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Thursday 22 October 2020 – I WAS FEELING LIKE …

… the Man From Westphalia this morning. In fact, it really was a failure.

When the third alarm went off I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed. I was rather like the two merchant seamen swimming in the sea with an overturned lifeboat.
“Did you manage to drag yourselves up on the boat?” asked a rescuer
“Honestly” replied one of them. “We never even had the time to do our hair”

It was 08:20 when I finally left the bed and that’s way beyond depressing.

It wasn’t as if I’d gone far during the night either. I’d been in the office to work and we’d been in the basement. To climb back out was hundreds of steps and I was exhausted by the time that I got to the top. There were crowds of people milling past me so when I went down again and coming back, I came back up the wider part of the stairs so all these crowds of people came swarming up the narrow part, which was quite strange. They all started to go home. Someone had an Austin A90 Atlantic with a very large boot on the back and I’d never seen that before, much bigger than a standard type. I got to the counter and asked if they had some papers for me. I knew that they had because I’d dropped them off there when I arrived. They asked “what name?” so I told them and they gave them back to me with a smile. I said “I’m going to take a shower before I go”. They asked were and I replied “in my room”. Someone had noticed on my paper the name of my car. They asked “do you have a Vanden Plas?” (which ACTUALLY, I DO). I went to show them on the paper. But there was somewhere something about a situation in the shower where I’m going to take a shower at someone’s house at one point and there was a rubbish bin full to the brim of all kinds of rubbish, mostly lightweight, these polystyrene balls, bits of plastic, whatever. I’d switched on the fan in the bathroom and all these papers and this polystyrene balls had blown absolutely everywhere and made a complete and utter horrible mess of untidiness inside this bathroom. I thought “it’s going to take me ages to clean this up, and it’s in someone else’s house as well”.

Writing out all of that didn’t leave me too much time to do anything else. I had a quick shower and then hit the streets.

roofing college malraux place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallOff to the shops now, albeit rather later than usual.

This morning though, i managed to catch the roofers on the roof at the College Malraux. They seem to be hard at it today as well, ripping the slates off the building. And their cherry-picker will make light work of hauling up the material to the roof.

It’s a bit tough on the young kids. No apprentices and labouring jobs these days where the youth of today can watch and learn how it’s done.

fishing boats leaving port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hallhaving got that out of the way I continued on with my walk to the shops.

It looks as if I’d just that very minute missed the opening of the harbour gates. There was an endless stream of fishing boats, both large and small, engaged in a stampede out to sea . There were probably about 20 all told, I reckon.

The fishing season must now be in full swing again, I reckon, with all of this activity going on. It will be interesting to see the quayside at the Fish Processing Plant at high tide tonight.

repairing sails marite port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt wasn’t just the fishing boats that were undergoing some activity this morning. Marité was having her fair share of attention too.

There were a couple of guys in a sky jack or a cherry picker or something of that ilk checking and repairing one of her sails this morning.

You can see the heaps of gravel piling up in the background too. It’s not going to be long, I reckon, before a gravel boat comes in to pick it all up. It’s been 6 months since we saw the last one so it’s about time.

Everyone was in facemasks in the town what with these new regulations and it looked quite bizarre. But obviously necessary with 40,000 new infections today.

At LIDL there was nothing exciting. Just the usual stuff. I wasn’t out there long. Heavily loaded (not as heavy as last week though) I headed back for town and home.

trawlers port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallAs I walked back up the Rue des Juifs I noticed an interesting spectacle.

It was something that puzzled me at first – two trawlers lashed together and sailing out og harbour. But just after there where I photographed them they did a hard left turn and the right-hand one came up against a pontoon. There, it was lashed to a support and the other trawler cut itself free.

Maybe it might have been an engine problem on the right-hand one that it couldn’t move under its own steam … “diesel” – ed … or something like that, I suppose

Back at the apartment I made myself a hot chocolate and then attacked the laptop. It has finished its reloading and all of the data files had now been copied back. What remained now was to add my suite of programs, something that took the rest of the morning.

More of my really delicious bread for lunch, and then this afternoon I started on the photos again. And this was extremely complicated because there were several photos that I took that, because of this failure of the DashCam to pick up my voice, I didn’t know where the photos were taken.

In the end I had to resort to watching the dashcam recordings to pick up any hints and with German road signs being so miserable, that wasn’t early and I ended up at one stage plotting my route by virtue of wayside advertisements.

However, I’ve now arrived at the Luxembourg border so from here on in, it should (hopefully) be pretty plain sailing for the remaining 46. Yes, I only managed to do 9 this afternoon, so complicated was it all.

roofing rue st jean Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAfter I’d done some of the photos it was time for me to go out for my afternoon walk.

First stop was to see just how they were getting on with the roofing job in the Rue St Jean. And, by the looks of things, there has been plenty of progress. Most of the laths are now on and they have almost covered one of the pitches of the roof with tiles. It’ll be fun watching them do the edging on the left.

And there was an ambulance in the area early this afternoon too. It made me wonder if someone had fallen off that flying scaffolding.

zodiac english channel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallMy walk continued on down and round the corner to the viewpoint in the Rue du Nord.

Actually, I was rather hoping to see a gravel boat so I had a good scan out to sea. But there was nothing doing. Only this zodiac racing past across the bay, with no indication of where it had come from and to where it was going.

However it was all loaded up with fishing gear so I imagine that they were going to have another go at the sea bass. And who knows? Some day someone might even manage to catch one too.

building sandcastles beach plat gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere was plenty of activity going on down on the beach and that caught my attention for a while.

Over the least couple of days we’ve had the beach artists down there doing there stuff but today it looks as if they have abandoned the place to the Civil Engineers. There are a couple of young guys building something substantial – a dyke with protective walls and sand castles. Good for them

The adults seem to be be preoccupied with something going on out to sea, but I couldn’t see what it was from up here.

people in sea plat gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallMy walk continued on along the Rue du Nord, mixing in with the hordes of people who were milling about.

You probably saw in the photo of the roofing that it was a beautiful, cloudless afternoon. Nice as it may have been, it wasn’t that nice. You wouldn’t get me into that water down there right now.

So instead I continued with my walk. No opportunity to break into a run unfortunately. There were far too many people about for that and I don’t want to show myself off.

