Tag Archives: Montlucon

Thursday 24th May 2018 – OUCH! THAT HURT!

Yes it did too. Dead to the world for an hour and a half this afternoon, and still a little unsteady on my feet even now.

Something of a late-ish night last night. And dead to the world until the alarm went off. And then it was something of a struggle to leave my stinking pit.

But after the usual morning routine I had a shower and a clean-up and then phoned the garage. Caliburn is ready so I could go to pick him up.

street decoration granville manche normandy franceIt’s a long walk – almost 6kms to the garage and no point in hanging around, so off I set.

There was quite a bit going on in the town today. There’s a cycle race taking place at weekend so the local council was out putting up all of the bunting and other street decorations ready for the (af)fray.

And I’m glad that I went early because the sun didn’t start to heat up for a while. The first half of the journey was quite pleasant.

Not so the second half once the sun was full out, and I had to stop a few times to get my breath.

First stop was at the motorcycle shop just for a nosy around. There wasn’t anything of interest – not that I expected there might be, but worth a look all the same.

Second port of call was a new Bio shop that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s pretty much like the Amaranthe in Montlucon but with only a quarter of the stock. And as for the vegan selection, well, they needn’t have bothered. That was a waste of time too.

Third port of call was the cheap electric shop that had done the business for me before. And yet again, I didn’t leave empty-handed. Tomorrow, I’ll take a photo of what I bought and you can see it for yourselves. But I never expected to see one of these in a shop like this.

Ironically, last year when I was wandering around on foot with Caliburn’s service last year, I stumbled upon an oven. That’s rather a strange coincidence.

Biggest surprise was at the garage. Caliburn has his controle technique on Saturday morning so he needs a service and a check-over before he goes. And for all of that, the bill came to all of €110. That’s the cheapest service and pre-controle technique that Caliburn would ever have.

All they found wrong was a numberplate light bulb not working and nothing else. I asked them to check the steering and front suspension but they found nothing wrong there.

Seeing as I was up at that end of the town I did my mid-week shopping at Leclerc and then came home for a coffee and a chat on line with Liz. After that, it was outside for my butties.

skyjack pressure washer washing walls place d'armes granville manche normandy franceThere was a lot going on there too. Not much in the way of people but they had a guy on a sky jack pressure-washing the building behind me. And every so often the spray would drift over to where I was sitting.

He had to stop every time a car or a pedestrian went past so it took him longer than it might otherwise have done.

Butvery so often the spray would drift over to where I was sitting and it was actually quite pleasant and cooling in the sunshine.

fishing boats port de granville harbour manche normandy franceThere was also quite a lot of activity going on down below in the port.

The tide was on its way in and so were all the fishing boats. They were queueing up several deep at the wharf by the fish processing plant waiting to unload their catch, with a few more on their way in to the harbour as I watched.

Still, it keeps them out of mischief, I suppose.

Now that Caliburn is organised (or he will be on Saturday morning) I had some plans to make, and I spent a while up to no good and chatting to a couple of friends on line. And then that was that.

I missed my afternoon walk yet again, but I still managed to have the session on the guitar.

Tea was a burger in a bap with a potato and veg done in the microwave with some vegan margarine spread.

baie de mont st michel jullouville carolles granville manche normandy franceAnd I managed to make it outside for the evening walk, which was just as well because it really was a beautiful night.

Instead of going around the walls I went around the headland instead and there was a beautiful view across the bay towards Jullouville and Carolles although there was a sea mist that was obscuring the far coast itself.

Nevertheless, the colours came out really well in this photo. You would never imagine that it’s almost 21:00.

And so 108% of my daily total today, and it feels more like 1008%. I feel dreadful but I have to keep going. One thing for sure though – I won’t be doing much tomorrow.

Monday 16th October 2017 – I MEAN, YOU HAVE TO LAUGH.

There has been the most astonishing weather here today. In fact, pretty much the same as in the rest of Western Europe. Devastating high winds, pitch-black at 14:00, the sun a mere orangey thing somewhere behind a dark black cloud.

Loads of people have passed comment on it today, but it was all killed off by one poster who said “Everyone banging on about weird light and a strange orange glow in the sky clearly didn’t spend the 1970s in Teesside”.

It’s this Storm Ophelia that is doing it, a storm named after Ophelia, the daughter of that Labour politician Ed Balls, and I’ll bet that it will take you a minute or two to think about that.

He was famous for writing a speech for Gordon Clown, the-then Prime Minister, which prompted William Hague, leader of the Tory Party in Opposition, to rise from his seat and say “that sppech – typical Labour, it’s all Balls”.

The storm isn’t though. Half of BUT was closed off while they were dealing with something big and heavy that had come crashing down through the roof into the shop during the night.

During my night though, I went on my travels again. But I don’t remember where and it wasn’t for long because it was almost 02:00 before I ended up in bed. Jet-lag strikes again, I reckon.

The alarm went off at 06:00 but I was … errr … somewhat tardy in leaving my stinking pit.

LIDL was the first port of call for me today. And here I did the usual shopping, but plenty of it seeing as I’d let the stocks run down somewhat. It was the same story in Auchan.

In bewteen the two, I went to BUT, negotiating the debris in the store. The stuff in there was better quality and better price than in the Auchan and I was almost ready to sign on the dotted line.

Almost.

I asked if they had a delivery service and installation service and if they took away the old appliances, which they did. But it’s not free.

“It’s €30:00” siad the guy in the shop.
“Per delivery?”
“No, per appliance”. And they are bringing in three and taking out two.

So “sodomisez ça pour un jeu de soldats” as they say around here. We need a Plan B.

But Plan B won’t be the Auchan as their stuff is rubbish.

