Tag Archives: gare du montparnasse vaugirard

Monday 25th September 2023 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not actually sitting in a rainbow but sitting by my bed in the Hôpital Pitié-Salpetrière in south-east central Paris.

My room is quite basic and not as luxurious as the rooms in Castle Anthrax but I’m on my own and, to my delight, there’s a shower in my private bathroom. The place is quite cold though and I’m going to go to bed in a moment in an effort to keep warm.

The alarm was set this morning for 04:30 and it will probably surprise you (because it surprised me!) that by that time I was already up and about making my sandwiches.

Last night I’d gone to bed quite early and was asleep quite quickly. However I awoke shortly later in some kind of panic thinking that I was on my way to Paris and I’d forgotten my computer. And as a result I couldn’t go back to sleep.

But sleep I must have done because there was some stuff on the dictaphone, as I discovered later. I was in my old caravan in Virlet. Liz had gone into the house for something and 2 children were sitting inside the house playing while I was making tea. I’d had some water in a solar oven in a window. It was really hot so I was going to put it on top of the telephone to bring it to the boil. I was having a root around in the cupboards underneath and came across a few packs of pasta, biscuits etc. Although they looked in good condition I wasn’t sure how long they had been there. I decided that I’d ask Liz when she came down about whether she thought that they could still be used. In the meantime she was busy talking to the children and singing with them while she was doing whatever it was. It looked as if she wouldn’t be here for quite some time yet and everything was coming to a head with the cooking

In connection with the previous dream I dreamt that I was running late. I dreamed that I was halfway to Paris before I began to worry about what would happen when I arrived at Montparnasse with all of my stuff etc and find that I’ve missed my train or something like that.

Having collected everything and sorted myself out I was downstairs stroking a wandering tomcat, busy patrolling his territory, at 05:10.

The taxi turned up a few minutes later and a rather chatty driver took me to the station. The coffee machine wasn’t switched on but my train was in so I staggered down the platform to find my seat aboard.

It didn’t take me long to update this computer and then I was able to settle down comfortably amongst the hordes of early-morning commuters on board, and when I moved seat to let someone sit down next to me I noticed that my water bottle had leaked all down my side.

We were on time arriving at Montparnasse and my neighbour was waiting to meet me, which was really nice. An SNCF assistant turned up with a wheelchair too and I was pushed along to the taxi rank where I was ushered into a VW Caddy taxi, which was actually quite comfortable.

The driver took us on a mystery tour, chatting and waving his arms about as he drove – probably the funniest drive that I’ve ever had – and then we had to negotiate the hospital.

It’s not like modern hospital at all. They are modern skyscrapers built on a small footprint with many floors. This is a very large, sprawling site with dozens of individual buildings. The earliest date from the 17th Century and are nearest the road. The further back you go, the more modern the buildings are until you reach the newest ones at the back.

The whole site is extremely confusing, and there’s an internal bus service to ferry people around and a fleet of electric vehicles equipped to carry wheelchairs and their passengers to their various examinations.

It didn’t take long to install me and after my neighbour left for whatever it was that she was in Paris to do, I had a relentless stream of visitors asking me a whole pile of questions and giving me all kinds of tests.

One of the visitors was the dietician and they have sorted out a meal plan for me. The food is typical Institution food that reminds me of what we used to eat at school back in the 1960s and when we used to say “Grace” before we ate – “Oh Lord, for what we are about to receive, the pigs have just refused”.

Still, in a hospital, controlled by a dietician, it’s probably a balanced diet and quite nutritious. I’m not convinced about giving me a plate of baked beans when I’m due to have a pile of doctors poking and prodding me.

At one point I was whizzed off in one of these electric vehicles to a laboratory where I was run through one of these Stargate time tunnels, and then had to wait an age to be picked up and taken back here.

A specialist has seen me and examined me, I’ve had an evening meal (of sorts) and that seems to be that. So although it’s early, I’m off to bed. I’ve crashed out on several occasions today which is no surprise with a bad night and a ridiculously early start. It won’t be long before I’m asleep and then I’ll see what tomorrow brings. At least they seem to be interested in me here, which is always a good sign.

Friday 15th September 2023 – AS BARRY HAY …

… once famously said, "there’s just one thing – IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK HOME".

And you’ve no idea the size of the sigh of relief that escaped from my lips when I collapsed into my chair here in my office.

Hardly surprising since I’ve been on the road since 05:20 this morning. That was when my alarm went off and I was already packed and dressed. It didn’t take too long to load up the car and then hit the road.

Alison dropped me off at the Kortenberg railway station and it took me a while to work out how to reach the platform. It’s not like a conventional station and things take some hunting down.

nevertheless I was soon on the platform and in time for the 06:28 to Brussels. And it was just as well that I chose that train because these are low-line commuter units where the floor is level with the platform, not like the urban express double-deckers where there’s a climb up into the carriage that I can no longer accomplish.

The rain pulled in bang on time so I had about 75 minutes to wait.

However, what I’d learnt so far today was that the 65 minutes to traverse Paris isn’t going to be enough. I need to think of another plan.

At the booking office they wouldn’t let me change my ticket, but up on the platform, speaking to the train manager I had better luck and she let me hop aboard one of the casual seats at the back of the bar, which I thought was very nice of her.

And it was just as well too because with the renovations taking place at the Gare du Nord they have moved the taxi rank from just outside the door and now it’s a real marathon trek to the rank. I really was finished long before I reached it.

As luck would have it, the taxi marshal waved me to the front of the queue and I had a really nice and chatty lady driver who drove me to Montparnasse.

There was 33 minutes to wait for the departure of my train so it was just as well that I’d caught the earlier train. I was able to grab a cup of coffee which was also just as well – that’s all that I had to eat or drink on the journey because I’d forgotten my bottle of ginger beer in Alison’s fridge.

The train was packed and we were crammed in like sardines. I managed a brief five minutes of … errr … relaxing, but that was all.

It was on time pulling into the station and I was lucky in that I only had to wait two minutes for the bus to the town centre. And from there I had a horrible, miserable walk to the bus stop at the port for my bus up here.

There’s no kerb there and the buses don’t kneel down very much so climbing in was a real effort. And then climbing up the stairs to here, I just couldn’t do it. In the end I had to take off my backpack and drag it on the floor behind me. I am not ever going to do this journey again.

Back here when I finally arrived I made myself an ice-cold drink and came in here where I crashed out on the chair and that was really that.

Tea tonight was sausage chips and beans (I’ll end up looking like a sausage after this week) and then we had football on the internet – Colwyn Bay v Aberystwyth.

The match was a real bottom-of-the-table shocker that Colwyn Bay won 3-1, and I have to be honest and say that they won’t ever have a victory as easy as that again. After only 40 minutes the commentator said “Mae Aberystwyth yn siomedig” – Aberystwyth are disappointing – and that was aun understatement.

One bright spark for Aberystwyth was that at half-time they brought on a left-back called Akeem Hinds. I hadn’t seen him before. He certainly livened up the team with some good interceptions and some beautiful crosses into the penalty area.

What with Colwyn Bay’s Nigerian forward Udoyen Akpan who has come to the club from Cyprus, here are two players on whom I shall be keeping a very close eye.

Mind you, I said the same about Okera Simmonds who played for Y Fflint last season, and he disappeared without trace. I must be the Kiss of Death.

Surprisingly, despite the short night there were tons of stuff on the dictaphone. I don’t know what was happening here but I was pulling nails and plastic skewers out of my foot. I took one out and it didn’t ‘arf hurt. I just wondered whether that was symbolic of the pains that I’m having in my feet or something at the moment.

The next thing was that the alarm went off so I trued to turn off the dictaphone and tried to turn off a couple of other things. I suddenly realised that it was the phone. I fell out of bed and crawled across the floor to turn off the phone. For some reason my brother wouldn’t leave the bed so the girl with me was wondering what on earth was the matter with him. Suddenly I looked at my watch and saw that it was 01:27. I’d awoken and actually dreamed of the alarm going off.

I was with my mother and brother. We pulled into Paris. We left the train and walked outside the station ready to walk across Paris to the next railway station. There were kids on bikes and scooters having fun in one of the squares. My mother said something like “we need to be careful around here because of all these kids” but they looked fairly harmless to me. For some eason we became separated. My mother and brother went off down one street and I went off down the other. I was sure that I was correct. This road took me to the top of a hill where I could see right over Paris. It looked miles away but the way my mother was going was even further away. I shouted for my mother but couldn’t hear anything so I carried on walking by myself in a field. I shouted again and this time she answered. The fence was quite high and I couldn’t climb it so I had to walk back to where the fence was low and then climb up a bank to go over the top. As I climbed up the bank the top kept falling down and I kept sliding down to the bottom again. This happened several times. In the end there was a vehicle, some kind of army lorry buried in the bank. Suddenly it gave a lurch and rolled over, throwing me onto the floor near where my mother and brother were . They said “quickly, grab that guy …” and mentioned someone’s name “… and he’ll take us”. But I couldn’t see who it was that she meant because I couldn’t see anyone around

I was with my friends from the weekend. We’d just left the train and gone walking. We came across a big bush that was on fire. We tried to stop the fire by stamping it but it burnt me. The fire gradually burnt itself out. All the climbing ivy over this object died so we scraped away some of the ivy and that was a job and a half of its own. We found a woman sitting there. Apparently she was with some kind of Social Services and had come to check up on us to make sure that we were all OK and not up to mischief. Of course we caught her like this.

When we finally did leave the house we ended up at the end of the drive and across the road into the chemist’s, nearly being knocked down by a big old Humber that stopped to let us through. I handed a form to the chemist and said “four dailies”. He said “this isn’t the correct form. Where’s the rest of it? It should be twice this size”. He showed me a full example of a form. The last thing I wanted was an argument so I took the form back and said “just give us four dailies”. She rattled off four dailies. One of my friends went to pay but it was £30 and something. That horrified him but I thought that this job of getting to the station to catch his train was just so complicated that we weren’t ever going to manage this at all at this rate. All we want is four tickets and it was turning into a right pantomime

I was in a butcher’s buying food for tea for about a dozen meals that I needed. He sat down with some huge piles of meat and began to give me things like brains of DH Lawrence etc. I wondered what on earth was going on because I was a vegan and he was giving me all these cuts of meat to eat for my tea

Anyway, I’m off to bed. Shopping tomorrow and I don’t feel at all like it. As I said, I’m not going to be doing this journey again. I just can’t.

Friday 8th September 2023 – THAT WAS A …

… horrible journey and I don’t ever want to do it again.

As usual, when I’m going away, I had a bad night’s sleep and spend much of the hours of darkness tossing and turning.

Nevertheless I was up and about (in principle) before the alarm went off

First thing that I did was to grab a shower and then I did a few last-minute things before going out for the bus.

The bus was there but the driver wasn’t so I had to wait a few minutes before he turned up. And then we set off with a bunch of kids who were staying at the youth hostel in the town and who had been for a morning run.

The bus threw me out at the port and I had a 200-metre walk to the bus stop around the corner where the next bus would pick me up. And it was this 200 metres so early in the journey that convinced me that my travelling days are over.

There was a 20-minute wait for the bus during which time firstly my cleaner went past and rearranged my backpack on my shoulders, and then one of the girls from the radio came past and said hello.

The bus didn’t drop me off at the station but across the road so it was a long walk. And with my carriage being right down at the far end it was something of a scramble to be seated before the train pulled out

Updating all of those files took an age, not helped by the fact that I had a little … errr …relax at some point, and we were late pulling into Montparnasse too.

What with one thing and another I’d decided long-since that I was going to throw caution to the wind and have a taxi across Paris, but the walk to the taxi rank was about as far as the walk to the underground, which is regrettable

The ride with a friendly taxi driver wasn’t as expensive as I thought, but my leg had collapsed again getting into his car so I wasn’t enjoying it one bit

To make matters worse I staggered into the Disabled Persons’ room and asked for assistance to board my train to Brussels but they told me to clear off because I hadn’t booked 24 hours in advance.

So four of the assistants there sat and watch me make my slow weary way all the way down the platform to my carriage right at the far end of the train.