When it reached 18:00 I called a halt and had my hour on the guitar. but I’ll need to find some enthusiasm from somewhere because I have lost it all right now and that’s not like me. Or maybe it is these days. I dunno. I can’t seem to summon up any enthusiasm for anything right now.

Tea was taco rolls with the left-over stuffing from the other night, followed by my delicious apple pie with chocolate sauce.

Moon baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAnd then I went for my evening walk.

During one of my many pauses I’d read up on how to use the delayed timer, and it was a beautiful, clear night with no wind, so I took the tripod for a walk.

Many of the photos didn’t come out and were summarily deleted, and had I had the f1.8 50mm lens on the camera instead of the BIG NIKON ZOOM LENS I might have been able to salvage more. I have a lot to learn about photography in the pitch black

Trawlers english channel islands Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThe tripod isn’t up to all that much either. Even on a level flat piece of concrete there’s still plenty of shaking in the joints. I didn’t have a weight with me to hold it down.

That’s pretty apparent in this photo of the street lights of Jersey. A 5-second exposure shows it up well enough. But had I had my night lens on I could have taken the same shot with just a one-second exposure and it would have been better.

And believe me – there were plenty more much worse than this that bit the dust.

Trawlers brittany coast Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallBut you’ll remember from earlier today when I photographed the stream of fishing boats heading out to sea on the tide, and I mentioned that i’d like to be there when they would all be coming back.

And sure enough, I was too. while I was setting up my tripod at the end of the headland to take some photos of the reflection of the moon in the sea, two of the blighters went chugging past me on their way back home.

They are the lights of Kairon Plage and Jullouville in the background by the way.

Moon baie de mont st michel brittany coast Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallBut this was what I was trying to photograph.

Over there in the background we have the Brittany coast round by Cancale. There’s the moon too, and some stars and planets, and the reflection of the moonlight in the sea. And there’s the traditional dilemma too – street lights just about right but the moon was far too bright.

Closing the aperture might reduce the light of the moon down to a proper proportion, but then you can’t see the stars or the street lights, and the reflection of the moon in the sea isn’t anything like impressive.

trawler baie de mont st michel brittany coast Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallWe’ve seen quite often the reflection of the street lights of St Malo bouncing around off the clouds in the distance.

One of the things that I wanted to do this evening was to take a better photograph of that, particularly as the clouds are now starting to close in. This was done with a 10-second delay, just long enough for a fishing boat to come into the shot, and a three-second exposure time, just long enough for the boat to become a nice blurred streak.

But at least the stars and the street lights aren’t blurred. I must have been out of the wind here, I suppose, and that prevented the tripod from being shaken about.

Moon baie de mont st michel brittany coast Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThis one was taken looking further up the Bay to the Brittany coast round by St Benoit des Ondes.

And taking this photograph was not without its difficulties either. There were a couple of other people walking about around here this evening and they had the habit of walking in front of the camera just after I’d pressed the shutter and while the time delay was running

Someone else though saw what was happening and he stopped. We ended up having a good chat about the area. He was from the Paris region and was on holiday here. It was his first visit and he was enjoying it so far.

moon trawler baie de mont st michel brittany coast Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hallhaving stood here for a good half-hour taking loads of useless photos I ran on (because I was still running despite the equipment) round the headland to the viewpoint overlooking the harbour.

By now, the clouds had thickened up and the moon was being obscured. Nevertheless I tried for a 2-second exposure here and that seemed to come out reasonably well. At least the trawler that drifted into the image wasn’t quite as blurred as the previous one was.

And strangely enough, there were even more stars visible in this photo despite the shorter exposure time

moon trawler baie de mont st michel brittany coast Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallNot being sure of how the previous photo would come out, because the tripod was far from level and the photo was askew (I straightened it in post-production) I rejigged the tripod and took another one.

This one has come out quite nicely too although there’s plenty of room for improvement.

What didn’t come out nicely though was the photo of the chantier navale. Only one boat in there tonight – the yacht that we have seen. The other two have cleared off.

fishing boats unloading port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallFor the record, I took several shots of the yacht in there but for some reason, not one of them came out as it should have done.

So instead I turned my attention to the Fish Processing Plant. We’d seen all of the fishing boats heading out to sea this morning and earlier this evening we’d seen them all come sailing back. It was now like a rugby scrimmage out there as all of the boats jostled for position at the quayside to unload.

All of the lights in the Fish Processing plant are ablaze, there’s plenty of movement with the fork-lift trucks and there’s a refrigerated lorry ready to take away the catch.

fishing boats unloading port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallThat photo was taken at 1/3rd of a second so I went to take the same one at a faster speed.

This one was taken at 1/5th second and it’s not come out anything like as well as the previous one. So I gave up and ran on home.

All in all, I’m pretty disappointed with all of this. Had I had the correct lens on the camera I might have done so much better, quite simply because of the shorter exposure times that would have compensated for a rather wobbly tripod.

Tomorrow morning I’ll have to check that and do some adjustment, I reckon. My technique might not be very good but it’s not going to be helped by relying on faulty equipment.

So now I’m off to bed. I can’t do with another night like last night. I have to put more of an effort into things. But only another week before I’m off to Leuven so there’s tons to do and I can’t hang around brooding.

Interestingly, my horoscope for this week reads “I’m missing my true love. I need to do everything that I can to meet up with her, see her, or simply show her the proof of all my love”.

Anyone remember Tuesday’s notes?

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

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

But ask me if I care.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 14th August 2020 – THAT WAS A …

… nice break on my journey today.

My route brought me through the city of Luxembourg so I telephoned my friend Malou. We met in the city centre and went for a drink and a chat for an hour or two. It’s a long time since we’ve seen each other so it was good to meet up and have a chat for a while.

And I do have to say that I needed a break because it had been a long, hard day. It all went wrong before I went to bed because having had a little doze during the afternoon, I wasn’t tired at all and it was almost 02:00 before I went to bed.

Nevertheless I staggered out of bed as the alarms went off, tired as I might have been, and did some of the outstanding paperwork.

There was something on the dictaphone too. For some unknown reason we had been discussing tanks during the night. We were in a big one, the idea being to spray several other tanks with machine gun fire to find out how flammable they were and to see what the chances were of setting other tanks ablaze with just simply machine gun fire reaching vital parts or breaking fuel lines kind of thing

Breakfast was interesting because the landlady insisted on talking to me. We had a delightful conversation in a mixture of German and English that went on for almost an hour.

hotel kraichgauidylle 69254 malsch germany eric hallThinking on, I’m not too sure if I’ve mentioned my hotel.

