Tag Archives: Paul_H

Saturday 23rd March 2023 – A FEW MONTHS AGO …

… I bought a cheap hamburger press, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall. It was rather like an old flat iron made of plastic, with all kinds of sizes that fit inside each other like a Russian doll

It was rather cheap, both in price and quality, so I didn’t think that it would be all that much good. However I have to say that despite all that, I really am impressed with it. Almost as impressed as I was with my galvanised steel dustbin, and that will stir a few memories from times long-gone.

Actually my friend in Munich sent me ages ago a packet of dried stuff that he’d found in a vegan shop down there and posted it to me. So today I added water and mixed it, left it alone to do its thing and then out came the hamburger press

It actually made a nice, professional job of the rehydrated stuff and I now have four big, really solid burgers and as I said just now, I’m almost as impressed with them as I was with my galvanised steel dustbin.

“Whatever happened to that?” I asked myself. The last time that I saw it, it was being used as a brazier to burn a pile of weeds down the garden when I used to have my raised beds and vegetable plots. It’s probably now thoroughly and completely overwhelmed with weeds and been pulled into the soil.

It’s 10 years ago since I last planted any veg down on the farm. I had quite a lot of stuff there that year too. The following year I cracked on with the bedroom all the way through the spring and summer ad finished it – and actually moved in.

But we all know what happened in the autumn that year, don’t we?

It was almost 10 years that I lived full-time down on the farm and despite the primitive conditions I really enjoyed it. I keep on thinking – and hoping – that I’ll go back to live down there once more but I doubt that I’ll ever see it again.

For a start, I can no longer drive, and that’s always going to be a serious consideration. And then regular readers of this rubbish will recall the photos of when I was last there and it was overwhelmed by brambles. I no longer have the energy to fight my way to the front door.

Last time it took three of us – Rosemary, Ingrid and Yours Truly – a whole afternoon to reach the front door, and the time before that it was with Terry and he had brought his industrial-scale equipment to clear the path.

Still, as Dan Quayle once famously said, "It’s a question of whether we’re going to go forward into the future, or past to the back"

So I shall go past into the back and say that for a change I was in something of a hurry to go to bed last night. I didn’t hang about at all.

It was another good sleep as well and I was fighting fit (well, sort-of) when the alarm aronsed me from my slumbers.

First thing was, as usual, to check the blood pressure. 15.1/9.0 this morning, up from 14.5/9.3 last night. So something must have annoyed me last night. And if you want to know what it was, you’ll have to read on.

After the medication I came back in here, but not for long. The nurse, having been late yesterday, was early today. Today’s moan was that the plastic bag I’d put out for him wasn’t big enough and that I need to wash my puttees. I wonder what tomorrow’s will be

The bread for my cheese on toast was delicious. I had a really nice breakfast later this morning. And then I had a pleasant relax and watched a film.

Another film that has come out of copyright is HELLZAPOPPIN’ so I spent a very pleasant 85 minutes watching it, and it was nice to relax for a change.

It’s not a film to everyone’s taste because it’s partly a musical and "YOU’RE NOT GOING INTO THE SONG WHILE I’M HERE" but where its interest lies is that if ever you want to know where all of the humourists of the 1960s and early 70s like Monty Python and Marty Feldman obtained their ideas, it’s all here, everything and much more besides, and it was done in 1941.

As far as comedy and humour goes, it was light years ahead of its time and will still run the course today.

There was some stuff on the dictaphone from the night. We’d all gone out as a family together. We all had lifts with various different people so we were all spread out amongst the cars etc. A guy in a mobile home, the type that’s a shell that fits onto the back of your vehicle, took a fancy to one of my sisters. He persuaded her to travel with him. They disappeared but the rest of us kept going in a kind of convoy. We ended up stopping for the night somewhere at the side of a river. Just then this guy appeared with his camper. He wound down his window and said that he was terribly sorry but something had happened to our sister – some other people had come along, taken her, kidnapped her and carried her off. My mother said “I bet that she’s in the back of your camper”, just strode over there and wrenched open the door. My sister was in there on the bed lying down. She began to tell her tale of woe about everything that had happened to her, with my mother and brother becoming more and more angry as the story unfolded about this kidnap.

So there you are – that’s the reason that my blood pressure was up. I had the family round last night. I don’t ask them to come to visit me during the night but they always seem to, far too often for my liking. Why can’t I have Zero, TOTGA and Castor round as often as them?

But kidnapping my family members one by one sounds like a good idea. But you can all think of an idea for the ransom note – "pay us £5,000 or we’ll send them back".

That reminds me of the time when I fuelled up in Stoke on Trent only to find that I’d left my wallet behind at home. I had to leave my friend at the petrol station as hostage while I went to his house to fetch some money

When I told his wife what was the problem she told me not to bother going back, and to leave him there for good

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed we had a taxi job to do, to drive someone up to Newcastle upon Tyne for a meeting and then take them on to Edinburgh later. There was only one daytime driver and me about. The receptionist left a note for the daytime driver “be in the office 04:40 ready for a long trip”. I thought that long trips and office workers all on account etc don’t pay very much in tips if anything so I’d go to do that and let the driver carry on doing normal jobs. The only car we had was an old two-door Japanese thing from the late 1960s or early 1970s. It made something of a racket but I’d been out a few times in it and it seemed to do the job. A good long run like that would probably do it good. Of course Edinburgh – I had my niece in Edinburgh so I could go to see her. I tried to contact her but there was no luck. I thought “should I just turn up at the University there and speak to her?”. I thought that that’s probably not a good idea. But I was impressed that we had this job, going all that way but I was really disappointed that we didn’t have a better car available other than this old Japanese thing.

And that was an age-old problem too. We’d occasionally have some really high-quality work to do but never seemed to have a decent car available to do it, and when we did have a really decent car we’d never have the work. At times I despaired.

This afternoon I went a food-making.

Firstly, as I said, my friend in Munich had sent me some burger mix so I added the water, stirred it all in and then left it to fester for 20 minutes as according to the instructions

There was a box of do-it-yourself falafel powder on the shelves as I discovered when I did some tidying up a few weeks ago. So I added some water to that and left that to fester as per the instructions.

While that was doing its stuff the first lot was ready so with the hamburger press I made four really good and solid burger-types of things. They are busy freezing even as we speak.

As for the falafel, I divided that up into little balls and they are busy freezing too, along with a couple of balls that I made from the left-over stuff from the first mix.

But I’m pleased with this hamburger press as I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … It’s really simple and cheap but it made some really solid burgers and it gives me much more confidence about making more burgers from ad-hoc ingredients.

Finally there was the home-made mayonnaise. And once again, that seemed to work in spades. I made it rather more liquidy than before so we’ll see how that works out. It ended up making quite a lot more than I can use in its shelf-life, so I’ve sealed to top on the jars quite tightly.

Yes, having learned my lesson, I’ve put the mayonnaise in a better container or two.

Then we had the football – Y Bala V Connah’s Quay Nomads in one if the Welsh Cup semi-finals, played at Llandudno’s picturesque ground. And it was actually being broadcast on foreign carriers too after the disappointments of the last few games.

The first 75 minutes of the match were nothing to write home about, but it’s really hard to play creative football in a tornado.

However both sides made a couple of substitutions with 15 minutes to go and that kickstarted the game dramatically. Those last 15 minutes wee much more like the football we’d expect to see and Aron Williams scored a late winner to push the Nomads into the finals.

But spare a thought for Josh Ukek of Y Bala, who will probably go down in the record books as being on the field for the shortest period of time ever.

He came on as a substitute for Bala late in the game but almost immediately Kieran Smith, a central defender, was sent off for two bookings. Now a central defender down, Colin Caton, the Bala manager, now wanted to send on a central defender off the bench to shore up the defence.

And Ukek, who had only just come onto the field, was the man who was withdrawn to make way.

Tea was as usual a salad, baked potato and breaded quorn fillet. I know that it all seems to be the same, but I happen to like it so I don’t care.

And now rather late this evening, I’m off to bed. There’s an alarm in the morning for the nurse is coming (so I’ve washed my puttees already) so I’ll feel like death for the rest of the day. Today, I actually fell asleep for five minutes during the football.

But before I go, that story about tightly closing the lid on the mayonnaise jar did remind me of the guy who rang up his doctor
"You know those pills that you gave me to give me strength?"
"Yes" said the doctor. "How are they going?"
"I don’t know" replied the man. "I can’t get the top off the bottle".

Friday 23rd February 2024 – MY DAY OF …

… baking was quite a success.

And it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that

Yes, everything that I did today seemed to work and I’ve ended up with some pretty nice stuff. I’m quite pleased.

Ad for a change I actually had a good night too. In bed nice and early and I didn’t have much that kept me awake . And once I’d gone to sleep, I stayed asleep until the alarm went off.

Billy Cotton made me leave the bed and the first thing that I did was to take my blood pressure. 15.1/8.6. That’s low compared to how it has been. You can tell that I didn’t have a visit from Castor, Zero or TOTGA last night.

Before I went to bed it was 17.5/10.4 so the sleep did me some good by the looks of things.

After the morning medication the first thing that I did was to make the dough for the bread. And kneading it gently, as if I was massaging Zero’s clavicles, I was careful not to overwork it by resorting to violence.

When I was quite satisfied that it was ready, I rolled it out into a long sausage, cut it into three equal sections and then flattened it all down.

A handy small baking tray with a piece of baking paper was called into service upon which they could repose and hopefully rise.

Next step was to make the vegan cream filling. Whizz ip some milk until it’s quite frothy, add sugar, a little butter, vanilla extract, cornflour, and whizz it all up while slowly heating it in a saucepan.

That was complicated. I had the hand-whisk whisking it all over the kitchen until I managed to rig up a saucepan lid as a shield.

Meanwhile, melt some chocolate in the microwave and when it’s melted, whisk it well into the mixture

When It’s all whisked and nice and thick, leave it to cool. And there’s my chocolate cream filling.

Then the chocolate cake. A mixture of flour, sugar, oil, water and cocoa powder with a few extras. All mixed up into a kind-of batter-like goo, poured into a cake tray and then baked for 40 minutes.

By now the vegan cream was cold so it went in the fridge and I put the bread in the oven to bake.

They had risen quite nicely and were baked to perfection too so I had some lovely cheese on toast.

Rosemary rang me in the middle of everything so I phoned her back. Just a short chat today – a mere 58 minutes during which we put the World to rights but I also ended up going for a virtual drive around Montlucon.

Once everything was finished and the chaos was over I had a listen to find out where I’d been during the night. I’d started work but there was still a girl at school who I happened to like. For the last few mornings I’d been taking her into school. One particular morning we were running really late. It meant that I was going to be late for work if I dropped her off at school but nevertheless I was going to drop her off. We were preparing everything and panicking a little – I wasn’t dressed even. One of my friends came along and asked me what was happening. The girl briefly explained. He immediately said “I can run you into school to save Eric some bother”. I said that it’s no bother because I was quite interested in spending as much time as possible with her but he absolutely insisted and insisted until in the end she went off with him. I was furious. I sent him a text message “after all you promised me last time …” (because we’d had a similar situation a while ago where he’d done exactly the same thing and spiked my guns with a certain young lady. So I was set to go to work but there was a whole crowd of schoolkids around. I was in my Ford Cortina estate. I had to make the kids move so I could leave the car park but for some unknown reason they didn’t want to go. At that moment the car turned into a kind of cross between a bus and a taxi. All the kids were pleased because that was what they were waiting for. They said that they’d been waiting for a bus but the school had produced something else so there were some issues. I had to watch them safely aboard. I wasn’t sure which school they attended or where they went so in order to prevent a stampede I said “Primary School children first”. A few came on. Then I had to think of another way of dividing up these schoolkids so that I wouldn’t have all of them on board at once. But I was absolutely furious with my friend for spiking my guns with that other girl. It’s exactly what has happened before with him and it’s exactly what has happened in loads of dreams before this. Any time I’m anywhere close to getting the girl someone comes along to spoil it

Looking back at what I dictated, I was surprised that I’d been able to express myself like that during a dream. They must have been things that I felt quite deeply.

As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … it’s usually my family who appear during the night and forestall all of my plans, sticking the baton dans la rue of whatever project I’m undertaking. They are always appearing at the crucial moment just as I’m about to Get The Girl and blow my chances out of the water.

But in the past, there have been a couple of friends who had the habit of doing that. One of them pretended to be looking after my best interests, as if I was senile or something, but in actual fact he had another agenda completely.

The second one, the one in the dream, he couldn’t stand to see anyone Get The Girl, whether he had already got a girl or not. He was of the opinion that only he should ever Get The Girl, no matter how many other girls he already had and that’s not an exaggeration either.

Anyway, this is all water under the bridge. There’s no point really in raking up stuff like this. Ambrose Bierce said "A year is a period of 365 disappointments" and we should all simply be resigned to it

It’s as I said though, there are some things that drag you down. Instead of trying to rise up, people simply want you to be down at their level. And in the end you either sink in with them or cast them all aside.

In Matthew 10:14 the Bible tells you "if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet"

So abandoning another good rant for the moment, the cleaner was here again so I finished off the radio notes and hacked a few sound-tracks about to extract and convert a few tracks that I need for the next programme.

While I was at it, I hacked around a few sound-tracks of Louis de Funès films to collect a few more sound-bytes. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that although he’s been dead for several years, he and I have some interesting chats on my radio programmes.

Of course, having served on the Students’ Executive Committee and on other committees dealing with the various University bodies, I’m quite used to communicating with the deceased.