And here’s a thing.

After months of hassling, the Bio-Coop is now starting to sell Vegan cheese. It’s not the best by any means, but it’s a start and it goes to show you the power of persuasion. You’ll remember that I did the same at Amaranthe in Montlucon.

So I bought some, and some sausages. And that also meant pizza for tea seeing as how I’d missed out on Sunday.

I half-unloaded Caliburn and then I had to go for a sit-down for … errr … a while. That meant a very late lunch. And a bit of desultory tidying up – not very much of that.

Right now I’m feeling the strain so it may well be an early night for me. I’ll be like this for a week or so until I find my rhythm.

Monday 24th April 2017 – REGULAR READERS OF THIS RUBBISH WILL RECALL …

… that on several occasions over the past years I’ve had to go out to look at some non-functioning wind turbines installed by a company that had its office in Montlucon.

And so today, it was more of the same. A 10Kw wind turbine installed on a mast just about 12 metres high (in order to sneak under the local planning laws but totally ineffective of course) and not functioning at all.

“When you switch it on and the blades turn round, there’s a pile of smoke that comes out of it”

One glance told me everything that I needed to know about it. There’s a water leak in the shed roof that drips right on top of the transformer. The transformer and all of the connections are thoroughly corroded and the corrosion is causing a short circuit. And that’s burnt out the inverter.

Furthermore, the owner has tried to connect up an exterior socket to the system and fractured the bus bar while he was doing it. Loads of other things too, and I could go on for ever … "not with a bayonet through your neck you couldn’t" – ed … about all kinds of things.

But anyway, I’m not getting my hands dirty fixing it.

He’s paid €32,000 for the installation, and he’s been quoted over €10,000 for the repairs from another company. But that’s not ever going to fix his problems – not until he can mount it about 30 metres higher. He told me that when it was working he had 7.5KW out of it, but I’ve heard that before, especially with the measuring equipment provided by the installers.

I had a bad night last night.

A nightmare, in fact that awoke me at 12:40. It concerned a group of women who had been condemned for some crime or other and the penalty was to walk towards a defending army well-dug in in the ruins of some bombed buildings, and the defenders were to hurl rocks at them to stone them to death. But their husbands or partners had to be handcuffed to them as they walked down the road, themselves running the risks of being stoned to death. One woman had no partner so I was chained to her. And the couples parted one by one, until it was our turn to leave the bus. And it was at that point that I awoke, sweating.

It took me ages to go back to sleep, but when I did, I was well away until the alarm went off. never felt a thing.

After breakfast I had a little relax (like I have to do these days) and then I went to tear to bits the load in Caliburn. I needed the printer (that I found) but couldn’t find the paper. In the end, the landlady let me have a few sheets. Then I could print off the letters that I had typed the other day.

For lunch I went down to Donville les Bains and the dunes where I was yesterday. I had a nice relaxing couple of hours lying on the sand in the sun while I ate my butties. It was beautiful there, and quiet too.

The tide was out as well, and consequently all of the oyster beds and whatever they are were clearly visible. A few tractors and trailers were out there harvesting, and presumably passing the produce around.

After all, you mustn’t be selfish with your shellfish.

Returning from my trip out into the wilderness at Hocquigny, I went to Brehal-Plage where we had been on Saturday and reclined amongst the rocks for a while to read my book.

And it was here that I had a sudden thought – I had an urgent letter to post and I had forgotten. Although the Post Office was now closed, luckily, the Super-U at Brehal sold those pre-stamped envelopes so I bought a pack of 10 and I could post my letter.

Mind you, I almost didn’t make it there. Some stupid old woman in a Mercedes pulled out of a side road right in front of me, forcing me to slam on my brakes, and then came to a stop 50 yards further down while she made up her mind which way to go. And so she had a double blast on the horn for good measure.

Tea was a kidney bean and mushroom tomato whatsit, with enough left over for another three nights. I’ll have an early night tonight and hopefully sleep right through without any nightmares to awaken me.

Saturday 1st April 2017 – CALL THAT A …

… Division d’Honneur match?

I’ve seen more exciting and more competent teams playing down in Division 2 of the Puy-de-Dôme League than what was served up here at Granville tonight.

La Patriote ST Jamaise were pretty miserable – another team that spent far too long hanging on to the ball instead of playing it out wide or over the top. But as for US Granville, they have to be one of the worst teams that I have seen. Far and away the worst at this level.

They had a red-headed guy playing right-back who was thoroughly, totally and completely useless. He was substituted after 30 minutes and judging by his contributions up to that point, he was on the pitch for 30 minutes too long.

But the centre-forward – a big bulky 20-stone guy that would make Akinfenwa look like a lightweight – I’ve never seen anything like it. He was easily the worst player that I’ve seen on a pitch in a competitive match. He didn’t run after the ball – just a leisurely saunter around when he could be bothered to move – and never looked as if he was going to do anything at all. US Granville could have played without him and no-one would have noticed the difference. Xavier, who used to play up front for Pionsat’s 3rd XI will be the first to admit that he was playing up front to enjoy himself rather than in respect of demonstrating any skill, but I would have had him on the field leading the attack any day of the week rather than this guy.

It goes without saying that, being the worst team that I have ever seen, Granville were 2-1 up at half-time. Two free kicks, two shots at goal, 2 goals. But honours were restored in the second half as La Patriote ST Jamaise scored two more goals – one from a dreadful defensive howler where they all stood around waiting for the keeper to come halfway up field to head a ball away. I hardly need to mention that he headed it just as far as a La Patriote ST Jamaise attacker who calmly lobbed it over his head into the net. And the winning goal was … well … I estimated about three yards offside from my perfect position in line with play.

