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Wednesday 13th July 2016 – I’M BACK …

… in Leuven. My stay back in France didn’t last too long, did it?

I had another good sleep, only having to leave the bed once. Well, twice actually, but seeing that the second time was 05:50, just 10 minutes before the alarm was due to go off, I didn’t bother going back downstairs. Instead, I dressed and went down to make breakfast.

By the time that I had done that, made my butties for lunch and had a shower and change of clothes, it was 07:10 and Terry was ready so we hit the road.

It was a beautiful drive right across France to the Rhône valley and Lyon, and we were there on the outskirts of the city by 09:20. The next 6 kilometres was a different proposition. With the traffic queue that we encountered and then the changes to Lyon’s road network that weren’t shown on Terry’s Satnav, it was 10:10 when we arrived at the station. It’s a good job that we had allowed plenty of time for the journey.

There was however plenty of time for a coffee as the TGV was late arriving. 11:00 was the time of departure, but we finally set off at 11:25. We stopped at Marne la Vallée, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Lille as I expected, but also at Haute-Picardie and Arras which I hadn’t realised. Consequently it was 15:30 when we pulled into Bruxelles-Midi.

The journey wasn’t boring though. I did a pile of work on my website, though and I was sitting next to a woman whose father was born in Les Ancizes. We had a lengthy chat about the Auvergne, and she and I set the world to right about the Brexit. It’s not very often that I meet someone who thinks along my lines.

A brief amount of excitement at Bruxelles-Midi was when I bought my ticket for my onward trip to Leuven. I used one of the automatic machines and I received my ticket, plus one from the previous passenger who had clearly forgotten to pick it up. I had to find an information booth to leave it there.

15:56 was my train to Leuven, and by 16:30 I was there on the station. And it was pouring down too. It started almost as soon as we arrived at Charles de Gaulle and had continued for almost all the way. Typical Northern French and Belgian weather.

It soon brightened up though and so I set off for my place of residence. Half an hour’s brisk walk it took me to arrive here and that was carrying a large bag too. That made me think how much my health must have improved. I would never have done this two or three months ago, and round about now i ought to be experiencing a collapsed blood count and expecting a blood transfusion instead.

It’s nice to be back in my little room again, even if I am moving on to another room tomorrow. I grabbed a coffee and sat down for a relax. Tea was rice with lentils peas and carrots and it was delicious too. I must remember to buy some more boulghour tomorrow.

Now, I’m going to have an early night. After my marathon voyage today, I reckon that I’ve earned it.

Tuesday 12th July 2016 – I NEEDN’T HAVE BOTHERED …

… to go to all of this effort and worry about this morning.

I breezed into the bank, checked my accounts, and then gave the bank cashier the kind of instructions that would normally have caused a considerable amount of upset and confusion, and probably have led to the involvement of the bank’s Head Office. And I was prepared for quite an argument too.

But to my total surprise, and in an attitude that is going to change the way that I think about banking in the depths of darkest rural France, the bank clerk carried out my instructions to the letter without even batting an eyelid and, even more astonishingly given everything that was involved, without even asking to see any identification.

We were in there, out and gone in less than two minutes and that must be something of a record.

I had a reasonable night’s sleep in the nice comfy bed at Liz and Terry’s. So reasonable in fact that I only left it twice, and when the alarm went off at 07:00, I promptly turned over and went straight back to sleep. It’s been a good while since I’ve done that, hasn’t it?

Off to Pionsat and the bank, and then round to my house to sort out my mail and pick up a few things that I might need. And what a mess my place is in. Brambles, weeds and long grass everywhere. It’s just so depressing. I’ve asked Terry if he’ll attack it with a strimmer if he has five minutes, then I’ll be able to find the front door.

We went shopping for food, and I bought a baguette to make some butties for tomorrow seeing as I’m back on my travels to Leuven after all of this. I didn’t get to stay for very long, did I?

Nothing happened in the afternoon – I stayed in and did some work on the blog to bring it up-to-date – and then tonight after tea we had the laugh of our lives.

Celtic, Scottish football champions, were playing Lincoln Red Imps, Champions of that major and important footballing nation … errr … Gibraltar, in a Champions League match which could not unreasonably have ended up with a cricket score. And the final result? Lincoln Red Imps 1, those giants of Scottish football … errr … 0. I’ve never laughed so much in all my life.

So another early night, because it’s a 06:00 start. I need to be on the road by 07:00 as it’s a long way to Lyon and the Part-Dieu station for my train. But at least once I’m on it, it’s direct to Brussels with just three stops and no messing about in Paris.

Over 800kms in well under four hours. That’s the beauty of the TGV

Monday 11th July 2016 – I’M BACK …

… in the Auvergne, would you believe. And at Liz and Terry’s too (well, Terry’s, actually because Liz is stuck in Normandy right now).

What has happened is that there is some urgent sorting out that needs to be done and I’m the only person who can do it. and it has to be done before July 28th. And seeing as how I don’t have Caliburn’s new insurance documents (these are essential of course) and there are a few other bits and pieces required, then the sooner I reacted the better.

Hence, at 10:03 this morning I was on a train in Leuven station.

That’s not all, of course. I was awake at 06:20, packed and sorted shortly afterwards, and upstairs having breakfast when the alarm went off at 07:00. I had a beautiful shower too in my new en-suite shower room (must take advantage of the benefits) and then I was off to the hospital.

I took no chances and went on the bus. The back door of the hospital was actually open this morning so I quickly nipped through onto the car park and over to Caliburn to grab my passport; Then I was back down to the front entrance and back on another bus to the station.

My train was at 10:03 as I said, and I was there for 08:45.It hadn’t taken long and there was plenty of time to sit and read a book.

They even have beggars on the trains now, so it seems, and as you know, that’s something that annoys me intensely.

At Bruxelles-Midi I didn’t have time to hang about. I found my train, found my seat and we piddled off almost immediately. The booking people had cut it that fine.

And it was a good job that I had gone to pick up my passport because (as I expected) there was a police control on board and someone unable to produce her passport had a very hard time of it.

The train was packed out too – hardly an empty seat anywhere.

At Paris gare du Nord I had to wait ages in a queue for a Metro ticket but the person at the counter put me right and finding the Paris-Austerlitz station for the next leg of my journey was quite straightforward (it’s about 10 stops directly down the Porte d’Italie line). We had another beggar on the metro who was going on about how hard it was to find a place to live and a job to do so I gave him a right royal piece of my mind, to a round of applause from the other passengers, and he piddled off elsewhere too.