But Louis de Funès is my favourite French actor. Who will ever forget the MUSKATNOOS, HERR MULLER? or the NUDISTS sketches?

His sound-bytes really fit in well with my programmes and I keep on looking out for more in order to enlarge our conversations.

When the cleaner had gone I went into the kitchen, took the cake and cut it into 3 equal sizes. The took the cream from the fridge, whisked it again and used it as a filler in order to layer the slices. It was then wrapped in baking paper, clingfilm and put in the fridge.

And from what I tasted from the crumbs that were scattered around, it will be a world-beating cake. Nice and rich and chocolaty. I hope that it will last a while too. I’m fed up of things going off so quickly

Tea was chips from the air fryer with some of those vegan nuggets. There was a salad too which was delicious, and it would have been even more so had I remembered the mushrooms. I really don’t know what’s happening to me right now.

The vegan mayonnaise that I made though is holding up really well and was delicious.

So no alarm in the morning, a nice lie-in with a cooked breakfast and chocolate cake for my afternoon snack. It doesn’t get much better than this. A nice lazy day is planned with a football match in the late afternoon and a cooked tea with vegan wellington and roast potatoes.

That should give me something to celebrate, right enough. And i deserve it. I never thought that I’d ever arrive here. But as Mae West said, "If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."

However, it’s too late to do anything about that now. I’ve managed to live to a ripe old age, and there’s no doubt that as I’ve grown older, I’ve certainly grown riper.

Anyone nearby will tell you that.

Thursday 15th February 2024 – I REALLY DON’T …

… know what’s happening to me right now.

Once again, I was absolutely flat-out this afternoon, sleeping quietly on my chair for a good 90 minutes. And nothing whatever disturbed me, not even a message on the ‘phone from Rosemary, and regular readers of this rubbish will recall the racket that this ‘phone makes whenever I receive a message or ‘phone call.

It was just like yesterday in fact, where I was well away with the fairies on the way home from Paris.

One thing that I can’t blame is tiredness. Just for a change I was in bed early and actually had a comfortable night’s sleep without waking too much.

Mind you, I could have done with another couple of hours when the alarm went off. It took me several minutes to work out what was going on (and that’s not unusual, is it?). What I mean by that is that I had the impression that there were several beds in here with several people, and a whole series of alarms was going off to awaken different people. I had a hard time believing that my alarm call was real.

But anyway I slid eventually to my feet and went for the blood pressure machine. 17.2/10.6 this morning. But as for last night’s, where did I record the figures? They aren’t written on my little booklet thing where I record them so I don’t have a clue.

They’ll turn up one day so I left them to it and went for my medication. Tons of it as usual and it’s really becoming quite ridiculous, but never mind. 10 tablets or powders in the morning and 5 at night before I go to bed is where we’re at right now.

Back in here I had a listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. I was having a dream last night about the words dim ond da – that’s “not but good”, messing around with them, trying to fit them into different sentences that I’d written. Then we came across some of the radio notes that I’d written and just dictated. I decided that they were horrible and needed amending. I added in some bits but they were even worse, but then I couldn’t remember how to return to the original. That confused me for quite some time. When I did, I found that I’d still missed some out. Nevertheless the programme sounded better but there were so much more that I could do with this particular programme that I thought that I was going to start to rewrite it and dictate it again but that would have to be something that would have to be done later and not now.

And there have been more than just one or two occasions where this kind of thing has happened in real life when I’ve been writing a radio programme or editing a website, ending up forgetting all kinds of important things that I had included and somehow seemed to have managed to wipe out some important stuff that I really wanted to include.

This was another night where I was with my former friend. We were chatting to two other people whom we knew who we’d met some time previously. We’d arranged for this meeting so they came round . We showed them how to climb into my attic up the electric cable but the guy’s girlfriend was afraid to do it so my former friend’s wife stayed down with her and the other four of us climbed into the attic which was full of rubbish as usual. We spread ourselves out to make ourselves comfortable to talk. This started in the attic but ended up standing in Nantwich Road by the old police station. We were as usual discussing cars. My ex-friend was talking to him about several cars including one with a particular registration that would suit his wife but not while they were living in Porthcawl because it was a dangerous place to be apparently, according to him. I was talking to the other guy, telling him that I was having to dispose of some of my cars because I’d sold my house and had nowhere to keep them. I was renting a warehouse at the moment but that was precarious. However there was also a car that I wanted to buy, a yellow Ford Zephyr 6. While this was all going on there was a road rally taking place and all these old historic cars were going past. While I was talking to him about that particular one, I could hear something going past running on 5 cylinders instead of 6. It was this Zephyr so I pointed it out to him. I told him the story about how the driver had taken it out for a run 2 weeks ago but the insurance wasn’t correct at the time and he’d had a collision with a police car. As the policeman was looking round his car and preparing to nab him for no insurance, there was another bigger accident immediately right by them. The policeman went over to that and waved this guy away which was probably about the luckiest break that he’d ever had in his life

These days I seem to have a thing about Ford Zephyr 6s. There was one in my dreams a couple of nights ago and I’m sure that there have been others. They are MkIII Zephyrs, the kind that my father had in the late 60s and early 70s. Lovely, comfortable roomy cars with plenty of woomph.

A couple of nights ago I mentioned the one that I had – a MkIV model – that caught fire after a Jethro Tull concert in Manchester.

However, the story about “no insurance” rang a bell with me. When I was living in Winsford I bought a Rover 2000 at the auctions at Prees Heath and took a chance on driving it home. It goes without saying that I was pulled over by the police and asked for the documents for the car, like the MoT and the … errr … insurance.

Not having any of course, I pleaded ignorance and so was given the dreaded white slip “to produce your documents at your nearest Police Station within 5 days – or else …” – “or else” being anything from a slap on the wrist to three months at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, and in my case, it would be nearer the latter than the former. The Cheshire Constabulary and I didn’t get on very well.

Two days later I had a phone call – “this is PC Grindlay here. I stopped you the other day in that Rover. I forgot to write the date on the copy of the white slip. You will write it on for me, won’t you?”.
“Of course I will” I said, lying through my teeth. I could just picture the scene in the Nantwich Magistrates’ Court. “Five days from WHAT date, Your Honour?”.

But to be on the safe side I promptly put the Rover through the auctions at Queensferry so that someone else, presumably in North Wales, would have more headaches than I would.

Queensferry Auctions was quite fun though in the old days. Having little money we once bought a Citroen Dyane from a scrapyard for £25, drove it to Queensferry and put it through the auctions where it fetched £35. A few of those used to keep us going when we were hard-up

Another thing that we used to do when we were broke was to wander round the scrapyards and take the back seats out of cars. You’d be surprised at the amount of money that had slipped unnoticed out of people’s pockets.

It wasn’t just money either – all kinds of things were “salvaged” including, on one occasion, a really complicated food tester with temperature probe.

Anyway, I digress … "again" – ed

Once I’d returned to the Land of the Living I started on the notes for the radio programme. There were several that I hadn’t written so I worked my way through them and now they are all ready for dictation on Saturday night. Hopefully all of the Carnivalers will have gone home by then and we’ll go back to being quiet again.

THis afternoon I was doing paperwork. It was the middle of October when I last filed away my papers so there were piles here in all kinds of heaps all over the place.

Anyway, they are now all sorted away, bills paid, actions taken and quite a few filed under CS. The place is looking much more like home now in my bedroom/office.

My cleaner came round too. Yesterday I’d given her the prescription that I’d had from Paris and she’d been this morning to the chemist’s. Now you can’t move around here for medication.

Then there was another task that needed doing now that it was after 09:00 in North America.

My Canadian bank card expired in March last year and of course I hadn’t been to North America this autumn and so didn’t have the new one.

After six months I had the dreaded “your account is now placed in suspense” notice so that was that. And then I had a letter from Service New Brunswick about paying my property taxes on my place there, which, with a suspended bank account, will be extremely difficult.

Consequently I had sent my niece along to ransack my mailbox and she found it under a pile of rubbish, and she posted it to me – the card, not the rubbish.

Now I needed to unfreeze the account and that was not the work of five minutes either. I shudder to think how much the ‘phone call will cost me at the end of the month but it needed to be done. So now my Canadian bank account is working, my bank card works, and the letter from Service New Brunswick wasn’t even the demand for payment in any case.

But buying that place in Canada was an ace of a move. No-one asks for Visas, your right of residence in Canada, that sort of thing in Canada. You can buy cars, take out insurance, open bank accounts, have mobile phones, absolutely everything as long as you can produce a property tax certificate.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’ve blagged my way through all kinds of situations that would have forestalled many other people, thanks to my little piece of Canada. I might have the noisiest, most mentally-unstable neighbours in the World on my southern border, but so what?

After that I went for my hot chocolate and then came back in here ready to work but as I mentioned earlier, I went off with the fairies instead. And I can tell you where I ended up too. I’d been running some kind of football training sessions for boys and girls. I’d heard a complaint that two boys had been overheard saying that they couldn’t wait to see a certain girl use the toilet again so I went to check and was confident that no-one using the toilet could be seen from outside. The rumours continued so I arranged for a piece of white canvas to be fitted to block the window arranged in such a way that it would shield the toilet but still allow light in. I was sure that there could be no possibility of anyone being seen from outside but the rumour gained ground again, I checked the toilet and was confident, so I didn’t really know what I could do now apart from bricking up the window. And I wasn’t convinced that that would stop the rumours either.

Tea tonight was that vegan sausage-meat patty with baked potato and a tin of mixed peppers that I’d found on the shelf. I felt rather like Mr Carmichael and SUPPER WAITS ON THE TABLE INSIDE A TIN.

The patty wasn’t a success. Not that it didn’t taste nice, but that in the fridge it hadn’t really kept its shape and consistency. But never mind – it was a rather ad-hoc thing using up some left-over stuffing. I’ll just have to work on it and improve my technique.

So right now I’m going to work on my sleep and improve my technique there. Having felt like Tommy Cooper this afternoon and "I knew a man who dreamed that he was awake, and when he awoke, he was!", I want to dream of nicer things.

However, rather like Barbara Follet, "my dreams are going through their death flurries. They are dying before the steel javelins and arrows of a world of Time and Money" and that will be the end of the World if that does happen. It’s only my dreams that keep me going these days

And as Dietrich Bonhoffer said "the only fight that is lost is that which we give up" so I’ll go and fight the good fight in bed right now.

See you all tomorrow.

Sunday 4th February 2024 – NOW THAT’S WHAT …

… I call a good Sunday morning.

The kind of Sunday morning when I slowly raise my head from underneath the quilt, blink in the daylight, glance at my fitbit and find that it’s actually 11:30.

Yes, we really need a few more like those.

Mind you, I’ve no idea what time I went to bed, but it was extremely late, that’s for sure.

There were the notes for three radio programmes for a start – the one that of which I made such an unholy mess last week, the one that I prepared this week just gone that would replace the Isle of Wight one, and the notes for the Hawkfest

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that the last time that I tried to dictate so many programmes one after the other I ended up tying my tongue in knots a long time before the final programme, and this was what happened here. When I get round to dealing with it, I’ll probably find that it’s a complete mess.

But that’s for another time. Eventually I staggered off to bed.

The night was quite peaceful and I can’t remember too much about it except that I dropped the dictaphone and had to search for it. It’s amazing, the things that I can do in my sleep. I just wish that I could work so well when I’m awake.

But awake I was at 11:30 and having taken my blood pressure (18.1/10.9 this morning, 19.8/12.4 last night) I wandered off in search of medication. But I can tell you something for nothing, and that is that this blood pressure medication that I’m taking isn’t working.

Back in here I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. This apparently might be the last message that you receive from me because I might be able to try to become a Limited Company but that isn’t quite so sure but according to the Statutes laid out by King Edward I, II, III and IV and everyone else I might not qualify according to them and according to some others as well. But if so I shall have to keep much better accounts of my income and outgoings than I do now and that’s not going to be easy because me keeping strict and proper accounts of anything is almost impossible as regular readers of this rubbish will recall but you can but try. Instead of me being in the dock it will be the company of course but the company secretary and that is going to cause problems too. I could easily imagine that for this limited company of mine I would never ever find anyone to share the responsibility but we’ll have to see.

And I’ve absolutely no idea what that was all about, or even where it had come from. We had been talking about people using this big tax fiddle of setting themselves up as “service companies” but I’m not likely to fall into the category of people who would benefit from such an arrangement.

But any of that notwithstanding, it wasn’t my last message because there was a couple more.

Someone came along to give us a talk about vehicles. It was hosted by a famous TV personality he said that he’d now left the TV world and was working for Ford’s and would be on TV next week telling everyone why Ford’s was the best company for which to work. But another guy came along and talked about vehicles and their importance in society. He asked several questions, one of which was “how do we deal with them at the end of their life?”. People came up with the idea of recycling or dismantling or quite simply throwing away. He wanted to know a few examples of people’s activities. I was dying to talk to him about dismantling but for some reason he seemed to ask everyone else in the room except me. I had the idea of thinking about my time at Gainsborough Road when I was always doing stuff like that but he just never seemed to come round to talk to me.

And I wish that I had £1:00 for every Ford Cortina MkIII or MkIV I’ve dismantled in my back garden in Gainsborough Road during the 1980s. People would always be bringing MoT failures to me and I’d strip them for useful bits for the taxis and the rest would go under my gas axe.

Sometimes one would be in better condition than one of my taxis so with maybe a little welding they’d be back on the road. On one occasion Nerina and I drove all the way around Hungary in what had been an MoT failure at one time

The story of my welding equipment was interesting. I wanted to weld up a car so I borrowed a set of bottles, pipes and torches from someone who used to work with my father.

