Tag Archives: Percy Penguin

Thursday 21st March 2024 – THE BAD NEWS …

… is that tonight’s part of the footfest i.e. Cymru v Finland isn’t being “streamed to your country” on any service that I can find. And so it looks as if I shall be missing out on that.

Somewhere on my computer is “Tor” – a strange kind of browser and so in theory I could configure an anonymous VPN that would make it look as if my computer is situated in the UK but by the time that I do that the game will be over anyway.

It’s something that I suppose I ought to have considered but never mind. Here’s hoping that tomorrow night’s match is free to air in foreign places like here.

It’s been ages since I last set foot on a Welsh football ground. The last “live” match that I saw in Wales was Bangor v Rhyl in the Welsh Premier League and it was so long ago that Lee Kendall was keeping goal for Rhyl and I was there with Liz (not “this” Liz but “that” Liz) and she shuffled off this mortal coil in 2009.

It’s a far cry since the time I used to have a girlfriend at Bangor University. I’d be up there every weekend and while she was washing her smalls in the University laundry on a Saturday afternoon I’d be on the terraces at Farrar Road.

Those days are long-gone of course, and so in fact has Farrar Road. It’s now a supermarket.

And so, incidentally, have Rhyl and Bangor football clubs. At Rhyl the owner simply threw in the towel at the end of one season and at Bangor, there were the well-documented problems with a couple of characters “known to the forces of Law and Order” who became involved in the club.

However, we do have new clubs in the towns and they had to start afresh from the bottom of the pyramid. Bangor’s new team has fought its way up to the second tier and Rhyl’s new team is just one step behind. However it’ll be a long time before I ever see them again.

Not so long maybe until I see the old girlfriend again though. She’s appeared in these pages a few times – the one who we met in a pub near Oswestry who still looked as if she was 16 or 17 even then – and we still keep in touch occasionally. There’s been some kind of vague and indefinite discussion about her and her partner maybe flexing their muscles on the mainland.

They did once come to see me in Brussels and we all went skiing together once in Eastern Europe, the two of them, me and Percy Penguin.

So anyway, as things go, it took another age to do everything that I needed to do before going to bed last night and as usual it ended up being later than I would have liked, which is the story of my life right now. it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “the late Mr Hall”.

And if there is a deeper sleep than the one that I had last night I would love to see it. When the alarm went off I was so deep that I needed a ladder to climb out.

It took a while to orientate myself – even more so than usual – and then I wandered off to take my medication, resisting today the temptation to stick my head under the cold tap.

Having done that I prepared everything for the arrival of the nurse who would fit my puttees and take the blood test that he had postponed yesterday and planned to do today.

But I was right about those being “famous last words”. He “didn’t have time” today and will “do it tomorrow”. And we’ll see about that as well. Never put off until tomorrow what you can postpone indefinitely.

Most of the day has been spent having a slow and steady saunter through the radio stuff. I’ve finished writing all the notes for the radio programme that I started yesterday and I’ve been working on two more programmes today.

One of them is rather complicated because a lot has happened on one of those particular days in past years and I need to track down a pile of stuff. And then I have to choose some music from albums that I don’t know too well.

On top of that, there are also a couple of birthdays of some rather obscure artists, like for example Steve Miller’s drummer. Having to trawl through Miller’s albums to find stuff that his drummer wrote and sang took an age.

Another thing in connection with the radio is that I’ve finally made a start (only a very slow one, of course) cataloguing the live concerts that I have, trying to find the dates that they were recorded.

Some are so famous that their dates are well-known, like the Lindisfarne ones or the “Marshall Tucker Christmas Eve” concert. Shrewsbury Folk Festival’s itinerary is on line.

Some are much more obscure but there’s A SITE ON THE INTERNET where people post the setlists of concerts that they have seen and by comparing what’s on the tapes that I have with published playlists, I’m hoping to match the concerts to the dates.

It would of course have been much easier if the dates had been written on the tapes when they were recorded, but we were young, naïve and innocent. And in any case, several of the labels have fallen off with the passage of time anyway

There was some stuff on the dictaphone too. Not much, but with a sleep as deep as the one that I had, it’s no surprise. And by the looks of things I missed some stuff out at the beginning. What I dictated was “I was pushed back by the fog and had to have a native guide or something to help me make my way through the country back to where we were. When that boy asked me what was going on I had to explain it to him how come I was having all these difficulties and why I was so late arriving” – and that’s your lot.

It’s rather like the committee of the Football Association of Wales. They need a few native bearers and guides if they have to go north of the “heads of the valleys”.
"What? To show them the way?"
"No. To carry the drinks cabinet"

But to be fair, the FAW isn’t the only Welsh organisation (and I use that term in its official, not literal, of course, sense) that thinks that there’s nothing much further north of the “heads of the valleys” except sheep and Druids.

Tea tonight was some of those Chinese stuffed pastry things with fried rice. It was lovely of course, but it could have been even nicer. It wasn’t a full bottle of soy sauce that I had on the worktop but an empty dark brown bottle of the aforementioned. Who puts stuff like that in a dark brown bottle where you can’t see how much is left?

So with no football I’m going to bed when I’ve done my tasks. Tomorrow morning I’m bread-making if I remember. I hope that it will rise up like it did last week. That was a much better batch and I can’t think of what I did right.

But thinking about that skiing holiday that I mentioned earlier, that was the time a couple of us ended up being stuck in the mountains in a thick fog when they stopped the ski lifts and everyone went home. We had to pick our way down the mountain, which would have been difficult when you could see where you are going, never mind in a thick fog.
"The first thing that I’m going to do when I get back to the hotel" I said to one of the people with me "is to give Percy Penguin a good seeing-to "
"What’s the second thing that you’ll do?" he asked.
"I dunno" I replied. "Take my skis off, probably."

Friday 1st March 2024 – DYDD GWYL DEWI HAPUS …

… to everyone who can understand that.

And a happy St David’s Day to those of you who can’t.

It didn’t occur to me until this morning that I ought to be making a leek and potato soup, or maybe some bara brith or lava bread. It completely slipped my mind until it was far too late to do anything about it.

However, I did remember to prepare a “St David’s Day Special” for the radio featuring nothing but Welsh rock musicians. People like Man and Deke Leonard pumping out the stuff, but also stuff like Kim Simmonds from his heyday with Savoy Brown.

And also The Neutrons, desperate for a female voice for one of their songs on TALES FROM THE BLUES COCOONS, and someone drags in this young dancer who they found in ballet school down the road, Caromay Dixon, who was only 15 at the time but whose voice hypnotised all of us there.

They even WROTE A SONG for her to sing on the album.

But anyway, I digress … "again" – ed

Last night was another late night and I didn’t have much sleep yet again. No football match to keep me awake – I was busy doing other things.

However for a change, it was good night’s sleep and I felt much better for it when the alarm went off. I still didn’t want to drag myself out of bed when the alarm went off, but it couldn’t be helped.

First stop was the blood pressure, and after all this time it seems that this part of the medication is working. Last night’s was 16.3/13.5 but this morning’s was 13.5/7.8, well within the parameters that they sent me at the start.

In the living room I had to track down some medication and then I could fuel myself up.

This morning’s task was to make bread for the weekend – three bread rolls. And even though I did exactly the same as I did last week, the dough didn’t rise today like it had done then.

The only difference was the yeast. Is this cheap yeast no good then? And ought I to be using the more expensive yeast that seemed to work last week? That’s an interesting idea.

My cheese on toast was still nice though so I’m not complaining too much.

While I was at it, I made a large rice pudding again to last me for the next couple of days. I’m becoming quite a fan of those too.

Having had my breakfast I came in here to listen to the dictaphone notes to find out where I’d been during the night and, more importantly, who had come with me. There was a group of us at some kind of athletics meeting last night. We were the ones putting out all of the hurdles etc for the athletes to jump etc. This went on for quite a while and then they announced the winner. I wasn’t paying that much attention but they also said that he’d won the student games and the National Indoor games in the summer. I was very keen to find out who he was so I decided to use the internet so I could look it up. We drifted on from there and were on our way home. Liz – the “other Liz” was with us and I was with Percy Penguin. We came out of High Street in Crewe and walked up Market Street in the pedestrian area. Percy Penguin and I had a very happy air about us as if something important had happened.

we were actually turning into Victoria Street at that moment from Market Street.

Next weekend it will be 15 years since the “other Liz” shuffled off this mortal coil. We served on the same University committees so we often found ourselves travelling together from one end of the country to the other – from Milton Keynes up to Newcastle upon Tyne and then down to Bristol for meetings of the Disabled Students group.

On one occasion, stopping off at Shrewsbury for a meal on our way from Bristol to Newcastle upon Tyne we encountered an old girlfriend of mine from school. On another occasion we came across a Wishbone Ash concert so we hung around for a while until it started.

She came to Brussels as a guest of the Belgian Association and attended a couple of meetings of the North European Students in Cologne with Jackie and me.

After she died I took her daughter to Canada to install her at University there and, leaving STRAWBERRY MOOSE to take care of her, I went off on my EPIC JOURNEY ON THE TRANS LABRADOR HIGHWAY

But anyway, all that was a long time ago.

After breakfast I made a start on finishing off the radio notes but I had another one of those cataleptic-like trances again – sitting for a couple of hours totally unable to function. It was just as if I had switched off. It was really strange.

But at some point I must have gone off to sleep because at some point in the proceedings I was changing the clutch cable in a Ford Sierra – and what a messy job that was having to route it through the bodywork. We ended up with most of the front panelling out of the car to fit it.

Being miles away like this, it took an age to come back into the present world but when I did I hauled myself off into the kitchen to make it look a little more respectable for the cleaner

While she was here I finished off the notes and then began to convert a pile of the music in the queue into an appropriate format to use on the radio. There’s tons of that in the waiting list and it will take an age to convert.

But at least I’ve managed to salvage a couple of albums that had become lost in the technological piles of spaghetti and I’m sure that there will be others hidden in there too.

Tea tonight was salad and chips with some of these nuggets. The air fryer came to the rescue again. I’m nevertheless going to have to look to see if I can make better use of it.

There must be dozens of things that I can be doing with it that I’ve not even explored yet. Cake-making, for example. I have a small cake tin that will fit.

And what else?

But as long as I can remain awake long enough to make them. I’m completely fed up of falling asleep at the drop of a hat. It’s really getting on my nerves.

Our old friend Gotthold Lessing said about some other subject "A man who does not lose his reason over certain things has none to lose" and I’m certainly going to lose my reason over this.

If I had a spleen I would vent it, that’s for sure.