But US Granville can’t complain. They were dreadful.

I’d had a much better sleep today and a steadier start to the day. With a few things to do (loads of files to update) and then I went for a walk around the market. Nothing of interest unfortunately, and the prices are, well, not what I’m accustomed to paying.

But going for a walk to buy bread, I found a notaire with a few letting properties in the window. One looks quite suitable so I have an appointment to see that on Wednesday.

This afternoon I was chatting to a few people on the internet and then Caliburn and I went off to LeClerc for a look around. Strawberries at €0:90 for 500 grammes and cheap soya cream too – that will make for some exciting puddings for the next few days.

There’s an electromenager bit there too and prices seem to be reasonable. That’s one-up on Montlucon.

Afterwards, I headed for the footy and then came back here for tea.

It’s a late night but it’s Sunday tomorrow so no alarm. Let’s see how well I can sleep.

Monday 20th March 2017 – NOW I KNOW …

… why I spent all that money two years ago buying that new bed and expensive mattress and all of that nice bedding. For I was out like a light last night and had one of the most comfortable sleeps that I have had in years. So much so that in fact I was rather reluctant to leave it.

Even more so when I saw what the weather was doing outside. Cold wet and grey, just like I was feeling in fact, so no change there.

But anyway, I managed a decent breakfast – muesli with soya milk, an apple puree thing and grapefruit juice all washed down with coffee of course. And then gathering my wits as well as a few things here and there, Caliburn, Strawberry Moose and I hit the streets.

We ended up at Evaux-les-Bains where I took Caliburn to the menders. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that back in October in Brussels, Caliburn was the victim of a Belgian driver who didn’t know where the brakes were on his car. Anyway, today he goes to be mended.

And not only that, there’s some rust creeping through that’s making him look a little untidy, and so he’s having that attended to. He’ll be 10 in a couple of weeks time and, unfortunately, he’s starting to show his age. But then, aren’t we all?

They had a little Skoda Fabia for me to borrow while he’s being fixed (that’s why I’m having his body done right now – while I have free access to a hire car). It’s not a bad little car but it’s very plasticky and I can’t see anyone having 10 years out of one of these. But it’s free for five days so good luck to me.

Once I was properly organised I went round to Ingrid’s at Biollet. Ingrid was the only one of my Auvergnat friends who came to see me while I was really ill (of course, never forgetting Jean-Marc who drove all the way from Macon to see me, for which I will always be grateful) and it’s only right that I go to thank her. Generally-speaking, my Auvergnat friends turned out to be one big disappointment. When the going got tough, they certainly got going – but in the opposite direction.

And after all that I’ve done for them too.

Ingrid and I had coffee and a good chat which was very nice, and then I had to go to Montlucon to change my Livebox – that seems to be the reason why I’m not connecting to the internet. And Ingrid offered to come too for the ride and the company which was nice.

Changing the Livebox was a matter of minutes and then it was lunchtime. We repaired to a cafe across the street which fixed us a couple of salads and the dressing was superb.

By now, the sun was out and it was a glorious day – far too nice to go back home, and so I proposed a trip to Clermont Ferrand. Something that I needed to do there and now seemed like as good a time as any. We had an exciting time trying to find the Prefecture, and an even more exciting time trying to find the car afterwards. But it was only 5 minutes at the Prefecture and we spent the remainder of the two hours sitting in the sunshine at a cafe on the Place de Jaude. And very nice it was too.

I stopped for a coffee back at Ingrid’s and then headed for home. The Skoda is a nice little car but it’s not for me – I’ll tell you that for nothing. And back here I crashed out. It had been a long tiring day and I’m not as young as I was.

And the new Livebox?

That’s not perishing working either!

Saturday 18th March 2017 – LAST NIGHT …

… was something of a restless night for me. For a start, I wasn’t hungry and so I didn’t have anything to eat. And then I couldn’t go to sleep for ages either. By 06:00 I was wide awake and working on the laptop.

Nevertheless, I did manage to go on my travels during the night. I’d been to some kind of city where the railway lines had been moved out of the centre to the edge of the place, and the interior where the rails and the stations had formerly been was now all overgrown and being used by the locals as a kind of park. There were some arches over where the railway lines had been – brick arches of the kind that might have been built by the Romans and in very poor repair. I kept trying to take a few photos of them but people kept on getting in the way and it was just so difficult to have a clear shot.

Anyway, I had breakfast, in company with plenty of other people and a pile of dogs – it seems as if there was some kind of Canine Convention going on here just now. And then, as usual, I had things to do on the laptop.

Having survived the initial attempt to turf me out of my room, I decided not to push my luck and by 10:00 I was on my way. First stop was the LeClerc supermarket for bread and a few other bits and pieces to set me up for the next few days. I had a chat with Ingrid on the telephone too and we arranged to meet up on Monday for a chat and so on.

And then – I’ve put this off for so long but I can’t keep on doing it. I headed for home. It’s been a long time since I’ve been down these roads. For the last 18 months or so I’ve been something of a disciple of Wilfred Grenfell, who sais that “when two paths are open, always take the more venturesome”. But I have to go home sometime.

When I finally arrived, I could see that it was clear that the gales and tempests that have battered the centre of France have given here a pretty good battering too. But there’s no real damage or anything and, to be honest, it was good to be back. The good news is that the rodent-proofing that I carried out here in December seems to have worked and there’s no obvious signs of any damage. It was 16.1°C in here too so that was good – saved me having to light a fire.

But the bad news is that the storm has done something to the internet connection and that is down. It looks as if I’ll be taking Ingrid to Montlucon on Monday to swap my Livebox over for a new one. Anyway, I had a nice sit-down and relax for the afternoon, and kicked my mug of coffee all over the floor breaking off the handle of the mug, as well as washing the floor..

