I find that I’ve only bought two polo shirts with me, not three. So I’m going to have to stay in this one while the other one dries. Let’s hope that that will be tomorrow.

And I know know why next-door neighbour’s 06:30 alarm didn’t wake me up this morning. The hour has changed, hasn’t it. I didn’t realise until this evening when I thought that it was quite light for 20:00 when i went out for my fritjes. My telephone is automatic, and so is my laptop, so they got on with the job of changing the hour without me knowing anything about it. No wonder I was rather tired this morning.

But now I’m off for an early night because I can’t keep up the pace. Only a few more days now before my second hospital appointment so I hope that they will have some news for me.

Saturday 13th February 2016 – TWO DAYS ON THE RUN NOW …

… that I’ve managed to sleep right through the night without having to go for a stroll down the corridor. This is pretty-much unheard of and it must be a sign that I’m recovering a little.

But the downside of it all is that I remember almost nothing of any nocturnal ramble. The only thing that I recall for sure was that my red Cortina estate car XCL 465 X was involved in it somewhere.

I hated it when the alarm went off at 07:45. And I hated it even more when the nurse came round to give me my injection. The first one of this next session, and I’m fed up of it already. If that wasn’t bad enough, the injection that I had tonight hurt like blazes and that made me even more fed up. Still, only another 29 days to go!

And so apart from that, I’ve done almost nothing at all. Sitting down reading stuff on the internet, including what must go down as the most classic mistype of all time. In yet another case on The Old Bailey Online, one of the witnesses describes himself as “manager to J. A. Lawton and Co., carnage manufacturers, of 24, Orchard Street, London”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

But Liz has been busy. She’s found more tips and hints about making vegan ice-cream and so she’s started one off to see how it goes. Coconut milk and a bar of mint-flavoured chocolate, together with maple syrup and a secret ingredient. We’ll definitely have to see how that goes!

But that’s my lot today. Nothing else has happened at all apart from the howling gale and torrential rainstorm that blew up around here. I’m going to go for yet another early night and watch yet another film. It’s this kind of life that is doing me good, I reckon.

Thursday 21st January 2016 – SO IT WAS NERINA …

… who drew the short straw tonight, coming with me to take a coach party down to the south coast, Worthing or somewhere similar. We stopped the night at a town not too far away, somewhere near Lewes. While we were there, I rang up the hotel on the coast to make all of the arrangements for our arrival, and to find out the directions to the hotel. When I came out of the telephone booth into the bar, there were several giant-sized people in the bar, all professional wrestlers who were handing out promotional gifts. I was given a cigarette lighter (of course, I don’t smoke) but it leaked and I was getting all of the fluid all over me and smelling like a tart’s boudoir. In the end, Nerina sent me to wash my hands so I went into the toilet but all of the sinks were full of baby clothes – someone had filled up all of the sinks and left the clothes in there to soak. This had annoyed everyone in the hotel. I went to someone else’s coach because I knew that he had a kind of tap and hand-washing arrangement on an extendible pipe right by the driver’s seat (it was a left-hand drive coach but the entrance was on the left). I used this to wash off my hands. While I was doing this, other coach drivers came up to ask what I was doing, so I explained. I had difficulty closing off this tap no matter what I did, so the other drivers had a try and they couldn’t do it either, so they started to fill their bottles of drink with it. Coming off the coach I heard some woman talking to one of the coach hostesses talking about exit doors on coaches. She was going on about a particular kind of coach and describing a particular kind of door, to which I interjected that that was a B10M (which, incidentally, is a model of chassis, not a body) but no-one was listening and the hostess was saying that it’s not an E62 like we have. So I said “B10M” again, to just the same amount of notice. And back in the hotel still filthy, still covered in cigarette lighter fluid, and I eventually found a map of how to reach this hotel. It wasn’t where I thought at all but to the west of the town on a headland and fairly easy to reach. There was a big coach park right opposite just by the headland and also a small restaurant close by which was useful because I knew what hotel food was like and I could see me eating out every night if the hotel food was rubbish.
And Maria, having made her rather dramatic entrance onto our stage yesterday, is back for a follow-up appearance. This time however, she was quite seriously ill and had been discharged from her employment at the EU. I was running a business from my home with about three or four people sitting at desks doing things (I can’t remember what now) and so to help out Maria and make sure that her Social Security obligations were met, I offered her a small job at my place. And so she came to work, not doing very much. On one day needed to go to a medical appointment so I offered to take her. “You can’t go like that” she said, indicating my present attire, and nipped off upstairs (I’ve had exactly the same conversation with a friend of mine a couple of months ago, by the way). She came back down again with a pair of denim jeans. “Put these on”. “What size are they?” I enquired, to which she replied that they were 32-inch. Now up until I stopped running in the late 1990s I could fit into 32″ jeans, but even on a nocturnal ramble I knew full well that they would be too small, but I tried them on and found that I actually needed a belt to hold them up, which amazed me. But anyway, off we went to the hospital and on the way, I found that the two of us were holding hands, something that Maria would never ever do in real life (and which parallels, incidentally, something that was going through my mind with another person just before I dropped off to sleep).
Later on, the two of us found ourselves out on the ski slopes. We were fighting our way out through hordes of children up the steps to the three ski-lifts that were there and then I came to a sudden stop. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that on three or four occasions in the past my nocturnal rambles have taken me to a certain ski-run which involves a passage down a narrow valley, a difficult passage through and over some kind of watershed and then a glorious run down another valley which made all of the hard work quite worthwhile (and we even visited it in our red Cortina estate on one occasion during one night) – anyway, this was where I was heading. But I couldn’t remember how to get there now. Looking at the map board, I could see a black run indicated (ski runs are colour coded to give their degree of difficulty and black runs are the most difficult) which I reckoned would be the one that I wanted, but I couldn’t work out how to get there. Maria said that she knew the way but was surprisingly evasive when it came to actually telling me. I was looking for a map to take with me but there wasn’t one available and so I was feeling really disappointed about this as I had really been looking forward to revisiting this ski run.

