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Wednesday 9th March 2022 – I HAD A STROKE …

… of luck this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that was a long time ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 9th February 2022 – HERE I ALL AM …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday 14th January 2022 – AFTER ALL OF YESTERDAY’S …

… efforts, I ended up in bed at some kind of early time of night. With no need for an alarm tomorrow no appointments, and also no phone either), I was going to make the most of it.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out like that. I don’t sleep as well in the bed here as I do in my bed at home, and then there was the fact that I’d been off on my travels.

There are several different sound files on the dictaphone, and that shows that I had a very disturbed night. At some point I’d just been to fill the kettle that was on the bedside table, put it on its stand and went to switch it on to make a cup of coffee in the middle of the night.

It’s amazing the kind of things that you can do when you are fast asleep, isn’t it?

There was something about submarines last night. It wasn’t a tube as you might expect but it was U-shaped passenger compartment where four people could lie down. It was the only way to be. Two of them were in the higher part in the centre and two were in the lower part, one at each end. The submarine was sent on active service like that. There was no way for any of these people to move once they were on board and it must have been the most uncomfortable and claustrophobic thing ever yet even I had been out in it on active service. On one occasion I was at school watching these kids and the tutor was talking about who’d done what, who’d dome something else, naming these kids. Then on eof the kids mentioned my name. It turned out that one of the kids wanted me to give a talk on these submarines so I gave them a little talk on it. As I say, it’s most surprising because you would never ever get me into a submarine like this, not in a million years. later on when I went to see if I was back again with this submarine there was something to do with lords and ladies, not their names, and some kind of operating manual about this submarine but I can’t remember what this was and what it related to, anything like that

Much as I hate submarines I found myself volunteering for the crew of this to go out and sail in it and that is most unlikely for me. But anyway it looks as if I’ve just stepped back into the story from which I had just stepped out.

There were some of us last night around the West Midlands. We’d been somewhere and had to return home so we were looking for a railway station. We were in a vehicle and had driven underneath a railway line. A little further ahead was another railway line so we imagined that there was a railway junction which might mean that there would be a station. There was a bus coming out of there with schoolkids. We saw a sign that said “Intercity” so we turned down this road underneath the railway bridge and followed the railway line. Instead it took us into a yard where there were all kinds of railway maintenance equipment etc. We thought “this can’t possibly be right” but we carried on. At the end of the yard was a kind of dirt track out so we followed this dirt track, still following the railway and ended up somehow in someone’s house. We thought “we’re in civilisation so we can get out here” but we ended up in some girl’s bedroom. There was no handle on the door on the inside. This guy and I had a look round but I could see that this wasn’t going to work so we’d be better clearing off quickly. I went back into the annexe where we’d appeared. The other two people were standing there. I told them that we had better make ourselves scarce because this isn’t it. The fourth person, the one who had come with me into the main room hadn’t put in an appearance. We thought “we can’t hang around because sooner or later we’ll be caught by someone being in this house.

Finally I was in Shavington last night and there was an Austin 1100 being worked on down the street. A young boy was going it. There was a little girl of about 3 or 4 helping him or watching him. He was talking to her and asked her where something was, like a nursery or a toy room or something. She took him down to where Caliburn was parked. He opened the door of Caliburn and took out a bottle of beer and started to drink it. I went down there and grabbed hold of him and asked him what he was doing. He wouldn’t answer so I asked him for his name. He gave me about 4 or 5 different names. In the end I asked him what was his name in his birth certificate. He replied “none of those. It’s extremely complicated”. I was becoming extremely short-tempered at this particular moment so maybe it was just as well that I awoke.

Being awake is one thing. Being out of bed is something else. It was round about 09:30 when I finally arose from the dead, and then after the medication I spent much of the day choosing the music for the next batch of 5 radio programmes.

All of that is done and dusted, although it took me longer than it might have done. Breakfast was a contributory factor and so was lunch, but there was more than just a small amount of indolence too

folding up market stall herbert hooverplein leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022When I’d finished, I went off into town for my walk.