And that reminds me of the doctor in that hospital in Verdun in 2017 who said that he wanted to check my spleen and began to undo my shirt
"I hope that you have good eyesight" I said
"Why’s That?" he asked
"Because my spleen’s in a glass jar on a shelf in a hospital in Montlucon 300 miles away from here"

Tuesday 6th February 2024 – MY CLEANER IS …

… a heroine.

She came in yesterday, as I mentioned (with no little embarrassment) yesterday and I gave her a shopping list for her weekly visit to Leclerc – there are several things that I need that aren’t available on home delivery.

There are plenty of really nice vegan recipes floating round, like the one for vegan sausage roll stuffing, that rely on chestnuts to give the food some flavour. I have a spare puff pastry roll left over from Christmas so some vegan sausage rolls would be nice but of course I have no chestnuts.

The issue with fresh ones is that you have to take off the outer skin and that’s a complicated procedure so I wanted some ready-cooked ones with the other skin removed.

And sure enough, even though I’ve searched everywhere in the shop and never found them, she’s put her hand on 2×200 gramme packets of steamed and vacuum-packed chestnuts.

So once I buy some mushrooms at the weekend it’s sausage rolls-a-gogo. Making those should keep me out of mischief for a while, I reckon.

And during the night I’d thought that I’d kept out of mischief too because I had another really good sleep and didn’t remember a thing about anything

When the alarm went off I fell out of bed and too k my blood pressure again. 17.2/10.2 this morning compared to 18.3/11.3 last night

After the medication I went and gave myself a really good scrub in the bathroom so that I’d be fit and proper for my Welsh class, and then came in here to transcribe the dictaphone notes.

And to my surprise, there were quite a few, considering that I knew nothing about last night. There was a Dutch rock group that was quite well-known. One of the musicians was taking quite a lot of medication so they were going through different kinds of medication to sort something out for him in a the same way that they are doing for me at the moment. This became quite a habit for there to be a lot of medication about but during Wold War II this was complicated but they did their best to keep him supplied with the medication that they needed to keep him alive. One day the Germans raided the group and a concert and wanted to go along and arrest them all. There was no indication as to how this ended but there was one person who helped this group a lot with their paperwork and administration and in some respects looked after the medication of this musician. After the war, no-one ever found out what had become of him. They interviewed a lot of people who were leaving the concert hall at the time. They can remember the Germans trying to frog-march someone out of the building but who collapsed and went lifeless during this frog-march so they ended up carrying him away. The suggestion was that this guy had bitten the cyanide capsule in his hollow tooth to do away with himself to avoid interrogation.

But talking about the medication, I’m sure that that’s what they are doing to me – trying various cocktails of medication to try to find one that works.

That’s not a criticism of the hospital by the way. We’ve all seen the reports that this illness is so rare that there is no approved treatment plan and that each case must be dealt with individually. So I give them full marks for wanting to try.

Anyway, after all of that, I had a visitor during the night again – and to think that I could remember nothing about it. Yes, Percy Penguin came round last night. The two of us went out. We were in Crewe Town Centre but I couldn’t remember where to go. Not that that would be a problem in real life because in Crewe I had a whole family who would be quite willing to tell me where to go, and probably did too. Anyway, wherever I was going to, I’d forgotten the way so I dropped off Percy Penguin in Delamere Street, did a beautiful U-turn and she climbed back into the car. We carried on through Market Street and Mill Street. We were talking about my health. She asked a whole variety of questions to which I didn’t really know the answer. She asked me if I’d had a picquire – injection for this and a picquire for that. I told her “no” so she told me that she was licensed to take blood so what she’d do about this mess was to make me a really good meal and then take my blood pressure and then take a blood sample, not just from the usual areas but also from areas that were different from anyone else to see what that’s like. I told her that I was extremely doubtful for a variety of reasons but she seemed to be quite confident about the idea and quite willing to have a go so I thought that I’d let her get on with it.

As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … I wonder whatever happened to Percy Penguin. At one time she was the only light that shone through some very dark times.

One thing I’ll always remember was putting on a tape of QUADROPHENIA. on the cassette.
"What’s that?" she asked.
"It’s “Quadrophenia” by The Who" I replied. "Released in 1973"
"1973?" she snorted. "I wasn’t even born then!"

Yes, I keep on forgetting that I’m an Ancient Monument.

So having dealt with all of that, I prepared for my Welsh class. But not before I’d made a few phone calls.

And as a result, I’ve cut all my ties with Leuven. I’ve cancelled the appointments that were arranged for this week and told them that there’s no need to reschedule them. It’s pretty pointless if I can’t go there.

That’s a real shame. I loved the hospital, I loved the town, I loved the year or so that I spent living there and it goes without saying that I loved seeing Alison and the others who would travel up to see me from all over Europe.

But that trip in September killed me and I’m a lot worse than that now. Even if I were to make it there, I wouldn’t make it back. And there’s no point whatever in having the best treatment from the best hospital in Europe if the journey to and from is going to negate the effects of it.

The Welsh lesson went surprisingly well, so much so that I put Plan B into operation.

It’s half-term next week but browsing around the LEARN WELSH WEBSITE I found that Coleg Aberystwyth is running a two-day revision course on Monday and Tuesday for a level well down from where I’m supposed to be.

Nevertheless, it’s just what the doctor ordered, I reckon and it’s just £15 and there were 6 places left. That might fire me up a little. Only 5 places left now.

The advantage is that with it being Aberystwyth, it’s teaching the North Wales syllabus.

If you look at a map of Wales, you’ll see that there are two mountain masses divided by the valleys of the River Severn, Afon Dyfi and the Afon Mawddach. That’s a natural route from England to the Welsh coast and which invading armies have taken for 2000 years.

All of the fortifications that have been built there over that period have effectively divided the country into two and so the language has evolved differently in each area.

Curiously, some of the words that I’d learnt from my grandmother were “south-id” words rather than words from north-east Wales, and it wasn’t until I found her old Welsh family Bible after she died that I found out that her family actually came from the south in the past – presumably moving north like many families did when Gresford Colliery near Wrexham opened in 1908.

That was terrible, that. After she died all of her possessions went into a skip, including her ancient family Bible, written in Welsh, with her family tree in it going back several generations. I had to climb in after it to rescue it and many of my family wished that I’d stayed in the skip.

This afternoon the first thing that I did now that I’m nice and clean was to change the bedding. And when I took it off the quilt and pillows it walked into the bathroom on its own. I really ought to take much more care of myself and my hygiene that I do. I keep on overlooking some of these basic things that I ought to be doing so much better.

And then the cleaner came round with my shopping – and I wasn’t in the … errr … smallest room this time either.

But anyway, now I have more peppers, tiny tomatoes and vegan cheese as well as my precious chestnuts. Yes, I don’t know where I’d be without her, that’s for sure.

After all of that and my mid-afternoon hot chocolate, I carried on writing my radio notes and I’ve almost finished this programme now ready to dictate on Saturday night.

Tea tonight was a lovely taco roll filled with some of the leftover stuffing and accompanied by rice and veg. But this couscous stuffing seems to work quite well, better in fact than bulghour or quinoa so I might continue to use it. I’ve added couscous to my “list of favourites” on my Leclerc on-line shopping site to remind me.

It’s actually an advantage because couscous is available on-line whereas bulghour and quinoa – at least in loose form – are not.

So now having done my notes, it’s time for bed in my nice clean bedding.

Well, actually, it isn’t. There’s the blood pressure and the medication to take so it’ll be a while before I can rattle my way back to bed.

Nothing is easy these days with all of this, but we have to keep on going. What else is there to do? Bear Grylls, the adventurer and TV presenter said of his exciting travels "Life doesn’t reward the naturally clever or strong but those who can learn to fight and work hard and never quit", and I’m not going to quit until I’ve done the blood pressure, the medication and been to the … errr …. smallest room, preferably without the cleaner coming in.

Friday 5th January 2024 – HERE I ALL AM…

… not sitting in a rainbow but sitting in a room at the Hôpital Pitié-Salpetrière in Paris, where I’ve been summoned due to an emergency – they’ve found something in my blood sample from Wednesday that has them in a panic.

So there I was, at 06:00 when the alarm went off, struggling to my feet.

First thing was a good wash, scrub and change of clothes. I might as well look the part, I suppose.

Next thing was to check that I had everything packed. Those bread rolls that I made yesterday evening were good and made nice sandwiches – the food at the hospital is rubbish of course so I need some reserve supplies

Next thing was to unplug all of the appliances and it was in the middle of doing this that the driver arrived – an elderly guy who I’ve not seen before.

He helped me into the car and we set off for Paris. He didn’t go as fast as the younger drivers but we had good luck at Ceen with no hold-ups so we made very good time.

There was even time to make a pitstop halfway between Caen and Rouen, and a mug of coffee is always welcome. I treated the driver seeing as he’s doing al the work.

Our good luck ended at the Porte d’Italie exit of the Boulevard Péripherique where there was a gridlock the like of which I have never seen. IN the end we went back on the “prif” and took the next exit. But as a result we were late arriving and I had a very concerned phone call from the hospital wondering where we were.

Anyway, I’m now installed in my little room here on the second floor, still with no internet which is a shame, and the food is rubbish, as I expected so I’m grateful for my emergency supplies.

But at lest I’ve managed to make the heating work, which is something, I suppose, and under supervision I managed to walk 6 steps without my crutches, which is something of which I can be proud.

But what a celebration hey? Me, who would think nothing of walking though the night from Chester to Hankelow, all almost 30 miles of it.

They had four tries before they could take a blood sample, and three to fit a catheter in my arm and once the catheter was in, they began the perfusion.

There was a combination of three perfusions which gave me the most extraordinary hallucinations, during which Zero, Percy Penguin and my old LDV van made their appearance.

The LDV van I remember well. After 2 Transits I had the LDV van for a couple of years and was the first of the vans that I had that would keep up with modern traffic with its 5-speed gearbox.

It blew up the engine not long after I had it so we bought a Maestro diesel for £50, swapped the engine out and received about £350 for the bits of Maestro when we sold them on the internet.

It then lost the clutch going round the Boulevard Péripherique one night and I had to drive it 300 miles with no clutch, even starting from a standstill on a couple of occasions.

What had happened was that, with it being a hydraulic clutch, the clutch slave cylinder had fallen off and was just hanging on by the hydraulic pipe. The bolts on the door hinges where the same size and same thread so I pinched a couple of those as a temporary but permanent repair.

Then a brake pad separated and we lost the asbestos pad part of it. I had to drive it home through the Brussels traffic with no brakes and in the days before internet marketing it took quite an effort to have a pair sent from the UK.

The handbrake cable then snapped on it, so we had no handbrake but what killed it off was the little trail of rust inside the back of the van.

There was this little streak of rusty water running down the inside wall of the van so I climbed inside to look.