When I rang him back a while later, his wife told me "I’m sorry but he has died"
"Well I have some things of his here."
"Don’t worry about them" she said. "He won’t need them now where he is" so I acquired a complete set of gas-welding equipment.

Regrettably I don’t have it now. Just before I left for Belgium I lent it all to a friend. And due to circumstances that I outlined a few weeks ago I won’t ever see it again, along with a pile of other stuff.

But this story of going round the room asking everyone questions except me – that rings a bell.

After I’d retired for the first time I went to work for a bizarre American company where I met Alison.

They were shedding clients like nobody’s business and after a while they began to be concerned (probably about 10 years too late).

In the meantime I’d been making a list of how things could be improved and I ended up with a bulging notebook with all kinds of examples. And one day we had a big meeting to discuss the situation

The manager went all around the room asking for suggestions and when she came round to me, took one look at my notebook on the table and said "well, it’s nearly 17:00. We’ll call it a day at this point".

So I went back to my desk, took out all of my personal stuff from the drawers and walked out. They didn’t pay me enough to put up with this nonsense.

But this was not my first (and not my last) experience of Corporate America

There was a major problem with a printer set-up and I had to negotiate with the New York office about it. I was talking to the guy there on a Friday evening. It was 18:00 our time, 12:00 their time.

The problem couldn’t be resolved then and there so he said he’d think about it during his afternoon and call me back on Monday.

Monday came and no ‘phone call so I rang him up just before I went home at 18:00.

Someone in his office answered. "Oh, (so-and-so)? He was made redundant on Friday."

No notice, no warning, nothing. Out of the door more-or-less on the spot I would imagine.

Anyone who is opposed to the idea of Trades Unions ought to go and spend a few weeks working in Corporate America. The Americans in our office were totally paralysed with fear about their jobs.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed I was at work and feeling hungry so I went to the staff café but they had no sandwiches. I asked why and she said that the sandwich tray was on the floor above until 13:00 and it won’t come down until then. I contented myself with a cup of coffee for a while. Later on the woman beckoned me over. The sandwich tray had arrived but I couldn’t make out which sandwich to have. Then I noticed that for €3:50 (the price of 2 sandwiches was €4:00) I could have a kind of cheese platter with various types of cheese on it, some bread and even some additions like olives and onions to put on it and sauce in which to dip it. I thought that that sounded so much nicer than having a couple of sandwiches

And wouldn’t I love to have a cheese platter right now? Unfortunately it’s out of the question. No pancreas (or, at least, a non-working pancreas) means no animal fats of any description. Hence a vegan diet and the diabetes type 2.

That’s another issue with which I had to contend 30-odd years ago. What with all of my demons and everything else that I was fighting at the time, a major illness was the last thing that I wanted to face, but there I was.

But anyway, after lunch I had a very slow, desultory canter through one of the sound files that I recorded last night and eventually ended up completing to programme that I had assembled last weekend and which was a total mess.

But re-dictating and re-editing the notes, reassembling the programme in exactly the same was as far as I could remember I was short by … errr … 1.221 seconds short compared to what I’d assembled last week, and if that’s not impressive I don’t know what is.

That kind of time can soon be taken up and so that’s now ready, with two more to edit during the coming week.

Tea tonight was a vegan pizza and it was excellent of course. However it would have been so much better had I remembered to put on the cherry tomatoes. I really don’t know what’s the matter with me these days.

They say that the side effects of a couple of these pills that I’m taking is “confusion” but I don’t need any pills for that. I’ve been confused for most of my life. In fact when Led Zeppelin wrote DAZED AND CONFUSED they were obviously thinking about me. I’ve been dazed and confused for so long it’s not true.

In fact I feel rather like my hero the Irish politician Boyle Roche when he argued with his tailor and said "I told you to make one longer than another, and instead you have made one shorter than the other – the opposite"

Perhaps I ought to go to bed while I’m still awake.

Monday 15th January 2024 – YOU’VE NO IDEA …

… or maybe you have, I dunno, about how much my weekend’s excitement took out of me. Much of my day has been absolutely horrible.

Considering that there was no alarm this morning, leaving the bed at about 07:30 this morning was quite an achievement but I managed it all the same.

And I wished that I hadn’t because I didn’t last long.

Liz and I had a little chat for a while and I could feel myself slipping away once or twice but then I was gone. And gone for good too. It was like those situations that I was having when I first moved to Leuven in 2016 when I’d have these spells where I was totally unable to function.

There were several phone calls that I largely ignored and at one stage my cleaner came down to see me. She took one look at me and said "tu as la tête vraiment dans les vases" – “you’re just not here, are you?”

And I wasn’t either.

At about 14:00 I answered one phone call. It was this guy with the equipment for my apartment. “Can I come by in half an hour with the things?”

Seeing he was here, he was here, so I thought that I’d better try to do something. Margaret Thatcher once said something like "anyone can do a good job when they feel like it, but it’s doing a good job when you don’t feel like it, that’s the key to success" and really and honestly, I didn’t feel like it.

Nevertheless, by the time that he did come round (at 15:45 in fact) the place was looking better and I’d even contacted the Centre de Re-education for my timetable this week and booked the taxis.

Once he and his floozy had gone, having damaged my bath (and I’ve no idea what the landlord will say about that), I downloaded the dictaphone notes. I’d come back home from Europe. I was in a yellow LDV. I was back there and I had my old lagoon blue MkI Cortina and one or two other vehicles. We were having a huge row about something else as we usually did. My brother took out an indelible pencil and scored a huge brown cross on the back of my LDV. I asked him to remove it but he refused so I told him that I’d phone the police if he didn’t. He replied “go ahead” so I did. A policeman turned up, inspected everything, and told my brother that he’d be charged with committing criminal damage, which didn’t go down very well with the rest of the family because to date he didn’t have a criminal record. The policeman noticed my blue Cortina and that it hadn’t been taxed for over a year. He looked at his records and found that there was an entry there that it had been seized by the police. When he showed me the log book, that was what was written in there I wondered how that was possible because I actually had the vehicle in my possession so it certainly can’t have been physically seized by them. Then I began to think that I’d better do something about finding a place to hide it. If it’s been noted as seized by the police and now they know where it is, they might come along physically and seize it. That would cause me a great deal of problems. I thought that I’d better start work and do something about this particularly as now having antagonised the whole family they are all likely to seek their revenge in some way and this would be an easy way of doing it.

And if you think that that’s unlikely, you should have seen the letter that my brother wrote to the Cheshire Constabulary in 1993. I bet he hasn’t set foot in a church since. I’ve not heard any stories of any thunderbolts flashing round South Cheshire subsequently.

Really, some people are totally shameless when they think that they won’t be found out. But I’m disappointed that my subconscious is letting me down after the other night. I really had high hopes of that.

Anyway, have I told you about the “friend” that I had, someone who I thought that was the best friend that anyone could ever had and with whom I’d shared the most personal and intimate secrets of my life at one time?

Only to find that he was there on a “Yahoo” Land Rover Group repeating all of my stories and he and his mates were having a good laugh at my expense?

He turned out to be “not a companion upon whom a discerning man would rely for the purposes of hunting the tiger” as FE Smith (Lord Birkenhead) said of one of his clients

One thing that you can say is that “I sure know how to pick ’em”.

Later on I was well into a dream about a rock singer who wrote a song about being naked and searching through a rubbish bin but I cant remember what it’s called now … "neither can I" – ed … but I remember inviting one of my neighbours to come along and take part in some kind of performance while we were going shopping at 10:00 on Saturday morning but I wasn’t even sure about how we were actually going to manage to go shopping on Saturday at 10:00 but that was another question entirely.

Then I sat down to deal with the correspondence. And there was tons of it that has emanated from my last 2 stays in hospital

And have you any idea how difficult it is to concentrate on anything when you have people keeping on contacting you for photos of your knees? And I’m sure you think that I’m joking too.

Actually there’s a community nurse attached to the hospital whose job it is to contact me every week to see how I’m doing with all of this new medication.

She wanted to see photos of my knees after my fall so that she can forward them to the doctor but in the meantime, with my dramatic rise in blood pressure (it was 19.5/11.9 and Percy Penguin was nowhere about) she’s re-prescribed one of the medicaments that they stopped last week.

This kind of thing is never-ending.

Eventually I managed to sort out the most urgent stuff and that will be going about its business once I contact my trusty cleaner, whose presence really is making things so much easier around here.

Tea was a stuffed pepper, quite nice with plenty of stuffing left over for the next few days, and then I’ve been chatting to the family in Canada on the internet. My youngest great-niece is on a student exchange in Edinburgh right now so we’re trying to figure out a way of her coming over to see me, which will be lovely.

She was on a school exchange in Montréal a few years ago and strangely, I’ve seen more of her partner, Dorothée, than I’ve seen of her over the last few years.

But that’s enough for tonight. I’m dead to the world, hurt in places that I didn’t even know that I had places and regrettably, I’ve slipped into the deep pit again, and for no apparent reason too. I really don’t know what’s going on with me right now.

A short while ago I was listening to one of the Paul Rhys “The Saint” programmes, “The Saint Closes The Case”, where one of his allies says "It doesn’t matter. I’ve heard the sound of the trumpet"

But as Frodo, one of Tolkien’s characters in LORD OF THE RINGS put it, "End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it"

Unfortunately, I can’t see anything at the moment. For some reason, I can’t get the other night out of my head.

Saturday 23rd December 2023 – A GREAT BIG …

… “hello” to a certain young lady from my past who has featured in these pages, mainly during my nocturnal voyages, on about a dozen occasions over the previous ever so many years.

It’s pretty certain that she won’t want her name blasted all over these pages – after all, who would really want to be associated with me to that extent? – but she’s found her way here, recognised herself from a few of the remarks that I’ve made in passing, and sent me her best wishes.

So best wishes back to you too!

Also a big “hello” to Grahame who did indeed listen to the wrong track the other morning and wrote and told me about it. I hope that you enjoy the correct version while you’re stuffing your Christmas bird.

And not to forget a big “hello” to Robert from the Orkney Islands who sent me a few photos from 45 or so years ago. And when I’ve recovered from the shock, I’ll post them on here and give you all a laugh.

The reason why I’m mentioning the correspondence here is because all three people wrote to me using a Gmail account, to which I can’t reply. Google has blocked access to its e-mail system from all small independent webservers who won’t put Google’s own code into their sites.

So if anyone receives an e-mail in the future from STRAWBERRY MOOSE, you’ll know that he’s writing on my behalf. As far as I’m aware, his account can still access Gmail.

Anyone else who has written to me recently from a different account will have received a reply.

However, I’m not sure how I managed to do that because even though I was up and about at 09:45 this morning, I didn’t go to bed last night … "this morning" – ed … until after 04:00. I wasn’t at all tired and just couldn’t go off to sleep.

But when I finally awoke, first task was to take my blood pressure.

The dratted box was flaming well sealed shut and took some rather aggressive action to open it. And then I had to wrestle the blasted batteries out of the sodding plastic wrapping and that was a real work of art to do that.

Then I couldn’t open the perishing battery flap in the wretched machine for ages.

And how the hell do you wrap the flaming strap around your perishing arm with only one bleeding hand?

At that point I noticed the instructions – "blood pressure should be taken in a calm, relaxed and stress-free situation" and I thought “maybe I ought to start this tomorrow rather than today”.

Instead, I went to deal with the broccoli.

Firstly, I trimmed off the florets and put them in cold water which I slowly brought to the boil.

While it was heating up, I diced the stalk into tiny pieces, diced a small potato ditto, chopped some garlic and a small onion.

When the broccoli reached boiling point I fished out the florets and put them to drain. Then I put the water on one side for reuse.

Into the saucepan went a knob of butter and when it reached cooking temperature, in went the onion with some coriander, chives and marjoram and fried until it started to go brown.

Then I added the diced broccoli stalk, the diced potato and the garlic and spent five minutes or so stirring it all round before adding enough of the broccoli water to cover the veg – not forgetting the stock cube this week as I had the last time.

When I judged that it was ready, I added a pot of soya yoghurt and whizzed it up ready to eat.

While it was cooking I was topping, tailing, scrubbing and slicing 2 kg of carrots into the giant saucepan.

When the soup was ready the carrots went on to blanch while I ate my soup with the nice crusty bread that I’d bought.

Once I’d had my food I came back in here to transcribe the dictaphone entries from the night. Once again I was dictating into my hand and when I awoke most of this dream evaporated. What I do remember is that I was walking down a street and I came across a group of children whom I knew from somewhere else. They were all having a play around with a couple of other kids. It seemed to me as if there was some tension in the air and I couldn’t understand why. One of them, probably the one whom I knew best had on a swimming costume but had a tailored winter coat over the top of it. That looked quite strange. There was some discussion about milk and so on. Because they were busy having their issues they didn’t actually hear it. Later on when the woman was dictating the report, she said “and there was milkshake too, strawberry, but no-one seemed to want any”.

I think that I dictated that dream about me and all of those kids … "yes you did" – ed … At the place where we were, there were a couple of adults too. One of the adults there was a particularly obnoxious character who seemed to detest everyone and didn’t have a good word to say about anything. He had an accident one day and slipped. He had to be somewhere so one of the girls went to fetch some kind of toy-type of thing like a small horse on four wheels with a handle on which a parent would put a child and pull it round the room for fun. She went to fetch this and somehow the old guy managed to mount it, broken arm and all. She set off quite happily pulling him to his meeting like that. It was one of the sweetest things I’d ever seen.

