Tag Archives: oostende

Saturday 17th July 2021 – AS BARRY HAY ONCE …

… famously said – “one thing that I gotta tell you, and that it’s good to be back home”.

And having spent a couple of hours collapsed on my chair in my office, I can’t do any more than agree with him

This morning was a dreadfully early start – 04:25 when the alarm went off and I crawled out of bed feeling pretty awful, as you might expect.

There were my sandwiches to make and my packing to do and then a pile of cleaning up, and to my surprise it was all of 05:15 when I’d finished so I reckoned that I might as well head off for the railway station.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric HallOne thing about the camera on my telephone is that it’s not very good in the dark.

One of the construction projects in the town that has been going on for far too long with little signs of finishing is the rebuilding of the Martelarenplein, “Martyr’s Square”, outside the railway station. This is something that has been dragging on for years and it looks as if it will be going on for a long time yet.

It’s difficult to understand why these projects take so long to complete. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that there have been endless projects of all sorts going on here and which have dragged on and on and on.

class 18 electric locomotive 1812 gare de Leuven railway station 	Belgium Eric HallIt was 05:35 when I made it onto the station, to find that the train to Oostende was running late.

As I arrived on the platform so did the train and here’s a rather blurred photo of it, because the ‘phone isn’t up to very much in this kind of light.

The locomotive is one of the Class 18 electrics, the workhorses of the Belgian railway system, pulling a rake of double-deck coaches. I found a quiet spec in the front compartment over the bogie, and settled down for my trip into Brussels.

And no-one came to bother me, not even a ticket inspector. He was probably asleep in his compartment somewhere near the rear of the train.

sign about train cancellations gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric HallWe pulled into Brussels-Midi just after 06:00 and while I was here I had a look at the indicator board to see where my train might be.

But this notice caught my eye and it was worth photographing. The railway network in the east of the country has been badly hit by the flood and there are piles of trains that have been cancelled as a result.

“If you are implicated in this notice, please don’t come to the station. Postpone your journey” – in other words, there are no alternative means of transport to connect up these towns. That tells you all that you need to know about the damage to the transport infrastructure.

The trains to Germany were cancelled too. With Liège 6 feet under water and the Rhine and its tributaries overflowing, all of that has taken a knock as well and it will be a while before these services are reinstated.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4513 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric HallLook at the time now!

It’s 06:37, I’ve been here for half an hour already, and my train has now come in. It’s one of the PBA – Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt trains that is running the 07:17 to Strasbourg. I take it as far as Lille Europe where I change trains.

We weren’t allowed on the train for 10 minutes while they cleaned it, and then we could all pile aboard.

And those of us on the platform side of the train were treated to the sight of a bag-snatcher snatching a bag from the train on the other side, the 07:00 to Marseille. The security staff managed to recover the bag but not the thief. The police turned up a couple of minutes later, presumably to make further enquiries.

We set off bang on time and I tried to work but there was no electricity on the train and the battery flattened itself quite quickly and that held me up.

At Lille Europe we all piled out and then there was the stagger across the town to Lille Flandres railway station.

TGV Reseau Duplex 225 gare du lille flandres france Eric HallThere isn’t much time to cross town before my train is due to leave. It was already in the station and the platform when I arrived.

It’s one of the TGV Réseau Duplex trainsets – at least, this end of it is, and I don’t know what’s on the front of it. I eventually found my carriage but these are quite cramped and there isn’t much room in the overhead luggage racks for all the stuff that I was carrying, so I dug myself in in the little phone lounge at the top of the stairs and there I sat.

It’s not possible to work there though so I spent most of the journey asleep. But at least the laptop and the telephone could recharge themselves while we were on the move to Paris.

TGV POS 4406 gare du nord paris france Eric HallAt the Gare du Nord in Paris I could have a look and see what the front trainset of my train to Paris was.

It’s one of the TGV POS units that used to work the eastern part of France and into Southern Germany until they were replaced by the next-generation machines.

Wandering off under my heavy load, because you won’t believe just how much this medication weighs, I made it to the platform of the Metro just as a train pulled up and to my surprise there was an empty seat right by the door.

It whizzed me off to the Gare Montparnasse where I wandered about aimlessly in the ill-signposted station until I found the correct escalator to take me up to the fourth floor from where the mainline trains depart

84572 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric HallMy train always departs from the platforms at the far end of the station so I wandered off that way.

There was one of the Normandy trains in at the platform and I assumed that it was mine. And there was an empty seat in that little corner that I discovered a few weeks ago from where I could keep an eye on things.

15 minutes to go, the platform number flashed up on the display screen and it was indeed my train that I had seen, so we all piled on board.

And I do mean “all piled” too because there wasn’t even one empty seat on the train. Travelling to Granville on a Saturday morning in summer with everyone going on holiday is not a very good idea. Of course I’m not usually here at this time of year – I’m usually wandering around Canada somewhere at this time of the year.

We were so crammed in that it wasn’t easy to work this afternoon on the train, but what I dd manage to do for yesterday’s journal entry is now on line and I’ll finish off the rest of it tomorrow maybe.

84567 gec alstom regiolis bombardier 82648 gare de granville railway station france Eric HallIt was quite a transformation when we arrived in Granville – bang on time with no obstructions or delays. Cold, damp and cloudy weather had given way to brilliant sunshine.

So while I stopped to organise my luggage I took a photo of the trains in the station. My train was a combination of two trainsets – I’d been in the rear one and here on the right is the front one.

To the left is one of the Bombardier units that works the service between Rennes and Caen and on which I’ve travelled a couple of times going to Coutances and St-Lô.

So into the heat I set off. Not down through the Parc de Val es Fleurs because I couldn’t manage the suitcase down the steps. Instead I went down the Rue Couraye into town.

old cars renault 8 rue couraye granville france Eric HallAnd I’m glad that I did because once more I came across another old car.

And this one is a real old car as well – A Renault R8. This was the car that was launched in 1962 with the aim of replacing the famous Dauphine and stayed in production until 1973 in France, although the model continued to be built in other countries until as late as 1976.

One of my teachers, Mr Firth, at Primary School had one of these and that one must have been one of the very first right-hand drive ones to roll off the production line. He took me to play in a football match for our school, my only representative honour, in early 1965.

old cars renault 8 rue couraye granville france Eric HallAs I was taking a photo of the car, some tourist walked right in front of me and spoiled my photo. I had to retake it.

But the whole town was heaving with tourists, getting in everyone’s way. At one point I ran my suitcase over the foot of someone who was obstructing the pavement. They really get on my nerves.

The crawl up the hill in the Rue des Juifs was appalling and I had to stop several times to catch my breath. I felt every step of the way in this heat and I don’t want to be doing this again if it keeps on like this.

Taking the bus is a sign of defeat, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, but one of these days pretty soon I’m going to have to throw in the towel. All of this medication is killing me

marite victor hugo port de granville harbour france  Eric HallOne of the places where I stopped to catch my breath was at the viewpoint overlooking Marité‘s place in the harbour.

People were streaming on board so it looked as if she was about to go out for an evening sail as soon as the harbour gates opened. I wasn’t going to wait around. Once I’d recovered my breath I carried on up the hill.

Here at the apartment I collapsed in my chair and here I stayed for a couple of hours. And then I managed to find the energy to put away the cold food and to drink the coffee that was in my “Adventure Canada” thermos flask. Still quite warm despite having been made over 12 hours.

Tea tonight was out of a tin, and then I came in here to write up my notes. And now I’m off to bed. I’m exhausted, I really am, and it’s just as well that I’m having a lie-in tomorrow. I need it.

Friday 29th January 2021 – HERE I AM …

… back home again after my marathon voyage.

The journey always takes a lot out of me but usually I’m back by 14:30 so I have a few hours to recover before I can deal with whatever needs dealing with. Today though was rather different.

This morning not only did I beat the third alarm, I beat the second one too. I had a quick whizz around the pad and tidied everything up, washed up, made my sandwiches for the journey and then packed my stuff for the road.

sncb class 18 electric locomotive gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThe rain wasn’t all that heavy which was very good, and a quick walk brought me to the station in time for my train – the 07:22 which was the first one on my list.

It was another one of the expresses from Welkenraedt to Oostende – a rake of modern double-deck coaches pulled by one of the SNCB class 18 electric locomotives. Nice and comfortable and quite rapid and much better than one of the elderly multiple units that sometimes travel on the line.

It arrived at Brussels-Midi with 90 minutes before my train was due to depart but after an hour or so the platform for the train came up on the display screen so we could go up to the train.

tgv thalys pbka 4331 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallOur train to Paris this morning is one of the PBKA (Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam) units and either it was a short train or else (more likely) a unit is to come in from either Amsterdam or Cologne and couple up behind it.

And wasn’t I disappointed? Having read all the Official Notices for travelling, had a Covid test, filled in piles of paperwork, had all my documents to hand, there wasn’t a single policeman about to check my right to travel.

Our train left on time and, even more surprisingly, arrived in Paris Gare du Nord on time. During the trip I had dozed off for a couple of minutes and they had to wake me up to see my ticket. There wasn’t even a wait at the Metro because I arrived on the platform at the same time as a train.

TGV Atlantique series 24000 trainset 386 gare de rennes railway station France Eric HallAt Montparnasse there was an hour to wait before we could all pile on board our TGV. This is one of the “TGV Atlantique” Series 24000 units.

Some of these are over 30 years old but you wouldn’t think so by looking at the interiors because they are quite clean, tidy and comfortable. And even more interestingly, between 1990 and 2007, it was one of these train sets (admittedly a shortened unit) that held the world railway speed record of 515.3 km/h.

This one unfortunately took two hours to travel all the way to Rennes, which is not really surprising as it also stopped at Le Mans and Laval. But two TGVs in a day – I’m really living it up, aren’t I? T

gare de rennes railway station France Eric HallWe pulled into the railway station at Rennes at about 14:00 – – only the second time that I’ve been to the railway station there. Plenty of time to go for a wander around and photograph the town from the overbridge.

Despite the time available, I didn’t go far and for a couple of good reasons too. Firstly I had a rather heavy load to carry around with me and secondly, the railway station is such a maze that to find out where I would find my connection took me a good bit longer than it ought to have done.

By the time that I had reached where I needed to be it I was glad to sit down.

rail replacement vdl coach gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere was no train back home this time. There was a coach connection to Granville and I had to wait for 75 minutes for it.

To wait for the bus I had to go to the Gare Routier or “bus station” which is presumably built in what might have been the old goods yard sidings a five-minute walk away from the station.

We had to wait outside in the open air for it to turn up but by now it was sunny and reasonably warm for the time of the year. And although the journey home on the coach was comfortably, it still took about two hours to reach Granville railway station.

cow and penguins on roundabout place pleville Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere’s no carnival this year in Granville dur to the virus but that hasn’t stopped the town from decorating the place.

A brisk walk from the station and through the back of the town brought me to the viewpoint from the Rue des Juifs where, looking over to the roundabout at the Place Pleville I could see a cow and several penguins loitering around there watching the traffic.

It’s certainly something different to liven up the time a little and bring a smile to the faces of the general public. It’s making me wonder what the theme of this year’s Carnival would have been had it gone ahead.

pointing rampe du monte regret Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallA little further on along the Rue des Juifs I came to where they had been doing the pointing at the Rampe du Monte Regret.

During the whole week in which I’ve been away, they haven’t made as much progress as I might have expected . No-one engaged in the building work that I have seen over the last week seems to be in an awful hurry to complete their tasks.

My brisk walk brought me back home at just about 18:00, having been on the road for just about 11 hours and I knew all about every minute of it. For a couple of hours I vegetated in the chair and then grabbed a frozen meal out of the freezer.

Later on I had a listen to my dictaphone to see if I’d been on my travels during the night. I was at home and there was a sports match about to come on the TV. Terry and Liz – Liz had asked me if I could buy her some special cheese from LIDL. She had given me the packet and I’d managed to get one or two bits for her which I’d left on the kitchen table in my house but my brother was coming round so I went outside and hid, with the idea that he would go past, find my house with everything all laid out in there and so on and the sports match ready. He’d be wondering where I was and I could creep up and surprise him. He walked past, it was about 19:10 and just then the bus came past, a Crosville bus. So I hopped on board and went to sit upstairs. It started to drop a few people off but instead of going into the village of Shavington it shot off down a back lane somewhere and ended up on the road between Crewe and Nantwich via Willaston. All the roads had been realigned – it wasn’t the same road alignment. Everyone was wondering why he hadn’t gone to Shavington. He said that he was going to Shavington but he was just going to drop someone off in the country lanes first. We thought that this was going to be a hell of a long way round to get home if he’s going to be doing things like this

Bed-time now and I have to be up early in the morning as I need to go shopping. But i’m not going to be fit for much for the ret of the weekend. At least, if I can change my appointment to Thursday, come home on Saturday, I can have a complete lie-in on Sunday and I won’t have so much stuff to carry around with me.

