Tag Archives: gare st lazare

Sunday 13th February 2022 – I DON’T EVER …

… want to have to do that again! NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET has got nothing on this!

But anyway, last night I was in bed by 22:00 with the alarm set for 05:00 and hoping to have a good sleep.

But that was some hope because I was off on my travels during the night and I must have gone so far that I really don’t know how I had any sleep at all.

At some point I was with a girl who has featured on several occasions in the past, usually with her brother who was a friend of mine and who both lived on a farm, but tonight she was with another girl – I don’t know who she was but I know that I know her. We were tidying up a pile of stuff, just generally chatting. The farmer’s daughter had to go out for something that just left me and this girl. The conversation turned round to that girl and me. I said that I don’t want anything to happen to her because I’m rather fond of her. This girl was rather surprised so I said “yes but I thought that most people knew that”. She asked if our farmer’s daughter knew that and I replied “of course she did”. “What did she do?”. “Nothing” I replied. “She had her own life to live etc”. I explained that we’d been out once or twice. She asked “what was she doing?” I said “it was just like this”. “Any snogging?” she asked. I replied “no unfortunately”. “Why on earth not?”. “I didn’t want to drive her away”. She wanted to know if she was married with kids. I replied that she was and had 2 kids. The conversation just drifted around like that. I thought that the farmer’s daughter would only be gone for a few minutes but it must have been ages that we were having this chat.

And before anyone grasps the wrong end of the stick, the fact that she is a farmer’s daughter has nothing whatever to do with Deep Purple.

Finally I was in the Army last night, looking through a pile of files and lists. No matter how hard I looked, all I could find were details of an assignment to the Entertainment Unit. They were all put in an envelope ready to be sent off to some kind of competition or show or something. There were all people there, including Jimmy Clitheroe but I couldn’t find anything in these service records and service history at all. This was really annoying. In the end there was a sergeant there who was responsible for the paperwork. I asked him and he pointed to these envelopes and said “but it’s all there”. I shouted that it wasn’t. I said that all it was was these application forms for this concert thing. I picked them up and dropped them in the bin. I told him precisely and in no uncertain terms exactly what I wanted. He started to go through the filing cabinet trying to find all this information.

Wherever did I find the time to go to sleep?

It didn’t take me long to tidy up and I decided not to make any sandwiches because I only get into trouble when I eat them and I’ll be home in time for a late lunch. So at 05:30 I had already handed in the key and was well off down the road.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022As I approached the railway station I went to have a look at the Martelarenplein.

We’ve seen this now every month for the last I don’t know how many years and and I have to say that for the last half-dozen or so months there seems to be very little, if any improvement.

Just like every building project in Belgium, they are really taking their time with this and at the rate that they are going, I reckon that I’ll be finished long before they are here.

05:50 when I arrived at the railway station so I had 19 minutes to wait in the freezing cold and wind before my train came in.

class AM96 electric multiple unit gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022The train this morning is the 06:09 from Landen to De Panne via Brussels Airport and the City Centre.

Today it’s one of the AM96 electric multiple units. Fairly modern, quite clean and comfortable and I’m quite happy to be aboard one of these.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I have mentioned their unique features before. When a train is made up of two trainsets, the rubber ring makes an airtight seal around the join and the drivers’ cabs swivel round out of the way so that you can walk from one trainset to the next.

We arrived at Bruxelles-Midi at 06:49, 28 minutes before my train to Lille. And this was when disaster stuck. There on the sign was “07:17 to Strasbourg via Lille cancelled”.

That was certainly a tragedy. With it being a weekend, the 07:47 direct to Paris doesn’t run either so that was that.

At the ticket office they proposed the following itinerary –

  • 08:17 to Lille Europe arriving 08:51
  • 10:42 from Lille Flandre to Paris Gare du Nord arriving 11:48
  • 12:59 Paris St Lazare to Lison arriving 15:31
  • 15:52 Lison to Granville arriving 16:43

Only three hours later than usual.

But if anyone thinks that I’m going to be waiting for almost two hours on a draughty, freezing cold railway station in Lille they are mistaken. I have another plan. But in the meantime I went to buy some food from Carrefour. I have a feeling that I might need it at this rate.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022Wherever I go, it has to start with the 08:17 to Montpelier via Lille

It’s one of the PBA (Paris Brussels Amsterdam) TGV Reseau 38000 trainsets and when I boarded it I could see exactly why my train had been cancelled. Two trainloads of people were “squeezed” into this one and it was still empty. I don’t suppose that they considered it worth their while to run the earlier one if it only had half the number on board that this one had.

There are a couple of small seats stuck in a corner by the baggage racks so I grabbed one of those and settled down while the train shot off into the void.

When it reached Lille Europe, I stayed on board. Next stop is Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and from there is a Reseau Express Regional (RER) D train that goes into the city centre and out to Orly. I can alight at Denfert-Rochereau which is 5 stops and 40 minutes away, and then it’s 3 stops on the traditional metro to Gare Montparnasse.

The chances are that with a good run I could still catch my 10:59 train to Granville.

So at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport I hurtled off the train and up to the RER platforms on the level above to find “No RER Service today to Paris”.

That’s all I needed.

Plan C involved legging it right across Terminal 2 (which is enormous) to the other side and the express buses that go to the Stade de France RER station. That’s on RER line D so I need to change at Chatelet. I would lose 5 minutes but who knows?

Strangely enough, whenever I’m at Terminal 2, I ALWAYS SEEM TO BE REQUIRED TO RUN.

airport express coach stade de france paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022at Gate 2F I leapt on board a waiting coach and we shot off round and round the ragged rock until we finally found the exit that took us out onto the motorway and into northern Paris.

And there we hit a pile of roadworks and a long queue of traffic and I watched the time on my fitbit melt slowly away as we tried to jostle our way into the only lane that was moving.