Later on I was on my way to a folk music concert in Abingdon and had the computer open on my lap for how to arrive there. I was flagged down by a policeman who saw me with the computer open. He wondered if I was watching a film. I satisfied him that it was a map. When he turned it round he could see that in the camera was actually me being shown on the screen. He accepted that that was OK and waved me on again. I drove as far as Basingstoke. As I came into the town there were these 3 great big buildings at the side of the road, one after the other, all completely derelict and abandoned. I thought “what a sight to greet visitors this is”. I parked up and went for a walk around. I ended up in the shopping precinct, a miserable place. But then I couldn’t find the exit. I was wandering around that shopping centre for ages. Then I bumped into Zero’s parents (but unfortunately not Zero). We went for a coffee. They were discussing things that they needed to do. I told them that I’d be quite happy to help so they asked me if I’d make a phone call to Penzance on their behalf. I didn’t know where the phone boxes were. She said “there’s one just outside the centre”. I replied “I’ve been wandering around here for ages trying to leave. Where’s the exit?”. She pointed out some kind of tiny spiral staircase thing. Before I left, we began to talk about other plans. A while ago I’d referred them to a guy who built computers. I asked if they’d had much luck with him. They suddenly realised that he’d never contacted them al all. They were all for contacting him on the spot. In the end we worked out some kind of plan about I’d ring them every morning before they left for work at 07:30 to receive my orders for the day. Then I was wondering whether it might be better if they were to ring me before they left for work. That was where I was busy debating with myself

My cleaner turned up round about now and awoke me from a little siesta that I was having. She had brought with her some more medication that had had to be ordered. Now I really am overflowing with medication and I’ve no idea where to begin. I can see that I’ll have to rejig my entire schedule and it’s going to become really complicated.

vegan wellington Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo 23rd December 2023And this, dear reader, is my vegan wellington.

It doesn’t look particularly attractive but then again, it’s not the culinary disaster that I was half-expecting. It actually tastes quite nice too, if the bits that bubbled out of the side are anything to go by.

That was this afternoon’s task – to make the vegan wellington. It took quite a long time too all told and I was hard at it for several hours all told.

Despite only making half a quantity, there’s still a considerable amount here and there will be plenty left over. It’ll probably freeze for another time, if only I were to have some room in the freezer. No matter how much I use out of there, the quantity never seems to go down.

All that remains now, as far as food for Christmas goes, are the hash browns.

And it’s quite appropriate to talk about them seeing as I mentioned culinary disasters just now. No matter how I try to make them, they never go right. My family in Canada can belt these out by the thousand, perfect every time, but somehow the technique always escapes me

Tomorrow I’ll have another go and see where that takes me. I have plenty of potatoes here.

And I had a smile to myself today. Rosemary has taken the first photograph of her cat.

When I was down there in the summer three years ago there were several feral cats roaming around.

When I was down there in the summer last year it was “don’t let that white cat into the house! It keeps on trying to come in”.

A few weeks ago I was talking on the phone to Rosemary and I asked her to read something that she’d received. “Just hang on a minute. I’ll have to stand up to fetch it. Let me take Myrtille off my lap”.

And today we had the first photo.

No-one I ever knew ever won a fight with a cat.

Tomorrow, for one of the very rare occasions on a Sunday, there will be an alarm call – and at 08:20 too.

The injections start up again on Wednesday and the nurse wants to see the prescriptions beforehand so he knows what tubes to bring for the blood samples – blood tubes are colour-coded depending on what they are testing.

He’s in the building administering to my ill neighbour so he says that he’ll pass by – between 08:30 and 08:45

Then there’s just the hash browns to make and I’ll be as ready as I ever will be for Christmas. I’m really not feeling festive one little bit which is a shame but that’s no surprise. It’s been another year when I’ve been through the mill

But I’ll go through the motions all the same. I don’t know what else to do.

"Me, my thoughts are flower strewn
With ocean storm, bayberry moon
I have got to leave to find my way
Watch the road and memorise
This life that passed before my eyes
Nothing is going my way"

I HAVE GOT TO FIND THE RIVER

Saturday 16th December 2023 – WHEN THE ALARM …

… went off this morning at 07:00 I was already sitting half-dressed on the edge of the bed.

Being a light sleeper, the slightest thing awakens me but I usually go back to sleep quite quickly. However there’s definitely something going on that’s awakening me in the morning before the alarm went off.

But anyway I wandered off into the kitchen for my medication and then came back in here to have a look to see where I’d been during the night.

However, I didn’t go far before Liz contacted me. She has a good recipe for a vegan wellington that she serves up to her daughter and her family on Christmas Day and so she sent it over for me to look at, and we had quite a chat about it.

The big issue about this is that it requires a lot of stuff that I don’t have in stock and LeClerc won’t deliver. If I’m back from hospital in time to go on the bus to the Carrefour at St Nicolas before Christmas I can conceivably find the things that I need.

However, if I don’t come back in time, I shall have to think of a Plan B. But I’ve really no idea when I’ll be back. The letter that I received just said un hospitalisation – “a stay in hospital” and apportez vos affaires – “bring your things”. No idea of any dates or anything.

Once Liz wandered off to do family things, I carried on with the dictaphone notes. There was something going on about a railway line, something to do with a murder mystery. Someone whom I suppose was Hercule Poirot was investigating it. He eventually came to the railway line and saw that a train was about to leave from the railway station so he ran after it. The other person with him tried to prevent him. But it all came out when he eventually managed to arrive there and found things like pie moulds etc hidden behind the door. It was something to do with the guy with him who was causing all of these difficulties and not however it was who was the chief suspect

I actually had a girlfriend with me from school. I don’t know who she was but I wish that I did. We’d been out for a walk around a seaside town and had come to a kind of industrial plant like a foundry or similar. Everywhere was all very tight. They had a Morris Minor pickup that they’d cut down so that it could pass under these beams and round tight corners and down a type of hairpin bend ramp carrying a load of stuff that was needed at the bottom. We stood watching it for a while. In the end we realised that we needed to be back in the street which was quite some way up some steps. There was a kind-of escalator for pedestrians that people could use to go to the top. It was a heavy-duty thing, more of an industrial type than the type that you’d find in a shop. I asked for permission of we could use it and a guy there said that we could so we jumped on board. It didn’t ‘arf go quickly. I had the feeling that when it reached the top I’d have a lot of problems trying to dismount. I was right. It practically threw me off at the top, it was that quick. I had a real struggle to regain my balance after that. The girl with me pointed out someone and said that it reminded her of another girl from school whom I knew but it wasn’t her. Anyway we set out to walk home. When we were close to my house I asked her if she’d like to come in for a coffee. She certainly agreed. Just as I was about to open the front door and let her in I awoke! Can you imagine!

Yes, I actually dictated “can you imagine” in my sleep. But that’s no surprise. The other night I had Zero on my plate and just as I was about to stick my fork into it, I awoke and she disappeared. And here I am tonight in exactly the same position. Just about to lure a willing young lady into my lair and the same thing happened again.

"Gone! And never called me ‘mother’" yet again.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed I had been out somewhere with Zero’s father. We’d had quite a few little adventures and were going back to Virlet. It involved walking over a railway bridge. When we’d been over there a few times in the past there had been some plots of land being used as scrapyards etc. We noticed that they had seemed to be starting to clear them away. When we went over tonight all the scrap had gone. There was just the rear axle of a lorry sitting there in the middle of it. We imagined that it’s some land that will now sit vacant for 25 years before anyone does anything. We carried on, came back to Virlet and walked up my drive which was a load of uneven rocks. He fell over and hurt his ankle, and walked on a tin can that he’d overlooked. With my huge collection of keys and huge collection of padlocks I actually found the correct one straight away, to my surprise, so I could unlock the padlock to the garage and we could go in. There was an arm of the hinge that went over the corner of the door that meant that despite the door being high, a high vehicle couldn’t go in. I was thinking about changing that. He’d gone off to look at next door’s garage where there had been a similar problem. He came back and said “how long do you think it would take to shift that arm?”. I replied “probably about an hour”. He answered “yes but after all that time it’s still there. They’ve done a few things but the arm is still there” and we went inside the house.

Yes, Zero’s father. But not Zero herself, which was rather depressing.

Later on I was actually inside Virlet. The place was a tip as usual. I thought that while I was there this time I would really make an effort to tidy it up. But one thing led to another led to another as usual. It was coming close to going back home and I’d hardly done anything. I began to look for 1 or 2 things but couldn’t find anything. In the middle of the doorway between the front room and the rear room a little girl was sitting there. Every time I walked past she seemed to be putting tea leaves into a jar or teapot. I asked her what she was doing. She replied that she was making tea. I asked “when is going to be ready? You’ve made it long enough”. She replied “I’m putting the tea leaves in now and then I can put in the water when it’s ready”. I wondered when that would be but she didn’t really seem to have any idea herself. She was just sitting as if she was playing “house” sitting in the middle of the doorway getting in the way of everyone else who was trying to go past.

And then I was in my Luton Transit. I’d been to High Street in Crewe to pick up some things and were on our way to an Indian restaurant. There was a bunch of kids wandering down the street. As I let out the clutch to pull off I stalled the van. Of course all the kids cheered so I started again, let out the clutch and as it swung round out into the street the wing mirror hit one of them on the back and almost knocked him over. I thought “I’d better go and disappear into the ether for a while”. I had someone with me. It wasn’t Zero and it wasn’t Roxanne but a very small person, someone who was only used to ever being in the house because we had a talk about how she felt being outside in the street for the first time. I had a feeling that it was one of my cats. The cat was talking about the winter and how the winters were uncomfortable but they made the most of them. We were just driving around Crewe town centre becoming more and more confused about the correct side of the road, one-way streets, going up them the wrong way. The cat was talking about being outside for the very first time and enjoying it very much.

This final one was another dream where I found myself dictating into my hand again. I was back in the previous one with this little girl or cat. On Chester Bridge in Market Street I decided to stop to take some money from the bank seeing as the road was quite wide there. My passenger seemed to be in something of a hurry and was rather impatient to get under way again. That was something else that confused me because just sitting there doing nothing, it wasn’t as if she was in any kind of hurry etc but it seemed that she really just wanted to leave that spot at that moment.

So back in the same dream at another time on a couple of occasions. I can manage to do that on a fairly regular basis, but never when I want to, such as when I have Zero around or when I’m just about to invite a girlfriend from school into my lair.

It’s almost as if my subconscious is deliberately putting the brakes on my nocturnal activities. Obviously it’s a much stronger influence than my conscious mind that never seems to slow me down sufficiently when I’m about to run amok in real life.

But then, it’s strange little facts like this that the project that we are doing is all about.

It’s actually been running now for 25 years or thereabouts and I often wonder what conclusions were reached. I can’t even remember now who it was who organised the project, never mind whether his thesis was ever published.

The Luton Transit is still down on the farm after all these years, slowly dissolving into the landscape. But it’s the aluminium body on the back that’s interesting. There is a pair of MkIII Cortina rear quarters in there for the 2000E saloon that’s in the warehouse in Montaigut for a start, and you can’t buy those at any price these days.

There are a couple of engines and gearboxes, petrol and diesel, for Volkswagen Passats, a 2.3 diesel and type 9 5-speed gearbox from a Ford Sierra that were going to go in the red Cortina estate that’s also in the warehouse in Montaigut, to mention just a few things.

If my memory serves me right, there’s also in the back of the Luton Transit a big diesel generator that we used to run on recycled plant oil.

There’s a funny story about that diesel generator. I had it, with a huge pile of other stuff, in the back of the LDV when I was stopped by a flying customs patrol.

They wanted to look in the back so I told them that I’d open it because I knew exactly what was going to happen.

One of the guys brushed me aside and wrenched open the rear doors.

Have you any idea of how loud a person can scream when a huge single-cylinder cast-iron Lister diesel generator drops onto his foot from a great height?

Most of the rest of the day has been spent, when I’ve not been away with the fairies, on the photos from Canada 2022.

Right now I’ve alighted from my train at Moncton and am now heading west on the “Coach Atlantic” towards the border with the USA.

And that train journey was the most depressing train journey that I have ever undertaken.

There’s only one passenger train in the whole of Canada east of Québec City (the miners’ train to Schefferville excluded), I was on it and Canadian National, and in particular its “Viarail” subsidiary would like to wipe this one out too.

There’s been no investment on the line for years, the 2 locomotives that pulled it were built in 1985 and if you want to see what the carriages are like, THIS WAS HOW THEY WERE IN 2010 and they are now even worse.

The promised investment that was mentioned in 2010 never ever took place. But I don’t suppose that anyone ever really believed that it would.

And being used to hurtling around the European continent at speeds of over 300 kilometres per hour on a modern 21st Century rail network, we covered the 1095 kilometres from Montréal to Moncton in, would you believe, 19.5 hours.

That’s an average speed of 56 kilometres per hour or 35 mph.

If anyone wonders why passengers are deserting the railways in North America in record numbers, then this journey told me everything that I needed to know.

In the good old days, I’d walk out of my digs in the Rue St Hubert in Montréal, go round the corner to the coach station in the Rue Berri 200 yards away and catch the “Orleans Express” coach that goes to Gaspé.

I’d alight at Rivière du Loup and 90 minutes later the “Coach Atlantic” from Moncton would come in. When the driver had had his break he’d turn round and go back, with me on board. Seven hours from door to door.

However, with inter-Provincial travel being prohibited with the pandemic, “Coach Atlantic” turned round at Edmundston, 120 kilometres away from Rivière du Loup on the New Brunswick side of the border with Québec.