There was plenty of stuff on the dictaphone from the night. We were back at school – some kind of sports day with competitions etc. We were with our own House and had to stay with our own House all day. There were all kinds of things going on in the way of competition etc. The final one was a football match so we all had to go to our various common rooms afterwards to prepare. It was then that I realised that in all my things I didn’t have any shoes with me do it looked as if I would be playing in my socks. I didn’t really fancy playing too much because of that so when they began to talk about goalkeepers someone asked a girl “have you ever tried to be rather rough with a goalkeeper when you have the ball in the penalty area. I replied “you can always try it with me and see what happens” but no-one seemed to pick up on it so I didn’t bother all that much. I went up to the common room to prepare. One of the girls was closing the door so I had to insist and make some kind of rude comment before she’d open it again. There was a girl there from about 2 years younger than us whom I knew. Her boyfriend was in our year. The two of them were together and there was another girl in a green check dress – our colours were blue so I don’t know where she was from and what she was doing in there.

Back into this dream again, I eventually made it into the room when they let me in and sorted out into houses except these two girls and I don’t know what was happening with one of them. The other one was with her boyfriend, and we were joking about the football with my ingrowing toenail on my right foot and wasn’t going to be very happy for it especially as I didn’t have my shoes etc with me.

Back once more into the same dream and we were all back in our groups again, going back up Welsh Row towards the Grammar School dressed in our school uniform. Something happened and one of the boys pointed to another one in our class and called him names because he was more interested in eating a bar of chocolate than playing football. There were a few other things like that too.

This was another dream that took place in connection with a school. This time I was in a bath and the water was coming out with such a force that I was sure that it would break the porcelain fittings etc so I was prepared to be dumped into the middle of the bathroom. Somehow the contraption kept on running which surprised me greatly.

still on the theme of children, there was something going on about therapy for children who had been troubled. It was like a drawing and colouring class. What they had for adults was like a painting-by-numbers where you could go along and paint yourself a picture and hope to get rid of stress and tension by doing that.

This final part looks as if it might be something to do with the previous one. There was something about a clinic, people who have financial health problems. Part of the therapy there for children is drawing. For adults they had a few of these huge “painting by numbers” outfits with pictures even taller than the people themselves. The adults could spend as many hours as they wished simply painting the image.

At Brussels I didn’t have long to wait but climbing into the train was next-to impossible on these double-deckers with their steep stairs. Next time I go to Leuven I’ll have to wait around for one of the local stopping trains. These are all on the same level, and a level that is level with the platform so there’s no trying to climb in.

Leuven was roasting hot when I arrived and the walk along the platform to the lift finished me off.

And for some reason my phone wasn’t receiving messages so Alison and Jackie didn’t know that I’d arrived.

Eventually we met up and roared off to meet Hans at the Airport.

Alison knew a lovely Indian restaurant in Sterrebeek so we went there and had a delicious meal. Then we cam back here and sat outside in the heat until God Knows what time chatting.

My sofa is comfortable so I’m going to get in it and sleep for a week. I don’t ever want to do that journey again. Not on any terms.

Wednesday 30th August 2023 – AS SEEMS TO BE …

… usual these days when I have to go somewhere important, I was actually awake and up and about (in principle, at least) when the alarm went off at 07:00

That was despite having gone on several travels during the night. There was something about trying to download the course book for my next lot of Welsh lessons and then trying to find and download a mannequin and various poses for when we’ll be taking off a Welsh lesson but I can’t remember too much at all about this and I fell back to sleep afterwards.

And then I was with Rosemary. We’d been staying for a weekend with a couple whom we’d met somewhere who had 2 children, a young girl and a young boy. They were in the middle of rebuilding a house so I went up on the scaffolding to have a good look around. He didn’t really understand what he was supposed to be doing so I gave him a few tips from my experience and we actually did some work together. I told him of a few things that he needed to buy, one or two tips about sanding down the wood and filling gaps etc. He was very impressed. Sooner or later it became time to go so we had to climb down and say goodbye. For some reason this was a really heart-breaking moment. I remember saying to this woman and guy that I wanted to stay. Rosemary said that it’s not quite possible and we’d have to go which was certainly true but for some reason I was truly heartbroken about having to leave. That was what was most disturbing – not so much the dream about having to leave but how I was actually feeling about leaving

Finally I had to take the young girl to the station because she was going to Boarding School. When she’d been before, she’d been taken as far as the barrier and sent through on her own to look for her own school party. She was saying that that was really difficult so she asked me if I’d come through the barrier with her down onto the platform and help her find her group of people. I didn’t see any reason why not so I said that I would. She was talking about being sent away to school, basically to give her mother some free time which I knew but I had somehow to explain to the girl that it was so that she would learn a whole variety of different things that she’d never learn at home, how it would be a big experience for her and how much of a better person she’d be because of it, although I wasn’t convinced myself. On the way to the station we walked down the street past the University Library. She made some comment about how a pile of books had been arranged in a Y shape but we were talking about the library saying how untidy it was. I said that I was surprised that the librarians would let a University Library fall into this state. I was really enjoying my conversation with this little girl. again, it was another thing that I was going to be really sad when it was all over and she’d gone.

First thing was to dive into the shower and clean myself up ready to be poked and probed by a doctor, and then, having grabbed by backpack and crutches, Caliburn and I headed off to the railway station.

Luckily there was a parking space available outside the station so we managed to tuck ourselves in without having to walk miles.

The train was already in the station and, to my surprise, the coffee machine which has been out of order since Covid struck is now working so I could fuel up with a coffee in peace and comfort. I can’t carry a mug while I’m walking as I don’t have my hands free, so I had to drink it leaning up against the wall.

For a change, I was lucky with the train. The earlier train that had set out before this one had encountered a fallen tree across the line but the issue had been resolved by the time that we set out and we arrived in Paris on time.

Being limited to what I could bring with me, I didn’t have the computer but I did have a book.

Ages ago I’d bought a copy of Dashiell Hammett’s famous novel THE MALTESE FALCON but I’d never had the opportunity to read it so I brought it along.

Much as I like THE FILM which is one of my favourites and I can watch time after time, the book goes into the story in much more detail and answers several questions that were left unanswered in the film. Some of the action is quite different too and makes much more sense.

We pulled into the station on time for a change but I had to wait a while for my lift to arrive and then they drove me to the hospital, flashing blue lights through red traffic lights, the whole works.

At the hospital I had to wait around for some time but eventually I was dragged into a room where they gave me the works. It was another one of these electrical shock things that really hurts and I really hate, and it was much more thorough than the ones that I’d had before. It took much longer too.

The doctor spent some time examining the results and then we had a chat. He tells me that there are two reasons why I might be suffering. One is that my underlying illness might be eating its way into my nervous system, or else I might have a serious infection.

However, everything that everyone has seen in all of the examinations that I’ve had, the lumbar puncture included, don’t show any of the classic symptoms that they would expect to see in either of the two situations.

The net result of this is that at the moment they are puzzled. However "we can’t leave things alone and leave you like this".

What they are proposing is that I "would probably benefit from a stay here for a few days while we undergo some more exhaustive tests".

They’ve taken all of the details about the hospital in Leuven too in order to contact them about my case and compare notes.

And so we’ll have to see how the future unfolds, but at least I haven’t been abandoned to face my destiny on my own, and that’s a good thing to know.

There’s a café outside the building where I was being examined so I went and had a coffee before I was picked up again and taken back to the station. Here, to my dismay I found that my train would be departing from Vaugirard, so I had a long walk down the platform, during which I came within an ace of falling over.

There was a very long wait for the train back home and we didn’t pull into the station until 23:10. It was 23:30 when I finally sat down in my little apartment, thoroughly exhausted and wasted. It had been a very long day and, to my complete surprise, I hadn’t crashed out at all.

However I was far too tired to do anything else so I cleared off straight to bed. It’s actually 5 years to the day that I first encountered The Vanilla Queen and 4 years to the night that I’d had the first of a short series of the strangest, most bizarre nights that I’ve ever had

All of these were events that totally changed my perception of various aspects of humanity.

The artist Samuel Gurney Cresswell who had accompanied James Clark Ross on his Arctic voyage of 1848-49 and said of Captain Robert McClure, who had almost come to grief in the ice, that a voyage to the High Arctic “ought to make anyone a wiser and better man”. All that I can say is that it didn’t work for me.

But ask me if I want to change any of it.

That’s something on which I can dwell while I’m deep in the arms of Morpheus.

Friday 12th May 2023 – AS BARRY HAY …

… once famously said – “What else can I say except IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO BE BACK HOME

As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … out of all of the places where I have ever lived, the only place where I’ve ever experienced homesickness when I’ve been away is this beautiful building here with the spectacular scenery and wonderful neighbours.

Mind you, it was a struggle to get back here. having crowed so lustily about the outward trip, the return was nothing like the same.

It always seems to be at railway stations where it all seems to go wrong, as witness my rather dramatic and spectacular fall on a railway station in Montreal in October.

And so it was today. To pass through the automatic barriers at the Metro at the Gare du Nord in Paris you have to move smartly. I wasn’t smart enough and ended up being trapped as the barriers closed between me and my backpack. It took the combined efforts of three passers-by to free me from my trap.

And the struggle was clearly far too much for me because I had another bad fall straight away afterwards, and a couple of people had to pick me up because I couldn’t pick myself up.

One of the guys was going my way so he took my backpack and helped me onto the Metro as far as Montparnasse. Ahh well.

As usual, when I have a reason to leave the bed, I have a fitful restless night. And so it was last night. But when the alarm went off at 06:25 I was up quite quickly.

Once I’d packed, I was down to the railway station and as usual with the SNCB it was an antediluvian AM80 that came in this morning and I have all kinds of difficulties climbing into one of those. And climbing out at Gare du Midi in Brussels too.

The TGV was already in but they wouldn’t let us board for ages. And we had a “security issue” that delayed the loading even more.

The train did however set off on time and I spent the journey doing some research for my High Arctic photos of 2019. And you have to admire the naming conventions of James Rae as he roamed around the High Arctic explaining his reasons for the names that he gave to the geographical features that he encountered, such as, for example, Bence Jones Island in the Rae Strait “after the distinguished medical man and analytical chemist of that name, to whose kindness I and my party were much indebted for having proposed the use of, and prepared, some extract of tea for the expedition.’”.

One of the Inuit ladies I encountered on Devon Island gave me some of her native Labrador Tea to try. I shall probably have to name my new apartment after her because the tea was “much enjoyed”. She was so pleased that I enjoyed it that she performed a drum dance for STRAWBERRY MOOSE and I’m sure that you think that I’m making this up.

At the Gare du Nord I had my “issues” but with an aching leg and wounded pride I made it down the Rue du Départ to Montparnasse and my train without encountering anyone I know. And with catching a later train out of Brussels this morning I didn’t have long to wait.

The train was acually half-empty but for some reason they had me sharing a seat with someone. But once I was sure that evryone who was on was on, I went across the gangway and had a seat all to myself.

At Granville we pulled into one of the older platforms that the Caen-Rennes diesels use and with our train being higher you’ve no idea the struggle that I had to exit the train.

The leg is definitely weakened though because hauling myself into Caliburn was a struggle and I was back to how I was in January without the force to press the brake pedal properly. As I’ve said before, each time that I have a fall, it takes longer and longer to recover.

back here I made a nice strong coffee and came in here to collapse in a chair, from where I didn’t move for hours.

Earlier on, I mentioned my restless night. Tons of stuff on the dictaphone to prove it too. I’d bought a property last night. I’d paid a lot of money for it but I could afford it. It was in rural Normandy somewhere. We were discussing plans to move into it etc but I wanted to have a closer look at what was involved. I managed to dig up an old sale brochure for it from years ago where there was a house, an annexe and a Plaxton Embassy-bodied coach that had been converted into a race car transporter with some kind of car that had been modified for racing. There was a big garage and workshop area. I thought that this was absolutely fine if I could find someone else to come to share it with me. We’d be away with all of this if it turns out to be the same kind of place.

Someone wanted a letter posting but for various reasons they weren’t able to do it. They asked me if I would go. After much persuasion I went on the pushbike. The first thing that I noticed was that there were no brakes on it. I thought that I’d be really running a risk going all the way to the post box particularly as I’d have to cycle through Crewe town centre. But cycle I did, nearly knocking people over, taking wide turns and nearly ending up on the wrong side of the traffic island. I eventually reached the cinema which was absolutely packed because there was an extremely controversial film being shown. There were 2 pillar poxes outside, one of which had a stamp machine attached. I didn’t know which pillar box to put the letter because the time of the collections was exactly the same. It looked as if they were both receiving the correct attention. In the end I simply put it in the newer one of the two.