With it being Friday, it’s market day in the Herbert Hooverplein and the Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein although they have usually all cleared off by 14:00. I caught the very last one, who “shall fold their tents, like the Arabs and as silently steal away”, just like in Longfellow’s “The Day Is Done”.

First stop on my way into town was at the FNAC to check the data cables for my telephone. But if anyone thinks that I’m going to be paying the kind of price that they want for one, then they are mistaken.

demolition of match supermarket bondgenotenlaan leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022So never mind. I have a cunning plan, so I headed off outside the front door into the Bondgenotenlaan.

There’s a “Match” supermarket just up the road from here but by the looks of things it isn’t going to be here all that long. Since I was here last, they have made a start on demolishing it.

That’s a shame because what we’ll have is a modern deluxe building with the kind of rent that a supermarket like Match could never pay and make a profit, and there’s another local amenity gone for good.

However it is quite amusing seeing the 18th Century building still standing after all these years and here they are ripping down something of the 1960s. It just goes to show.

In Kruidvat, as I expected, I struck it lucky. I picked up a 2-metre micro-USB cable for just €2:99. That’s much more like it.

That was a good move because I can use that with the ZOOM H8 and bring the smaller cable with me on my travels to use with the ‘phone and the NIKON 1 J5.

wall plaque sack of leuven louis melsensstraat leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022In my quest for a baking tin, I went down the Louis Melsensstraat towards the cheap shops. And here I noticed a wall plaque of a type that I don’t recall seeing before.

The story of the Sack of Leuven by the Germans in August 1914 has been told often enough and you’ll see many buildings in the town with a wall plaque like the one on the left, indicating that the building was a victim of the German atrocities.

The one on the right though is different. I’ve no idea to what the date of 1922 refers. It might possibly related to the date when the building was restored. I shall have to make certain enquiries when I find someone who might know the answer.

Neither Wibra, Zeeman nor Hema came up with a suitable baking tin so it looks as if I’ll have to buy one of the overpriced ones at LeClerc when I go home. Those there are 18cm ones there but that’s more than enough for me to make a cake for myself in the future. The pyrex dish that I used instead was rather too large for what I want.

There was better luck in Sports Direct, where I bought some new trousers and also in the health-food shop Origin’o where I picked up some more grated vegan cheese for my pizzas and some vegan sausages. I really enjoyed those that I bought last time I was here.

river dijle leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022On the way to Delhaize (for some more banana soya drink) and Hema, I went for a little wander by the River Dijle to see what was happening there.

It’s changed quite a lot since we last stood on this spot. Back in 2016 when I was living here the river was overflowing after that very dramatic rainstorm that we had had, and a few months ago it was pretty full too after a lengthy bout of rain.

At Delhaize I picked up my drink and then went round to Hema. No baking tins here either, which was a surprise. Hema usually has almost everything that you need. What do people in Flanders (and France) use when they are baking cakes? And where do they go to buy it?

christmas trees grote markt leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022Back in the Grote Markt, it’s starting to go dark so they have illuminated the Christmas trees and the other decorations.

The crèche has gone so there isn’t all that much here to illuminate today so we have to do the best that we can with what we’ve got. Lighting up the real tree that’s here is … errr … interesting.

It’s still quite cold so I’m not going to hang around this afternoon. There are plenty of places that I would like to visit, but not in this weather. The possibility of a piping-hot coffee is summoning me home.

Back here I had the coffee that I had promised myself and then went through the photos that I’d taken over the last few days.

But now that I’ve had my tea, I’m off to bed. I have an 05:00 start in the morning ready for my train at 06:26.

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.

Wednesday 15th December 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rafn though makes two mistakes in his calculation though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 17th November 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow but sitting on the settee in my little room in the Dekenstraat in Leuven. It’s that time again.