And I’ll look forward to that.

Friday 4th December 2020 – JUST FOR A …

… change I had a lie-in today and didn’t leave my bed until about 07:30.

And it wasn’t necessarily through oversleeping either. When the alarms went off I was regaled by the sound of a torrential rainstorm and all kinds of wicked things going on outside and they certainly weren’t the kind of conditions conducive to constructive thought.

When I finally arose, I had my medication and then set a pile of lentils on the go in the slow cooker.

Back in the bedroom, I had a listen to the dictaphone. I was back at school last night. I had a girlfriend but one of my friends from school started dating her. After the first time he told me that he was going to be taking her out again. I told him that I wasn’t going to let that happen if I could. I would be taking her out. He started to turn all violent saying that he had all of the weapons arranged, all the oil and everything like that and he’d be dealing with it. But I stuck my ground and we ended up having this fierce argument.

Later on there was something to do with a dog. We’d come into possession of a dog for some reason. My brother, father and I were coming down Underwood Lane in Crewe and were talking about going to get some dog biscuits. We turned left into West Street but it wasn’t out of Underwood Lane but out of Minshull New Road. There was a pet shop right on the corner there so we stopped. But I couldn’t believe West Street. It was like the Blitz had hit it. Everything had been demolished and there was just the odd house here and there on the south side sticking up and a little Sprite 400 caravan with people living in it parked there with a washing line and a load of washing outside. We went into this shop and the woman asked what we wanted. My brother said that we were looking for dog treats. My father took out some money and it must have been a couple of hundred quid he brought out. I said “dad, what are you trying to do? Buy the shop or something?”. This woman put a pile of dog biscuits into a bag, this kind of thing and then a few packets of sweets, saying “this will do you right for Christmas” and charged I dunno about £20 or something for it. He took it and went outside but then started to give my brother a lecture about buying stuff. “What she’s probably done is given all kinds of stuff that aren’t suitable for the dog, stuff that’s past its sell-by date, all this kind of thing. We should have taken much more care about what we bought”. he started to go through it and found loads of stuff that wasn’t suitable. he decided that he would go back into the shop and renegotiate the deal. I was outside, looking at the road, how it went further on and zigzagged up this spectacular cliff like a wild west mesa or whatever. There were birds flying over there and a couple of dogs flying around. I thought that this was a really idyllic setting here but my brother and my father were in such a deep discussion about these dog biscuits that they failed to notice it.

By now, the weather had cleared up so I rinsed the lentils, put them back in with fresh clean water and flavouring, and then fried some onions, garlic, tofu and beans with more flavouring. When it was all cooked properly, I added it all to the slow cooker and left it in there to fester on “low”.

hailstones place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallGrabbing my rain jacket and the rest of my equipment I headed off outside for the shops.

And you can see here what was going on this morning. I thought at first that it was snow but in actual fact it was a mega-hailstorm that had descended upon us from a great height. Most of it had melted now but there were still a few vestiges left.

So leaving it at that, I set off into town. And before I’d gone a quarter of a mile the heavens opened again and I was absolutely, totally and thoroughly drenched. This was not what I was expecting at all. There had been blue skies 15 minutes earlier.

porsche 924 ford capri 280 gare de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall How long is it since we’ve had an old car on these pages? It must be a while, I reckon, so here are two for the price of one.

The red one is a Porsche 924, a model made from about 1976 to 1988. About 150,000 were made which was no surprise because for a Porsche, they were relatively affordable. However, it was its affordability and popularity that were its downfall because many people who bought one were mocked for being “nouveau riche” arrivists. Although the vehicle handled well, its actual performance was lamentable for a top-end sports car until they began to be fitted with turbos. And the turbos brought with them their own problems.

The blue one is much more like my car of course. A Ford Capri from the early 1980s, this one. It’s described as a “280” by which I imagine that it has the 2.8 litre V6 “Cologne” engine in it (Strider has a 4.0 litre Cologne engine in it). Of course, if I were to own such a car, which I wouldn’t turn down, it would be a black one and the V engine would be binned and replaced with a 2-litre Pinto engine

having done a lap around LIDL, then loaded up like a packhorse I headed for home. As well as the immense shopping list that I took with me, they also had a few Christmas dainties that I could eat and so as they won’t be there for ever, I grabbed a few.

new shop front bar la civette rue paul poirier Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that over the last few weeks we’ve seen them demolishing the facade of a bar, La Civette, in the Rue Paul Poirier, and then building a wooden wall around it while they worked inside.

It looks as if they’ve had the unveiling of the new facade since I last passed this way. It’s a big improvement on what was there before and, thankfully, it doesn’t resemble too much the other new facades going up around the town that all look the same.

And you can tell how the weather is doing right now. Teeming down with rain and it’s really dark. all of the lights oare on in the street, despite it being 11:00.

fresh fish stall port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallOf course it’s Friday, not Thursday, so there are different things going on in the street that I wouldn’t normally see when I’m out and about usually.

We’ve talked … “at great length” – ed … about the fishing industry in the town and all of the lorries and vans that go to the fish processing plant to cart away the catch. But some of the produce is sold locally and every Friday morning there’s a stall on the harbour where one of the local fishermen sells his catch.

Straight from the sea.

It’s a far cry of course from the fish market in Oostende that we have seen before but nevertheless it’s an interesting venture. Seafood doesn’t get any fresher than this.

Back here I had a hot chocolate and a slice of my chocolate cake, and then had to speak to Rosemary. She’d rung me up to say that she was having computer issues. So I had to talk her through a remote session in order to fix it.

My Diploma in Computing does come in handy some times even though it was 20 years ago since I obtained it.

After lunch I had a look at the pie filling that was simmering away in the slow cooker. Far too liquidy and so to bind it and make it nice and glutinous, a couple of handfuls of porridge oats went in and were stirred around. That should stiffen it up somewhat.

Once that was organised I went and carried on with some of the arrears from Central Europe.

heavy skies english channel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallLater on it was time for me to go for my afternoon walk. And it was just as well that it had stopped raining.

But just look at the sky over there down the Brittany coast. When you consider just how nice it has been at times, this is rather depressing, isn’t it? This is what they call around here un ciel de plomb – a leaden sky. And you can see that it lives up to its description.

All that I can say is that I’m glad that I’m not out there at sea in all of that. The Brittany coast must be taking quite a pasting at the moment.

rainstorm ile de chausey english channel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallOver towards the Ile de Chausey it’s somewhat brighter, but there is still a terrific rainstorm cascading down on the population over there.

And the wind is blowing it my way so I don’t want to hang around here. I’m the only person out here walking and I can understand why if all of this weather suddenly arrives. So I clear off around the headland to see what’s on the other side.

And nothing of any significance over there either, except for more of the same. Nothing of note, apart from the usual, in the chantier navale. But by now the rain has arrived and it’s starting to fall quite heavily so I don’t want to hang around.

lorries port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallBut there’s something bizarre going on down in the loading bay in the port.

Those two lorries shouldn’t be there unless they are delivering, and if they are delivering, we are going to be having an interesting nautical arrival down there pretty soon. I wonder what it might be. Still, we’ll find out in de course I suppose.

Musing on that for a moment, I turned and headed on home and a nice hot mug of coffee. And I can’t say that I didn’t deserve it. By now the rain was teeming down once more and I was soaked to the skin again.

Back here, I switched off the slow cooker and emptied the contents out to cool. A nice glutinous sticky filling. Just what I wanted.

So I made my pastry and put it in my mould. And when the filling had cooled down properly, I filled the pie base and made a pie lid out of some of the remaining pastry. With the pastry that was left, I made a quick apple turnover.

Now it was time for my session on the guitars. And I spent much of the time trying (and eventually succeeding) in working out the chords to Richard Thompson’s “Keep Your Distance”.

I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic for certain events that occurred over three nights on board The Good Ship Ve … errr … Ocean Endeavour that one day I might talk about when I’m in the mood. There are a couple of lines in that song that really are quite relevant.

Half way through the proceedings with the guitar I’d switched on the oven and started off the pie and the apple turnover. Now, having finished the guitar, I came in and did a huge mound of washing up.

vegan tofu pie apple turnover Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere were some potatoes left so I had put those in the oven too so I sorted out some veg – sprouts, carrots and runner beans, and put them in a small pan and cooked them in some gravy with some herbs.

Eventually the pie was done – at least on top. I wished that I had cooked it lower down in the oven and not on a metal tray as I had done. It’s a mistake that I always make, cooking too high in the oven and having a heat deflector underneath doesn’t help anything either.

But it actually tasted delicious and there are another 7 slices for the freezer for a later date. The apple turnover was impressive too. That worked really well.

It was time for me to go out on my evening walk and runs so I hit the streets, straight into the biting wind that made running almost impossible.

storm waves plat gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallNevertheless I pushed on as well as I could but I eschewed the route down on the footpath under the walls due to the bad weather. And as it was by now raining quite heavily I carried on the route that I took yesterday.

From up on the Place de l’Isthmus I could hear the waves crashing down onto the promenade at the Plat Gousset so I wandered down the steps of the Escalier du Moulin a Vent to have a look at what was happening.

It was certainly wild out there. And it’s hard to believe that we are still a fair way away from high tide. What this is going to be like in an hour’s time will be anyone’s guess, but it certainly would be something to see.

storm waves plat gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallBut not for me, unfortunately. By now the rain was coming down in sheets and I was being soaked to the skin.

Braving the weather, I stuck it out just long enough to take a second photograph and then ran all the way across the Square Maurice Marland in the general direction of home.

Just for a change, I took the shortest route possible. I’d had my walk out to the shops and back, my afternoon stroll and now my evening runs so I was quite confident that I’d done enough today.

rue st jean place cambernon Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallComing back the short way, I ended up in the Rue St Jean. And I reckoned that I haven’t taken a photo down here at this end for quite some considerable time. I’d better put that right.

And you can see the weather in this photograph. teeming down with rain and everywhere soaking wet. Including me.

And the Place Cambernon just down there with the Christmas lights peering around the corner.

having done that, I ran on home to write up my notes. 147% on the fitbit is good enough for me today.

Shopping at LeClerc and Noz tomorrow. And there will probably be other things that I need but which I’ve forgotten that I’ll remember when I return home. That always happens to me.

Friday 9th October 2010 – I’M GLAD …

… that I took Liz’s advice to vent my kefir in the bath.

That’s because it went up like the traditional four-bob rocket when I released the caps, and actually blew the caps and wires out of their sockets. So this will be a good batch. I hope.

Yes, for all my vicissitudes, I’m now back chez moi at the seaside and apparently I’ve brought the bad weather back with me. It was quite nice this morning, so I was told, but about an hour after I came back, it had clouded over.

This morning though, in Leuven, there was a heavy, damp, humid mist of the kind of which I’m so familiar, as anyone who has ever been in Belgium in the autumn will remember. I was up and about bang on the dot of the first alarm at 05:30 – just to prove that I can do it when I really try – and after finishing the packing and making my sandwiches, I headed out for the station.

SNCB 1906 Class 19 Siemens Electric Locomotive Gare du Midi Brussels Belgium Eric HallAt the station I had to wait 10 minutes for my train – the 06:21 to Blankenberge from Genk.

Being a shorter train than the usual Welkenraedt – Oostende train that I catch, it pulled up short of where I was standing. I had to run a hundred yards or two down the platform to the train. It was pulled by a Type 19 electric locomotive – basically the same as a Type 18 that we had on the way out to Leuven, but fitted with an automatic coupling system.

It was pretty busy too, even right down at the front where I usually sit. That’s quite a surprise at that time of the morning.

Thalys PBKA 4302 Gare du Midi Brussels Belgium Eric HallMy train to Paris-Nord was already in at the platform when I arrived – 40 minutes before departure, but we couldn’t board right now because while the passengers were there, the crew wasn’t.

This morning we’re going to Paris on one of the Thalys PBKA units – the ones specially-built for the Paris – Brussels – Cologne – Amsterdam service. They differ from the usual PBA units in that they are equipped to work on the German electric railway network.

They are getting on for 25 years old now and surprisingly, are still in quite good and comfortable condition. I’m quite happy to travel on one of these any time. But not so many other people were. Admittedly the 07:35 is the first service to Paris of the morning, and also the cheapest, but there were very few people on board today and we could spread out.

Our train hurtled off from Brussels bang on time and we made such good time that we had to sit outside Paris Gare du Nord for 10 minutes for our slot for the final half-mile.