It’s the hotel Kraichgauidylle in Malsch, the correct Malsch of course, and is one of these typical Germanic small village hotels that you encounter all over Central Europe. Somewhat tired, dingy and dark as if it was a throwback to the 1930s but while the price wasn’t a 1930s price, it was pretty good value for the money that I paid.

In fact, being on the Budget Economy plan that I am, the proof of the issue is “whether I would stay here again at the same price” and that emits a rather positive response.

The only issue was the lack of on-site parking. But arriving late and leaving early meant that I could use the parking space of the bank across the road without any problems.

On the road, the lack of sleep caught up with me before I’d gone too far and I ended up asleep in a car park for a couple of hours. It’s a long time that I’ve done that, isn’t it? Just like old times in Canada.

The bridge that I was intending to take across the Rhine was closed and I was obliged to take a detour to another bridge.

castle frankenstein  eric hallFrom there, through yet more roadworks and traffic jams, especially in the town of Kaiserlautern, I pushed on into the Eifel Mountains past the Castle Frankenstein.

One of those places where you have to stop and take a photo, even if you do have to drive around for ages and perform several U-turns in order to find a place to park where there’s a good vies

It’s not unfortunately the castle of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – that’s out near Darmstadt – but its etymology is the same, to wit, the stone (building) of the Franks, the tribe that occupied western Germany and eastern France in the early Middle Ages

The existence of this particular castle is first recorded in 1146 and is believed to date from some 50 years earlier according to some contemporary reports. Its purpose was to guard the road between Speyer, Dürkheim and Worms, presumably for the security of pilgrims and religious officials, and was owned by Limburg Abbey.

Severely damaged during the various wars of the 15th and 16th Century, it was finished off during the German Peasants War, a revolt that led Martin Luther to state that the peasants “… must be sliced, choked, stabbed, secretly and publicly, by those who can, like one must kill a rabid dog.”.

By 1560 it was reported as being destroyed.

concorde Flugausstellung Peter Junior Hermeskeil Habersberg germany eric hallContinuing onwards deep into the mountains, I came across an air museum with 20 or so aeroplanes on display outside, somewhere near the towns of Hermeskeil and Habersberg.

What actually caught my eye was the Concorde here so I had to do a U-turn and go back for another look. However I didn’t stop for more than a second or two because right at that moment we were having a torrential downpour outside – something akin to what we had on the previous day and I wasn’t getting out of Caliburn in that. A quick photo would have to do.

But it’s another one of these places to which I’ll have to return, even if the Concorde here is only a replica, as I was to find out later. Never mind 20 or so areoplanes, there are in fact well over 100 and not only that, there’s a railway museum nearby with a shed full of steam locomotives.

view river saar valley germany eric hallThe weather started to brighten up very slowly as I pressed on further into the mountains. And as I crested a rise at the back of the town of Vierherrenborn, I stopped in my tracks to admire the beautiful view.

Where I actually am is at the top of a range of hills that form the eastern shore of the Saar River, one of the tributaries of the Moselle which it joins a few miles further north near Trier.

246 kilometres long, it was a vital industrial route of Germany in the late 19th and early 20th Century when this region was one of Europe’s leading iron*producing areas, bringing raw materials in and taking the finished product out.

This was a region that was considered to be so vital to Germany’s industrial progress that for 15 years after World War I and 10 years after World War II it was adminsitered separately from Germany by various occupying powers.

radio mast near vierherrenborn germany eric hallBehind where I’m standing is what at first glance appeared to be similar to the Loran C masts of which we saw more than a few ON OUR TRAVELS AROUND NORTH-EAST CANADA.

However this one probably isn’t. It’s probably nothing more than an ordinary radio antenna – if “ordinary” can be used to describe an object quite like this one. I was rather hoping that it might have been the “Eifel Tower” – in actual fact the Sender Eifel – the tallest structure in the Rhineland-Palatinate at 302 metres, but that’s about 60 miles further north at Kirchweiler

So whatever it is, I shall have to continue to make enquiries

wind turbines saar valley germany eric hallThese objects are much easier to identify, because we have seen plenty of them on our travels around here and there.

Across the river over there – brcause the river is just down there in that velley in the middle distance – is one of the highest points in this particular region, a mere cockstride from the border with Luuxembourg, right in the path of the westerly winds.

Consequently it’s obviously going to be a prime candidate for a wind farm, and quite right too. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I’m all in favour of windfarms, having lived for many years with three wind turbines.

river moselle rehlingen nittel germany eric hallTalking of westward, I’m going west, aren’t I? Continuing along the road towards the border with Luxembourg myself.

It’s a really beautiful drive through this part of the Eifel so I wasn’t in any great rush, but soon enough I arrived at the River Moselle, the “little Meuse”. To the left of this image is Luxembourg and to the right is Germany, for the river forms the boundary between the two.

The town down there is called Rehlingen, a town first recorded some time in the middle of the 12th Century but lost its autonomy in 1974 when its administration was absorbed into that of neighbouring Nittel.

wormeldange luxembourg eric hallOver there is the town of Wormeldange, in Luxembourg and it’sdown by there that we will be crossing over the river into Luxembourg by means of the bridge that links it with the German community of Wincheringen, where I am at this moment.

Lovers of wine would love to come to visit Wormeldange because it’s one of the more important centres of production of Reisling and there are 360 hectares of grapes to have a go at.

But not for me though. Apart from a beer, which was all that there was to drink when we were stranded in a snowdrift half way up a mountain while skiing in Romania one year, I haven’t drunk alcohol for 30 years or so. And in any case, I have an appointment to keep and can’t spare the time to stop.

Into Luxembourg City to find a parking space, and Strawberry Moose received a wave from a friendly pedestrian.

Having found a place to park, I met up with my friend Malou. We had studied together at University all those years ago and still keep in touch. We’ve met up a few times while I’ve been on my travels but not in Luxembourg since about 2001. We went off to have a coffee and a good chat.

Having spent a pleasant hour or so with Malou I headed out of the city northwards in the vague direction of the Belgian border.

hotel kinnen Route d'Echternach, 6550 Berdorf, Luxembourg eric hallDeep in the mountains of the northern part of the country in the town of Berdorf, I ended up at my hotel, the Hotel Kinnen, in keeping up my tradition of spending a night in every country that i’ve visited.