After having a really bad night yet again, I was up and about fairly early and it didn’t take too long for me to sort myself out, make my sandwiches and coffee and do a little cleaning up (only a little) before I headed off towards the railway station.

fish processing plant port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021Before I went too far, I wanted to check to see that the NIKON 1 J5 was working properly and the dull sky of the early morning was a good time to try.

At the viewpoint at the corner of the Boulevard Vaufleury and Boulevard des 2E et 202E de Ligne overlooking the Fish Processing Plant. The plant was illuminated as the refrigerated lorries were loading up and I reckoned that if it would produce something reasonable out of this, there would be no need to nip home and fetch another camera.

And when I looked at it later, it’s come out much better than I expected. I’ve said before that it’s not that the camera is a bad camera, it’s that I’m pushing it to the limits of its capabilities.

baie de mont st michel port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021The photo encouraged me to have a little tinker with the settings and try to push the camera on a little more.

Here’s a nice wide-angle photo of the northern part of the Baie de Mont St Michel. The light on Le Loup is quite clear, as if a little blurred (which is hardly a surprise in this light at this speed with a hand-held shot) and the street lights around the bay from St Pair to Carolles are quite clear too.

It seems to me that the repair that I’ve had done to the camera is working well enough and now I’m tempted to send away the old NIKON D5000 that has never worked properly since I dropped it on A CONCRETE FLOOR IN QUÉBEC

The steps down the Rampe du Monte à Regret are still closed so I had to walk all the way down the Rue des Juifs and the Rue Paul Poirier which adds a few minutes to my time. But in compensation, the climb up to the top of the hill was much easier than it was the last time I dragged a suitcase up here.

There were only one or two stops to catch my breath and in reality I suppose that I could have pushed on regardless had I tried.

gec alstom regiolis 84563 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021The train wasn’t in yet so I had to wait for about 20 minutes for it to arrive.

It was just a 6-car unit today and there weren’t all that many passengers on board. I had a pair of seats to myself and that enabled me to back up my computer in peace and quiet for a change.

There was even 15 minutes when I could have a comfortable little doze to make up for what I didn’t have during the night.

The train pulled into Gare Montparnasse on time and once more I tried the route all the way down the Rue du Départ to the metro entrance. It really is much quicker and easier than going down into the labyrinth and clambering up and down all these flights of steps.

There was only one person in the queue at the kiosk at the bottom of the steps at the Metro entrance so I thought that this would be the moment to buy another pile of tickets as I’m running low.

However the woman in front of me, a Spaniard, was having difficulty with her French and was there for ages trying to understand what the guy behind the window was trying to tell her.

Eventually I managed to be served and I dashed down onto e very crowded platform where I had to wait a few minutes until an equally-packed train came in. We all scrambled aboard and I was lucky enough to find a seat.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4551 PBA gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo November 2021At the Gare du Nord I was still earlier than I used to be despite the encounter at the ticket window.

Consequently, as you might be expecting, we had to wait for an age for our train. There was already one trainset standing at the platform, one of the TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt “Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam” trainsets, but it was too much to expect that this was going to be mine.

Our train was going to be a two-trainset unit and the rear portion arrived from Lille rather late and had to be cleaned and tidied before we could board it.

TGV INOUI 216 are TGV Reseau Duplex gare de lille flandres railway station lille France Eric Hall photo November 2021It goes without saying that I would be right down at the far end of the train. However, although it took me longer to walk right down there, it means that I have less distance to walk at Lille.

It’s one of the TGV Reseau Duplex trainsets, and so once again we are travelling in a hybrid train made up of two different types of trainset. That’s becoming more and more of a regular occurrence.

Although we were late setting out from the Gare du Nord, the train made up the time by the time we reached Lille Flandres railway station. That was good news for me because I wasn’t in the mood to run down the road.

And the walk to Lille Europe was easier than last time too.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4519 PBA gare de lille europe railway station lille France Eric Hall photo November 2021As I walked down the steps (the escalator wasn’t working) into the station at Lille Europe, the train for Brussels pulled in at the same time.

