Tag Archives: snow

Wednesday 10th February 2020 – I WAS RIGHT …

snow place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall … this morning about the snow.

Actually it’s not as much of a triumph as it sounds. It was a pretty safe guess that it would still be here this morning, judging by the way that it was coming down last night so as soon as it was light I stuck my head and the camera out of the window to take a photograph or two of the beautiful Alpine scenery, such as it is around here on the Normandy coast.

Well, when I say that I stuck my head out of the window etc, that is rather somewhat poetic licence because I did no such thing. I’d checked the temperature earlier this morning when I had my medicine and at that moment it was minus 2°C.

snow place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAnd if anyone thinks that I’m going to be sticking my head out of a window at minus 2°C they are mistaken. In fact that’s the coldest that I can remember it being since I’ve been here.

It’s a far cry from back in the Auvergne when I’d be out working on a roof or in a garden in two feet of snow and minus 18°C but I’m a lot older now than I was back then. But whatever we have here, it has everyone worried as I expected. They’ve cancelled all school transport for today. How would they have managed in the Auvergne?

But did you like the bit about “I’d checked the temperature earlier this morning”? Yes, I managed to beat the third alarm yet again, and that’s a surprise because I ended up working quite late last night – getting on for 01:00 when I went to bed.

This morning I took it rather easy. The only task of note being to rearrange once more the running order on the database for the radio programmes. It seems that the radio engineer is just as confused as I am about where we are in the running order and so we some confusion and on Monday I had sent him a programme that had already been broadcast.

There was the dictaphone to listen to too. I was around Winsford last night and I’m not sure why but I was walking around carrying a paraffin heater with me that was lit. I can’t remember very much at all about this but I was walking through the Shopping Centre there and the guy in the Fast Food Stall was putting up a sign “Closed – back in 15 minutes”. I looked at him and it was the guy who used to work in the bank there. I remember him saying how unhappy he was so we had told him that if he was unhappy he ought to leave. I was on my way to see a girlfriend – no idea who – who lived in Winsford. I hadn’t seen her for years and I was worried that it was rather late. I had a look on my watch and it was still 18:30 so I thought that there was plenty of time yet. I can’t understand though why it was so early. I hadn’t seen this girl for years yet I was so wrong about a lot of the other times that it might only have been a couple of days. And I can’t remember any more than that.

However, this “meeting up with former girlfriends after so many years as if it’s only a couple of days ago” was a recurring theme from a few years back, as regular readers will recall. Back then I was planning on ringing up former girlfriends for dates thinking that they might be free, even if I hadn’t seen them for over 30 years

Just as it was coming up to hot chocolate and sourdough fruit-bread time, Rosemary rang me up for a chat. We put the world to rights and by the time that we finished there wasn’t any point in going for breakfast as it was almost lunchtime.

Not much bread laft now so if I forget to bake on tomorrow morning, it’s going to be soup from the freezer again with the bit of bread that’s left.

orange and kiwi kefir Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallBut once I’d eaten my lunch I made another batch of kefir. Now that I have plenty of empty bottles I can make them earlier than I have been doing and give the contents more time to settle.

Today’s ingredients were orangs and kiwi again, with a mandarine thrown in for good measure. I’m not sure how this batch will turn out but I have high hopes. And having set that under way in the flip-top bottles for its second fermentation, I made another batch that can sit and ferment for the next 6 days or so.

And while I was at it, I had a look at my ginger bug – the ginger beer starter. That’s fermenting nicely in its little corner by the radiator and has started to bubble. That means that fermentation has begun and we are now on our way. It needs five days or so of feeding before it’s ready to use.

Basically, it’s rather like sourdough – you just help yourself to some of it to make a second fermentation in a flip-top bottle with more water and ginger, and and a little water back to your starter again so that the volume of the starter remains constant.

Of course, every other day you feed it with ginger and sugar to keep it going.

For the rest of the day I’ve been working on my Oradour sur Glane notes. Right now, the murderers have been convicted (those who were brought to trial, that is) but the fun is just about to begin.

snow place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallOff I went on my afternoon walk in the freezing cold weather.

There was still a fair amount of snow about covering the car park. The bright sunlight had melted some of it but not all by any means.

In fact, we’d had a thaw and then a freeze by the looks of things because there were signs that water had run out of the snow and down the slope towards the grid but then frozen again leaving a nice trail of black ice.

And if you like, you can ask me how I know about this.

trawler english channel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallNow that the fishermen are back out at sea again, we’ve been seeing the trawlers on their way home again from the fishing grounds.

There was another one out there today heading back into port. One whose name I have unfortunately forgotten but she’s the older sister of the new trawler Le Pearl who arrived in port just before Christmas. She’s surrounded by seabirds too, all hoping for a little treat, so she must have a very good catch in her hold.

There were one or two other trawlers way out there too in the distance, heading back for port. It seems that the fishing is now back in full swing after the little pause while the island of Jersey attempted in vain to hold the French fishermen to ransom.

beach cliffs rue du nord plat gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThe sun was pretty low down in the sky today but where the light could actually reach, it was really beautiful

In this photo we’re looking back down along the northern side of the headland past the Rue du Nord and the beach at the Plat Gousset towards Donville les Bains.

But nice as the weather might look, it really was freezing out there and I was glad that I’d come prepared. I usually wear these shell trousers because they wash and dry easily. But they are rather thin and the wind goes right through them.

However, I did bring with me a pair that are one size bigger than I would normally wear. And I simply slipped these on over the ones that I was already wearing and that was great. Mind you, my ears froze again.

thora port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallNothing much doing anywhere else so I made my way around the headland to look at the activity in the port.

And we aren’t alone there again today. We have a visitor, because Thora is in port right now having come in from the Channel Islands with another load. So she’s keeping busy which is good news.

But that was me just about done. I headed off back home for my afternoon coffee and to carry on with my work. But unfortunately I was out like a light yet again for about half an hour or so, which I don’t suppose is any surprise given the circumstances of last night.

The hour on the guitar passed OK, I suppose. And on the acoustic guitar I was working out the Allan Clark number “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” – I’ve no idea why that entered my head this afternoon. And that’s not an easy number to sing because there’s a key change in there somewhere and I end up one scale higher than I ought to be at one point and I can’t think why.

Mind you, it’s the same with “Behind the Mask” that I was playing yesterday. And strangely enough, it’s the same note each time, an “A”.

Tea was taco rolls with the rest of the stuffing from Monday, followed by rice pudding. And having written my notes, I’m not messing about. I’m off to bed for I’m exhausted and a good sleep will do me the world of good, I reckon. And I hope that the photos work properly tonight, Sean. Thanks for the note.

Pleasant dreams, everyone.

Tuesday 9th February 2021 – IT’S SNOWING!

When I lived in the Auvergne all those years ago we would have snow, snow, and then more snow, sometimes from October to May, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

Since I’ve lived here in Granville by the seaside in the prevailing winds, I reckon that I could count on the fingers of one hand, and probably just one of those fingers too, the number of times that we’ve had a snowfall here.

snow place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallBut today, we are having a snowfall, a proper snowfall too and a snowfall in spades as well.

The funny thing is that the weather service forecast snow at 18:00 this evening. And while I hadn’t noticed what the weather was doing at that moment, when I went to fetch my camera at 19:00 after guitar practice, it was snowing quite heavily.

That’s quite a thing, isn’t it? A weather forecast that’s pretty much accurate. It’s quite an impressive snowfall too, the kind of which we used to have in the Auvergne. It’s just like being back home there.

But in those days we were used to it and we coped accordingly. But just you watch the chaos in the streets here tomorrow as the motorists around here try to come to terms with it.

One thing that I struggled to come to terms with is being wide-awake at 05:40 yet again. And had I put my mind to it, I could even have beaten the first alarm. But as it happened, I contented myself with simply beating the third alarm … “‘simply’ he said” – ed.

During the night I’d been on my travels too. There was some kind of science-fiction thing going on last night – a large dome that was full of all kinds of things including some scrap cars and we had crept in there for a look around. We weren’t sure who it was who was running the place and which planet they were from. The next night I crept in again on my own and while I was there a digger came in with its bucket down to scrape the soil, being pushed by a grader. Averny now and again the bucket would dig in and the grader would pull it back and push it on again. I made sure to keep out of sight while I watched them and eventually they stopped near the cars and then began to cur up a dark red Ford Escort. After a while one of the guys said in a loud voice “we can see you, you know”. so I came out of hiding and went for a chat. They told me about the cars – that they cut up whichever was nearest. I asked them about what they did with they stuff and they told me that they “put it in the SAAR”. At first I thought the region of Germany but it turned out that it was some kind of collectors’ magazine. But these people were being quite friendly and sociable and it didn’t seem right to me. I was wondering when they were going to turn nasty, which was what I was expecting.