On that note of disappointment the alarm went off and I came downstairs. And then had a long loooooooooong wait for the nurse to come. He’d forgotten that it was blood test day and was busy doing his rounds elsewhere while I was sitting here starving.

And talking of blood tests, here’s a shock. I have an id and password so I can go to the laboratory’s website any time after 16:30 and pick up my results. And this evening I found that my blood count has NOT gone down. Now there’s a surprise. I wondered why I had not been “summoned to appear at nine o’clock in the forenoon to answer to the aforesaid” at the hospital.

But this brings with it it’s own problem. I mean – this is good news, make no mistake – that if the blood count is down on Monday, I may well be called in on Tuesday, but I’m being admitted to hospital on Wednesday for my operation on Thursday. On Wednesday I’m definitely having a transfusion (I’ve been told that for definite) and it’s likely that on Thursday and Friday they will be carrying on (assuming that I’m still here on Friday). Too much strange blood all at once can provoke a strange reaction and I don’t want one of those while I’m under the knife. I would have been much happier to go in tomorrow regardless.

But apart from that, I’ve had a quiet day in the house doing not very much at all. I’ve not even set foot outside (although Terry took his van for the controle technique – it passed, by the way). There was a huge mega-sale of items on the 3D site that I use so I spent a little money today (and I would have spent a great deal more had I had it to hand) and I pressed on with my 3D Animation course.

The course set us an interesting challenge. We are doing computer-generated 3D animation now (the part of the course that is of most interest to me) and the aim was to produce a bedroom and fit it with items so that the occupant of the room could be clearly identified. I have therefore been scouring www.sharecg.com – the leading free resource community for the 3D program that I use -for items and happily building a bedroom for my K4 character. She now has a bed with teddy bear, a desk with homework scattered about, a chest of drawers with a boom box on it, a wardrobe with clothes hanging in it (it took me hours to do that), a skateboard with helmet and also a pile of clothes scattered about the floor. No prizes for guessing who is the occupant of THAT room.

Apart from that, I’ve had a shower (so that’s me sorted until September) and a change of clothes (ditto) and done badger all else. And ask me if I care.

But I suppose that really, I do care. I can’t go on like this. I’m not looking forward to the operation and I’m looking forward even less to the week or so that will follow. But I need to do something positive and put my life back on the rails. Much as I enjoy being here, I really want to go home and get on with everything.

Saturday 9th January 2016 – 2114 words!

Yes, that’s what you had yesterday, you lucky people. Serves you right!

I really ought to be charging you a fee for all of the work that I’m putting in these days. You don’t get all of this entertainment for free anywhere else, you know.

And that reminds me, if you have enjoyed or benefited from these pages, please make your next Amazon purchase by clicking on the links in the right-hand column. It costs you no extra, but I receive a small commission on the sale. I reckon that I deserve it.

But anyway, enough of that.

Yesterday, I was out yet again. In the cold, the wet and the wind. I’d finally managed to track down the person who needs to come and inspect this septic tank where we had all of the issues on Wednesday, and he agreed to meet us there at 11:00. So after breakfast and coffee Terry and I set off.

We made sure that we both had our telephones with us this time, and that we had the papers with all of the contact details, but that was clearly not enough. As we were passing through Montel de Gelat, Terry suddenly announced “blast! I’ve forgotten the key!”.