At first I couldn’t see where it was coming from but when I twisted myself round, with my hand on the roof, the whole roof lifted off on one side. The joint between the roof and the side wall had rotted away and I had a big roof rack on the roof and I’d been carrying all kinds of heavy equipment on it.

So that was the end of the LDV. You couldn’t drive that on the road in that condition.

Next van was the ex-Telecom Ford Escort diesel. And how that brought back all kinds of memories of my travels with BILL BADGER. It was exactly the same kind of van and I found myself doing exactly the same things.

That was a vehicle that I’d bought because of the 1.8 litre diesel in it, which I wanted for one of the Cortinas. But it surprisingly passed an MoT even though there was a pile of things wrong with it.

But I had a year’s use out of it and it did a few miles too, and then along came Caliburn.

And there’s just time to transcribe the dreams from the night before I go to collapse in my nice comfortable bed. There was a load of folk music going on last night probably related to what I’ve been listening to just now. The music seemed to have affected everyone. At one particular moment I went into work and there was someone stuck in a folk music loop singing folk music songs. I happened to mention i( to his superior who became extremely upset and began some kind of enquiry. Many years later the same thing happened again. There was all this folk music. Some people were listening to it of course, concentrating and so on. I was enjoying it very much bu at work the big boss came and began to ask me all kinds of questions like “did I feel mentally unstable?”, “did I feel that I was being a difficult person?” etc. I couldn’t understand what was happening. He said something about starting work. I replied that as far as I was aware that has never happened at all. He asked “what about this incident?” and brought up the one about folk-dancing early in the morning. Of course I was totally bewildered because I didn’t remember things like this. I wanted to know why this folk-music thing had suddenly become so important to so many people for what seemed to be reasons that seem to be completely detached from what the music actually represented etc. I was just totally bewildered by it all.

Later on there were 4 of us who used to hang around together. One was a boy from school whom I came to know quite well. We’d agreed to meet in Sandbach for the fair at a certain time but it was a very informal, insincere kind of agreement. Anyway I went along and, sure enough, there were some people there so I walked back to Crewe, found some plants and walked back. And there I met my friend and some other guy of our group so we began to chat. They were surprised that I’d been here twice but I said that I wanted to make sure that the festival was going so I was here early. The place was crowded with people. I needed to go to the bathroom but they told me that the bathrooms were filthy here and I wouldn’t appreciate anything at all of those. Nevertheless I wandered over that way to go for a look but the alarm went off.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … hospital I’m told that despite already having had a couple of examinations with one of these electrode machines, there’s another one planned for during the night in another building, one that goes into things and greater depths.

Once they’ve done that, they’ll have a better idea, but I suspect that they know already, and I have an idea too. In May 2021 they discovered the cancer in my kidneys and I underwent an operation to remove the tainted bits – and it also removed bits of another part of my body, to my eternal regret. My betting is that it’s come back to whatever kits of my kidneys are left.

What’s your bet?

What’s your bet?

Wednesday 20th December 2023 – TODAY I HAVE HAD …

… a lumbar puncture (the fourth that I’ve had if my counting is correct) and a thoracic puncture – one after the other without a pause.

And if you think that a lumbar puncture is bad, you want to try a thoracic puncture. I promise you – a lumbar puncture is a walk in the park in comparison.

Furthermore, even as we speak, I’m having a blood transfusion. You might not believe this, although I’m sure that regular readers of this rubbish will recall this kind of thing happening on several occasions in the past, but despite having had two pochettes of blood during the other night, my blood count has GONE DOWN and I’m still below the critical level.

And so I’m having another one right now.

That’s not the best of it either. They’ve had my blood whizzing around in something that looks as if it’s come from CERN and they have discovered that I have a genetic disorder.

That might explain a lot about a lot of things, but it might also create even more problems because I’ve signed an agreement for them to take my DNA so that they can start work on trying to find the problem.

They’ve told me to contact my family in order that they might undergo a test to identify anything that might arise, but who the hell is my family?
"What about your parents?" asked the doctor.
"My mother’s been dead for years"
"WHat about your father?"
"I never knew who my father was"
"Didn’t your mother ever tell you?"
"To be honest, I don’t think that she ever knew who he was either"

Our family was screwed up right from the very beginning. We were never a family, just a group of people living under the same roof scrambling and fighting for position

And I’m wondering what happens to my DNA sample afterwards. I can see a few issues arising here and there and none of them medical either, at least, from my point of view. However, quite frankly I’m too old, too ill and too tired to care.

Tired is certainly the word because not only was it a really bad day, it was a really bad night too.

Not that there was much of a night to be bad about because I was wide awake at 03:10 and up working, transcribing the dictaphone note, such as they were, at 04:00. There was a battleship that was ostensibly American but was actually owned by a private person and leased to the US Navy. One day he announced that the ship had disappeared. No-one knew where it had gone. A couple of weeks later it turned up in an American port being painted white. When the authorities caught up with it he announced that all the crew had deserted and was having to recruit another crew. The matter then went to Court and it turned out that the crew on board the ship, mainly Japanese, had all been dismissed and the owner was trying to recruit cheaper personnel. The Courts however ruled that the ship’s crew had unalienable right to be on board the ship. If the owner didn’t want them on board the ship, which was quite clear, then the ownership of the ship would pass to the crew, which was exactly what happened. In order to fill in the gaps in their ranks they began to recruit in West Germany. Consequently the ship was to become part of the West German Navy. This was going to lead to all kinds of complications.

And then I was with a girl from school last night, someone who has previously featured at some point or other in my dreams in the past on one or maybe two occasions. Her older brother had a Velocette Venom that he traded in for a Honda K1 750. We (the girl, not the brother) were actually a couple. I was living at home and so was she. She was quite young, small for her age as I remembered her. We’d go on a Saturday night to a little pub that we knew where they weren’t all that particular about the ages of people who went in… "The Rifleman in Volunteer Fields in Nantwich" – ed …. We’d sit in a very quiet corner towards the end of the evening, our arms around each other, and we’d just sleep. We’d wake up and I’d take her home in time so that her parents didn’t suspect anything. After we’d been there for several weeks doing that – we’d go out and do things like go for a walk, go to the cinema or something and end up back at the pub where we’d sleep together for an hour on a bench with our arms around each other. But after we’d been there for several weeks I’d noticed that the pub was becoming more and more crowded. I was thinking that we can’t really go on like this. One night while we were there, she noticed too and made the comment that this place seems to be becoming more and more crowded. I said “well, we don’t really have very much alternative, do we? You still live at home and I still live at home. I might be able one day to have an apartment but at the moment it’s not possible. There isn’t really anywhere else where we can go”. We really ended up just like that again on that particular Saturday night, arms round each other, asleep on a bench, heads against the wall in this particular pub.

It was just like Mark Knopfler and DOWN TO THE WATERLINE – a song all about an adolescent romance with a girlfriend, a Saturday night and simply nowhere to go.

But it was this dream that awoke me. It was one of those that I have every so often, a nice, warm, comfortable dream of the type that I wish would go on for ever where I feel totally at ease and relaxed with a girl really comfortable in my arms.

Being at ease and relaxed are of course things that seems to be happening less and less often these days.

It’s the kind of thing that rarely happens in real life. In fact, it’s only ever happened with two girls.

At one point in my life I was just so stressed out that I could no longer function correctly and everything – absolutely everything – was falling apart. So I’d make a huge effort, go on a trip and p-p-pick up a Penguin – a Percy Penguin in fact.

We’d find a place with running water, because water is very important in my life and the sound of it is relaxing, and we’d just lie there. She had loads of issues (and so did I too, and still have) and she’d wrap herself around me really tightly so that I’d protect her from whatever demons were threatening her. Sometimes she’d even cry on my shoulder as she poured out her problems.

And I’d hold her tight to protect her, her long brown hair all over me, and I’d lie there listening to her breathing as she calmed down and began to sleep. She breathed like a cat, exactly the same frequency and that, and the running water, would calm me down as well. Then I’d be ready for the second round of whatever battle I was fighting at the time

Sometimes I wonder whatever became of her. She would (and did, sometimes) follow me into Hell itself without a pause, a question or a second thought. But she didn’t understand the dangers or the risks and it was really unfair of me to encourage her under those circumstances.

She was someone to whom life had dealt an absolutely wretched hand of cards but I admired her for the way that she fought on regardless.

As for the other girl who drifted into my life, calmed me down and gave me the same kind of comfortable feeling, I’ll let you guess who it was. If you like, you can tell me and I’ll tell you if you’re right or wrong.

Having had Alquin on the playlist just as I was going to bed last night, today I’ve had their three albums going round in a continuous loop all day and that, together with all of my medical issues, has depressed me to a point that I could do with p-p-picking up a Penguin right now.

In fact, I actually crashed out for 5 minutes and it was she who came to check on me. That was rather ironic.

But retournons à nos moutons as they say around here.

The first time that I encountered Alquin was, despite the fact that they are from the Netherlands, Delft in fact, in a dingy damp cellar under a decaying hotel in Crewe in the Spring of 1975 where there was a rock club frequented for a while by the misspent youth of the town.

They are (because they are still going) a bass-driven multi-instrumental band, although they have lost a lot of their power after bassist Hein Mars left them.

In fact I had a bit of a desultory correspondence with them at one time. The bass lines are some of the best that I’ve heard on a consistent basis and all of the songs are pitched in a key and a narrow vocal range that I can actually sing well enough.

After all, you never know. When a young boy called Alan Davey was learning to play bass he played along to Hawkwind records and one day sent off a tape of his efforts to Dave Brock. 10 years later, when Brock was looking for a new bassist after Harvey Bainbridge moved to keyboards, he remembered Davey, and Davey played bass with Hawkwind for 20-odd years in a couple of spells

But meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … cellar, any group that can produce a song LIKE THIS on THEIR DEBUT ALBUM, MARKS has to be worth checking out so I’d been keeping an eye on them.

Their second album, THE MOUNTAIN QUEEN is even better. If you haven’t heard the bass solo near the end of the TITLE TRACK Grahame, give it a listen.

What interests me most about that track, and the bass solo in particular, is the rapport between Hein Mars on bass and Paul Weststrate on drums.

As far as I’m aware, I’ve only ever heard an interaction like that between two musicians on one other occasion. Listen to Simon House on violin and Adrian Shaw on bass during the violin solo in the middle of DAMNATION ALLEY and you’ll see what I mean. Put your headphones on and turn the bass full up.

Now THERE was an underrated rock musician, Simon House and his violin. If I had engineered and produced ASTOUNDING SOUNDS, AMAZING MUSIC, while Robert Calvert reads his poem in the middle of STEPPENWOLF I’d have had long, long pauses after every line while Simon House winds up the magic and builds up the suspense and tension.