Sometime also in this I had a black cat rather like Tuppence but her coat was in much better condition. She had been sitting on the floor by the chair and I was trying to entice her on my knee but she wouldn’t jump up. But as soon as I stopped, she jumped up. Someone was telling me that another girl had picked her up and had stroked her, somethig that surprised me because she wasn’t the kind of animal that would let anyone else touch her except me.

Another thing was that I was in work in the EU as some kind of messenger but I had nothing to do so I was just standing there. I stood there for ages and no-one seemed to notice. There were people coming and going, talking about their plans for the weekend, going to play golf and whatever. So there I was for ages standing by this door waiting for someone to give me some work and no-one was taking any attention whatever of what I was doing.

After breakfast I worked on my Welsh ready for my lesson and I do have to say that I simply wasn’t in the mood for it. It was quite a dismal Welsh lesson in fact and I wasn’t on form at all. But luckily I wasn’t called on to do all that much so it didn’t make all that much difference.

After lunch I had a couple of things to do, one of which was to crash out for about 40 minutes. But afterwards I carried on with the notes about Oradour-sur-Glane.

people on atlantic wall fortifications pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallMy afternoon walk was pretty adventurous in this kind of weather because it was absolutely freezing cold.

There were very few people around, except for the guy standing on the old Atlantic Wall concrete machine gun nest over there on the right and the handful of people up there on the path.

It was absolutely taters out there and it’s a long time since I’ve felt quite that cold. In fact, my woolly hat was of not much use at all in this weather. My ears were freezing. I’m going to have to buy a new one the next time I go anywhere near a sports shop becuase it’s not going to be much fun picking my way through the snow to Belgium if I can’t keep my ears warm.

trawler and tree and atlantic wall pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThis photo didn’t really do what I was hoping to do but the effect was nevertheless quite interesting.

Just as I started to cross the lawn a trawler out in the Baie de Mont St Michel put in an appearance. And while I was trying to focus the image on the trawler through the branches, I accidentally clicked the shutter.

There was nothing going on out there in the bay across to the Brittany coast and as you might expect, there wasn’t anything at all in the way of sun trying to pierce its way through the clouds so I didn’t hang around there all that long. I headed off along the path down the south side of the headland.

yacht chantier navale port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallDown at the chantier navale there was yet more excitement.

The covering that was over the side of the yacht has now been removed after yesterday, and to be honest I couldn’t see anything different to how things were previously. So I’ve no idea what that was all about.

By now I was freeezing so I headed off back to my apartment and a nice hot coffee, which I thoroughly deserved. And then I carried on with the Oradour sur Glane stuff until it was time to go a-playing with the guitars.

The half-hour on the bass worked really well and I worked out a lovely bass line to David Bowie’s “Heroes” which I could actually sing as well at the same time. Things are definitely picking up there. But once again, I wasn’t able to concentrate all that much on the acoustic guitar.

Tea was a burger in a bap with potatoes and veg followed by rice pudding. And much as I have written out my notes this evening, I’ve also been watching the snow settle on the car park here.

This is going to be a good morning tomorrow, I hope.

So bedtime now. And I’m wondering if I might make the hat-trick by having three days on the run before the third alarm. About time I did things properly.

Monday 25th January 2021 – ONE TRAIN …

gec alsthom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall… per day to Paris in a pandemic, that I can understand. But just WHY does it have to be at 05:55?.

And in news that will come as something of a shock to regular readers of this rubbish (because it cane as quite a shock to me), not only did I beat the third alarm this morning, I was actually out of bed and leaping up and down (but not actually waving St Cecilia’s knickers in the air) even before the FIRST alarm went off.

During what there was of the night, I’d even managed to go off on a voyage too.

I hadn’t seen Caliburn for ages and then I realised that he was in the garage being serviced and I hadn’t been to pick him up since I’d been back from holiday so I was debating whether or not to go round – and suddenly I was there as if fate had already decided for me. I backed him out of the garage where he was being serviced and went to pay the bill but they hadn’t finished putting the wheels on. A brake hub had been stuck inside a wheel and they had to prize it out. That meant doing some grinding down and filing. They showed me what they had done. They went to fit the wheel back on but one of the wheel nuts was cross-threaded so they had to go off and find another one and I had to wait. In the meantime it was lunchtime and I’d gone into the waiting room with them. There was a big bag of chips that they were handing out between themselves. Someone opened a packet of pasta but it was so full that he went outside to tip some away into a bin which I thought was a strange thing to do. They were all organising themselves like this while I was waiting for Caliburn to be ready.

What this goes to prove is that many of my usual difficulties in rising from my bed in the morning are not actually connected with anything physical, and this is quite bewildering.

But there I was, up and about and starting on my household chores as the first alarm went off.

:, didn’t take me long to do what I had to do, and to make a flask of coffee in the Adventure Canada water bottle that I was given on The Good Ship Ve … errr … Ocean Endeavour.

Having done the necessary, I hit the streets and headed for town, fighting the howling gale all the way.

trawler leaving port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallAs it happened, I wasn’t the only one who was up and about that early either.

The harbour gates must have only just opened because there was a whole stream of fishing vessels heading out to sea.

And while I’m on the subject, regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I mentioned on Friday that I was surprised to see all of the fishing boats in port and not out at sea.

There was a very good reason for that, as I subsequently found out and forgot to mention. It seems that on Friday all of the fishermen had a meeting in town to discuss the next steps in the escalation of the fishing dispute with the Channel Islands.

If it comes to a showdown with the British Government and the British Government decides to employ its fleet of … errr … four gunboats to protect its territorial waters, then knowing French fishermen as I do (after all I live in a town full of them), my money will be firmly on the fishermen.

It wasn’t easy to make my way to the station because most of the street lights had been switched off and we were in the pitch-black. I just encountered a couple of council workmen on my way out there.

The train wasn’t in – mainly because I was there by 05:30, but it soon pulled in and we could board it. It was a full-length train of two units coupled together, but we didn’t have reserved seats. I chose a place right at the front – less distance to travel at the other end.

The weather had been very mild in Granville and has been for the last while. But once we headed inland towards Paris it changed quite rapidly.

snow on railway station platform flers Normandy France Eric HallWe started to pick up the snow round about Villedieu-les-Poeles and the further along the route, like here for example, at Flers, the snow was quite heavy and had stuck to the ground.

Much to my surprise, despite the ridiculously early start, I didn’t crash out for a minute but managed to stay awake for the whole of the journey to Paris, reading a report of the discovery of a mass grave on the outskirts of Weymouth containing 52 decapitated Norsemen from the late 10th Century.

And as for my coffee – I tried some at about 07:30, just about three hours after I had made it. And it was far, far too hot to drink. That was quite unexpected.

gec alsthom regiolis paris gare montparnasse France Eric HallBang on time – 09:14 – we pulled into the Gare Montparnasse and I could take a photo of the unit on which I travelled – the one on the left. The photo that I had taken earlier was of the unit at the other end of the train.

Even though the rush hour wasn’t quite over, the Paris Metro was comparatively quiet. It was a quite rapid trip to Paris Gare du Nord and I was surprised about how empty the place was. I could even find a seat.

The effects of the virus and the amount of working from home has calmed down the amount of commuters quite considerably.

TGV Reseau Duplex gare de lille flandres France Eric HallThere wasn’t a great deal of time for my connection to Lille As I walked into the station they were just allowing the passengers to board. I didn’t even have time to photograph it – that had to wait until we arrived at Lille Flandres Railway Station.

The train was another double-decker TGV Reseau Duplex – two units again (ours was the left-hand one) and it wasn’t all that busy either. I could spread out a little and sample my coffee yet again. And after 6 hours in the flask it was still too hot.

Plenty of time for a change in Lille so having had a good clamber about on an overhead walkway to take my photograph, I could have a pleasant if cold walk down the road to Lille Europe Railway Station.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThe train was actually in the station when I arrived so I had to wait until I arrived at Brussels-Midi until i could photograph it.