You really don’t need a key to enter any of the houses around here, but you do need some tools. And having gone down there in the FIAT instead of the Transit we didn’t have any of those. So Terry dropped me off at the house and nipped off to the D-i-Y shop at Pontaumur.

The inspection didn’t take long. The person who came had actually done a survey on the property a short while ago so he simply checked the system for leaks. He would copy the plans of the system from his previous report.

On the way back, the yellow light came on. We were running low on fuel. The nearest petrol station is 16kms away in St Gervais so I told Terry that he had better put his foot down.
“Why?” asked Terry
“Well, you want to get to the petrol station quickly before you run out of fuel”

Back here, I did some more of my course work in the afternoon, in between having a doze or two. And then after tea, we watched a film for a short while and then went to bed.

It’s hard to understand why I was so tired today because I hadn’t been up to all that much during the night compared to many of my recent ramblings.

From what I remember, which isn’t necessarily all that much, I started off with something to do with Antoine de Saint Exupéry – the French airman and children’s writer – although I can’t now remember what he was doing in my dreams, and why he would be there at all.
And then we moved off to the cinema. I was babysitting a girl of about 9 or 10 and so I decided that, in order to keep her entertained, I would take her to the cinema to watch a film. However we didn’t get to see much of the film because my brother (again!) was there and he insisted on distracting this girl by teasing her and generally annoying her – to such an extent that we had to move away to another part of the cinema. However, he followed us and carried on with his behaviour and so we had to move yet again. In the end, the only place where we could find some peace was in finding two empty seats in the middle of a crowded area where there were no other empty seats in the vicinity and so he couldn’t follow us and this girl wouldn’t be disturbed.
But from here, after a visit to ride the porcelain horse, I was back into a different country, in Canada to be precise although it didn’t look much like any part of Canada that I knew. I had a Mk IV Cortina estate that needed some attention and I’d been quoted something like $140 for the repairs. But when I went back to pick it up, it was still up on the ramps (complete with Czech numberplate, don’t ask me why) and the garage proprietor was busy removing my two spare wheels. Apparently, according to him, the tyres were no good although I disagreed (a strange parallel here with an incident involving Caliburn last May). So when I received the bill, it wasn’t for $140 but for almost $600, but he would “make me an allowance for the two tyres” (and no mention of the wheels, which I rather wanted back). I had to sit down and add up the bill in order to check that it was correct. And this bill was all in pounds, shillings and pence (decimal currency was introduced into the UK in 1971 but Ford Cortina Mk IVs were introduced in 1976 so there was clearly some logic here). It was a very complicated and involved account but I was doing it in my head. I’m quite capable of doing this, but each time I nearly reached the end, my brother (who had now put in yet another appearance) contradicted me over a figure, which I knew full well that I was right but his interruption distracted my train of thought and so I had to start again. And then he made another interruption. This was how it continued and I was wishing that he would clear off and go and annoy someone else. And not only that, do I make a fuss about my tyres? And my wheels? I really need my wheels back at the very least, but the reduction in the bill is important and I’m short of money so the discount is welcome. Strangely enough, I gave no thought whatever about the fact that I had been considerably overcharged compared to the estimate.

Thursday 31st December 2015 – I HAVE SPENT NEW YEAR’S EVE …

… in some strange places, but this evening will be about the strangest. I’m back in Montlucon, back in the hospital and in the casualty department connected up to a couple of pochettes of blood.

This morning I had the usual blood test and at 17:15 I had the phone call. Apparently my blood count has collapsed and it’s down to 7.2, which means that in 4 days I’ve lost 15% of my haemoglobin. There’s no Day Hospital tomorrow (yes, I now know the reason why I have blood tests on Mondays and Thursdays – that’s because the Day Hospital is usually open from Monday to Friday, Bank Holidays excepted of course, and they can call me in the next day if the results are bad) and so it has to be done in Casualty.

And so I rode off into a rather symbolic sunset – symbolic in many senses in that it’s the final sunset of 2015, bringing down the night onto the end of a rather significant year for me, and that I have a rather uncomfortable feeling that it’s bringing down the night onto a significant chapter in my life and that whatever happens to me once a new dawn breaks will be completely different to that which I’ve experienced to date.

new years eve sunset site ornithologique st gervais d'auvergne puy de dome franceNevertheless, at the Site Ornithologique just outside St Gervais, one of my favourite photography spots, I stopped to take a photo of the sun dipping down under the horizon.

And I wasn’t alone here either. Liz was here too. She was on her way back from the airport at Limoges, having taken her family back for their aeroplane to East Midlands, and she was impressed by the view too. We had a little chat and then I was on my way.