And then I was in a fast-food restaurant last night in the USA. I tool a banana. There was a guy there mopping the floor. He took three bananas and put them on the scales with mine. I told him to clear off and it led to a strange argument where he insisted that I was paying for his bananas. The clerk behind the counter also thought that I was. We had something of an argument for about 5 minutes. In the end I took my banana off the scales, pout $0:60 down on the countertop and began to walk away. That ended up into another discussion that turned out to be much more friendly and I’d no idea why. We ended up talking about shift rotas etc. The cashier showed me how her shift rota worked and how she had to change a few things round. I bet that you’re really enjoying these exciting moments.

We were working on something for the radio. We needed a troupe of dancing children. We recruited a couple of kids whom we knew but we were short on numbers. I went past a sports field and there was a group of kids there. There were two who were controlling the crowd and dancing in time to some music that was going on in the background, a boy and a girl. They looked quite good so I thought that I’d go over to talk to them. I went over and said “hello”. They replied “we aren’t allowed to talk to strange men” … “obviously your reputation is spreading wider than you realise” – ed … “and there’s no teacher here at the moment”. I said “no problem. The headmaster knows me from something else so I’ll give you a note, you can give it to him and he’ll decide what to do”. The idea was to write a little note to the headmaster say what was happening and take the matter from there. Going through my pockets, first of all I couldn’t find a pen. I asked if anyone had a pen. One of the people standing around, I could see that he had some pens in this top pocket but he didn’t volunteer. Eventually I borrowed one from someone but then I couldn’t find any paper on which to write. I thought “here I am snatching defeat from the jaws of victory yet again!”.

Finally I wanted a new ladder so I was going to go to the DiY shop. Half a dozen people said that they wanted things so we all piled into my van and went. I bought my ladder and a couple of things. Someone else bought a roof ladder etc. Then I had to go to pay for it. Then we’d all go to sit in someone’s car. There were quite a few people crowded around in cars and it was really cramped. I told the driver to pull down the road and stop. I had to pay with a credit card. he said “ohh not another credit card”. I replied that it’s far better walking around the streets with a credit card than a wad of cash. I was about to give him a few other good reasons but the guy in the back began to be annoyed because we were driving through an area full of local police. For some reason he didn’t want to involve them. The guy in this car wasn’t going to stop. It looked as if he was going to take me all the way home to drop off this ladder and for me to pay him. Then of course I had to return to pick up everyone else and pick up Caliburn. I thought “for just a simple ladder, this is something else that’s becoming extremely complicated” and that wouldn’t be a first time, would it?

Tea was sausage chips and beans – some of the vegan sausages that I’d bought in Jersey and beans with vegan cheese now that I’ve found a reliable and hopefully constant source.

But I dunno about going to bed because as usual after all of this effort I can’t relax. Back in the old days when I was stressed out after chauffeuring around Brussels I’d go for a long run around the area where I lived. These days though I couldn’t even run for my life.

Wednesday 10th May 2023 – THIS WORLD IS …

… far too small for my liking.

There I was, struggling through the railway station at Paris Montparnasse making my way towards the exit when who should I fall in with but a friend of mine, Xavier, who works for Eurosport and who just happened to be in the station.

He comes to Granville occasionally and submits to the radio reports of his visits to various restaurants in the area.

Anyway, we’ve made an arrangement to meet up for a coffee and a chat next time he comes to the seaside.

As you can gather from the above, I’ve been on the move today and I’m currently sitting in a little room in the “Ibis Budget” at the back of Leuven station waiting for things to happen tomorrow.

Quite a lot has happened today already, including me being wide-wake at 06:15 this morning and up and out of bed at 06:30, a good half-hour before the alarm went off.

One thing that didn’t happen was yesterday, when I forgot to switch off the immersion heater.

So after having got everything ready Caliburn and I headed for the railway station. The car-park there was full so I had to park on the car park of the office down the hill and hope that they don’t become too upset.

At 08:20 I walked onto the station to find that the train was just on the point of pulling in. That meant that I had somewhere warm and comfortable to sit until departure at 09:00.

The train was crowded too and I had a nice, friendly companion but I didn’t speak too much to her because I … errr … relaxed somewhat.

Bang on time we arrived in Paris and after my chat with Xavier I went outside and begun the long and weary walk to the Metro. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, Gare Montparnasse was moved to a new location but they didn’t move the metro so it’s a long walk down the street, especially in the rain.

Down all the steps is somewhat difficult, but another difficulty that I’ve encountered is that with the seats being deliberately designed to be uncomfortable, I can’t haul myself out of them. It was a real struggle.

Luckily the escalator at Gare du Nord was working so I didn’t have that awful, desperate climb. And one big advantage of being on crutches is that I can have a comfortable seat in the special “disabled person’s waiting room”. I have to have some advantage out of all of this.

Everyone on the SNCF has been very helpful, but that’s more than you can say about the people on the TGV who don’t seem to appreciate just how difficult the smallest amount of disability might be.

And the TGVs aren’t designed for people on crutches, so my deepest regrets to the person sitting in the seat in front of me when my water bottle fell on her head.

It took a while to find my crutches at Brussels, which for some reason had gone out of my reach. Some young lady came to my rescue.

The lifts at Gare du Midi are quite useful once I found out where they were, and I only had to wait 10 minutes for my train to Leuven. It was another push-me-pull-you going to Liège and I have a great deal of difficulty climbing into these double-decker carriages.

Getting out at Leuven wasn’t easy either, and the steps down to the underground passage took some negotiating. I stopped at the supermarket for supplies on the way to the hotel and here I am.

On the dictaphone was some stuff from the night so I transcribed that. I was on a sailing yacht last night. We were coming in to moor at some kind of marina. I needed to do some work on the boat but I couldn’t get it to keep still. I had a rope but it wasn’t long enough to tie it to the jetty. Someone in a neighbouring boat gave me some kind of lecture about being unprepared etc. He threw me a rope so I went to tie my boat to it but it wasn’t long enough. I said “no problem. I have some here”. That involved shinning up the mast, tying together the two bits of rope, hooking them over a mooring column or whatever you call it. I had a load of other stuff in my hands. The other person in the boat asked me how I was doing. I replied “this is just crazy. I need three hands here. I can’t do anything”. I thought that if I drop something that will leave me with one hand free. Instead, I dropped everything including the keys. They bounced down onto the jetty and as luck would have it, they didn’t roll over the edge into the water otherwise I’d have had it. I thought to myself “I won’t ever do that again and be so lucky”. Everything that I was trying to do to maul this boat was going completely wrong and taking three times as long as it ought to have done.

And later I was at work, and on my way back to the office on a bus. It was a Sunday lunchtime. Someone was giving some kind of running commentary on what was happening in the street. He talked about a queue outside a fish and chip shop that Sunday lunchtime. As the bus pulled in to the stop next to where we were working I noticed that at the fish and chip shop there, there was no-one there at all. I fancied some chips and beans at that moment so I went back to my desk and wrote a message to the 3 people on my team and to 1 or 2 others whom I knew to see what their thoughts were about having some now or having some at 17:00 for the evening meal. But writing this letter, addressing it and sending it turned out to be much more complicated and time-consuming than it actually was. It should have been something simple and straightforward but I seemed to be making a mountain out of it.

The strain of everything caused me to have yet another … errr … relax and when I returned to the Land of the Living I found that Liz had been trying to speak to me, so we had a little chat.

There is no microwave here – I must have imagined it – but my cold curry was quite delicious all the same and it was a really good plan to bring it. But having eaten that now, I’m off to bed, early though it might be.

And so, how was the journey?

Tiring. Really tiring. And I have a pain in my right leg. But it wasn’t difficult – or, at least, as difficult as I was expecting it to be. If the return trip is like this, I won’t be too worried about doing it again but it would be nice if I could do it better.

Wednesday 28th September 2022 – HERE WE ALL ARE …

hotel premiere classe parc des expositions roissy France Eric Hall photo September 2022… not sitting in a rainbow but sitting in a room in a Première Classe Hotel at the Parc des Expositions in the suburbs of north-east Paris.

And when I say “we”, I do mean “we” because I am not alone. And who I’m with and what I’m doing here, well, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow evening to find out.

That is, if things go according to plan. But they may well not because I have a start tomorrow morning at 04:45 and I’ll still be on the road at 04:00 the following morning too so trying to get some sense out of me at that time of morning is not going to be easy.

We shall have to see

So this morning I fell out of bed almost as soon as the alarm went off and compared to how things have been just recently, it was rather a rapid rising too.

After the medication I had several things to do that were quite urgent, namely to book myself a train and a bus. That was much more complicated than it ought to be too and in a few days time we really will be breaking new ground if it all comes off

All of this is necessary because there have been quite a few changes just recently things aren’t as they were and all of the changes are for the worse. It seems that, as usual, people are determined to go around sticking the batons dans les roues as they say around here and disrupting everyone’s progress.

But more of this anon.

Having done that and printed out my tickets for later next week, I finished off backing up the computer and then began the tidying and cleaning up.

A shower and a haircut were next and then I bleached everything as usual, washed the lino in the kitchen, finished off the packing and staggered off out.

A bus was there at the bus stop but I didn’t take it for the simple reason that it doesn’t go anywhere where I want to go, and the connections are all totally up the spout. It’s unbelievable what they have done with this stupid bus service.

So having exchanged a few pleasantries with a couple of my neighbours who were chatting outside, I headed off on foot for the town.

belle france la grande ancre port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022As usual, I stopped at the viewpoint overlooking the port to see what was happening there and to check the camera.

Down there moored at the fish processing plant this morning is La Grande Ancre. We’ve been seeing quite a lot of her just recently going out and back to the Ile de Chausey. She’s usually loaded up with fishing gear but she doesn’t seem to have much on board today.

A little further back tucked around the corner is Les Bouchots de Chausey and a couple of even smaller boats.

Plenty of people on the quayside working because there seems to be a considerable amount of shellfish deposited on there this morning

Meanwhile, over at the ferry terminal is Belle France, one of the ferries that go over to the Ile de Chausey. I wonder if her presence there has anything to do with the coach that’s parked at the terminal building.

briscard trawler chantier naval port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022And yet even more activity over at the chantier naval this morning

Yesterday we saw that all of the boats that had been in there just recently, apart from Briscard, had gone back into the water and she was then the only one still there.

This morning though, she seems to have acquired another companion. There’s another trawler that has come in to join her. By the looks of things from here, she could possibly be Charlevy but I’m really not sure. She was in there for a while a month or so back so I wouldn’t have expected her to be back at the moment.

yacht sailing school baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Meanwhile, in other news, there’s plenty going on out in the bay in front of the port.

It looks very much as if a couple of the sailing schools are going out and about early this morning. There are a couple of kayaks too.

They aren’t going to have a very good day for it though because it’s threatening rain right now.

The walk down into town was agonising as I was expecting but at least I was in time for the bus, along with a whole crowd of schoolkids. But I could at least grab hold of a seat and have a rest.

84567 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022The bus dropped me off at the station in plenty of time so there was quite a wait for the train.

The coffee machine was out of order yet again (or, more likely, “still”) so there was nothing to do except sit outside and watch them shunting a train around across the station.

At least the rain was holding off for now so it wasn’t too depressing.

One added issue was that my electronic ticket wasn’t working but the ticket inspector was also waiting for the train so we had a chat about it. She inspected my receipt and said that it would be sufficient.

84557 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022The train pulled up a few minutes late and we swarmed aboard. There was quite a crowd gathered on the platform by now.

At first I had a pair of seats to myself but at Vire I had someone come to join me. I spent the journey backing up the computer from the data stick as far as I could, but the rattling and shaking of the train on a badly-laid line put a stop to it.

At Paris we all swarmed out again and I hit the streets in something of a wave of agony on my way to the metro station.

Going down the steps to the platform was bad but that was nothing to what happened at the Gare du Nord. The escalator was out of order and the climb upstairs on the narrow walkway was agony and I was blocking the path for just about everyone.