We eventually made it to the Stade de France railway station. My train was to leave Montparnasse at 10:59 and as I alighted from the bus it was 10:59 precisely.

Never mind, it was a good try. At least, with all of the running around that I had to do I must have lost a good few kilos.

train RER D gare de stade de france paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022Now that I’m here I may as well push on.

Down on the platform I waited for the train to come in. The next stop is the Gare du Nord anyway and that gives me plenty of opportunity to work out something else. There has to be a Plan D somewhere.

At the Gare du Nord I didn’t even come up into the daylight. Here is RER line E and the terminus of that is at Gare St Lazare (well, near enough anyway) so I may as well see what gives there.

printemps department store rue caumartin paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022Where the RER station emerges into the street is right at the back of the Printemps Department Store.

Round at the front is the Boulevard Haussman where you find the headquarters of SPECTRE and several other extremely exclusive premises. But as you might expect, I’m not going that way. I’m going in the opposite direction.

There may be a considerable amount of time to spare but I’m not going to go for a look around in Printemps. It’s the kind of place where people like us need a credit account in order to simply look in the window.

gare st lazare paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022When I was here last I didn’t have too much time to take a photo of the Gare St Lazare so here we are. We can see the clocks that we saw last time outside the building but from a different perspective.

And here, I had my only slice of luck today.

When I arrived I noticed that there was a train to Caen at 11:59, one hour earlier than the one to Cherbourg on which they had booked me. Now if there would be a train from Caen to Rennes that connects with it, I will be à la maison and sec as they say around here.

Sure enough, the train arrives in Caen at 13:58 and at 14:10 there’s a train departing for Rennes so I sallied forth into the ticket office with right and a certificate of cancellation on my side.

Bombardier Regio 2N 56670 caen normandy france Eric Hall photo February 2022Just by way of a change I met a very pleasant and helpful SNCF ticket agent who took one look at all of my paperwork (Government officials on the mainland LOVE paperwork and rubber stamps) and issued me with a ticket for the earlier train.

It’s one of the really comfortable and quick Bombardier Regio 2N electric double-deckers. I was in the front coach upstairs with about 2 other people so I could settle down with my bread rolls and have a crafty nibble.

When the ticket collector came round I showed him my original ticket and gave him all of the rest of the paperwork that I had and he hardly bothered to check them. I went back to eating my bread rolls and listening to Hawkwind again.

And I still think that the violin solo on STEPPENWOLF is one of the best that has ever been recorded.

Bombardier B82650 84555 gec alstom regiolis gare de granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022And here I am at Granville. My train is the Bombardier B825 on the left.

When I arrived at Caen it was already in and raring to go. It was quite full too and there are no luggage facilities, seeing as it’s a cross-country train. But I struggled aboard and eventually found somewhere for my suitcase and me.

There is no electricity on board these trains so I didn’t switch on the laptop. All the way to Granville I listened to COLOSSEUM LIVE on the telephone.

As I explained a while ago, I usually encounter interesting young ladies in peculiar situations whenever I listen to this album, such as in the High Arctic in 2018 and again a year later on the same ship in the same seat in the same place when I had two of the strangest encounters that I have ever had in modern times.

Today though, I’ve already had so many strange encounters, one way or another, that I probably wouldn’t have noticed another one by this time.

It’s no surprise that I dozed off for 10 minutes on the way home. And I immediately went off on a little wander. I was with another taxi driver and we were talking to a third. He had had the right to an engine in compensation for something but his wife at the time was now living with yet a fourth taxi driver and he had received this engine. He had fitted it into his car, “the T-reg”. I was surprised that after all of these years he was now back on the road but the reply was yes, it’s called “Creamony Cars” or something like that

Here at Granville on the right is the train that I should have caught. It beat me here (assuming that it was on time) by about 2 hours. And I don’t suppose that that was too bad because there was a moment when I was standing in front of the sign at the RER station at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport that I thought that I would never arrive at all.

The walk through the town was a nightmare. Even going down the hill was agony.

harbour gates closing port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022Climbing back up the hill up to my rock was even worse and it took me an age.

During one of my rather too frequent pauses during my climb I looked down at the harbour to see what was happening and I was lucky enough to see the red warning light flashing and the gates slowly closing.

So whoever might have been in the harbour loading up has now long gone and I won’t know who they are.

It was like Ice Station Zebra in here too when I arrived but ask me if I care. I made a coffee and collapsed into my chair.

No pizza tonight. I was too late to take some dough out of the freezer and it wouldn’t defrost so I had potatoes, veg and vegan sausage with vegan cheese sauce. It was lovely too.

Tomorrow is usually when I set an alarm for 06:00 and spend the day working on the radio but if anyone thinks that I’m doing that then they are mistaken. I’m going to bed and going to sleep until I awaken and hard luck on anyone who expects me to do anything. I’ve had a harrowing day.

Mind you, that could all change if TOTGA, Castor and/or Zero invite me to come with them for a midnight ramble. Imagine my sharing a room with Zero the other night and she not being there!

Wednesday 12th January 2022 – THAT’S NOT SOMETHING …

… that I want to be doing too often.

When I went to bed last night at about 21:15 I didn’t think that I would ever go off to sleep – tossing and turning around for quite a while.

But when the alarm went off at 04:00 I was fast asleep. However I was up and about quite quickly. There was even something on the dictaphone but all that I remember about last night was that there were 3 or 4 of us waiting to board a bus or something. When it came in, one of the guys stepped aside to let us on. We asked him why he wasn’t going to board. He replied that he was waiting for someone who hadn’t turned up yet.

That was the only thing that I can remember from last night.

By the time that it came to leaving the apartment I was champing at the bit to be off. I’d long-since done everything that needed doing.

fish processing plant port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022When I left the building I went to the viewpoint at the corner of the Boulevard des 2E et 202E de Ligne and the Boulevard Vaufleury.