But anyway, more Alquin is going round. So, in the words of the Mountain Queen
"take your time and join me
I’ll tell you an endless story
Rest your head beside me
In that fading light."

And right now I’d settle for almost anyone’s head beside me, not just Percy Penguin’s or the other person whose name I didn’t mention. I don’t want to drag her into all of this rubbish any more than she’s been dragged into it already.

Tuesday 12th December 2023 – THE DOCTOR CAME …

… round here at the end of the morning, with a student trailing along behind.

As he walked into the apartment he looked at me and said "it’s getting worse, isn’t it?"

Considering that when he saw me a year ago after my torrid three months away from home he told me quite frankly that he thought that I was dying and that I wouldn’t pull through, his comments today weren’t exactly encouraging. How much worse can it be?

It has left me with the feeling that the clock is winding down rapidly now and the first thought that came into my head when Frodo and Sam were staring despair in the face near the end of LORD OF THE RINGS
"Have you thought of an ending?"
"Yes, several, and all are dark and unpleasant."

He was insisting yet again that I ought to see a therapist (read “psychiatrist”) to help me come to terms with “events” but as I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … anyone who sees a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.

And I really would feel terribly sorry for whoever it is who draws the short straw and has to probe the depths of my subconscious mind.

Actually, I don’t honestly think that he’s too far off the mark because I haven’t had a good day today.

It was another disturbed night and an early start in the morning because I ended up not being able to sleep all that much.

After the medication I had a few things to do and it ended up being another nostalgic trip down Memory Lane. And as PG Wodehouse once famously said, "memories are like mulligatawny soup in a cheap restaurant. It is best not to stir them"

Eventually I managed to sit down and transcribe the dictaphone notes. I was going through editing my blog last night. As well as that, I was comparing a few web pages to check on things. I came across 2 that were absolutely identical so I deleted one of them. It wasn’t until later that I realised that one of them was actually the copy on the hard drive and the other was the copy on the server. I needed to have the two copies of course but I couldn’t remember the name of the file. I then had to go all the way through, count the files and compare each of them one by one. This led to its own complications because the only way to identify the different web pages was by the images on them but I kept on losing count. A couple of people there were trying to help me but they weren’t particularly helpful. There was one occasion where I missed an image and just wanted to go back a short way but she reset the machine that she had so that it went right the way back to the start so we’d have to start all over again. I had a feeling that this is a job that is never ever going to be finished because no matter how many times I make a start on it I can’t keep my concentration going long enough to count all of the web pages and images correctly (and doesn’t this sound so familiar?) and I’d just keep on slipping up every time. I’d never find this missing file that I deleted in error.

I was then doing something different with the blog. I was trying to prepare a report of each and every football match that had taken place over the last 4 or 5 years. I had some notes and we had some old newspapers. By going through them we were able to make some kind of rough approximation of what had happened the previous season and were able to make some kind of report of each game that had taken place so that with the aid of a couple of very small children I went back and did a couple of years. That seemed to work fine. I set a little task and sent the children away to do the previous years but I was rather over-ambitious with that and the children weren’t able to do it. A couple of parents came to see me and in the end we all sat down, had a talk about it and went to work it out. One woman complained in a light-hearted way that I was speaking Geordie to them but another one replied “no, that’s Scots” and they were all being rather confused by my accent. I actually awoke before we finished it. But someone had asked me about how many years back I was going to do. I replied that that would be the last one because we couldn’t rely on having copies of the newspapers any further back than that. Without access to any records it was going to be practically impossible to complete.

Later on last night I was in Leuven, preparing to go to do my shopping. Then a flyer came round from LIDL. I thought to myself “I haven’t been to LIDL for months and this would give me a good opportunity to go”. I didn’t know where the LIDL was in Leuven. I’d have to have a look at the map to work out a route. 5 minutes later found me out in the street and I’d forgotten to look at the map. I was wandering off, daydreaming as usual down the road and almost ended up driving through a red traffic light. All kinds of traffic came to join me at the next traffic light. There was a while MkIV Cortina saloon full of people etc. Then I suddenly had a brainwave about where there might be a LIDL – miles out of my route but I may as well go while I’m out. I began to plan my itinerary about what I was doing, where I was going and what I was going to buy while I was sitting in the van at the traffic light.

Rapidly changing country, I was at the Centre Normandy, somewhere like that, standing at the reception when a giant rat scurried across the room. I picked up one of these pointed letter-openers and threw it at the rat and skewered it straight away. I felt really impressed with that, except of course that the idea of a rat running around somewhere like that is horrible.

Finally, we were in Virlet preparing to come back north. Someone had already heaved a brick through the windscreen of the Ford Escort so I wanted to make sure that everything was properly burglar-proof. One of the windows was rather badly-damaged and was easy for anyone to try to come in that way so I was trying to find some string to secure it but I found a piece of wood that was exactly the correct size to blank it off. I went looking for my drill, screws and bits. I found them lying around on the floor in all kinds of places where I’d left them the previous day when I’d been working and been too tired to put everything away. I began to collect everything together to prepare. I can’t remember who I was with now but Percy Penguin was also there.

There was some more stuff than this but you really don’t want to read it, especially if you’re eating your meal.

After a good wash I prepared for my Welsh lesson and it was a disaster. Nothing whatever would sink into my head today. And being disrupted by the visit of the doctor didn’t help at all.

The car came for me later to take me to the Centre de Re-education and I don’t know why, but I fell into the pit with the Black Dog. And fell quite deeply too.

Not that that usually bothers me because I’ve fallen in there many times before, and sometimes much deeper than this, but I’ve always consoled myself with the thought that when things are really bad, they can only improve. However, at the moment, it’s difficult to see quite how.

Severine pulled and tugged me about for half an hour and then I had the ergotherapist who discussed her report with me.

Back here later I made my hot chocolate and biscuits, and then promptly crashed out.

The hospital and I had a chat at some point. My visit on Monday is now cancelled and I have to come on Tuesday, as previously advised, instead. However it still involves a stay. But that’s next week. There is still plenty of time for further changes before then.

My cleaner came round too. The doctor had given me a prescription for more medication so I’d sent her a message to ask her if she could fetch the products. I warned her that she’d need a shopping trolley

Tea was a taco roll, and there’s enough stuffing left over for a leftover curry tomorrow.

There’s the Centre de Re-education again tomorrow and then I’ll finish off the radio notes. I waded through a pile of them earlier before tea and I’ve done about 70% already.

But right now I’m exhausted again so despite how early it is, I reckon that I’ll go to bed. Not that it’ll do me much good but I have to show willing.

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.

Saturday 18th November 2023 – I’VE HAD ONE …

… of those days where I haven’t really accomplished all that much.

Not that I can complain too much though. I accomplished everything that I intended to do, and with plenty of time to spare as well. And that’s not something that happens every day.

For once I was awake a long time before the alarm went off and had I really pushed myself I could have been up and about as well. But let’s not go getting ahead of ourselves.

After the medication and checking the mails I had a very slow start to the day and it wasn’t until I’d had my mid-morning coffee and soup that I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. There was a wedding taking place amongst the family. We were all assembled staying somewhere in a house for the night. Tea was pretty rudimentary so we all had tea in our room, a kind-of bedroom with about 12 beds in it and rubbish and mess everywhere. It really was untidy – much more untidy than anything I could ever come up with. While I was serving out the tea a cat came in. I offered it some of the tea but it promptly threw up everywhere which put a lot of people off their meal. I cleaned it up then we sat down to eat as best as we could amongst the debris and mess. Then I collected up the dishes to take into the kitchen to wash. My brother in law was there. His part of the room was the worst of all. He was saying “just take this for me – just take that for me – go and pick this up – go and pick that up” so I exploded at him and told him “instead of standing there giving orders if he went and did the jobs himself he’d find that it would probably be done a lot quicker” and stormed out of the room into the kitchen where I bumped into my mother. She asked what was going on so I explained that I’d just upset her son in law to which she made a remark to him too. I put the dishes down on the table.

Actually, to give you some idea, that particular member of my family actually tried to provoke me into a fight with him – at a family funeral in 2000, would you believe?

50 years or so ago another member of my family was marrying. I was living in the ground floor apartment of this building at the time. I remember having to look out of the window at something that was going on outside but I really can’t remember what it was. I had things to do to prepare myself for this event. Someone whom I knew but had forgotten now made some kind of derogatory remark about my appearance. I reminded them that I could probably give them 50 years in age and the idea of what is smart is set by convention rather than by just one person’s idea

And that’s nothing new either.

Everyone in the house was asleep. I was doing the accounts for the taxis. Roxanne was awake and came to see what I was doing. We had a chat while we were doing that. When we finished I suggested that we go downstairs and so something. She ran over to her slippers but instead she took her heavy clog-type shoes that were by the door by where her parents were sleeping. I told her to put on her slippers but she said that she might be going out. I told her to pick them up and bring them with her but she said that she wasn’t allowed bare feet in the house. She began to put on her clogs but made a noise so I told her to be quiet or she’d awaken her parents. She said that I’d awaken her parents by making a noise to her and that’s what always happens. I didn’t really explain to her that what was actually awakening them was the noise of her putting on her clogs, not me telling her off about it. She put her clogs on and went dancing off down the corridor and luckily her parents didn’t actually awaken at that moment.

Yes, Roxanne was a lovely, happy child. When she was 9 years old she and I were sitting outside a café in Ixelles while Laurence had gone to the shops. Roxanne was sitting next to me drawing a picture and we were talking about what she was doing. One woman sitting at the next table said to her friend, in one of these stage whispers “you can see whose daughter she is” and I’ll never forget the big beaming smile on Roxanne’s face.

When she was 6 I taught her to ride a bike and to swim and by the time she was 9 she was riding my Honda scooter up and down the street and steering the car (sitting on my knee of course) down the country lanes around Virlet.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed, while I was out walking last night something came along and hacked all my dwarf or gnome followers into bits. When I returned it was like a huge jigsaw puzzle and I had to spend hours slowly matching up the bits to remake the bodies. Eventually I began to make one or two correctly and even one or two of their house animals correctly. It was taking a very long time but I could see that I was going to be able to solve this and end up with all of my dwarves and gnomes reassembled.