And since inter-Provincial travel restarted, only “Coach Atlantic” knows the reason why it hasn’t reinstated the service northwards over the Appalachians to the St Lawrence and instead of 7 hours, I’m stuck with a journey of no less than 27 hours.

So abandoning another really good rant for the moment, I went and had my tea. Baked potato and salad with one of those breaded quorn fillets that I like. And I’ve actually now mastered the art of baking potatoes in my air fryer and they are delicious.

There are some radio notes to dictate and that’s really it for today.

Tomorrow I have biscuits to bake and when I was tidying out the shelves the other week I came across some coconut oil. If I use that instead of vegan butter I could make some stunning chocolate biscuits

There’s some bread to bake too because if I’m going to be at the hospital for 11:00 and won’t be admitted to the ward until 13:00 I’ll need some butties because lunch will have gone by. I asked my cleaner to pick up a lettuce while she was in town as I’d run out and she duly obliged so I’ll have some really nice salad sandwiches for lunch on Monday.

There will be a few other things to do too, I reckon, but I’ll worry about that at the appropriate time.

As if I don’t already have enough to worry about.

Wednesday 6th December 2023 – THEY AREN’T LETTING …

… the grass grow under my feet.

It was only on Friday that I was at the hospital in Paris when they told me that they need to be sure that my heart can withstand the shock of this new medicine that they think might work.

This afternoon I had a mail from the hospital – “you are summoned to attend the cardiac unit for an echograph at 09:15 in the forenoon on Tuesday 19th December”.

So that means leaving here at about 04:30 and arriving at Paris bang in the middle of the morning rush hour. And how much am I not looking forward to that?

But it least it goes to show that I’m in good hands and people are taking an interest in my case. I wouldn’t have this service in many other places.

So I’ve had to dash off a letter to my doctor to ask for a bon de transport and hope that the Social Services agree to pay for it. While I was at it I wrote and asked for another prescription as I’m running short of medication.

That’s all now in the handbag of my cleaner who will drop it off at the medical centre on her way to her clients in town in the morning.

It seems that early mornings are going to become a regular feature, and not just when I go to Paris either. Once again, when the alarm went off at 07:00 I was half-way through editing the radio notes that I’d dictated before I went to bed. I’d been up since 05:10 this morning.

First thing that I did after the medication was to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. I started off with one of these North American road-movie type films with a couple of teenage girls sitting on some kind of embankment overlooking a motorway watching a big American articulated lorry come down a slip road onto the motorway. In front of them was some kind of large panel van. It came onto the motorway first and drifted right away across the lanes into what was effectively then the outside lane nearest the central reservation before heading off again. One thing that was interesting about this was that everyone was driving on the left.

Later on we had something about a wild dog. It was much more than a wild dog, terrorising a neighbourhood somewhere in the USA attacking just about everyone who went close to it and making a right mess of them, killing most of them. On one occasion it cornered a young woman. It had an object in its paw like a pillow and was continually hitting this woman who was trying to escape. It was gradually weakening her until she began to sag onto the floor and the wild beast was ready to leap on top of her and presumably tear out her throat.

And then I was in North America looking for some fermented human juice with which to make my evil Christmas pudding. In the end I established myself in some kind of corridor where I’d attack people who were walking along it and absorb them into the floor as they panicked etc. I’d have some kind of apparatus like a giant hypodermic with which I’d suck the life-blood out of the humans whom I was attacking. That was what I’d be adding to my Christmas cake.

As you can see, I’m back in the nightmares again. But then, I’ve had much worse than these in the past but I choose not to type them out. One or two that I’ve had at times have been so disturbing that I couldn’t even bring myself to dictate them

Caliburn and I had been out on an expedition somewhere in South-West UK. We’d met a guy and been talking to him for a while and then we’d set off along the road. Then he phoned me back to say that he had something else to say. We tried to find a place to perform a U-turn. In the end we’d drifted off the main road somehow and ended up on what basically was a farm track across the fields. It suddenly turned into the steepest road that I’d ever encountered. When we reached the top I could see railway lines that were all covered in weeds and overgrown. It seemed that I’d climbed up the end of a demolished railway viaduct that crossed over the river. While I was stopped, taking a photo of the rails, 2 guys went past on motor bikes. We said a couple of words . They told me that I was somewhere near Wells. Then I set off to go back to the guy’s house but ended up driving over a green field. I thought “I don’t remember this way at all”. As I looked closely the track that I was following did a U-turn and came back down the side of the hill about 100 yards from where I was. I thought to myself that I was completely and utterly lost at the moment. I’ve no idea where I am right now, I’ve no map or anything. I’m stuck in the middle of all these green fields without a clue of where I am.

Apart from the fact that the scenery was green, the landscape of all of this was very similar to the recurring dream that I had on several occasions about the mountain pass in the snow.

Then I had a girl with me. It might have been Cécile. We’d been out for a drive somewhere in Caliburn and stopped in a lay-by at the side of the road. Once again, Caliburn this time was a right-hand drive vehicle. From a flask she poured me a mug of coffee which I sat and began to drink but I began to tidy up a few things (so it must have been a dream, me tidying up). There were loads of elastic straps just lying all over the place so I was tying then to attachments and coiling them up. She was eating a cheeseburger (and as if Cécile would ever have eaten a cheeseburger. When we first began to chat to each other at the Anglo-French Group in the Combrailles it was to exchange vegan recipes). While I was busy sorting this out we were having a little chat. Then we decided that we’d go. I can’t remember exactly what happened after that because I awoke quite suddenly but I know that there was a couple of younger girls walking past who were involved in this dream somewhere.

Finally I’d been away camping for a few days and was absolutely filthy. I don’t know why. I hadn’t washed for several days. I made it back home and Zero was there with her parents (so welcome back, Zero!). The first thing that I did was to go to the bathroom for a really good wash. Zero came in and brought a small portable TV with her. She was watching some kind of programme. While I was washing I was talking to her but she replied in grunts and monosyllables as if she wasn’t really taking much notice. We talked about the journey back and how in Cheadle I’d been stuck behind a row of PMT buses. Her father said “there won’t be any of them soon, and they won’t be red. All of PMT’s operations outside the core area of Stoke on Trent are being withdrawn. They are having to bring in taxis etc to cover the trips. I explained that that was probably why I’d seen a couple of strange buses wandering around there looking as if they were doing things but certainly weren’t part of the PMT fleet. The we began to talk about chip shops. I told him that there were 2 chip shops that had been the first in the UK to stop selling fish and chips at a fixed price. One was down Longton way which was where we were at that particular moment. The other was up in Burslem. After I’d finished washing I tuned in Zero’s TV for her which was slightly off its station and went back into the living room where I told everyone quite happily that I was so pleased to be clean – the first time for several days.

And then I made a start on the radio notes. The dictation was slightly better than just recently but I had tied myself up in knots in a few places and it took some entangling. With the final track and the notes, I ended up 10 seconds over but that was edited down quite easily. I always include in my speeches quite a lot of stuff that isn’t really vitally important and I can cut it out as I go along, if necessary.

Once I’d finished that I finished off the notes for the photos that I’d taken when I arrived in Montréal and those three days are now completely on line. If you START HERE and go forward for the next couple of days.

The car came early for me today, and I wasn’t ready, due to things that, no matter how rich and famous you might be, you can’t get anyone else to do on your behalf.

At the Centre de Re-education the first session was at the tapis roulant – the rolling carpet. Apart from walking as it rolled away underneath me and being given advice about how I’m carrying myself, there were two other tasks, both of them rather like computer games.

One was to catch a thrown paper ball in a waste basket. But you move the basket by adjusting the balance of your weight by using your feet. The farther to the extremes the paper ball is thrown, the harder you have to press with the appropriate foot. Extreme right was pretty impossible for me.

The second one was like a 1970s Space Invaders game but once again you control the paddle with your feet. Again, the extremes were difficult

In Ergotherapy the therapist ran me through a few tests (one or two of which I failed miserably) and then showed me a way of getting in and out of bed more comfortably. She’s going to come here one morning next week to inspect my apartment and suggest ways that I could improve my life.

Here’s hoping that she gives me advice about getting in and out of the shower.

Severine ran me through my paces afterwards. She noticed that I didn’t have the same improved force that I had yesterday and that was borne out by how I climbed back up the stairs to here afterwards.

She seems to think that the tapis roulant took too much out of me, and that might explain why it always seems to be more difficult to climb back up after I’ve been shopping.

Back here I had my hot chocolate and biscuits, sorted out the letter to the doctor and then regrettably fell asleep for a while, which was no surprise.

Tea was a delicious leftover curry but I lost concentration at one point and the naan bread ended up being overdone. Still, you can’t win a coconut every time.

Then I checked the mails and messages again. A big thank-you to Sean and Liz for sending me some useful tips abour marzipanning and icing. Every tip that I can receive will come in useful

Tomorrow morning I might have a relax ready for the Centre de Re-education tomorrow afternoon. I’m expecting a parcel delivery and that will need checking.

The cheap kitchen scales that I have eats batteries like they are going out of fashion and it’s very inconvenient. I’ve found one on line that has a built in 5-volt battery. 5 volts equals USB connection of course and that should hopefully work much better.

Adding 120 grammes of sugar to something, having a battery go flat at 90 grammes, hunting around for a new CR2032 battery and then forgetting how much sugar I’ve already put in is no way to run a chemical operation.

Alison has a beautiful set of Olde-Worlde analogue scales but they aren’t really practical.

The new scales will come in handy at the weekend when I have the pizza dough and more fruit buns to make, along with marzipanning and icing the cake.

What with the scales and my new FOOD PROCESSOR I’m definitely going up in the world. But if I can’t go out anywhere and can’t do anything outside, I may as well find a new hobby.

The right equipment will help of course, and then I can always eat the fruits of my labours.

Tuesday 21st November 2023 – MEANWHILE, IN THE ….

… Social Services office –
Social Services Officer – "Do you have any problems with your hearing?"
Our Hero – "Pardon?"

Yes, I’ve been up to my ears in interviews today

And believe it or not, I prepared well for it today by crashing out on several occasions. Not that I’m sure that I know why because last night was one of the better nights’ sleeps that I’ve had quite recently, and I can’t remember very much of what was going on during the night.

When the alarm went off I staggered to my feet and went in search of my medication. A fine way to start the day.

Back in here afterwards I had a few letters to write and some information to pull together ready for people whom I’m likely to meet during the course of the day.

Once I’d prepared my papers I had a listen to the dictaphone notes and to my surprise and delight I was joined, at different times of course, by a couple of my favourite companions. And what a shame that I didn’t remember all that much about it. First out of the block was Zero, whose birthday it apparently was last night and there had been a big party. I’d been staying there for a few days and the morning after we decided that we’d make a start on tidying up. There were some things needed from the shop so they asked me if I would go to fetch them. The car there was a Chrysler Neon so I took it and drove away to the shops to do the shopping. Their driveway was between two pillars of brick and was fairly narrow but on the way back I just drove past and reversed in as I would normally do anywhere else. As we were walking in Zero’s mother said something about tidying up but I didn’t quite understand it – I didn’t quite hear what she said – so I sad to Zero “yes, go and put all the balloons in the cellar and jump around in there”. Her mother looked at me and said “that’s a much better idea than mine”. I was surprised because I thought that that was what she’d actually said but she must have said something different that I didn’t hear correctly. In the house when I went in there were loads of people sleeping around on sofas etc, dogs and cats etc everywhere. Apparently Zero had had a rabbit for her birthday and was playing with it somewhere.

As for the rabbit, I’m not quite sure where that fitted in, but I remember hiring a Chrysler Neon on a couple of occasions when I was in the USA 25 or so years ago and for a basic uncomplicated saloon car it was quite a pleasant vehicle

And then later on I was with Percy Penguin too. She’d finished work and gone home but she contacted me to ask me to come to pick her up. I thought that I’d go along to see what was the matter with her. When I pulled up she said nothing but just got into the car with a very depressed look on her face. After a couple of minutes she began to tell me her problems with her father – how when they go away on holiday he just lies in bed all day and doesn’t do anything. You could never force him out to do things etc. He’d completely lost interest in life and it was weighing down heavily on everyone. I set off to go for a drive with her and let her talk but for some reason, 2 or 3 times we ended up back outside her house and leaving again as if she kept on changing her mind then changing it again. We drove for a while as she told me all about these things. In the end we came into Shavington. There was some kind of fair there so we went for a walk around and came across some kind of craft fair that was proposing exhibitions and workshops. One was to make your own teddy bear and was on Wednesday at 17:30. I was explaining it to a father who was looking for some information for his daughter and noticed that Percy Penguin was listening too. I explained all about it to her. In the end we agreed that it was a shame that she knew no-one on Shavington because she could have gone there after work to wait until this course started, done the course and I would have taken her home after I returned from work. After a while of this she said that she wanted to go home. I asked why, if I could persuade her to stay out, but she said that she hadn’t yet done her homework for the week. I had the feeling that was an excuse rather than anything else but in the end I ended up taking her home.

Now there was someone who doesn’t feature half as often in these pages as she deserves. Her simple, uncomplicated, undemanding nature helped me through quite a few really stressful periods that I went through at one time or another and I wish that there were more people like her in this world.

Having transcribed the dictaphone notes I sat down to revise my Welsh ready for today’s lesson but regrettably I had the first of a couple of sessions today where I was away with the fairies for a while.

Armed with my coffee and my slice of bread-and-butter pudding I went for my lesson, which passed well enough although I’m convinced that I’m miles off the pace with this course. I just can’t concentrate on what I’m supposed to be doing.