Evening meal for me, my “special treat” for New Year’s Eve, was a large packet of crisps, a packet of biscuits and a banana. There wasn’t any time to prepare any food back at Liz and Terry’s because the hospital wanted me in and out before the midnight rush of drunks began, and so I had to pick up what I could find en route.

At the hospital, I was lucky enough to find a parking space for Caliburn close to the casualty entrance, and once I was inside, I was whisked straight into the casualty ward and prepared for transfusion, with the second-most-painful insertion of a drain. And this is when I discovered that the claim, on the telephone earlier, that “the blood has already been ordered” was somewhat economical with the truth. It didn’t arrive until 21:30 in fact.

And in the meantime, I was in a small room right by the entrance to the Casualty Department. Ambulances, with blue flashing lights and sometimes sirens, were pulling up right outside my window and the electric door into the Department was right next to the door to my room, which was open. Each time I closed my eyes, an ambulance would pull up, the electric door would open, and I’d be wide awake. And then I’d close my eyes again ready to doze off and the procedure would be repeated. And as New Years Eve approached and the stream became a flood, I gave it up as a bad job and asked for a coffee.

Yes, some let the New Year in with a glass of champagne. I let it in with a plastic beaker of coffee.

By 01:30 they had finished with me, and they offered me a bed for the night in the ward at the back of the Casualty Department. I didn’t really feel too much like the drive back to Liz and Terry’s and in any case they would be well asleep by the time that I returned, so I gladly accepted the offer.

And here I’m staying until tomorrow.

Mind you, it’s hardly surprising that I wasn’t up to the drive back. I’d done quite enough driving last night on my nocturnal travels.

I’m not sure now exactly how I started out on my travels but I was definitely in my chocolate-brown Cortina 2000E, TNY143M, that has featured quite a few times just recently on my nocturnal voyages and I’m not sure why. But as our story unfolds, there was a huge argument in a car park that abutted, albeit about 20 feet higher up, onto the street where I was parked. It concerned some kind of illicit behaviour involving a taxi company or two, something that would be of great interest to me of course, being in the taxi business, and a girl was having a huge argument with the driver of a big black saloon car parked on the edge of this car park. The net result of this argument was that she grabbed hold of the driver’s briefcase and flung it high into the air. The case landed at my feet with the papers scattered everywhere so I quickly gathered up the papers, half-expecting the driver to come charging down the bank after his possessions. Instead, he got into his car and cleared off quickly leaving me holding all of the evidence, which would make good reading in the taxi licensing office. I walked back up the hill to the pizza place on the corner of the main road and ordered, inexplicably, a chicken pizza. While it was being prepared, I reckoned that I had better go and recover the Cortina and bring it up outside the pizza place where I could keep a better eye on it and its contents. So back in the pizza place and the server asked me if I wanted ham and some other meat on it – they hadn’t even finished preparing it, never mind cooked it. I had a feeling that this would go on for ever and I didn’t have the time to spare.
So never mind – I’d planned to go to the cinema that evening but I could go earlier and I could watch the film twice. But this meant going on the bus so off I went. And at the end of the first showing, it meant going back on the bus again, doing a round trip and then back to the cinema. And here on the bus this time around I met a girl, someone who had made a couple of cameo appearances in my travels during the autumn. The bus took us on a guided tour of the town and stopped at a big desolate area of waste land, with the driver telling us that this was formerly the old medieval centre of the town which had been demolished and a modern town centre built elsewhere. We were being asked all kinds of quiz questions about street names and the like too.
After the cinema I took this girl home with me, which I realised too late was probably not a good thing to do, because before going out I’d emptied out the van and having nowhere to store the stuff, I’d stacked it, all kinds of rubbish too, into the living room so there was hardly anywhere to sit. My Aunt Doreen (she who hanged herself almost 20 years ago) had been there and so I asked the girl if she would write a note of appreciation to Doreen. However, we couldn’t find a single blank page in any of the notebooks in which we looked. Clearly we weren’t doing so well here. I also asked someone else, who was present at the time, to take out a pile of vehicle hubcaps and dump them in the bin, but then I had a change of mind, thinking that they all might come in useful at some time.
From here I drove back to the family pile in Shavington, followed by my father and my brother (no idea how come they have appeared on my travels). And near the top of Gresty Bank before the corner where Dubberley’s farm used to be, in the road in the southbound lane was a woman with a trestle table doing the washing up. We had to wait until she had finished but she took so long to arrange her crockery that I emptied her washing-up bowl for her. However, the woman in the car immediately behind me was so close that I couldn’t reverse my car enough to go around this obstacle, so the car and I had to duck under the table.
Back at the family pile, I was horrified to see not only the state of the place but the fact that the house was stinking hot with the electric heating going full blast – so hot in fact that all of the windows had been opened despite the heaters being on. There was so much waste and untidiness (and the untidiness must have been bad if it upset me) that I reckoned that my father would be appalled when he arrived. But it was my brother who appeared first, so I challenged him about it, but he replied that our father wouldn’t be coming – he had gone elsewhere. In the hallway there was cat food all over the place but he said that it was the fault of my cat, who wouldn’t eat any of it.