In order to make sure that the camera was working correctly I took a photo of the fish processing plant. Plenty of light coming from the inside and a couple of refrigerated lorries parked outside so there must be plenty of work going on down there this morning, despite the mist that’s hanging over everywhere.

It’s been said that every “floating” job in the fishing industry creates four or five jobs on land and that’s easy to understand when you find out what happens in places like a fish processing plant.

One of the things that I would like to do is to actually go for a wander around inside but even if it were possible, they wouldn’t allow it in the middle of a pandemic.

The walk up to the station was done in darkness and solitude and to my surprise it wasn’t all that difficult. The Aranesp injections must be working.

Bombardier B82792 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022At the railway station my train was already in and at the platform waiting.

But I wasn’t interested in that right now. I had to track down the guard of the train. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that yesterday I couldn’t change the ticket for the train to Caen because with the train being cancelled, they had cancelled all of the tickets.

She wasn’t about as yet, but I made myself known to the driver and explained my situation. He’ll tell the guard as soon as she arrives and if it’s an issue she’ll come to see me.

Bombardier B82647 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022As it happens, the photo that I took just now wasn’t actually “my” train.

Well, it is in the sense that it’s not just a one-unit train but a two-unit train. The one you saw earlier was the rear half but I’m going to sit in the front half. There aren’t any reserved seats on this train and the farther you are from the entrance to the platform, the fewer people there are to bother you.

They give up the long walk and plonk themselves down closer to where they entered the platform.

The guard did come to see me and I explained my situation to her. I showed the guard the receipt for the purchase of the ticket and she waved me on with no issues.

The train was empty when we set off but by the time that it arrived in Caen it was heaving with people whom it had picked up on the way.

Bombardier Regio 2N 56629 gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo January 2022There was an hour’s wait at Caen due to having travelled on an earlier train, but the trip to Paris was pretty painless and I really enjoyed it.

It’s a Bombardier Regio 2N trainset and there are 447 of these rolling about on the French railway network. First hitting the rails in 2013, they are clean modern, comfortable and quick and I’d travel on these all day if I could. It’s almost enough to make me think about moving to the Caen area just to have the privilege of travelling regularly on them.

The 2N by the way stands for deux niveau, or “two decks”. These are double-decker units and didn’t the UK miss a trick when it heightened all of its infrastructure to allow the electrification of certain lines, and not heightening it enough for double-deckers.

One thing that was very important was that I snapped out of the deep, black depression in which I’d been for the last week or so. As soon as I boarded the train I made up a playlist of all of my favourite stomping Hawkwind numbers, the ones that I would play if I could lay my hands on a guitarist, a drummer and a violinist, because Simon House’s violin-playing on tracks such as STEPPENWOLF and DAMNATION ALLEY is absolutely phenomenal.

And then you have the full-length version of SPIRIT OF THE AGE and any one of another dozen that I could mention.

Mind you, the bloke in the seat in front didn’t like my singing much, so that was rather a shame for him, wasn’t it?

gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo January 2022The train arrived at Gare St Lazare on time and I had another nightmare occurrence trying to make the automatic machine read my ticket before I could leave the platform.

And in the ghostly, eerie, empty atmosphere of the railway station I could take a better photo than the one that I took last time. I’m not sure where everyone is becuase it’s usually packed. Maybe they heard that I was coming.

The trip from Paris St Lazare to Gare du Nord was straightforward – except that the ticket machine didn’t like a couple of my Metro tickets. It’s clearly not my lucky day to be travelling around, with all of these ticket issues that I seem to be having.

Thalys PBKA 4345 gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo January 2022There wasn’t long to wait at the Gare du Nord for my train to Brussels, and that’s one of the reasons why I came this way today

It’s a horrible station to hang around in, huge, cold, draughty and no shelter anywhere. When I saw the 2-hour wait for a train had I come to Paris on my normal train, I had blanched.

We were quickly ushered on board and once everyone was ready we hurtled off towards Brussels. Non-stop, direct, no messing around in Lille. That’s another good reason to come this way.

To my surprise we pulled into Brussels 2 minutes early. I wandered off to the Carrefour to buy lunch for a change. There’s usually some stuff there that I can eat, like some of their delicious buns.

Once I’d dealt with the question of food I was lucky enough to find a train almost immediately for Brussels Schuman.

Justus lipsius council of ministers of the european union rue de la loi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022When I arrived at the station I went up to street level and there was the building where I had spent 12 happy years of my life.

Well, not exactly because I was around and about in other buildings at various times, but that’s the Head Office. The very best ever thing that I did with my life was to fight my way into there. I often muse about how had I remained living in Crewe I’d probably still be driving a taxi or a bus.

Although I didn’t have an appointment at the bank, they saw me more-or-less straight away and sorted out my bank card issues. I should receive a new card in the post “within a week”.

Back at Brussels Schuman we had one of those conversations that you can only ever have in Belgium
Our Hero “do the trains still go from here to Leuven?”
Assistant at Information Desk “I don’t know”.

class am 86 multiple unit 931 gare de bruxelles schuman railway station belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022In the end a ticket collector pointed me in the right direction. Why I was having difficulty is that they don’t terminate at Leuven these days but continue on to Landen, so it’s “Landen” on the destination boards.

The train was one of the old AM86 multiple units and it came into ths station. These aren’t particularly comfortable and are rather lightweight compared to some of the SNCB multiple units but they have had plenty of use and they keep on going. Of the 52 that came into service between 1986 and 1991, there are still 51 of them running around, mainly in the centre of the country.

When the train pulled in at Leuven I went to the supermarket at the back to pick up some stuff and walked down here to my room. No upgrade again but I’m not all that bothered.

It’s freezing here in Belgium so I’m glad that I brought my winter woollies. I’m going to need them.

First thing that I did when I arrived in my room was to crash out, and that’s no surprise.

Later on I found the strength from somewhere to struggle down to the supermarket for the rest of the shopping and then back here to make tea.