This hotel is another place that has seen much better days in the past when Berdorf was the place to be. And it still has quite a few signs of its former grandeur. In fact, for value for money, it’s one of the best places in which I’ve stayed in Western Europe for quite some considerable time.

Walking around the town later that night, I stumbled upon a pizza place and prevailed upon the chef to make me a special pizza seeing as I hadn’t had one for a few weeks. Now I need some more vegan cheese.

Tomorrow I’m heading to Germany and Belgium. Well on my way home now. Looking at my notes I can see that I’ve already been out for three weeks and it’ll be four weeks by the time that I return home. I wonder if I can remember where it is.

Saturday 9th May 2020 – IT WASN’T …

… a very good start to the day today either.

The alarms went off as usual and I heard them, but by the time that I arose from the dead it was 06:45. I’d missed the third alarm again!

And another thing that I need to do is to apologise for having doubted the word of Percy Penguin, who doesn’t feature in these pages half as often as she deserves. She complained once about my snoring in my sleep and having on a couple of occasions heard the dictaphone still working when I’ve been asleep, and not heard a thing, I had the temerity to doubt her word.

However, we had another occasion during the night where I went back to sleep in the middle of dictating something and … errr … well … quite.

Sorry, Percy Penguin.

Interestingly though, when I came back into the land of the undead, I resumed the dictating at exactly the same point as where I fell asleep.

There have been many occasions where I’ve awoken during the night and gone back to sleep and stepped right back into a dream at the point where I left it, but this is, as far as I’m aware, the first time that I’ve ever done the reverse.

It was another hot and sweaty night and I don’t know where we are but Crosby Stills and Nash are here and they played a concert and then disappeared offstage. I went to have a look at the equipment, all of these boxes. There was a box of accessories for each musician but there was also (…fell asleep right here in the middle …) some boxes on the stage with the names of the people. Each musician had his box and the supplementary musicians had theirs but their names were a bit vague. There was one that said something like Dino with a question mark stating that he was a native American who died in 1975 and nobody – they didn’t even know his name and didn’t even know where he came from but he played guitar with Crosby Stills and Nash and he had died away and they had practically forgotten about him – not forgotten about him of course because obviously he had his box but they didn’t find out anything about him while he was playing there, not even his real name.

After breakfast I had a look at a couple of files on the web server that shouldn’t be there at all and upgraded one that should and then went and had a shower.

And a shave. And a weigh-in and I’ve lost a couple of hundred grammes since last time. Still not enough though – it’s a slow process.

In town today it was difficult to tell that we are still in lockdown here until Monday. It was just like any other Saturday in normal times with the vehicles and the crowds and the local Council have recognised this, I reckon, because the traffic lights are now working properly instead of flashing amber like they have been.

There was a queue to enter LeClerc and even so, the place was packed with people, just like any normal Saturday. My own shopping bill wasn’t all that much and could well have been even less, except that the coffee that I bought on a super-special offer for 6 packs the other week was back on an even more special offer – 6 packs for €11:74.

At that price I had to buy a packet because it really is quite nice, that coffee.

Back here, I had a busy afternoon.

First thing was to go through the web server and identify the files that shouldn’t be there – of which there were plenty. They were brought home to the hard drive here and deleted from the server.

Then I had a look through the hard drive to identify
i) files that aren’t meant to be on the web server anyway
11) files that aren’t ready to be uploaded
give them all a meaningless suffix simply to identify them so that they aren’t uploaded again in error

And then updated the ones that needed updating, and then loaded them back to the web server.

They are all done now, but many of them will have to be done again because there was a slight change to the format halfway through.

But I think that what I’m going to do now that this project is temporarily finished, along with the digitalising of the record collection that has ground to a halt near the end, is to pick on one web page per day and rewrite it with suitable editing.

However, I’m not forgetting the second web page. I shall have to attend to that in due course and update that. However, there are only about 200 or so of those, half the amount that I’ve just done.

There was still half an hour left before knocking-off time so I attacked a few more photos from July 2019. I’m now inside the harbour at Vestmannaeyjar, on the island of Heimaey just off the coast of Iceland but I’m still not moored.

Just for a change, the hour on the guitar was much more enthusiastic. I’m not sure what happened there but anyway, I enjoyed it immensely.

For tea, I had one of the best stuffed peppers that I’ve ever made, followed by a slice of that apple pie from the other day. And that was excellent too. If I’m not careful, I’ll really be pushing the boat out – although evidently not as far as the quayside in Vestmannaeyjar.

mercedes s500 maybach luxembourg numberplates place d'armes granville manche normandy france eric hallAfter the washing up I went out for my evening runs. But I didn’t get far before I was brought to a dead halt.

A short while ago I wrote about people not respecting this detention à domicile, and I don’t know what to say about this. There are at least two cars like this Mercedes S500 Maybach here, and what is interesting is that they both appear to have number plates from Luxembourg on them.

So how did they get here? And what are they doing? Don’t they realise that there’s a lockdown here?

Apart from that Jersey-registered caravenette that was here just asfter the ferries stopped sailing – presumably having missed the last ferry, these are the first foreign-registered vehicles I’ve seen in the town.

victor hugo port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallTalking of ferries to the Channel Islands … “well, one of us is” – ed … look who’s back.

When I was out last night in the dark I thought that I recognised the change in silhouette in the harbour but it was too dark to see what it was. But sure enough, Victor Hugo is back from her winter sojourn in Cherbourg.

No idea why, though. We’ve been told that the ferries to the Channel islands won’t be starting up any time soon so there doesn’t really seem to be too much point in her coming down here right now.

sunset english channel ile de chausey granville manche normandy france eric hallWe’d had rain earlier so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of a sunset with all of the clouds about.

It wasn’t anything like as good as some of the ones that we’d been having just recently but that can’t be helped. You can’t win a coconut every time.

And as for my run up the hill, yesterday must have been an exception because it was a struggle once more up the hill. I’ll try it again with no food late in the night and see if it’s that which makes the difference.

chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallOn my way past the chantier navale this morning I’d had a quick look at the boats there and came to the conclusion that the one that appeared late last night was not the one that had been there before.

This evening I took my time to have a closer look and indeed it isn’t. It’s a slightly different shade of blue and it has a name – Joker – which the other one didn’t have.