That’s not an issue because there’s a 20-minute wait while they uncouple the front trainset so there wasn’t any panic. The trainset that was left behind was another TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam trainset.

Our train set off on time and I had a nice relaxing journey reading a book on the laptop all the way to Brussels

We were a few minutes late arriving in Brussels so I had to run for my train to Leuven.

push me pull you gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo November 2021However I gave that up when I found that the escalator to the platform was out of order. I wasn’t up to running all the way up the stairs with my suitcase. Instead I went and waited for the next one.

That one was one of the pushme-pullyou trains that run between Eupen and Oostende and as usual, the locomotive was at the rear end pushing the train along.

It was only 10 minutes behind the one to Hasselt and Genk so I didn’t have to hang around too long and for a change at the Gare du Midi it wasn’t too cold and draughty standing on the platform.

class 18 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station leuven belgium Eric Hall photo November 2021When we arrived at Leuven I had to hang a round for a couple of minutes to see what the locomotive was.

As I expected, it was one of the Class 18 electric locomotives behind (or in front of) which we travel most of the time. They provide most of the motive power to the long-distance Inter-City trains.

Once the train had pulled away I went to the supermarket at the back of the station for my drink and, for a change, my bread too. I’m not going to have time to go to the supermarket this evening so as long as I have my stuff for breakfast I’ll be fine.

cherry picker martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo November 2021Outside the railway station across the road in the Martelarenplein, there was a cherry picker parked up.

That can only mean one thing – and that is that the Christmas decorations will be going up any moment soon. It’s that time of year already.

The walk down to my little room was easier than it has been of late, and as I arrived I bumped into the centre manager. We had a little chat. After all, it’s been a few months since I’ve seen him last.

After a little doze I had a shower and washed my clothes and then went out to meet Alison. We went back to her house for falafel and chips, and a nice long chat..

Now I’m back here and I’m off to bed. I’ve had a hard day and I’m exhausted as you might expect. A good sleep will do me good and hopefully I’ll be fighting fit for my appointment.

And an early trip out to buy a breadknife as there isn’t one here and I’ll be struggling to cut the loaf that I had bought.

Wednesday 13th October 2021 – IT REALLY TAKES …

… some believing that for the last four and a half years I’ve been flogging myself through the back-breaking, if not heart-breaking labyrinth that is the bowels of the Gare Montparnasse.

Let me give you the background to this.

The Gare Montparnasse is not the original site of the station. That site, where the legendary Granville train of 100-odd years ago failed to stop at the buffers and crashed into the street below is now the site of the Tour Montparnasse.

They moved the station back about 500 metres or so but they didn’t move the metro station, so you have to descent about 10 flights of stairs into the bowels of the station, walk 500 metres along a dingy corridor, and then climb and descend a succession of steps that take you over other metro lines, sewage pipes, water pipes and just about everything.

As I said, I’ve been doing this for four and a half years, sometimes even with some really heavy luggage and in my state of health and it’s been a nightmare.

But not any more.

Before I came away, I had a look at a street map and then at one of these live camera sites and I’ve had a change.

Today, I just went down one flight of stairs, outside the railway station into the open air for a walk of 400 metres down the Rue de Départ on the level to the corner of the Boulevard Montparnasse.

There, I went down an escalator, then down one flight of steps and I was on the platform. As easy as that, after all of this struggling for all of these years.

While I was doing it all, I was keeping an eye on the times and I reckoned that I’d arrived at the Gare du Nord 2 trains earlier than usual too.

So this morning I was up at 06:00 after another bad night’s sleep but I was hard at it from the start, making my sandwiches, cleaning up the place, disinfecting the drains and even washing the floor. I must be feeling better.