But it was a pretty busy train without many spare seats. Luckily I had no neighbour so I could spread out and I even managed to doze off for 10 minutes or so. And the coffee had cooled down enough for me to be able to sip it. Not gulp it – just sip it.

And now I can call myself one of the statistics on the Belgian Government’s list of Covid-testees.

When we arrived at Bruxelles-Midi we had to pass through a checkpoint and show our papers. It’s a good job that I had prepared my Travel request. And I was directed to the Covid-testing point outside the station.

And having a Q-tip shoved up my nose is not a very pleasant sensation at all.

Another task I had to perform was to post off the Certificat de Vie that I had signed by the French police the other day to prove that I’m still alive. The Tour de Midi – the headquarters of the Belgian pension service is just across the road from the station.

sncb class 18 electric locomotive gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallBack in the station again I had to run (as best as I could) for my train as it was just coming into the station.

It’s one of the Oostende-Welkenraedt trains and these are quite comfortable so I didn’t want to miss it if I could help it.

By now the coffee was cool enough so I could actually drink it so I had a nice comfortable ride to Leuven and a pleasant walk down to my hotel room.

Here, I sorted myself out and had a little sit down for a while to recover my strength. And having done that, I headed out for the shops.

house renovation dekenstraat leuven belgium Eric HallDown at the end of the road here I went past the house renovation that we have seen before.

It’s now been about three months since they’ve been doing the facade of the building, to my certain knowledge and I really don’t understand why this sort of thing takes so long.

The bill at the Carrefour was quite expensive, but then again food is much more expensive in Belgium than it is in France. And I was glad to be back in my room with my food. I was ready for something to eat

Writing out my notes took longer than it might have done, due to the fact that I … errr … had a little repose. But now I’m off to bed. Welsh lessons in the morning so I need to be my best.

And after the very long day that I’ve had, I’m ready for bed too.

Tuesday 27th August 2019 – I HAVE SPENT …

… a very pleasant day in the company of those two two very pleasant young girls whom I have mentioned previously. I’m not sure quite why, but I seem to be Flavour Of The Month right now – a situation to which I’m not accustomed at all

When we saw the polar bear the other day the younger one of the two who was wandering around the deck on her own wasn’t able to pick it up with her camera very well To help her out, I put her memory card into my camera and let her take a few photos using the big zoom lens. No kid should ever go around being disappointed if there’s someone around who can lend a hand.

Unfortunately I had my camera set on RAW data rather than *.jpg so her camera couldn’t see it, as I came to realise afterwards. But I was working with the laptop in my little corner in the upper lounge today when they both came past, so I grabbed her memory card, edited the photos for her, converted it into *.jpg format and, for good measure, slipped her a photo of my walrus from yesterday as a little present.

We ended up having quite a chat, that started at about 15:00 this afternoon and went on until … errr … 00:30. And I’ll tell you something for nothing – and that is that they are far more intelligent and interesting and have much more to say for themselves than any of the adults on board The Good Ship Ve … errr … Ocean Endeavour.

And that, unfortunately, is not saying very much either. To tell the truth, this is a pretty miserable lot of passengers on board the ship for this section of the voyage. There’s not even one of them with whom I’d choose to spend any of my spare time, and I’m pretty certain judging by the number of times that I’ve sat at a table and taken my meals all alone that the feeling is pretty much mutual.

Not that it bothers me at all though. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’m much happier with my own company and It seems as if I’m condemned to prowl the deck of the ship totally on my own until all kinds of late hours until I fall overboard, rather like Joshua Slocum, which is par for the course these days.

Mind you, I don’t know how I do it because I had another dreadful night. Wide awake at 01:00 and then not going back to sleep at all. And I was feeling dreadful too – fearing a recurrence of my trouble of the other week.

I know what caused it though. Basically, I was in a totally foul mood and it was eating me up all yesterday evening.

Yesterday or the day before, I’d mentioned that we have someone from the Archaeological Service of Canada Parks on board and as a result things are being run “by the book” on board, to the total exclusion of everything else.

Consequently, even though I’ve travelled for 40 days and spent not far short of $40,000 over two years to travel to a certain point and to take a certain photograph, it’s been decided that I won’t be permitted to take it.

I was furious (to say the least) about the idea of missing out on the photo that I really wanted to take, and it was preying on my mind. But being wide-awake enabled me to have a good think and it gave me the opportunity to come up with a solution.

And so at breakfast I buttonholed Rachel the Archaeologist and bent her ear somewhat (poor girl), telling her of my utter dismay and disappointment. She replied that she would “take my concerns on board”.

It was snowing slightly outside and freezing cold, as you might expect up here in the High Arctic, but we all warmed ourselves up in our really warm expedition clothing and hit the zodiacs. 10 minutes later we were on Beechey Island. at last, after all of these years.

We visited the graves of the three sailors who died at the start of the Franklin expedition and I took the photos that I wanted. Permission had been obtained (although, I suspect, unofficially, and I thought it best not to make further enquiries). We then walked on through the rain and the howling wind past a passing gyrfalcon down to Northumberland House (or the remains thereof) built by William Pullen’s expedition to relieve Franklin should he still be alive (which he wasn’t)

The whole place is covered in old tin cans, barrel staves and barrel hoops from Franklin’s and the relief expeditions in the 1840s and 50s and that all adds to the mystery of the place. But at long last I have made it there and that was what I’ve come all this way to do.

But one thing that I couldn’t do was to deal with yet more of this red tape. There’s a shipwreck – the yacht Mary – dating from the 1850s on the island, and known since at least 1854. I was hoping to be able to visit that but because it didn’t form part of the permit that the company had obtained (apparently no-one thought that it would be of much interest to anyone) it had been taped off and an “unofficial excursion’ was out of the question with this official loitering around.

So instead, I cursed my bad luck.

The zodiac ride back was wild, totally wild. You’d pay good money for that in an adventure park. We were all soaked to the skin and frozen to the marrow, so when we returned I had a hot shower to warm myself up.

After lunch I was on deck for a while and then fell in with the girls. They are cousins apparently, both mad on music and keen players of the ukelele. So I’ve been having private ukelele lessons all evening.

There was a concert in fancy dress this evening. Strawberry Moose dressed up for it and won a prize.

Later on in the evening while I was chatting to the girls and learning to play the ukelele, two boys joined in. One of them was no mean guitarist and the other could sing really well and so we had a jam session until long after midnight, all five of us.

And as a result, a cunning plan is developing. But more of this anon. I’m off to bed.

Wednesday 12th September 2018 – WHAT A …

*************** THE IMAGES ***************

There are over 3,000 of them and due to the deficiencies of the equipment they all need a greater or lesser amount of post-work. And so you won’t get to see them for a while.

You’ll need to wait til I return home and get into my studio and start to go through them. And it will be a long wait. But I’ll keep you informed after I return.

… horrible night!

About 00:45 when I finally settled down to sleep. And something awoke me at 03:30 – no idea what it was – and that was how I stayed, drifting in and out until the alarm went off at 06:00.

A beautiful morning with some lovely streaks of light. Several icebergs and a couple of islands away astern too. Have we reached Greenland already?

As a true measure of my popularity I took breakfast alone this morning. It seems that I’m the rattlesnake in the Lucky Dip again. I wonder who I’ve upset today. And more importantly, how?

At least I managed to have a chat with Jerry Kobalenko about Labrador. Apparently I can find out much more information by looking in his book, “obtainable in the gift shop”. I suppose that my explorations are pretty much small beer compared to the routes that he has travelled.

My morning caught up with me though, and pretty quickly too. By about 08:45 I was flat out on the bed and there I stayed until about 09:45. Dead to the world. The only trouble with this though is that I feel worse now then I did before I crashed out.

At least there was a nice view of Greenland through the fog and that might cheer me up a little. An iceberg went sailing past at one point, hard up against the Greenland coast and so I went out to take a photo or two.

There was a lecture on “the Vikings” – not “the Norse” – and Latonia started completely on the wrong foot, telling everyone that Lindisfarne was on the north-west coast of England.

Another discussion that we had was on the failed Adolphus Greely expedition of the 1880s. And what annoyed me about this was that we were just 30 miles or so from where they came to grief and there was no proposal whatever to take us there.