However, as for my bread-and-butter pudding, it’s really turned out quite well and I’m very pleased with it. However it tastes quite differently from the bread-and-butter pudding that my mother used to make when we were kids, but that’s probably a good thing because my mother was not well-known for her culinary prowess.

In fact I had to wait until I met Nerina before I really began to eat well. And that’s no real surprise – anyone brought up by an Italian mother is bound to be at the top of the game in that respect and I was rather spoilt.

After I’d had a good wash and clean-up the car came for me and we set off for the Centre de Re-education where Severine put me through my paces. She told me that my sessions last week were cancelled because the ergotherapist had damaged her leg and was off work – not exactly the best recommendation for a Centre de Re-education.

With no ergotherapist I had to loiter around for a while before my appointment with the Social Services. She didn’t really have very much to tell me that I didn’t already know but she took copious notes which might serve some kind of purpose in the near future, I suppose.

Back here I had my hot chocolate and chocolate biscuits and then began the task of taking the inventory of what I have in store here.

And within a matter of a handful of seconds I came across 2kg of flour that I’d overlooked and also a tin of custard powder that I must have bought in the English shop in Belgium at some point when I was living in Leuven.

After about half an hour or so I was probably about a tenth of the way through the shelves but I’d already found enough room to store the food processor and its accessories. I’ll have another half-hour at it tomorrow when I’ll probably discover the 10 lost tribes of Israel, Lord Lucan and Martin Bormann.

Here and there when I’ve not been asleep I’ve been making a start on the next radio programme. The music has now been paired off and I’m halfway through writing the notes. I’ll finish that off tomorrow and dictate them tomorrow night. I have no visit to the Centre de Re-education on Thursday but the engineer is coming.

Tea tonight was a taco roll with some of the stuffing from yesterday. And there’s plenty left to make a leftover curry for Wednesday night. There’s still some naan bread dough left in the freezer.

As well as everything else I’ve had the acoustic guitar out again for a good while. I’m not sure why because I don’t think that I’ll ever play again in public but I suppose that nevertheless I ought to do my best to press on regardless.

Having finished my notes I’m going to have my hot drink and then go to bed. I probably won’t sleep much tonight with having had several goes at it already but I’ll do my best. And I’ll wonder about who will come along to visit me tonight.

Wednesday 15th November 2023 – ALL MY SESSIONS …

… at the Centre de Re-education were cancelled today, and cancelled tomorrow as well. No-one has told me why but I suggest that Severine has been overcome after a couple of sessions of massaging my feet.

She’s not the first, of course. I remember when Nerina wanted us to have one of these Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.
"What will it eat?" I asked
"The same food as us" she replied
"And where will it live?"
"In the house with us" she answered
"And where will it sleep?" I asked
"On the bed with us and the cats" she answered it
"And what about the smell?" I asked
"The pig will get used to it" she said. "The cats and I had to".

So with no physical training today, I’ve been very busy.

And not just during the day either. I was quite busy during the night too. There was something about a rock group having produced a follow-up album to one that was a great success. There was something to do with 9 minutes in this follow-up which made the disk less attractive to anyone who wanted to buy it. A discussion was going around about how the recording society was really compromising this album in respect of this particular 9 minutes and something needed to be done for the group to reassert itself. But it was like one of these dreams where I walked into the middle of something that was already going on and then walked out again before it finished. I can’t remember any more than that but it was well under way when I first became involved in it

We were back with this group again later, when they had gone to ground over something to do with this 9 minutes. While they were doing it they discovered some music that had been registered by someone who had been there a couple of years earlier and which had been totally overlooked. Now they were saying that this piece of music might make all the difference about how their new album is going to progress.

There was something going on last night about food prices. Prices were starting to go through the roof. People were beginning to stock up. One of the issues was cat food which had begun to be really expensive. Someone in the house where I was living gave me a voucher for 4 tins and asked me to go to the Co-op. As I did, one of the cats ran to the door and ran outside. I had to grab it and bring it back inside the house before I could set off. That had me thinking about walking to the Co-op. I was after all quite ill but was still going along doing all of this, going to the hospital, still doing as much as I could. I remember my father when his wife was ill, how he basically dropped everything and just stayed at home, ostensibly to look after her but I suspected that it was a kind-of fatigue that enters your body once you are old and you just don’t want to do anything any more. I couldn’t understand why it was that so many people seemed to give up hope as soon as they have some kind of severe illness and allow the illness to sweep them away etc instead of standing back up and fighting.

This is pretty much similar to several conversations that I’d had in the past. With most people, if you aren’t feeling too good today you can always leave the task until tomorrow when you’ll be feeling better. Anyone with a terminal illness will tell you that if you aren’t feeling too good today you can’t leave it because you know that tomorrow you’ll be feeling worse. You have to press on regardless.

It’s surprising how an illness like that can change your life for the better, because it keeps on driving you forward.

When I was on the taxis in Crewe I saw dozens of people who had worked all their lives to the sound of the factory hooter and had died a few months after retirement because they didn’t know what to do and so had sunk into a fit of lethargic depression that proved to be terminal.

Mind you, Crewe is rather like that. It’s the kind of place that when the Luftwaffe dropped a stick of bombs across the town during one of the “Baedecker Raids” in 1941, they caused £14,000,000 worth of improvements. It’s the kind of town that sucks your soul out of you and I’d had my fill of it long before I actually left.

There was a competition on the internet a while back for people to submit the most depressing photograph or slogan that they had ever seen. The winner, by a country mile, was a banner seen at a football match that said
“Born in Crewe – Live in Crewe – Die in Crewe”

On the subject of football, during the night I remember something about being at a football ground last night for a football match. It was a windy evening and I was carrying these large pieces of plastic that I’d picked up as littler. I opened my arms and legs in a form of St Andrews’s cross with the plastic as a form of background, just for a bit of fun I suppose, when a gust of wind hit me. It caught the plastic and blew the plastic and me all the way across the ground into a wooden bench seat on the far side which broke into several pieces. I remember thinking to myself that it seems to me that I’m just being dogged around by all kinds of misfortune and bad luck at the moment. Everything that I’m touching seems to be going wrong.

Nothing new there.

I remember thinking, in connection with the last dream, that I’d much rather wait a couple of weeks and have what I want at a price that I could afford rather than going out and buying the first thing that I saw that would do the job but was probably 5 times more expensive than it actually ought to be.

And then I was in Virlet last night down on the farm. In the neighbourhood all running around was a load of little kids, probably 8 or 9, something like that. A few of them were girls and one of them seemed to be pretty much attached to me, which was rather sweet and reminded me of someone who appears occasionally during my nocturnal rambles and makes me go all broody thinking about the daughter whom I always wanted, which I didn’t actually realise until I had a daughter for 3 years. Anyway I took out my bike and decided that I’d cycle to Montlucon to go to the shops. It was night but I reckoned that I’d be there by the time that it was morning and the shops would be open. I set out. The front light was working but the rear wasn’t, but that’s never bothered me before. The father of these kids said something about the rear light but I pretended not to notice. I cycled off and ended up in Longton. I went into a butcher’s shop. Who should also walk in but Zero’s father. I can’t remember now what I ordered. It was something like a meat faggot (it must have been a dream). I asked how much and he told me so I paid it and took it. I could see that Zero’s father was intending on doing something with her, buying something, but I couldn’t make out what was going on in his mind. I got back on the bike and set off. I went to inspect the roadworks along the road out of Stoke on Trent. Just as it was becoming light I was cycling into Stockport which had been one of my planned destinations.

But fancy that – Zero hovering around somewhere on the periphery of my voyages last night and I didn’t manage to see her. Mind you, with one or two things that did unfold during the night and which you really don’t need to know if you are eating your tea, maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t.

So today I’ve finished off the notes for the radio programme on which I’ve been working, and then I’ve tidied up the Radio directory on the big computer.

After that, I carried on with editing the photos from Canada 2022. Right now, STRAWBERRY MOOSE, Strider and I are on our way to Woodstock to do our shopping for our stay.

Before we set out though, we had to give Strider a thorough cleaning because with having stood idle for three years it looked as if someone had been growing potatoes in him.

And it’s a good job that we cleaned him out because we needed the space. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, by the time we got to Woodstock we were half a million strong.

There were also several interruptions as we went on our way around. The cleaner came, of course, but she brought with her a letter inviting me to a hospital appointment in the cardiac unit in Paris on 24th April next year.

And then an hour later, they rang me up to ask me to go for another consultation, this time with the haematology department. They wanted me to come next Wednesday and interesting as it might be, it’s not really practical to make the arrangements that quickly.

So instead, we agreed on 1at December – 2 weeks or so’s time. That should give me enough time to arrange transport.

This will presumably be when they will let me know whether they will take on my case from Leuven. Much as I love going to Leuven and meeting my friends there, I just can’t cope with the travelling.

Tea was a leftover curry lengthened with supplies from the European Potato Mountain. And I was right about the garlic butter on my naan bread. Every time I breathe out, I burn another 2 layers of paint off the wall.

So having done that, I’ll make myself a drink, dictate the radio notes and then go to bed for an early night. We’ll see how much work I can do tomorrow, but I also have to order food, so blanching and freezing carrots will interrupt my flow.

But the sooner we start, the sooner we finish. We have to make the most of our couple of unexpected days off.

Sunday 12th November 2023 – AND THERE I WAS …

… planning on a nice relaxing day today with very little, if anything, to do. But as usual, all kinds of events come along to confound me.

What didn’t help was that it wasn’t until 11:42 this morning that I first noticed what time it was. And that is far from being the same as saying what time it was that I actually arose from the dead.

And if things start badly, things can only be worse. You should see the amount of stuff on the dictaphone from during the night. I must have travelled miles and that probably explains why I was so exhausted yet again once I arose.

After I’d had my medication and checked my mails I sat down and began to transcribe the dictaphone notes.

All of them.

There had been a storm or fire or both or something in the big house in which we lived altogether and it had been badly damaged. There was a lot of repair work needed to be done to it. At the moment it was a question of trying to secure the premises against anything worse happening. We were basically divided into shifts and rotas about how to look after the property. I had to stand there on patrol at one point to keep away any onlookers or anyone who might be there for some kind of nefarious purposes. There was a lot of paperwork that had burnt and was blowing around. While I was standing there looking at it a few more bits fell from the ceiling to the ground. I was supposed at this point to go on patrol around the area to see who was about but I had a lot of difficulty walking and I’d be of no use if I had to confront anyone so I decided to let other people do that. When I walked round the corner there on the field even though it was raining were a few of my housemates playing cricket. One of them shouted “go and put the kettle on, Eric” but of course it was going to be extremely difficult because of the fire and the damage and because of my difficulties. In the end he left the cricket field and wandered off somewhere as if he was going to do it.

At some point there was a question of another young girl of woman being involved in this. When we finally met her we found that she was just as handicapped as I am so obviously she couldn’t stand her patrol looking after the building and patrolling the area for a couple of days. We felt that we should have known about her handicap beforehand otherwise we could have made certain allowances for her but now things are under way and already happening it’s rather too late now for that.

It was the custom of the hospital to send several patients dressed up as Father Christmas, his helpers and his reindeer to go and collect money for charitable purposes. This year though they decided that instead of making a sleigh they would do it with a motorbike and sidecar. They asked me if I would like to go but I couldn’t really get in and out of the sidecar very easily so that would seem to rule that out. Then they were having a lot of difficulty trying to think of someone else. I thought to myself that if I’d known that I was expected to do this sort of thing along with everyone else I’d have thought twice about coming here.

And that was another dream that I actually dictated in French.

Then there was someone in our group with a name something like Awotni but when we had a list of members we couldn’t see anyone who corresponded to that. I made some kind of light-hearted remark about Polish family names which was immediately greeted with distaste by some members of the group. Then I remembered thinking that maybe if this person had been treated for a long time he shouldn’t be in our group anyway or maybe the group isn’t the correct place for them to be because this group that I’m in is about everyone being able to do every different thing.

There was also a girl put into our group who didn’t seem to be capable of doing very much. We didn’t think much of that idea because we were all trying to be as equal as possible and doing as many tasks as we could. We didn’t really want anyone who didn’t have the courage to follow it all through. This person seemed to be treating it just as a way of relaxing than a matter of life and death like the rest of us thought that it was. We didn’t appreciate that kind of levity at these serious moments.

“I wish that you’d store your accessories and introduce them into the discussions as appropriate” we said to someone who seemed to be much more able to move about than the rest of us but who didn’t seem to work as hard. We considered that due to the health that everyone put in we ought to be doing so much more and there should be so much more solidarity amongst the patients.

Zero put in an appearance last night. Her father was talking about a Christmas dinner that he’d made and how she’d sat down from the start and eaten absolutely everything put in front of her, all the way through to the Christmas pudding. He was ever so impressed that she’d managed to take all of it. It was the way that he said it that made me think of some kind of double-entendre and to my complete surprise, in the middle of this dream I had an immense fit of jealousy.

It actually reminded me of the girl who went into a pub and asked for a double-entendre so the barman gave her one.

But it was a real surprise, as I could tell from how I dictated it. But at least after talking about Christmas food yesterday, it’s made me focus on what I need to do for Christmas. So Liz – I shall be relying on you to tell me when to start to make my cake to make sure that I don’t leave it too late.

And I’ll make sure that it’s squirrelled away so that Zero can’t find it. As Liz will tell you, I don’t “do” sharing when it comes to cake. However, if Zero (or TOTGA, or Castor) were here, I might be persuaded to make an exception.