Now that’s done, I’m off to bed regardless of the fact that its only 21:30. And with the alarm set for 08:30 I’m going to sleep until I wake up. I’m surprised that I’ve kept going as long as I have, with 137% of my daily exercise total done too.

But one thing is for sure, and that is that I’m going to stomp all my way home to Granville on Saturday. Every since back in my early teens when I discovered Radio Luxembourg, music has been my only constant and steadfast companion and immersing myself deeply into it has sometimes been the only thing that has kept me going.

One thing that I need to do is to have a rethink about the direction in which my life is going because things aren’t working out right now. Somehow I need to pay much more attention to the inner me and that almost inevitably involves music.

On THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR I was happy spending most of my time listening to COLOSSEUM LIVE and ON THE ROAD by Traffic and things only changed (for the better or for the worse, depending on how you look at things and I know how I look at them) when I stopped listening and went to do something else.

Perhaps I ought to listen to more music. I dunno.

Saturday 16th October 2021 – THIS NEW WAY …

… home actually seemed to work a lot easier than going home the normal way. So if ever my 07:17 from Brussels is cancelled in the future and I can’t have another cheap ticket any other way, I’m going to consider quite seriously going this way home again.

The alarm was set for 06:00 but it was pretty much a waste of time because I didn’t have much sleep at all. The heating made so much racket that in the end I went down and switched it off, and then I ended up with people talking outside my door for what seemed like hours.

Nevertheless I was up and about as soon as the alarm went off and it didn’t take me long to finish packing and to make my sandwiches. There was even time for coffee and toast for breakfast.

During the night despite the lack of sleep I’d been on my travels again. We’d been having a history class at University but the teacher hadn’t turned up so we’d been running it ourselves. He finally turned up and started, going round the class talking to each one of us. He mentioned to me about going round to teach his daughter guitar if I was free at 17:30 that evening. When I left work I went to park up somewhere to wait. After a while I thought that I’d better ring Laurence to tell her where I was, that I’d be late. She had obviously been asleep because she was very slurred with a tired voice. She just muttered something about the management but I didn’t hear a thing after that. Then I realised that I didn’t have my guitar so I thought that I’d better return to the office and fetch it.

We were all in a car somewhere. We turned up at a house where we were supposed to be. I couldn’t get my car into the drive because the cars were parked too far close up. I had my brother move his car but there still wasn’t enough room which I thought was really strange. Then I realised that the one on the left was too far over so I pushed that out of the way so that I could drive in. Parked in there was the red Opel coupé of a girl whom I knew, really rusty and rotten. Whoever it was with me said “no tax again”. I replied “it’s taxed until June”. Then I had a closer look and it was June 1988 in the window. I said “that sounds just like her, doesn’t it?”. We walked round the back of the house to go in ready to see the lighting of the Christmas tree.

07:00 is the latest time for me to leave my digs because there’s an express train to Brussels at 07:33. But I was on my way at about 06:50.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021The work that’s taking place in the Martelarenplein outside the station is another one of these tasks that seems to be taking forever. It’s been going on for a couple of years now and progress seems to be very slow.

The fencing is still all around the work so it’s very difficult to take a photo, and the dark early morning doesn’t help very much either, but I did the best that I could in the circumstances.

With having set out so early, I was well in advance of my timetable and luckily, there was an earlier express train, the 07:21, so I didn’t have to wait too long because it was absolutely taters out here and I wish that I’d brought a coat..

class 18 electric locomotive 1903 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that came into Leuven was pulled by, despite its number, a class 18 electric locomotive of the type that we catch quite regularly.

In the darkness I couldn’t see anything of the journey, but we pulled into Brussels with 45 minutes to go before my train to Paris.

And sitting on a draughty station in this weather for that long froze me to the marrow. If there’s a waiting room at the gare du Midi I have yet to find it.

Luckily though, the train came in early and we were allowed to board pretty quickly, which was just as well

Thalys PBKA 4304 gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that I’m on is one of the PBKA – Pars, Brussels, Cologne, Amsterdam – trainsets, the one on the left in this image taken at the Gare du Nord in Paris.

having scrambled aboard the crowded train to warm up, I found myself sitting next to a Chinese student who was confused about the application of the Eurorail pass. He didn’t realise that there’s a supplement to pay on the TGV and so he was stuck for an excess charge.

This train is a direct one to Paris. No changing at Lille, which is good news for me because the walk is a painful one in my state of health.

As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … I don’t know why the train from Lille to Paris goes from a different railway station to the one that the long-distance TGVs use.

Much of the route to Paris was spent catching up with my beauty sleep so I was wide awake when we arrived in Paris. I had to show my vaccine passport on arrival and then go to look for RER track E.

It’s actually quite a walk but it’s on the level with no obstructions and on a really good surface so it didn’t seem like too much effort.

Down in the bowels, I didn’t have long to wait for a train. Much more comfortable than the metro, rather like a cheap mainline multiple-unit in fact, and it was only 15 minutes to the Gare St Lazare.

There was quite a walk from there too but once more, it was all on the level and going up to the station was on an escalator so there wasn’t any struggle with the baggage.

clocks outside gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021According to my notes, I’ve never been to the Gare St Lazare before so I went outside for a look around as I had some time.

This was quite interesting, all of these clocks. It’s a design by someone called Armand Fernandez, known as “Arman” and not “Arman in Havana”, and was commissioned by the French Government in 1985.

The station is pretty cramped in its surroundings by other buildings and nowhere is it possible to take a decent photograph.

gare st lazare France Eric Hall photo October 2021Inside the station though, it’s light and airy, having been modernised and upgraded about 10 years or so ago.

It’s not very easy to navigate though as the destination boards and platforms aren’t very clearly indicated.

And while finding where the platform that I need is one thing, finding my way onto it was something else completely.

There’s a “magic eye” that reads the QR code of your ticket, but the eye isn’t where you expect it to be and it took me 5 minutes and the assistance of a passer-by to enable me to find a way to pass the barrier.