With all of the disturbances and failures that we have had with our voyage, I would have thought that they would have done what they could in order to make our journey more exciting and instead of this messing about in Lancaster Sound, we could have come up here instead.

I’m dismayed about all of this.

At lunch I sat with Natalie and Deanna and we chatted about last night’s entertainment. And good that it was too – the chat as well as the entertainment. I threw in a few tales from Carry On Matron too while I was at it.

By now we had arrived off the coast of Etah in Greenland. This is the last place on our list – the farthest north at 78°18′, 1300kms (750 miles) from the North Pole and I was half-expecting to be turned away from there too.

But we clambered aboard the zodiacs and off we went up the fjord. It’s long, narrow and also shallow so the ship couldn’t go too far up there. Instead we were treated to a 45-minute zodiac trip. And it’s just as well that we did because we went past three herds of musk-oxen.

We stopped to take photos of them. The best estimate is that there were about 20 of them in total.

Etah was the farthest-north permanent settlement in this part of the Arctic. The first Europeans to visit here were John Ross and William Parry in 1818 and in whose shoes we have been travelling.

Ross called them his “Arctic Highlanders” and attempted to signify his peaceful intentions towards them by holding aloft a drawing of an olive branch. Which considering that there were no trees in this part of Greenland, never mind an olive tree, was a rather strange thing to do.

After several minutes of bewilderment on both sides, the holding aloft of a basket of presents did the trick.

Etah really was right on the limit of what was possible in the way of permanent settlement and even in the late 19th Century the inhabitants were just clinging on in there, declining rapidly in numbers. Two separate expeditions of Isaac Hayes, in 1854 and 1861, noted the rapid decline in numbers of people living there, comparing the latter with the former.

There are the remains and mounds of a considerable number of huts here, and one that I inspected still had the furniture and the cast-iron stove in there. These were apparently from a failed attempt to resettle the area in comparatively modern times.

I found a considerable number of pottery shards scattered about and in the absence of a measure, I recorded the length using the camera zoom lens.

Another thing that we saw were bones. from the odd bone even down to several skeletons – mainly of musk-oxen but of other stuff too. More caribou horns than you could shake a stick at.

Once the beach area had been cleared, we could walk down to the glacier.

It’s called the Brother John Glacier, named by the celebrated and famous (or infamous) American explorer Elisha Kent Kane – he of the Margaret Fox and spirit-rapping fame – in honour of his brother

It looks quite close but it was actually not far short of three kilometres. And on the way down there on the path flanked by the polar bear guards we encountered an Arctic Hare watching us from the rocks.

Strawberry Moose had a really good time there. I took a few photos of him, and several other people insisted on photographing him. It does his ego a great deal of good to be the star in other people’s photographs.

Including aerial photography. There was someone filming the glacier with a drone and His Nibs features on some of the film.

I did some serious photography myself. There’s a couple on board who are making some kind of profile of themselves for some kind of modelling assignment, and I used their cameras to take a few pics of them

On the way back I went the long way around. A lap of the lake and it wasn’t as easy as it seems. Not only was it all “up and down” there were several piles of loose scree everywhere and I had to negotiate them clutching a moose. It wasn’t easy.

Another thing that I had to negotiate was a woman lying prone on the path. Apparently she was smelling the Arctic plants, so I was told.

And then we had the stepping stones over the river. That was exciting clutching His Nibs.

All in all, the walk back around the lake from the glacier was interesting and exhilarating. And probably the first time ever that Golden Earring has been played at Etah.

One thing that I did do – you might think is bizarre – is to take off my boots and socks and go for a paddle in the Arctic Ocean. Well, although I intended to, I went in quicker and deeper than I intended due to a wet slippery rock upon which I was standing.

Absolutely taters it was – far colder than in that river in Labrador this year. I must be out of my mind.

Hot tea was served and I was so busy talking that I almost missed my zodiac back to the ship. And they waited so long for me that it had grounded and it took a while and several people to refloat it.

But that wasn’t as bad as one of the other drivers. He had struck a submerged rock in his zodiac and broken his propellor.

There was a storm brewing in the distance and it was touch and go as to whether we would make it to the ship before we were caught in it. Of course, we were soundly beaten and arrived back at the ship freezing, soaking wet and covered in snow.

In my room I had a shower and a clothes-wash, and then after the resumé meeting I went for tea. With my American friends again. She’s a former gymnast and did in fact judge the gymnastics at the Olympic Games;

Tonight there was a Disco – a Viking-themed one and although I didn’t do all that much, I had spent some time getting His Nibs prepared for the show and he won a prize, which cheered me up greatly.

I had several chats, several dances and the like but, as expected, His Nibs had more success with the ladies than I ever do.

They are still dancing and Disco-ing in there. I’m writing up my notes and ready to go to bed. I’ll go for my midnight walk to check the compass and the twilight, even though we are now ahead one hour seeing as we are officially in Greenland.

There’s a pile of the younger ones in the hot tub where, apparently, they have been for some considerable time, enjoying the water and also the Arctic twilight which is magnificent tonight

Tonight’s binnacle heading is 144°, which is slightly south of south-east. So that’s it then.

We didn’t make 80°N or any of the farthest-north outposts of Arctic exploration, or even Annoatok (the farthest-northerly seasonal settlement which is only 20 miles further north than here and where Frederick Cook set out on his alleged attempt at the North Pole), but having hit John Ross’s farthest north we are on our way home. And I’m so disappointed that we have accomplished so little of what I wanted to do.

I set my foot on Ellesmere island and also at Etah, but the rest has been a big anti-climax.

You can’t win a coconut every time but just once every now and again would do fine for me.

I’m off to bed.

Monday 19th March 2018 – ONE SWIFT GLANCE …

… out of the window told me all that I needed to know this morning – and another glance at the thermometer confirmed it.

It was snowing slightly outside and the temperature was 0.5°C. Another swift glance in the fridge told me that I wasn’t going to starve to death and so I put my planned shopping trip … errr … on ice.

And quite right too because I wasn’t feeling much like it either. I’d had a bad night again – although not as bad as the previous – and wasn’t in the mood for a Great Trek today. And I didn’t fancy a shower in the Arctic conditions.

As a result I did some more 3D stuff – for yet another site that I have found – and then attacked the mountain of photographs that has been building up. I’ve been revising these pages working backwards and added some of the missing photographs, and I’ll be going farther and farther back as time, energy and inclination permits.

Lunch was the last of the lettuce and I’ve run out of salad dressing too. But somewhere about it a recipe for vegan mayonnaise and I know that I have everything to make it, so tomorrow morning might be a kitchen day. High time that I did some of this haute cuisine.

The walk this afternoon was absolutely taters. Never mind the First Day of Spring just around the corner, it’s like Christina Rosetti and “In The Bleak Midwinter” outside. And surprisingly, there were several other people suffering in silence as we trudged round.

The bass guitar came out this afternoon but I couldn’t remember the numbers that I’d been rehearsing. How sad is that? It reminds me of that Irish folk group whom I saw a while ago – “we only know two numbers. One of them is ‘Dirty Old Town’ and the other one isn’t”.

Tea was mixed vegetables in the new steamer and vegan sausage, with cheese sauce. And delicious it was too, although there was no pudding. I had to make do with biscuits.

casino place marechal foch granville manche normandy franceI was the only one out for a walk this evening, although I wasn’t alone as I took the old Nikon with me.

And the quality isn’t very good in the dark, and so I’m suspecting a lens issue. I had a look on the internet to see if I could find a cheap lens to practise with but there’s nothing suitable at a price that I can reasonably afford.

The only thing that’s within my budget is the same lens that I have back on the farm, and it’s pretty pointless to buy another one of those.

And I was even less alone than that too, for my mate the long-haired black cat was there and let me give him a good stroke or two for about 10 minutes. And I would probably still be there now had that dog not come down the street, because he disappeared to safety as soon as he smelt it – which was a long time before I could see it.

So what will tonight be like? Better, I hope. I could do with a really good sleep in my own comfy bed.

Saturday 17th March 2018 – I’M BACK!

marité port de granville harbour manche normandy franceAnd so is Marité.

As I wearily trudged (and it was a weary trudge) up the hill to here I saw her moored at her usual anchorage. She’s been away for the winter and now that Spring is just around the corner she’s come back to resume operations.