My friends from the Wirral came to see me last night. We were talking about all the old times etc. In the end we had to go out to do something. And the wife had a pushchair with one of her kids in it. While I was eating my meal I’d seen a photo and I was trying for ages to place this photo. It suddenly occurred to me that it was the old petrol station in Hungerford Road (of course there never was a petrol station there). I eventually worked out where this photo was and decided that we had to go. There was a big problem about 2 of my cars that needed moving around, some kind of question about them having no tax, no MoT, all Cortima MkIIIs. I needed to move them from where they were stored. We had a huge debate about which one we should move first and which should be moved second. I wasn’t even sure to where I was going to move them. In the end my friend asked me about driving – how come the Senator was the only big vehicle that I had these days. I replied “actually I can’t drive any more anyway so there’s no point having a car. If I am able to drive in the near future it won’t be in professional transport so I won’t need a big car”. We then went back to discussing in which order we were going to move these 2 MkIII Cortinas.

And that’s a recurring dream, isn’t it? Having cars scattered all over the place with no tax or MoT which need to be moved around.

I was in Crewe again last night and had gone to a petrol station. I bumped into a guy … "Lee Jenkins" – ed … whom I knew who played centre-half for Haverfordwest. We began to talk about vehicles and how he’d bought a MkIII Cortina once and when he’d come to sell it he had over £1000 for it. I pointed to mine and said “do you mean like this?”. I was in my gold MkIII estate, the one in the barn in Virlet. His eyes lit up and he said “wow! It’s great!” and went to have a really good look around it. He asked if he could take it for a drive but I had to decline. He said “you’re probably afraid that I’d never bring it back!”. I replied “something like that”. I told him all about the vehicle, one owner from new, guaranteed genuine mileage etc, We had quite a lengthy chat about it.

And “wow” he may well say. Cortina MkIII 2000E models were pretty rare on the ground when they were new and current, but in my atelier in Montaigut is a 2000E saloon and the gold MkIII estate in my barn in Virlet is a 2000E estate of which there are known to be no more than half a dozen still in existence and which is worth a King’s ransom.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed I was at work in Belgium. I’d gone out for a coffee break, to stand outside. While I was out there a girl came up and began to attack me, trying to push me into the lake. After I’d fought her off I went into the security hut. The guy there made me a coffee. We had a little chat about how crazy some people are in this building. I had to go to fetch something from my car. On the way back I met a Post Office girl trying to talk to a cat. It turned out that cats received telegrams. You had to give the telegram to the correct cat, not just to any cat. They were trying to train the cats to accept the telegrams which I thought was the strangest thing that I’d ever seen. I walked back down to the front door of the building, pressed the button for the sliding doors to open but nothing happened. I could hear people on the inside but no matter how I pressed the button I couldn’t make the sliding doors open so that I could go in. I thought “this is good, isn’t it? I’m locked outside the building now”.

What with stopping for lunch, it took me until about 15:00 to transcribe all of that – and it might have been done quicker had I not … errr … gone off with the fairies for a while.

Then I went to make my fruit bread. I took my time making the dough and it actually turned out quite well.

After I’d finished my lunch I’d taken the last of the pizza dough out of the freezer (so I’ll have to make some more next weekend) and it had been defrosting.

Just as I was going to deal with it Rosemary rang me for a chat and we had another one of our marathon sessions. She’s rather worried because she has a major operation shortly (which I why she couldn’t have come with me to Michigan) and she wants someone to either reassure her or to talk her out of it.

She talked about her operation at great length and in great detail, despite me telling her on several occasions not to. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall exactly how I feel about operations and surgery.

But it’s not likely that I’m going to talk anyone out of surgery. No matter how ill even the thought of it makes me feel, I’m a firm believer in the principle of Macbeth and the murder of Duncan “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”.

It’s much more painful to spend all of this time worrying and postponing it rather than to have it done quickly.

When they operated on my kidneys they didn’t even tell me. They just took me, bed and all, down into the basement, stuck a mask over my face and said “here – smell this!”. And that was the last that I knew about it.

As a result everything was running really late. But the fruit bread is, for once, cooked to perfection and the pizza was pretty good too.

So I’ll wander off and have a good sleep. For a change, there’s nothing happening tomorrow so I can push on with a few things without any interruptions.

Well, such is the theory. We all know how it works in practice.

Tuesday 24th October 2023 – THEY STILL HAVEN’T …

… fitted this needle into me. I think that they really have abandoned all hope of giving me this infusion.

Instead, this morning they gave me another lumbar puncture and that has been that.

Last night I had one of the best night’s sleeps that I’ve had for a considerable length of time. I was in bed at 20:00 because it was that cold and, underneath the blankets I listened to the old-time radio

It was about midnight when I awoke to find the radio still going so I switched it off and went back to sleep. And that was that until about 07:50 when a nurse awoke me to take my temperature and blood pressure

When breakfast came I was still in bed and I really can’t remember the last time that I had breakfast in bed. It made a lovely change from the usual.

While I was washing a nurse came in and stuck a couple of freezing patches on my back. That of course can only mean on thing – a lumbar puncture. They are totally horrible things and so I wasn’t looking forward to that.

First task while I was waiting for things to happen was to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. I was in the UK at some point. It was round about the time of the death of my aunt. We were making a lot of preparation for various things. We met the family of her late husband Michael. We spoke to them about various things. They were involved in some kind of career where to have a psychiatrist or an analyst was compulsory. We had a really good chat about that. They happened to mention that they had a son who lived near Warrington. Of course, that’s my neck of the woods so before I come back to Europe I decided that I’d go to see this guy. I set out but stopped to listen to the 09:00 news. I noticed that the clock in the car was wrong. After the news I set out to drive but couldn’t think for a moment of how to go to Warrington. I had to scratch my head to think of which back roads and country lanes would be the best and I ended up going round the back of Haslington. I couldn’t help thinking that I wasn’t dressed for the occasion. I was in some kind of grey fleecy trousers, sports trousers or something. We eventually met. He was a guy in his 40s, a very big, strong type of person with a wife and a few kids. We began to talk. He was really mocking his relative about the idea of having a psychoanalyst. He thought that it was a stupid arrangement, perpetuated by North American trend-setters and totally unnecessary these days.

And then I was out with a former friend of mine, somewhere and were coming down the motorway. Something happened to the car. I think that it wanted some fuel. It was a strange kind of car so we called in and had to find the fuel filler. It was in the engine behind the right-hand headlight. We had to pull the headlight forward to reach the fuel filler. It was an extremely complicated affair. My friend fuelled up while I went for a wander around. I ended up at the hire car depots. In a waste bin there was a pile of stuff that obviously people had bought and thrown away, one of which was a 25-litre fuel carrier. I went over to my friend to ask if it was of any use to him. He replied “yes” so I went to fetch it but there was a hole in it so I put it back. In the meantime some guy from the service area came over to me to ask if I was a mechanic. I replied “yes” so he went over to my friend. They ended up having an argument because apparently only licensed mechanics are allowed to work on cars on this site. Of course my friend was having none of this and told the guy exactly what he thought. In the end the guy slunk off with a flea in his ear.

There was also something about a house that Nerina and I went to see. It was a bungalow that had some kind of front garden, a drive all the way down the side of the house and then a back garden. There was a sign up at the parking space at the side of the house that said “scrap cars here”. I noticed that there were a couple of old car axles lying around so I thought that this would be a great place to buy because if he’d been scrapping cars here there would be some kind of inherited rights. I could quite happily mess around in the drive, put up a car port and a fence between me and the neighbour, and Nerina would have a nice tidy garden at the back anyway. We went to look at it. IN the back in the garden he had a whole pile of axles. There was a load of asbestos brake dust. Somehow he’d rigged up two kinds of hubs as pulleys and he explained how he removed brake shoes with them. This was beginning to interest me more and more. I was hoping that Nerina would be interested in the bungalow itself and impressed enough to want to buy it.

I ended up going back into that dream about Michael’s family. It was a Sunday morning, we were all there and having a lie-in in bed. Round about 10:00 a film came up on the screen, one of these films line “American Grafitti” or similar. I watched it but must have fallen asleep again because I awoke with a start a short while later. In the meantime Nerina came into my room panicking. “Have you seen the time?”. I thought that with the film starting at 10:00 it was probably about 10:10 or 10:15 but in fact it was 12:35 and we’d slept all the way through the morning. There was so much work to do and we were supposed to be visiting somewhere else but Nerina and I didn’t have time and we’d have to leave but there was all this panic going on about getting things ready, going here and going there and having left the bed so late so late this morning

And when the nurse awoke me this morning Nerina and I were doing something with kittens but it all went completely out of my head as soon as I sat up.

Actually, there’s quite a story about kittens. When Tuppence was getting old we decided that we’d have another cat to keep her company, but it was definitely “no kittens”.

Anyway, the cat of someone whom I knew had just given birth and out of politeness I went to see the offspring. This tiny all-grey kitten crawled up my leg and curled up on my lap while I was drinking a cup of tea, and of course, that was that. You don’t choose a cat – the cat chooses you.

So having explained things to Nerina, I finally persuaded her to go to look at it to see what she thought of it. When she came back she told me “there was this tiny all-ginger kitten that climbed up my leg and sat on my lap …”

And that was how Sooty and Sweep came to live with us.

But I’ll tell you something for nothing, and that is that the world is far too small for my liking. The doctor who came to perform my lumbar puncture told me that she came from Belgium. She was born in Mons but came to live in Brussels as a child.

She told me the school that she attended, and it was the one just down the road from where I used to live in Jette She actually knew the complex of buildings where I lived.

So while I was lying down recovering from the lumbar puncture my neighbour who is still in Paris came to see me and it was quite awkward talking while I was lying down.

After lunch and a coffee (that I had to ask for three times before I received it) I was visited by the chief doctor and a whole pile of interns. She asked me loads of questions about all kinds of things.

The doctor from Belgium was with them and she understood Flemish so she was able to read all of the reports that I’d had from Leuven. Luckily the hospital has computerised all of its records for its patients, and you are able to access all of yours by inserting a special code. So I gave her my phone and told her to get on with it.

That was all of the official visits that I had today. There was the usual stream of nurses and the like coming and going but when I wasn’t asleep I managed to choose the music for the next couple of radio programmes, and I’ll be using the rest of the time here selecting more and more.

There were also several phone calls to deal with. The first was from the Mayor of Virlet. There’s some tidying up that needs to be done at my property and was I in any fit state to do it?

Of course I’m not and that was what he thought. So would I be willing to pay someone for half a day’s work to do it on my behalf?

Actually it’s far cheaper for me to do that than spend money travelling down there when I can’t even drive right now, so of course it was the obvious answer. I told him that next time there’s anything to do down there, not to hesitate to engage someone to do it again.

And then there was the Centre de Re-Education in Granville. That’s where handicapped people go in order to learn how to cope with everyday life taking into account their disabilities. Would I like 20 consecutive half-day afternoons starting on Tuesday next week?

Do bears go to the toilet in the woods?

Tea was the usual kind of industrial institutionalised factory food but I have to eat it because there’s nothing else. Luckily my neighbour brought me some bananas which was very nice of her.

So I’m going to go to bed now. It’s quite early but there’s nothing else to do and I can be quite comfortable under the blankets listening to the old-time radio.

And I wonder what they have in store for me tomorrow.

Monday 2nd October 2023 – YOU PROBABLY WON’T …

… believe this, and I don’t blame you if you don’t, but at 04:20 this morning I was actually up and about.

And as it happens, I could have been up and about before that too because I spent a good 30 minutes trying to go back to sleep before I finally gave it up as a bad job.

By the time the first alarm went off I had finished one of the radio programmes on which I’d been working and had almost finished the second.

However, it’s not all roses. My condition is deteriorating by the minute and this morning I couldn’t even manage to climb into the bath to take a shower. It took me all of my force and guile to make it into the bath and then I had a difficult task of trying to stay upright while I showered.

The nurse came round and although he didn’t give me my Aranesp (I’ve had a mail from the hospital telling me to pause the injections) we had something of a chat about a few other things.

After he’d left I had a few things to do – the first of which was to reply to a letter that I’d received from the Mobility and Inclusion Department of the département.

They have now confirmed that I am entitled to a disabled person’s card and also a disabled parking permit. They want a photo of me for the card but the easiest way to do this is to create a personal account on the French Government’s “personal space” website.

On there, you can upload a photo of yourself and then it can be cross-referenced to any other Government site. You need a special code in order to set it up and they had sent it to me. It’s a rather complicated procedure but it works because eventually I had an acknowledgement.

Halfway through doing that, I crashed out and that’s no surprise. My 04:20 start was killing.

Once I’d recovered I had a coffee and a fruit bun, and then chose the music for the next radio programme.

Rosemary rang up for a chat so I made use of the opportunity to configure the new webcam that I’d bought the other day on-line. Not that she wants to see me of course, but I was more interested in the built-in microphone. That works an absolute treat, apparently, so I can now do on-line calls from the big computer in here.

As well as that, I’ve been chatting to several of my friends on-line. There’s something going on at the radio so I’ve been deep in conversation with them making a few plans and doing some work ready for an appointment next Monday.

Something else that I’ve been doing is thinking about motability scooters. However I want a motability scooter with Attitude so I’ve been thinking about some of these three-wheeled scooter things with the two close-coupled wheels at the front.

Several of my friends are still involved with motor bikes so I’ve been seeking advice.