But it’s good to see the chantier navale looking so busy. That’s a bonus for the town.

sunset english channel ile de chausey granville manche normandy france eric hallHaving inspected the chantier navale I ran on down the Boulevard vaufleury all the way down to my resting point and then walked back to look at the harbour and Victor Hugo

And having done that I ran on round to the viewpoint at the Rue du Nord overlooking the Ile de Chausey to see the sunset.

And quite unexpectedly I was in luck. It wasn’t an impressive one but just as I arrived the sun peeked through a gap in the clouds and i was able to photograph it.

fishing from steps rue du nord granville manche normandy france eric halla day or two ago, regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we had seen some people fishing from the steps that go down to the beach.

They were there again today casting into the water, but I couldn’t see whether they had caught anything. So I ran on back home.

On the doorstep I met one of my neighbours so we had a good chat for half an hour and then I came in to write my notes.

Now that they are finished I’m going to go off to bed. No alarm (it’s Sunday) and a Day of Rest – the first one for quite a while too so I intend to make the most of it

Saturday 17th February 2018 – I’M A MISERABLE PLEADER.

Yes, I’m definitely losing my touch.

Maybe it’s trying to do it in Flemish that’s the problem, but on the other hand being a miserable ignorant foreigner who has travelled for for no avail usually works wonders.

But retournons to our moutons as they say back home.

Yet another miserable night as my neighbours awoke me when they returned home at 02:00 and carried on their party until 04:00 or whatever. And as I have said before, it’s not really their noise that’s the issue – it’s more the fact that i’m a light sleeper and the walls are very thin.

I compensated by setting the alarms for 07:30 and 07:40 instead of the usual time one hour earlier. After the medication and breakfast, I had a shower and change of clothes and then attacked a few things that needed my attention.

Alison came through at 10:30. She was just about to leave home so that gave me 15 minutes to gather up my wits (it doesn’t usually take me that long these days as you know) and go to loiter on the corner at the end of the street.

She arrived on time and we hit the road for our day out. She had made several suggestions as to where to go (I always have this problem of people telling me where to go) but the one that stood out above all of the others was Aachen of course – in Germany.

The thing that I like about living in Belgium is that you have a choice of four countries – France, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands – on your doorstep. Luxembourg at 100 minutes is the farthest away and the rest are a lot closer than that.

aachen germany february fevrier 2018The weather wasn’t what I expected though. Considering that it was Germany in February I was hoping for sub-zero temperatures and several feet of snow. Instead, we had a glorious Spring day with a beautiful blue sky.

I felt rather disappointed.

Alison is off skiing in a few days so she wanted to look at some of the clothing in the big Sports shop on the edge of the city centre. So that was to be our first port of call

katzencafe aachen germany february fevrier 2018 But we were distracted by a café that we hadn’t noticed before. It wasn’t the vegan options on offer but the fact that sitting in the window were four rather large cats.

This place is called the “Katzencafé” and the idea is that you can go in there for a coffee and cuddle a kitten. And on chatting to a few friends later I was told that there are these cat cafés springing up all over the place these days. I’m all in favour of that idea of course except that these cats were rather aloof.

Still never mind. The coffee was good and we enjoyed the company.

There was nothing that took Alison’s fancy in the Sports shop (at least, not at a reasonable price, that is) and so we went up the road to the Muller supermarket where I bought some more of that white vegan chocolate that I like

rathaus aachen germany february fevrier 2018We found a square that we hadn’t noticed before where there was a good view of the rear of the town hall and the rear of the cathedral.

I’d not seen the town hall from this angle before, and I do have to say that it was quite impressive.

As an aside … "you’ll get used to this" – ed … the German for "Town Hall" is Rathaus, which is rather appropriate, as I’m sure you’ll all agree.

aachen germany february fevrier 2018Our new little route took us on an exploration of the city in places that we hadn’t visited and past sites that I hadn’t previously seen. And that’s always good news.

And to my delight, I discovered a Bio shop that sold the very brand of vegan cheese that I like. They only had two packs of it though, and now they don’t have any at all.

I also discovered a huge model railway shop and we passed a good half-hour in there. I would love to have a little N-gauge layout back at home, but not at the prices they are asking. There was an HO/OOgauge Big Boyof the type that we all know and love and which was on sale at an astonishing €2599.

mineral watr springs aachen germany february fevrier 2018Passing via several other shops we made it to the Source where I had another drink of the hot sulphuric water. It tastes disgusting of course, but there’s no point in going to the Waters if you have no intention of taking them, even if you have been misinformed.

Unfortunately there wasn’t all that much of a photo opportunity seeing that the building was cluttered with pedestrians and street furniture and the like. I shall have to come along here at 05:00, and bring a Stihl Saw with me too.

The market stall that was selling those delicious fennel-flavoured sweets last time – that wasn’t here today which was bad news. And although our walk was quite interesting there wasn’t really all that much to see that was exciting.

And so, feeling the cold and the exhaustion and the hunger, we detained to the little restaurant that we know – the one by the Roman remains. Alison had a spicy chicken meal and I had the quinoa salad.

clock tower aachen germany february fevrier 2018Being duly fed and watered, we set off for a slow wander back to the car. But Alison drew my attention to the rays of the early evening sun that were just catching the clock tower right by the town hall.

Alison reckoned that it was worth a photograph, and who was I to argue with that?

Back in the car we headed for Leuven in the early evening sunset – our journey being interrupted by the scenic tour of the roadworks halfway along the highway. And when I arrived back I had a coffee and a little … errr … relax.

Round about 19:30 I set off for the football ground. OH Leuven were playing KFCO Beerschot-Wilrijk, a team that I have yet to see, so I was quite looking forward to the match.

But hereby hangs a tale.

With there having been “certain incidents” in the past, the whole ground and surrounding streets were surrounded by police and admission was by prebooked ticket only. And no amount of pleading on my part would convince anyone at all – Police, admission booth, security staff, stadium management (yes, I got to see them all) would change their minds.

Of course, arguing with Belgian administration – particularly from a position of weakness – is a pointless argument as anyone who has ever tried it will tell you. But you have to go through the motions anyway – I don’t give up without a fight.

However in this case, I was singularly unsuccessful and repaired to a bar across the street where several other people, including someone who had come from Italy, in the same position as me were gathered to watch the match on television.