At Austerlitz I needed to buy the ticket for my return. And there was a huge queue. 15 desks in the travel office, 8 of them manned … "PERSONNED" – ed …personned and only two of those people working. There’s a Subway sandwich place around the corner which was where I was planning to go for lunch, but badger that seeing as how the situation was in the ticket office. I was lucky to catch my train.

This train was packed too – with a mere handful of empty seats. I crammed myself in and attacked the packet of biscuits that I had brought with me for an emergency (such as this one).

Terry met me at Chateauroux as he was passing by on his way from Normandy back home. He was early at the station and so the rain was, as you might expect, late. And now I’m back here.

I’m having an early night here too because I have a lot to do tomorrow so I need an early start. But it’s all “go” right here at the moment, isn’t it?

And on Wednesday morning, at Silly o’clock, I’m back on the road (or should I say “the rails”) to head back to Leuven.

I’ll be meeting myself coming back if I keep going like this. And I’m supposed to be ill too!

Saturday – 21st May 2016 – I’M BACK …

… on the road again and even as I type, I’m sitting in a little room in a Première Classe Hotel on the outskirts of Soissons (I’ve managed to find it today).

I managed my lie-in this morning – until all of, would you believe, 08:10 – even though I’d been on my travels during the night. Driving a lorry as it happens somewhere around the UK and a rough, horrible thing it was to drive as well and I was determined to have it taken off the road for major repair when I returned to the depot. But what surprised me was that it had only just passed its MoT a short while ago and I thought that that couldn’t be right. So I parked it up in the yard and the next lorry to come in was driven by my brother and he parked his lorry right next to mine blocking the through-way across the yard. Anyway, we left the yard and were immediately caught up in a scenario that involved the police on the motorway blocking off a car that was coming down the road. It was carrying antiques of some kind of dubious nature and the owner as telling us sometime later in this church hall where we all assembled that he’d been taught a manoeuvre to carry out whenever the police tried to stop him but as he drew a diagram to explain it, I couldn’t see how it would possibly help in such a circumstance.

It didn’t take too long to load up Caliburn and tidy up after me back at Liz and Terry’s, even though I managed to forget to bring back the fresh fruit that I’d put on one side. Mind you, I didn’t rush with doing it because I’m not up to that kind of thing just now. It was about 11:30 when I finally hit the road.

My next stop was back at my house where I dropped off a pile of my washing and collected some more stuff that I had forgotten the last time I was there.But I can’t for the moment find the big back with all of my single bed stuff. I wonder where all of that has gone. I know that I have it because I can remember sorting it all out after I’d finished the wardrobe last year.

It was a beautiful day when I set off but the farther north I drove, the weather deteriorated and when I left the motorway we were having a grey, overcast day. The drive itself was totally uneventful at first but at Nemours we had an incident where a wedding party decided to stop and block off a roundabout in order to take some wedding photographs and this provoked quite a bit of “reaction” from the other motorists.

Not only that, I’d noticed that there were some substantial queues at various petrol stations along the route, and my usual one at Melun was closed. When I eventually found a petrol station (on the N2 just before Villers-Cotterets) where there was quite a queue, I made enquiries and they revealed that some local television has announced that there is going to be a fuel shortage – something that has taken the garage proprietor totally by surprise.

So now, here I am -it’s 19:15 and I’m installed in my little room, and that is that. I’ll see you all in the morning.

Friday 20th May 2016 – AND I’VE BEEN OUT TODAY TOO!

After breakfast I had a few things to organise and then round about 09:30 I hit the road for my place, calling at the Intermarché at Pionsat on the way in order to buy some bread for lunch.

At home I had a little rest of an hour or so and then I started to collect up the stuff that I need for Belgium (and also for Canada, just in case I have the possibility to go there later this year). A few things I couldn’t find, and a few things I forgot, but I’ll call there tomorrow on my way out to the motorway and finish off a few things.

This afternoon, I took it easy. I’ve cut my hair and had a shower – so I’m nice and clean and tidy ready for the journey back home. I’ve done a load of washing too and even as I speak, it’s going round and round in the dryer because there won’t be enough time to dry it properly.

I’ve not planned my food resources correctly because I have some mushroom and lentil curry and also some home-made vegan ice cream left over. I’ll just have to come back another time to finish it off.

And now I’m off for a very early night. There will be no alarm clock in the morning because I intend to have a good sleep if I can. I’ve a long way to drive tomorrow and I’m not really up to it. I’ll have to do my best and see what happens. I can’t expect too much in my state of health.

But what was nice was that I had an e-mail from the Social Services department asking me how I was feeling and whether I’d been able to manage the journey back. That was a very pleasant e-mail – it’s nice to know that they have been thinking about me.

I didn’t catch up on my last night’s voyages, I was off on a different track completely. While I was waiting yesterday for Caliburn to have his contole technique, I was reading the local paper and noticed a story concerning someone whom I know in Pionsat. He’s been fighting a complicated legal battle for the last five years and judging by the news story and his post on his Social Networking site last night, he’s finally been successful.

And so last night, on my travels, I was involved with him in some way. It’s pretty-much a truism to say that there are no winners amongst the civilian population in a lengthy court case because whoever comes out on top, his card is marked and the authorities are hell-bent on revenge. And this was the case last night. This boy was harassed and harassed by the authorities and in the end was carried off and convicted of something or other. He’d left some of his possessions with me while he was away and I discovered a secret compartment in his affairs and the contents of this compartment went to show that maybe he wasn’t as innocent as he liked to appear. But, then again, who is? As you probably know, I have a theory that all humans are pretty much the same in the grand, and some are caught and others are not and that is the big difference.
Later on during the night I went for a walk and came across a huge mansion-type place across a field and lake and through a forest of cherry trees laden with blossom. I didn’t have my camera with me so I went back for it and then walked through the lake (it wasn’t very deep at first but I ended up over my knees by the time I reached the other side) to take a photo but of course my camera wouldn’t work. It turned out that this was some kind of Girls’ Schools something along the lines of Ampleforth College,with the girls wearing red and white checked dresses. This all rang a bell with me because I’d sat on some kind of committee where some novel educational programmes submitted by various schools had been judged, and while the winner was from some kind of mainstream school, one that had particularly impressed the committee was one that had been submitted by a person who had since gone on to become a senior teacher at this school. I was therefore interested to see if any of these novel ideas had been applied at the school and after having presented myself to the headmistress, I was granted research facilities at the school to examine the teaching and the recreational activities. I quickly adopted a committee of three sixth-form girls. I was impressed with the keenness and throughness of these girls, but not so impressed with the fact that when the bell went for the end of the day they immediately deserted and left me to do the tidying up and that sometimes went on for quite a while. One one occasion I went round to their room and “swept them out” with a large-bristled brush. Another thing that impressed me about the school was the fact that all of the food was vegetarian, although I was unable to find out if there were vegan options.