It was rush-hour of course in Paris – 09:13 when we arrived – and while the Metro was busy, it wasn’t crowded as you might expect. As I said on the way out, it seems that the business life of Paris has changed somewhat with the Corona Virus and that might explain the lack of custom on the TGV.

At the Gare Montparnasse our train was in the station already even though it wasn’t advertised yet. It’s because it’s the only one that has “NORMANDIE” written all down the side of it. No point in trying to board because it will be all locked up, so I took a seat on a bench and read my book.

84559 GEC Alstom Regiolis Gare de Granville Railway Station Manche Normandy France Eric HallAfter waiting around for 35 minutes, the train to Granville was announced we were all allowed on board.

The train set is one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis units. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we travel on one of these each time we go back and forth to Paris. There are 361 of these and they started to come into service in 2013. They were so successful that they allowed a whole raft of old equipment from the 70s and 80s to be swept away, and they are all that you ever see now on much of the French railway network, including the Paris-Granville service. I’ve never done the route in anything else.

And I was lucky in my neighbour today on the way back. She can sit beside me any time she like.

The voyage was pretty uneventful so I had a listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night.

I was back running the taxis again and I had a yellow Mk IV but was completely yellow, a tidy little car. There was a driver driving for me who lived next door to a Hackney driver but didn’t get on particularly with him. He was quite good at his job. When he came round to start work one morning I was in the middle of changing windscreen wipers over. I’d got them off an old car that we’d had, the wipers and arms, and I was busy switching them over to then new one, getting it ready to go out, the yellow one. This guy was going through the sheets writing out his list of jobs. There were a couple of jobs, long ones and he wondered why he hadn’t been given them. I didn’t know so I told him that it might be something to do with the fact that they didn’t think that the car would be ready by then. Then someone else from another taxi company turned up from Northampton. While I was busy changing the wipers the other driver started chatting to them asking their advice – should he put these jobs down on his sheet or not. I had all the wires – dunno why there were wires on this – tangled up and I was trying to untangle them, everything like that. The more I tried to untangle them, the more tangled they became.

Having done that, I merged a few more composite files and than quietly ate my butties.

Our arrival in Granville was a couple of minutes early. I’m not used to this. It was a pleasant if not tiring walk back home from the station, and the first thing that I did was to spray the bathroom with orange-flavoured kefir.

Most of the stuff that I bought was then unpacked (I forgot some) and then I swapped the files over from the portable computer onto the big office machine. I didn’t do as much as I wanted to do because, what with the early start, I … errr … had a little relax.

That’s possibly because I had the heating on in here. It seems that the cold has arrived.

Tea was taco rolls – there was some stuffing left over from Monday followed by a slice of Blackberry pie out of the freezer.

Later on in the evening I went out for a walk around the headland in the dark. And first thing that I noticed is that the old Opel estate that had been been abandoned on the car park for the last however many months has now been removed.

Les Epiettes Cap Lihou Chantier Navale Port de Granville Harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere was a strong wind, but nothing like as strong as it has been. Even so, I didn’t want to hang about. Instead I had a wander around and ended up at the Chantier Navale to see what was happening in there.

We’re down to just two boats now. Les Epiettes, the boat from the Département des Ponts et Cnaussées is still in there on the right, and the trawler on the left which is Cap Lihou is still in there. She’s been there for quite a while and probably now a permanent fixture.

My runs tonight were pretty disappointing. I only managed two and the second one of those was a little shorter than it has been of late. I need to work myself back into it again. Instead of going for my third run, I headed slowly for home. I’ve still managed 114% of my daily activity.

Having written my notes, I’m now off to bed. It’s shopping tomorrow and I need a few things to replenish the stocks. And there’s football tomorrow night too so I’ll be busy.

And what is left of my kefir is delicious.

Sunday 5th July 2020 – WITH IT BEING …

… a Sunday and therefore a Day of rest, anyone who thinks that I might have leapt out of bed at 07:30 when I awoke is quite clearly mistaken

09:30 is much more realistic as far as I’m concerned and I’m quite happy with that.

After the meds I had a look at the dictaphone sure enough, I’d been on a few voyages during the night.

There was something going on last night about Space and I’m not sure how or why or where it was but there were three of us – me, a girl and a Welsh guy. Something happened – we’d been in contact with some extra-terrestres (I’m dreaming in French again) and we were all trying to decide what to do. I came up with a few ideas – I couldn’t really remember what they were. This Welsh guy came up with an idea “why don’t I go to deep Space to visit them and talk to them?”. He was a salesman by profession and of vourse being Welsh he knew how to talk so that seemed to be the way forward. We could see if we looked through an inspection hatch that there was a little hole on the side of this planet. That was where he had to aim his spacecraft for. We had to wait until the Americans had a space rocket ready to blast a capsule off into high outer space orbit so that he could contact the extra-terrestres and start selling them things. I thought that this was a really weird thing to be doing.
We were on our boat last night and we came to a place where some of us wanted to get off to go to look at some things. But Strawberry Moose he stayed on board and everyone wondered where he was. I said that he wanted to stay on board and do some things on board. We all got down into our zodiacs but the two girls whom I hoped would come with us stayed on board as well which was disappointing. We finally came ashore in a jungle area where a woman had arranged to meet two people who would be in a bar around the corner. So we went to this bar while everyone else dispersed. There was no sign of these two people at all and we waited for about 10 minutes. In the end we decided to go. Just then this German boy off one of the crossings turned up in the bar and started to talk to us. That was the last thing that we wanted, to end up with him. Before we went in we had to organise our clothes. I had some clothes that wouldn’t go in the washing machine to be washed in the cycle that they had. I was going to do them by hand but the guy in charge of the laundry had this procedure. He had some washing conditioner arranged in a series – a bowl with conditioner, a bowl with clean water, a beaker full of conditioner and another bowl of plain water. He took hold of one of my socks and was pasting this conditioner over it. Normally when I wash my socks I put one over my hand , rub soap into it, put the other sock over the other hand, rub soap into that and rub the two together like I’m washing my hands. He was doing it in a strange way so I thought I’d do it in that way too, watching him and seeing what procedure he was going to use.
There was a group of us in a room in a house later on. The room was really untidy and there was a load of papers and magazines and maps and things. They were all mine and all needed to be tidied up. A couple of girls were helping me, going through the piles and getting them in the right order, unfolding them and laying them flat, merging them together. There were piles of cables, computer and audio cables etc all over the place and they were all arranged in some weird crazy cat’s cradle. While the girls were organising these magazines and I’d done a bit of that I was starting to untangle these cables. One of the girls with black hair and glasses came over and said “I’ve already done that”. I showed here that there was a lot that was still tangled up. She said “just leave it for the moment because we can do that when it’s more convenient”. She started to take down the washing that was hanging up everywhere. We were on a big barge and we had to leave the main waterway to go down some kind of side waterway. It was a very tight turn, almost as if you had to double back on yourself which is no fun when you have a big barge like we had. The girl at the helm up front had to steer this barge round and I knew that she didn’t like doing it here so I said “this is your favourite bend, isn’t it, Judy?”. She didn’t hear me at first so I said it again. She made some kind of grimace. When we got to this waterway it was dry and there were sheep in it. We had to pivot this boat round to get it lined up then get out and drag it up out of the water onto this pathway that was going downhill. The first time we did it the boat ground out. It was in the wrong area and was going to hit the wall so we had to push it back to line it up to start again. I had a feeling that this was not going to be easy having to do this. But somewhere in the middle of all of this was Alan Dean – now when was the last time I ever heard of him? I was at the top of the steps walking down with some swing doors at the bottom. He was down there. It was a case of playing a bass guitar and I was stuck. I wanted to improve and I didn’t know where to go, how to learn, how to change my procedures. I thought that I would look at a few videos on Youtube but that was somewhere stuck in the middle that was.

It was therefore something of a major surprise that I found myself awake so early after that. And even more of a surprise that I kept going all day without a rest.

But let’s not go getting ahead of ourselves here.

It took me long enough to type out all of that, and then there was my Welsh homework. With having missed Tuesday’s lesson I had to do the coursework myself before I could make a start.

So what with one thing and another it was lunchtime by the time it was all done.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I spent a few days a couple of months ago copying all of the files from various hard drives onto the new external drive that I had bought.

The aim was to compare them and delete any duplicate files but for some unknown reason the file duplicate detecting program was having issues.

This afternoon I uninstalled it and reinstalled it but it still wouldn’t work. However eventually I found the reason. Two of the drives are “C” drives out of old computers with the deep BIOS settings on them – the settings that drive the drives. Of course you can’t delete those so when the program detected two identical files in the BIOS settings in two drives it was obliged to pause for thought.

Excluding those files from the compare did the trick, and so the afternoon has been spent mostly dealing with this little project.

bird of prey pointe du roc granville manche normandy france eric hallThere was of course the afternoon walk to deal with, and with it being a Sunday it was the day when I go into town for my weekly ice cream.

But I didn’t go very far before I was interrupted. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I’m quite a keen bird watcher and when I was married I had many a lecture on birdwatching from poor Nerina.

Anyway, this bird here was hovering around over the edge of the cliff where the little rabbit colony seems to be. I imagine that it was looking for any errant rabbit babies.

bird of prey pointe du roc granville manche normandy france eric hallIt’s a bird of prey of some description but whatever it is, I’m none-the-wiser.

My friend Erika thinks that it’s either a white-tailed hawk or a hobby and she certainly has more idea than I do. My bird-identifying is rather like that of a woman identifying a car.

“What kind of car was it, madam?”
“A red one”.

And that’s me with birds too unfortunately

peche a pied port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallAs it’s my long Sunday walk I went down the steps at the end of the path and round the headland on the lower level.

Plenty of people milling around there today. The holidays are well under way now. And there were loads of people out there on the rocks this afternoon too. It’s a low tide today and so those who practise the peche à pied are out there in force.

Here’s hoping that they share their catch out with their friends too. After all, one shouldn’t be selfish with one’s shellfish.

fishing boats chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallThe path carries on around the foot of the cliff and then past the Chantier navale.

A big surprise in there today. It seems that they’ve been busy while I was away, for every berth has some kind of vessel in there undergoing repair. No fewer than six fishing boats, I make it, up on blocks today.

Having been quiet for a while, it’s good to see them so busy. It’ll just be someone’s luck to have a breakdown while there’s no berth available to accommodate them

covid warning notice fish processing plant port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallThe tide was right out just now as we have seen so I was able to take the short cut across the top of the harbour gates to the other side.

On the way past the Fish processing plant I observed this notice pasted to the door. Briefly, and crudely (and if you want anything crude, then in the words of the late, great Bob Doney “I’m your man!) translated by Yours Truly, there have been several “incidents” at the Fish processing plant that breach the Corona virus precautions.

This notice informs everyone of these breaches and states that if there are any more, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry will take whatever action they consider necessary.

They don’t mess about here. None of your “driving to Barnard Castle” or “going to Greece via Bulgaria” in these situations.

spirit of conrad victor hugo port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallOur home from last week is still in port.

Spirit of Conrad is quietly moored where we left her on Friday evening, with the big wheel in the background.

The two Channel island ferries, Victor Hugo and Granville are there in port too. We are told that the ferry service is to start very soon – the 11th July is one date that is freely bandied about.

But the regulations for travelling are extremely severe and I don’t imagine that there will be many takers at the moment.

man fallen out of zodiac baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france eric hallHaving observed the shipping in the harbour I walked on round to the end of the wall to see what was going on.

Here was something interesting. There was a zodiac parked up in the water over there and it looked as if there was no-one in it. Enlarging the photo when I returned home, I could see that there was someone in the water right by it.

It was one of those situations where I couldn’t see what he was doing or why he would have been in the water. It’s a shame that I didn’t notice him until it was too late to do any good.

propellor of antwerpen port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallThis propellor here from a ship is propped up against the wall of the harbour offices and I must have walked past here 100 times without really noticing it.

It belonged to a small ship of 265 or so tonnes, the Antwerpen. She was a German coaster built in 1917 by the Germans but abandoned in Oostende at the Armistice.

Taken over by the Belgian Navy, she was repossessed by the Germans in 1940 when Belgium fell, and was one of the boats that plied between Granville and the Channel islands taking supplies out there.

In December 1940 in thick fog she was rammed by another vessel in her convoy and sank in shallow water. Demolished finally in 1963, her propellor was found by divers in 1986 and presented to the port office.

bad parking port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallOne thing that features quite often in these pages, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, is pathetic parking.

And does parking ever get more pathetic than this? All of these cars are parked without any regard whatsoever for the road markings. It’s totally unbelievable, isn’t it?