There was the dictaphone to deal with too. I was in something like a Paul Temple adventure as Temple himself, investigating a kidnapping or murder that was taking place in Granville at the back of the market down there towards the car park. I went down there to look and was able to hop on and off the bus but everything else came to satisfy me. At one moment a guy whom I knew came over for a chat but he said that he wasn’t Temple. There were several other people who looked as if they were either doing something or waiting for them to be clear of what they were doing but we weren’t able to identify them at that moment

Later on I took the bus and went to the St Nicolas quartier of the town. When I alighted I saw Christophe there. We had a big chat about my health condition. Unfortunately I can’t remember very much of what this chat was like. Later on a girl and I were in an office working. She had to go through a rung binder and write down certain details about the information that was on cards in there. I was busy doing something else that was much more exciting. The phone rang which meant that she had to do something different. She turned to me and told me that I had to carry on her job. I understood that I was senior to her- it’s not really for her to tell me what to do . She asked if that was OK so I replied “no. I’d much rather do the job that I’d been doing”. She said “I’ve done half of it for you”. My argument was “it was your job. Doing your job means that I’m not doing mine”.

Strangely enough, I’ve been thinking about going to the quartier St Nicolas. The bus that I take into town drops me off at the bus stop by the port but for the return journey, there’s no raised kerb so I really struggle to climb back into the bus and it’s not going to be any easier as time goes on.

However, at the St Nicolas bus stop, there’s a little shopping precinct with a small Carrefour, a Post Office and a Pharmacy. I’m wondering if the kerb is going to be any better there.

There is a downside to this, in that I’ll only have 15 minutes to do my shopping before the bus comes back so I’m going to be struggling for time. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Meanwhile, back in my dreams, I was round at the house of a former friend of mine showing him a new stuffed animal that I’d had – some kind of green furry rabbit. He had all of his dogs there. There was a cat there that was my particular favourite but I didn’t get on with any of the dogs. This cat was quite friendly with me. At some point there wa sa party about to take place so they’d cleaned up the house. I was absolutely tired by this and had to go to lie down. I went upstairs to the room where I usually crashed out but they’d folded the sofa up now so it was the sofa and not a bed. I just lay down on it any old how with a blanket over me and it was all the dogs that came to join me on the bed, not my favourite cat.

For about half an hour or so I transcribed a few notes from the arrears of last autumn. It should have been much more but I rather regrettably crashed out again.

Tea tonight was another stuffed pepper, and that was really tasty too. But that’s all that I’m going to be doing. I’m exhausted now so I’m going to crawl into bed. I have a Welsh lesson tomorrow so I need to be on form.

Friday 29th September 2023 – DESPITE ALL OF …

… my exertions yesterday, I was actually up and about before the alarm went off, and no-one was more surprised than me.

So having had my medication I had a very slow start to the day before wandering outside at 09:00 for the bus. And there’s no doubt whatsoever that it’s becoming more and more difficult.

Climbing aboard was one thing – getting off was another. But I managed not to fall over and had a very slow stagger to the supermarket.

They had a few things of interest in there that I bought and another customer helped me at the checkout and packed my backpack for me. Yes – things have really deteriorated to that extent.

Climbing back onto the bus was quite an effort. They haven’t extended the pavement out to the road where the bus stops so I have to climb in from street level and that’s not so easy at all.

The climb back up the stairs was agony and I was glad to make it back to my apartment. I put everything away and then made myself some coffee and cheese on toast for breakfast.

First thing to do was to check the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. There was something to do with a local cricket club. They hadn’t had their ground mowed so while they had a pause in games they’d spoken to a couple of people. As I was walking out of town one day I bumped into one of the people heading that way with all his equipment. He said that he was going to be mowing the grass. It was a hot, heavy day and he said that he wasn’t looking forward to having to do it but they’d paid him £400 so he was going to give it his best shot. I walked further on and ended up by the Sugar Loaf Corner in Shavington. I saw the lad talking to a few people who knew the guy who had gone to mow the cricket field. he was sitting in a great big sit-on mower with very extending blades. He was saying that he’d just earned¨£1500 for doing nothing but he supposed that he’d better go and see what was happening so headed off on his mower up the hill towards the cricket ground.

Later on I was with Cecile. We were having a really nice domestic arrangement going. I’d been working on the radio and had invited a couple of people for interview. I’d turned up at the rendezvous but they hadn’t so in the end I came home. Tea wasn’t ready yet but there was a box of cornflakes lying around for quite some considerable time. She asked me if I’d try them. I did and told her that they were very nice. There was nothing wrong with them so she said “put them in with the other cornflakes”. I went to put the waxed bag inside the box of cornflakes but I noticed that she’d already poured milk in there. I said “that’s probably not a good idea to put the milk in the cornflakes. Then we were discussing food and recipes, shepherd’s pies etc when the question of the radio came up. It turned out that I hadn’t sent off a radio programme to one of my contacts for at least 3 weeks. She wondered how they were getting on. I explained that they really don’t form part of our circle any more. She said that we’d end up regretting it because they paid us some money. We could do with the money because there was some good stuff in the Charity Shop. She ran through a few of the things. There was a perfume that she mentioned . I said “that’s funny because it’s an expensive cream”. She replied “yes, we need to come back so we can buy it and I’ll see what else is there for you too. I reminded her that there’s no point going there unless you have things to sell them. She said “well, never mind. We’ll have to work out something on the way down. She asked me to look at her skin and how wonderful it was since she’d baan taking products and creams like this ointment and it did actually look quite nice.

Did I dictate the dream about the guy who came with a whole pile of second-hand cars? … "no you didn’t" – ed. By “old”, I DO mean “old” like Morris Minors etc. He parked them in the street in our village and put price tags in the window. The problem was that this was right outside my barn. I shouted out of my window at him but he took no notice. Someone let loose the sluice dam. It flooded the area where his cars were parked and completely flooded his cars. After the flood had subsided I went downstairs. I had a look at his vehicles. They were all wrecks, just having been tarted up quickly. I told him that he needed to move them because they were blocking my garage. He said that I could manoeuvre around his cars. I said that I had a lorry that tows a cement mixer and I’m not manoeuvring around for anyone. This is my way out of my garage. Reluctantly he moved all of his cars to the side of the road

There was then something about the school bus. I had to run to catch it. Someone was already sitting in my seat so I had to sit somewhere else. The bus driver asked me where I was yesterday. I replied that I was sure that I was still in school. She asked “are you really sure?”. I replied “yes. I remember distinctly having to do my homework last night”. As I walked down the bus I remembered that I wasn’t at school at all. I was doing something else. So In the morning I didn’t go into school until the afternoon. I sat down but there was a dispute about seats on the bus. In the end the children from one particular school all had to alight, line up and were allowed back on in order of seniority. I thought that this was probably the strangest thing that I’d ever witnessed about a school bus but I didn’t say anything – I just let them get on with it.

Finally I was round at a former friend’s last night. Zero was there and she brought me some kind of card where you put stickers on. I asked her why and she said that I had to put stickers on it. It turned out that as of whenever you were only allowed one card per family or per person. They used a lot of this particular product so they always had plenty of stickers. They wanted to do one in my name. It made no difference to me so I agreed, especially as it was Zero who asked. It turned out that they were about to go on holiday. There were going to somewhere in Canada but they said that all the flights had been changed and muddled up. They began to talk about small towns whose names I didn’t recognise. In the end it turned out that they would have to fly to Boston (which I called Bangor in the dream) and then take an aeroplane to fly north. I jokingly asked Zero if there was any room in her suitcase for me. She laughed and said “no”. We all piled into my former friend’s ancient Land Rover ready to go to the airport. Jerry turned up. My friend said “I have another vehicle to show you”, hopped out and the two wandered off. It turned out that he had not only another Land Rover but also some really old lorry of some description and had taken him to see that.

It was nice to see Zero again after such a long time, but regardless of that there was quite a lot going on last night and I’m surprised that I had time to go to sleep.

As well as that I’ve been making a few phone calls. According to the hospital I qualify for help from the APA – The Allocation Personnalisée d’Autonomie.

That’s an official branch of the French Social Services Department and it’s crated to provide help and support for pensioners to enable them to remain autonomous at home rather than be carted off into an Old People’s Home. Such are the depths to which I’ve sunk this last 12 months or so.

As you might expect, I’ve no intention of being carried off to live amongst a bunch of old fogeys any time soon. I love my little apartment – it’s the first place in which I’ve lived in which I’ve ever felt at home – and I’m not going to move out of this building for any reason whatsoever.

Tea tonight was chips – sweet potato chips as well as ordinary ones – vegan salad and some of those nugget things that I bought ages ago. It was all really nice and I really like my meals these days. I seem to be doing quite well with my cooking.

So having done that, I’m off to bed. I’m shopping tomorrow at the big supermarket although I’m not looking forward to it – staggering around the supermarket and driving there and back.

And then there’s the stagger up the stairs with my shopping trolley. I don’t like the idea of that at all.

Monday 4th September 2023 – I HAVE HAD …

… visitors today. And that’s not like me at all, is it?

And not only that, but I’ve actually been to the local bar this afternoon too. And that’s even less like me.

They say here in France that jamais deux sans trois – “never two without a third” – and so what else I’ve done that is unusual these days is that I was out of bed this morning before the alarm went off.

Not by much, it has to be said, but by enough to make a note of it.

After the medication etc I went and had a shower – I need to look my best because the nurse would be coming to inject me. I needn’t have been in a rush because he was late again today

Once he’d left I carried on with a few bits and pieces until my visitors arrived.

It’s been a good couple of years since I’ve last seen Liz and Terry. They immediately entered into my good books by bringing 20 tins of baked beans with them. That should put the wind up everyone in the vicinity.

Much as I’m a big fan of European food, no-one else can make proper baked beans like the British. Even the “British Recipe” baked beans on sale in Canada taste nothing like the baked beans from a British supermarket.

There was so much that we had to say to each other, much of which was said in my apartment and more of it was said in La Rafale, the bar down the road. With the temperature at 28°C at lunchtime it was really nice to be out and about for once.

Liz bought a baguette so we went back to my place and rustled up a huge salad of all kinds of different things that I had lying around or in tins and it all went down very well.

Once everyone left I made myself a drink and came in here where I crashed out for well over an hour. Totally dead to the world, but then I’m not used to going walkabout like that these days.

Having eventually recovered consciousness, I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. My father and I were going up to Scotland on a motor bike. The only problem was that we had our sister’s mouse to take care of. We were trying to work out how we were going to do it. In the end I was rooting through all of my storage cupboards and came across a large, flat, wide sandwich box kind of thing. We thought that that would do and lined it with newspaper and put the mouse in. It was a struggle to close the lid with the lid being so large but eventually we closed it. Then we were thinking about how we were actually going to transport it. It wasn’t until we were almost ready to go that I had the thought that we were going to be on the road for 8 hours and had made no provision for drinking water or food etc for the mouse. I wasn’t convinced that it would survive the journey without it.

At another moment I awoke and I had headphones on listening to some music – Alice Cooper’s I’M 18 was playing. In the background I could hear some other music. I thought that the alarm must be going off so I’ll go to turn it off. I went to the bathroom and noticed that the time was 08:00. My father was late for work, my brothers and sisters would be late for school so I had to dash round awakening everyone. In real life I looked at my watch to see whether I ought to get up but it was actually 02:54 so that must have been some dream.

It rather reminded me of Tommy Cooper and “I knew a man who dreamt that he was awake, and when he woke up, he was!”

Someone had run a bath in an apartment on the ground floor of a big building. No-one was sure except me about what was happening. I don’t know what happened next but towards the end a young girl stripped off and stepped into the bath ad began to wash herself. The Police arrested a guy who lived in this apartment who had cancer. Apparently the bomb was a trick to fill the apartment with gas and he was going to light it to blow up the building and himself with it. He didn’t care because he had terminal cancer and only a short while to live. It would look extremely like an accident and of course he wouldn’t care about dying with such a short time left to live. He would be a hero to whatever cause it was that he was following.

Finally I was out last night with someone whom I used to know. We were driving around the outskirts of Stoke on Trent going to see a friend of his. We were in a Hillman Hunter. When we came to a road junction he seemed to have a lot of difficulty pulling out. It turned out that part of the fascia panel or something had fallen down and was blocking the accelerator pedal so we couldn’t advance in the car. In the end we had to stop, which nearly caused a big accident, while he investigated. He pulled off the panel and we could set off. A big tractor pulling a huge trailer had seen us stop and he decided that he’d pull out of the side street just as we set off so there wasn’t really enough time. He had to try to accelerate his tractor, the trailer swung round, went into a ditch, overturned and spewed all the contents out all over the side of the road, and then pulled the tractor into the ditch after it. We ended up back at his friend’s house. His friend was married to an actress. At first we had to wait my companion was searching around for some stuff fof his. Then the guy came in, an old guy, extremely simple, not the sort that you’d think would be associated with an actress. he showed me a set of brake shoes and aske me if I knew what they were off. They were like nothing I’d ever seen. He explained that they were used in some kind of mountain pathway as a shock absorber for tourists who slipped off the path and hit the barrier. It’s an extremely complicated system. At some point I’d left my red Cortina estate parked in a lay-by for a couple of days. When I returned the interior light was on. I thought that it would never start now after 2 days with that light on. I sat in and turned the key and it did actually struggle into life. I was extremely surprised by that.

Tea tonight with a delicious stuffed pepper with plain rice and the rest of the salad from lunchtime. Having marinaded in the dressing for several hours the salad was even more delicious than earlier in the day.

So now I’m off to bed. I really ought to restart work tomorrow. I’ve wasted far too much time just recently doing very little of anything important. High time that I got to grips with everything before I fade away.