One of my plans for tonight was to go down to Pionsat to watch the football. But to my astonishment, not only is Pionsat running just one team this season (instead of the two last season and even three a couple of seasons ago), the team has declared a general forfeit and abandoned all of its matches. I don’t know what to make of this. It’s all rather astonishing as far as I’m concerned.

So anyway, I made myself something quick out of a tin to eat and then settled down on the sofa tonight, trying to sleep amid the sound of the animals scratching away in the roof.

As Golden Earring once famously sang, “You know it’s good to be back home” but I have been realising day by day while I’ve been away that with my declining health (because I can see it declining every day) my long-term future lies away from here.

Friday 17th March 2017 – THAT WAS ANOTHER …

… Sleep of the Dead last night. Totally painless it was too. And I was off on my travels. I had taken a job a a tram driver and after being trained, I took to the rails. On my first journey I couldn’t pull in at a tram stop as there was a lorry parked in the way so I had to go past and reverse back in (yes, on rails, this was!). But in reversing in, I switched the points and so on setting off again I was going down the wrong road. I couldn’t reverse back either because by now another tram had pulled up behind me. And so I’d somehow managed to bring the whole city’s tram network to a grinding halt.

Breakfast was quite quiet – just two of us there – and then I came back to finish off some work before hitting the road. But I had the wanderlust and so I didn’t hang around long. I was soon on my way.

hotchkiss old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceMind you, I didn’t manage to travel very far at first. As I was driving past some kind of farm-place, I noticed the rear end of an old car poking out from under a lean-to.

At first glance I thought that it might have been a Morris Oxford MO – the “Big Minor” of the late 1940s and early 1950s of which my father had two when we were kids – KKB547 and LDM819. It’s only natural therefore that I pulled up to make further enquiries.

hotchkiss old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceFirst thing that I noticed was that it was not a Morris Oxford MO at all but a fairly-similar-looking Hotchkiss saloon of a similar period. And that was something that quite amazed me because I’d never seen one of these before.

Secondly, it wasn’t alone either. There was a second one here too. In a much-more-complete condition. And both of these vehicles had quite a considerable amount of company.

old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceThere was a sign on the premises – “Private Property – Visits Tolerated Under Supervision Of An Occupant Of The Premises” – and you’ve no idea how long it took me to actually find someone who looked as if he belonged to the site.

Just as I was giving up all hope, a young guy turned up in an old (as in 1990s) Citroen. We had a little chat and eventually he gave me the necessary authority to go for a wander around with the Nikon D5000

delage old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceAnd this is what I found underneath the lean-to in total. An absolute treasure-trove of vehicles.

We have of course the blue Hotchkiss on the extreme left of the photo. That’s exciting enough, and I have no idea what the beige car might be on the right – and there was no-one around to ask. But as for the other two, these are Delages and I would take the big one – which I think might be an S6 – home with me in a heartbeat. It’s gorgeous.

old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceBut then of course, that’s not all by any means because the place was littered with all kinds of stuff. Stuff that the owner thinks may be of less value but which for someone like me, are absolutely magnificent machines.

This is a chassis and bulkhead of something and I’ve no idea what it might be, or have been. But it’s not the kind of thing that I would leave lying around like this.

old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceAnd that’s not the worst of it either. Because there are tons more stuff just lying around littering the yard.

This looks as if it dates to the 1930s and according to what I could make out, it might be a Talbot or maybe an ancient Hotchkiss. But that’s a sheer guess on my part because I couldn’t find any indication at all as to what it might have been.

old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceAs for this vehicle, it looks as if it’s even earlier. At least it has had a tarpaulin thrown over it to save it from the weather.

Again, I don’t have very much idea of what it might be – it’s certainly something that I don’t recall ever having seen before. It’s possibly a Hotchkiss but then again, what would I know about it?

talbot old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceThis car is much easier to identify because there’s quite a prominent bonnet badge on the radiator.

It’s a very sad-looking Talbot, from the days when Talbot knew how to make cars rather than assemble knock-down Chrysler rubbish. It still has some of its paint and with a good little bit of elbow grease and plenty of time, someone could actually make something out of this if they would only get a move on.

delage old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceThis is even much more like it and this ought to be dragged under cover out of the weather as soon as possible.

The radiator badge gives away the identity of this vehicle. It’s a Delage of course, probably from the early 1930s and this is another vehicle that would find ts way down to my barn in the Auvergne if I were in a position to do something about it.

delage talbot delahaye old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceThese three vehicles are extremely exciting too. We have the Delage in the far distance, and the vehicle in the centre of the photograph is the Talbot.

But the vehicle closest to the camera head-first against the outbuilding is, according to the casting on the engine, a Delahaye. Unfortunately, this is quite far gone and it would take a brave restorer of vehicles to have a good go at this. But it certainly deserves it.

delahaye old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceAnd this is perhaps the saddest vehicle of them all, I reckon. It’s a 1930s Delahaye which is comparatively complete, but yet seems to be too far gone for anyone to do very much with.

This is really a tragedy because while it might not have the class of the 1950s Delage that is underneath the lean-to that we saw earlier, it is just so nice and deserves so much better than this.

talbot old cars cosne cours sur loire nievre franceBut it’s not all doom and gloom. The lean-tos and sheds are jam-pack full of bits and pieces and even old cars that it is absolutely impossible to access. I could have spent all day here.

Instead, I’ll poke the lens of the camera through the bits and pieces and show you what I mean. This is a Talbot and at a rough guess it’s from the late 1920s, and it’s under cover out of the weather. And for that I’m extremely grateful.