Continuing on my walk, I went round onto the quayside to see what was happening, but there was nothing whatever going on there this afternoon.

big wheel place godal granville manche normandy france eric hallThat was probably because the gates were closed and the tide was right out. Not much point in anyone being here right now.

Turning on my heel, i went out to have a look at the big wheel. It’s going round and there are people on it too, although it would be wrong to say that it was actually busy. No clues at all.

And so I pushed on into the rue LeCampion to my little ice cream stall and had the weekly ice cream. I need to keep up with my habits while the summer is here.

steps rue lecampion granville manche normandy france eric hallFor a change I walked back along the rue LeCampion, up the steps at the Rampe du Monte Regret and under the drawbridge into the old town.

The aim of going this way was to see how they were getting on with the replacement of the gas pipe in the rue Lecarpentier.

By the looks of things, they seem to have finished the work. And it looks quite a tidy job too. You’ll hardly notice that all of that has been dug up and subsequently replaced.

yacht english channel ile de chausey granville manche normandy france eric hallUp through the Place Cambernon and through the alley down to the rue du Nord and along the walls to the viewpoint.

There was a yacht out there in the English Channel struggling along in the wind. It’s not a boat that I recognise either and I can’t read a name on her anywhere.

Back here I carried on with my work and at 18:00 knocked off for a play on the guitars for an hour or so.

Later on I had tea. Another home-made pizza that was really delicious. But no pudding tonight as I wasn’t that hungry.

My run this evening was a dismal failure – and for a couple of reasons too.

  1. When I came back in this afternoon I put the camera battery on charge. And when i went out this evening, I forgot to put the battery back in it – so no photos
  2. There’s a gale blowing out here – 75 kph winds. Several of my runs ended abruptly as I turned a corner and ran into a headwind that blew me backwards. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so depressed. Something of a failure, that was

So I’m packed now and I’ll be off on my travels tomorrow. Back to Castle Anthrax. I wonder what plans they have in store for me there.

Sunday 26th January 2020 – WHAT A NICE …

monschau germany eric hall… day out that was today!

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall having seen a photo similar to this a while ago. It’s the town square in Monschau in Germany, just across the border from Belgium and about half an hour’s drive south from Aachen.

And that’s where I’ve been today.

We’ve been celebrating – if that’s the correct word – the last day that we can do an outing like this free of any control whatsoever, thanks to 17.4 xenophobes and racists in the UK who have voted to stop me living where I like, working where I like, travelling where I like, receiving medical treatment where I like, and receiving the full amount of retirement pension to which I am entitled after all of my years of paying into the system.

What’s worse is that these racists and xenophobes loudly trumpet the “democratic will of the people”, but they refused to allow me the right to vote on an issue that affects me more than any of them.

What’s “democratic” about that?

So this morning the alarm went off at 06:00 and I was up pretty quickly after that. I had the medication and then looked at the dictaphone.

And hello to Esi, who I don’t think has joined me in a nocturnal ramble before. I’d met her somewhere and we were heading for a train. We were talking about the trains and she was going to one place and I was going to another and we were walking around the outside of this car park. We suddenly came to an area which was fenced off and they were doing some brick rebuilding. I suddenly realised that I’d walked this way before and I couldn’t get out this way so we had to retrace our steps and go across this car park rather than around it. We ended up somewhere, she went and I ended up in a rom somewhere with my things. I was thinking “should I take my big camera? Should I take my small camera?”. In the end I decided on the big camera. My train was at a quarter past the hour. For some unknown reason I had in my mind all things like when I used to walk all the way across London to go to my hospital appointment which of course I don’t do, and all memories about other nocturnal voyages on which I have travelled before like that petrol station out in the countryside in London (… the BP one to the north-west …) that kind of thing. I was reminiscing on all of this and suddenly I looked at my watch and I had 15 minutes to get to the station. I thought “God I’d better get a run for my train won’t hang about long’. It took me a minute or two to get all of my things together and I wasn’t sure that I had everything. I had to climb out of this train because I realised that I was in a train. I had to climb out of this train and there were lots of people in my way dropping things off and someone had lost their suitcase locks and there were a couple about where I was and they picked up their locks. I was already to go and these guys were talking to me about all kinds of different things and I was getting ready to run back across this car park to the station but the train started to move but had to stop to give way to something. It was in my way and wouldn’t move and I couldn’t go behind it and I couldn’t go in front of it or behind it or underneath it and time as ticking away while I was waiting there to get on my way to move and it was all very very strange. It was like heading towards one of these panic attacks again
later I was back in the Brusselsestraat looking at that mannequin that I like, being used as a model for various childrens’ clothes, adjusting and cutting them. And if that makes any sense to anyone, please let me know.

martelarenplein station leuven belgium eric hallBreakfast next and then time to head for the hills

Around the ring road towards the station, and wasn’t it looking magnificent in the dark, all illuminated with the war memorial in the Martelarplein standing out so well?

It’s all fenced off now as they are constructing an underground bicycle park just there. Yes, bicycles are big business here in Leuven. The way the road system is and the issues about parking, it’s pretty pointless owning a car in the city.

train eupen station leuven belgium eric hallMy train was at 08:2 and I was in plenty of time for it

It pulled in bang on time too, but I couldn’t see which engine was propelling it because it was another one of the “pushme-pullyou” sets and it was running engine-last, something that always surprises me on a high-speed train.

These trains start out at Oostende and you would have expected there to be a run-round facility at an important station like that so that the locomotive could take its proper place at the head of the train.

tour des finances liege belgium eric hall“Never mind” I thought. I can photograph it when I alight at Liege Guillemins station. I have 12 minutes to wait for my express there. I don’t even have to move because the Frankfurt train comes in at the same platform as the Eupen train goes out.

But for once the Tour de Finances building in Liege is pretty much unobstructed and looking quite nice so while I was awaiting the Eupen train moving out, I went over and took a photo of the Tour de Finances.

So if you live in Liege and want to know where all of your money went, then there it is. I admit that it looks fantastic but it’s not exactly the best way of spending public money on an extravagant building like that.

ice deutsche bahn inter city liege guillemins belgium eric hallWhile I was waiting for the Eupen train to move, there was an announcement on the tannoy “passengers for the Deutsche Bahn ICE train to Frankfurt am Main, please note that your train will be departing from …” a different platform.

So we all had to scramble up the steps, across the walkway and down another set of steps and I never did get to take a photo of my train from Leuven as it was still in the station – somewhat delayed – as we pulled out.

So I’ve no idea what was the matter with that but whatever it was, I’m glad that it happened after I had alighted from it. It can do what it likes then. We were on our way.

Alison was waiting for me at the station but Jackie’s train wasn’t due to arrive for another half hour so we went for a coffee and a chat to catch up on the latest news.

citykirche st nikolaus aachen germany eric hallWhen Jackie turned up we went into the city centre to look for a coffee.

There’s a beautiful church there, the city church of St Nikolaus and just for a rare change today, it actually was open so we stuck our heads inside.

It’s nothing like how it was supposed to be in the interior, but subsequent investigation revealed that it had been the victim of a fire and a considerable amount of damage had been caused.

So that might explain everything then.

city burghers rathaus aachen germany eric hallWe eventually found a cafe that would serve us just a coffee – Sunday morning is a pretty sacred “brunch” day in Germany.

We had a good view over the square where there was something clearly going to be happening. People dressed in historical costume, sword fights, people walking around with falcons on their arms.

But as the crowds started to gather we decided that we would move on. It looked as if it was going to be a really lovely day so we planned to move on the Monschau in the hills.

monschau germany eric hallWe made it to Monschau but the good weather didn’t. It was overcast, misty and foggy here and that was a disappointment.

We found a place to park the car and then walked down the hill into town. Considering that it was mid-winter there were crowds of people about and roadworks that blocked the main street.

It wasn’t easy to navigate ourselves around and see what was going on down there today.

monschau germany eric hallThere’s a handbag shop in the town with a name that will delight almost any one with a warped sense of humour.

We went inside for a look around and Jackie struck lucky. The prices had been slashed to a figure that even I thought was a good deal and she found a handbag of a decent size that exactly matched a jacket that she owned. So that found its way out of the shop.

What caught my eye was a really nice leather-look backpack, small with plenty of pockets that would have been ideal for a lightweight camera bag, and at 9:99 too. And had it had a shoulder strap as well as the backpack straps I would have brought that home with me too.

Just what I needed.

hotel stern monschau germany eric hallBy now it was pretty well past lunchtime so we retraced our steps back through town to a place that we had seen earlier.

They had these flammenkucke pancake things on offer so the girls had one of those each. As for me, there was a beautiful fresh vegetable soup with bread and that was delicious. The vegetables were actually in proper chunks and it was really well done.

There was fresh hot ginger tea on offer too and a mug of that went down really well in the cold weather that we were having.

old cars trabant monschau germany eric hallBut my eye was diverted to what was outside the restaurant.

It’s a long time since we’ve seen a Trabant – one of the East German fibreboard cars that came flooding into the West after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and which vanished without trace almost as quickly as they appeared.

The ones that I see these days are mostly used for publicity purposes and this one here is no exception. It’s so full of knick-knacks that you couldn’t drive it anywhere even if you wanted to.

We dropped Jackie off back at the railway station in Aachen, and after another coffee, Alison and I headed home. We had another one of our really long chats on the way back and made some further plans.

But what will happen about them I really don’t know. It depends on the hospital visits and the radio commitments before I can actually decide on anything.

For tea I used up the rest of the food that was lying about and having written up my notes, I’m off to bed.

Tomorrow starts at 05:30, something to which I am not looking forward, so I need to be at my best.

Here’s hoping that all of the trains are running.

Sunday 22nd December 2019 – REMEMBER A WHILE AGO …

loading shellfish dredger trawler port de granville harbour manche normandy france… when we had been discussing those strange objects on the quayside, and that I’d made enquiries and they were in fact shellfish-dredgers?

Here I am today, down in the town by the harbour and here they are actually loading up some of the aforementioned onto one of the fishing boats here.

Clearly these items are still in day-to-day use, and that’s always good to know of course.

While we’re on the subject of shellfish and fishing … “well, one of us is” – ed … most of the stuff is either transported away in lorries for the mass market or else it’s sold locally in shops or local restaurants.

seafood stall direct de bateau port de granville harbour manche normandy franceIn Oostende we’ve seen the fish market where the trawlers unload and their catch is sold direct to the public, but there’s very little of that in Granville, which is a real surprise.

In fact, I think that I’ve only ever seen this stall set up at the end of the port to deal directly with the public.

In all the time that I’ve lived here, I can’t ever recall ever having seen anyone else doing this direct from a fishing boat. I mean, the produce is so fresh that a good vet could bring it round.

But talking of today, I had quite a surprise this morning. It’s Sunday and lie-in, with no alarm. But bird-brain of Britain had set an alarm for last Sunday in order to be up and about to catch his train, but had forgotten to unset it.

As a result, at 06:00 on a Sunday, on my Day of Rest …

But no chance whatever of that. I made sure that the rest of the alarms were switched off and went back down under the covers and there I stayed until … err … 10:00.

That’s much more like it for a Sunday.

Plenty of time to go off on a travel then. I was with Cecile last night – at least, I think it was Cecile – and we had been somewhere and I had to go to a hospital – I think we were in Stoke on Trent. It was something to do with a house in Stoke on Trent and it was where Carriatt was living with his father. He took us back to his little house – in Kidsgrove – with his little car and there was an older car parked in the drive and it was only used once a fortnight and sometimes it wouldn’t start. but back in his little house, a nice little semi-detached house and he told us about it. He’s had it three or four years and paid about £5500 for it. They were thinking of selling it and I was thinking that it was a nice kind of house and it would just do me. Pretty small and two people was probably stretching it a little bit but on my own that would really do me. I had to go on to the hospital and Cecile had to go as well. I got there and got myself registered in and I explained that Cecile had to be registered in – at least, I think it was Cecile. We both had to go for x-rays so they took a preliminary photo of her and gave it a reference number then we had to go out across the yard and register ourselves in for this X-ray thing. The woman said to Cecile “as you’re new here you had better come back and tell me the reference number of the object…” or whatever the word was “… for your x-ray”. She looked bewildered but I said “that’s OK, I know what’s happening here. Come with me”. She was a bit confused but I took her out. They were going to give reference numbers to people and that related to whatever photo they had of you on the file. If they had 3 or 4 they would choose 1 so that it could be linked into the right file. But Cecile had only had 1 taken here, this introductory photo, so that was obviously the number that was going to be allocated to her. So I knew what was happening. We had to go across the yard to the other bit of the hospital to register for this x-ray thing. I gave my details and explained “this is Cecile, she’s new and from the Netherlands (…don’t ask me why …) so the clerk explained the procedure to Cecile and she was slowly understanding it. We were hoping that we would get an appointment in 2 or 3 hours to give us time to go and do some sightseeing. Cecile then asked “do you have any aspirin”. This woman looked bewildered. “What’s aspirin?” So Cecile came out with the Latin name “aspartamine” (or whatever it was) so the woman said that Cecile needed to go to see them in the Pharmacy “over there somewhere”. Cecile became anxious, going to a third place and although we’d been registered in and she had taken away all our paperwork we hadn’t been given a time for our x-ray. I thought that this is going to start getting really confusing in a minute. It was just then that I awoke with a really bad attack of cramp.