Plenty of stuff on the dictaphone too. I was with Nerina last night and We’d been out for a meal. I’d been somewhere, the bathroom probably, and when I came back the meal was ready. The waiter gave me a warning about the bottle of wine. When I looked at it, it was €24:00. I thought that Nerina had been pushing the boat out a little. We had a lengthy chat about this and that, with Nerina working on the taxis and everything. We were talking about old times here and there, mostly about her old times, not very much about mine. I’d received a card from someone whom I thought at first was her but she handed me another one. I asked about this 1st card. We had a look at it but couldn’t identify anything. She had some fun trying to guess then I had to go to take some papers over to someone to check because it was about a job abroad. I asked about it and the subject of these people came up. I asked him about them but he didn’t know them very well either and didn’t understand what this card was all about. At some point I’d gone to the vehicle wholesalers. They had a Vanden Plas, a big 4.0 litre one and I wanted some parts for it. I wondered if my parts account was still valid after all these years.

I’d been skiing with a ski club, that one with Terry Large, I think. We’d been skiing in that mountain pass about which I dream occasionally. But when they were showing the films there wasn’t any snow there. There were a couple of army tanks going past. Someone went past in a big 4×4 pulling an enormous boat and managed to get it stuck. Everyone had to help it around this corner. I went up to see the film in the lounge after we had all come back and I couldn’t see very much of it because they had already shown it. We were only getting near the end. Then I had to pack and there were all kinds of things like oil cans, things like that that I had to fit into my suitcase. Then I thought that my bag, with all of my ski clothes in it, wasn’t there. I had to ask where it was but I couldn’t find the people to ask. Someone gave me a couple of e-mail addresses but I couldn’t understand them and they sighed with exasperation. In the end I copied them down. One of them said to tell one of these people who your sister is because he knows here and she was here a minute ago. I still didn’t have everything ready and I was worried about all of these cans leaking out in my suitcase and everything. While I was there someone talked to me about this pass. I said that I knew it very well because I only live 9 miles the other side at one time.

lorry emptying waste bins place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021On my way out of the apartment, I was glad that I actually had my camera at the ready because the refuse lorry was there.

As well as the bins for the household waste, the glass and plastic etc, there’s also a big bin for the waste paper. This morning the lorry was there to collect it just as I was leaving the building.

Had I been 2 minutes earlier I would have seen him dropping the lot into the back of his lorry but instead this morning I just managed to catch him dropping the bin back onto the ground.

That was an exciting start to the morning. I set off to the station with a bounce in my step.

fish processing plant port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Not that I went very far, trying to negotiate the pavement in the dark without falling over a bollard.

What caught my eye was the Fish Processing Plant, and what a hive of activity that was this morning. There has obviously been a good catch overnight because not only do we have 3 refrigerated lorries there this morning there is also quite a collection of other vehicles.

Continuing on my way through town towards the station, I reflected that taking a bigger suitcase with me, even though I’ve lightened the load, was a good idea. It was easier to pull and its bigger wheels were easier to manoeuvre. I actually made it to the station only stopping three times for breath.

SNCF Class BB67400 diesel 267455 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021When I arrivd at the railway station, my train hadn’t yet come in.

But we did have a visitor in there today, a locomotive that we haven’t seen here before. She’s 267455, one of the SNCF’s 228 Class BB67400 diesel locomotives.

Introduced between 1969 and 1975, they were the final evolution of the old Class BB67000s dating from the early 60s to replace what remained of the SNCF’s steam locomotives. For a great many years they were the mainstay of the heavy freight and passenger trains on the French non-electrified railway network.

But as for what she and her friend are doing here, that’s a mystery because we aren’t ever likely to see the kind of freight train coming here that needs a double-headed pair of locomotives like these.

gec alstom regiolis 84581 gare de granville railway station manche normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Before I could go and inspect the rear locomotive, my train to Paris turned up so I wandered off and clambered aboard. I was ready for a good sit-down.

My seat today was one in a four-seat place. While two of the seats were occupied, the one next to me wasn’t so once I’d updated the laptop I could have a decent sleep for a while.