Thursday 19th May 2016 -I WAS OFF …

… on my travels again today.

I started off at the Doctor’s this morning at &0:00, only to find that my doctor is on holiday and it was a locum in attendance. That means that most of what I wanted to discuss was pretty pointless but I handed over a few letters from the hospital and had a form signed, as well as a quick check-up. My heart-beat is high but apart from that, things seem to be quite normal for now.

Montlucon was the next port of call. I had to pay a bill at the laboratory that does my blood tests and then another bill at the tax office for all of the documents that the hospital gave me before I went off to Leuven. There’s nothing else outstanding that I cans ee for the moment, although I have a couple of bills to pay at Leuven when I return.

Once that was out of the way I went back home for an hour, most of which was spent chatting to Nicolette whom I encountered in the lane. She seemed to be quite concerned about my health, which is nice of her.

Caliburn had his controle technique at 15:OO and the garage had forgotten that I was coming. But they squeezed us in and of course Caliburn passed with flying colours. And then we nipped off to the other side of St Gervais d’Auvergne for his service. So he’s all done and dusted now and ready for the road.

Back here, I crashed out for an hour and then made tea. Microwaved potatoes and mushroom and lentil curry was on the menu followed by some of Liz’s home-made vegan ice-cream. And now I’m off to bed. I’m feeling even worse than yesterday and to make matters worse, my “upset stomach” has returned.

I’ll see if I can pick up where I left off last night because I was off on a few travels too. The first part involved my being somewhere on the continent – it may have been in Occupied Europe or a neutral country during the war but it was a big tower-block kind of building. I was talking to a woman there who was expressing her surprise that the top floor was occupied by the British Royal Air Force Bomber Command which was using the premises to direct the bombing attacks against Germany, whereas just a couple of floors down, the German Luftwaffe had offices used to direct fighter control against the British bombers. I replied that that wasn’t the only thing that was unusual – out in the grounds was a military hospital where half the staff was British and half was German and they were dealing with wounded soldiers of both armies.
From there, I found myself in Crewe in a huge traffic queue trying to go over Edleston Road bridge. I was in a driverless car – a while Volkswagen Karmann Ghia – and so I left the car to see how it would do. And it advanced quite nicely in the traffic, except that it was going too fast for me to walk after and with my illness I wasn’t able to run after it – and this really had be worried. I remember that on the bridge was an end-terraced house with the door round the side (which actually fronted onto Edleston Road) and it was actually my house. I was reminiscing about how many of these houses used to be built on the bridges in Crewe.
We haven’t finished yet, because there was a football match taking place between one of Pionsat’s teams and a team that consisted mainly of females and which only had 10 players. Pionsat were however struggling to get on top in this game and on one occasion they broke clean though the defence and the player had a shot but a defender stuck out a foot and diverted it out onto the post and out for a corner. From the corner the ball came in and the keeper missed it but a Pionsat player headed the ball in off the post for a goal. There were three Pionsat players in an offside position but they weren’t interfering with play so there was no reason why the goal should be disallowed but one of the defenders, a young man, argued so much with the referee that in the end he was sent off the field, which tilted the game even further into Pionsat’s favour.

I’ll see if I can pick it up from there.

Wednesday 18th May 2016 – I WAS UP …

… and breakfasting long before the alarm went off this morning. 07:10 if my memory serves me well.

Mind you, I’d been up (and down) on several occasions during the night – I blame the drink that I had drunk while I was making my tea but who knows? And I was struggling on several occasions with the cramp again. It looks as if that has come back too.

I was off on my travels during the night. I was living in North America playing in a rock group and the other members of the group had seen a map of Europe and were intrigued by some of the literal (and not very correct) translations of European place-names and so we were keen to go and tour them. This involved registering with the European police in order to obtain a permit to travel, and in the end there were six groups registered, who could either tour individually, in pairs or all six together. So off we set and our first port of call was at an open-air music festival. We’d arrived during the night and set up camp in a big tent, all four of us sleeping in a large double bed. But next morning we awoke and went for a prowl around. Our attention was drawn to a huge “bigfoot” type of vehicle, so tall that two other vehicles were parked underneath it. It had a huge canopy over the right-hand side too, for sheltering passengers climbing up into the vehicle. We thought that it was a Duesenberg at first but closer examination revealed that it had the Chevrolet “bow tie” insignia on the front radiator grille.

But after breakfast, I’ve not done very much at all. I’ve not even been out of the house. I’ve spent some time catching up with the blog and that’s really about all. I’m still feeling the effects of the cork that I did yesterday and I’ve crashed out twice – once this morning and once this afternoon. And I’ve been cold too. I’ve not been warm since I’ve been back, but today was even worse.

And so I’m off to bed very shortly. I’m having a day out tomorrow and I need to be on form so I’ll call it a day and go to listen to the radio programmes. As I said before, I just can’t keep it up these days, can I?

Tuesday 17th May 2016 – I’VE BEEN OUT AND ABOUT TODAY

So having gone to bed quite early last night, I ended up chatting to Alison and Liz on the internet. And then, having dozed in and out of sleep for hours, it was midnight when I switched off the radio and finally settled down for the night.

I had quite a few trips down the corridor, what with one thing and another, but was wide awake by about 06:30, having been off to Stoke on Trent during the night. I’d bought a Land Rover chassis-cab with a crane or winch on the back. It was in good condition but a little scabby but down in the scrapyard we discovered two perfect doors (although of a slightly different colour) so we bought them and fitted them. The next task, as my friend explained to me, was the rear valance and he sorted out his angle grinder and wire brush to de-rust it so that we could paint it over. His daughter came over for a chat too, which was very nice because it’s been a good few weeks since she’s appeared in one of my nocturnal rambles.