And if you have more luck or knowledge than I have in identifying these vehicles, let me know. All the information that you can let me have would be most gratefully received.

deer chevreuil cosne cours sur loire nievre franceAnd I wasn’t alone while I was admiring these vehicles. This deer came to join me. Personally, I reckon that she must have been attracted by the presence of Strawberry Moose sitting in Caliburn outside – you never know.

Anyway I couldn’t hang around here all day, much as I would like to. I had things to do, places to go, people to see.

My journey took me along the side of the canal and the western banks of the River Loire until I headed off through the Foret de Troncais.

meaulne cher franceBy now the sun was out and the sky was clear and blue – not as nice as yesterday but nevertheless …

I stopped for an hour or so at Meaulne for a butty, to read a book and to tidy out a pile of rubbish from Caliburn. You’ve no idea how much rubbish has accumulated inside him since I hit the road for my appointment with destiny … gulp … 12 months ago

Back on the road I had yet more things to do and this involved a trip around a fewplaces in Montlucon. But it looks as if one of my projects is about to tomber à l’eau, for all kinds of reasons.

Now I’m in an IBIS Budget on the outskirts of Montlucon. I’m going to gather my wits and then head home tomorrow. First time for three months and I’m not looking forward to it, to be honest.

Friday 10th February 2017 – I CAME BACK TO BELGIUM …

… for the good of my health, but it’s not working out quite like that. It’s not doing my pulse rate and heartbeat much good, but that won’t stop me going out for a walk to take the air around the town on another occasion round about University chucking-out time, that’s for sure.

In fact, we got off to a good start – I stepped out of the front door and almost bowled a young schoolgirl straight into the centre of the road. She gave me such a beautiful smile that it cheered me right up for the rest of the day. I had a nice smile from the pharmacist too (not my usual one) as I picked up my next supply of medication, and then I hit the streets.

Last night, in order to get off to sleep early, I watched a film on the laptop. But that didn’t work, just for a change. Mind you, it wasn’t a Bulldog Drummond film so that might explain it. And then we had the usual awakening in the middle of the night and a couple of rude awakenings as people started to stir around here.

During the night, I’d been on my travels. I was having to prepare a thesis to be read out in front of an examining board and I wasn’t all that enthused about the subject that I had to present. On the other hand my friend June has to prepare her thesis on “travel” and she was saying to our mutual friend Krys that it was a shame that I wan’t presenting it because it was a subject that I clearly enjoyed. There was a cabbage that featured somewhere in this story too but I’ve no idea where and why now.

There were only three of us at breakfast but others had clearly been before us as we’d run out of orange juice and other stuff too. And then I came back down here to go back to sleep for a while. When I awoke, I went for a shower, a change of clothes and this led to a shave, and even … shock! horroh! … a haircut.

And I’m glad that I prettied myself up because they came to change the bed linen. So I’m all nice and clean everywhere tonight.While they were doing that, I went out for my baguette.

After lunch, I had another snooze but it was only for about another hour or so. And then – I made an executive decision. I don’t have enough trousers here and this is causing issues. In fact, in the shower I washed one of my pairs. But then I decided that maybe I ought to do something about this, and so I hit the streets as I said just now.

C and A had nothing, and so I went to the Sports shop where I bought my new shoes at the end of Autumn. Two pairs of decent trousers of the kind and of the material that I like, and reduced on special offer to €11:50 each. That’s more than I pay in Montlucon but it can’t be helped.

On the way back, I kept on tripping over college girls. Yes, I’ll come out again at this time of afternoon.

Tonight’s tea was vegan pie, beans, carrots, boiled potatoes and gravy. Totally delicious. A chat on the internet with Liz too.

And so we’ll try to have an early night again tonight. I hope that I’ll feel even better tomorrow. But there are no girls out there to cheer me up.

Saturday 24th December 2016 – WHILE YOU ADMIRE …

city lights christmas eve brusselsestraatleuven belgium december decembre 2016… the city of Leuven and its Christmas illuminations, I’ll tell you about the day that I’ve had today.

Most importantly, I went out for a walk this evening. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been for a stroll out at night – probably since I was in Montreal in October, and seeing as it’s Christmas Eve tonight, it seemed to be a good-enough opportunity.

city lights christmas eve brusselsestraat leuven belgium december decembre 2016One thing that I haven’t done since I’ve been in Leuven to show you where I’m staying.

It’s in the Brusselsestraat, which used to be the main way out of the city before the Motorway link road was built, and on the corner of the Kruisstraat. And that’s the building just down there on the left, on the corner after the third street light.

My room is on the first floor, on the left hand corner at the rear, with a window at the rear overlooking the garden.

city lights christmas eve leuven belgium december decembre 2016And so as for last night – a total disaster.

Someone in here was “entertaining” and the beds creak like nobody’s business, as I might have mentioned before. I was all for giving them a round of applause but of course it’s impossible to clap with just one hand as you know.

And then we had the party.

city lights christmas eve leuven belgium december decembre 2016About 02:00 they started, and it wasn’t until about 04:00 that they finished.

I’d been asleep, having had an early night until they started, and I gave up any idea of going back there once they had started. By 02:30 I was working on the laptop. I may as well make the most of all of my discomfort. No point in missing out on the time that I had unexpectedly been given

city lights christmas eve leuven belgium december decembre 2016I went back to sleep shortly afterwards and that was that until the alarm went off. And rather petulantly, I didn’t turn off the alarm for quite a while. And likewise with the reminder. I let it ring for a few minutes

After breakfast I went and had a shower. I didn’t wait until everyone was awake like I usually do – I went straight in regardless of the noise that the shower makes in the bathroom.