56643 class Z 56600 electric multiple unit gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021My train is a newish double-decker multiple-unit, a class Z 56600 Electric Multiple-Unit “Regio 2N” double-decker built by Bombardier and entered service in 2014.

It has all mod cons and is very comfortable. Furthermore it’s non-stop to Caen and it doesn’t hang about either, with a top speed of 200kph.

It’s certainly worth remembering this route for the future if ever there’s a perturbation on my regular route. And if they do electrify my line, something that is under discussion right now, we might even see these in Granville which would be nice.

gare de caen railway station Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021At Caen there’s a one-hour wait for the train to Granville so I could go for a walk around outside.

No problems with photographing the station here because there is very little to obstruct the view. i’ve actually been here once before, but not on a train. I came this way on the bus once when there was a rail strike and we stopped here for a breather

It’s not the original railway station of course. Like so many others in the battle zone in Northern France, it was heavily bombed during the early summer of 1944 to prevent the rapid deployment of Axis forces by rail.

eglise st michel de vaucelles caen Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Further down the street in the distance above the tram is a church that I think is the Eglise St Michel De Vaucelles.

There was a church on this site in the days of Charlemagne but there is no trace now of any remains from this period. The church that we see today dates from the early part of the 12th Century although it has been heavily modified since then.

It’s one of the starting points for the pilgrimages to the Mont St Michel.

By now it was lunchtime so I went back inside to eat my sandwiches and I actually treated myself to a mug of hot coffee. I’m really pushing the boat out these days, aren’t I?

bombardier 82792 gare de caen railway station Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that I catch from Caen is one of the Bombardier units that we have seen quite regularly in Granville.

It’s quite bizarre because there are only four power points per carriage and they take some finding. I had to wait for half the journey before a seat at one of them became vacant.

But imagine that! Just four power points, and in the 21st Century too!

These trains are little branch-line rattlers and not as comfortable as the one on which I’ve just been travelling, but at least it does its job and brought me back to Granville.

marité philcathane belle france chausiaise port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Coming back home was easier than it has been recently. I only had to stop four times coming up the hill to home.

One of my stops was at the viewpoint overlooking the inner harbour. Marité is down there of course, with the trawler Philcathane across the harbour on the other side.

Down here close to me are Belle France, the new ferry for the Ile de Chausey, and Chausiaise, the little Chausey freighter in orange, grey and white.

By the looks of things too, there’s someone having a go at mending his nets on the quayside too.

sailing school baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Further up the hill at another one of my rest stops I could see that the sailing schools were in full operation today.

There are a couple of the yellw and orange ones having a sail about, but the black ones seem to be having a conference of some kind.

Arriving back at the apartment I made myself a coffee and reflected on how nice it was to be back home. And only four stops coming back up the hill with the load that I had in my suitcase was quite some progress compared to how I’ve been just recently.

Football later on, in the Welsh Cup. Colwyn Bay of the 2nd Division against Cardiff Metro of the 1st. A game rather short on skill and technique, but a proper cup-tie all the same played in front of a big, noisy crowd. Cardiff Metro had most of the play, missed a penalty, had a goal disallowed for offside and missed three or four absolute sitters.

Colwyn Bay, who were on the back foot for most of the game and only had one real shot on goal. And so, as you might expect, Colwyn Bay won the game 1-0 to move into the next round.

Now that I’ve had tea, I ought to be going to bed but I’m not tired right now. I’ll go to bed at about 03:00 I suppose and then sleep through until tomorrow afternoon.

That’s what usually happens.

Monday 30th December 2019 – I BET …

tesla electric vehicle charging station gare de granville railway station manche normandy france… that when you first saw the photo of this car in this parking place, you thought to yourself “he’s off on this pathetic parking lark yet again!”

But not a bit of it. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall my perambulations around Paris two weeks or so ago and I featured one of the new electric vehicle charging points that are springing up like mushrooms all over the developed world (except of course in the UK, for obvious reasons).

Well, here’s another one. Or two, to be precise, right outside the railway station in Granville. As I said a couple of weeks ago, the world is racing ahead.

And quite right too. The EU is to phase out the production of the internal combustion engine by 2040. The biggest obstacle to electric vehicles is the lack of charging points, but this is changing quite rapidly.

Other things that I wish would change quite rapidly are my sleeping habits. What with one thing and another (and once you start, you’ll be surprised how many other things there are) it was about 01:45 when I eventually went to bed last night. 4:33 of sleep last night, of which 3:42 were classed as “restful”.

This is getting beyond a joke.

Even so, there was still plenty of time for me to go off a-voyaging. I had to get up early next morning and there was a bit of an issue. There were two girls at my house. One of them was part of my family but I can’t remember who she was and the other one was her friend who was staying with us. Round about 11:00 they got up and about 11:15 or 11:45 something like that they went out. That was the last we’d seen of them. We knew that they were going to a dance. There we were, sitting there, a big group of us, drumming our fingers on the table wondering where they hall they had got to. I thought that this is no good – I need the car. I have to get up in the morning and everything like that. Round about 02:30 they suddenly appeared back again. They’d been on a dance, off to a night club all this kind of thing and we were all making disparaging remarks about “WHAT time was it you went out this morning?” All of that kind of thing. These girls weren’t giving a straight answer because they were a bit embarrassed something like that about it. But the situation concerned one of my Cortinas. I’d been driving around in it and the MoT had expired a while ago. I remember thinking to myself that I ought to have this vehicle on two number plates so I can get two different MoTs which would overlap so that if one expired I’d just put the plates on it for the other MoT and run that for another few months and so on. I can’t remember what on earth that was all about but that was when I awoke for the first time – round about 04:00.
But later on there was something going on to do with the radio. Some young boy had been at the radio who was doing his stuff with very primitive equipment (something like I’m doing at the moment I suppose) and tired of being pushed to the bottom of the pile because of that he went out and bought some decent stuff which improved his quality and improved his output and annoyed all of his colleagues because he’d now got some superior kind of stuff.