After breakfast I started to organise myself. I sorted out all of the washing into piles that will either go back home or come with me to Belgium, and then I sorted out the paperwork. I made an appointment with my doctor as I have some paperwork that she needs to see and I need a form signing. That’s for Thursday morning.

Once I’d organised that, I went off out and about.

first stop was the garage. It’s time for Caliburn’s Controle Technique on Thursday afternoon, so I’ve booked him in for a service and a visual check to make sure that there’s nothing about to drop off on the road.

The bank was next. There’s an important bill to pay and if I don’t pay it soon I’ll be transported for life or something so that was urgent. And then I went to the Intermarché for a bit of shopping.

Finally, I ended up back at my house where I dropped off a pile of stuff, stripped out the back of Caliburn and gave him a good brushing out, and now I’ve installed my temporary bed in there for when I go back to Belgium. I couldn’t find the OSB that I use and ended up having to use a sheet of plywood as a bed base. It’s not very satisfactory, bending and creaking in the middle, but it will have to do for now until I can think of something better.

But I’ll tell you something – and that is that I’m clearly not well? Two hours of working on Caliburn, and it wasn’t very hard labour that I was doing, and I was done for. I’ve no idea how I’m going to cope in the future if I can’t summon up the energy for this.

Instead of hanging out there to do more work, I ended up coming back here where I crashed out for three hours – really gone, I was. I’ll have to catch up back at home some other time.

Now that I’ve been to the shops and bought some garlic, I made one of my mega-curries tonight with mushrooms and lentils. But there’s plenty left for the next few days because I couldn’t summon up the appetite.

Now I’m off to bed again and to listen to the radio programmes for a while. I’m ready for a good sleep, even though I’ve already had a good sleep just now.

I can’t keep it up like I used to.

Monday 16th May 2016 – NOW, THAT’S MORE LIKE IT!

I crawled off to bed at something silly last night like 20:45 or thereabouts. I know that it was still light but I didn’t really care too much because all that I was intending to do was to listen to the radio programmes that I’ve downloaded onto my laptop.

Sometime shortly afterwards, I drifted off and apart from a couple of trips down the corridor during the night, I remember almost nothing until the alarm went off at 07:45. And I could have turned right over and gone back to sleep too. But that’s just the kind of sleep that I’ve been hoping to have for quite a while.

During the night, I was flying off to Canada too. A big wide-bodied jet and I was sitting in one of the seats in the middle,and next to me was quite an attractive lady with black hair and a black dress. She got up to use the facilities and a couple of minutes later, this big black dog (on an aeroplane!) came and sat on the empty seat next to me. I gave it a stroke but I was really hoping that it would go so that the woman would come back but the dog stayed and stayed, and that was that. On arrival in Canada we docked at gate 37, the very farthest gate away from the terminal, but we all ran to the immigration desk and found that we were the first people there. There were three desks, two of which had about 12 people each and the third which had just two or three. I was wondering about this – suppose that I went to the one with the fewest people there and found that it was reserved for something special and was turned away, I’d lose the benefit of having been one of the first to have arrived at the immigration desks.

I had a good day today too. It started off (and finished) by me cracking on with the blog. All of March 2011 is done, as is the bits of April 2011 that I seem to have missed at some time or other, and I’m well into May 2011. I’ll really be catching myself up soon at this rate.

I’ve also had a good go at Caliburn. The back has been emptied, tidied, a load of stuff consigned to the bin and then I’ve sorted out the stuff that I’m leaving behind and the stuff that I’m taking back. You might be wondering why I didn’t take the leaving stuff up to my house, but the answer to that is that it’s a Bank Holiday and there are other tasks that I need to perform that depend upon places being open so I’m combining all of the trips tomorrow.

But the amount of stuff that I’ve taken out of Caliburn means that he’ll go a good 5kph faster on the way back to Belgium on Saturday.

Another thing of note for recent times is that I managed not to crash out this afternoon. Despite the odd wave of fatigue I kept going for the whole day and so now I’m ready for a really early night. I’ll be listening to the radio again in bed until I fall asleep and then I’ll see where I end up tonight.

Sunday 15th May 2016 – A GOOD, SOLID, UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP

That was what i was hoping for yesterday. And did I get it?

I was in bed by 22:00 and fell asleep listening to some of the radio programmes that I recorded years ago from www.archive.org. Something awoke me rather dramatically an hour or so later and although I don’t know what it was, I did notice that Liz had been trying to speak to me on the internet. I replied to her but ended up going right back to sleep in the middle of the discussion. I really can’t last the pace these days, can I?

There was the usual trip down the corridor at some time during the night, and I was awake again at 06:30. But badger that for a game of soldiers, I turned over and went back to sleep. Next thing that I remember was at 07:30 and then I really couldn’t go back to sleep. By 07:45 I was up and about, preparing breakfast and looking for my medication which I seem to have left behind me in Pellenberg. Ahhh well!

At least it was a nice, sunny start to the day. The sun has followed me down here, so it seems, and just after breakfast it was streaming down the back of my neck for a while. And that was extremely pleasant.

As for today, I’ve been torn between three stools.

  1. I’ve done two machine-loads of washing. All of the stuff that I had in Belgium with me plus all of the washing that was hanging around back at my house. There’s still plenty left over to do, but I’ll do another load just before I leave, and then everything will be up to date for when I return, whenever that might be.
  2. I’ve been cracking on with the blog, bringing it up to to date. I’ve finished all of February 2011 and now I’m well stuck into March. If I’m not careful, I’ll be catching myself up
  3. I’ve been drifting in and out of sleep too. I’m nothing like as young as I used to be and my health is still quite fragile as you know. It’s hardly surprising that I haven’t caught up with myself yet but I hope that I have done by this evening as I have a lot to do starting tomorrow

Liz had left me a ginger cake that she had made, and a slice of that went down a treat with my afternoon coffee. But there was no garlic – I ended up having to make garlic bread with a shallot and that’s not the same thing. I must buy some garlic if I want to do some cooking here.

So now, I’m going off for yet another early night and I’ll see how I get on. Tomorrow, I have to go back to chez moi and start my plans.

Tidying up Caliburn is the first item on the agenda.