Did I mention that I have much more luggage with me than usual?

At the Gare du Nord when I eventually arrived there I wandered off for the train that would take me to the airport. That’s by far the easiest way to find the hotel as all of the directions seem to start off there and, furthermore, there’s even a service bus – the 349 – that passes within 400 metres from where I need to be.

When I arrived, the coffee machine was out of order as well and that’s even more depressing news but they made me a coffee for which I was very grateful.

Holed up in my little room, I had tea. Last night I’d made some rice, veg and my taco roll and I’d put them in a plastic container. For an ad-hoc, impromptu tea it was really nice, especially washed down with a couple of tangerines.

And now I’m off to bed. I’m not looking forward at all to this early start but needs must when the devil drives.

Saturday 6th August 2022 – AS BARRY HAY ONCE …

… famously said, IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK HOME.

And, shame as it is to admit it, it was good to have Caliburn at the railway station too because the train can be 15 minutes late arriving in Granville, I can go to do a pile of shopping in Lidl, and still be back home before the usual time that I would have been had I walked, and without any of the stress and fatigue.

Just as well too because apart from the fact that it was a scorching afternoon that would have burnt me to a frazzle had I tried to walk, I’d had another bad night. In fact, when the alarm went off at 05:30 I was already up and about tidying the room.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Never mind the 06:33 to Oostende, I was well in advance for the 06:09 to Knokke via the airport

For a change, I was out of the building quite rapidly and soon at the Martelarenplein. That’s been under renovation for years too so it’s really nice to see it almost clear of the evidence. Just a portaloo and a little compound to go.

But by the looks of things, Birnam Wood is now on its way to Dunsinane, and presumably intending to travel there by taxi too because it’s just behind where they are that the taxis line up to take away the passengers.

And you can see the time on the station clock just above the trees.

glad road sign martelarenplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022It goes without saying that I’m quite happy too. Especially as I’m on my way home.

Seriously … “just for once” – edGlad is Flemish for “slippery”. What this sign is referring to is that there’s a spiral cycle ramp just here and when it rains and the water comes cascading down it’s quite treacherous.

It beats me why someone would want to bring a horse up there, but I was going to go for a closer look but there were no little girls around to come with me, presumably something compulsory, judging by the accompanying sign.

sncb 535 am96 multiple unit gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Bang on time the 06:06 pulled in so I clambered aboard that and headed into Brussels via the airport.

It’s one of the class of AM96 multiple units with the rubber bellows end and the driver’s cab that tilts away when two or more trainsets are coupled together. These are quite comfortable, compared to some of the trains that work this line.

Not much luggage space though which is rather sad for a train that goes back and to via the airport. When the train is full we’re all somewhat overwhelmed with suitcases, although it was quite empty today.

ukrainian refugee centre gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022At Brussels I had a few things to do there so I was glad that I was on the earlier train.

First thing to do was to check the Ukrainian Refugee Centre to make sure that it was still operating. It was all closed up when I went by but that’s presumably due to the early hour. It looks as if it’s still operating in normal times.

Second thing was to draw more cash from the one-armed bandit. I don’t use very much cash at all these days, preferring to pay by card for everything but nevertheless it’s still handy to have some floating about.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that as a result of years of bitter experience, I keep €50 tucked away in my phone case and another €50 tucked away in Caliburn just in case I forget my bank cards when I’m on my travels, and I’ve had to rely on them more than once.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4537 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022There was only a short wait after that because much to my surprise, and everyone else’s too they posted the train to Paris half an hour before the next one so we all swarmed up to the platform.

Today’s train consists of two trainsets, each of 8 carriages. Mine is a “PBA” trainset, one of the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam Reseau 38000 tri-volt units. Quite elderly now but still quite capable of cruising for hours effortlessly non-stop at speeds of over 300kph.

Despite their age, it’s still by far the most comfortable and quickest way to travel to Paris. Many people think that an aeroplane might be quicker but it takes an age to travel from Brussels to the airport at Zaventam and then from Charles de Gaulle to the centre of Paris.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4533 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022The other trainset is also a “PBA” and that’s a surprise. We’re quite used to having hybrid trains consisting of different types of trainsets.

Everyone suged aboard and I could understand why they posted the train earlier too. There were 16 carriages on this train, all of which except the two buffet cars have 108 seats, and there wasn’t an empty seat on the whole train.

Getting that lot on board would take much longer than 15 minutes.

My seat was squashed in a corner out of the way so I passed the time of the journey choosing more music for my radio shows and keeping myself to myself.

Paris was heaving too. I was lucky enough to grab a seat on the Metro and we whizzed through the drains quite rapidly.

At the exit at the Gare Montparnasse Metro station a couple of people offered to carry my suitcase up the stairs for me, which was very nice of them. I didn’t take up their offer as I have to do all that I can to maintain my autonomy.

Nevertheless I am glad that I found that easier walk down the street instead of struggling through the labyrinth.

Gare Montparnasse was heaving with people this morning but then the first Saturday in August, that’s hardly a surprise. And I was lucky to find a seat next to an electric socket that actually worked so I could charge up the phone and listen to a live concert of Steve Harley and Nick Pynn which has one of the best versions of “Riding The Waves” that I’ve ever heard.

84558 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo August 2022The train back home was as usual a Gec Alstom Regiolis

Once again we were called early to the train which was once more just as well, and for the same reason as before. 2×6-car units and not a spare seat anywhere.

Lucky me! I had a lovely travelling companion but she didn’t say much and I carried on choosing music, reading a couple of books and … errr … falling asleep as we all went West.

The car park at the station was heaving too and leaving took quite a while. But I’m glad that I took the opportunity to go to Lidl because I could stock up with stuff for the next few days.

You’ve no idea how glad I was to be back at my apartment. I struggled up the stairs not once but twice with my stuff and ended up having quite a long chat with my neighbour from upstairs and we put the world to rights for a while.

Once I’d installed myself inside I made a nice strong coffee and a couple of rounds of toast – the first stuff that I’d eaten today and it was 15:30.

While I was drinking the coffee (two cups) I backed up the big computer in here and even before I’d finished the coffee I’d fallen asleep again. This time it was a good one and I was gone for about an hour and a half.

Tea was what I should have had last night. Alison coming by yesterday was a surprise so we had eaten out and I brought the stuff back with me today. It’s a shame to waste it.

There was the dictaphone to deal with at some point too. I was cooking some food in the oven. There was some stuff in there that I’d bought and there was a pie in there, something like that. I put the pie in what was really the vegetable container in the fridge but that was in the oven. When I went to turn the pie over to do the other side I noticed what i’d done and had to take it out. I went to pull the vegetable tray out but it was made of glass and really hot. I dropped it on the floor. Luckily it didn’t break and didn’t damage my pie. I had to look around for a pyrex bowl in which to put my pie so it would heat up properly in the oven while everything else in there was cooking

Later I was in charge of a gaol last night in Alabama or Georgia somewhere in the USA. There was turmoil because the State declared itself independent from the USA and everything changed. The townspeople wanted to take control of the gaol because there was an Afro-Caribbean prisoner in there who they wanted to summarily execute. I’d arranged for my men to be in the prison so that there would be no violent takeover. Anyway the people came in. I was standing there with a loaded shotgun. They considered that to be provocation. One man sidled up towards me supposedly out of my vision to try to overpower me but I stepped back and drove the butt of the shotgun into his stomach. I’d sharpened the butt of the shotgun into a point so it was like a spear. It pierced his skin and that took him by surprise. We ended up in a back room where I stabbed him several more times with this shotgun. He ended up unconscious on the floor. I walked back into the room with the shotgun in one hand and an automatic pistol in the other and asked “what happens now?”. That took them completely by surprise that I’d managed to overpower this guy so easily.

Finally Zero’s dad had given me a small red FIAT car that was in really good condition. I’d brought it in through my front door and into the house to give to Nerina, the idea of the house being that he couldn’t claim it back just in case there was a problem because I wasn’t sure about how reliable this gift was going to be. Then I had to go and do some work on the computer so I went upstairs to my office . I’d arranged all the furniture at one time that meant that I couldn’t see the computer screen from where my desk was so I had to rearrange it all back again. While the computer was warming up there was a programme on the internet about some kind of race through these fields by the people of this village. They had become so bogged down in the mud etc that they’d had to bring dogs in to tow them out. One of the competitors had to stay behind because they had a pair of chains to use to attach these dogs to all the teams. Instead of being clear favourites they were way down the field by the end. The judges had to mark their lateness as being compulsory rather than voluntary and that was controversial. The judges had to stay there really late to mark this particular leg so they weren’t happy either. It was all rather chaotic

It’s been an age since Zero has come for a wander with me during the night but every now and again her father pops up uninvited. He’s obviously “The Banquo at my banquet, a cuckoo in my nest”. Why can’t he send Zero instead?

So now I’m off to bed. I’m exhausted and a good sleep will really do me good, I reckon. I’ve been invited out tomorrow but I don’t know if I shall go. I’m not feeling up to it right now so we’ll have to see if I’m feeling any better in the morning.

Wednesday 3rd August 2022 – I’VE DONE SOMETHING …

… today that I vowed that I would never do. But needs must when the devil drives and it’s a sign of how far down the slippery slope I’ve slid just recently.

In fact what I’ve done, while we’re on the subject of driving … “well, one of us is” – ed … is that I drove to the railway station this morning in Caliburn.

It totally beats me why they can lay on a bus service that serves our building, and then send the bus off to places that don’t include the town centre or the railway station or anywhere else that anyone would realistically want to visit

Having spent far too much time hanging around in the past, I set the alarm for 07:00 today and that gave me enough time to prepare myself and to have a whizz around the apartment to clean it a little and take out the rubbish.

84569 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo August 2022There were a few parking spaces free just outside the station which was my good luck. I didn’t have too far to walk

As a result I was on the station in plenty of time for the train, which pulled into the station through the fog. The weather was clammy, foggy and not very encouraging this morning.

Our train was, as usual, one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis models, consisting of 2×6-car units. It was quite busy today and by the time that we arrived in Paris it was totally crowded.

Nevertheless I was lucky in that I had no-one sitting next to me so I could spread out and work in comfort.

It didn’t take me long to update the computer and then I read a book all the way to Paris. For a change, it was a novel, “The Man Who Was Thursday” by G K Chesterton.

eiffel tower sacre coeur paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022By the time that we reached Paris the fog had gone and we had a bright blue sky.

My seat was a good one this morning and as we pulled into the city and passed over the petite ceinture, the railway that used to perform a complete circle of the city in the olden days, I had a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower.

In fact you might say that I really had an Eiffel of it.

Over on the right on the skyline is the Sacré Coeur church in Montmartre. Where we stayed a couple of months ago was just round there about 10 minutes away but we didn’t have the time to visit it back then. I haven’t been there since I went with Nerina at some ridiculous time of the morning before the rush-hour traffic hit it some time years ago.

We were about 15 minutes late arriving in Paris but that didn’t matter too much because there was a long wait for my train to Brussels today.

ukrainian refugee centre gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022As usual I walked down the street in the open air to the Metro station instead of going through the labyrinth. It was blistering hot and I melted through the streets to the Metro. The Metro was packed but I managed to find the last remaining seat to Gare du Nord.

At the Gare du Nord I went to check to see if the Ukrainian Refugee post was still operating.

There’s a very active Group of activists in Normandy who are very interested in the lot of the refugees and I have some connection with a couple of them. While I’m on my travels I like to see what’s going on in this respect so I can pass on the information to people who can make use of it.

And then there was the wait for the train. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’m not taking the earlier “Ouigo” train and going via Lille. I’m not up to the walk across town at the moment so I’m paying extre and going on the later “Thalys” direct to Brussels.

The Gare du Nord was packed as well and there was no hope of finding a seat anywhere. I headed off to my usual comfortable secret bolt-hole where I was shouted at by a trolley driver but I took no notice.

Thalys PBKA 4301 gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022And then I had to fight my way on board the train to Brussels.

It was one of the PBKA – Paris Brussels Cologne Amsterdam trainsets and it was packed. There wasn’t a single seat free.

There was all kinds of confusion about the seats too, to which I contributed somewhat, with the ticket inspector having flicked over my electronic ticket while checking it so I ended up sitting in my seat for the return journey instead.