And I for one will be checking out just what these operations are.

snow condo gardens leuven belgium mars march 2018But “Spring is just around the corner” did I say? You wouldn’t think so because it was snowing outside this morning in Leuven when I went for my baguette and how about that for this time of the year?

Not what I would call a major snowstorm, but snow nevertheless. The thermometer on my new mobile phone showed “-1°C, feels like -7°C” and I wasn’t going to argue with that after even two minutes outside at the boulangerie – or maybe I ought so say bakker just around the corner.

Just for a change, I slept the Sleep of the Dead last night. And with having had an early night too, I felt so much better this morning.

And the new phone and new alarm did their business too, although switching it off it something of a performance.

I’d been on my travels too, loitering near the edge of the kerb as Terry turned up to pick me up. In an old FX4 and having trouble trying to make the handbrake engage. Liz shouted across that he had the sandwiches down by his side, bit all I could see was something that looked like a cardboard box all wrapped up in newspaper.

We had the usual performance this morning but I drew the line at having a shower. For some reason that I haven’t remembered, I closed the door to the bathroom last night so it was absolutely taters in there. And that was hardly a surprise given the weather.

So armed with a baguette I made my butties for the road and then having tidied up the place a little, hit the streets for the station.

photography session leuven station belgium mars march 2018They weren’t wrong about the temperature either. I was frozen to the marrow by the time that I arrived.And with the ticket machine in the basement I had to retrace my steps to the booking office.

On the platform waiting for the train we were entertained by a photographer across the tracks who was organising a photo shoot with a little girl aged about 6, dressed in clothing that was completely unsuitable for the Arctic conditions.

The poor kid looked as if she was freezing to death over there and I can’t say that I was surprised.

railway station leuven sncb train blankenberge belgium mars march 2018I didn’t have to wait too long though. There was an Intercity train for Blankenberge due in, which was handy, and so I hopped aboard. And it was heaving too.

It looked as if everyone in Belgium was heading off for a day at the seaside regardless of the weather. I ws crammed in rather uncomfortably next to three people who were watching videos on their phones at full volume, and that didn’t half get on my wick.

But it was only for half an hour or so, which was just as well. I wouldn’t have put up with that for a three-hour journey.

No excitement at the Gare du Midi today either. No-one arrested and no train derailed either. In fact nothing to laugh at at all.

tgv bruxelles mid belgium paris gare du nord  mars march 2018And crowded too. You couldn’t even have got a cat on board the TGV, never mind swung one around. It’s getting to be more and more popular this as summer approaches – not that you would ever recognise summer in this weather of couree.

I spent most of the journey with my ears closed to keep out the noisy brats and – shame as it is to day it these days – with my eyes closed too.

I know. I’m in a bad way.

We were minutes late arriving in the Gare du Nord and that’s crucial. I’m tight for time and even more so now that the line metro station is closed here. The deviation that I took on the way out took me about minutes, and that’s all the time that I had available so I took an executive decision (that’s a decision where, if it goes wrong, the person who made it is executed).

I took the line 5 as far as the Gare de l’Est nd then leapt on the line 4 train there and braved the long walk. It ended up being quicker than via the Porte d’Italie which wa good news and I reached my platform with 10 minutes to spare, totally out of breath.

sncf gare de granville manche normandy franceIn the freezing cold we rattled off to Granville, with me yet again sleeping most of the way.

And it was a long weary journey where we crawled at snail’s pace on the stretch between Argentan and Briouze. I was pretty much fed up by the time that we arrive back in Granville.

My OAP railcard expires in April so I took the opportunity to renew it. €50:00 for a year but you’ve no idea how much it saves me in discount. I couldn’t afford to do this trip if I had to pay full fare for it.

And then the long trudge back home into the cold, where I switched on the heating and made a coffee.

Tea was pasta and vegetables tossed in oil, garlic powder and chili. All of that followed by a walk outside. I’m on 111% of my daily activity and it feels like it too.

So tonight it’s back into my warm bed. And aren’t I looking forward to it?

Thursday 1st March 2018 – IT WAS A …

… lot warmer this morning.

Yes, the temperature when I awoke this morning was at the giddy heights of all of minus 3°C. It wasn’t as cold in here either this morning, but after less than 4 hours sleep, it certainly felt like it too.

snow pointe du roc granville manche normandy franceWhat didn’t help though was that after breakfast it started to snow. I wondered why it had gone completely silent outside, with no cars or pedestrians passing.

Under normal circumstances that would have put paid to any idea that I might have had about going to the shops. These, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, are not normal times and I need to move about.

And in any case, you wouldn’t exactly call that a snowfall after what we are used to in the Auvergne, regardless of what they might think around here.

So I had a shower and a general clean-up and cut all 20 of my finger and toe nails (and anyone who knew me even a couple of years ago will realise that an achievement that is). And then I hit the streets.

o'toole lorries port de granville harbour manche normandy franceAnd there over across the far side of the harbour where the fairground people had their residential caravans are a couple of lorries owned by the Irish company O’Toole.

Everyone knows of course that the company is owned by Plenty O’Toole, one of the James Bond girls from Diaminds Are Forever and who was, famously, “named after her father”.

But more to the point, what are they doing there? And even more interestingly, how did they get here?

water pimpig into port de granville harbour manche normandy franceThat wasn’t all of the excitement down at the harbour either. As you can see, we have a gusher – a ge flow of water into the basin.

I did wonder what it was doing – whether there had been a leak in the gates or whether they were trying something new, but it seems to be the outlet of a rather large pump and I’ve no idea what it’s supposed to be doing.

Or even where the water is coming from. I mean – I know that it’s coming from the sea, but that’s not what I mean.

We had some excitement in the town too. Someone in a 7.5 tonne lorry was delivering parcels – blocking the narrow streets as he unloaded, even though there was a free space just 20 metres higher up.

And another100 metres further on, he stopped OPPOSITE a free space and blocked the passage for the large queue behind him. So when he came out of th shop I asked him if he needed any help to park it – after all, I now have my HGV licence – but he just gave me a dirty look and drove away.

I made it to LIDL to find that there were no more than 20 people in the sho, and I had a till all to myself – something that deosn’t happen very often in LIDL as you know. Clearly the weather had defeated most people. But there was nothing exciting to buy in there, although the sorbet maker looks exciting – I’ll need Caliburn for that.

demolition rue st gaude granville manche normandy franceMy usual route back home takes me down past the streets in the upper part of town and there was some excitement here too.

It seems that a couple of old houses in the Rue St Gaude are being demolished, with plans afoot to replace them with modern apartments. This is a street with a good view in places over the harbour and in much demand – I saw a ruin here at an exorbitant price – and quite a lot of the old single-occupancy properties have gone.

But I admired them for attacking the job with a digger.

The day warmed up later and we were treated to rain – put the dampers on my two walks later on though, but at least I made well over the 100% daily exercise target which is always good.

And tea tonight was all kinds of vegetables and falafel with a cheese sauce, and that was delicious too.

But despite my short night last night and my exercise today, I’m not at all tired and I don’t know why. It’s going to be yet another late night.

Wednesday 14th February 2018 – I MADE IT …

… to Leuven without any disaster or without losing anything. So that has to be something to celebrate.

But it seems that I’ve forgotten to bring my medication, I forgot to turn off the water heater, and I seem to have omitted to bring with me the letter telling me the time of my appointment.

So we’re still going true to form, aren’t we?

never mind 06:00 – I was awake at 03:30. But of course there was no danger of my ever leaving my bed at that time. I must have gone back to sleep though because the alarm awoke me at 06:00 and I was out of bed before the second one went off.

Just for a change I didn’t take my medication – I need to be on the move quite smartly – so I had an early breakfast, tidied up somewhat and then took the rubbish to the bin outside.

Everything in the apartment was cleaned and bleached where appropriate, and I did some last minute packing before I hit the streets.

Just for a change it wasn’t raining and it only took me 25 minutes to make the station. So I had plenty of time to loiter around, and with the new touchpad on the coffee machine I could even have a coffee.

Now here’s a thing. On the train I had a bad attack of nausea and I’ve no idea why. But it soon cleared up and strangely enough I felt so much better as we sped through the snow to Paris.

Paris was surprisingly quiet and I was at the Gare du Nord in a new record of 40 minutes, and that included stopping to buy the tickets for the metro. I bought two – one for the return because I’m stuck for time on the return as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

At the Gare du Nord I could eat my butties, and it’s bad news that the baguette that I bought yesterday didn’t last as well as the usual one that I buy and which was sold out.