The alarm went off at this point and after a few minutes spent gathering my wits (it doesn’t take very long as there aren’t too many of those) I came downstairs to wait for the nurse and the prise de sang.

Once he had gone, I could have breakfast but I’d run out of muesli so I had to borrow some of Terry’s. And then we had the confusion as all of our visitors prepared to leave. I had a few big hugs, which was nice as I don’t have too many of those these days, and it goes without saying that Strawberry Moose had quite a few too.

Once everyone had left, Terry and I had a coffee and a relax and then I went off to St Gervais with a shopping list from Liz. I try my best to do some shopping here once a week – it’s the least that I can do to recompense Liz and Terry for all of the effort they are making in looking after me. Mind you, I did manage to buy the wrong milk and so I rather blotted my copy-book here.

Vegan cheese on toast for lunch (I’m becoming quite partial to this these days) and then I sat down to alternately have a little doze, drink a coffee and to continue to write up my notes from my voyage around Canada in the Autumn.

And this was when I received “the call” …

Sunday 29th November 2015 – AND SO BACK AGAIN …

… in hospital, and back to the usual hospital routine. An early night, falling asleep watching a film on the laptop, and then waking up at about 02:00, lying awake for a few hours and then dropping off again just in time to be awoken by the continual comings and goings of nurses in and out of my room.

And I wasn’t alone last night either. I was in Vine Tree Avenue in Shavington, where we lived in the 1960s, and I was working on my 2000E saloon, TNY 143 M, sanding down the offside rear wing where I’d just welded on a wheel arch repair panel, and Nerina turned up. We were admiring a tree in the garden next door in Edwards Avenue – a small tree or plant about 2.5 metres high that looked like a very immature weeping willow – and we decided that we would like a cutting to go in our garden here too.

Strangely, when I went back to sleep a few hours later, I stepped right back into the dream where I had left off and was reading a catalogue that was displaying all kinds of kinky Christmas underwear made of tinsel. Nerina didn’t think very much of that and made a few typical disparaging remarks, and I was thinking that it was a good job that she hadn’t noticed what I’d been looking at on the first 10 pages of the catalogue.

So after breakfast, such as it was, we had what can only be described as a perfect example of extreme boredom. I hadn’t brought anything with me because I hadn’t expected to be here, so no laptop and a flat battery in the telephone because I didn’t have the charger. There wasn’t anything around to read either which was even worse.

But I did find a brochure about the terms and conditions of the hospital so I can tell you all about that now. And apparently I have the right to have a person of my choice in my room with me, and a spare bed will be provided. I did wonder what Kate Bush might be doing right now, and they needn’t bother about the spare bed.

At 15:00 Liz came round and brought me some clothes, my wash bag, a phone charger and the laptop. And not just that, but a couple of snacks too. Which is just as well because the food in this hospital is thoroughly disgusting. Part of the hospital’s charter, which I read assiduously this morning, tells me that the hospital will “take into account the tastes and the eating habits … of the patient”. How they do that is simply to remove from the plate anything that one isn’t allowed to eat. and so for lunch I had half a plate of carrots and green beans, and for tea I had half a plate of overcooked courgette. And that was that. It’s a question of whether they find out what’s wrong with me before I die of starvation. I can see me striking up quite an acquaintance with the lady who runs the cafe across the road and having regular wisits from her;

But there’s another thing as well about the hospital at Riom that is even more important. And that is that there is no internet. Luckily, Liz had helped me to set up “tethering” on my mobile phone and so I can stay in some kind of contact with the outside world.

But whether or not the outside world wants to keep in touch with me is another matter. Of my 132 “friends” on my social network, I’ve had just 14 expressions of best wishes. I know that everyone has their social network account for their own particular reasons and that’s not an issue with anyone, but I don’t see the point of being “friends” with anyone if you aren’t going to take an interest in them and their own personal issues. Consequently I’ve had yet another major purge of my “friends” list. and quite right too. it’ll soon be down to just me.

On that note I settled down to watch a film on the laptop because it’s the most sure-fire way that I know of falling asl……

… ZZZZZZZZ

Tuesday 18th August 2015 – LAST DAY IN MONTREAL

Last night’s sleep wasn’t anything like as good as the previous night’s, but that can be explained by the fact that as soon as I came in last night, I drank about a litre of spruce beer.