Sunday 20th March 2016 – JUST IN CASE ANYONE IS WONDERING …

… the big patch of oil right by where I park Caliburn is due to the fact that I didn’t notice that there was a hole in the filler neck of my oil container when I was topping him up this morning. I seem to have ended up with more oil on the floor than in Caliburn’s engine. But he’s been topped up with water too, windscreen wiper liquid, all kinds of things.

I also washed and scrubbed all of the camping gear too so that that’s all ready. And apart from the coffee, I also seem to have forgotten the matches too. But at least I can buy them en route somewhere, I suppose.

So after a memorable night, memorable in the sense that I don’t remember anything about it, except for somewhere there was a girl of about 4 or 5 and another one, dressed in red and white, aged about 12 in it somewhere, that’s my lot. I was up yet again before the alarm clock and after breakfast, prepared myself, Caliburn and Strawberry Moose for the departure. All of my paperwork is on board as well, and I’ll let the new doctor sort out what he wants from all of this.

And after lunch, which was more home-made mushroom soup (made of real home-made mushrooms of course), we set off into the mist, rather like the boy who took his girlfriend out into the fog and mist.

chateau de puy guillon vernusse allier france. Letting The Lady Who Lives In The SatNav do her work, we followed a merry, mazy ramble through the Auvergne countryside towards the expressway at Montmarault, passing by the Chateau de Puy Guillon at Vernusse, somewhere that I have certainly never seen before.

Impressive it certainly is and well-worth a photo even if the battery in the Nikon D5000 was flat so that I had to use the camera on the phone.

And you can see what I mean about the mist as well.

Once I joined the expressway, the rest of the route was without a problem and everything went according to plan, although having left the SatNav on “shortest distance” rather than changing it to “quickest route” did show me parts of Fontainebleu that I have certainly never seen before. I fuelled up as usual at the cheap fuel station at Melun and then took the Francilienne as far as the N2 where I headed off in the direction of Soissons.

This was where the fun started because, having determined not to stop until I’d passed the rear of Charles de Gaulle airport, I then couldn’t find a hotel, astonishing as it might seem. That’s not quite correct – I drove three times around Villers-Cotterets following signs to hotels that clearly only existed in the minds of the signwriters, and found a place that was nominally a three-star hotel but looked like a chateau and would have been outside my price range.

Soissons wasn’t much better either. I found all of the post hotels, like the Campanile and so on, but nothing in my price range at all but a few miles outside the town, in a place called Crouy, I found a modern type of hotel, the New Access Hotel, advertising rooms at €35:00 plus breakfast €5:00. Full of foreboding, but tired and fed up and in the dark, I went and signed in.

As I feared, it was an old Formule One, clearly sold off by Accor as it needed renovation and wasn’t worth the money spending on it, and now run by an Indian family, as most of these places all over the western world seem to be. We discussed meals and it seemed that there was a pizza delivery service nearby, so I placed my order (there was a microwave so adding my own cheese would be no problem) and went to my room.

Despite half an hour trying, I couldn’t get the heating to work and it was cold. And then the plug was so tight up against the wall that I couldn’t plug in the laptop or the battery charger for the Nikon D5000. And then I realised that I’d been there an hour and my pizza hadn’t come.

So off I trotted downstairs and saw the daughter of the hotel owners. I told her about the pizza, so she asked me if I wanted to call them to remind them. I had a better idea. “You call them and cancel it. I’ll go and find something else” – having passed a kebab and pizza place just down the road.

I passed the pizza delivery driver on the access road but it was too late by then – my tail was up. And I had the last laugh too because it turned out that where I went to was the same place as where the pizza had been ordered from, and there was a free salad included to all take-away customers, and the salad would have made a meal on its own.

So back at Ice-Station Zebra and I refused a shower in the communal facilities. I ate my pizza and salad and with no electricity to charge up the laptop (I should have done that in Caliburn on the way up) I crawled fully-clothed under the covers, kicked out the bed-bugs and settled down for the night.

Saturday 19th March 2016 – JUST FOR A CHANGE …

… I didn’t have to go anywhere today. And do you know what? Well, so I didn’t! The only time that I set foot out of the house was to fetch the bread from the boulangère.

Mind you, I’d been far enough on my travels during the night and so I reckoned that I owed myself day of peace and rest. The first part of last night’s adventure was quite gruesome. It concerns a man, a big businessman who was very rich whose sexual orientation was not restricted to members of the human race. Our attention had been drawn to him by looking through some old declarations that he had made of the income of a cinema that he ran, which had made a profit of just £205 but in actual fact the turnover ran into millions but was paid all out in expenses and there were various anonymous letters sent in alleging that this person was up to no good. As a result, we had this person under surveillance. We’d followed him to a party where he had met a girl who possessed the ability to transform herself into a dog and he found this to be quite interesting, so he went off with her at the end of the night. We talked to another girl at this party – she was a friend of the first girl – she wasn’t quite sure of what was happening. She was waiting for her boyfriend but it seemed as if he had deserted her for someone else. We were sympathising with her. We then picked up some news and so this girl, a small boy of about 6 or 7 and this girl piled into my car which was an E-type Jaguar hard-top with wire wheels to set off and see what was happening. One of the rear tyres on my car was damaged – there was some of the side wall which was breaking away due to the tyre having hit the kerb really hard and I hadn’t had time to change it. We shot off to the other side of this town nevertheless and found it to be under attack by aliens. This man had been parked up with this girl in his car in a quiet corner of this part of town and found himself right in the firing line. She had escaped, disguised as a dog, but he was trapped there. This girl and I had to brave the heavy fire of these aliens and run through the barrage to his car to extricate him and stick him in the back of my car. The girl who had come with me told me that she would stay behind to hold off the aliens to give me an opportunity to take this man away in my car and take him to a clinic. This was urgent because something had happened to him – whether it was to do with this girl or to do with an interaction with these aliens, but he was transforming himself into some kind of ugly monster and I had to throw a blanket over him to hide him from passers-by and from this boy. The girl gave me definite instructions where to take him – I must go to his clinic and only to his clinic because they had his records and probably knew something about his condition. So we shot off, braving the barrage of fire and with this bad tyre that was now becoming urgent and drove through the streets of this place, which bore more than a passing resemblance to Chester. On a corner of a street was another girl whom we knew and who had some connection with this man, and she was talking to the matron of the clinic where this guy usually went for treatment. We took the car round to the clinic, as the matron told us where it was, and we tried to persuade the people at the clinic to send out a stretcher and some men to take our passenger inside discreetly. However they insisted on doing things formally and we ended up being submerged in administration and paperwork while this man’ condition was deteriorating rapidly and the other girl was out on the edge of town under attack from aliens and I needed to get back there to rescue her. But this bureaucracy was stopping me from doing anything.
Later on, I was living in a house with a lot of kids and adolescents.We’d all been to church very early on one Sunday morning (which of course is highly unusual) and then we came back to start to think about breakfast. In the meantime, I’d been playing with one of the small girls, sitting her on my shoulders and giving her a run around. We had a lot of fun doing that and then came back to see the little puppy that these people had, playing around with some huge husky-type dogs and they were all having a really good time. I went of to make some toast for my breakfast but someone had already filled the grill pan with bacon. I simply put my bread on a higher level of the insert in the grill pan (we come across some astonishing items during our nocturnal rambles, don’t we?) and put that underneath the grill (why I didn’t use a toaster is something totally beyond me). I was halfway through writing an essay of some kind but I had to get up and do something, and in the meantime the girls who were involved with this bacon came downstairs and saw their bacon almost cooked so they sat down to eat it, right where I had been sitting writing my essay. I heard the two girls discussing my essay and saying that they had finished it off for me, writing that wherever I had reached in my essay was all down to feminist antagonism. I had to quickly grab hold of my essay and sit down to rewrite it and edit out their ending.