I’ve never understood the fascination for watching football on TV. Yes, fair enough if it’s the only way of seeing a game, but it’s nothing like watching the match in the flesh – nothing at all. There’s no atmosphere for a start, and the focus of the camera cuts out all of the interesting stuff going on in the background.

So at the final whistle, I headed back home again in the cold – to total silence next door. Perhaps they are out partying and they’ll be back at something silly like 03:00. So I’m going to bed quick and grab a couple of hours sleep.

Tuesday 7th March 2017 – WELL, I SAW A SIGN …

… and it said “Verdun”.

That’s another one of the places on my bucket list to visit before I go off to visit the hereafter, and there’s no time like the present so here I am.

papillon d'or arlon belgium march mars 2017But before we start, let me show you a photo of my room at the Papillon d’Or from last night and this morning. It’s a lovely room and a lovely place, and the breakfast was really nice too.

But the landlady clearly has a finely-developed sense of humour. There are two mattresses on the bed of course, and one (the one upon which I was sleeping) was thicker than the other.

And so in the middle of the night I rolled onto the other one, but it wasn’t where I expected and so I awoke in a panic, thinking that I was falling out of bed.

So by 06:00 I was wide awake and went for a shower as early as possible.

I had a slow recovery and by 09:30 I was on the road. And by 10:00 I was waiting in the queue at the IKEA on the border between Belgium and Luxembourg. It’s sale day today, there’s free coffee, and a €15:00 gift voucher for anyone spending more than €100 in the store. I need all kinds of new stuff for my new kitchen, wherever that might be, and so with some judicious purchases, I came out with €101:35 of new utensils, saucepans and the like.

But the most surprising thing of all this that I bought cost me €39:00 and I’ll post a photo of it in due course. Let’s just say that it will revolutionise my hotel-camping.

silly sign ikea arlon belgium march mars 2017But the prize for one of the silliest signs ever must surely go to this one here.

It says, with absolutely no trace of irony “no spring-cleaning without a cup of tea”. However, as we all know, putting me with something light-coloured like this is a recipe for disaster.

The sign really ought to read “no cup of tea without spring-cleaning”. That’s much more like it where I am concerned.

fire on border belgium luxembourg march mars 2017I had a glance out of the fire escape window while I was wandering around. Over there is the border between Luxembourg and Belgium and there seems to be some kind of “incident” going on out there.

It looks like a fire to me, with all of that smoke.

And you’ll notice the weather. It’s foul out there with the rain pouring down like nobody’s business.

I had lunch and then I hit the road. Straight into a traffic queue that lasted for 7 kms. I despaired of this and took a detour out of the traffic, and that was when I picked up a sign for “Verdun”.

It’s a nice cheap hotel, the Hotel du Tigre (named after Georges Clemenceau, the French politician) and I’ve just had one of the best pizzas that I have ever eaten. And tomorrow I shall be off to visit the battlefields of Verdun. I’ve never been here before.

And Caliburn and Strawberry Moose have been able to cross off “Luxembourg” of their list of countries to visit.

Another milestone achieved for them.

Monday 6th March 2017 – I PAID …

… for all of this effort over the last few days.

Despite the bad night and waking up at 06:00, I was down for breakfast at 07:00 feeling fairly okay. But coming back I was overwhelmed, as if the exercise was too much, and I had to go and lie down, aching all over and feeling really bad.

Nevertheless I made it down to pick up Hannah but I clearly wasn’t on form. We took the main-line train to the European Parliament where she went off for her guided tour. Being young, Canadian and still a student, she needs to make her CV as impressive and completely different from anyone else’s if she wants to have a good job, and so I pulled a few strings the other week and managed to organise a guided tour around the Parliament.

I wasn’t up to it and so I rode herd on the luggage and read a book.

When she returned, she noticed my distress and decided that we may as well go to the airport then rather than a couple of hours later. And so we walked up to Schuman, I picked up my bank cards, and then leapt on board the Express bus (with a certain amount of confusion about the pricing structure).

Once Hannah had disappeared into the bowels of the airport I headed back for the bus to Leuven. There are two per hour, at … errr … 33 minutes past and … errr … 35 minutes past. How about that for planning? And none of them goes via the hospital.

I ended up at the station and I nipped off to find the Ibis Budget, seeing as how I really was feeling bad. But for some reason or other it was … errr … €74 tonight. Why is that?

Instead, I took a bus up to the hospital, liberated my discharge papers, sorted out my medicines, and then headed for Caliburn. And we hit the road.

I’ve ended up in a B&B near Arlon on the Luxembourg border. It’s cheap but good. There’s no food in the vicinity so I had to drive about 100 miles to find a fritkot.

Now I’m off to bed. I deserve it. I hope that I feel better tomorrow.

Thursday 2nd March 2017 – AS YOU MIGHT EXPECT …

… having had a decent, long walk or two during the day yesterday was that I was in no fit state this morning.

It took me a while to go off to sleep, and I was flat out until the alarm went off.

I’d been on my travels too during the night. Firstly, I was the adviser to a Politician who bore a most remarkable resemblance to a certain new Transatlantic Politician. I was dismayed with his plans and decided to resign my position, but I felt that many of the plans had been designed with that aim in view. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to hang around.
A little later, I was back on the buses – working for a coach company that was based in a town that bore more than just a passing resemblance to Middlewich. Two of our coaches, carrying football supporters who had been to watch Northwich Victoria, and they pulled into our yard. By the time that I had caught up with them, they had been parked in a really difficult position in an alcove and I was amazed at how the drivers had managed to park them there. Only one coach was able to go on to drop off everyone so some folk had to be left behind, and this led to all kinds of confusion and anguish in the depot amongst the passengers.

Two families were ahead of me at breakfast, and one of them was sitting in my place right in the window. I had to sit somewhere else.

Back up here, I had the opportunity to go to meet Sean in Gent but I wasn’t up to it and was obliged to decline. instead, I had a good relax on my bed for a while.

bellini ship harbour oostende belgium march mars 2017After all, the weather wasn’t fit for anyone to be outside. The wind was whipping up quite a storm and there was no-one on the promenade.

You can see exactly what I mean by looking at how the waves are pounding away on this ship as it was trying to negotiate its way into the harbour. And there weren’t any other ships around in the vicinity as there usually are.