Being on my travels didn’t help matters either. I’d spent much of the night in the company of a young person who was having gender issues. He or she had half-undergone the hormone therapy necessary to change sex, but then had had a change of mind and not only stopped the treatment but was changing back. This led on from here to me taking a taxi – one of mine as it happens – to go to a white house somewhere. The driver was completely new – I was his first customer – and the journey was interesting to say the least, including undertaking another driver at a road junction and overshooting the destination. The driver said “well that was a bit of a disaster, wasn’t it?” to which I replied “don’t worry. We all have to start somewhere”.

So after breakfast I cracked on with some more work on the computer and this took me right up until 11:00. I had my airport shuttle booked for 11:15 and didn’t want to miss it, so I made sure that it arrived on time by pouring myself a full cup of coffee at 11:14 precisely. Works every time!

It took 5 minutes to get to the airport from where this hotel is, and I spent the time helping out a couple of people who needed to travel into the city. There was a 747 bus already in at the stop and the driver took 10 minutes to sort himself out, during which time a woman with three kids came onto the bus. She told them to sit down “as it’s going to be a long ride”
“And if I know anything about Montreal bus drivers, a wild ride too” I added.

And sure enough, off we shot and arrived at the coach station at the rue de Berri just 35 minutes later, shaken but not stirred.

Ten dollars it cost to leave my bag in the consigne, which is quite expensive, but then imagine what it would have cost in time and so on to go all the way back to the hotel to pick it up and then lug it all the way back here through the city later this evening. This had to be the sensible option – the hotel shuttle to the airport and then the 747 bus directly to the coach terminal.

And I can’t believe this but in a Dollar Store just round the corner from the bus station as I continue my stroll down rue St Catherine Est I find exactly the right adapter for the Swiss electrical plugs. That’s an amazing find, and something else to add to the travel bag

typical flats apartments montreal quebec canadaThis is a beautiful little street isn’t it – a pile of beautiful little houses down there and some typical Quebec maisonettes of the type that you see in all of the urban areas.

Balconies and open staircases – must be beautiful to sit outside on them on a lovely summer’s evening but it must be hell, absolute hell in the middle of a Quebec winter trying to get to your front door.

ouimetoscope cinema rue st catherine est montreal quebec canadaBut why I stopped was to look at the corner of the street at this new building is that it’s the site of the Ouimetoscope.

That was the very first cinema to be opened in Montreal – in January 1906 in fact, and the following year was rebuilt to be come the largest cinema in North America at the time.

piano publique montreal quebec canadaThere’s some kind of scheme going on here in Montreal at the moment – what they call the Piano Publique. They have dumped a load of pianos about in different parts of the city and are encouraging people to sit down and play them.

This guy isn’t too bad at all as it happens. I could sit and listen to him for quite a while, but I just don’t have the time.

complexe bourbon rue st catherine est montreal quebec canadaLook at this gorgeous art-deco building here on the corner of St Catherine and Alexandre Deseve, at 1560 rue St Catherine Est. There’s been a “Club Sandwich” here in the past as well as an Irish bar and the Hotel Bourbon.

It’s the Complexe Bourbon, quite a favourite spot in the city in the past, and at one time was up for sale for $8,500,000, but that was several years ago. It looks as if it will be pulled down before its much older and what a shame because it’s beautiful.

sacre coeur de jesus church rue alexandre deseve montreal quebec canadaThis church was formerly the Sacre Coeur de Jesus down at the end of the rue Alexandre Deseve.

The church doesn’t function as a church any more and the big house at the side, the ancienne Presbytere, is now a centre d’accueil pour les jeunes en difficulte – possibly the Association les Chemins du Soleil which is situated, according to a poster that I saw plastered about the church, at 1155 rue Alexandre Deseve.

parc charles campbell rue alexandre deseve montreal quebec canadaAt the parc Charles Campbell, a lawyer and philanthropist of the 19th Century who left all of his money to create parks for children to amuse themselves in the open air, they are having a Neighbourhood Fair tonight, with entertainment, food and all kinds of stuff going on.

And you might not be able to see him but there’s a guy sitting in that tree just there pulling that banner up at the far end of that rope.

I had lunch at the Subway down here, asked once again if i wanted cheese with my “nothing but crudites”, and ended up by dropping half of it on the floor and making a huge mess everywhere.

olympic stadium rue sherbrooke est montreal quebec canada But after lunch I strolled down to the metro station to tale the train all the way down to Honore Beauregard, the end of the line

That’s the view down rue Sherbrooke est down towards the famous Olympic Stadium and its leaning tower. Anyway, I’ll walk down here for a little while, the old Chemin du Roy, and see what I can find, if anything.