It was something of a struggle for me to leave my stinking pit this morning, which should not be a surprise after the night that I had, but I did make it up before the 3rd alarm.

Having taken the medication I transcribed the dictaphone notes and then went for breakfast once the medication had worked.

After breakfast I checked my communications and found that Alison had replied to me with her plans for the weekend when I’ll be at Castle Anthrax. And so I could go ahead with making my travel arrangements.

Thursday 9th January
09:00 – Granville to Paris Montparnasse, arriving 12:05 – and in the main arrivals hall too if my reading is correct.
13:15 – Paris Gare du Nord – Lille Flanders arriving 14:18
14:41 – Lille Europe – Bruxelles-Midi arriving 15:17
and then a local train to Leuven
Sunday 12th January
08:43 – Bruxelles-Midi – Paris Gare du Nord arriving 10:05
10:57 – Paris St Lazare – Caen arriving 12:58
14:10 – Caen – Granville arriving 15:44.

Of course, all of this is somewhat … errr … facultative. It’s all very dependent upon the availability of transport in the middle of a General Strike and I can see myself as having as many exciting adventures as did the Knights of King Arthur as they went to visit Castle Anthrax.

With booking my accommodation too, and my local train between Brussels and Leuven, it was quite late when I went for my shower.

And SHOCK! HORROR! – I’ve gained 2kgs since my last shower. That can’t possibly be right and seems to indicate that my bathroom scales are about as reliable as the blood count readings from Castle Anthrax.

Off I went into town and up to the railway station (and the electric vehicle charging point) to pick up my tickets. And there was quite a pantomime about getting them from the machine.

That’s why I always like to pick them up before I travel. There’s no-one in the ticket office at the time my train leaves so if the machine has a seizure on the morning of my travel then I really am cooked.

At LIDL I spent more money than I was expecting.

One thing that I said that I would do is to take more care of my living arrangements, and forgetting to change my bedding for weeks isn’t helping things. Today though at LIDL they had some flannelette sheets on offer so I bought a couple. A dark blue one to go with one bedding set and a light blue one to go with the other.

They weren’t very expensive for what they are and the quality isn’t brilliant but alternating them around more regularly means that they will last somewhat.

On the way back home I picked up my dejeunette from La Mie Caline and then headed for home.

lorry emptying waste paper recycling place d'armes granville manche normandy franceAt the recycling centre across the road from my building the lorry had come to empty one of the containers.

Not being in any particular rush, I watched it for a while as it emptied the plastics bin. And then watched for a couple more minutes while the crew of the lorry went scampering around trying to catch the pieces of plastic that where Blowing In The Wind.

The moral of this story is – don’t empty the lightweight plastics containers in a gale-force wind.

Back at the apartment I had a few things to do that took me up to lunch, and once lunch was out of the way I had a little project to attend to.

My “recording sessions” take place at the moment using an external microphone with the dictaphone, and then plugging the dictaphone into the computer to download the files and then to enhance them etc with my sound editing program.

But there’s no reason whatever why I can’t plug the mike into the computer and then record directly and edit “on the fly”, which will save me a couple of steps in the process.

And so I had the computer out of its cubby hole and plugged the mike in, and then had a play.

The result was awful. The sound level was abysmal, even on max input, and there was a persistent hissing on the recording. It needed so much “enhancing” to remove the hissing that it sounded as if i was speaking with my head in a bucket.

And so it’s back to the dictaphone while I think of Plan B. I hadn’t really realised just what good quality I was getting from the dictaphone with an external mike.

But all was not lost. It gave me an opportunity to reroute a few cables that needed rerouting, even if I did plug the HDMI cable into the incorrect socket and spent 10 minutes wandering why I wasn’t receiving a signal at the screen.

crowds on beach plat gousset granville manche normandy franceThat was the signal for me to go for my afternoon walk.

And what a beautiful afternoon it was. We had glorious sunshine even if it was quite low down in the sky. There were plenty of people out, even walking along the beach today seeing as the tide was out.

And the wind had dropped dramatically from how it was earlier too. And that was very welcome news.

crowds pointe du roc boulevard vaufleury eglise notre dame de cap lihou granville manche normandy franceIt wasn’t just around on the grassy field on the north side of the headland and on the beach that the crowds were massing.

Although they are the most popular places to be, they aren’t the only places. There were the hordes of people on the southern side by the big car park on the boulevard Vaufleury too.

They seemed to be admiring the harbour and the view across the Baie de Mont St Michel towards the Pointe de Carolles, as well as soaking up the best of the late afternoon sun.

joly france ferry port de granville harbour ile de chausey manche normandy franceWith the tide being right out, there wasn’t much action down in the outer tidal harbour. But there were a few things of interest though.

The other day we talked about NAABSA harbours – the “Not Always Afloat But Safely Aground” situation where ships are allowed to settle on the silt in tiday harbours where there isn’t enough water to keep them afloat.

Over there at the ferry terminal, Joly France is there, and as there is no water underneath her, she’s in a NAABSA state and it doesn’t seem to concern her owners at all.

chausiais port de granville harbour manche normandy franceShe wasn’t the only one either.

In front of her, likewise in a NAABSA state, is Chausiais, the new freighter that the owners of the Ile de Chausey have bought, presumably to provide a freight service over to the island, even if I can’t see what would be going over that couldn’t be carried in the hold of one of the ferries.

Still, we shall see in due course, won’t we? I sense a Cunning Plan.

That was my cue to come home where, shame as it is to say it, I crashed out, leaving my coffee undrunk.

And if ever there was a moment where I really did feel like hauling myself off to bed to crash out definitively, then that was it. But I fought off the feeling, even if I did feel like death.