My father asked me to drive over to the Shetland islands for a job that he had lined up for me. Full of mystery and suspense I set off. I eventually arrived. It turned out that one of his friends who lived on this particular island had had the opportunity to sponsor a lamp post outside his house and wanted to talk about it to someone. All this sounded extremely vague to me and the directions that my father gave me to the guy’s house weren’t of any help but he produced a couple of photos and that at least gave me some kind of idea where the house might be situated. I set off and eventually found it. It was a house in a dip with a great big street light right by it that was shining over the dip so it was really as if the house was completely floodlit. The old guy had the idea that he would sponsor it as a form of advertising. We had a lengthy discussion about the Shetland Islands, the Faroes, etc and even touched on the islands in the Arctic archipelago – strangely enough, ones of which I’d dreamt, not ones that actually exist. In the end her persuaded me to go to see his neighbour, an elderly Colonel. I went off to see him. He was completely bewildered. I explained that it’s certainly the aim of several counties in the UK to have their street furniture sponsored as a way of raising money and a way for people to advertise themselves or their possessions etc. He thought it rather strange which it probably was. he showed me around his house which was full of all kinds of different things, hardly anywhere spare of clutter on the floor or walls etc but it was all neatly arranged. After this guy left me alone for half an hour I began to sit and wonder that this was probably the strangest thing in which I’ve ever been involved. If this Colonel guy has to start moving around all his things for any particular reason we’ll be here for ever organising it. I just wondered what was going through this old man’s mind.

I went into a pub in Crewe for a drink – something that I haven’t done in years. I found to my surprise that I’d been barred. I had absolutely no idea why. It must be 40 years since I last had a beer. The next day I was at work. There was a kind-of complex confrontation going on about my timesheets. At one stage my manager took my phone and began to scroll through it. I asked him if he had a search warrant which made him immediately drop it so I immediately went onto the offensive and we had the most amazing row. I left and decided that I’d go to another pub to see if I could have a drink there. I asked for half a pint of mild but she served me half a pint of milk. We laughed about that and she gave me a drink. I began to drink it. As I was leaving I overheard a couple of conversations. One was a barman talking to one of the girls sitting at the bar. There was definitely something not correct about that conversation. He was trying to persuade her to do something and I could tell that she wasn’t all that keen at all. The other one was some people discussing councillors. A guy came in and began to talk about the building work taking place next door. Some guy had had several thousand pounds to do some digging there but as soon as he had received the money he dismissed the contractors and had the gipsies in to do it for cash. They were discussing the guy and how crooked he was. It was someone whom I actually knew so I stayed to listen to the conversation. As it happened, the guy was a Conservative Councillor so as I left I asked “what was that you were saying about councillors earlier?”. There was still a few minutes left before my bus so I thought that I’d walk through the shopping precinct off Victoria Street. I’d heard some depressing stories about it. They were right. all of the buildings were flaking, the paint was coming off, many were closed and areas of the precinct were in complete darkness as the street lights weren’t working. It looked like something from Chernobyl. I thought that I’d walk around for a while then go back to the bus station to catch my bus home.

Actually, that’s a slight exaggeration. The last time I had an alcoholic drink was in 1994. We’d been skiing up in the mountains on the border between Bulgaria and Greece and the fog came down. When we finally arrived at the gondola to take us back down to the valley it was all locked up and everyone had gone home.

We had to pick our way down the mountain on skis, completely off-piste and when we eventually reached the valley the only place open to relax was a bar and all that it had was beer.

That was the year that there was an oil embargo on Serbia and a friend (who figures occasionally in these pages although not as much as she did a good while ago and for the benefit of regular readers of this rubbish, didn’t feature in these pages anything as often as she deserved) and I were standing on a railway bridge over the main railway line from Thessaloniki watching oil train after oil train after oil train heading north.

Greece’s imports of oil tripled during that period.

Claire came on line too and we had a chat for a while. She’s been seriously ill for the last three or four weeks with something that has compounded her underlying health problems but she’s slowly feeling better and in a couple of weeks she might be up and about.

As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … we’re all pretty much of a similar age and we are all growing old and infirm together.

Something else that I did was to finish off all the notes for the radio programme that I’ve been preparing. I’ll dictate that tonight before I go to bed.

Much of the rest of the time has been spent trying to bring order into chaos and tidying up some of the directories. That’s an ongoing process what with having to merge 30 years-worth of hard drives together and it won’t be finished any time soon either.

There was time to have a good play on the guitars too. A couple of songs that bring back memories of those 3 missing nights in the High Arctic were of course THE FIRST SONG THAT WE SANG TOGETHER.

This was also ANOTHER ONE that we worked on together on board THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR

There were plenty of others too so I’m going to restart my playlist. I even managed to find time to work on the bass lines for WIND UP and, of course, not to mention the track WITH THE GREATEST OPENING 1:20 EVER

Anyway, that’s enough nostalgia for now. I can’t see me ever playing in public again if I can’t ever hold a guitar and I can’t stand up And sitting here with a guitar on my knee means that I can’t sing.

And even if I could sing sitting down with a guitar on my knee, I no longer have the breathing to do it.

What kind of state am I in?

Tea tonight was a breaded quorn fillet with salad and backed potato, delicious as usual. And now I’m going to dictate the radio notes and go to bed.

Tomorrow I have pizza dough to make and I intend to attack the bread and butter pudding to see what damage I can do to that so a good lie-in will do me good.

But we’ll have to see about that. It would be nice if some nice people came to visit me rather than the endless stream of relatives who keep turning up.

Even The Vanilla Queen coming along TO HAUNT ME IN MY DREAMS would be a great improvement. I wonder how things are these days on Baffin Island.

Thursday 26th October 2023 – THE GOOD NEWS …

… is that I can go home tomorrow. The car to pick me up has been arranged for 14:30 but if the last time that I was here is anything to go by, it’ll be long after midnight before I arrive back home.

My cleaner contacted me too. As I won’t be back until late, would I like her to fetch my Friday shopping for me?

As I have said before, the solidarity amongst the residents of my building is something that I’ve never ever encountered before.

The bad news is that it has not been confirmed that it is indeed the carcinogenic protein that has entered my nervous system.

That means that unfortunately the end is nigh because it will slowly creep through my body, including what’s left of my brain. And they did warn me right at the beginning of all of this that the end will not be very pleasant.

To be on the safe side, I gave my doctor a bit of lip this afternoon. In fact, she cut out a sample of the nerves in my lip to examine it – to see how far the cancer is advancing. If it’s that far up my body it won’t be long.

And I have made an executive decision – and as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, an executive decision is a decision where if the person making the decision makes the wrong decision, he is executed.

And the decision is that seeing as I can now barely walk, and I’m entitled to transport to any hospital up to 500 kms from my home, I have decided regrettably to end my association with Leuven and transfer my papers here. I really can’t struggle around on the train any more these days

In all honesty I don’t think that I’m very far off having to have a carer. It’s a shame that Percy Penguin can’t drive. 30 years of working in an Old People’s Home will have prepared her for whatever she might encounter with me but it’s no good if she can’t take me to the shops.

Meanwhile back at the ran … errr … hospital I had a bad night last night. It took me an age to go off to sleep, for a reason that I really don’t know

At least there was no blood test at 05:20 this morning but they did awaken me at 07:10 for something and again at 08:50 when they brought breakfast. So once more I had breakfast in bed.

After having a really good wash I sat down and listened to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. There was something about changing one of my appointments around because of this therapy thing. I managed to do it absolutely fine. It wasn’t until the Tuesday when we were talking about my Welsh lesson that I realised that I’d promised to go on behalf of the class to some kind of meeting or conference on the Tuesday afternoon. Of course, that was now out of the question. I began to think about what I was going to do about it and how I was going to solve this problem.

There was something else too about being round at a girl’s bungalow. It was a girl whom I knew from school and a few of her friends. It involved going up a ladder onto the roof and doing certain things. I noticed while they were up there that part of the roof hadn’t been slated properly. There was someone else with me so I sent him up the ladder and gave him instructions as to how to do the roofing. In the end all the girls came down except the one whom I knew. She was still up there so I threw her a small pot of white paint and a brush and she painted some kind of slogan on the roof. She ended up with more paint on her than on the roof but never mind. When she came down, she reached as far as the edge of the roof and realised that her bra had come undone. She was having to fiddle around with it and fasten herself back in etc and hope that no-one else would notice before she came down the ladder. I noticed that her bra was a red tartan one. Eventually she managed to put it n beneath her clothes. As she came down she turned to me to ask if I’d sorted out the roof for her. I told her that someone had been up to realign the slates. She said that it didn’t look correct. I replied “no it doesn’t but that’s probably because you have the wrong slates. It’s certainly all properly realigned now”. She then began to talk about a few other jobs she needed doing like putting an electric junction box in the wall etc.

When we were living in Shavington there was a path that led to Willaston that went over the railway. The kids around there had all kinds of fun scrawling incorrect messages on the zebra so the controllers of the zebra decided that they would no longer stop there. It had already messed up all of my timetables before and it was going to do it again. One of the boys and I had this plan that we’d tackle this mess of graffiti by me climbing into the back of the truck and asking a pile of questions while this cat was crawling up my leg onto my lap. It took a long time to arrange this kind of meeting and it was as if she knew what most of it was about. She’d been talking for about 0.7 days even though I couldn’t walk and the cats were stuck in and the doctor had said so much about it and the kids couldn’t concentrate on doing their homework without thinking about the mill.

Usually, although I’m dictating while I’m asleep, when I come to transcribe the notes I can recall little bits of what’s been going on that ring a bell with me from the night. However for that one, I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever of that one and it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever – not that many of my nocturnal travels actually do.

So back into the night and we’d all gone round to someone’s house in our family to watch a football match, Arsenal against some European side. We were all there watching this game in the living room. Just then my father pulled up in a van. We heard that he might be coming but he hadn’t been there at the start. As we watched, he just parked up outside. I opened the door and asked him “why don’t you reverse the van up the drive?”. He made some remark about how he couldn’t reverse like many other people. Then he opened the door and my mother and 6 or 7 other people swarmed out. We all said that it was totally stupid bringing that many people in this little van. They all came into the house and we had to explain to them how the wiring system works because we had special plugs for the television. While we were looking at the TV plugs we noticed that the wallpaper on one of the walls was becoming really damp. We all settled down – or at least, they settled down taking everyone else’s chair. When we came back in there was nowhere really for us to sit. There was just one seat so I said to one of the girls “you’d better sit in that seat because you’ll be comfortable there” because her seat had been occupied by my father’s sister’s husband. He had a reputation for chasing after the girls. She felt extremely uncomfortable when she saw him sitting in her seat.

When the nurse awoke me I was talking about gardening. We had all kinds of fruit trees, plants and so on and we’d been transplanting them. The girl with me had taken a couple of apple trees and planted them outside. A few hours later she brought one of them in to plant inside the house again, saying that it wasn’t doing very well outside and had caught some kind of disease or something. I was looking at one of the flowering plants in a pot. It hadn’t done very much for a couple of years but I noticed that now it had about half a dozen flowers on it and a couple more were forming. I told her about them but she was too busy at that moment to come to have a look.