And in the confusion I lost my computer mouse. I had a feeling that it wasn’t my lucky day today.

sncb class 18 electric locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022As our train pulled in to Brussels, so did a push-me-pull-you for Leuven.

An ancient graffiti-ridden vinyl-upholstered relic of the 1970s as you can see in the photo where they have done a pretty poor job of cleaning it up but it was here and now do I fell aboard and that whipped us off to Leuven.

It was pushed by one of the Class 18 electric locomotives that these days are the mainstay of main-line passenger trains on locomotive-hauled lines. We’ve been on plenty of these in the past.

Having done a little shopping in the supermarket at the back of the station I came on here to encounter a load of confusion about the keys to my room.

And they have put me up two flights of stairs as well and I really don’t need that at all. Not in my state of health right now

pennsylvania volkswagen naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Later on I made it down to Delhaize for the rest of the supplies for my stay here.

And on the way down, this Volkswagen caught my eye, mainly because it’s carrying a number plate from Pennsylvania.

Why I’m interested in this is to find out how the car managed to come over here. There is a vehicle ferry from Europe to North America and back again but it’s for unaccompanied vehicles only and the prices are on another planet.

If I could find a ferry that is at amore reasonable price I’d sell Strider, my Canadian pickup, and take Caliburn over every year to North America.

roadworks Weldadigheidsstraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a while back in the Weldadigheidsstraat there was a rather large crane that was doing some kind of work at a house down there.

And so going past today I had a look down the street to see if it was still there, only to be confronted by a pile of paving blocks and building materials.

There’s some kind of process of gentrification taking place in Leuven right now and this street looks as if it’s about to fall victim to the designs of the planners.

What’s regrettable about this is that once the council does this it adds on about €20,000 to the house prices in the area and this makes the properties even less affordable to low-income earners.

Prices in town are already far too high for many people and this kind of thing won’t help any.

In Delhaize I stocked up with stuff and it wasn’t all that expensive. But then again with me being much more restrictive on what I eat these days, I’m not buying as much. And i was lucky enough to find a hard-wired mouse so I’m back in business, and after tea I can write up my notes.

photographer naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022One thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall is that my pages are full of photographs of people taking photographs.

Here’s someone else whom I caught doing it at the corner of the Naamsevest and the Naamsestraat. I had a good look round but I couldn’t see what had attracted his attention but never mind. I cleared off home.

Tea was a vegan burger with pasta and veg – the vegan burgers that I bring from home because LIDL actually does a good line in cheap vegan burgers

The reason why I do that is because if I have one with me and I’m too tired to go to the shops after I arrive, I can buy a bag of chips from across the road and I still have something like a meal to keep me going until I feel better.

What a state of affairs to be in.

Meanwhile – the dictaphone. We were at school, a whole mob of us, and there was a radio play in which we were performing. It started off with someone falling over a pile of students’ outstretched legs so it was a long stretched-out “AAARRRGGGHHH” sound to open it. This was how this radio play opened. It was one of a series of radio plays that the school was actually doing. There was much more to it than this. I was around with a few of the kids so I was a kid myself. We all had something to do with this, a group of us, and I was involved in this and there was definitely something happening in which we were involved but I can’t remember now what it was. It was just how this radio programme started up.

Later on my car was away at the garage having work done at it. There was something involving British Salt and the garage there but I can’t remember what it was. I needed a car to go to Chester and the wholesale warehouse. My last port of call was at my sister’s to see whether she had something. They were living in a mobile home place. I went there and knocked on the flyscreen but no-one came. A neighbour came round and started talking to me about it, pointing out this old car and saying that this was her old car but she had to have one because some of her kids went to Nantwich High School and some went to the local one. This is what you have to do when your children are spread out like that. I knocked a couple of times but she didn’t come to the door so I wondered what was happening. This was not like her. If she had been there she would have come. There was much more to it than this but that’s all that I remember.

And finally I was running tours around Perth and Scotland. I had a variety of part-time people helping me. One young boy, a friend of TOTGA, had just quit because he misunderstood the situation. He expected something else other than guiding tourists around. We were waiting at Tourist Information for a party that was turning up at 16:00. I’d told a friend to turn up at 14:00 so that I could show him a few things and point out to him so that he’d know about them. Time dragged on and he wasn’t there. It was 14:30,14:45 so I phoned him and he was still at home. He said “well I was out last night”. I said “I need you here to do this”. He said that he’d come down and tried to engage me in conversation over the telephone. I said “we’ll talk about this when you arrive because we’re in something of a rush at the moment. Come here as quick as you can”. The person with me asked me about this boy quitting. What did I think? I said that it was rather silly. I could see that once again I was going to be plagued with unreliable employees. I could see that I was going to be here full-time doing all this on my own as usual. I thought that I’m not going to be able to go home until Sunday after everything finishes. It’s a long way to go in an evening to go home. I said that I’ll be going home on Sunday evening. Someone asked “doing what?” so I replied “going home” “doing what?” going home!”. I suddenly realised that they were asking me “doing what” when I was back home. I replied “going back to work of course”. The friend had been telling me that it had been raining which was why he hadn’t come in but actually where we were it was bright sunshine so I had no idea why he decided why he didn’t want to come in and do this and even less of an idea why he didn’t want to tell me that he didn’t want to come in and do this.

Unreliable employees was the bane of my life wasn’t it?

Having already crashed out once earlier, I’m off to bed now. I have no fewer than four appointments at the hospital tomorrow so I can’t afford to hang about. I need a good night’s sleep.

Saturday 12th March 2022 – AS BARRY HAY …

… once famously said at a concert that I witnessed at Scheveningen in 1993, “there’s one thing that I gotta tell you, man, and that it’s good to be back home”

And he’s dead right too.

And I’ll tell you something else for nothing as well in that in the past I’ve been happy to stay out for as long as possible and even longer, but this little apartment perched on my rock surrounded on three sides by the sea is the first ever place where I’ve been keen to return.

Anyway, I digress.

When the alarm went off at 05:30 this morning I was already up and about. Having sleep issues can sometimes be an advantage.

It didn’t take long for me to make myself ready to leave either.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022Down at the Martelarenplein – the Square of the Martyrs – now that they have almost finished the resurfacing after all these years there’s a really beautiful view of the railway station.

It looks absolutely magnificent lit up like this, with the modern trainshed illuminated behind it. The modern bus station to the left is a disaster and the least that is said about that the better.

The story behind the Martelarenplein is that it relates to the events of August 1914 when the Germans, in a fit of rage, totally destroyed the city and reduced it to rubble.

Hundreds of civilians were caught up in the orgy of destruction and massacred, or later killed in reprisals for what the Germans considered to be acts of terrorism – events that have a parallel with events that are taking place elsewhere in Europe even as I write this.

It totally dismays me that after all of the destruction that has taken place over the last 108 years, some insane madman is doing exactly the same thing and that we as ordinary civilians are powerless to prevent it.

537 am96 electric multiple unit gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022With my early start, never mind the 06:33, the 06:14 was in the station when I arrived and I had time to leap aboard.

The train was the one that goes to De Panne and is made up of an AM96 unit, one of the ones with the tilting cab so that passengers can walk through when another trainset is coupled up.

There was a moment of panic when my telephone told me that I didn’t have a ticket. It seems that I’d been disconnected from the SNCB website. And so I switched my phone back on and for some reason it wouldn’t accept my e-mail address.

Just as well that no-one came to check my ticket.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4538 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022When I arrived at Brussels-Midi I went into Carrefour to grab some bread for breakfast, and then went to hunt down my train.

It was already in the station and to my surprise we were even allowed to board. It’s one of the old TGV Reseau 38000 Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam trainsets and it was absolutely crowded. There wasn’t a spare seat anywhere.

Once I’d found my seat, I spent the journey transcribing the dictaphone notes for the last few days. And I’d actually done half of them by the time that we arrived at Paris.

Bang on time too, which was nice, and I didn’t have to wait too long for a metro. As a result I was out of the underground and walking down the road in the open air towards the Gare Montparnasse in quite good time.

And aren’t I glad that I found this easy, comfortable way in the fresh air from the metro station to the railway station.

With an hour or so to wait for my train, I treated myself to a coffee and a nice relax while I waited for things to happen.

84566 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo March 2022No rpizes for guessing which one is my train.

It’s one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis trainsets that we always have. It was just a single 6-car trainset today and it was, like the TGV, packed out. No spare seats at all and I had a companion as far as Argentan.

Despite the abominable state of the track that had me thrown from side to side and made me realise why I never write anything while I’m travelling this route, I did manage to finish my dictaphone notes and I can tell you where I went during the night.

We were on a spacecraft last night. We’d started off with an equal number of each sex but many of the men had been killed when they’d landed on a foreign planet. Now there was just one man in charge and the rest were women and children. The children were gradually ageing and becoming young people. I was on board and we were still landing on strange places an being attacked by the local inhabitants and having to quickly close the door and scramble away. We landed on some kind of mountain and the guy said that he wanted to go to some kind of casino that night. A couple of us went for a walk around and we came to some kind of precipice where we could see straight down many, many, many thousands of miles below us a town that someone pointed out to us and said that it was Pompeii which was where this casino was. There was a huge, enormous palace construction somewhere that we could see and the person with us said that that was the palace of the Borgias. There had been some kind of incident with a loaf of bread as well that had been badly burnt on one end. I had that with me and I cut away the burnt end and I had both pieces in my hand. Then we went back to the spacecraft. When we went round a corner on this rocky path there was a girl, probably about 9, with blonde hair sitting there. She panicked when she saw us and couldn’t move. She had a cat with her. I tried to talk to this girl but of course she didn’t understand anything that I was saying so I started to stroke her cat. After a couple of times her cat started to respond to the stroking. I thought that if I managed to win over the cat I might win over the girl and we could rescue her and take her away in our spacecraft.

Later on we were out around Nantwich last night. We’d come down the Middlewich Road towards the Barony and turned right towards Chester when a strange machine went past. It had four huge wheels and it looked as if they had fish hook fastened to them. We could see what it was doing, that the fishhooks were digging into the ground as the wheels spun so that it go go past in all kinds of soggy and wet and muddy ground. It had a flat frame and someone was sitting on it working a couple of levers with handles and these wheels were really enormous, 4 of them, but very flimsy construction, very thin. We all made a few comment about that Somehow we all ended up in Crewe, near where the old Earl of Crewe used to be. There was some kind of discussion about Doctor Watson who had developed some kind of process that made eyebrows for children’s toys. He was talking about the method that he was using, that sounded quite logical in the dream but I can’t remember it. Sherlock Holmes had given him some advice and charged 2 guineas for the advice that he’d been given but Watson considered that it was really good advice and worth every penny because that was what made the difference between being good and being really excellent

A letter arrived for me from a guy whose surname was Ralf. I knew immediately what it was and I opened it. It was a time sheet and a cheque because I’d taken a lorry and a tanker for him overnight somewhere or other and that was my salary. It was the first-ever payment that I’d had for driving a lorry and that meant that I was a professional HGV driver. My father saw it but he didn’t think that it was enough so he telephoned this guy to tell him off. I had to wrestle the phone from him and tell Ralf to take no notice because I reckoned that it was OK and I wanted to drive for him again in situations like that. I was quite happy. He asked how it went and I said that we went along at a steady speed between 60 and 60 mph. Everyone else was going past me but the lorry was running so smoothly at that speed that I thought that I’d leave it there Everything else had gone fine and because I’d done it in the evening and overnight there was no traffic about so it wasn’t as if I was panicking or anything like that in traffic queues and so on. I quite enjoyed the experience. We chatted about a few other firms that we knew and seen on our travels and by the time the phone call finished I hoped that I’d made a good impression that he might call for me again if he had any more overnight jobs where he couldn’t find a driver.

We arrived at Granville bang on time and then, having called in at Carrefour for my mushrooms, I began the long, weary trudge back home – the trudge that is more than enough to finish me off.

And for some reason, my suitcase seems to weigh three times as much as it usually does. Never mind the apples that I brought back – I must have put the tree in as well.

bad parking rue des juifs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Regular readers of this rubbish that pathetic parking used to be a habitual feature of these pages, but I’m as fed up of talking about it as you probably are of reading about it.