The rest of the journey was spent reading an E-book about Polar explorers. One of these days, I’m going to make up my own map of the Frosen North and indicate thereupon all of the places of interest that the Polar Explorers of the Golden Age of Polar Exploration had visited.

gec alstom regiolis 84582 gare montparnasse paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021To my surprise, and everyone else’s, the train pulled in bang on time at Montparnasse, as you can tell by the clock.

From the platform I descended the flight of steps to the lower concourse and headed off into the wild blue yonder, boldly going where no man had gone before.

As I mentioned earlier, the journey was so much easier than going down into the bowels of the earth and fighting my way through the labyrinth to the metro station. I shall be doing this part of the journey again on a regular basis and I wish that I had done it before. I felt much more relaxed when I arrived on the platform.

Arriving earlier than usual at the Gare du Nord I had plenty of time to relax. I had a quiet sit-down on one of the benches to wait.

And that’s one thing that annoys me intensely – the waiting arrangements at the Gare du Nord. There isn’t a waiting room that I have found, in the traditional meaning of the words, and for one of the busiest stations in Europe the seating arrangements for people waiting for a train are really poor.

There can’t be more than 50 seats all told, and that is really sad. I remember how I was feeling after fighting the good fight through the underground and then finding that there was nowhere to sit to recover.

TGV INOUI 212 TGV Reseau Duplex gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021But one of the very few advantages about Covid is that because of all of the new procedures on long-distance trains, they are opening the gates early. I was one of the first on board.

Today’s train is, as expected, one of the TGV Reseau Duplex “double deckers” that are quite common on the French TGV network. They are starting to show their age now, which is probably why they are slowly being relegated to running the shuttle between Paris and Lille.

My first journey on one was years ago from Lyon to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport when I was on my way to Montreal and I wish that I was on my way to Montreal again right now.

TGV INOUI 226 TGV Reseau Duplex gare de lille flandres railway station lille  France Eric Hall photo October 2021The other end of our two-unit train was another TGV Reseau Duplex, as I found out when we pulled into Lille Flandres railway station.

And then I had the walk across town and up the hill to Lille Europe Railway Station and that wasn’t as difficult as it has been of late either with my different suitcase.

But what I don’t understand is why the train actually goes into Lille Flandres and not Lille Europe. They share the same track up as far as the approach to the stations and then split off to go their separate ways. And what you have is a relentless stream of people swarming out of the one station and up the road into the other

TGV POS 4401 gare de lille europe lille France Eric Hall photo October 2021at Lille Europe I didn’t have long to wait at all for the train to arrive from the Midi.

The train, at least, my end, was one of the POS units that used to work the lines out to Eastern France until they were replaced by more modern stock a couple of years ago.

That’s something else that has always puzzled me because the Rhone Valley TGVs are the ones that probably have the highest use of all of the TGV network and certainly the route from Brussles (and sometimes Amsterdam) to Marseille is the longest route that the SNCF runs.

Consequently I would have expected that to have to most modern, up-to-date equipment.

But anyway that’s another story. Continuing with this story, there was no-one sitting beside me on the train to Brussels either so I could sit and eat my sandwiches in peace. My stomach was thinking that my throat had been cut.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4513 PBA gare de lille europe railway station lille France Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that I was on was another two-trainset ones, and it was something of a hybrid, as I discovered at Brussels-Midi.

The front end is one of the Reseau 38000 PBA (Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam) trainsets that seem to have cascaded down onto this line recently from their more habitual route.

Leaving the platform at Brussels Gare du Midi was a nightmare though. We arrived on the platform that is on the same island as the Eurostar to London so most of it is closed off and there is only one exit working.

push me pull you gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021As a result As a result I missed my usual 15:34 train and had to wait until 15:56. There are four expresses per hour to Leuven but strangely, they don’t run every 15 minutes. Three of them come in at 10-minute-or-so intervals and then you have to wait for ages for the fourth.