What with all of that, no-one was more surprised than me to be up and about yet again, a long time before the alarm going off. I had a nice leisurely breakfast and after the nurse had been I sat down to catch up on a pile of paperwork, an activity only briefly interrupted by my decision to go for a shower, which I can do now that my trials and tribulations at the allergy clinic are over.

This afternoon, I sat down to do my medical expenses. I need them to be up-to-date before I go off to Leuven tomorrow afternoon. Just a mere 50% of my pension this month, and that’s still with a few outstanding. It goes without saying of course that I haven’t yet had the reimbursement of the last lot that I sent in. After all, it’s only been three weeks!

We had leftovers for tea tonight, and by that I mean the leftover vegan meatballs from the other week that were put in the freezer. and like most spicy food, the longer it’s kept, the better it tastes. With spaghetti and tomato sauce they were delicious, especially washed down with home-made vegan ice cream.

So tomorrow, I’m off. But before I go I have to pack and to check Caliburn’s oil and water, and to wash and clean the camping stove. I have remembered the kettle and water but I’ve just realised that I’ve forgotten the coffee!

There’s always something, isn’t there?

Friday 18th March 2016 – DAY FIVE …

… of my hospital marathon began with yet another early start, long before the alarm went off. And what’s more, there is cause to celebrate because today is when I start the “once per day” injections. No more evening visitors! Wha-hey!

I had a nice leisurely breakfast and then set off for Montlucon. My appointment isn’t until 10:30 but I left with plenty of time because I had plenty that I needed to do.

And while I’m on the road to Montlucon, let me tell you about my voyages last night.We started off tonight with some kind of middle-class family. Their house was built over a stream and so they had had to line the stream with rocks especially up the sides of the banks so as to make some kind of solid foundations for the house to be built on. But they couldn’t find any hydrofuge cement – the cement that’s used for making waterproof joints in building materials – so we could join and then point the stones without there being any problem about the joints being affected by the damp and the water in the stream.
I was then off with Pete Dillon from London whom I knew from a few years back. We were chatting in this house somewhere and then Pete had to go off and give a quote for a job. it was one of these jobs like The 39 Steps job – the “fourth at bridge” scene from Carry On Regardless but it was to do with a position as a butler. So off he went for his interview and I stayed behind to watch another Carry On film about a girl who had to catch a train. The train was about to pull out before she could board it but she grabbed hold of some kind of trolley and her suitcase was handcuffed to her other wrist. She had to run along the platform, up in the lift, across the bridge and down the lift on the other side and back down the other platform with this trolley and her suitcase, and then make a valiant leap on board the train, trolley suitcase and all. And then there was another man also late for the train and he helped her board the train. After all of this, Pete came back, waking me up for I’d fallen asleep, and it turned out that despite all that this company had said, it was Terry who was trying to put together a team to do this job. They’d been off to this big white house to have a good look around it. Terry had given a quote that worked out at about 6 hours per person in this team, about £800 in total. I said to Pete that this worked out at quite a decent rate and he agreed with me. So off we walked, down this lane and onto this 1910s type of housing estate nominally at the top end of Crewe off to the east of the top end of Underwood Lane. This was a really nice, pleasant area, especially in the sun, with nice pleasant gardens and fronts of the houses. I remember saying that if I were ever to want to come back to live in Crewe, this would be an area that would be high on my list. I told him that I lived in Gainsborough Road and he told me that he lived in Fallowfield. I said that there were some nice areas of Fallowfield, so he challenged me to name any. Of course, knowing Fallowfield, I couldn’t even think of one and I was really struggling about this.
It was now Day Three (of what, I have no idea) and we were doing something about testing cricket bats and we’d become quite good at this. In the end, our batting techniques were being used by the England cricket team and they got up to quite a quick score in one of the matches. They then realised that they had left part of their equipment behind so someone had to return for it. This person discovered that someone had left his mobile phone behind and the sound recorder was running and you could hear all of the antics of the team. This led to it being called “Whacko” after the Jimmy Edwards radio programme.

First stop in Montlucon was the Laboratory. I have to pay them for their services since I came out of hospital and they need to be up-to-date as I won’t be using them now for a while. And next stop was the surgical equipment shop. I hadn’t realised that I had had to pay for the surgical stockings that I had had to wear while I was in hospital. But they had sent me a bill and all of this was in the vicinity.

coronarography hospital montlucon allier franceRound the corner to the hospital and I couldn’t resist taking this photo of part of the building, even if the camera on the phone didn’t do it justice. This must be where old-timers like Yours Truly bring our fizzy pop so that it can be examined.

And so reflecting upon this, I went off for my scan.

This injection that I had to have for the scan was just like something for a cow. It was huge. But they fitted me with a drain so that they could let it into my bloodstream as required. It took ages to do and it wasn’t until 11:20 that I was turfed out. Chief body-scanner hadn’t had chance to look at my photos but he promised to ring me (not that I would be there) to tell me what he had seen.