However, sometimes the pathetic parking can’t be ignored, and this one here in the Rue des Juifs is one of those.

The reason why is that this is of course, as I have said before, a service bus route and there’s no conceivable possibility that an 8’6″ single decker service bus with an overhang front and rear can pass through that gap there.

But what does that matter to this delivery driver as long as he doesn’t have to walk more than two feet to deliver whatever it is that he’s delivering?

bicycle shelter place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022One final photo to take before I stagger into my apartment.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we saw them erect a bike shed in the Place d’Armes and then dismantle part of it again. So while I was away in Leuven they have come back and finished it again.

The next photo of it that I will take will be when someone will leave a bike in it – unless I happen to catch some goings-on behind of of the type that used to go on behind the bike sheds that we had at school.

But those photos will only be available in a plain brown envelope.

Back here I made myself a coffee and when I’d finished drinking it I started to back up the big computer with the files off the laptop that i’d created or edited while I was away.

And it will come as no surprise to anyone to hear that I crashed out for half an hour too. You’ve probably already noticed that I didn’t have my customary half-hour here and there on the way home.

Tea was the burger that I didn’t eat last night in Leuven, being out with Alison again. And they are quite delicious.

So now I’m going to relax for a while before I go to bed. I’ve done enough today and I think that I’ve earned my lie-in tomorrow. As long as I don’t have another ‘phone call when i’m trying to sleep.

Wednesday 9th March 2022 – I HAD A STROKE …

… of luck this morning.

There I was going down the stairs towards the front door when out of the lift came one of my neighbours.

“Are you off to Belgium?” she asked
“Yes I am” I replied
“Come with me” she said.

She was on her way to work so she took me and threw me out about 200 metres from the station and you’ve no idea how much I appreciated it.

That’s because I’d had a really bad night. I hadn’t taken one of those pills before I went to bed and I don’t know whether that’s anything to do with it, but it took an age to go off to sleep and then I awoke again at 04:30 and that was that.

Despite trying my best, I couldn’t go back to sleep and so when the alarm went off at 06:00 I was up and about quite easily.

By 07:30 I was ready to leave so I loitered around until 08:00 and then went off out where I bumped into my neighbour.

concrete pad gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Just or a change, I was at the station at 08:10.

That gave me plenty of time to have a look around to see what has been going on here. And this concrete pad is certainly new

It’s taken over two or three spaces of the railway station car park and unless I’m mistaken, it’s the area where electric cars could be charged too. So if they have been removed, where will the electric cars be charged now?

That’s something that is causing me a little concern. There’s a commitment to phase out new fossil-fuelled cars over the next 15 years or so and so they need to think long and hard about the necessary infrastructure and to have it in place long before the cut-off date – not leave it until the last minute.

And to install a whole new system of wind and tidal power generation. The wind doesn’t stop blowing and the tides don’t stop changing at night when everyone is asleep in bed and not using power. There will be tons of energy available to charge up vehicles if they organise themselves.

mural gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that when we were here last at the railway station they had a pile of scaffolding up inside the building.

Now that they have removed it, we can see what they were doing. We now have a lovely mural of Granville as it was in the days when we had wind-powered “Newfoundlanders” sailing out of the port to the Grand banks of Newfoundland for the cod.

“The cod were in largeness and quantitie … that they stayed our ships” wrote Richard Hakluyt in the 16th Century when he was discussing voyages to “The New World” that went via Newfoundland.

But that was a long time ago.

84567 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022For even more of a change, the train was already in the platform so I took my seat quite quickly.

You might be thinking that that means that the train started off bang on time, but in actual fact we were 5 minutes late leaving.

The train was packed and I had a rather irritable neighbour so while I was able to update the laptop, I wasn’t able to do any work. I read a few theses about medieval castles in Cheshire instead.

By the time that we arrived in Paris we had made up a couple of minutes so I had time to pop into the ticket office at the Metro to buy another set of 10 tickets. I’m running rather low right now

225 TGV Reseau Duplex Gare du Nord Paris France Eric Hall photo March 2022Travelling to the Gare du Nord on the Metro was quite painless – especially since I’ve found my short-cut in the open air.

My train to Lille – Flandres was already in. It is, as you might expect, one of the TGV “Reseau Duplex” double-deckers. Old and showing its age but quick and reasonably comfortable.

As usual we weren’t allowed to board it. There’s an 8-car trainset that comes in later and couples up to the rear of this trainset and then all 16 cars go back to Lille. We have to wait until it’s all coupled up and ready to go before we can board it.

210 TGV Reseau Duplex gare de lille flandres lille France Eric Hall photo March 2022This is the power car of the second trainset, photographed at Lille Flandres as I was leaving the station.

Our train was a few minutes late leaving, like the one from Granville, but that didn’t matter so much as there was plenty of time to walk across the city from Lille-Flandres to the Lille-Europe railway station.

There was even time to find a quiet corner at Lille-Europe and eat my lunchtime sandwiches before boarding my train. But I had to keep an eye out for the railway police who were cautioning people for not wearing a mask. And it’s difficult to eat your butties whilst wearing a mask.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 PBA gare du midi bruxelles belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022When I descended to the platform, the train was already in. It’s one of the PBA – Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam trainsets on which we travel quite frequently.

For reasons that I don’t quite understand, it waits here for about 20 minutes before departing. It’s more-than-likely due to the timing of the various connections that it makes with trains along its route.

And it was packed too and someone had taken my seat which was a shame, for I had rather looked forward to being out of my brain on the 5/15. I ended up sitting elsewhere, hemmed in and once more unable to do any work. I listened to “Colosseum Live” on the phone instead.

2730 class 27 electric locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022At Brussels-Midi there was a train to Leuven already so I didn’t have to hang around waiting.

Running (as best as I could) down the concourse I leapt aboard with no problems and settled down for the journey to Leuven.

When we arrived, I nipped down to the head of the train to see what was pulling us along. It’s one of the old Class 27 electric locomotives and we’ve had a few of these just recently.

Considering that they must be getting on for 40 years old, they are still clocking up the miles on mainline services with little sign of slowing down.

At the back of the station is the little supermarket so I went there and bought the bread, vegan margarine and stuff to drink. It saves on the weight that I have to carry back from the big supermarket later this evening.

martelarenplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022Now here’s a thing!

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that for the last however-many years we’ve seen (or not seen, as they case may be) the Martelarenplein, the Square of the Martyrs, all fenced off and covered while they have been renovating it.

Today though, apart from just one small area, all of the fencing has been removed and we can actually walk across the square if we choose to do so.

Not for me right now though. I’m tired and exhausted and and I can’t wait to find my way to my little room.

And once more I’m up a couple of flights of stairs and that’s killing me. Luckily the manager saw me struggling up the stairs so that might hopefully mean a change of room in the future.

Despite a nice hot coffee, I crashed out definitively, and for a good half-hour too.

electric three wheeled vehicle Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022You’ve no idea just how much difficulty I had trying to rouse myself to go to the shops for food.

Nevertheless, I’m glad that I did because I encountered this strange machine. It’s a three-wheeler and it’s probably electric because it was quite silent. But whatever it is, it was quite interesting to say the least.

At the supermarket I don’t know what happened there but the shopping bill was much less than it usually is. I don’t reckon that I bought any less than I usually do.

At some point I managed to find the time to transcribe the dictaphone notes. Last night started with a family thing again with my sister and her first husband. It was probably 01:00 and they were thinking about going to bed and I had all of my paperwork to do which involved those two. I had to set the time on Big Ben and a few other things too but I kept on having trouble seeing because the lights on this big tower clock were so dim that I couldn’t actually see how I was setting it. Occasionally it would all light up bright and I’d see that I’d done in incorrectly and had to go back but to be very careful not to wipe off everything that I had done so far – just go back 1 or 2 steps and start on. By now of course it was daylight. I could easily see what was happening and there were all kinds of things going on on this clock face – people laughing and cheering at it. In the end I had to set it by some kind of analogue means moving the hands because I couldn’t make it go correctly by doing it digitally. In the end I managed it but by now it was 06:40 and broad daylight. I had to be up at 10:00 and they had to be up earlier than that. In the end I said that I was going to bed. My sister’s husband said that he was going to lie in in the morning because he was exhausted. I thought “how does he think that I feel?”. On the way back they were rationing out some things for issue and showing me some kind of drink made by a well-known pop manufacturer in a very distinctive bottle. They said that last tie they had issued this it was 17 shillings and so many pence but now it’s just 4.5 pence and they can’t understand what has happened. I asked if it was generic stuff. They replied that it was so I replied that maybe the patent has expired so now it’s being cloned or something but they couldn’t seem to understand. Neither could I but I didn’t really want to because I was so tired

Later, I was in backwoods Canada or backwoods USA sometime in the 50s or 60s judging by the cars that were driving around. I was writing up someone’s memoirs from a set of old war letters, something like that. I’d gone to this house ad he’d let me have all of this communication and I was going through it making notes etc. Gradually one of two other people had let me have their stuff as well. The first guy was concerned that this was going to slow me down doing other people’s stuff as well but I explained that it was all part of the same thing. They gave me a time and said that I had to be finished by something like 18:15. He thought that time was dragging on but I said that I’d be back tomorrow and that seemed to be OK. Various people came to see me and talk to me about everything while I was there making all of these notes and what had happened in the past. It gradually worked out that I was writing stuff about current events as well for a more immediate publication. This was something that concerned all of the people in this area. But all of the cars were fantastic. Someone was driving a pickup where instead of having the pickup bed behind him it was something like an enormous American saloon convertible thing with just 1 seat for the person driving it and the pickup bed was at the side where the passenger would sit. There were all these kind of weird machines that looked like something out of the 50s and 60s

And then I was with Claude and Françoise last night in the Auvergne. They owed me some money and I had a few IOUs and we were settling up. While I was there I showed them how many US dollars I had. I explained about the time that I had to use the toilet in a cafe and I didn’t have any money to go in so I had to write out an IOU. I told them about a trip that I’d made to the USA with 2 girls. We’d roamed around the Midwest in a big American car which was a small Opel saloon from the late 60s, a type 1. On one occasion I’m not quite sure what had happened but these girls must have been in their night clothes in this diner. They had gone to the toilet to have a wash and brush-up but they came out in their night clothes as well. I asked what was going on so they said that they were going back to the car to change. I asked why they hadn’t taken their clothes into the ladies toilets and changed in there instead of doing it on the car park of this diner

Now that I’ve had tea I’m off to bed. I know that it’s early but I’m exhausted and I’ve almost fallen asleep twice. Hospital tomorrow so I’m lying in with no alarm.

After last night’s disaster, I need all the beauty sleep that I can get.

Wednesday 9th February 2022 – HERE I ALL AM …

.. not actually sitting in a rainbow, but sitting in my little room here in Leuven, after one of the most uneventful journeys that I’ve ever had.

man with giant teddy gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo February 2022One of the only two things of note about this journey took place in the Gare du Nord in Paris.

There, I came across a guy with an enormous teddy-bear strapped to his back, with the bear carrying a backpack.

Of course, it goes without saying that I went over to him and told him how much I admired his choice of travelling companion. And then of course that led to a discussion that involved STRAWBERRY MOOSE.

And that of course served to remind me that it’s been 18 months since His Nibs and I last went on an adventure, when we did our tour of Central Europe, and two and a half years since we last set foot on North American soil.

And like me, he’s getting itchy feet. We need to be on our way somewhere, moving about.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4520 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022The second incident of note took place on board my train at Lille Europe.

There was a couple sitting in my seat and at first they refused to move, insisting that the numbers on the seat in front related to their seats. It was only when I asked them if that meant that the people in seats 75 and 76 had to sit on the luggage rack that they reluctantly agreed to move.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have bothered and would have sat somewhere else but there was something about this couple’s attitude that rubbed me up the wrong way and these days my good humour evaporates much more quickly than ever it used to, especially when I’m confronted by intransigent people.

Apart from that, it’s been a very fair day today. When the alarm went off at 06:00 I was (for a change) out of bed quite quickly, made my sandwiches, had a coffee and, to my own surprise never mind yours, steam-cleaned the kitchen, including washing the floor with disinfectant.

l'omerta fish processing plant port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022At 08:00 or thereabouts I left the apartment with my gear and headed off for the station.