It really was rough out there.

bellini ship harbour oostende belgium march mars 2017But I couldn’t stay in my stinking little pit all day – I had things to do. And it was on my travels that I saw the aforementioned ship, the Bellini coming into port.

She’s another Luxembourg-registered ship, and stands much more chance of sailing up the Moselle River because she displaces just over 2000 tonnes. She’s a chemical tanker and was built in 2000.

But I can’t understand how it is that just recently Luxembourg has now acquired a merchant marine.

It is rather reminiscent of the story about when Austria joined NATO and was introducing its officials to the other members. One of the officials was described as “our Minister of Marine”.
“Don’t be silly” said Solana, the NATO President. “Austria is a landlocked country. How come it has a Minister of Marine?”
“Well,” replied the Austrian President. “Bulgaria has a Minister of Culture, Belgium has a Minister of Justice, so we are going to have a Minster of Marine”

I had a look around the other hotels here to see what the prices might be like, but there was nothing that might give me much of a better deal, and I ended up at the Delhaize to buy lunch. Grapes were on special offer, two punnets for the price of one and that was cheap too, so I stocked up.

On the way back I went for a prowl around the shops to look for a new bag to replace the suitcase on which the handle broke on the way here.

gluten free gelatine free sweets kruidvat oostende belgium march mars 2017I ended up in a shop called Kruidvat, and this all caught my eye. Weigh-your-own sweets, but with allergy labels. When did you ever see that? I had to buy 100 grams as a gesture of solidarity.

They also had a suitable tote bag thing with wheels. The cheapest that I had seen, and it looked it too, all at €12:99. But needs must when the devil drives so I liberated an example. If it does me until I return home (where I have a choice of several) it will be fine.

Back here, I was dismayed to discover that they hadn’t cleaned my room. but not to worry – I made myself some butties seeing as it was lunchtime. Baguette, tomato and vegan cheese followed by a bunch of grapes.And then I … errr … closed my eyes for a couple of minutes.

At 15:30 a banging on my door awoke me. The cleaners wanted to do the room. I went out for a coffee – to that good place where I was yesterday, and watched the people on the promenade (because the wind had eased) being blown all around.

After that, I had a good walk and was back here for 17:00 in my nice clean room.

la margarita italian restaurant damas restaurant oostende belgium march mars 2017This is my restaurant from last night, the La Margarita where I had my good Italian penne last night.

But I’d noticed the one next to it. This certainly wasn’t here last November, so today I went to check it out. And sure enough, it’s a Syrian restaurant called the Damas and advertises falafel.

As a result of this exploration, I decided that this would be my port of call for tonight.

falafel schotel damas restaurant oostende belgium march mars 2017And wasn’t that a good decision? Here’s my falafelschotel and this little lot cost me all of a mere €8:50 and if there is better value for this anywhere in Oostende, I’d love to be able to find it.

The people who run it are Syrian refugees from Aleppo, and it nails the lie that these people are coming to Western Europe to sponge off the State.

Hard-working people who can cook meals like this should be welcomed anywhere and everywhere.

So there’s no-one on line to chat to tonight, so I’m off to bed for an early night. My hectic weekend starts tomorrow at about 12:30 so I want to be on form.

Friday 17th February 2017 – I’VE BEEN OUT …

brussels gare du nord train namur belgium february fevrier 2017… and about today, but eve though I ended up taking four different trains, what with one thing or another I was only able to take one photograph of them. This is the train that took me from Brussels Gare du Nord to Brussels Schuman

If you notice the sign to the right of the train, you’ll see that it’s running 7 minutes late. That’s certainly a rare event here in Belgium, and it was my good luck because had it been on time I would have missed it and been obliged to wait for another half-hour

I had a reasonable night’s sleep just for a change, and at breakfast I was joined by my neightbour. He’s a Russian from Yekaterinburg in Siberia and he wanted a good chat. I’m never at my best first thing in the morning and having a chat at that time in the morning is the last thing on mine.

european commission berlaymont schuman brussels belgium february fevrier 2017I alighted at Brussels Schuman, underneath the Berlaymont Building over there, and went off to chat to the people in the Public Transport Office.

All of the tickets and the methods of payment for the public transport in the city and as I shall be using the public transport quite a lot in the near future, I need to be up-to-date with what is happening.

The routes have changed too, and yet Bane of Britain here forgot to ask for an up-to-date public transport map, didn’t he?

european commission berlaymont schuman brussels belgium february fevrier 2017Once I’d organised myself at the Public Transport Office, I went off to my bank (this isn’t it, by the way). I told you the other day about my bank card issues – they couldn’t sort it out and the bank round the corner from my hostel so I had to come here to do it.

However, they couldn’t do anything about it either, so I’ve had to order some new cards – because my credit card from here is overdue here too.

european commission berlaymont schuman brussels belgium february fevrier 2017They are going to hang on to them for a while until I’m settled in my new abode, wherever ( and whenever – that might be. No point in posting them to Virlet right now.

We also had a go at trying to set me up for phone banking. But that was a hopeless task. We were there for over half an hour while they tried to download the Application to my mobile phone, but without any luck.

I shall have to try it some other time, and hope that it’s all self-explanatory.

council of ministers european union justus lipsius building rond point schuman brussels belgium february fevrier 2017That’s the Justus Lipsius Building, the home of the Council of Ministers of the European Union, and that’s where I spend nine and a half of the happiest years of my life

This was the reason why I had come here. My time at the hospital is coming to an end and I need to have my paperwork up to date and make plans for my future.

My former employers have a good social welfare department and seeing as I’m in the vicinity I ought to be taking full advantage of it.

We had another exciting incident at the security check. They discovered my knife – the one that I keep in my backpack for making my butties when I’m on my travels. They kept it back and told me that I could reclaim it on my departure.

It’s not the same as all those years ago, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, when I passed through the security barrier at an EU meeting in Luxembourg. They gave me a basket in which to put all of my metal while I passed through the security screen, and so I put my butty knife in there, went through the screen, and they then handed back to me all of my metal objects to take into the meeting, including my butty knife.

So much for security.

The meeting was quite productive in certain respects, but not too much in other respects. Nevertheless, I ended up with some good advice, a few tips and hints, and an enormous packet of papers to add to the pile that I already have.