The train that came in was the one that goes to Eupen and that’s one of these push-me-pull-yous, basically because there is no run-round for the locomotive at the railway station at Oostende.

And I’m still unconvinced by the wisdom of the heavy locomotive at the rear pushing the lightweight front of the train forward at high speed, especially over points and junctions. But then it works for the SNCB so why not?

scrapped class 55 diesel locomotives haren belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021For a change just recently we took the old low-level line out of Brussels which means that we go past the scrapyard at Haren.

The next few photos show locomotives that were formerly in store at Charleroi and were moved here a while back. Someone had photographed them at Charleroi and wondered subsequently where they had gone, so I had been hoping for an opportunity to photograph them.

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy thing to do from a moving train, but I did my best and I’ll be uploading them to this Social Networking page in due course.

scrapped class 55 diesel locomotive haren belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021These are SNCB Class 55 diesel locomotives, the “second generation” of mainline diesels introduced by the SNCB in the early 1960s.

There were 42 of them built for the SNCB and they were the mainstay of the Belgian mainline network on the non-electrified lines and the international network until the early years of this century, when they were relegated to minor duties.

The bodywork of these machines was built by the Belgian company BN, now a part of Alstom, but the engines are real diesel engines, all 16 cylinders of them, built by General Motors

scrapped class 55 diesel locomotive haren belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021They are now being withdrawn from service and scrapped but their 60 years of service is a testimony to their reliability.

Compare this to the British equivalent of these machines built by the North British Railway Company. The “Buy British” campaign in that period led to a company with very little experience of building diesels trying to build an equivalent machine “under licence”.

Because the loading gauge on British Railways is smaller than in Europe, the engines had to be mounted upside-down which meant that to perform even a simple maintenance task like to change an oil filter, the engine had to come out, so the downtime was enormous.

With the substandard design, substandard materials and substandard assembly procedures the project was a dismal failure. Breakdowns were common and even led to a fatal accident as a train gave out on busy main lines and was hit in the rear by a following train

The result was that not one of the British equivalents lasted any longer than 10 years.

class 18 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021When we arrived in Leuven I waited on the platform for the train to depart so that I could see what was pushing it along.

No prizes for guessing, of course. It’s one of the Class 18 electric locomotives, complete with recruitment posted for locomotive drivers. Business must be booming on the SNCB.

Here at Leuven I tried something else new. With plenty of space inside my suitcase I went to the supermarket at the back of the station and bought my drink there. It fitted nicely into my suitcase to bring down here, and it was at that point that I discovered that my laptop will also fit in there.

As a result it was a much easier walk down to my little room than it has been of late.

A little later on, having recovered my breath, I wandered off down to the supermarket for the supplies. And seeing as I’d already bought the drink and that I don’t need any fruit as I have an early start tomorrow, the walk back with a much lighter load than usual was much easier.

So having been fed and watered, I can no go off to bed and have a good sleep. Tomorrow I have no fewer than 3 appointments at the hospital as they continue to probe my case.

Friday 17th September 2021 – AFTER YESTERDAY’S …

… exertions it was no surprise to anyone that I was in bed by 20:45. But the difficulty whenever I do that is that I’m usually awake quite early and so I never seem to take advantage of it.

But if anyone thinks that I’m going to be out of bed at 05:40 and doing things when there’s no alarm set, they are totally mistaken. Even 07:20 was rather early but there’s no point in staying in bed if I can’t go back to sleep

At 09:00 I nipped downstairs to the “Match” supermarket in the basement for my bread for lunch. And some drink too. I’ve already finished off the 1.5 litres of iced tea and 2 litres of banana-flavoured soya drink that I brought on Wednesday night.