On the way out, I was buttonholed by the receptionist of the body-scanners. They had realised that I’m a private patient and so I needed to sign a form so that they could submit it to my insurance company for reimbursement. I thought to myself “at last! An efficient hospital department with its finger on the pulse!”.

I nipped upstairs to pick up my papers but the blasted, perishing doctor hadn’t done them despite me 10:30 au plus tard. I had to wait until – yes – 12:25 before he let me have my papers – a whole hour and more and so I had missed the Tax Office and I needed to pay them too for the consultations. Totally pathetic!

And that’s not all that is totally pathetic either. I’m supposed to be taking things easy and not exerting myself, and here I am, on my FIFTH day back at the hospital for something that is nothing whatever to do with my illness either. This is just completely miserable. I won’t ever recover like this!

Anyway, I went off to LeClerc for some shopping and then back to the Carrefour for some chips and vegetables – and much to my surprise the chips and veg were warm. And then I had to loiter around until 14:00 and the opening of the Tax Office.

They were very friendly in the Tax Office but that didn’t alter the fact that I had to wait half an hour for them to try to make the printer work so that I could have some receipts for my payments, but that didn’t work either. It just wasn’t my day, was it?

I finally made it back to my house at about 16:30 and then, for once, I could take it easy without having to rush home to Liz and Terry’s for the nurse and an injection. And I forgot that, with it being Friday night, it’s chips night there too.

So now, it’s yet another early night because, try as I might, I can’t shake off these morning injections quite yet.

Thursday 17th March 2016 – IT’S DAY FOUR …

…of my hospital marathon – the day that I had a marathon session in the allergy clinic, just by way of a change. And just by way of a change I was up a long while before the alarm went off too

And that surprised me immensely because I hadn’t ‘arf been on my travels during the night too.

I started off at the allergy clinic (I can’t keep away from here, can I?) and we were making up a soundtrack tape – don’t ask me why – and we found a record featuring someone singing but there were also loads and loads of background noises of all kinds of things that represented actions and items that were taking place in the song. We were listening to it. Liz was only listening with half an ear to it and all of a sudden she pricked up her ears – “did I hear a fox?”. “I think that it’s something on this record” I replied. We played the record back two or three times and, sure enough, there was some kind of reference in it to a fox, and the fox is barking away in the background.
Liz made a subsequent appearance too, in reference to a school trip that she was organising. In fact, she wasn’t really organising it because it was now September and the kids had been back at school for three or four weeks. The aim of this trip was that it was some kind of field trip which involved the children being away for a few days and this was to take place at the end of December. So much time and trouble had gone into the organisation of all of this but people had forgotten to tell the parents about it and it was only now that people at the school were discussing the presentation of the event to the parents. But Liz’s school was in such a poor, deprived area that it was obvious that not many of the families – Group B families was how she described them – would be able to afford the trip and wouldn’t have the possibility to save up between now and the date that payment needed to be made so that their children could go. So rather than be an exclusive trip and not allow some of the poorer kids to go, they were talking about postponing this trip to another year and maybe a few months later in the year so that everyone would have a chance to save up for it.
Next stop was back in Crewe, where I was going for a walk. and I’d been for a walk down Market Street, passing underneath the Cumberland Bridge at the bottom and into Middlewich Street (where we were a few weeks ago, as you might recall). As I was crossing the road I had to start to run as a car came around the corner under the bridge from Market Street at something of a speed on the wrong side of the road, which is actually the right side of the road because we are talking about the UK, although for some reason I wasn’t aware of this. So I had to make a run for the pavement. I had the idea that the road under the bridge was a one-way street, which it wasn’t as vehicles were coming from both directions. Anyway, I was around the corner by now and walking up Middlewich Street and a bus was coming down the street, travelling quite quickly. he reached the bottom and swung round to the right to go underneath the bridge but a car came hurtling out from somewhere under the bridge, shot off up the side of the railway line where there is no road, causing the bus to jam on his brakes. He only just missed this car. I carried on with my walk and it was dark by now. I’d been chatting to a couple of people whom I’d met on my travels but by now I had arrived at a place that was a bank. It had a cash-point which was in the basement, and there were people in there using it. It occurred to me to go and check my English bank account so went downstairs. I pulled out my card ready to use and while I was waiting my turn I noticed that there was something like a shop counter down here, with money all over the place, but no-one had taken any notice at all of this money. I already had a fair bit of money in my wallet, by the way. While I was sorting myself out, another person came down the steps behind me so I told him to go ahead – I’ll be a minute or two yet. he looked at me strangely and said “do you always carry that enormous amount of money around with you?”. I said “no” and carried on doing what I was already doing. But he stood there watching me. I told him again to go ahead and use the machine but he just stood there. I was starting to sense that we were going to have some kind of confrontation but just then, one of my friends from Brussels came in and came downstairs to use the cash point. He (my friend) asked me “what’s 212 plus 212?” as if this was the key to his PIN. I was having to be very vague in my reply because of this other person lurking around in the vicinity. But now of course there were two of us in there, both of whom were likely to be potential victims for this guy loitering around on the stairs.
We haven’t finished yet either, for there was some other part of the dream going on about my youngest sister. She was with a friend and they both drifted in and out somewhere along the way. But in the meantime there was a man who had come from the UK and was now in the USA who had travelled all around the USA on something of an extended holiday. He’d retired from work and there was a great deal of confusion about his pension arrangements, what employment pensions he was entitled to and what he was going to receive. In the end, after a great deal of argument and discussion, he’d been to his former employer who had promised to look into everything. This was an oil company, and the people there decided to make a presentation to him. They gave him an old oil drum which, while not sounding as it it was very much, was actually quite symbolic because it had fallen off a ship somewhere off the coast of New England and washed all the way down along the eastern coast of America (regardless of prevailing winds, tides and ocean currents), round Cape Horn and the Tierra del Fuego and then back up the western coast of America (regardless of prevailing winds etc) and had been recovered again near Seattle. They presented it to him as a symbol of his own voyage all around the USA. Eventually, it worked out that they had found three pension entitlements for him and so he could live happily ever after.

And so you can see why I was astonished by my early night.