But if Carriatt is now appearing in my nocturnal rambles I’m going to go off rambling somewhere else.

After the medication I transcribed the dictaphone notes while I was waiting for the medication to work, and then had breakfast. That took me up until about 11:10 and I had a feeling that I was not going to have a very good day.

Well over 100 photos from the Archipel last night and they all needed editing and so I set to work. When I noticed the time (14:00) I’d done about half so I thought that I’d better nip out for my dejeunette for lunch.

But one of the reasons why I was late was that I’d been helping Hans, designing a piece of code for him to display podcasts on his web page.

coastguard navy ship battling storm baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy franceAnyway, off I set on my travels, right out of the door where I was met by a blast of wind that almost blew me back into the building.

You can see just how rough the weather was out there too. That’s the local coastguard rescue boat, I reckon, and there it is disappearing into a giant wave.

Not a day for anyone to be out at sea, I reckon.

brocante professionelle cours jonville granville manche normandy franceHaving picked up my dejeunette from La Mie Caline for lunch, and ordered a special “fig and raisin” loaf for the festive period (“don’t forget to pick it up on Tuesday, Eric”), I went to see what was happening in the town.

On a publicity leaflet somewhere I’d seen that there was to be a Brocante professionelle today in the rue Couraye.

Now I’m all in favour of brocantes as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, but I’m horrified by the prices that people around here want for objects that are not all that far removed from a load of old junk.

brocante place general de gaulle granville manche normandy franceAnd when it’s a Brocante professionelle rather than a Brocante particulier, it’s going to be even more horrific so I didn’t even cross the road for a look.

Here in the place General de Gaulle there’s someone selling carpets and the like, and what that has to do with a Brocante, whether professionelle or particulier I really couldn’t say.

So on that note I headed back to my apartment for a very late lunch.

Back here it was almost 17:00 when I finished the photos, and then I sent them on to the radio HQ for them to pick one or two to illustrate the podcast of last night’s broadcast.

And when I have time, I’ll create a web page for you to see them and post the link here.

storms high winds plat gousset granville manche normandy franceBetter late than never, I decided to go out for my afternoon walk.

The wind was thoroughly wicked again tonight so I didn’t want to hang around long. I went around the city walls as it was out of the shelter of the wind and I could see what the storm was doing.

The tide wasn’t right in yet so we weren’t having the full effect of the buffeting but it was wild enough out there nevertheless.

christmas lights rue paul poirier granville manche normandy franceBy now it was becoming quite dark.

The lights of the rue Paul Poirier were looking quite good in the gloom from up here and they are always worth a photograph or two.

The streets were quite busy too with the shops being open in the run-up to Christmas and there was quite a traffic jam in the rue Lecampion as people headed for home.

christmas lights place cambernon granville manche normandy franceBy now it was starting to rain so I took the opportunity to run down my little track, much to the surprise and/or amusement of the couple who were heading my way.

Just by way of a change I made it al the way up to the end of the ramp and then I went into the place Cambernon to see what was happening and to look at the lights (and collect a raindrop on the lens of the camera).

Back here I made a start on the blog for Saturday but shame as it is to admit it, I fell asleep for 10 minutes. That’s not like me these days, is it?

Tea was a pizza which was delicious, and then out for my walk.

There was such a howling gale that I didn’t even attempt the Point du Roc. Instead I went round the walls again.

This time I hung about even less than before and amused another couple of people with my second run of the day. I have to push on.

Now, having finished the journal for tonight and dealt with an enquiry in English from Canada about the radio station, I’m off to bed.

An early night, and I’ve earned it. I’ll do Saturday’s blog tomorrow

I hope.

storms high winds plat gousset granville manche normandy france
storms high winds plat gousset granville manche normandy france

storms high winds plat gousset granville manche normandy france
storms high winds plat gousset granville manche normandy france

storms high winds plat gousset granville manche normandy france
storms high winds plat gousset granville manche normandy france

Friday 7th June 2019 – THE GOOD NEWS …

… is that my knee doesn’t seem to be septic or infected. Whatever is weeping out of it doesn’t correspond with anything that one would expect to see under those conditions.

It seems to be what you might expect to see in the case of an inflammation. And the bad news is that there’s nothing that I can take that it anti-inflammatory that would not react with the other products that I take.

Consequently I need to go off to somewhere around here for an ecograph and then on 17th June to see a specialist in Coutances.

And isn’t that cutting it rather too fine?

But for now, the salt baths do seem to be working. I was in the bath for an hour this afternoon and it eased the leg off considerably. In fact I was walking around a darn sight better than I have done for the last 10 days or so.

What I shall have to do is to keep on with that every day or so and take whatever relief it might give me.

But the one thing about going to Coutances is that I’ll finally get to have a ride on the new railway. There are good connections to and from Granville for my appointment, and it’ll give me a chance to try out the leg prior to my trip to Leuven the following weekend.

Last night was another decent night for sleeping and I was even out of bed, up and about before the final alarm went off.

And having had breakfast I made a start on the searchable text database for the photos for April 2018. And this is going to take a while because there are plenty of them. I had a good weekend in Germany, a few days in Oostende and a week in Tunisia.

After a little tidying-up and lunch I had my salt bath and a good clean-up and tidy-up, and then Brigitte came to take me to the doctor’s.

Back here, I invited her in for a coffee and a chat and then made my tea. a curry made out of leftovers, and I found that I had forgotten to add the leftover peppers. Nevertheless it was delicious.

Tomorrow I’m shopping so I’m going to have another early night. I hope that it’s as good as last night, because it occurs to me that I haven’t crashed out yet.

Wednesday 17th April 2019 – REGULAR READERS …

musical instruments pointe du roc granville manche normandy france… of this rubbish will recall that back in 2010 in the wilds of Labrador I encountered a musician who sat in isolated scenic spots around Canada and played the accordion.

This evening out on the Pointe deu Roc there was a bassist, keyboardist and drummer doing the same thing.

Well, they weren’t actually doing it, but they had their instruments set out and I found out, as they came running down towards me to stop me giving them a solo on the double bass, that they were only pretending to and that they were filming it with a drone.

Not a sign up anywhere to tell me – or anyone else – what was going on. So serve them right. Having ruined their film set, I wandered off.

Last night though, I didn’t wander far. An early night, but yet another one where I couldn’t go to sleep. By 04:45 I had given up, and I was even up and about before the alarms went off.

It didn’t take me long to finish tidying and packing, and I was actually on the road before the third alarm went off.

The 06:36 to Oostende arrived at the station at the same time that I did. So benefiting from the advantages of my pre-purchased ticket I could leap aboard.

This meant that I was in the station at Brussels-Midi quite early. Plenty of time to go to Carrefour to grab my raisin buns for breakfast, and I took them into a quite corner for a little relax.

The train was in early so we were allowed up. And there I encountered a jobsworth who insisted that I take my ticket out of its plastic jacket so that he could see it.

Sitting next to me on the TGV was an elderly lady, but I didn’t pay much attention to her. I was either attacking my Antiquities Americanae again or else I was having a little … errr … relax.

We were bang on time in Paris Gare du Nord and the metro was good too – just the odd hiccup here and there. But the two metro stations underneath Notre Dame seem to be closed for now.

With no hold-ups along the way I was soon at Vaugirard, and while I was waiting to board the train, I had a chat with a couple of other people too. It’s not like me to be sociable, is it?

The train was quite empty so my neighbour went off to find a seat on her own. I carried on with my book and had a doze for about half an hour too.

But one thing that happened on the train rather offended me.

There was a large North African family in the train and they all alighted at Alençon, bags, baggage, kids and all. And after they had left, one woman sitting in our carriage went down to the luggage rack to make sure that they hadn’t taken her case with them.

It was very conspicuous that she didn’t do that whenever a European family alighted from the train.

It was a nice walk back to here in the warm sunshine, and on arrival I simply sat and vegetated for a while to gather my strength. And I wasn’t as tired as I thought I might have been.

chantier navale port de granville harbour manche normandy franceTea was a plate of pasta and veg tossed in garlic, pepper and olive oil, and then my walk around the Pointe du Roc.

My little walk took me around to see what has been going on at the chantier navale while I was away.

There’s what seems to be an old small trawler that has been converted into living accommodation, and there’s also some kind of pleasure boat or passenger tender in there undergoing repair. There must be plenty of work here for the company there.

trawlers baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy franceThe fishing industry is keeping on going too.

There were a couple of trawlers out there tonight and the one on the left looks as if it is doing a circuit with its net out taking a catch.

But now it’s after midnight, and I don’t feel at all tired, which is a surprise. I can see me heading for a little crisis tomorrow when the lack of sleep catches up with me.

Sunday 17th February 2019 – WHAT A BEAUTIFUL …

… day today.

Shame that I had to spend much of it sitting about on the Gare du Nord in Paris.

The mystery of why my train was cancelled was revealed today, and I really ought to stop myself from being so cynical. Apparently some workmen digging a hole by the side of the railway line during the week had come across an unexploded bomb from World War II.

It was still viable and so it needed to be defused. This had been programmed for Sunday morning and the entire neighbourhood had been evacuated and all of the trains stopped while the bomb squad defused it.

My suggesting that they run a Eurostar full of Brits past the bomb to make it explode was greeted with a great deal of support by the railway staff, but was not (unfortunately) put into practice.

For once in my life I had leapt out of bed with alacrity (and you all thought that I slept alone!) when the alarm went off.

And without my breakfast and without my medication, I attacked the packing, making sandwiches and the tidying up. As well as doing a back-up on the big computer. I also copied a pile of updated files onto the USB key that I take with me when I travel.

brocante place charles de gaulle granville manche normandy franceOff into town with my heavy load – I don’t know why I need so much stuff just for a couple of days, and past the Place General de Gaulle.

Here, they were setting up a brocante for the day. They always seem to have them when I’m either not here or on my way out.

And when I have been here to attend, there’s never been anything actually worth buying.

aux dames de france rue couraye granville manche normandy franceMy route to the railway station takes me from the Place General de Gaulle up the rue Couraye.

I’ve seen this building before but I’ve never really taken much notice of the facade above the shop window.

It seems that this has been a ladies’ outfitters since it was built, judging by the inscription in the concrete work above the first-floor windows.

gec alstom regiolis gare de granville manche normandy franceThe train wasn’t in when I arrived so I had a coffee and a sit-down outside. It was a pleasant morning for the time of the year. No-one would ever have said the middle of February

Once the train pulled in, we all piled aboard, me clutching the coffee that I had bought from the machine.

Drinking the coffee and nibbling away on the biscuits that I had bought for breakfast, off we set. And for a couple of hours I had a comfortable sleep on board – just a little tossing and turning here and there.

eiffel tower paris franceDuring all of the time that I’ve been travelling this line, I’ve never really managed a good photograph of the Eiffel Tower.

Today, thought, the conditions were perfect and I finally managed to take a good photo of it.

And in thz background to the right on the crest of the hill you can see the Eglise Sacré Coeur away on Montmartre.

The metro though Paris was crowded today, but it was a strangely deserted Gare du Nord to which I arrived. Just a few people about and only two people in the queue for metro tickets. So seeing that I’m running out, I took the opportunity to buy another packet of 10 tickets.

In the Thalys office they wouldn’t put me on an earlier train – for the simple reason that there wasn’t one.

There was another Thalys on charter to a private group and the girl telephoned to see if I could go on it. The reply on the phone was “yes” – but at the gate it was “no”. So we had a big discussion about that.

4343 Thalys TGV PBKA gare du nord paris franceAnd as it happens, it didn’t make any difference anyway because nothing was moving until 15:00.

Eventually I was ushered onto the TGV anyway, and at 15:01 we hit the rails. What surprised me about that was that the train was half-empty. It seems that everyone had been turned away or decided not to travel.