Surprise, surprise! The TGV was half an hour late leaving Paris and we didn’t make up the time on the journey either. But it didn’t matter because at Brussels-Midi I only had enough time to buy a rail ticket to Leuven before an Inter-City express pulled in.

It’s freezing here – absolutely taters. And the heater in my little flat-hotel (which, for a change, has the bed upstairs) could be better.

But I had a coffee and then hit the shops. The Delhaize about 15 minutes walk away came up with stuff that I need while I’m staying here. And tea was baked potatoes with a tin of curried vegetables. Once I’d sorted out the electricity issues, I could make the microwave work.

Delicious it was too.

So now I’m off for an early night. I’ve done 124% of my daily exercise routine so I’m quite happy with that.

Tomorrow, we shall see what we shall see.

Friday 9th February 2018 – HAVING REGAINED MY COMPOSURE …

… after the mail that I received from the Bank yesterday, I sent them a reply this afternoon. Carefully thought out, I’ve asked for a reply to five points that, for me, are quite important in my dealings with them.

And I received an answer from them as well- which basically didn’t answer any questions at all.

But I did learn one thing – and that is that the person with whom I have been dealing recently “is no longer with the Bank”. So that’s two employees of the Credit Agricole in Granville that I’ve seen off. Who’s next? The woman who is dealing with my affairs now is a Madame Rottier. And I bet that that’s a spelling mistake too.

And for another change I had the Sleep of the Dead yet again last night. And quite rightly so. It’s about time. And I was up and about when the second alarm went off, which is even better.

We had the usual arrangements this morning of course, and once the medication worked I went out and about to do my shopping. The idea was to do it this morning before they started to close off all of the roads for the Carnaval. The downside of this is that everyone else decided to do the same thing too, and so everywhere was crowded.

First port of call though was the Tax Office. I’ve had the bill for my stay in hospital over New Year so that needs to be paid. With me going to Leuven next week, I’m staying for a couple of days extra and I’ve arranged to go into Brussels on Friday where I can call in at my Health Insurance people and hand in all of the receipts.

But the queue there was quite something. I don’t know how long it takes to pay a bill – for me it’s about 30 seconds – but the woman on the cash desk was really making a performance of it all and everyone was quite frustrated by her “work to rule”.

snow falls off underneath of car LIDL granville manche normandy franceLIDL came up with nothing at all spectacular, but all of the excitement was outside in the car park.

Liz told me the other day that they had had a heavy snowfall where she lives – just 15 miles or so from here – and that was hard to believe considering the weather that we have had.

But here in the car park at LIDL was a car with snow embedded under the wheel arches and with a large lump that had just fallen off.

After LIDL I went to a new shop. Liz had told me about a frozen food place called Picard that she had found and there is one in Granville. So I popped in for a look around. There’s tons more stuff than there is anywhere else, but at a price. Nevertheless, it’s handy to know if I need anything that isn’t mainstream.

Bureau Vallée was next, and they had restocked their 2GB memory sticks. So another two have now disappeared into my apartment.

storm waves crashing over sea wall port de granville harbour manche normandy franceAfter lunch and my little correspondence session, I braved the howling gale (it really was wicked) and went for a walk.

My route took me around the headland and it was well-worth the struggle against the wind because I was treated to a most spectacular sight of the waves being hurled over the sea wall into the tidal basin.

This is one of the reasons why I’ve come to live by the seaside. The power of the waves and the storms is quite impressive. You need to remember that I’m living right where the highest ever wind speed to hit the French coast was recorded – 220kph in 1987

Back here with a coffee and a … errr … relax, and then a session on the database followed by the usual half-hour on the guiter. And I suddenly found myself playing the bass line to Budgie’s “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman”. That brings back memories from when I met Ray Phillips, the former Budgie drummer who had played on that album and was looking for a bassist for a gig he was playing with an ad-hoc band at a pub in Nantwich one night in 1977.

fast food outlet carnaval granville manche normandy franceAfter tea (the rest of the oven chips, beans and falafel) I went into town to see what was happening with the carnaval.

The funfair was all closed up and in darkness, but there were quite a few people around in the streets. So much so that a fast-food outlet had opened its doors to serve them.

I can’t say that I was tempted very much – the smell of roasted flesh is disgusting if you ask me.

bal de carnaval granville manche normandy franceEveryone was heading into the square so I followed them to see what was going on.

Almost everyone was in fancy-dress, and that’s because there was a carnaval-eve ball taking place, with a rock band and everything. But far too “young” for me. Never mind the Phyllosan to fortify the over-40s – what do they have to sixtify the over-60s?

But it did remind me of the noise that I once heard from the village hall in Byley a good few years ago.
“What’s all that noise going on in there?”
“They are holding a Young Farmer’s Ball”
“And what’s the matter? Can’t he get them to let go?”

place marechal foch granville manche normandy franceNot feeling in the least bit tired (but rather fatigued nevertheless) I went for a walk to the Place Maréchal Foch and the Casino.

I’d not really been for a good wander around there in the dark before, so now seemed to be as good a time as any.

There were cars parked all over the place, as you might expect with it being carnaval and half of the streets closed off, and it rather spoilt the view unfortunately.

granville manche normandy franceWe’ve seen plenty of photographs of the casino in the past but we have never seen it quite like this.

There’s definitely something about the effects of artificial lighting at night-time to bring out the best of a building, and that’s exactly what we have here. It really does look good.

In the corner to the left of the casino we have the little theatre. I’ve not yet been there – but that’s basically because there’s nothing that ever goes on there that is of interest to me.

hotel des bains place marechal foch granville manche normandy franceInstead, I continued with my walk around the Place Marechal Foch, and passed by the Hotel des Bains.

This has been described as “delightfully chic” in some travel guides, which means that it isn’t the kind of place that you are ever likely to find Yours Truly spending a night these days.

But nevertheless, the building is quite impressive. It’s fairly modern but it’s been built with some kind of tasteful eye on the history of the town which is always nice to see. It’s a shame that more people can’t make an effort.

bedford CF camper granville manche normandy franceWith still 12%of my daily activity to do, I carried on with my walk. and I’m glad I did because I spotted this way in the distance.

And when was the last time that you saw a Bedford CF on the road anywhere? I haven’t seen one for years. The last British “Vauxhall” vehicle, they wer emade from 1969 to compete with the Ford Transit but came on the scene far too late.

The Transit was already well-established by then, with the previous CA Bedford putting up no resistance, and the CF didn’t last long. It disappeared with hardly a whimper in 1987 when the “Cevel” vans of Peugeot and Citroen flooded into the UK.

And I for one never expected to see one again.

No shopping tomorrow, but there’s a carnaval procession. I mustn’t miss that, so I’ll have to be in the Town Centre at 13:30.

No peace for the wicked.

Saturday 14th January 2017 – PHEW, I’M WHACKED!

I’ve had a really busy day today and I’m going to pay for it tomorrow. But ask me if I care!

I’ve always said that I’ll do what I have the opportunity to do whenever I have the opportunity to do it, and today was just like that.

Remember when I went shopping with Alison last weekend? She ended up not buying a ski suit but she did manage to pick one up during the week. But she decided that she would go to look for another one today – in Aachen, Germany, to be precise. Did I want to go?

Well, do bears go for picnics in the woods?

Last night was another typical bad night with an interruption in the small hours as usual. And that’s annoying me as you can imagine. But I made it into the kitchen for breakfast bang on time all the same.

Now here’s a thing that is more than unusual. it’s more than surprising too, and certainly extraordinary. And that is that I was down at the Delhaize in town, doing my shopping and back in my room afterwards for 09:00. When did that ever happen?

By 11:00 I’d showered, shaved, had clean clothes, all of that and gone outside where Alison was waiting for me.

aachen germany january janvier 2017And so, all aboard, we headed off eastwards down the motorway to Aachen. We farhn, fahrn, fahrn’d down the autobahn, in fact.

The weather could have been better though. It was cold, although not that cold, and grey and overcast with snow flurries throughout the day.

We arrived at Aachen where the snow had beaten us to it, and first stop was to sort out some clothing for Alison.

aachen germany january janvier 2017While Alison was searching around in the shops I went for a little wander around in the vicinity. Of course, when women are buying clothes, there’s plenty of time to do that, and even more so when people are in the queue for paying.