As a result, my plan to attack the dialogue for my next radio project fell flat without very much progress having been made. I need to finish that one off as well as do another one by the end of the week, although I’m not sure quite when I’ll fit it all in.

But whatever happens, I mustn’t fall behind otherwise I’ll never get back in front again.

Tea tonight was a stuffed pepper with the stuffing left over from late last week. And I don’t know why, but it was the best one that I’ve ever made.

If anyone is interested in my stuffing mix, it’s as follows –
Start by boiling up some quinoa or bulghour with a little water and some really spicy chili powder, and leave it to simmer.
Meanwhile, dice up some onion, garlic (have to have garlic of course!), a tomato, mushrooms, olives and whatever else you might have lying around that is suitable, a handful or two of salted peanuts, and then some herbs. I use oregano, basil and tarragon, as well as ground black pepper.
Then, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a couple more of tomato sauce (not ketchup, of course!)
Mix it all up together and then add the bulghour or quinoa, which should by now be ready, and mix that well in too. You need your stuffing to be very moist, but not runny.
Cut round the stalk of the pepper and scoop out the core, the seeds and the pith. Then stuff it with your stuffing mix.
Into the microwave at medium-full (that’s 640 watts on mine) for 7 minutes 30 seconds while the rice and veg are cooking.
The when the rice is cooked and you’re rinsing it out with boiling water, give the pepper 90 seconds on max (that’s 800 watts on mine)

If you try it, let me know how it turns out, and let me know if you have any suggestions to make it differently. There’s a “contact me” link down at the bottom right corner of the screen.

channel islands ferries victor hugo port de granville harbour manche normandy franceAfter that I went out for my evening walk in the freezing cold, because the temperature has dropped dramatically. I was the only one out there, which was no surprise.

But while I was out there, I checked and sure enough, Granville really is back in the harbour, tied up alongside Victor Hugo.

It looks like her a-roaming is over for a few days.

And so was mine. For tonight anyway, I headed for home. I managed to fit in my run, although I was dead by the time that I reached the ramp and only made four or five paces up it.

It’s really disappointing that I can’t seem to push on and run for longer. I remember when I went back running in the mid-90s, when after a few weeks I suddenly found my second wind and could run for miles. I can’t seem to break this barrier these days.

Mind you, I’m not sure what I’m expecting at my age. It’s not every OAP who goes out running late at night every night, especially one who is supposed to be on his death bed. I should be grateful for what I can do.

This evening I didn’t see Minette the old black cat but I saw her mum who was on the doorstep chatting to a couple of people. So I had a little chat, wished them the compliments of the season and came home.

Now I’ve written up my journal, I’m off to bed. 6.5 hours of sleep if I’m lucky. That’s a luxury these days so I need to make the most of it.

But not quite yet. I’ve been listening to No Smoke Without Fire by Wishbone Ash. It’s an album that I’ve owned for probably 30 years but I haven’t heard it for probably 29 years. And while it won’t ever be anything like as good as the first couple of albums, I’m astonished that I haven’t played it more often because some of it is really excellent.

And as that finished, onto the playlist came Fur by Jane Wiedlin. Not an album that you would normally associate with me but Janet Marsden played it to me late one night and there are a couple of tracks on it that are totally unexpected in their brilliance. They bring back a couple of memories of one particular night in Crewe, and how things could have been different had I been in a better place in my head back then.

Monday 2nd December 2019 – MY FITBIT …

… has told me some surprising things in the pas, but none more surprising than what it told be today.

Having coupled it up to the laptop while I went for my shower this morning, it told me that over the month of November I had performed 103% of my daily fitness routine – the first time ever that I have gone over the 100% for a month. I’d done almost 350,000 steps and I’d travelled an unbelievable 261 kilometres on foot.

Even more interestingly, I had run for a total of 1 hour and 27 minutes.

And if you think that it’s not all that much to crow about, remember that I’m slowly dying and that three and a half years ago I couldn’t even walk.

The hospital wants me to lie about in bed and take it easy to preserve my strength for the struggle that lies ahead, but there’s no chance whatever of that. In the words of Neil Young, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”.

And I’m going to go with a bang, hopefully with a nubile nymphet a quarter of my age. That’ll give everyone something to talk about, won’t it?

However, there wasn’t much to talk about last night. I was in bed rather later than I would have liked, and up and out of bed long before the third alarm.

As for the dictaphone, not a word. It seems that I didn’t go off anywhere during the night and that’s a disappointment. As I have said before … “and you’ll say again” – ed … there’s far more excitement going on during the night when I’m asleep than there ever is when I’m awake these days.

In fact, probably my only hope of ever grabbing hold of a nymphet a quarter of my age will be at some point during a nocturnal perambulation.

With nothing to transcribe from last night, after the medication I attacked the backlog of dictaphone notes. With an interruption for breakfast and another one for a shower and clean-up, by the time that it came to leave the apartment the backlog was reduced to a mere 25.

And it goes to prove my point about these nocturnal ramblings because I seem to have passed through the extremely turbulent seas full of whirlpools and turmoil and moved back into calmer waters where I can carry on doing what I do best, whatever than might be.

It’s Monday so I have my regular Monday morning meeting at the Centre Agora at 10:00.

Just for a change I was late getting away, which was a disappointment because when I realised that I had forgotten to bring the little Nikon 1 with me.

That’s the camera that I usually take with me when I’m walking out because it’s small and light, and easy to carry in my pocket. And if I don’t ask it to do too much, the results aren’t all that much less in quality than the big Nikon D500.

health and safety issues erecting christmas tree place pierre semard granville manche normandy franceAnd how I wished that I had remembered to bring it because the camera on the telephone is total rubbish. But it’s the best that I had with me so it had to do.

Nevertheless I would have loved to have had a decent high-quality shot of this beautiful image of them preparing the Christmas tree at the Place Pierre Semard.