Another thing that surprised me was that we didn’t seem to take the usual route either. It looked completely different until after Charles de Gaulle Airport.

push me pull you gare de bruxelles midi leuven belgiumAt Brussels I had a wait for my train, so I went to the shop for something for pudding and a bottle of water. I always seem to develop quite a thirst when I’m in Leuven.

The train that brought me from Brussels to Leuven was heaving. It was one of the “push-me-pull-u” express trains from Oostende and there were kids all over it brandishing sand-encrusted buckets and spades.

They had clearly been enjoying themselves in the fine weather – and who could blame them?

I took the lift up to the gallery to walk across the railway lines, only to find that the lift on the other side was out of order. So I had to go back down again and brave the subterranean passage.

Here at my little hotel complex I had rather a surprising conversation with the manager.
“There’s something that I’ve always been meaning to ask you. Didn’t you used to play in a rock band years ago? Your name looks quite familiar”.

Now I can’t remember what I was doing even half an hour ago. So I’m bewildered how come some Flemish guy might remember my name from the only time my name ever appeared in the Music press – when I played bass for a well-known drummer from Wales in an ad-hoc band that played for just one night at Crewe Teachers’ Training College in 1976 or 77.

Having had a good sleep on the train I wasn’t really all that tired so much to my own surprise I didn’t crash out on the bed. Instead, I had a few things to do.

university library herbert hooverplein leuven belgiumA little later I went for a walk into town for my pizza. After all, it IS Sunday.

Walking past the Herbert Hooverplein, the University library looked splendid, all illuminated in the dark. And with no-one around to spoil my view.

It was just inviting to be photographed and so I duly obliged.

Having had tea now, it might only be 22:00 but this is probably the cue for an early night. I need to catch upon my sleep and save my strength for the battle ahead tomorrow.

Sunday 23rd December 2018 – SO THAT’S ANOTHER .

… thing crossed off my list of things to do.

Back in the early 1970s when I first started coming over to Oostende, I was always puzzled by the train that was waiting at the station for the passengers. Its destination was always Welkenraedt and I didn’t have a clue where Welkenraedt was.

gare welkenraedt belgiumA little later I had a look for where Welkenraedt might be. It’s a small town nestled in the Ardennes miles from anywhere.

That puzzled me even more as to why the boat trains from Oostende would be going there.
I eventually found the reason. It’s a junction station where lines from Spa and from Eupen come in.

But more importantly, it’s the last station of any importance before the German border. The electricity current in Germany used to be different to that in Belgium, so that was where the Belgian engine came off, and then a German locomotive would be attached to take the train on into Europe.

gare welkenraedt belgiumAlison and I went to Welkenraedt on one of our excursions out back in July to see what was going on. But it was always my ambition, strange though it might seem, to change trains there.

So here I am, on a windswept, soaking wet freezing platform huddled under a tiny shelter at Welkenraedt in the middle of winter waiting for a train to come in.

And no coffee for miles around either

bondgenotenlaan leuven louvain belgiumDespite it being Sunday I’d left the alarm connected and at 06:00 it duly rang. No breakfast, no medication, just packing my backpack and then out into the dark, stopping off on the way to take a few photos of around the station area because I had plenty of time..

At 07:24 the train to Eupen came into the station and I leapt aboard. And at Welkenraedt I hopped out. These days the trains don’t go on into Europe but go round to Eupen.

We had to wait for a diesel multiple-unit to come rattling in from Spa.

automotrice sncb 644 653 gare welkenraedt belgiumWe didn’t have long to wait until this filthy, dirty disreputable ancient thing came staggering into the station.

Old, covered in grafitti and all kinds of things, and the train was even worse. I’d be ashamed to be seen in something like this, and the idea that the SNCB would be content to send such a machine into a foreign country where it could be compared with the pristine stuff on offer over there is an absurdity to say the least.

But here it was and here I was. So I climbed aboard and rattled off into Germany.

hauptbahnhof aachen germanyHere I am finally in Germany, in Aachen in fact, at the Hauptbahnhof.

I have to change trains here, and there’s a wait of about 20 minutes for my connection, so there is plenty of time for breakfast.

German bread is probably the best in the world and so a couple of bread rolls of different varieties and a coffee were just what the doctor ordered.

hauptbahnhof cologne koln germanyMy next train was already in the station. A newish double-decker that put the SNCB offering to shame. This rolled off out of the station, 10 seconds late, and an hour later, I was in Koln.

That was where I took this photograph, by the way.

Interestingly, the announcements on the train were in German followed by English. I imagined what might be the response from the xenophobic racist Brexiters if this kind of cosmopolitanism were ever to happen in the UK.

cathedral cologne koln germanyIt’s years since I’ve been to Koln. About 2007 if my memory serves me correctly.

Looking for something to do to pass the time, I’d been idly scanning through the SNCB website and I found that a voyage by train from Leuven to Köln and return would cost me a mere €68:00 – that’s a four-hundred kilometre round trip.

With nothing much happening in Belgium, I decided to come for a day out.

cathedral bahnhofsvorplatz cologne koln germanyI spent a couple of hours wandering around the city, visiting all of the places that I had visited on my previous trips. But at midday I had to return to the cathedral.

When I was chair of the North European Regional Forum of Open University students, one of the committee members lived here in Koln. And by coincidence she was a big friend of my old friend Liz. Hence the regular visits to Koln. Jackie and I hadn’t seen each other since those days, but she had heard that I was coming to Koln and we were going to meet for lunch.

It was at that moment that the heavens opened. As I picked my way through the crowds I was becoming wetter and wetter, and so I was glad to meet Jackie and go for a coffee.

When the rain eased off a little we headed off into the town and an Italian restaurant. It was a strange place for an Italian restaurant. They wouldn’t do me a plate of vegetables with pasta and tomato sauce. I got the pasta and the tomato sauce, but they couldn’t do the vegetables. That can only mean one thing, as I’m sure that the more astute readers will realise.

christmas market markt der engel neumarkt cologne koln germanyBy now the rain was coming down even worse, but we headed off regardless. Down the main shopping street and through a couple of the Christmas markets, looking at the products on sale.

We ended up at a hot drinks stall. Jackie had a gluhwein and I had a hot cocktail. The mugs were beautiful so we forewent the deposit and I took them away in my backpack.

Jackie’s partner came down to meet us. They were off to a carol concert at the end of the afternoon so I said goodbye

barge river rhine deutzerbrucke cologne koln germanyNow on my own, I retraced my steps back through the markets and down to the River Rhine, thinking that I could have done with a good Rhinecoat.

I walked up along the side of the river and then up the steps to the Hohenzollern Bridge – the huge railway bridge with a pedestrian footpath that straddles the river.

It was a dismal dreary walk in the dark and the rain but even so, it’s good to stand there in mid-stream and watch the fleets of barges and cruise ships passing by underneath.

breslauerplatz hauptbahnhof cologne koln germanyEventually I found myself back at the railway station. And to my dismay, the rear of the station has all been cleared up and modernised and the excellent fritkot that I remembered from the past has been swept away.

Nevertheless I did manage to fit myself up with some food. Back inside the station, I found a Thai restaurant in the subterranean shopping gallery that had a range of vegetarian and vegan food.

I had a stir-fry tofu with rice and it was really good.

dbag class 146 locomotive hauptbahnhof cologne koln germanyMy train was a few minutes early and already in the platform. To my surprise it was pulled by the same locomotive that had brought me out.

I hopped aboard and grabbed myself a comfortable seat. And here I had an interesting encounter with a German ticket-collector. It had been so wet that the damp atmosphere had caused the ink on my rail ticket to run and he couldn’t read it.

In the end, reason prevailed.

automotrice sncb 644 653 gare welkenraedt belgiumAnother wait at Aachen for an even more disreputable Belgian multiple-unit. And which, surprisingly (or maybe not) it was likewise the same one that had brought me out.

There was graffiti all over the inside of the train and rubbish strewn all over the floor. Not a very good advert for the SNCB, sending atrain like this across the border into foreign parts.

And then another wait on the cold and wet at Welkenraedt for my train back to Leuven.

So now, I’m back home, looking and feeling like one more haggard, drowned rat, although I had no idea where I would find one more haggard drowned rat at this time of night.

And straight off to bed because I have the hospital in the morning and I need to be on form.

On my travels today, I took well over 100 photos. Some are in the text and some more below.

But if you want to see the rest, I’ve prepared a web page where you can see them in all their sodding and dripping glory, such as it was.

christmas lights tiensevest leuven louvain belgium
christmas lights tiensevest leuven louvain belgium

christmas lights tiensevest leuven louvain belgium
christmas lights tiensevest leuven louvain belgium

martelarenplein leuven louvain belgium
martelarenplein leuven louvain belgium

railway station war memorial martelarenplein leuven louvain belgium
railway station war memorial martelarenplein leuven louvain belgium

war memorial railway station martelarenplein leuven louvain belgium
war memorial railway station martelarenplein leuven louvain belgium

war memorial martelarenplein leuven louvain belgium
war memorial martelarenplein leuven louvain belgium

railway station martelarenplein leuven louvain belgium
railway station martelarenplein leuven louvain belgium

train station leuven louvain belgium
train station leuven louvain belgium

hauptbahnhof aachen germany
hauptbahnhof aachen germany

hauptbahnhof aachen germany
hauptbahnhof aachen germany

automotrice sncb 644 653 hauptbahnhof aachen germany
automotrice sncb 644 653 hauptbahnhof aachen germany

Saturday 22nd December 2018 – IT’S ALL VERY WELL …

… going to bed really early at something like 21:00 or whenever it was, but it counts for nothing at all if you are wide-awake again at about 23:20.

After that, it took me an absolute age to go back to sleep. And when I finally did manage to drop off, I wasn’t out for long. By 04:30 I was awake again and by 05:00 I was up and about.

None of the aforementioned stopped me going for a little nocturnal ramble though. And wherever I was during the night, I was somewhere that bore a resemblance to the north shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence. And I don’t remember what vehicle I was in either. But there I was in some kind of small town with some kind of rural business park out there but with buildings so well hidden that they would take some tracking down. There was an ice-cream parlour there somewhere and I was on my way. I had to negotiate a few barriers and ended up in a field that was being used as a car park, but then I couldn’t even see the sign for the ice-cream place, never mind find the buildings. And so I found myself back on the road, heading to the end where there was a huge car ferry that would press onwards. The road to the ferry terminal turned a sharp left right by a series of small lakes and ponds. By now I was accompanied by a young girl who was going to an interview. This was taking place at a modern building near the turning. When we arrived there we met someone who was going to take us thereand we noticed a couple wading across the pond to meet us. I remarked that I wouldn’t like to do that in winter, to which the guy replied that in winter they walked on the ice. Even so, just before the ice formed it would still be far too cold for me. This girl went off with these two people and I was obliged to wait for her. I was shown around the ground floor of this building and while this was happening I saw my ferry steaming… “dieseling” – ed … out of the harbour down the road. Something had to be taken to the theatre, which was upstairs, so I volunteered.This place was much bigger than the ground floor, quite modern, clean and tidy. The bar was in a strange place, down at the end, and there was a woman there. She thanked me for what I had brought and invited me to watch the next production. I explained that by then, I would probably be a very long way away from here.

First thing that I did after I joined the Land of the Living (and believe me, this was at a moment not exactly adjacent to 05:00) was to have a shower. There were clothes ti wash, of course, but I wasn’t up to dealing with those right now. They can wait until the next time.

Second thing that needed doing was to write up my notes for yesterday. Going to bed at 21:00 meant that I hadn’t even thought about that last night. What with an interruption for coffee and a couple of others too for various purposes (including a little relax), it took me quite a while to deal with it.

pope leo 13 seminary chapel leuven louvain belgiumBy now it was 10:00 and I have things to do, so I hit the streets.

It wasn’t very cold at all outside – rather disappointing in fact, because I was hoping for some kind of Arctic weather for Christmas.

And so instead I went for a wander for a good view of the Pope Leo XIII Seminary, nicely framed by the new student accommodation blocks off the Tiensestraat.

And the Christmas Market wasn’t open either. They were still setting it up. Instead, I went to FNAC but there was nothing there that caught my eye.

christmas decorations grote markt leuven louvain belgiumMoving on, I went on to the Delhaize to buy what I couldn’t carry home yesterday.

My route took me through the Grote Markt where I walked past all of the strange Christmas cabins that they have erected here. They certainly go to town when they tart up the place.

Delhaize came up with what I need, and I now have almost everything that I need, especially as on the market outside was a stall selling Brussels sprouts.

No Christmas meal of any description is complete without Brussels Sprouts.

wilfried craps leuven louvain belgiumAnd so with nothing else to do and nothing else going on, I headed home for lunch.