For much of the day I was left on my own and was able to pile on with selecting the music for future radio programmes. In fact I’m now at 25th October 2024 but there are several gaps in there. I have to think about what music I’m going to play for my Hawkfest and to commemorate the first Isle of Wight Festival.

There were the usual nurses coming to and from and I had the usual gaggle of doctors come to see me, and that was when they told me the bad news. But they tell me that there are all kinds of follow-up action to come, some to be undertaken here and some that can be undertaken closer to home.

And so I’m going to be very busy in the near future, and the local ambulance service is going to be making a lot of money out of my health insurance providers. In case you don’t know, here in France they have what they call VSLs – Voitures Sanitaires Légères – that are like taxis but equipped to take people who aren’t mobile to their hospital appointments etc.

This afternoon the doctor came back with a friend. They wanted to take a sample of my lip tissue with a piece of my nervous system. So they injected my lip with a local anaesthetic and then attacked it with a scalpel. It took three attempts before they actually ended up with a nerve.

They did tell me that if I didn’t want the lip thing they could take a sample of grease from somewhere else but that would involve a surgical intervention. But sod that for a game of soldiers.

Importantly, while they were doing that I missed my coffee so I had to go out and hunt it down. They didn’t want to give it to me because of what I’d just been through but I insisted.

After tea I began to write my notes but a nurse came to see me to tell me that I must be à jeun tomorrow morning as I’m having something done to me at 12:00 for which I have to have an empty stomach.

But that fasting starts at 06:00 so as she’s coming to put a needle in me at 05:30 I persuaded her to bring me some bread jam and coffee. I’m not going without a meal.

So right now I’d better go to bed and make myself ready for tomorrow morning. I’m not looking forward to the needle, I’m not looking forward to whatever it it that they are going to do to me, but it will be nice to be back home.

Monday 22nd May 2023 – WHEN I AWOKE …

… this morning, I was actually fully clothed flat out on top of the bed. I’ve no idea what happened there but I must have been really tired.

However not so tired that I didn’t get up early. Once more, when the alarm went off at 07:00 I was already up and about.

Yes, that was one strange night.

Once I’d had my medication and checked my mails and messages I started work. And by the time I finished at tea-time, I’d finished two radio programmes.

Had things been different they would have been finished a lot earlier too but there were plenty of interruptions.

Firstly, the nurse came round and gave me my fortnightly injection. It’s supposed to perk me up and keep me going for another two weeks but it doesn’t feel like it. The effects of the product are definitely not working as well as they did at first and wearing off quicker.

They’ve already increased the dose from 40mg to 60 mg and I suppose that the next step will be to have the injections every 10 days instead of every 14.

The “release and retained” lists for the clubs in the Welsh pyramid were released today as well – 9 days early and already, players are on the move around. Consequently I’ve had to start to update my lists earlier than usual.

And then someone with whom I wanted to have a word came on line so we were chatting for some considerable time too.

Going back to the radio programme, when I was in France during my schooldays I met a Swiss bassist called Walter Fröhlich. He was one of the bassists who, along with Felix Pappalardi and Gerry McAvoy, inspired me to play bass in the days before I heard “Quadrophenia”. Wandering around in the depths of my back-up drive I came across one of the songs on which Fröhlich played so of course I had to include it in one of the programmes.

All in all, I accomplished a lot today although it doesn’t much look like it.

Tea was a stuffed pepper with pasta and vegetables. Yes, pasta. I said I would, and there was some nice spicy tomato sauce to go with it too.

There was the dictaphone too. I had my own apartment in Granville somewhere last night. It wasn’t by the sea at all but in the St Nicolas area. I’d spoken to Percy Penguin (who doesn’t appear in these pages half as often as she deserves) about coming round but she was with another guy and said “the two of us would come round”. She put her boyfriend on the phone and he spoke to me. We agreed to meet up at 20:45. He asked what the weather was like because it was pouring down with rain. I said that it’s really wet under foot but not waterlogged or anything like that so it’s OK to move around. He replied “yes but the big difficulty is that Percy Penguin is the same height as you so we’d end up with 3 of us on my motor bike”. My response was “that’s OK. We can go out in Caliburn. I decided that the best thing was for me to go round at 21:00 and pick them both up. They were living here in this building at the time so I thought that it would be nice for Caliburn and me to come back.

And later on I was at a strange kind of roundabout or road junction somewhere. To negotiate it was extremely complicated and I ended up flattening a couple of trees that had been planted because of the way that some vehicles had been parked on it. A car and I merged in together on this junction but the other driver felt that he should have had priority although there wasn’t a road sign anywhere. It certainly wasn’t clear. When I stopped he left his car and came to start an argument. I explained the situation as I’d seen it but he carried on and on and on. I said “look, something happened there and something wasn’t correct but it doesn’t make any difference. No-one had any problems. The vehicles didn’t touch each other” but he still carried on. I went on saying “if you become upset like this every time you see something happen that’s not what you think is correct then I’m surprised that you ever get anywhere”. But so it continued.

The interesting thing about it was that all of this took place in French.

So I’ll be off to bed in a minute. There’s a Welsh lesson tomorrow so I need to do some revision and be ready to go. But I don’t feel like it. In fact I don’t feel much like anything right now. But I dunno. It’ll all work out in Boomland, as T2 told us back in 1970. And that reminds me – where the heck is my copy of that? I haven’t seen that around for absolute ages.

Thursday 20th April 2023 – HAVE YOU ANY …

… idea of just how difficult I’m finding things right now?

Today at the hospital they had no fewer than 5 goes at putting a catheter into my arms. My left arm is hurting like hell as a consequence and my right arm isn’t much better. They finally managed to fit one into the back of my right hand and they’ve left it in there for tomorrow.

Consequently even the most simple of tasks like going for a ride on the porcelain horse is … errr … somewhat complicated, and I’m going to be in a right mess by the time that they remove it, if they ever do.

So that’s the bad news. How about the worse news?

According to the neurologist I’m in quite a mess (no surprise there, but she’s actually referring to this infection in my nervous system) and I mustn’t count on this week being the only week during which treatment will be given. They will take a blood test before I leave here tomorrow, let the nerve specialist here in Granville know the results and see whether (as is quite likely) further treatment will be necessary.

Apparently this stuff that they are giving me is quite vicious so they can only give it to me in dribs and drabs. As a result it seems that some kind of plan about coming back here for a week every month or two will be on the cards for the foreseeable future.

In other words, one week in every 4 I might be in Leuven and a second week in every 4 I might be in Avranches. So I don’t know why I’m bothering to buy an apartment. I may as well rent a hospital bed.

Some people might be wondering why I don’t simply have my treatment in one place. Well, believe me, that was the initial plan but regular readers of this rubbish will recall the events of early December last year and how that ended up. At least, here in Avranches they are taking it seriously.

But anyway, I digress.

Last night wasn’t as good as the previous night’s sleep. Once more it took me an age to go off to sleep. However I was awake at 06:20 this morning long before the alarm went off and by 06:45 I was up and about.

After the medication and a good wash Caliburn and I hit the road and headed off for Avranches. I’ve found a new way to the hospital which while being slightly longer, is rather quicker as there’s a section of dual carriageway where I can open Caliburn up to 110kph. He needs a good run like that to blow the soot out of his fuel injectors.

There was something of a wait while they sorted themselves out and fitted my pipes and tubes, and then they pumped me full of the stuff. The neurologist came for a chat while it was all going on, and then when it finished she gave me a few tests – tests that confirmed what we all know, and that is that there is no power at all in my right leg.

As a result of all of this I was later than usual coming home and after having my toasted fruit bread and coffee I … errr … crashed out for an hour. This stuff takes it out of me right enough

Once I’d recovered my composure I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. I was in Shavington at one point, living in our house and I had to go to pick up the post. For some unknown reason the post was delivered in the back garden of the next-door neighbour. We had to cross through the gap in the fence and walk down their path to the end of the garden. When I did that there were 2 kids playing in the back garden. One of them wanted me to tell his friend about the 2 dogs we used to have. I said “if you want to see them you have to have very good eyesight. They aren’t here any more”. There was some music playing. I asked about it. There was a record player there that had an amplifier with a speaker attached and then there was a separate speaker. The lad said that the amplifier and connected speaker and the other free speaker with it were on sale for £80. I thought that that was a good deal and I gave some serious consideration to buying it.

Later on we were living on a farm somewhere. Our next-door neighbours were Percy Penguin’s family. We were working in collaboration with them. I had to go to pick up something from there but I didn’t really fancy meeting their dog. I went anyway. WHile I was there I picked up the bicycle that her father had had. I noticed that the wheel was buckled but I had a ride all the same. Then he said that he’d been out on it a few days ago but had had a puncture. This was obviously what he meant and I wondered if I should mend the puncture for him. But that’s not going to solve the problem of the wheel. There was another neighbour round at her house too so I went back with this bike and propped it up in our yard but it fell over with a couple of other bikes too. We had a chat but I suddenly looked at my watch. It was 09:54. I thought “God! I start work at 10:00. I’m going to have to go”. I had to hurriedly make my excuses, at the same time talk about this bike and get ready to clear off for work.

But it was strange being round at Percy Penguin’s house talking to her father and she wasn’t there. She must have heard me coming.

The rest of the day has been spent in an unsccessful attempt trying to track down a copy of a single entitled “Lucy Brown” by a musician called Trevor Williams. At another time he was bassist with a group called Audience whose album HOUSE ON THE HILL has been on my playlist since the day it came out.

Apart from that, I’ve been writing a few more notes here and there but it’s not at all easy given the state in which I currently find myself.

Tea tonight was one of those curried burgers of which I seem to have a shed-load, together with some spicy fried rice with onion and garlic, and some spinach for good measure. And that was really delicious.

But right now I’m off to bed. I doubt if I’ll sleep tonight because I’m in agony and in any case it’s not easy to make myself comfortable with this needle in the back of my right hand. But I have to go through the motions.

Tomorrow I hope that I’ll be free to go on my way but if these treatments have to continue I’m going to see whether I can persuade someone to fit a catheter port in my chest like I used to have.

That was painful but they only had to do it once in 5 years. 5 times in one day is going completely overboard.

Wednesday 12th April 2023 – MY HOME-MADE …

… garlic naan was delicious. And what’s even better is that there are two more balls of dough in the freezer for further use for the next batch of leftover curries. And shock! Horror! I didn’t use the air fryer but stuck the naan in the wok to cook when I’d finished cooking the curry.

The leftover curry tonight was even better than usual too. The naan bread recipe called for just half a pot of soya yoghurt so instead of soya cream, I added the remains of the pot to my curry and that definitely gave it a certain je ne sais quoi that it didn’t have before.