First … errr … port of call was the viewpoint overlooking the fish processing plant where I checked the NIKON 1 J5 to make sure that it was working.

The fish-processing plant was this morning’s first subject. It might be early in the morning but there are plenty of people down there working as we can see. All of the lights are on in there and there’s a refrigerated lorry down there waiting to take away the catch.

And L’Omerta is still down there where we saw her yesterday, sitting on the silt.

dawn st pair Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022Although it was still dark, the sun was starting to rise.

The sky in the distance over at the back of St Pair sur Mer is becoming lighter with a beautiful pink tinge.

What they say around here is “Red Sky at Night, Shepherd’s Delight. Red Sky in the Morning, Avranches is On Fire”.

And as I was on the point of taking the photos, most of the streetlights in St Pair sur Mer went out and what would have been a glorious photo suddenly turned into something rather more banal.

On that note I headed off down into town and then out the other side and up the hill to the railway station.

modernisation gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022It only took me 25 minutes to reach the station this morning, with only one stop on the way, which is progress of a sort.

And at the station, I had a surprise. There has in the past been some kind of vague talk about some improvements at the station and today, they had fitted out the entrance hall with a pile of scaffolding.

It looks as if it’s “all systems go” and it will be interesting to see what they’ve been up to when I come back next month.

You can see the yellow boxes there. They are for passengers to use to stamp their tickets before they board the train. All paper tickets have to have a timestamp on them to make them valid.

84571 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022Despite my being there early, the train was already on the point of pulling in, and that was a welcome sight. I didn’t have to sit outside in the cold.

Today I had a seat all to myself right next to the toilet so I didn’t even have to walk very far.

There was all of my work to back up from the large computer and while I was doing that I listened to my Hawkwind “concert” again. I stomped all my way to Paris, except for the 10 or 15 minutes when I was … errr … resting.

We were bang on time in Paris and the trip on the metro to the Gare du Nord was straightforward, especially my little walk along the street and I can’t understand why I didn’t check this before.

There was a bit of a laugh though. The metro was crowded but I managed to find a seat. A woman grabbed the seat next to me and beckoned to her daughter, who was about 11, to come and sit on her lap instead of standing up hanging onto a strap.

“I think that that’s a bit too baby” I said, which brought a smile from daughter and a sigh from mother, and despite repeated entreaties, daughter steadfastly refused to sit on her mother’s lap all the way to the Gare du Nord.

tgv inoui 225 tgv reseau duplex gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo February 2022Having exchanged pleasantries with the guy with the teddy-bear, I went to find my train to Lille Flandres.

As usual, it was one of the TGV Reseau Duplex double-deckers, looking as if they are in need of a little paintwork these days. Nevertheless they are quite comfortable, even if there is only one power point per seat.

This afternoon I was lucky because I didn’t have a neighbour so we didn’t have to fight over the power point and I could carry on listening to Hawkwind and reading my story about a Michigan cavalry unit in the American Civil War all the way to Lille.

And for a change, I was on the lower deck. No fighting with the stairs

TGV POS 4404 gare de lille flandres railway station France Eric Hall photo February 2022At Lille I found that we had brought another trainset with us – one of the POS units from eastern France so once more it was something of a hybrid train.

In fact, it actually brought us because it was certainly coupled up at the front of our trainset and there weren’t any passengers at all on it, so I imagine they’ve taken advantage of our trainset to carry out a positioning voyage.

We were 8 minutes late arriving at Lille so we had to push on rather rapidly to Lille Europe for our train from Montpelier to Brussels. Some young woman was looking rather lost so I brought her with me and we had a nice chat. However when we reached the station she disappeared off somewhere else and that was that.

There were a couple of minutes to spare so I used them wisely in eating my butties, and then I had my little … errr … discussion on my train.

The journey to Brussels doesn’t take long so I didn’t mess about with the computer. I listened to an album that I’d stored on my phone.

Colosseum Live, one of the greatest live albums ever, and something bizarre usually happens to me whenever i hear it.

In the Canadian High Arctic in 2018 I had a strange encounter with an interesting young lady whom I met on board THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR while I was listening to it, and in The Canadian High Arctic in 2019 on the same ship sitting in the same seat on the same deck listening to the same album, I had an even more strange encounter with another even more interesting young lady, about which I’ll write one of these days.

However, to my dismay, nothing whatsoever happened this time to ignite my curiosity.

class 27 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022A train to Leuven was already in the station when I arrived – a push-me-pull-you – so I scrambled aboard, and we set off, at a snail’s pace, down the line.

When I arrived at Leuven I went to see what was pushing us and to my surprise it was one of the old Class 27 locomotives. 60 of them were built in the early 80s and they were the first of the modern generation of electric locomotives.

“Powerful” is not the word to describe these locomotives. One of this class pulled a train of 70 carriages, the longest passenger train ever assembled in the world, so I’ve no idea what was the matter with mine going so slowly.

At the back of the station is the little Match supermarket so I went there to buy the bread and drink for the next couple of days and then headed for my room

cherry pickers martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022In the Martelarenplein they had a couple of cherry-pickers but they were parked up and it wasn’t easy to see what they had been doing.

Back here I didn’t have an upgrade but instead I’m in my usual room up two flights of stairs that kill me having to climb them.

After a coffee I … errr … relaxed for half an hour and then walked down to Delhaize for my shopping. I bought everything that I need and even “won” a trolley token from one that had jammed in an abandoned trolley. A trolley attendant saw me wrestling with it and gave me one from his pocket.

At some point I finally managed to catch up with the dictaphone notes. I was up in the Scottish Borders last night with a couple of young girls whom I met there once upon a time, at the festival indoor. The two girls were dancing. They were carrying bottles of drink around and I’m not sure why because they weren’t drinking them. We’d filmed them dancing, as well as quite a few others. We were watching it, and I can’t remember now, but she was most offended when she saw them dancing with the alcohol and had quite a lot to say about it. There was something about food too, making queues for the food and serving the queue, how if you had your food in one room you couldn’t go into another but eat in that room etc, something to do with the fact that some parts were licensed as a takeaway and some weren’t. It was all quite complicated. We were talking about my flat-bottomed boat festival. The film went on to talk about it and said about how these two girls would be invited to attend as well but of course the older one by this time had been killed so it was totally irrelevant.

It’s surprising, this little voyage, particularly about the death of one of these girls. In real life I’d actually met them a couple of times and then after one of our meetings, the older one was actually killed. She was driving to work early one morning when a German tourist who had driven up from Dover through the night without stopping pulled off the M74 onto the wrong side of the road and hit her head-on.

In her ancient and frail Open Corsa, she didn’t stand a chance.

Regular readers of this rubbish in one of its many previous guises will recall that the after-effects of this accident were quite considerable and are still rumbling on today

Later on we were back at the Scottish Borders again later and there was another girl there in between the age of these two girls, probably about 15 or so. She was dancing as well but I can’t remember where this started or why it was significant.

My friend Marianne was in hospital so I’d been staying in her apartment. I’d been there for five months from September until February. There was some talk that she might come out very soon so I’d had to have a good go round and tidy everything up and make sure that everything was where it was supposed to be, all of her clothes and everything, find her bank cards, find her money and all that. It was extremely complicated. At one point I found her cassette player so I put some music on and was listening to that while I was working. When I’d finished in the bedroom I couldn’t make up my mind whether to leave it on or switch it off. In the end I switched it off but this was something extremely emotional, all of this.

I was with Lise last night (and who is Lise?), on my way home in a car. There was some kind of news report about an Italian who had done something and taken an Israeli person hostage. I was driving home and I came to the road junction which I thought that I needed but for some reason I couldn’t see clearly out of the car. I ended up driving past so I had to find a place to turn round. I came to a place in a village where I could turn round but parked in a field were a couple of steam traction engines, all overgrown and covered in weeds, creepers etc so I went to take a photo of them. No matter how I tried I couldn’t find a decent viewpoint. In the end, after a while, I gave it up as a bad job, went back into the car, turned round. Then I noticed several ruined buildings from the Middle Ages so I stopped to take a photo. All these kids swarmed around me and kept on standing in front of the lens so I didn’t have a clear shot. Then the camera wasn’t recognising the lens. This was proving to be extremely awkward. In the end I was having to push these kids out of the way but the more I pushed, the more they formed back and kids started appearing from everywhere. I never did take that photo.

And that wasn’t all either. But as you are eating your tea right now I’ll spare you the gory details.

Now that I’ve had my tea, I’m off to bed. It’s early but I’m exhausted and I have my hospital appointment tomorrow so I need to be fighting fit. 123% of my daily activity deserves a good rest.


Saturday 15th January 2022 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not actually sitting in a rainbow, but sitting in my nice comfortable chair in my office thinking that Barry Hay was absolutely right when he said “there’s one thing that I can tell you, man, and that is that it’s good to be back home”.

And after one of the most uneventful journeys that I have ever had too.

In fact the only thing that went wrong during the trip was that the ticket collector caught me having a crafty bite out of my butties. Since 3rd January 2022 it’s against the law to eat on public transport. So he had a good moan at me about it.

The morning started quite bizarrely because although the alarm was due to go off at 05:00 I had left my bed a long time before hand and was busy drinking a coffee and making my sandwiches when the alarm did go off.

Despite the somewhat reduced sleep, I still managed to go off on several voyages during the night. I’d picked up my daughter (!!!) from Crewe Railway Station and we had to go to Edge Hill in Liverpool to catch a boat so we hired a car and drove there. Everyone else stayed on the train. At Edge Hill we had to board this boat to go across the ocean but I can’t remember where now. It involved stepping onto this beach where there were 3 wild animals, an elephant, a tiger and a third animal. The tiger was extremely playful but nevertheless it unnerved me quite a lot as I was trying to walk around this island. It kept trying to pretend to stalk me by getting behind me and attacking me. I had to turn round to face it and chase it away. Then the elephant joined in and started to push me around with its tusk. This was starting to become really out of hand. I had the feeling that this elephant, if I let it, was going to do far more than just play around with me. I told the person who was with me, whoever it was, that if they didn’t do anything to control these animals the elephant was going to have a bullet through the brain. They insisted that it was just being playful but it wasn’t very playful as far as I was concerned and I was determined to deal with this elephant permanently either by having it taken away or else by the fact that I was going to shoot it and I’d do the same to the tiger as well if they didn’t organise themselves any better and control their animals

This was the dream about the “Hawkwind” group about which I’d been thinking. There were a couple of girls called Aral or Araf, something like that, who had joined as well but that was all it was really, about the two groups and merging together to perform those Hawkwind tracks that I had mentioned and I can’t remember anything else about it (and I’d love to know what I missed recording that made me dictate this in this particular way).

I was in Canada last night. I’d just arrived. I’d been to a car auction and there was someone there trying to sell one of these minivan things. He didn’t want very much money for it – about £700 or £800 – but it was a non-runner and needed a lot of work doing to it. It was really only suitable for using as a shed or something. There was a big argument going on between a woman and the auctioneers and a couple of other people about this. The next lot to be offered was an old panel van, the type from the 1940s or 50s. I was talking to the girl. This had no engine in it or anything like that so I said “well if it’s only for a garden shed this is what I’d use as it has no windows in it for a start. It turned out that she was only looking for $50 for it and that was much more reasonable.

Then I ended up at my niece’s house. She was saying something like they could only have one egg delivered by the ‘phone. She gave me a letter than hadn’t been opened and asked me to deal with it. It was something about some company stopping deliveries to the house. I rang them up to find out what had happened. It turned out that there had been a delivery to the house 2 years ago but no-one had signed for it so they were recommending to courier companies that they no longer delivered here. That would stymie just about everything for what was going on in Canada with her and so on so I rang up the tyre depot to speak to her daughter. I asked if she knew anything about this company. She replied that that was the company she dealt with. I asked her about this parcel. She said that she remembered it so I told her that she had to ring them back straight away and explain the situation to them otherwise we aren’t going to have any more deliveries. That will bring the business to a halt. She sounded drunk on the phone, something like that, and I couldn’t get any sense out of her. I carried on talking to her but it was still extremely difficult. Trying to give her the phone number was extremely complicated because she wasn’t paying any attention to anything that anyone was telling her. I thought “this is going to end in tragedy, isn’t it?”

martelarenplein leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022There’s a reminder alarm that goes off at 05:30 but at that time I was already down the street on my way to the railway station.