But not before I took a little diversion onto a car park in the Windmolenstraat to admire a vehicle parked in one of the spaces. I shall leave Strawberry Moose to sum up the situation perfectly.

By the time that I returned it was almost midday so I had a mince pie with my coffee. That’s the official declaration that the Festive season has arrived. Although I don’t really feel festive at all, with a hospital appointment on Christmas Eve.

And being away from home doesn’t help. I do like Leuven, make no mistake, and if I had to be anywhere away from home them Leuven would receive my vote any time. But all the same, it’s not my home.

christmas market monseigneur ladeuzeplein leuven louvain belgiumAfter lunch, I headed back out again.

This time, the Christmas market was open and I had a good stroll around. But there was nothing that interested me. In fact, it didn’t seem to be anything like as good as last year’s when there was an ice rink and all of that.

First stop was to Kruidvat for some of their gluten-free and gelatine-free sweets. And that place was heaving

Next stop was the Sports Shop. I went in for a look around and saw that they had the trousers that I like on special offer again. As one of my pairs was torn and I seemto have left another behind in Canada, I bought two pairs.

But here’s a shock! Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I went to Africa earlier this year. And I had it in my mind to go to the Travel Agent’s – just across the road – to see if there was anything else coming up in the near future that would be exciting.

But SHOCK! HORROR! It’s closed down! That’s no good to me at all and it’s very disappointing.

Another thing that was very disappointing was that the supply of vegan food in the Loving Hut has dwindled almost to nothing. None of my favourite cheese, none of the spray-on vegan cream. Stocks have been running down in there for quite a while and it doesn’t look as if there’s much more to go.

Instead I wandered off to the Bio shop – the Origin’O – across town in the Vismarkt and they did the business. Well, sort-of. They had pouring cream, not spray-on, but they did have some decent cheese and also a slice of vegan walnut-cake. That’ll do me for Christmas Day.

On the way back, walking up the Muntstraat, I came across a restaurant that I hadn’t noticed before. It was advertising vegetarian and allergy-free meals so I stuck my head in to enqure about vegan and gluten-free. And much to my delight, they could indeed cater for us. So I’ll invite Alison there next time I see her.

Back in my little room, and another mince pie, with vegan cream this time. What they call “pushing the boat out”.

Another little relax, and then 18:15 saw me back on the road again.

Idly scanning through Livescore, I noticed that there was a Belgian Premier League match on in St Truiden this eveninf. STVV v KV Kortrijk. I’d seen STVV play in Oostende earlier this year but I’d never been to St Truiden. It’s only three stops down the line from Leuven and the kick-off time corresponded nicely with the trains.

So there I was, at 18:44 leaping aboard the train to Genk.

At 19:15 I was leaping off it in St truiden and decanted myself into the fritkot right outside the station. Being in Belgium, fritjes are always on the menu and eating them while walking down the road to a football match is always a good plan and typically Belgian.

It really WAS a good plan too, because these were some of the most delicious fritjes that I have ever eaten. And they were quite generous too. It took me all the way to Het Staaien to eat them.

het stayen st truiden stvv kv kortrijk football belgiumBut as for the football though … What can I say?

I’ve seen some rubbish in my time but I would have to search deep and long into my memory to see anything quite like this. Apart from the fact that both teams were too slow to move the ball about and wasted numerous chances by taking one touch too many – something that seems to be a modern trait – the quality was dire.

I don’t know what was up with the STVV keeper but he couldn’t kick to save his life and his antics, especially in the first 10 minutes but here and there throughout the match – as he received back-passes from his team was like watching in slow motion an accident waiting to happen.

Both sets of attackers must have suffered from vertigo or have had lead weights in their boots because I only counted two high balls into the penalty area in the whole match. So clueless were they that from one short corner, the player taking the kick somehow managed to kick it out for a throw-in.

We had dozens of misplaced passes, dozens of players falling over the ball and, even worse, dozens of shots from excellent positions blazed hopelessly over the bar.

STVV were roundly booed off the field at the end of the game (and no surprise either) and had there been more than 100 or so fans from Kortrijk, their team would have been booed off the pitch too. 0-0 was how it finished and you aren’t ever going to win a match playing like these two teams did this evening.

I had to wait for a while for the train back – the last train from Genk as it happened. And it was a little rowdy too with a few Kortrijk supporters who had clearly been just a little too close to the barmaid’s apron.

It was quite late by the time I arrived back, so I wasn’t going to hang around. I had some pineapple and ice cream for pudding and then I went to bed. Although it’s a Sunday there’s an alarm set for 06:00. i’m off out early and I’ll be gone all day.

load of boels schepenenstraat leuven louvain belgium
load of boels schepenenstraat leuven louvain belgium

pope leo 13 seminary chapel leuven louvain belgium
pope leo 13 seminary chapel leuven louvain belgium

wilfried craps leuven louvain belgium
wilfried craps leuven louvain belgium

christmas market herbert hooverplein leuven louvain belgium
christmas market herbert hooverplein leuven louvain belgium

christmas market herbert hooverplein leuven louvain belgium
christmas market herbert hooverplein leuven louvain belgium

christmas market herbert hooverplein leuven louvain belgium
christmas market herbert hooverplein leuven louvain belgium

christmas market herbert hooverplein leuven louvain belgium
christmas market herbert hooverplein leuven louvain belgium

christmas market monseigneur ladeuzeplein leuven louvain belgium
christmas market monseigneur ladeuzeplein leuven louvain belgium

het stayen st truiden stvv kv kortrijk football belgium
het stayen st truiden stvv kv kortrijk football belgium

het stayen st truiden stvv kv kortrijk football belgium
het stayen st truiden stvv kv kortrijk football belgium

het stayen st truiden stvv kv kortrijk football belgium
het stayen st truiden stvv kv kortrijk football belgium

Friday 21st December 2018 – THE BODY CLOCK …

… wasn’t working as well as I would have liked this morning. It took the alarm to rouse me from the depths of wherever it was.

And two alarms too, because with having issues about upgrades on telephones switching them off at important times, I’ve resurrected an ancient mobile phone to act as an alarm back-up for when I need to be up and about.

No breakfast as yet, and no medication either. I can’t afford the distractions right now. So instead, I made my sandwiches, did the washing up, took out all the rubbish and then vacuumed the place. On my way out, I washed the floor behind me too.

Dressed up like Nanook of the North, I sallied forth into the open air, only to find that it was 13°C outside. I hadn’t gone more than a couple of hundred yards before I was sweating. It was something of a struggle with all of the stuff that I was taking with me.

84577 gec alstom regiolis gare de granville manche normandy franceOur train was already in the station but we weren’t allowed on it quite yet.

So while I was waiting I grabbed a coffee and admired the destination boards showing that trains from Caen and Rennes were also expected in the station.

That’s really good news from anyone’s point of view, especially mine. It’s nice to see an expanded railway service and might well prolong the active life of the railway station here.

The journey to Paris was pretty uneventful. I’d settled down in my seat and taken the bananas and packet of biscuits from my pockets. Along with the bottle of ginger beer that I had left over from my trip to Germany earlier this year and the coffee from the machine on the station, that was my breakfast.

eiffel tower paris granville manche normandy franceI had made sure that I had a good view of the Eiffel Tower today. But fates conspired against me yet again, because it was shrouded in mist.

One of these days I’ll be able to have a really good of it and take an excellent photo. But I’m not holding my breath.

The railway station – Montparnasse-Vaugirard – was comparatively empty compared to how it usually is on a Sunday. The metro, however, was heaving although I was lucky enough to grab a seat by the door.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4540 gare du nord paris francePlenty of time at Paris-Nord to eat my butties and read my book, and then off for my train. The arrival was about 10 minutes late so we had to wait a while while they cleaned it out, and then we could board.

It’s not one of the usual PBKA sets, but one of the Reseau 38000 tri-volt sets – known in the vernacular as the PBA sets because they don’t go to Cologne.

This one here, 4540, was the last to be built.

We set off on time, and hurtled off into the void. But I hurtled off elsewhere into my own little world for about 15 minutes.

Not only did we leave on time, we arrived on time too but we couldn’t disembark straight away as they had to uncouple the Amsterdam portion of the train. And so I missed the 15:52 to Leuven and had to wait for the next one.

This one was late and the third train arrived. So I legged it down the station and up onto the platform for that one, just in time to see it leave the station. And so I had to leg it all the way back to where I’d just been. And that wasn’t easy, with all of my luggage,

SNCB class 27 locomotive gare du midi brussels belgium The train that I eventually caught was hauled by one of the SNCB Class 27 locomotives.

Built in the eary 80s, they and their sisters (because there are four almost identical classes) are the principle source of motive power on the SNCB

Their claim to fame is highlighted by the fact that one of this class, locomotive 2711, set a world record on 27th April 1991 by pulling 70 carriages from Gent to Oostende – the world’s longest ever passenger train.

The carriages of the train though were like something out of the 1960s. Probably the oldest on which I have travelled for a while. Old bench seats, poorly upholstered, just like something out of history.

And as we passed the carriage sidings at Schaerbeek, full of disaffected multiple-units awaiting dismantling, I wondered just how long it would be before these carriages join them.

I’ve a nice little room here at Condo Gardens. Up on the first floor overlooking the illuminated courtyard. I hope that I’ll be nice and comfortable here.

But I still went off to DelHaize for my shopping. The lights were on at the DenDreefStadion so I went down there to see if there was a match. But the place was all locked up, so I went back to the shops.

I spent a pile here too, but it is Christmas, and they do have (expensive) vanilla-flavoured soya ice-cream. And a pineapple too, ready-peeled and cored. So that’s pudding sorted out for the next few days.

Tea was some potatoes that I had brought with me, with atin of spicy beans and some frozen peas and carrots. Followed by some pineapple and ice-cream. That’s what I call a delightful meal.

It might only be 21:10 but I’m exhausted. I don’t even have the energy to watch a film. So I’m going to make the best of it and have a really early night in my warm, comfy bed. I’m going into town tomorrow morning.

Monday 27th November 2018 – THE GOOD NEWS …

… is that my blood count is stable.

The bad news is that my blood count is stable.

That might sound like a contradiction in terms but it isn’t really. While I’m holding my own for the moment (disgusting habit, isn’t it?) and keeping on going, there isn’t any improvement.

Remember that last year they could push my blood count up to something approaching normal, and at one stage I was on two-monthly appointments. These days they can’t get it to move up, despite coming here every four weeks for treatment.

It’s not that I regret it, though. I quite like Leuven and if I had to go somewhere, then Leuven is as good as it gets. But I was hoping that I would be improving and able to support myself much better without having to come here once every four weeks.

With having had an early night, I had a good night’s sleep and was up at a reasonably early time. And after breakfast, I headed off into town in the rain.

bad parking coach blocked tiensestraat leuven belgium eric hallBut we had some more excitement in the Tiensestraat today.

A couple of vehicles were not parked very prettily and this coach couldn’t pass through the gap, even with a group of people guiding him.

And so we had a klaxon session until someone came a-running to move his vehicle.

christmas decorations grote markt leuven belgium eric hallThere were all kinds of perturbations in the town centre.

The Grote Markt in between the Sint Pieterskerk and the Stadhuis was blocked off and there were workmen all about.

It seems to me that they are starting to set out the Square ready for all of the Christmas decorations. I’ll have to come by here tonight and see what they are doing.

The hospital was like an oven and as soon as I entered I had to strip off. And halfway down the corridor I realised that I must have left my hat on the chair by the door so I had to go back for it.

And there it was – with two people, who had been there when I had divested myself, staring at it. Why they hadn’t called out to me as I had left there I really don’t know.

Every time that I had been to the hospital for this session of treatment my appointment has been for 09:50. And 09:50 is clearly written on my appointment letter.

And every time that I’ve been to the hospital I’d been early. Today was no exception, and I was there for 09:30. But a closer inspection of my letter showed that my appointment of 09:50 was for the visit on 24th December. For today, a couple of lines higher up and I hadn’t noticed, was my appointment for today. 09:10.

Ahhh well.

There wasn’t a seat for me either so I ended up eventually in one of the side wards on a chair. But about an hour later, the nurse came to fetch me.
Nurse – “Come along Mr Hall. There’s a nice comfy chair free now. And it’s an electric one too”.
Our Hero – “and I thought that you liked me!”

Today’s doctor is the one whom I don’t really like. He doesn’t have a bedside manner and seems to be rather casual and offhand. And so he was today. He didn’t tell me very much at all.

On my way back into town I called at the Asian supermarket and bought some hot chili powder and some ground coriander. I’m running a little low on them back home.