Even more good news is that the Medical Service now has a public office where I can go for advice, to have an on-line accounting service set up for me and all of that, but as regular readers of this rubbish will be well aware, it’s closed after lunch on Fridays and I wouldn’t have time to get there now before it closes

residence palace rue de la loi 155 brussels belgium february fevrier 2017Back outside, I went for a little walk around the Rue de la Loi. That’s a street that I know backwards, having worked in it for so long, but it hasn’t half changed and I no longer recognise it.

The Residence Palace, the beautiful Art-Deco building next door to Justus Lipsius and which was allegedly the headquarters of the German Army in Belgium in World War II has been demolished and this hideous monstrosity has been erected in its place.

It’s absolutely ghastly

brussels belgium february fevrier 2017I headed back to the station, calling back at the Berlaymont Building again to take a photograph of the sign on the wall. I don’t actually have a photograph of this and it’s high time that I added one into my collection.

And it was here that I had another good idea and went for a little walk in the rain. There are things that will be happening here in a couple of weeks time and the presence of the European Institutions is a vital part of any young person’s education. People should take full advantage of it

My perambulations took me past the European Parliament building. This is a really difficult building to photograph as it’s hemmed in by other large buildings and there isn’t a clear shot of it.

berlin wall brussels belgium february fevrier 2017But outside is a fragment of the Berlin Wall that was brought here after the opening up of the city.

There’s a plaque on it that says
“in honour of the victims of dictatorial regimes and as a symbol of the European people’s commitment to peace, freedom and democracy”
and it’s something that a few countries busily building walls around themselves, whether virtual walls or physical walls, will do well to remember.

And if the European Union had any pride, honour and dignity, it would be repeating these words as often as possible in its encounters with this new wave of fascist dictators before it is too late.

The Gare Luxembourg is next to the European Parliament and there I caught a train back to the Gare du Midi

express bus to casablanca brussels belgium february fevrier 2017I went for a prowl around outside to look for a fritkot as I was starving, and this caught my eye. It’s the express bus to Casablanca in Morocco and it’s one of those trips that I have always promised myself that i would do one day, although I might have missed my window of opportunity.

What’s particularly exciting about it though is the trailer that the bus will be pulling. There’s a gas oven there about to be loaded together with a pile of other stuff, bags, packages, all sorts.

It’s not quite goats and sheep of course but nevertheless it shows that the recycling economy and the recup, the system of recovering unwanted household assets, is still working fine.

After lunch I walked back to the Gare du Midi and stepped onto the platform and right onto a Leuven train which was waiting at the platform. It departed almost immediately and we were back at Leuven by 16:00.

For some unknown reason I fancied an ice cream, but all of my favourite ice cream places were closed. I eventually found one but the selection of vegan sorbets wasn’t all that exciting.

workmen in tree leuven belgium february fevrier 2017Walking back here, I came across something exciting. We had a couple of workmen on one of those lifting platforms doing something to a tree.

I’m not sure what it is that they are doing, but it’s somethign to do with a chain of decorative lights that is strung up there.

Talking it down, or putting it up? I have no idea. But it gave me something to think about.

Back here, I crashed out as you might expect. I’d been out and walked miles too.

But I was awake for tea time anyway, and the final portion of my kidney bean whatsit was excellent, especially washed down with pineapple rings and vegan sorbet.

So now it’s another early night. Part II of my mega-adventurous weekend is tomorrow and I need to be on form.

Thursday 23rd January 2014 – I FINALLY MANAGED …

… to pick up Cécile’s letter this morning, after all these weeks.

And so seeing as how I was going to have a morning out, I decided to make the most of it, especially as it was once again p155ing down.

First stop was the Mairie. I need a form to say that I’m still alive (and judging by the smell around here, you would be excused for wondering) and the best person to do that is the Mayor of the village. They have a nice big and official-looking stamp that gives a really impressive look to any kind of document.

Then off to Cécile’s. I need to put an accompanying letter with this form and so I typed one out last night and saved it onto a memory stick. Also, Cécile sent me an authorisation to collect her mail, and so both of these needed printing. I have three printers here – one stopped working when it fell off the desk, the second only prints in blue and only when it feels like it, and the third one, that I rescued from Marianne’s, that ran out of ink on me.

So round to Cécile’s and her printer and – guess what?

Quite right. Hers ran out of ink too but there’s an override button on it and so we ended up with documants in light grey ink.

Nevertheless, the authorisation was accepted at the Post Office and I collected the letter. And then off to Pionsat and the Post Office there. That’s a real Post Office and so I posted my letter and form, and also a packet for Malou. When I was stuck in Brussels with no ‘phone charger for the old Nokia, she very kindly sent me one. And she’s a big fan of Edith Piaf and Marianne had a German version of the film La Vie En Rose. Malou speaks German fluently, and so that’s now on its way to Luxembourg.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, that was the morning gone. And so I’ve spent all of the afternoon firstly, picking up the bits of wood from the construction project to use as firelighters, and then sweeping up the sawdust for the composting toilet. It’s impressive that I can actually do that.

Secondly, I started to load up the new shelves. The little cheap lightweight shelf unit that I put in the downstairs room as a temporary measure, that’s now completely empty. There’s a pile of stuff gone out of the barn onto the new shelves, and a pile of stuff out of the verandah has followed it. And, much to my surprise, the shelves aren’t even half-full. There’s tons of room for more stuff.

This evening, seeing as I was in a contemplative frame of mind, I watched The Wild Bunch. Peckinpah rather prolongs the violence unnecessarily, I reckon, but apart from that, it is one of the most magnificent films that has ever been made and the performances of William Holden and Ernest Borgnine have no parallel in anything that I have seen elsewhere. It’s a film that is in my Top 5 Films of All Time and quite rightly so.

So what’s the plan for tomorrow then?

When I dug out the flooring to put in a large battery box, I made the box the size to suit the Hawker batteries that I use. However, one or two of them are starting to creak a little and I can no longer obtain the replacements, and so I bought a while ago some massive 200 amp-hour batteries.

The battery box isn’t big enough to take them and so I’m going to be making a start on digging out some more flooring and enlarging the box.

And why 200 amp-hour batteries? Why not go for anything bigger? The answer to that is a simple question of logistics. I can just about manage to pick up a 200 amp-hour battery on my own. Anything bigger and it will be beyond the realms of possibility, and I have long-since given up the idea of doing anything that I’m not able to do on my own.