The fact is that gradually I’m working on my diet and my meals and I’m having some really good stuff. My diet is improving in leaps and bounds and that can only be good news.

It’s better news that what happened during the night. That’s certainly true. I was late going to bed and when the alarm went off at 07:30 I was already sitting down here working. I’d been up since 06:00 and awake for more than an hour before that. It was quite a dreadful night.

Anyway I went for a shower and then set off to walk to the doctor’s, with both my crutches. I almost had a fall going down the steps to the Place Pelley but I managed to hang on and made it the rest of the way.

The doctor was extremely pleased to see me and he said so. He also said that when he saw me for the first time after I came back from Canada via the hospital he was extremely worried and wasn’t sure at all that I would pull through.

Not the first time that I’ve heard that either. I had a friend once who told me that he had been at death’s door but the hospital pulled him through.

After the doctor threw me out, armed with a pile of prescriptions, I went first to the little Carrefour and then round to the pharmacy. Outside, I met the friendly neighbourhood itinerant street dweller and we had quite a chat.

The chemist has to order in my Aranesp so that’s another trip down into town tomorrow. And I’m slowly warming to the idea of going to Leuven next by train regardless of the struggle through Paris because right now I seem to be managing to walk fairly well, all things considered, on my crutches and I’m hoping for an improvement after my week next week at the hospital.

What underlined that was the walk back home afterwards. I made it all the way back here without having to stop to catch my breath and it’s been an age since I’ve been able to do that. Things are looking up.

While i’d been in town I’d bought a crusty baguette so I made some cheese on toast for a late breakfast, especially now that I can actually buy vegan cheese in the big supermarkets. It’s not just my cooking that’s looking up but the supply of ingredients too.

Tons of stuff on the dictaphone too from during the night despite how short it was. I was driving a taxi last night. I had my little company going but all kinds of issues were going on. I ended up with just one car doing a few bits and pieces here and there. I was fed up with trying to organise everything and do everything. It ended up in Court for some reason or other. It was all very depressing last night.

And then I was in a house with someone. She was going to have a bath. She had left me alone in the living room. I’d seen all of her plants. She had some books on plants.

There was also a dream about a big female cat like Chloe (the cervil). She’d had kittens and one of them wasn’t very well. It had a respiratory issue. She brought the kitten to me to presumably take to the vet. I took the kitten and her too at the same time.

Later on I stepped back into one of these dreams again about a girl whom I’d been dating. Her parents began to accept me as some kind of fixture. She told me that Robert had rung up to talk to me. She thought that this was my father. I explained that this was Percy Penguin’s father. I couldn’t understand why he would want to get in touch with me. Her mother didn’t say very much and wandered away so I talked to this girl who by now had become Percy Penguin. She was saying that she’s being treated much better at home now because she’s been spending more time with them and more time looking after the pets and animals which has made har parents quite grateful. Maybe my new favoured position has something to do with all of that.

When I awoke later on (whatever that’s supposed to mean) I was with this girl again. I don’t know what’s happening here now.

That’s not everything that happened during the night by the way, but you really don’t want to know about the rest of it.

The cleaner came round this afternoon and we had a good chat while I wrote out some notes for one of my radio programmes. But then I crashed out – good and proper too – for at least an hour so I didn’t do as much as I would have liked. But I still managed to find the time to make some dough for the delicious naan bread.

having talked about my curry earlier, I’m just going to do a little more work and then I’ll head for bed. No lie-in tomorrow of course because I’m having a blood test and I have to have had nothing to eat. So right now I’m finishing off the last of the special chocolate that I bought for myself for Easter and then I’ll be going to bed.

But after crashing out like I did today I probably won’t have much of a sleep tonight either. Still, a good walk into town should wear me out enough and I’ll be fit for nothing when the physio comes round on Friday morning.

It’s all go around here, isn’t it?

Saturday 4th February 2023 – AND I WAS DOING …

… so well too.

But once again, this afternoon, I crashed out for half an hour or so and that effectively disrupted me completely. I really did think that I’d gone beyond that.

It was probably something to do with the night that I had had, which was later than usual and coupled with difficulties about going to sleep once I was finally in bed.

And I was off on quite a few voyages during the night too. There was something about a woman who was on Death Row back in the 19th Century for having strangled a teacher. It turned out that it wasn’t her but someone else. He’d arranged the crime so that it looked as if she’d done it. He was being blackmailed by this teacher for something or other and wanted to put an end to it all so he put an end to the teacher. Then he came in to gloat over the woman before she went off to be hanged. There was also something about a sale on eBay of a place infested with rats etc. It turned out to be a Ford garage that had closed down years ago. It was full of old Ford bits and pieces, spare parts etc. While we were all watching the video of this particular place I wrote a note to someone who was there, saying “this is how my place is going to look in 20 years time”.

Following that, I’d been in Canada and the USA. It was a Sunday and I was flying back on the Tuesday so I had to drive to Montreal, hand back my hire car and find a place to stay for the night and then fly back to Europe. When I came back I went to the radio offices and there had been a few changes. They had agreed to let a girl whom I used to know interview a few people. I had one or two projects in mind that she could do so I said that I’d go to see her. Someone else said that they would come along and bring the equipment. I set off up the stairs to her office under the eaves. When I arrived there was one of her daughters and someone else. I said “have you seen your mother?”. They replied “no, she’s gone in the air ambulance”. I asked “what’s happened?”. They replied “someone has been injured over at the nail bar”. I said “but the nail bar is only just there across the car park”. “Oh yes, they have had to go to the person’s home”. Just at that moment the other person came into the office so I said “yes well some people will do absolutely anything for a ride in a helicopter”. It looked as if we weren’t going to make any progress at all on that particular day with that particular plan.

In fact, what happened during that little voyage was exactly as she would have behaved in real life in similar circumstances.

At some point during the night I awoke because of a stabbing pain in my right knee. But then back in this dream with that woman again again after I’d sorted out the pain in my right knee there was something about bringing more animals around to be shared out amongst the different offices. I wondered what animal we’d put in her room – whether we’d put something like a gorilla. It would be quite a handful for her to handle if of course she didn’t get the better of it first

Later on I was back in this dream yet again, at the radio we’d gone out to try to interview a few people about various things. The weather was really poor so in the end we didn’t go out because there wouldn’t be anyone there. I was chatting to a girl who worked at the radio. She said that the bad weather didn’t seem to stop me going outside and started to call me a few uncomplimentary names working her way through the alphabet for a name with each initial. I stopped her when she reached round about “D” or “E” because I couldn’t see the point in her continuing. She had made her point. There was much more to it than this but I can’t remember now.

And finally I was round at my niece’s last night although it was in the UK. We’d gone to discuss a few things. It was in the evening after we’d had a meal and I was feeling rather tired. I had a girl with me. I don’t know who she was but she might have been Percy Penguin, who doesn’t appear in these pages half as often as she deserves. We were all sitting there basically doing our own thing listening to the radio and the adverts. When an advert for a certain delivery company came on the radio I explained to the girl with me that that was where my niece’s’s daughter worked (which she actually does). This girl was confused about which daughter because there’s a choice of three. It went on like this for a while. In the end she suddenly announced that she was tired. We hadn’t actually done anything which was rather disappointing but I could understand how she was feeling because I was far too tired to do anything. I’d just sat there and done nothing. I think that my niece was rather fed up too and had wandered off to do her own thing somewhere else in the room so it was no surprise that this girl was totally bored.

When the alarm went off at 07:30 I was up and out of bed reasonably promptly despite how I was feeling, and how I’m looking forward to a really good lie-in tomorrow. That’s because I’ve had a really busy day today and accomplished quite a lot.

For a start, most of the morning has been spent finishing off the notes for the two radio programmes that I’ll be preparing, and I even went as far as to dictate them and upload them onto the computer for editing. That’s what I call working hard.

Next step was to find what I needed for this money transfer. And that’s not easy too because the paperwork that they want doesn’t exist. This afternoon I spoke to people at both the banks concerned and they agreed to send me some information that they think might do. And I hope that it does too because it’s important.

And then there were the notes of my nocturnal voyages to deal with. Plenty of those, as you have seen already.

It was round about here that I crashed out, which was rather unfortunate. I was quite a long way away with the fairies and even when I finally awoke it took me a good while to gather up my wits, something that is quite surprising considering how few wits I still possess these days.

Once more, another lovely, delicious tea. We had one of those breaded quorn fillets that I like with a baked potato and some salad. I’ve really got the hang of all of this now and my meals are looking much nicer.

So now, not only am I up-to-date, I’m actually ahead of myself at the moment. I really can treat myself to a day off tomorrow and how I’m looking forward to that. But something will come along to disrupt me, I’m sure of that. It usually does.

And next week I’m hoping that Caliburn will be back and I can get on with organising myself properly as I would like to, even doing a lap or two around the shops if I’m lucky. Things are looking up.

Monday 12th December 2022 – YOU MAY NOT …

… believe this, but Caliburn actually started up this morning on the battery that was on the van. And that’s astonishing, especially as he hasn’t run for over 11 weeks. There’s a small leak in the electrical circuit somewhere that slowly drains the battery so I was expecting it to be dead by now.

What wasn’t nice though was that I’d left open the window in the driver’s door. It had rained in somewhat but one of my neighbours had stuffed a black plastic bag in the door and taped it up to keep the worst out.

Nevertheless, fancy Caliburn starting. I gave him a couple of laps around the block to warm him up and charge up the battery but I’ll tell you something for nothing, and that is that driving him in my condition is a nightmare.

And so as you can imagine, I’ve been outside this morning, and in the freezing fog too. I had to take some rubbish to the bins across the road and even though it is just “across the road” it took me an agonising 25 minutes to do it, going in baby steps. I thought that having had a good relax and a gentle easing off of the stiffness would have made things better, but far from it.

This trip to Leuven for 2nd January is therefore looking less and less likely.

In other news, Strawberry Moose is back home. On eof the reasons why I put a battery on charge last night and then went to start him today was that a couple of guys from the radio had told me that they would be around today at lunchtime.

It was my intention to ask them to help me carry the battery downstairs and to couple it up in order to start him but that wasn’t unnecessary. But they brought back my suitcase completr with His Nibs.

It was interesting too because they work for the local council and they were able to give me some useful hints about dependent living. Having had some kind of impromptu interview, they told me that someone would be in touch.