And I went into Delhaize for stuff for tea and then the Loving Hut for some more vegan cheese.

christmas lights brusselsestraat leuven belgium eric hallOn the way though, I stopped off to have a good look at the Christmas decorations and lights.

There were all kinds of vehicles, cherry pickers and the like, in the Brusselsestraat, stringing up all kinds of decorations across the street.

With the trees being illuminated, it looks a little better than the Tiensestraat.

town hall stadhuis leuven belgium eric hallThey’ve made a good start on the Town Hall – the Stadhuis – too.

That’s all nicely draped in Christmas lights now and I stood wand watched them for a while as they changed colour from red to blue to green and all kinds of shades in between.

It looks much more impressive that it did last year.

christmas lights grote markt leuven belgium eric hallI went back to the Grote Markt too, to see what they had been doing throughout the day.

There now seems to be heaps of soil about. A couple of Christmas trees had been “planted” and some booths have been erected.

Presumably they are about to set up the creche and the rest of the Christmas decorations. They usually do quite an impressive job here, and I’ll be able to tell you much more about it in due course as I’ll be here over Christmas.

bad parking tiensestraat leuven belgium eric hallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that bad parking features quite regularly in these pages.

We’ve already seen one example of this in the Tiensestraat this morning, and here’s another one.

There’s a parking place free here, but this van driver has decided to park across an entry, half in the street blocking the traffic, because he can’t be bothered to park properly.

It really is rather sad, isn’t it?

Back in my little room I had a message from Alison to say that she was back early from Oostende and did I fancy going for a meal? So I put on my coat and went back out again.

christmas decorations grote markt leuven belgium eric hallWhile you admire the Christmas lights in the Grote Markt, Alison and I met up at our usual rendezvous and went off to the Greenway Restaurant for food.

There weren’t all that many people in there tonight and that’s a surprise. The food is good and very reasonably-priced, and they know all about allergies too.

We both chose the vegan Jalapeno burger with potato wedges and it was thoroughly delicious

christmas decorations grote markt leuven belgium eric hallWe spent a lot of time in there having a good chat because we had a lot to say to each other.

After all, quite a few things have happened since we last saw each other and some of these things are quite important.

But once we had put the world to rights we went for a walk around the Grote Markt to admire theChristmas decorations and lights.

christmas decorations grote markt leuven belgium eric hallIt wasn’t all that cold out there tonight, which makes a change.

But nevertheless, we thought that a coffee was in order so we wandered off to Kloosters Hotel in the Predikherenstraat where there is an open fire.

An open fire and a coffee are just the things to warm us up on a damp and wet evening like tonight.

christmas decorations grote markt leuven belgium eric hallLater on, we walked down to Alison’s car and she brought me back here

It was quite late by now so I didn’t do too much at all. I’m having a Day of Rest tomorrow but that’s still no reason not to go to bed so I called it a day.

I’ll see what excitement tomorrow will bring me.

bad parking coach blocked tiensestraat leuven belgium eric hall
bad parking coach blocked tiensestraat leuven belgium eric hall

Saturday 7th July 2018 – ONE OF THESE DAYS …

… I’ll have a decent night.

But it wasn’t last night, that’s for sure. With all of the excitement following Belgium’s unexpected victory over Brazil there was chaos in the streets and enough noise to awaken the dead.

And so despite everything and all of my best intentions, it was hours before I managed to go off to sleep.

It was another morning too where I was awake long before the alarm went off. When I finally glanced at the time it was 05:47 and I was hoping for something rather better than that.

There had still been time to go on my travels though. Back driving a taxi and I’d been given a list of the regular clients which I was sure that I had memorised, and so I tore it up. And immediately there was a call over the radio “go to Nantwich and pick up so-and-so”. And I couldn’t remember where he or she lived. My notes were too badly torn to be able to be pieced together so I asked on the radio, but I couldn’t understand the reply which was rather garbled.
A little later I was in Eritrea (don’t ask me why) – an Eritrea that looked like nothing that I had ever seen of it. There was a military patrol walking down a road floating up observation balloons, many of which had fallen to earth and were littering the side of the road. Suddenly the patrol withdrew, leaving me isolated right out in front, a rather nervous place to be. Eventually I found a tourist guide who was selling tickets on a steam train ride. he was negotiating with someone and they agreed on a price of $50:00. The only thing that I could see in the brochure for a steam ride was at $130:00 so I asked about it. He replied that I needed to go to the railway station and book it there. He mentioned 13:30 but I didn’t understand if that was the time of departure or the time of return, and it was all so confusing.

So crawling out of bed I had my medication (now that I have some) but I still didn’t feel like any breakfast so I had a shower instead and cracked on with my paperwork.

The cleaner wanted to come in here at 11:00 but I told her to wait for a while as I was expecting a visitor.

And sure enough, just when I reckoned that I ought to go outside, I opened my door to see Alison pulling into the car park. Bang on cue.

welkenraedt july juillet 2018Our first port of call was about 30 kms down the road in Welkenraedt.

Despite only having a population on 9,000 or so, it’s probably one of the most famous small towns in Belgium and it’s one that I’ve been dying to visit ever since I first came to Oostende over 45years ago

And for one of the strangest reasons too, because it’s not your usual run-of-the-mill tourist venue.

Back in the 1970s at the railway station in Oostende there would alwas be a train waiting to meet the ferries, and they would always be going to Welkenraedt.

It aroused my curiosity so I did a little research and found that it was a small town in the north of the Ardennes that didn’t look as if it had any significance at all, so I was puzzled as to why all of these trains would want to come here.

railway station welkenraedt belgium july juillet 2018And when you look at the station, it’s a big, modern station that has plenty of facilities and it is all out of proportion to the size of the town

A little bit of research back in those days soon cleared up the question.

Welkenraedt is the closest railway station to the border between Germany and Belgium – in Germany until 1919 and in Belgium afterwards.

And when the railways were electrified, the German voltage system was different from that in Belgium until comparatively modern times. And until the Schengen agreement, there was a frontier post at the station.

So while the passengers were having their passports controlled, the train would be changing engines and then going on to Aachen or Cologne or maybe further still.

Welkenraedt is officially a German-speaking town but when it was transferred to Belgium by the Treaty of Versailles, the SNCB, the Belgian railway company, opened a locomotive depot here and transferred in a large number of French-speaking railway workers.

They flooded the town to such an extent that you will struggle to find German spoken here today. We saw a couple of signs in German but that was about that.

We went off to find something to eat as Alison was hungry, and I forced down a helping of overcooked chips. I’m clearly feeling better after my crisis of Thursday and Friday.

viaduc de moresnet july juillet 2018But you can’t cometo this region without going down the road to Moresnet.

For several reasons really, not the first of which is this absolutely gorgeous railway viaduct.

It’s not quite on a par with the Tracel de Cap Rouge of course, that’s rather exceptional, but it’s by far the best that you are likely to find around this part of Europe.

viaduc de moresnet july juillet 2018According to the information that I have found, it was built during the period 1915-1916. The pillars are fine examples of reinforced concrete of that period.

It’s just over 1100 metres long and at its highest, it’s about 60 metres above the velley of the River Gueule

That tells us a couple of things

  1. There may well have been something here prior to that period that was demolished at the start of World War I
  2. It escaped demolition during the fighting of World War II

viaduc de moresnet july juillet 2018Knowing my usual luck, we would ordinarily have had to wait for about three weeks to see a train pass over the viaduct, and then we would have missed it because we had gone for a coffee.

But that’s not the case here. This is the main railway line that runs between Aachen and Antwerpen, one of Europe’s busiest ports.

We’d hardly pulled into the village before a freight train went rattling by just above our heads.

moresnet belgium july juillet 2018So while you admire the village of Moresnet and Alison and I have gone for a coffee with the friendly young girl who runs the village café, let me tell you a little story.

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars the Treaty of the Limits in 1816 redefined the border between the Low Countries (because Belgium didn’t exist at that time) and the Kingdom of Prussia.

For various reasons, they couldn’t agree with what to do with the commune of Moresnet and so they planned to divide it between them.

moresnet belgium july juillet 2018Unfortunately, any logical dividing line ran right through a very important and valuable quarry and they couldn’t agree where the line should go so that each country would have half the value.

Eventually, they agreed that the quarry and a surrounding piece of land would be a neutral zone administered jointly by one official from the Low Countries (Belgium after 1830) and the Kingdom of Prussia (the German Empire after 1871).

And so you had Moresnet, Neu-Moresenet (the German bit) and Moresnet Neutre.

In 1914 Germany took all of it, so at the Treaty of Versailles Belgium was awarded all of it, so in 1940 Germany took it all back and in 1945 Belgium regained all of it.

There has been quite a lot of excitement in such a sleepy little Belgian village

But our conversation with the serving wench was quite exciting. being practically right on one of Belgium’s linguistic borders, our conversation drifted between French and German with hardly a pause.

Belgium is a fascinating country.

And if that’s not enough to be going on with, just up the road some time round about 1750 a miracle involving Mary the Mother of Jesus is said to have taken place

franciscan friars moresnet chapelle july juillet 2018Pilgrims came to visit the site so a small chapel was built, followed by all of the usual facilities for the visitors, and the village of Moresnet-Chapelle developed.

A group of Franciscan Friars (and seeing as this is Belgium, they were probably chip monks) were sent from Aachen in 1875 to provide spiritual comfort to the visitors.

As a result, some substantial development took place.

chemin de la croix moresnet chapelle belgium july juillet 2018Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve talked on several occasions about the Chemin de la Croix – 14 stages of Jesus on his way to his crucifixion, death and subsequent resurrection.

We’ve also been to see a a magnificent example of this at Cap de la Madeleine in Quebec.

In 1895 they decided that they would emulate it (the filthy beasts) right here.

chemin de la croix moresnet chapelle belgium july juillet 2018In 1895 German benefactor provided some cash to purchase the land around the chapel and they set to work.

The work was completed in 1904 and today there are 14 grottoes made of puzzolane, each featuring one of the stages of the Chemin de la Croix.

The aim is to visit each one, purchase a candle to light in each (which must bring in a fortune) and say a prayer at each one, in order to be absolved of your sins.

Of course, I don’t need to, for regular readers of this rubbish in one of its previous guises will recall that I was granted absolution by the Pope, having passed through all of the Holy Doors in Rome during the Period of Grace in 2000.

I choose my friends carefully as you know.

chemin de la croix moresnet chapelle belgium july juillet 2018The twelfth station, the Calvaire or Calvary, featuring the crucifiction, is always a good ‘un and there’s no exception here.

In fact, it was so popular at one time that they have installed benches here and occasionally hold open-air church services here.

But clearly not masses, because the place is pretty-much deserted today.

And I shan’t bore you all by repeating the story that a Frenchman delightfully told me, that they asked for a famous sculptor from each country to send in their impressions of how the Calvary should look, and the Belgian sculptor sent in a drawing of John Wayne on his horse.

Final stop (for now, anyway) on our day out was just a couple of miles up the road.

driehoek netherlands germany belgium july juillet 2018Here we have the Driehoek – or “Three Corners” – where the countries of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet.

And when we had Moresnet-Neutre, it was a Vierhoek because that area had a bit of it too.

The girl in red is sitting half in the Netherlands and half in Germany, and the girl on the floor is half in the Netherlands and half in Belgium.

vaalserberg netherlands july juillet 2018Not only that, the highest point in the Netherlands – the Vaalserberg – is only 100 metres or so from the border and so we had to pay that a visit too.

It’s all of 322.4 metres above sea level, or 1,058 feet for those of you still dealing in real money.

And in the background you can see an observation platform. Apart from the fact that it cost real money to go up there to the top, the number of steps that I saw was enough to put me off the idea.

So having been driven up the Vaal(serberg) our next stop was across in our third country of the day – Germany. And those silly Brits who voted to leave the EU just don’t understand the advantages of having Breakfast in Brussels, Lunch in Luxembourg, Tea in Turin, Supper in Sampdoria and Bed in Bari.

Aachen in fact was where we went, where Alison wanted to take me to a café that she had found. And even though we arrived 12 minutes before the advertised closing time of 18:00, they refused to serve us.

Consequently we nipped to Mullers for some of my white coconut chocolate, and then to the cat café that we had visited a while ago.

The cooking smelt delicious so Alison had some thick soup and I had hummus with raw vegetables and bread.

It’s not far back to Liège from Aachen, even though you pass through three countries to get there. and I was in time to see Russia defeated by Croatia. And I could tell by the way that the first Russian limped up to take his penalty, head bowed to the ground, that he was going to miss it.

Tomorrow I am on the move, and so an early night – if my neighbours let me. They are being just a little rowdy, but then you can’t win a coconut every time, can you?