Of course I can’t go and look for a train without checking on how the work in the Martelarenplein is progressing. And the answer to that is, unfortunately, “slowly”. They don’t seem to have made very much progress at all since we were here four weeks ago.

It’ll probably be just the same when I come back here in four weeks’ time, if I do. At the rate at which I’m going, I’m not convinced that I’ll still be here in four weeks’ time. I feel as if my battery has gone completely flat.

557 am 96 multiple unit gare de leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022There’s a choice of three trains to take me to Brussels – the 06:08 stopper, the 06:11 that goes via the airport and the 06:31 direct, all of which arrive at roughly the same time so it makes no difference really which one I catch.

However, the airport train was one of the very comfortable AM96 multiple units. It was already in the station too and looked quite warm and inviting – it was absolutely taters outside – so I clambered aboard that one.

Having gone the long way round, it was 06:58 when it pulled into the Gare du Midi and that left me 45 minutes to wait for my train to Paris. I can cope with that, even if I can’t find anywhere warm and comfortable to sit. I hate these huge, draughty stations where you can’t ever keep out of the wind.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4538 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022Much to my surprise, the train was announced a long time before the usual 15 minutes. And even more surprisingly, we were actually allowed to board it.

It was quite empty this morning so we had plenty of space to spread out. Not the usual “crammed in like sardines” situation. I made myself comfortable and listened to my Hawkwind concert – the one that I had prepared on my way to Brussels on Wednesday.

And during the journey I did some more work on making notes on the Flatey Book and I could have done more than I did but to tell the truth, I had something of a “relax” for part of the journey.

At the Gare du Nord it took me a few minutes to find a metro ticket that worked, and then I was able to board probably the most crowded metro train that I’ve ever seen

place du 18 juin 1940 paris france Eric Hall photo January 2022At the Montparnasse metro station I came up into the Rue du Départ, plumping for the easier walk on level ground rather than up and down the steps in the labyrinth.

Behind where I come out of the bowels of the earth is the Boulevard Montparnasse and the Place du 18 Juin 1940. I wlked from down that way somewhere when I did my TRAVERSEE DE PARIS during the strike of public transport.

The walk in the opposite direction was quite straightforward and it’s quite depressing to think that I hadn’t thought about walking on the surface beforehand.

At the station it was much quieter than when I was here four weeks ago and I even managed to bag a comfortable seat with a power point.

84564 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo January 2022No prizes for guessing which one was my train to Granville.

And even more so when the red lights came on with about 15 minutes to go before we were due to depart.

When the train was called, we trooped off to find out seats. Mine was right down at the far end of the train near the driver. And once again, the train was empty. 12 carriages and I reckon that the passengers on the train could have had a carriage each.

On the way home I listened to my concert again and read a book about a cavalry unit from Michigan during the American Civil War. And tried rather unsuccessfully to eat my sandwiches.

84559 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022Our train was made up of two 6-car units and I’d been in the front unit. I hadn’t photographed that in Paris so I took a photo of it on my way out of the station at Granville.

First stop was at the Carrefour down the hill from the station. A pizza isn’t a pizza without mushrooms on it and they sell 250-gramme punnets at €0:99 so if I can’t go to LeClerc for my loose ones, I’ll pick them up here.

And that reminds me. I’ve run out of pizza dough so I need to make some more tomorrow.

The town was fairly quiet this afternoon with no tourists and I took the back way home anyway so I had even less to worry about – except for the ambulance that nearly ran me down in a back street. And then reversed back to have another go seeing as he had missed on the way past.

replacing bricks on wall rue des juifs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022Going up the hill towards home dragging my suitcase behind me was something of a struggle and I was glad to stop halfway up and eat my butties.

There was also some work on the wall in the Rue des Juifs that I’d missed. Some of the capping bricks had crumbled away and they have now been replaced. I suppose that they will be back on Monday to point them.

Back here I had a coffee and collapsed into my chair without moving for a good couple of hours. All of this travelling is exhausting me and the final climb is killing me off, I reckon. And if they can’t find the problem at the hospital, I suppose that I’m going to be stuck like this.

Tea was some of those small breadcrumbed soya fillets with veg and potatoes. Really quite delicious. I needed that.

And now I’m off to bed. I’m absolutely whacked after my early start and my trek home. A good sleep will do me good, so just watch someone phone me up or something.

Saturday 18th December 2021 – THAT WAS A LONG …

… day today.

It wasn’t just the 05:00 start that killed me off, it was the bad night that I’d had to go with it.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I have said that I won’t talk about my bad nights, but this was a bad night with a reason – not a psychological bad night. There were people shouting and screaming in the building, dogs barking, through the night and all of that kind of thing.

When the alarm went off at 05:00 I was actually already awake. But I must have been asleep at some point because there’s yet more stuff on the dictaphone. There was something about a group of us doing things with rocks, wrapping them up, something like that. We were all in individual groups doing that but I can’t remember any more about this. I awoke at the wrong time

Later on, a group of us had gone to live in South America. We were wondering what to do. I came across something about scrap vehicles and ended up with a MkIII P100 pickup and an old scrap MkIII saloon so I said “well, I’m in business” and I used this P100 pickup to tow the MkIII saloon away. Then we were exploring these abandoned villages trying to find a place where we could settle down and live. There was some discussion going on about the group “The Band” in some bar somewhere, about how they had been an acoustic band but at some time in 1971 had gone over to play electric. I thought to myself that that was they listening to them but that was probably due to the fact that they hadn’t had any electricity until that moment and that was when they were connected to the grid.

So there I was, leaving my bed at 05:00 and by 05:30 I’d tidied up, packed, made my lunch and about to set out of the door.

By 05:55 I was on the station at Leuven, to find that the 06:08 that I caught last time was cancelled due to work on the line. However there is a train a few minutes later that goes via the airport so I took that one instead.

There was a few minutes of embarrassment when my telephone wouldn’t pick up an internet signal. However I eventually made it work which was just as well because all of my tickets are on there these days (I’ve gone paperless) and I’d be in all kinds of problems if there’s no internet connection on my phone.

At Brussels I had plenty of time so I had a good wander around the station before heading off to board my train to Paris. And we had phone issues here too.

After I’d sat down and was waiting for the train to depart, a girl struggled onto the station with a small suitcase which was the heaviest that I have ever seen. She couldn’t lift it onto the rack and someone had to help her and I bet that he regretted it.

Once we’d set off I dozed for much of the way to Paris which is no surprise after the night that I’d had. And we arrived on time and I was on a metro train within minutes too.

The walk down the street in Paris from the metro to Gare Montparnasse is definitely much easier than going through the labyrinth – so much so that I hardly realised that I’d done it.

But the station was heaving. Schools have now broken up and everyone is travelling to their holiday home. Our train was packed with Parisians heading for the coast and bringing their virus with them. Watch the figures here shoot up this next few weeks.

Just before the train pulled out, onto the train staggered the girl with the suitcase and that was when I found out that she was to sit next to me – and when I found out how heavy her suitcase was too.

She was going to Granville to stay with her boyfriend so we had a chat for part of the way and for the rest she dozed off while I carried on reading the Flatey Book and the account therein of Leif Ericson’s voyage to North America.

On the way home I popped into Carrefour for some mushrooms for my pizza (which I almost left behind in the shop) and then came home. The climb up the hill was agony and I had to make several stops. But I’m pretty much loaded up with all of the vegan food that I need over the Festive period.

Back here I fell into my chair and couldn’t move for several hours. Luckily there was a football match to keep me occupied – TNS v Penybont. TNS won the game 3-2 but Penybont had plenty of chances to score more than they did. And they might even have done so had the referee awarded after 11 minutes the penalty that I would have awarded them had I been refereeing.

Tea was a couple more of those small vegan burgers in breadcrumbs and then I came back here and fell into my chair again. If I manage to wake up again I might find the strength to stagger into bed at some point but I dunno.

Wednesday 15th December 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not sitting in a rainbow but sitting in my little room in the Dekenstraat in Leuven. And to my dismay, I haven’t had an upgrade this time.

Still, not that I’ worried too much because apart from the steps up to the second floor here, this little room is much more convenient for me even if it’s smaller.

And there’s still a double bed in here so that if one of the usual suspects from my nocturnal rambles, such as TOTGA, Castor or Zero, puts in an appearance then there will be plenty of room for us to move about

And it won’t be very long before I’m actually in it because I’ve had another difficult day I try my best to have an early night the day before I travel but last night I was chatting to someone on line in what became a very lengthy and involved conversation so i was quite late when I finally crawled into bed

And then, the usual difficulty about going off to sleep meant that whe the alarm went off at 06:00 I was … errr … far from ready.

Preparing to leave was something of a rush as well and I didn’t accomplish anything like as much as I usually do. But I did find out that my icing hasn’t set. Butter (well, vegan margarine) produces a soft icing so I seem to be stuck with that.

What I’ll have to do in the future is to work out how to make hard icing. Like I said, I have a lot to learn aout baking cakes.

Although it was cold and damp this morning, it was better weather than when I was out photographing the Christmas lights and so as it was still dark this morning I re-photographed them. And they do look better in the lighting conditions that we had, as you will find out in due course.

For a change, I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me all the way to Leuven which makes a change.

The train to Paris was on-time and I spent much of the journey sorting out the back-up from the big office computer onto the portable laptop. Having shuffled the music around to shake up the pack, I have to do this on the laptop too.

Having done that, and having had a little doze, I set about doing some work.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I’ve sent in my CV in the hope that it will be picked up by a certain travel company. And in this respect I was collating all of the documents that I’ve collected during my research into the Norse in North America and also the Labrador coast.

Having done that, I’ve started to review the stuff that I have on the Norse and prepare to write a thesis on the subject (as if I don’t have enough to do as it is). I started off by reading the “Flatey Book” and “Hauksbook” – two books from Iceland in the 14th Century that include the earliest written copies of the sagas that recount the Norse voyages to North America.

Following that, I’ll make a start on Carl Rafn’s “Antiquities Americanae”. Written in 1848, it’s the earliest book that takes seriously the Norse Sagas.

Rafn though makes two mistakes in his calculation though.

He puts the Norse settlements in Massachusetts or thereabouts because firstly he works out the sailing distances based on the speed of a Norse longboat. However Leif Ericson didn’t use a longboat. According to the sagas he “bought a boat from a trader” who was freighting goods to Greenland. And it wasn’t until a silted-up river was excavated in Roskilde in 1961 that a Norse freighter, called a knarr was discovered and its sailing characteristics were found to be completely different to a longboat.

Secondly, he calculated the distances based on a day of 24 hours. It seems to me to be totally improbable that the Norse would have been continuing to sail during the hours of darkness in strange waters near an uncharted coast where they wouldn’t know what shoals and other hazards they might encounter.

Another thing that needs to be considered is “what happened when they reached the Gulf of St Lawrence”? With about 200 miles of open sea to cross, they would have been more likely to sail down the St Lawrence keeping the coast to their right where they could see it. In fact, there’s a precedent to this with all of the Basque and Portuguese whalers at the end of the 15th Century who set up their camps along the Labrador coast and then down the Gulf of St Lawrence.

We pulled into Montparnasse 2 minutes early and then I had my delightful stroll down the street to the entrance to the Metro station – much nicer than struggling through the labyrinth down below.

As a result I was early yet again arriving at the Gare du Nord. I reckon that I’m about two metro trains in front of where I would have been.

We left Paris Gare du Nord bang on time but were held up on the way and as a result we were a couple of minutes late arriving at Lille Flandres. Then we had the walk across town to Lille Europe where my train was already in.

At Brussels I had another push-me-pull-you, pushed by an old Class 27 locomotive that took me to Leuven. And I had loads of fun trying to make my phone work to show the nice conductor my e-ticket.

When I alighted at Leuven I nipped to the supermarket at the back of the station for the drink and the bread before making my way down here to my room.

Later on I went down to Delhaize for the shopping and the walk back loaded up was a little easier than it has been of late.

Now that I’ve had my tea I’m off to bed even though it’s early. It’s a tough day travelling all this way and doing all this walking, all 130% of it. And there’s more to do tomorrow with my trip up to the hospital.