I was in something of a bad mood, wasn’t I?

city lights christmas eve leuven belgium december decembre 2016For much of the morning I was researching stuff again for my stuff on Labrador. And I came across some work by a certain Rudy Mauro, someone who had gone out (in a helicopter) to the site of where Leonidas Hubbard, about whom we’ve talked on many occasions, had died during his ridiculous “exploration” of Labrador’s interior where he had starved to death after being “out” for only a few weeks.

He also had amongst his papers some notes by Dillon Wallace, he who accompanied Hubbard and who went back to complete his work, and which were previously unpublished.

city lights christmas eve leuven belgium december decembre 2016Later on I went out to the shops and to the market. I bought everything that I had written down on my list, but something that I had subsequently remembered that I needed, I even more subsequently forgot.

And worse was yet to come, because the vegan shop had sold out of the spray-on vegan cream. It means that I’m going to have to eat my mince pies “dry” and that’s a tragedy. I was rather looking forward to my special little treat.

city lights christmas eve leuven belgium december decembre 2016I carried on working this afternoon, as well as having a little doze too (which I reckoned that I needed), as well as keeping up-to-date with Morton’s game with Queen of the South.

That all took me up to tea time when i finished off the last of my curry. But it was rather difficult making my tea tonight as my current lot of housemates don’t seem to understand the necessity of cleaning up and washing up after them.

The sooner I can find a place of my own the better.

city lights christmas eve leuven belgium december decembre 2016But then I went off for my walk up town in the evening.

What surprised me was that there was no-one about. Well – that’s not necessarily true. What I mean was that in most other cities the centre would be heaving and there woud be all kinds of things going on – and that was what I was hoping – carol singers and all of that.

grote markt city lights christmas eve leuven belgium december decembre 2016But as you can see from a photo of the Grote Markt – there are very few people wandering around here and nothing in the way of entertainment. It was all rather disappointing.

And so instead I came back home.

It’s now Christmas Day and I’m celebrating with a can of alcohol-free raspberry beer that I bought from Noz in Montlucon the other week.

And now I’m off to bed, if my housemates will let me, and I’ll show you the rest of my photos tomorrow.

Friday 9th December 2016 – I HAD MY …

… early night, and I was quickly away with the fairies too. But I was soon awakened by some kid of beastie scratching away in the roof.I’d forgotten all about them, you know, and how they used to scratch away all the blasted time. I did recall how, on my first night asleep in the bedroom downstairs, how deep a sleep I had without being disturbed at all.

But anyway, this scratching went on for quite a while and I couldn’t get off to sleep while all of this was going on. It was so annoying. But anyway, I did finally go off to sleep and was wide awake again before the alarms went off.

plasterboard corner attic les guis virlet puy de dome franceAfter breakfast and a little relax, I made a start. The corner in the attic that had been left open for access to the cables and (whenever it might be) the water pipes for the solar heat exchanger, I cut some plasterboard quickly and screwed it up to cover the gap on both walls. And then I cut a bigger piece for the ceiling to close all of that up too.

There’s a hole too behind one of the beams that I hadn’t managed to fill in when I did the ceiling. I cut some wood offcuts and I’ve blocked that off now – well, sort-of.

All of this involved a huge run-around for bits and pieces of wood and plasterboard. All of this wore me out completely. I had to stop regularly for a rest and at the end of it all it took me until just after 13:00 to do a couple of simple jobs like that. It’s easy to see just how much this illness has affected me.

But one thing can be said – and that is the 500-watt ash-sucker that I had bought years ago with the aim of converting it into a vacuum cleaner. Seeing as how we were having another impressive day, I gave it a run out to clean up the dust and plasterboard. And it worked in spades too. It’s made an astonishing difference to everything, particularly once I’d started to attack the rest of the room with it. I should have tried this before, and I wish that I had more time to do it again.

After lunch, I did a little more tidying up and then went down to pick up Caliburn. And he was ready too. And even more interestingly, the bill came to much less than half what I had paid in Brussels. He had checked the other side too, the one that they had done up there and told me that it was okay and any other sound that I might hear are not anything to worry about.

As an aside … "you’ll get used to these" – ed … I’d enjoyed driving my little Peugeot. Certainly showing her age, but she was still a fun car to drive around in and considering it had cost me just the diesel to borrow her, I had had a good deal.

Montlucon was next. I was early so I went for a stroll around, and then down to the tyre place. Caliburn now has brand new tyres on the rear to go with his good snow tyres on the front, and a reasonable spare too. Two more snow tyres next winter and then two more decent Hankooks in 18 months time and that will do for a couple of years.

With a full tank of fuel, I drove back here. It was 18:45 when I returned.

After tea, I had a relax again and now I’m going to have an early night. I’ve decided to hit the road tomorrow and head back to Leuven.

Tuesday 6th December 2016 – SO HERE I AM …

… back home again to stay for a few days if I can last out. The first time that I will have stopped here since November last year.

And I wish that I wasn’t here either. The internet is down, the ‘phone isn’t working, the room is covered in dust, some animal has made it inside and made a mess that I shall have to clear up. It’s all so depressing.

I lit the fire and that immediately awoke a hibernating fly that has been buzzing around my head all night. I can’t find half of the stuff that I need for cooking so it was a very rudimentary meal that I had, cooked in the oven bit of the woodstove so that’s something, I suppose. But I can’t see me being here for long.

On a more positive note, all that I can say about these Ace Hotels is that they live up to their names. I’ve paid twice the price for conditions and facilities that haven’t been as good as this. I had a really good sleep and was off on my travels again during the night, although you are probably eating your breakfast this morning so I’ll spare you the details.

Breakfast was superb too. In fact, everything about it was definitely good value for money from my point of view.