It seems that almost everyone in the city was shopping for ski-wear. After all, it’s Carnival quite soon and this is the traditional time for the kids to hit the slopes.

aachen germany january janvier 2017From there, we walked up the hill into town past some nice fairly-modern brick-built buildings that looked quite nice and blended quite well into the surroundings.

A coffee was next, and Alison knew a pretty good cafe. And I’ve drunk much worse coffee than that, I can tell you. I was surprised though, that there was no public toilet in there. I wonder what the EU would have to say about it.

But it does reinforce everything that I have said about the different attitudes that different countries have. Most countries agree to everything, and then have a very lax attitude about enforcing it. The UK fights tooth-and-nail, wasting everyone’s time, about various legislation, end then enforces it to the most ridiculous lengths. Remind me to tell you one day about the tip at Leek.

city square aachen germany january janvier 2017After the coffee we went off up the hill into the city centre, and while Alison went off in search of a woolly hat to go with her new ski jacket that she had bought, I went off for a wander around.

Luckily, Aachen was spared the worst excesses of the Allied terror-bombing of World War II so there is a great deal of the medieval city remaining, despite the American shelling and the SS demolition squads during its capture in October 1944.

And while it’s not the most attractive medieval city that I’ve ever visited, it certainly retains a lot of its charm.

town hall rathaus aachen germany january janvier 2017The Town Hall, or Rathaus, which I always thought was a quite appropriate name for a town hall in any country or any language, was damaged during the capture of the city, but you would never ever think so from just looking at it.

And I don’t just mean the quality of the restoration either. The building could do with a really good clean for a start and it would look so much better if they were to take the time to do it.

town hall rathaus aachen germany january janvier 2017One of the things that I did like about the Rathaus were the beautiful medieval wooden buildings – a pub so Alison told me, that were attached to the side, taking advantage of the stone wall of the Rathaus at the back.

It’s not the first time that we’ve seen this style of construction. There’s the same kind of construction in Belgium at a church near the Bourse that has wooden buildings constructed against it. It certainly saves on construction materials

aachen germany january janvier 2017Round the side of the central square was another small square tucked away out of sight. Alison told me that there was a restaurant there that had vegan food advertised on the menu, so that sounded like a good place to go for lunch.

It’s over there at the back, on the right, hidden by what look very much like historical remains. And I was intrigued to see these remains still standing – they look like the kind of remains that would have fallen down years ago.

living room aachen germany january janvier 2017Alison had a salmon steak and new potatoes, and my vegan ratatouille made with fresh vegetables of the day was even better. It was a little over-priced in my opinion, but it was still delicious and light years away from a bag of chips.

It too was served with sliced new potatoes and that worked so well that I’ll be trying this as soon as I can, now that I have a bag of spuds to play with.

But I didn’t think that the name of the restaurant was appropriate – fancy calling it the Living Room, which could be translated into Lebensraum, the project which concerned the Nazis invading Eastern Europe and exterminating its population.

And I shan’t say anything about setting the décor on fire either.

cathedral aachen germany january janvier 2017Outside the Living Room there was a view of the cathedral, to the right of the historic arches, and if you excuse the building work and the crane thing in the way.

It’s not the best view in the world but unfortunately, like many other well-preserved medieval cities, the cathedral is tightly hemmed in by buildings and it’s not possible to do any better than this.

If the RAF and the American artillery can’t clear the scene, neither can I

cathedral aachen germany january janvier 2017The cathedral itself is a magnificent pile and I expect that you are waiting with bated breath to see a whole raft of photos of the gorgeous interior, the tomb of Charlemagne, and all kinds of relics, including building materials such as marble that were sent by Pope Hadrian I to incorporate into the construction

Unfortunately there was a person loitering just inside the interior whose task it is to pounce upon anyone pointing a camera at anything, and demand a “licence fee” for the privilege of so doing.

Clearly the cathedral authorities have never ever heard of “Christian Charity” and don’t understand the concept of “sharing”. It’s not the first time that I’ve passed comment on the quality and value of the treasures contained in a church – something that goes totally against the concept of Jesus viz “give all thou hast to the poor”, but when it even comes down to naked exploitation and profiteering of the idea of sharing images of what the church possesses, then I’m convinced that there is something totally wrong with the church’s morality.

The oldest part of the Cathedral dates from 792 and is part of Charlemagne’s Palace – probably the only surviving part. And its rare octagonal shape is an indication of its age.

The stained glass therein is stunning too and all in all, it’s quite an impressive building. One day I shall go back – alone – and bring you back some photos to demonstrate what I mean.

medieval city centre aachen germany january janvier 2017The streets surrounding the cathedral are not without interest. Small, tight and cobbled – the very typical medieval street scenes that were swept away in the mid-20th Century in most cities in the UK

And this sculpture was quite exciting too. All of the models on it are mobile and can be manipulated around. It drew quite a crowd and I had to wait ages for a suitable opportunity to photograph it, when there was no-one else loitering in the vicinity.

old ruins aachen germany january janvier 2017Aachen is quite a historic city.

Settlement dates back to neolithic times and was settled by the Romans, attracted to the site by the warm sulphur springs. It was in fact on the frontier of the settled Roman area.

Excavations have taken place in the city from time to time and some of the discoveries are on display, like this site in one of the town squares that is surrounded by a glass case. I particularly liked the idea of the drainage channel just here in the foreground.

The warm springs are just lower down from where these ruins are located, and I went off for a taste. Very sulphuric, and quite warm too. The taste was disgusting, but I had to try it. No point in being here if you don’t do something like that.

There is no photograph of the springs, and no photograph of the plaques with the list of names of the notable personalities who came here to take the water. This was because at this moment we were engulfed in something of a snowstorm.

shop window aachen germany january janvier 2017As the snow eased off we walked back to the car.

Parts of the town are still decorated for Christmas, and some of the shop windows are phenomenal. This was one of my favourites, with the snowmen and other winter scenes, but there were plenty of others too.

And I can’t get over the bakeries either. I love German bread – there is just so much of it and it’s all good, and Aachen is no exception. Thoughts such as working out where the railway station might be in connection with the railway line to Leuven started to run through my mind.

As it grew dark, we hit the highway and headed for home. The return journey was quite quick and I was back here by 18:15. Many thanks to Alison for a good day out.

My day wasn’t finished though. OH Leuven were playing at home against Tubize, kick-off 20:00, so I braved the snowstorm and the freezing cold to go down there, grabbing a bag of chips on the way.

OH Leuven stadion den dreef afc tubize belgium january janvier 2017For a change, I wasn’t behind the goal but high up in the stand along the touchline level with the edge of the penalty area. A grandstand view, especially of down there where I usually sit.

AFC Tubize looked the better side and they had a player, the n°97, who looked streets ahead of anyone else on the field. His name is Jae-Gun Lee and he’s a recent signing, aged just 19, from Korea.

He’ll go far in European football, that’s for sure. Remember that you heard his name first on here

OH Leuven stadion den dreef afc tubize belgium january janvier 2017But OH Leuven went into the dressing room 1-0 up at half-time, rather against the run of play, thanks to an audacious step-over in the penalty area that totally flat-footed the Tubize defence.

I said that there was still plenty of time for OH Leuven to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and how prophetic those words were. From the first attack of the second half, Tubize won a penalty and it went all downhill after that.

OH Leuven stadion den dreef afc tubize belgium january janvier 2017And so in the torrential snowstorm that we were having, OH Leuven’s hopes drifted away. Tubize ran out 3-1 winners, and ended with the crowd booing the home side and cheering on the visitors.

That was rather harsh because OH Leuven had tried very hard, but their final ball was always falling short of where it was supposed to go. Nevertheless, they had plenty of chances to equalise, if not to win. But it was one of those games where nothing at all went right.

I walked back, freezing cold, and I’m tired and ready for bed. And I know that I’ll pay for all of this effort in the morning.

I’ll leave you instead with about 2,000 words and hope that you enjoy it.

Saturday 7th January 2017 – I HAD A NICE …

… afternoon out this afternoon. But before I tell you about that, let me tell you a little about the morning.

And it was a morning too because although I had an early night, I couldn’t drop off to sleep again. In the end I put on one of the films that I had downloaded from archive.org and as you might expect, that did the trick. In fact it did so well that I can’t now remember which film it was.