Right by the Langelier metro station is a Motel le marquis. Cheapest room is about $80 – not too bad, I suppose. I’ll have to remember that.

And from here I caught a bus that took me all the way down the Boulevard Langelier towards the Galeries d’Anjou.

value village galeries d'anjou rue jean talon montreal quebec canadaThat’s all of the big buildings near the end of the autoroute at the junction between Highway 40 and Highway 25 there and the Galeries d’Anjou are somewhere to the right of that.

And I’ve found the Value Village! Furthermore, it’s 30% off on Tuesdays for senior citizens! Spend! Spend! Spend! But I could only find one book and one CD that interested me. Rather a waste of a senior citizen’s discount if you ask me.

Canadian Tire have tents at $29:99 and $34:99- that’s the three-seater one which is 7 feet wide so my bed will fit in there quite comfortably whereas the cheaper one is only 6 feet at its widest and that might be a struggle. Then we start to get into the realm of big tents after that. I mean, why would you have a tent to sleep 14 people? I don’t even know 14 people, let alone 14 people with whom I’d like to go away on holiday, but then they do go in for big families in Quebec.

In rue Jean Talon I’ve just seen the rustiest cars that I’ve ever seen, any of mine and the Cortina parked down my field since 1997 included. I didn’t take a photo of it because it isn’t the polite thing to do but it’s so rotten that the windscreen is about to drop out – the whole windscreen surround including the roof corners have just gone. Makes that grey Cortina look good and that’s stood in a field for 18 years.

And it’s suddenly occurred to me what I haven’t seen at all ever since I’ve been in Canada on Saturday, and I haven’t seen a cat.

sports ground rue jean talon montreal quebec canadaThis is the sports ground at the rue Jean Talon and way over there behind the floodlights in the distance and across the motorway behind it is the motel where I stayed the very first night that I was ever in Canada.

But what had caught my eye was the drinking fountain so I had a good wash to cool me down, filled my cap with water and stuck it on my head. All of the cold water ran off down the back of my neck and believe me, it was the best feeling that I had ever had.

I got to see one of the new Transits from close up and I reckon that there are differences to the European ones inside. In fact there seem to be quite a few differences so I wonder what has happened here that the differences haven’t been carried forward, because it is reasonabily impressive.

There’s no model designation on it either, which surprises me – just a ” Ford”, and made in Kansas City judging by a sticker on the windscreen. Body number begins 1FT(or 2)NR1CM

new bank buildings rue jean talon montreal quebec canadaThere’s a little process of gentrification going on in the rue Jean Talon – it’s been a bit down-at-heel in places but in other places there are bits of building going on and it’s all starting to look quite nice

These new bank buildings are on the corner of the Boulevard Viau and rue Jean Talon and are typical of what is going on all around here

I walked on quite a way past Viau, past Pius IX and past a couple of metro stations and by this time I was starting to lose interest. Time was slowly passing on, the only pizza places that I has passed (I really fancied a pizza tonight and I had my cheese all at the ready) were these ethic places full of grease, and I was hot, sticky, exhausted and footsore.

So I hopped onto the metro all the way to Snowdon where I still didn’t find the pizza that I wanted (and I had my vegan cheese all ready too) and eneded up back at the falafel place at the Cote-des-Neiges, for want of anything better.

It was just outside here that I met my first traditional bus driver. There was a bus stop just outside the restaurant and there was a bus just pulling up. I asked him if he was going to the Snowdon metro station down at the bottom of the hill, to which he replied that I was facing the wrong way – the station was just “back there”. And then he drove off.

The station “back there” was in fact the “Cote des Neiges” so I don’t know whether he was having a mental blank or whether he was just being difficult. Anyway, I trudged back up to the Cote des Neiges metro station and went round to the coach station.

Having rescued my suitcase I ended up chatting with two women, one aged 84 and the other aged 91, who were regular bus travellers, even at their age. They were off to visit their third sister somewhere in the USA. This passed the time quite nicely until my bus pulled in, and then I was off.

We went over the Cartier Bridge and then into Longueuil for more passengers, and then we were off. I curled up on my seat and dozed off to sleep.

Tuesday 28th July 2015 – I’VE HAD A BAD DAY TODAY

The alarm went off at 07:30 as usual, followed by the reminders at 07:45 and 08:00, but there was no way that I was able to leave my bed.

I ache just about everywhere – in places that I didn’t realise that I had places. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m far too old to go crawling around under cars the way that I did. Nice and leisurely, with a cup of coffee and a couple of biscuits every hour, I can manage that and I’m quite happy to do so. But working like I did yesterday, 9.5 hours non-stop without a pause, mauling some really heavy equipment about – I’m far too old for that.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. On a reasonable car where everything is there within reach, it’s quite easy. For example, with a Ford Cortina with a Pinto engine (of which there are dozens around here) the only time that you have to lie down is to take off the bottom pulley on the crankshaft. And that is that. The rest you can do standing up. With this blasted technological marvel of the 21st Century, you need to be up on top and on your back down below at the same time with three hands each.