When they threw me out I went to the Tax Office and found that my hospital payments are all up-to-date which is good news. I did a little shopping and then headed out to Evaux-les-Bains. I was early so I tidied up a little (yes, just a little) in Caliburn. The garage where I have to go is a body shop as you might expect, and he had an old Ford Vedette V8 awaiting attention.

These are copies of 1940s American cars sold by Ford France, and when that company was nationalised after World War II, Simca took over the plant and designs and carried on making them. Simca Vedettes are reasonably common, but a Ford is rare.

So we have a plan for the repair, and he’s going to have a look at the rust that’s appearing on the nearside sill while he’s at it. I’m entitled to borrow a car while the repair work is being done, so I may as well have everything done all at once.

From there I had a delightful meander through the countryside. The wheel bearing is by now driving me mad so I went to see the garagiste there and we had a chat. He can fit Caliburn in Wednesday afternoon and Thursday which is good for me – it means that I can hit the road Friday night. He’s going to find me a hire car for a couple of days while Caliburn is receiving attention.

I’ll nip into Montlucon tomorrow morning and take two wheels with me. If the tyres have arrived, i’ll have them fitted. If not, I’ll leave the wheels and go back for them in the hire car. That means that I’ll spend the first part of the morning fitting Caliburn’s winter tyres on the front.

That’s what I should have done in the first place.

Monday 5th December 2016 -DRAT AND DOUBLE-DRAT!

The other week, we discussed the problem of burst tyres on the motorway.

And so it should come as no surprise to learn that it was the turn of Yours Truly today.

Not quite on the motorway – in fact about 400 metres after I’d pulled off at Montlucon. But a flat tyre just the same. There’s a nail in it somehow.

Luckily, if there is such a thing that can be called lucky, regular readers will recall from 2012 when I had a blow-out on the M6 near Stoke on Trent, I’d pushed the boat out and bought three really good Hankook tyres. The fourth was a second-hand cheap tyre that I had bought because of the wheel that was attached to it. There was plenty of tread on it but I didn’t expect it to last very long. Anyway, it’s this one that has the puncture.

There’s a spare on Caliburn and that was a second-hand one that I bought for the wheel (it was the time when I was collecting a second set of wheels for the winter tyres). But when I had a look at it … well … I’ve thrown away better tyres than this. A fair amount of tread to be sure, but standing around for as long as it has has done it no favours. But at least I was mobile with not much effort.

selfish parking montlucon allier franceMy new enhanced mobility took me to the LeClerc supermarket where I stocked up with another big supply of food for Belgium. And while I was there, I had another big laugh at the selfishness of other drivers.

The driver of this car parked it up at the supermarket – and pretty badly parked at that – and walked away – and then turned round to come back and parked his car even worse, straddling the white lines.

The selfishness of people is astonishing, isn’t it?

Having done the shopping, I went off in search of some tyres. I’ve ordered two brand-new Hankooks and they will be delivered on Friday. They will be going on the front, the other Hankook that is still on the front will be the spare, and the nasty spare tyre will be going in the bin.

But I’m not thinking very clearly here. What I should have done was to forget about the new tyres, come back home and fitted Caliburn with his winter tyres on the front. And the money situation is going to be important because on the way down from Leuven, I could feel the other wheel bearing start to tighten up and that’s going to have to be looked at. It’s yet more expense that I can do without.

I had a decent sleep last night and the breakfast at the Premiere Class was quite good. And then I hung around there doing stuff until about 11:00. When they threw me out of the hotel I hit the road and drove steadily down to Montlucon

tacot railway station narrow gauge bourbon l'archambault allier franceI cut the corner off down at the end of the road and came back through Bourbon l’Archambault, and this building caught my eye.

You should all know what it is because I’ve taken you to see a few of these. It’s the old railway station of Bourbon l’Archambault and the railway concerned is the tacot, the metre-gauge railway network that covered the Allier during the first half of the 20th Century.

Built far too late to have a decisive influence on the country’s transport policy and built too cheaply, serving the layout of the terrain rather that the needs of the passengers (one commentator described the railway stations as decorating the abandoned landscape), the only surprise was that they lasted aslong as they did before road transport swept them away

There’s a new chain of budget hotels opening in France – called Ace Hotels. One has been built on the edge of Montlucon and so I went for a look around.

ace hotel montlucon allier franceAt just €49:00 per night, it’s excellent. Certainly the best budget hotel in which I’ve ever stayed. The only complaint is that there aren’t enough of them yet.

My view from the window was excellent, right across the motorway and into the Combrailles at the back. That’s where I’ll be heading tomorrow.

So in the meantime, I ordered a pizza and wasn’t that a disappointment? Overpriced, undercooked and crushed up on one side of the box – someone had carried it vertically.

I shan’t be going to that pizza place again.

Sunday 4th December 2016 – I’VE HAD A FEW …

… twinges just recently but last night I had a major attack of cramp. Both calves too and I was in agony for half an hour. First time for absolutely months and months and months. I’d almost forgotten all about them.

But eventually the pain wore off and I could carry on with sleeping – until the alarm went off.

I’d been back to Labrador as well during the night. That seems to be a regular route these days. It’s all clearly playing on my mind.

First into breakfast this morning, and all alone too. and my 08:05 I’d finished, been to the boulanger for my baguette and rescued three plastic crates from the skip at the supermarket.

The morning was spent doing some tidying up (which is not like me, is it) and getting my room ready for being away for a week or so. I have to make an effort, I suppose. I did some stuff on the laptop too and an early lunch saw me down the road and at Cailburn by 14:00.