Health and Safety in the UK would have had a field day, seeing this kind of thing going on. As Isambard Kingdom Brunel once remarked late in his life during an enquiry into procedure at the beginning of the Railway Age, “what would be said of such a mode of proceeding today?”.

erecting christmas tree place pierre semard granville manche normandy franceBut here’s a more normal photo of them erecting the Christmas tree. It’s nothing like as exciting, is it?

So I carried on to the Centre Agora for our meeting. I had a couple of ideas that might have been useful but because they came from me and not from any of the organisers, they were discreetly brushed aside.

But not to worry. I’ll just keep to doing my own little job and let them get on with it. I hate empire-building but it seems that i’m stuck with it right now. At least they didn’t ask me to make the coffee.

After the meeting I walked all the way back home, calling in at LIDL for a few bits and pieces. Carrots were reduced to half-price and as I’m running a little low, I bought a kilo to freeze.

How, though, I don’t know because there’s no more room in the freezer. I really did make a mistake buying this one. It’s far too small for me.

On the way back I picked up my dejeunette (they are recognising me now in La Mie Caline) and bumped into someone who had been present at the meeting just now.

After lunch I started on Project 004. I need to have about four or five all organised pretty quickly as there seems to be no-one working over the Christmas period and if I want to have my stuff dealt with, it needs to be in by 15th December at the latest.

By the time that I knocked off, I’d done all of the music that I need. I just need to do the speech but I can’t do that yet as my mixer panel still hasn’t arrived and I don’t want to use the dictaphone again.

fishing boats marker buoys ile de chausey granville manche normandy franceWe had a pause as usual for my afternoon walk around the headland.

The wind had died down somewhat and with the sun being out it was quite a beautiful day. The fishing boat that was out there at the northern tip of the Ile de Chausey was having a good time

And so was Gribouille, the big ginger cat who came for a stoke.

eastern jersey channel islands granville manche normandy franceBut out there today the skies were totally clear and while the Brittany coast was in haze, the view over to Jersey was the clearest that I have ever seen it.

We had some good shots of the Brittany coast the other day while Jersey was shrouded in haze, but it was the other way round this afternoon.

We’ve never seen the eastern corner of the island looking like this.

east central jersey channel granville manche normandy franceThat’s St Helier there, and that’s about 54 kilometres away from where I’m standing right now.

We’ve seen the town before, but never with this much clarity. While it’s a tribute to the quality of the camera and the lens, it also has a lot to do with the weather too.

Probably more so in fact.

west central jersey channel islands granville manche normandy franceSo as you admire some more of the beautiful Jersey coastline to the west of St Helier, I carried on with my walk.

Surprisingly, given the really nice weather, I counted no more than 5 other people out there taking in the air around my circuit.

This was really a day for being out and about

western jersey channel islands granville manche normandy franceWhile you look at the western corner of the island of Jersey, I went to have a look to see what was going on in the chantier navale.

And the answer to that question isn’t “nothing” as you were probably expecting, but “nothing any different from the last few days”.

Just the usual suspects and no new additions.

And that reminds me. I haven’t seen a gravel boat for ages and ages. I wonder why.

boats port de granville harbour manche normandy franceIt’s no surprise that there isn’t a gravel boat right now and I wouldn’t expect to see one because the tide is well on its way out just now.

All of the boats in the harbour are slowly setting down on the silt in the tidal harbour.

Except for the yellow and white on. That’s careening over quite alarmingly, although careening is a well-known technique in old ship-repairing. Ancient mariners in leaky ships would find a harbour like this where they could careen their boat to one side to repair the bottom of the boat.

And when the tide came back in and the boat would float up with the rising water they would turn the boat round so that when the tide went out next they would careen it over so that the other side was up and they could repair that.

pointe de carolles plage cabanon vauban baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy franceThere was no haze down at the bottom end of the Baie de Mont St Michel either. The hotels at the foot of the Mont St Michel were standing out quite clearly and that’s without any effort on my behalf or that of the camera and lens.

The Pointe de Carolles looks beautiful in this weather and the Cabanon Vauban that we visited a couple of times is perching proudly on the top.

Even the little town of Carolles-Plage and the beach is looking quite nice with its reflection in the damp sand

Back here I did a little (just a little) tidying up. The big suitcases for which I don’t have a place, I lifted up the mattress and the bed base and put them underneath the bed. I only use them once a year so they don’t need to be out in the way.

Another thing that I needed to do was to book my next trip to Leuven and Castle Anthrax. As you might expect, it’s on Friday 13th of December.

One of the things that I had been considering was to take myself off into Germany for a couple of days but there was nothing suitable. So I’ve booked my return journey for the Sunday.

And due to rail works, there’s no 08:13 again so I’m on the 08:43. And having to come home via Paris St Lazaire and Caen, I’ll be back 10 minutes early if all goes according to plan even with a wait of over an hour at Caen.

But it’s going to be an exciting trip back because I don’t know the way back across Paris from Gare du Nord to St Lazare and I don’t have much spare time if I miss my way.

Tea was a stuffed pepper, and it was quite delicious too. They’ve been selling some cheap spicy tomato sauce with garlic in Noz so I’ve bought a few jars of that and it adds a certain something to my stuffing.

trawler english channel granville manche normandy francePretty cool outside tonight, so there wasn’t anyone about at all as I went for my eveing walk.

A great number of lights out in the English Channel though. Plenty of fishing boats were out there tonight, like this one slowly chugging back to harbour.

I remember saying a few days ago that I don’t think that I’ve ever seen as much fishing activity this close to shore in previous years.

trawler english channel granville manche normandy franceWe’ve seen plenty of activity in the bay near Bréhal-Plage just recently too and that’s something that I haven’t noticed previously.

There’s another fishing boat out there tonight having a go at trying to haul in a decent catch.

As for me, I continued my walk and as usual broke into a run on my little track. And I made it all the way to the ramp and half-way up there without too much effort.

So back here and I’m off to bed. 146% and 11.7kms today. Start the month as I mean to go on!