… you’re wondering, I’m back home.
But there’s a slight problem, as Alison will understand because we talked about it. In all honesty for the last couple of weeks I’ve not been feeling myself … “quite right too – disgusting habit” – ed … and the feeling has slowly been getting worse until today when it finally erupted.
Today therefore I was up early and I pushed on home.
Not before I had a listen to the dictaphone though.
There was some kind of police incident last night with all of these really violent criminals and we were caught in the crossfire. These criminals had 12-bore shotguns sticking them inside our vehicle and pulling the trigger, everything like that. I couldn’t see how anyone could have survived in it. It was the most violent thing I’ve ever seen or been involved with. Eventually we were set free. it seemed that the police had overwhelmed these criminals which was the most surprising thing, and when we got out and checked ourselves over we found that we were totally unhurt. I couldn’t believe that for a minute. I was the last to be released from the car. I had a little chat with them. They were telling me all kinds of security precautions that I knew mainly vaguely. Then they took me off to a room. There was a bed in 1 little room, annexe type of place and there was someone in there. I asked him where all the others were. he said that they were in the next room so I went in there. One of the people was a boy whom I knew from school – what the hell is he doing? He was just finishing some tea and saying that he’s on the 16:00 bus the same as me. We started to have a little chat and I remember sayng that apparently I’m unharmed which really surprised me. We had a little chat about something or other involving this.
Later on there was something to do with nurses last night. One of them was talking to some people discussing a strike that had taken place. She said that there was only her and one or two other people and a patient from France who were still working at this particular local hospital. Somewhere in this I had a kind of plastic knife thing like a scraper that was used for cutting rope. I’d used it on a piece of rope but somehow the blade had come dislodged and I had to work out how I was going to get the blade back in because it had taken ages for it to be assembled and I wasn’t quite sure about it.
There was another thing about some kind of lorry. I thought that it was a Ford D-series artic tractor but it was in fact a very short wheelbase kind of lorry with high sides at the back for gravel, that kind of thing parked up at the side of the road. I had to park my van somewhere and work out where was the best way to take a photograph of it. I tried all kinds of places to get a good photograph but the person in this van was getting a bit fed up about it. I managed to get one photograph but it wasn’t very good. It turned out to be a Mercedes too. Then I walked to try to get a photo and ended up at a place where there were loads of people standing as if they were waiting to be picked up by people coming in cars. I had to walk back and clamber over the side of this verge to get a good photo but while I was doing it this lorry just drove away which annoyed me.
First thing to do was to go and rescue Caliburn. I wasn’t leaving him out in the street but there was a locked compound opposite (for an extra charge, of course) where he would be perfectly safe.
This gave me an opportunity to take a photograph of my extremely expensive hotel, with the sun streaming into the lens. And expensive it was too – with the receptionist going to check the contents of the fridge in the room before he would chack me out.
We also had something of an argument about a missing bottle of Schweppes until the housemaid butted in to confirm that she didn’t put one in.
The experience put me right off this hotel.
Finding my way out of town was quite an experience too, with a railway line blocking me at every turn.
However in the end I found what I was looking for. This is the Basilique Notre-Dame de Bon-Secours.
It started life as an oak tree, would you believe, in the Middle Ages. When it died they made a statue of Mary from the wood and it became a centre of pilgrimage for some unknown reason.
In 1637 a chapel was constructed to shelter the statue and then, like Topsy, “it just growed”, The current building dates from 1885-1892, and was awarded the title of “Basilica” by Pope Pius X in 1910.
Incidentally, where I am when I’m taking this photo is in France. Peruwelz is that close to the French border.
Leaving Peruwelz and entering France, there was something that I needed to do so I set course for Albert.
In the past I’d read countless books about the Battle of the Somme and I’d been interested in stories about how the top of the church spire was used as a watch tower by the British and how the Germans could clearly see its gilded top from their lines.
That was what I wanted to see for myself and due to a variety of different circumstances I didn’t have the opportunity to do that when I was here 18 months ago
So here I am, standing roughly where the Second Line of German trenches would have been prior to the British offensive of 1916 and you can indeed see the church spire quite clearly from here – and probably even clearer still when there is no early-morning mist about.
One of the locals was clearly upset by my stopping outside his house to take the photo. He came out to his front gate to have a look at me so I gave him a cheery toot and a wave as I departed.
Just down the road is the town of Albert and there’s a supermarket there. That’s where I stopped to buy food for lunch as I don’t have very much in the van.
And regular readers of this rubbish will recall that pathetic parking takes up a lot of space on my pages, and here’s another one that is probably more pathetic than most.
Here on the car park at the Super U in Albert, this rather sad and sorry person has chosen to take up no fewer than four car parking spaces with his Ford Ranger. It surely isn’t possible to be any more selfish than this.
On the way home, we reached a very important milestone in Caliburn’s life was reached.
Somewhere between Amiens and Neufchatel-en-Bray Caliburn’s tripmeter clocked up to 200,000 kilometres. Not bad for a boy who’s just celebrated his 13th birthday. He’s in line for a reward when we return home, whenever that might be.
As I mentioned earlier, for the last week or so I’ve not been feeling too good and I’ve gradually become worse and worse. The farther along the road I drove, the worse I became and I began to worry about reaching home.
It was my intention to call in on Liz and Terry and drop off Terry’s brushcutter but I was in no fit state to do that. I pushed on homewards thinking that the sooner I reach home the better
And just as well, for back here, it was a struggle for me to even climb up the stairs.
First thing that I did when I was up here was to call the boys on the great white telephone, after which I could peruse the finest details of what I’d eaten for the last few days.
Now I’m off to bed, with a handy bucket by my side, and normal service will be resumed as soon as the crisis passes.