Nevertheless, I was awake before the alarm and although it took a good while to find the strength to leave the bed, I was up there quite early. And I wasn’t alone either because my housemate came up there. She left the house shortky afterwards and it seems that I am now on my own again.

snow kruisstraat leuven belgium january janvier 2017After breakfast I had a peek out of the window and sure enough, we did have another fall of snow during the night and early morning. It’s not a lot but just about half an inch or so and it’s freezing cold.

Minus 3°C in fact and heavily overcast. I was planning on going to watch the football this evening at Brussels, OH Leuven against Union St Gilles, but it didn’t look as if it would be hopeful.

But I did have a nice surprise. A message from Alison. She’s in town and so did I fancy a coffee?

Accordingly I went and had a shave and shower, and changed my undies. After all, I have to look my best and smell nice. And having accomplished that, I went off uptown in the freezing sleet to do my shopping.

The town was empty and there were only a few stalls on the market. And that wasn’t a surprise as the weather was thoroughly dreadful. I did my shopping at the Delhaize and that was all that I could stand. Freezing cold, with freezing hands, I came back here.

Alison and I had a coffee (or two) and then adjourned across the road to the fritkot for lunch. A bag of chips each did us proud, and then Alison came forward with a proposition. She needs a new ski-suit for a trip she’s planning and did I fancy going with her to help her choose?

We hit the road and headed for Wavre and the huge Decathlon sports shop. It was crowded with people, mainly kids preparing for the classe de neige. Although there was a huge selection of clothes, there was some kind of issues about sizes. Either very small or very large and very little in between, which was a disappointment for her.

There’s another big sports shop, the Intersport, at Herent on the other side of Leuven and so we headed off there, calling at the English Shop on the way where I could buy some more Dandelion and Burdock, some more Linda McCartney pies and, at long last, some vegan sausages. We stashed the pies and sausages in the freezer in the kitchen with the left-over croquettes, and then headed out to Herent.

They had some beautiful clothes there but as you might expect, the stuff that I liked and that Alison liked was by far the most expensive, and the more affordable ski clothes were, well, of …shall we say … lesser quality. Entertainment was provided by a two-year-old boy trying on a ski-suit and trying out the toboggans.

We went for a coffee afterwards and then Alison brought me home. By now it was too late, and too cold to think about going out to the football. I warmed up instead and then went for tea.

I’d remembered to buy the pasta so I had a second lot of my kidney bean stuff and, as I predicted, it was even nicer tonight. And now I’m going to have an early night and take advantage of the fact that I’m on my own.

But it was a really nice afternoon out – all in favour of a “change of ideas” every now and again and it’s always nice to be with friends. If I had more friends, I’d do this more often.

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 9th March 2016 – I’VE BEEN OUT TODAY …

… and I didn’t feel much like it because it was taters outside and sleeting down too. But out I had to go.

Most important was to post my claim for medical expenses. As I said the other day, what my expenses to date (as far as has come in – there’s still plenty to go that hasn’t come in) come to is the equivalent of 3 months’ income. As soon as I can receive the reimbursement, the better I’ll be. It was well-worth the … gulp … $14:70 to post it off.

I had to go to the boulangerie too.When I left, the mobile boulangère hadn’t been by and we had run out of bread. You can’t leave bread to chance if you are going out anyway. And so I went to the wrong boulangerie, bought the wrong bread and when I returned home I found that the boulangère had been here anyway. But still, that’s what freezers are for.

Another place that I needed to visit was the pharmacie. The prescription that I was given for my new medication expires on March 16th so I need to order that now. And then I need another injection to take with me to the hospital when I go for the scanner on the 18th. It goes without saying that a remote pharmacie like the one at St Gervais wouldn’t have the stuff in stock and so I’d have to order it.

And so after visiting the Post Office I clambered back into Caliburn and drove round to where the pharmacie is – only to find that it had moved. Upon enquiring of a local yokel, I discovered that it had moved to just behind the Post Office, right by where I’d parked Caliburn.

But now everything ordered and I’ll pick it up on Friday afternoon on my way back from the hospital.

During the night, I don’t remember too much about my little wanderings. I remember having to take a group of kids somewhere – kids aged round about 4 and 5 – and so the first thing to do was to check them all to make sure that they were clean and properly dressed. And having done that, we could set off.Once we’d arrived at our destination, the kids went off to do what they had to do and I went into the hotel bar for a coffee. And who should be in there but a friend of mine. We ended up having a really good chat, and when I went to the bar, he asked me to fetch him a MacKay’s and something (I can’t remember what it was now). But anyway, a MacKay’s was a blend of whisky and the something was like a tonic water or ginger ale in a small bottle like that and the bill for this came to an astonishing £11 and more. I was totally surprised by this and so when I took his drink to him I asked him if that was correct – not that I minded paying for it but that I thought that it was really excessive. He assured me that the bill was probably about right, and I reckoned that I was glad that I don’t drink alcohol. From here, I had to go back and pick up my charges and make sure that that they were all present and correct and had everything that they had supposed to have.

What I’ve done today, now that my web server is back and running, is to finish the collating of the notes of my voyage to Canada for the month of October 2015, and I’ve made a decent attack on the notes for September 2015. We will then have the notes for August 2015, and then all of the notes for 2014. The notes and photos of much of the route that I did in those two years, together with some of my 2013 journey and some of my 2010 journey, can then be superimposed and make more of a travelogue than a blog. That’s what my aim is anyway.

So now that it’s stopped snowing again and the rainstorm has died down, I’m off for a walk and then an early night. But my walk around St Gervais (in the sleet) today has shown, at least to me, that my movements are freeing up.

I just wish that I could do something about this lump in my lungs. But, as my surgeon said the other day “we’ll see what this scan says and then we’ll see what we can do!”


Saturday 5th March 2016 – THAT BLASTED NURSE …

… forgot me yet again this morning!

And there I was, deep in the arms of Morpheus, miles from anywhere on this planet when the alarm went off. And I struggled downstairs pretty quickly, remembering the other day how I had been pris au dépourvu in my nightie by the nurse and vowing not to repeat that ever again.

And then after breakfast, I waited … and waited … and waited. And then that was that. I gave it up and went and sat down in the living room feeling rather annoyed. I could have had a wonderful lie-in for a change had I known that he wasn’t going to come.

So where was I then when I was away with the fairies?

I was actually off again playing cricket last night – something that I’ve done on one or two occasions just recently. And if you remember, I did say that if ever I were to be invited to play cricket for a team, it would be as a wicket-keeper before anything else. Certainly not my bowling, which is what I was doing last night. And my bowling was, as you might expect, pretty wayward but somehow it kept confusing the opposition and I ended up taking more than my fair share of wickets. One ball went hopelessly wide but the batsman waved an unnecessary wand at it and top-edged it down to a rather short long-on. Another ball that I sent down was a rather inviting dolly and received exactly what it deserved. It flashed past me and I just instinctively stuck out my right hand and much to the batsman’s dismay and everyone else’s (including my) astonishment, I caught it. and this meant that the batting team was all out for 66, which was quite a cause for celebration.

And then I missed the celebrations because the alarm clock went off.

What I’ve done today is to update my Open Office to the latest version. When I bought this laptop last year, I downloaded the current version but when I came to use the spell-checker today I found that I had forgotten to download it. And that led to the upgrade – together with the new spell-checker.

And once the spell-checker had been installed, then do you remember all of the dictaphone notes that I was transcribing over the last month or so? Then I spell-checked all of the Canada notes and now they are ready for the next stage of the process – viz. the tying in of the notes to the relevant photos that I took while I was over there on my travels.

We had a lovely surprise as well this afternoon. The beautiful smells coming from the kitchen turned out to be Liz’s first attempt at making home-made banana muffins (made, of course, with home-made bananas), vegan of course. And they were beautiful, especially with a nice hot coffee. Sitting inside with warm oven-fresh banana muffins and hot coffee watching the snow-storm that was raging outside was really pleasant.

So I don’t know what is going to happen now. The nurse is yet to arrive and it’s starting to be late – at least for me these days anyway. I’ll be going for my post-prandial perambulation in a minute and then I’ll be off to bed, whether he comes or not.

And even as we speak, the nurse turns up. 30 minutes late but there we are.