And I’ll need it too after last night, which was another awful, horrendous night. I kept on waking up, went for one or two walks down the corridor and so on. I was also on my travels quite considerably during the night in another sphere as well. I was with my friend from the Scottish Borders last night. To my surprise she was heavily involved in Black Magic and Spiritualism. She had one of the original books from that period and she had lent it to me. Every time I tried to make a start on reading it someone came past and I wasn’t comfortable about reading this book in full view of whoever it was so I kept it hidden below the desk or down the bed or something until that person had gone. After a while my friend became frustrated and quoted some phrase in the book about “whoever has taken me from my possessor” or something like that. I explained that I hadn’t actually done that. I’d explained what I was doing but she thought that I had to be a lot more forthright about reading the book even though I was uncomfortable. In the end there was always a piece of music that I played that stopped us arguing. She handed me my guitar and asked me to play this piece even though I hadn’t played for quite a while. My performance was bound to be suspect but I thought that I’d give it a go, although I felt that this was just a sticking plaster over a wound and wasn’t actually solving the problem of me getting down to actually reading this book. Whether or not I has an interest in Spiritualism I had an enormous amount of curiosity and I was intrigued just as much as anyone else to see what was in this book and how everything would unfold. However just glancing through a couple of pages made me seem to think that she had at one time or another said something about almost everything that was in there

There was something in there as well about working in the suburbs of Brussels, how some people were complaining that it was expensive. The question was then asked “why don’t they move even further out? That way they could find somewhere more affordable”. The reply came back about the cost and time of commuting which would put them back to Square One even if they were to do that.

Percy Penguin sent me a text to ask me if I could run her to a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. I replied “yes I would” but then I had a realisation that there was no MoT or tax on the car. I had to send her another e-mail straight back. She said that she had cancelled her transport at work so now I was pretty-much obliged to take her unless I could find someone else or someone else would volunteer. Then I was with friends walking around Middlewich. I was pushing something like a pram or a push-chair or whatever. We came off the street around some kind of semi-circle parking place to try to get through to where Walgrens and Marks and Spencers was. We’d been talking about the traffic problems being caused by people turning into their car park. I said that they should get all the nouveau-riche pretentious people, put them in Marks and Spencers and Walgrens and then drop a bomb on the place. That didn’t go down too well with my friends. We were trudging round this semi-circle car space with a cinder base thing. I suddenly wondered if we could get through to Walgrens from here. They replied “no, we should have gone through somewhere else”. On the skyline 100 yards ahead of us were these most peculiar buildings, tall and really narrow. They looked most unsafe. It turned out that these were single-bedroom flats for single occupancy. We were thinking that maybe Percy penguin could find a place there. Then we thought that they looked so delapidated that they would be bound to be closing down these places and demolishing them soon. Nevertheles we went in. There was only a small ladder on the ground floor on the inside. I thought that we had to climb up this ladder, look out of the top by poking our heads through the roof to look out over the top to see how we could get to where we wanted to go. If this ladder wasn’t tall enough for us to be able to do that then we would have a great amount of difficulty. I didn’t fancy leaning too much against the wall of one of these buildings in case we pushed it over because it was really unsafe.

I was also having a dream involving Rosemary. A Government had arbitrarily cut some kind of rate on bankruptcies. She couldn’t see a problem except that someone else had noticed and pointed out to me that it had wiped out the whole market for Insolvency Practicioners. This led to a big discussion about the acounts already agreed with Brussels. The only difference was that the dissident who was supposed to have been held in Moscow at some time but turned up eventually in China. She had a talk that they had a benefit concert for this guy in China but the two people who contributed most in bringing his name to the forefront never actually turned up for it. That name rang a bell with me.

When the alarm went off at 06:00 I felt absolutely awful and I was all ready to stay in bed but I forced myself out. I’d already written half of the notes for my radio programme so I finished the rest, recorded and edited them and then assembled everything.

For a change, I was working backwards so I fell about a minute short so I had to expand my notes and re-dictate some of them. Therefore I didn’t really save as much time as I might otherwise have done.

Then I had Caliburn who required attention, and then my visitors.

Once everyone had gone I had a play around on the computer but fell asleep on my chair. That prompted me to go to bed, something that I have been trying not to do but there was no alternative as I have never in my life felt so tired, as all of … errr … 7% of my daily target will testify.

When I finally crawled out of bed (due mainly to a need to go and take a ride on the Porcelain Horse otherwise I’d probably still be there now) I ended up doing … shock! Horror! … some tidying up. Not much but just enough to take me up to tea time.

So now I’m off to bed. I have a Welsh lesson tomorrow so I need to be on form and then I’ll (hopefully) take Caliburn for another spin. See how I feel and maybe in a few days I’ll pluck up the courage to go to the shops.

Wednesday 30th November 2022 – I MIGHT JUST HAVE …

… solved the problem of doctors wandering off on phantom ‘phone calls just as I start laying into them

During the day today I’ve had no fewer than three “official” visits from various doctors and specialists. And each time that they have set foot in here I have gone on the offensive.

And believe me. If it’s “offensive” you want, then in the words of the late, great Bob Doney, “I’m your man”.

What I’ve done is to set the stopwatch on my ‘phone to start. And then I explained to the doctor or specialist concerned that my world-wide friends on the internet and I are having a sweepstake to see how long the interview lasts before there’s a ‘phone call.

And surprise! Surprise! The interviews have played out to a conclusion without a single ‘phone call.

Of course, tomorrow is another day. And today might have been a pure coincidence. Nevertheless it was still rather hilarious.

More of that anon. Last night I was asleep by 22:00 or thereabouts and wide-awake by 00:45. I’d been on my travels too during this little window. I was at a Spacerock festival. There was a lot of time between the groups. They had nothing whatever arranged so I fetched my CD and tape deck from home from my old hi-fi unit where I had a CD unit, a triple tape deck etc. I brought it down and wired it into the PA of the band and blasted out all my Hawkwind records. I was there with a girlfriend of mine, it might have been Percy Penguin, I dunno, but it was someone who knew nothing about it. She was giving me all the help she could. Quite a lot of the fans were disappointed with the quality and output but the DJ in charge explained that this was the best we had. It was all Hawkwind and this was what they wanted to hear if only they would hear it. One of the groups suggested another way to broadcast instead of using *.mp3 off the tapes etc. I knew that that would take a lot of work but the punters were in no mood to wait for me to configure anything. I just had to continue blasting out CD after CD and tape after tape. The guy from one of the groups said “go on! You have a chance to make music history here. You’ll be famous for ever if you do it”. I was sitting there thinking “I’ll be more likely lynched if I don’t”. I had really no option but to carry on with this because at least something was working and some music was going out and calming the fans. I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was that if I kept on doing what I knew what to do then at least something would work. This girl was helping me bringing the CDs, helping me plug in decks to the PA etc. I felt really sorry for her because she had nothing whatever to do with this. Neither had I, yet here we were.

There was a guy who had the care of two children, girls aged about 7 and 11. I was bringing them up in some kind of environment where there were a great many other people who didn’t like or appreciate the way in which he was bringing up these two girls. However it was clear to most people that he was doing his best considering he’d never been parenting before he’d had these two girls dropped upon him. It was a slow battle of trying to win the other people round to his way of thinking while at the same time trying to be fair with these girls, in particular the older one. He had to give her some lessons in basic subjects like Maths, Geography etc. It was clear that he was completely out of his depth. He was doing his very best as far as he could to make sure that in particular the older one had some kind of education. There was much more to it than this but I can’t remember – a whole lot more than I’ve described.

This morning started off with the blood pressure tests and the like. And my blood pressure was surprisingly high.

So much so that the Senior Ward Nurse came to see me a short while later.

“We need to redo the blood pressure test” she said. “It seems to be unusually high.”

Actually, I didn’t like to tell her that the cute little student nurse is back on duty and she had already taken it this morning.

And it’s a good job that the Senior Ward Nurse came to redo the blood pressure test BEFORE the cute little student nurse came back to climb all over me to change my dressing from Sunday.

It was quite interesting watching her do it in a textbook fashion rather than in the ad-hoc way in which the trained nurses do it. I had to help her through one or two procedures and to remind her of things that she’d forgotten. But she IS cute.

Not long after I’d gone back to sleep I had the physiotherapist round. I was right about the rocket that he must have had inserted into his nether regions because he had me out of bed and setting off for a stroll down the corridor before I was even properly awake.

It was a rather aimless shambles of a scramble down the 20 metres of corridor to the doors at the end that we only just about managed, and the trip back was even more exciting.

He kept on asking me “are you okay?” and “would you like to sit down?” every couple of paces and believe me, I was ready to slosh him before we’d gone five metres

The first of the official visitors was a guy from cardiology – or was he from the pneumonology? – department. He spent a great deal of time running over the history of my case and then told me that they had a few tests lined up for me – a couple of weeks after I’ve been expelled.

Of course I asked if these were tests that I’ve already undergone on my two or three previous visits to his department, but he replied that he didn’t know. He thought that they might be new ones so I asked him why they hadn’t been undertaken when I was there on one of my previous visits.

It goes without saying that his response was that he wasn’t there at the time and wasn’t involved in the decision-making back then. I asked him if he realised just how much of a cop-out that sounded and would he really be satisfied with such a weak excuse?

At least he stayed to the end of the interview and cleared off in his own time without a phone call.

Next up was someone from the physiotherapy department. He asked about my mobility so I told him to consult his own department and in particular the guy who comes to see me every working day.

He replied that he had done so but wanted my own opinion. I told him that I was struggling to go 20 metres but the hospital wanted me to go 700 kms at the beginning of the week. I reckoned that I would be in the Casualty department long before I was at the bus stop.

After much discussion and debate he asked me whether I would be interested in going to the clinic out at Pellemberg for an intensive course in therapy – a couple of weeks of two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’ve been to physiotherapy in Granville for almost a year – one hour per week for about 30 or 40 weeks. What they are offering me is 40 hours of intense therapy in two weeks that is going to be tailored much more to my individual needs.

There needs to be a place to come free of course but having thought about the matter during the discussion I decided that if the opportunity presented itself I would accept it.

It won’t do anything to ease the trapped nerve but I may be able to climb steps and to pick myself up if I fall over.

The third official to visit me was the house doctor who seemed to be several weeks behind the time and hadn’t updated her notes. She hadn’t, for example, noticed that I’d been in the Stargate thing or that I have a trapped nerve and a couple of slipped discs.

It seemed to me that she realised it too because her visit to me, without a ‘phone call to disrupt it, lasted all of 4 minutes and 57 seconds and that was that.

The rest of the day has been dealt with being fed medication by various nurses. And Rosemary telephoned me too. Just a short conversation too – only one hour and seventeen minutes today.

There hasn’t been much else of any interest but that was enough to keep me going for a day.

Mind you, if this re-education thing comes off, it might be well worth a go. It will put on hold many other plans that I have but I think that this might be an opportunity too good to turn down.

We’ll have to see how things unfold.