Back up in my room I finished off my notes from yesterday and then had a listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. I was with a couple of friends and we were discussing, of all things, rape. The girl said something like “rapists should all go on strike and down tools”. I replied that if all rapists downed tools, there wouldn’t be any such thing as rape at all. And despite the gravity of the subject, I was pretty impressed that I could come out with a pun like that while I was asleep.
Later on there was an issue about a socket not working. I immediately reckoned that there was a bad joint somewhere and the first joint that I tested came apart when I pulled it I was with a guy whom I knew so I asked him if he would hold a lamp at the socket while I held the wires togeter to see if this was the bad joing in question but he refused. I had to run off and try to find a light with a plug that would fit in the socket and try it myself.
Even later Rosemary was asking me about the Battle of Rhedae. I knew that it had taken place on the outskirts of Clermont Ferrand (which it didn’t – I was thinking of the Battle of Gergovie) so I went to fetch my Michelin guide to the Puy de Dome and had a good search through but couldn’t find it in there, which was no surprise seeing as Rhedae, which is these days believed by many to the the town of Quillan, is in the Razès in South West France.

class 18 electric locomotives gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo September 2021While I was busy working I was keeping an eye on what was going on outside down on the station.

At a certain moment a train from Oostende pulled into the station just as a train from Eupen and Welkenraedt pulled in on its way to Oostende.

But of them were powered by the typical Class 18 electric locomotives. The one from Eupen, furthes away from the camera, is being pulled by a locomotive whose number I can’t see, and the one from Oostende, closes to the camera, is being pushed by locomotive number 1819.

aeroplane going in to land brussels airport zaventem Belgium Eric Hall photo September 2021What else I could see from my window were aeroplanes flying from right to left just above the horizon.

Way over to the left is the Brussels National Airport at Zaventem. All of these aeroplanes are on the flightpath going into land there and there were quite a few too. At one stage I counted one every three or four minutes.

When I lived in Schaerbeek back in the early 1990s my apartment looked out right across to the airport way out in the distance and the aeroplanes that came in to land were clearly visible at night with their landling lights illuminated. They would come into land right in line head-on to my apartment and the view was fantastic.

universitaire ziekenhuis Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo September 2021Another thing that you could see from my window up here on the 5th floor was the Universitaire Ziekenhuis Leuven, the University Hospital of Leuven.

That’s the building, or buildings, I should maybe say, over there on the skyline on the right-hand side of the photo. And this photo will give you some idea of the size of the hospital. It’s one of the biggest in Europe, if not the World.

The thing that impressed me about this hospital is that while most hospitals give instructions zbout how to arrive there from the town centre, this hospital give directions from the airport.

It’s truly a cosmopolitan hospital and that’s what I want. Many hospitals and medical services are quite chauvinistic about their treatment, but not so the Belgians. They aren’t afraid to mention medical research that is being undergone in other countries.

class 21 electric locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo September 2021Another thing that I noticed pulling into the station was a rather elderly Class 21 locomotive.

These first came into service in the mid-80s, with 144 taking to the rails. There are Class 11s, Class 12s, Class 21s and Class 27s, with the latter being the most powerful and the former being the least powerful.

They were built by the Belgian BN/ACEC combine which is now no longer in business. And so since the Class 18s have arrived, these are gradually being withdrawn and dismantled as a source of spares for the big Class 27s.

Something else that came through the staion that I wasn’t quick enough to photograph, much to my regret was one of the new Bombardier-Alstom “M7” double deck multiple units that are currently on proving trials on the Belgian network. That would have been quite a thing.

With a nice quiet day I ought to have done so much more too but unfortunately much of the time was spent curled up on my bed having a little relax. No point in fighting it.

Later in the evening I caught a bus that took me out to Alison Wonderland, as her new home is called. She had some falafel left over from her barbecue so I cooked it while she went to the fritkot down the road for a bag of chips.

We had a nice meal and lengthy chat, and instead of singing for my supper I helped her move some heavy furniture around.

Once I’d recovered my strength Alison drove me home. I was totally exhaused and so with an early start tomorrow, instead of writing up my notes I crawled into bed and that was that.