We hit the streets and fuelled up and then had a very uneventful drive down as far as Paris. One thing that I had forgotten is that Sunday late afternoon it’s “red” rates on the péage in the direction of Paris and I really was nailed for that. It wasn’t half painful

The Franciliènne was packed too – end-to-end traffic all the way around and it didn’t clear either. Things only eased off when i left and headed into Melun.

Plenty of room at the Première Classe on the edge of the city and the room was quite comfortable, even though some people in the room above seemed to be having a party. I had a really good pizza brought to me and then I crashed out for an hour or so.

Tomorrow after breakfast I’ll have part II of my journey, back to Montluçon at least. To do some shopping tomorrow evening and find a place to stay ready for part III.

Thursday 1st December 2016 -I HAD A …

… very bad night last night.

Well, sort-of-ish anyway.

Remember yesterday when I told you about that good book that I downloaded yesterday? So there I was last night reading it and I happened to notice the time. 03:30 it was.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been so deeply engrossed in a book like that, I have to say. I was well-away. But anyway, I closed down the laptop, turned off the light, and went to sleep – or, at least, tried to.

I must have dozed off eventually because it was the alarm that awoke me. And surprisingly, I didn’t feel too bad just then. I’d been on my travels too, although I don’t remember anything about it right now.

After breakfast, I lay down here on the bed and closed my eyes for 5 minutes in order to build up my strength ready to face the morning. Next thing that I knew, it was 11:20. i’d been out if it for over three hours. And serve me right too.

I’d missed the bank to pay my lodging, so I mustn’t forget under any circumstances to do that tomorrow. Otherwise I’ll be out on my aspidistra. And coming back from the shower room, I walked into the wrong room. I knew that I would end up doing that sooner or later. Did I say that I’m in a different room here? It’s the cheapest in the house but I have negotiated a good deal so I’m not complaining. It’s just not my usual room and so it’ll take some time to become used to it.

After lunch I cracked on a little with my pages on Happy Valley-Goose Bay. It’s amazing the stuff that has come on line since the last time that I researched into this in early 2011. Tons of stuff and I’m spoilt for choice these days.

Something else that I did this afternoon has shaped my plans for next week. You know that Caliburn was hit in the rear a few weeks ago and needs to be examined. And I’ve also been keen to go home for some time, just for old time’s sake.

And so I rang up the insurance and made an appointment with their expert for Tuesday afternoon. and it’s at Evaux-les-Bains, and so that means that I have to go home. And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m seeing Alison on Saturday afternoon, and so on Sunday morning I shall hit the road and head back.

My plan is to stop on Sunday night at Meaux, and on Monday night at Montlucon – a Première Classe each time. And then go and have Caliburn sorted out on Tuesday and go back home for a few days.

For tea I made a kidney-bean whatsit, with enough for tomorrow night. And then I’ve been searching on the internet. OH Leuven are playing away on Saturday night at Tubize, just south of Brussels. There’s a reliable train service which is quite interesting, as so seeing as I have never really been to Tubize, I’m thinking of it.

Or as William Shakespeare might have said “Tubize or not Tubize? That is the question!”

Tuesday 30th August 2016 – WELL HERE I AM AGAIN!

That’s right, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed … "well, yes" – ed … here in the hospital, ready for my final session of mapthera.

And bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I ought to have been too, because I was asleep relatively early too. Not that it did me much good of course, because round about 01:00 we had a party of fellow-residents returning from a night out in the town and they certainly let everyone know that they were back.

Not only that, I had a nightmare too! How long is it since I had one of those? Things are definitely being rather depressing around here right now if that’s the level to which I seem to have sunk.

An early start and a reasonable breakfast in the bright morning sum did much to restore my morale and then after a little relax to gather up my wits, not that it takes too long these days … "you said that the other day" – ed … I set off for the long trudge up the hill to the hospital.

I was here early too, and soon installed in a nice room by a couple of my favourite nurses (but not the cute and sweet Tara as yet). It’s nice to be on my usual ward with everyone so friendly and helpful. And I had a new doctor too. It looks as if Hermione is now a thing of the past. No more Ericus Reparo.

And we’ve had some very bad news too. They took my blood count and it is DOWN – from 12.0 to 11.0. It’s true to say that 3 months ago I would have happily settled for 11.0 and gone home smiling and whistling, but not after I’ve been up as high as 12.0. Here I was, thinking that I was out of the woods. It seems however that I have merely moved into different woods.

On the other hand, they have now made a formal announcement of the illness that I have. It seems that I have Waldenströhm’s disease (I should have kept well-clear of Waldenströhm, I suppose). It’s quite rare, which is probably why they were having issues with dealing with it at Montlucon, but then again it’s not as if I’m likely to have anything plebeian, is it?

They talk about vision loss, which as regular readers of this rubbish will recall is something that I have mentioned frequently over the last year or so, and a change in mental state. Well, you can all make up your own minds about that one.

They also say that it’s incurable, and that there’s a life expectancy of between 5 and 11 years (now, of course, 4 and 10 years) and I don’t like the sound of any of that at all. But as far as you lot are concerned, at least it gives you all some kind of idea of how long you have to suffer theremaider of this rubbish that I churn out.

I had all of the antidotes and calmants and stuff like that, and then I had the mapthera. That didn’t take too long and by 17:00 I was all done and dusted, having had an hour or so away with the fairies meantime. Now I have to wait the 18 hours to check for the side-effects, and I do hope that my room-mate doesn’t snore. And I suppose that he’s hoping that I don’t cough.

Now here’s a thing. In the absence of the cute and sweet Tara, I’m being attended to by the just-as-cute and just-as-sweet Evie. And she wants to know why it is that whenever she takes my blood pressure, it’s always higher than when the other nurses take it.

Ordinarily, I would tell her – but not when my room-mate is listening and the door to my room is open.