And I have to do it all again when I need to re-assemble it.

But I can see now how it is that the vehicle has come here to be done. It’s quite simply that no-one else will touch it. And I can understand why.

But at least I had a nice concrete pad to lie down on after our efforts last year. Imagine trying to do this lying on damp gravel.

So I eventually crawled out of bed and I sat down in my chair and that was that. I couldn’t even move to make myself some food so I’ve just been nibbling on what I could reach.

Rosemary rang me up for a chat and instead, she had 90 minutes of me venting my spleen and letting off steam. Poor Rosemary. I just hope that I feel better tomorrow. I couldn’t even think about tiling today. And this is going to annoy me. I wanted to finish my tiling before I go away but Caliburn is parked up the road while this pile of scrap is parked in my drive and so I would have to carry all of the tiles and the sacks of cement 200 metres down here. There was no way that I was going to do that today and I probably won’t feel much like doing it tomorrow either. So it’s not just losing two days of work by working on this car, it’s also losing several other days while I recover from my exertions and no-one will ever think about that. I wish that I had never offered to do it now. It’s messed up all of my plans completely.

So starving, hungry, cold and fed up, and aching just about everywhere, I’m going back to bed. I hope that I have as much excitement as I did last night when I was once more back at school in Nantwich with a mini-traveller loaded with stuff and all kinds of people trying to peer in to see what there was. And an old girlfriend of mine, Ann, putting in an appearance too. Whatever was she doing here?

Tuesday 13th January 2015 – D’OHHHH!

It’s mystified me for quite a while – the subject of the wind turbine on the side of the house.

You may recall that just before I went to Canada in August I was up on the scaffolding at the front of the house tidying up all of the wiring and one of the things that I tidied up was the wiring to the Wind Turbine. I also fitted a charge controller, a timer and a data panel.

Returning from Canada after 7 weeks away, I was expecting to see a significant reading on the data panel and the timer, and no-one was more astonished than I was to see not a thing. That really confused me greatly.

I didn’t give it much thought after that, being preoccupied with other things, but I did notice while I was up on the scaffolding getting some tools the other day that there were two wires danging down from underneath the junction box. The thought immediately went through my mind that I must have forgotten to connect them up, and that was the explanation for nothing happening.

Today, with 20 minutes to spare before lunch and having promised to deal with a few odd jobs today, and especially with the I went up onto the scaffolding to connect up the wires.

Prising off the top of the junction box, I noticed that these two loose wites were supposed to be loose – they are the wires that will be connecting the third bank of solar panels in due course, and the wires connecting the wind turbine were properly connected up. At least, that’s what I thought at first, but closer inspection revealed nothing of the kind.

Don’t ask me what goes through my mind at certain moments, or whatever I must have been doing at the time, but somehow, despite the clearest indications and a great deal of effort being put into colour coding and all that kind of thing, I somehow managed to connect up the positive lead to the negative feed, and vice versa.

I stood and stared at this for about 10 minutes open-mouthed, and then disconnected everything and reconnected everything correctly. And almost immediately, the green power light that I had fixed into the junction box came on. Since then, I’ve had the old familiar sound of the wind turbine murmuring away in the background.

I really don’t understand what goes on in my mind sometimes, but it’s worrying.

During the night I’d been on my travels around the Holmes Chapel area of Cheshire, in XCL, my red Ford Cortina Mark 5 estate that lives in a lock-up in Montaigut, and I was up comparatively early this morning.

After breakfast I came across another “d’ohhhh!” moment too. It seems that I was premature in declaring that the wallpapering had finished. I’d missed a bit and so I had to deal with that first. Once that was done I had to vacuum up the dust on the stairs (I’m enjoying this soot sucker that I’ve converted into a vacuum cleaner) and then mask everywhere off. That took most of the rest of the morning.

After lunch I collected up a pile of wood, did some tidying up and tool collecting, and then in the last hour or so started work on the shower room floor. THat’s now all cut to size and ready for nailing down, sanding off and varnishing now.

Remember what I said yesterday about knocking off? Well, here I was at 18:00 with the floor only half-done, but regardless, I carried on working until it was finished off.

And in the water butt, following on the fractured tap there, the front water butt is now empty and ready for cleaning and a new tap fitting. But of course I don’t have a new tap (I should have bought one on Saturday, shouldn’t I?) so it’s a good job that I drew off those couple of buckets of water for a reserve supply