On the way to Montlucon through the snow, which dramatically cleared by the time that we reached Pionsat, and then it was quite straightforward as far as the hospital, although I did stop for some cash at the bank on the edge of the town, seeing how the nurse will probably want paying this weekend before I go. And being nice and early at the allergy clinic, that meant of course that they were all late.

But I did happen to notice the first E-plate on the car park. It was a, EA — KK registration so I reckon that it’s about three weeks since they first came out. They now seem to be slowing down to well over two years a letter.

At the allergy clinic, first thing that they did when they arrived was ask me to take off my upper clothes and to check my body. Then they sat me down in a comfortable chair (or what passes for a comfortable chair around there), gave me a couple of injections and then started to squirt something out of a syringe into my mouth – something quite minty and also quite bitter. Then they told me to take a drink of water.

This was how we went on for much of the day. I’ve no idea what it was that they had given me but they ought to have given something to the room and the chair to stop them spinning around while I was trying to sit there quietly and do some work on my Canada notes.

They brought up some food too, but it was, as I expected, some meat (there seems no point in going to an allergy clinic and telling them about your allergies if they are going to totally ignore them, is there?). I was prepared for this however, and had brought along some vegan cheese and tomato butties. But we did have coffee too and that wasn’t too bad.

When I’d finished and the room had stopped spinning, I went off to find Caliburn and then I headed back to my place for an hour or so to gather up some of my possessions, or such that I could remember of them.

And the snow had gone, much to my surprise and pleasure. It was in fact quite warm and I felt a little better once I had warmed up.

Back at Liz and Terry’s, I had another early night. I need to build up my strength prior to leaving because it’s a long way to Brussels, even if I am going to do it in a couple of steps. The days when I could do a full day’s work and then drive the 800kms between Brussels and my Farm through the night – they seem to be long-gone now.

Wednesday 16th March 2016 – HOW WE LAUGHED …

… when the nurse said something last night about it going to snow today. And so would you have done, given the glorious day we had yesterday.

But coming back from Montlucon, and passing through Villebret where you start to climb up into the Combrailles, I saw a few suspicious-looking white flakes being blown about in the sky. By the time I climbed up over the Font Nanaud and down the other side towards St Gervais, the sky was clear again but about half an hour after arriving back here, we got the lot. There’s now about 10mm of snow outside and it’s still falling.

Yes, and I have to go back (GRRRRR!) to Montlucon and the hospital tomorrow too. I arrived there nice and early but had to wait for almost three quarters of an hour before I was seen properly by the nurse. She examined where I’d been injected and where I’d been patched, and told me that there is some reaction so I need to return for further tests.

You don’t need me to tell you what I think of that.

But anyway, off up to the day hospital and the blood transfusion. My favourite nurse and my second-favourite student were there and once more there was a decent and convivial crowd in the room. We all had quite a laugh and a good time, which made us all feel better and helped the time pass by.

Lunch was the usual disgusting muck but at least it was something, I suppose. And although I was finished by 14:30 I told them that I wasn’t leaving until I had had my mid-afternoon coffee.

On the way back from Montlucon I got myself lost in the back streets trying to find the short cut to LIDL. I needed some of my vitamin B12 juice and some sparkling water, and I also bought a couple of big packets of crisps and some packets of sweets to nibble on while I’m driving to Leuven. And they sell 1-litre bottles of orange juice in there and they are just the thing to drink in the van while I’m driving but as usual, Bane of Britain forgot to buy any.

I was going to go back home for a couple of hours afterwards too but it was rather cold and that made me think for a moment, and then with the white stuff, I decided that being back in the warmth and off the road was a much better plan.

And here I am and there I’ll be in a moment – in bed. I’m not going for a walk tonight as I’ve walked far enough today (as well as going all around the hospital I had to go off to find the Records Department to pick up a copy of my file to take to Leuven).

And while I’m on the subject of files and records, I did ask the doctor there to prepare his file and records ready for me to pick up. And so I went to see his secretary and it will come as no surprise to you all to learn that he hasn’t done so. I told her “Friday at the latest” (well, actually vendredi au plus tard, but you get the idea).

So I hope that I have a more interesting and exciting sleep than I did last night. I was out like a light in a very deep sleep and the only recollection of what happened was what was on the dictaphone. And we were dealing with football issues yet again.

We were talking about the Controle Technique in football (well, exactly!) and one of the issues in this is that the player concerned has to take a penalty kick. Now it doesn’t matter whether the player scores or misses, or whether it’s saved by the keeper – it’s all down to whether the player is capable of kicking the ball in that situation. One player having his Controle Technique came out onto the field. He was wearing a red football shirt with his name on the back – a really long name that ended with Platini. He was preparing to take the kick but we noticed that underneath his shirt he was wearing a Father Christmas outfit complete with hood trimmed in white and with a white bobble – and his hood is up on his head. He runs in to take the penalty as soon as the whistle is blown, but almost immediately the whistle is blown again to stop the kick being taken, in order to order him to put his hood down so that the controller could see his head and face. And so he does, and then he runs in and takes the kick again. However the keeper is really quick off his line and manages to block the ball with his knees. The ball thus ricochets off his knees up into the air. Now the goal that they are using for this is actually an over-bridge, so it’s clearly the correct dimensions for a goal underneath it. The ball balloons up and over the bridge past the people who are crossing the bridge and then back down the other side and goes quite a way away. The man who has taken the penalty now needs another ball to do something different and so he climbs up the side of the cutting which this bridge crosses, and plucks another ball that was in a bush that was growing on the top of the cutting, so they can continue this Controle Technique.

After all of that, I was down here early yet again, breakfasted and off on the road at 07:30 with the coffee in my Tim Hortons thermal mug. The drive was pretty uneventful with no-one in my way and even though I stopped at the bank to add to the fighting fund, I was at the hospital for 08:20.

I spent most of the day dealing with my Canada 2014 voyage for the month of September. I’ve now arrived back on Nova Scotia (travelling backwards of course) but then I had to start from the other end at Montreal and reach as far as the Sorel – St Ignace ferry across the St Lawrence because there’s a gap in my notes. I know that they are there because I remember transcribing them and I’m sure that I’ve seen them, but they are probably out of order so I’ll need to find them – and the easiest way to find them is to start at the other and and file the stuff from there, and eventually I’ll come across them.

That’s a nice job for me tomorrow then, seeing as how I have to spend all blasted day in that perishing mausoleum.