Tag Archives: TGV issues

Sunday 13th February 2022 – I DON’T EVER …

… want to have to do that again! NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET has got nothing on this!

But anyway, last night I was in bed by 22:00 with the alarm set for 05:00 and hoping to have a good sleep.

But that was some hope because I was off on my travels during the night and I must have gone so far that I really don’t know how I had any sleep at all.

At some point I was with a girl who has featured on several occasions in the past, usually with her brother who was a friend of mine and who both lived on a farm, but tonight she was with another girl – I don’t know who she was but I know that I know her. We were tidying up a pile of stuff, just generally chatting. The farmer’s daughter had to go out for something that just left me and this girl. The conversation turned round to that girl and me. I said that I don’t want anything to happen to her because I’m rather fond of her. This girl was rather surprised so I said “yes but I thought that most people knew that”. She asked if our farmer’s daughter knew that and I replied “of course she did”. “What did she do?”. “Nothing” I replied. “She had her own life to live etc”. I explained that we’d been out once or twice. She asked “what was she doing?” I said “it was just like this”. “Any snogging?” she asked. I replied “no unfortunately”. “Why on earth not?”. “I didn’t want to drive her away”. She wanted to know if she was married with kids. I replied that she was and had 2 kids. The conversation just drifted around like that. I thought that the farmer’s daughter would only be gone for a few minutes but it must have been ages that we were having this chat.

And before anyone grasps the wrong end of the stick, the fact that she is a farmer’s daughter has nothing whatever to do with Deep Purple.

Finally I was in the Army last night, looking through a pile of files and lists. No matter how hard I looked, all I could find were details of an assignment to the Entertainment Unit. They were all put in an envelope ready to be sent off to some kind of competition or show or something. There were all people there, including Jimmy Clitheroe but I couldn’t find anything in these service records and service history at all. This was really annoying. In the end there was a sergeant there who was responsible for the paperwork. I asked him and he pointed to these envelopes and said “but it’s all there”. I shouted that it wasn’t. I said that all it was was these application forms for this concert thing. I picked them up and dropped them in the bin. I told him precisely and in no uncertain terms exactly what I wanted. He started to go through the filing cabinet trying to find all this information.

Wherever did I find the time to go to sleep?

It didn’t take me long to tidy up and I decided not to make any sandwiches because I only get into trouble when I eat them and I’ll be home in time for a late lunch. So at 05:30 I had already handed in the key and was well off down the road.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022As I approached the railway station I went to have a look at the Martelarenplein.

We’ve seen this now every month for the last I don’t know how many years and and I have to say that for the last half-dozen or so months there seems to be very little, if any improvement.

Just like every building project in Belgium, they are really taking their time with this and at the rate that they are going, I reckon that I’ll be finished long before they are here.

05:50 when I arrived at the railway station so I had 19 minutes to wait in the freezing cold and wind before my train came in.

class AM96 electric multiple unit gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022The train this morning is the 06:09 from Landen to De Panne via Brussels Airport and the City Centre.

Today it’s one of the AM96 electric multiple units. Fairly modern, quite clean and comfortable and I’m quite happy to be aboard one of these.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I have mentioned their unique features before. When a train is made up of two trainsets, the rubber ring makes an airtight seal around the join and the drivers’ cabs swivel round out of the way so that you can walk from one trainset to the next.

We arrived at Bruxelles-Midi at 06:49, 28 minutes before my train to Lille. And this was when disaster stuck. There on the sign was “07:17 to Strasbourg via Lille cancelled”.

That was certainly a tragedy. With it being a weekend, the 07:47 direct to Paris doesn’t run either so that was that.

At the ticket office they proposed the following itinerary –

  • 08:17 to Lille Europe arriving 08:51
  • 10:42 from Lille Flandre to Paris Gare du Nord arriving 11:48
  • 12:59 Paris St Lazare to Lison arriving 15:31
  • 15:52 Lison to Granville arriving 16:43

Only three hours later than usual.

But if anyone thinks that I’m going to be waiting for almost two hours on a draughty, freezing cold railway station in Lille they are mistaken. I have another plan. But in the meantime I went to buy some food from Carrefour. I have a feeling that I might need it at this rate.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022Wherever I go, it has to start with the 08:17 to Montpelier via Lille

It’s one of the PBA (Paris Brussels Amsterdam) TGV Reseau 38000 trainsets and when I boarded it I could see exactly why my train had been cancelled. Two trainloads of people were “squeezed” into this one and it was still empty. I don’t suppose that they considered it worth their while to run the earlier one if it only had half the number on board that this one had.

There are a couple of small seats stuck in a corner by the baggage racks so I grabbed one of those and settled down while the train shot off into the void.

When it reached Lille Europe, I stayed on board. Next stop is Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and from there is a Reseau Express Regional (RER) D train that goes into the city centre and out to Orly. I can alight at Denfert-Rochereau which is 5 stops and 40 minutes away, and then it’s 3 stops on the traditional metro to Gare Montparnasse.

The chances are that with a good run I could still catch my 10:59 train to Granville.

So at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport I hurtled off the train and up to the RER platforms on the level above to find “No RER Service today to Paris”.

That’s all I needed.

Plan C involved legging it right across Terminal 2 (which is enormous) to the other side and the express buses that go to the Stade de France RER station. That’s on RER line D so I need to change at Chatelet. I would lose 5 minutes but who knows?

Strangely enough, whenever I’m at Terminal 2, I ALWAYS SEEM TO BE REQUIRED TO RUN.

airport express coach stade de france paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022at Gate 2F I leapt on board a waiting coach and we shot off round and round the ragged rock until we finally found the exit that took us out onto the motorway and into northern Paris.

And there we hit a pile of roadworks and a long queue of traffic and I watched the time on my fitbit melt slowly away as we tried to jostle our way into the only lane that was moving.

We eventually made it to the Stade de France railway station. My train was to leave Montparnasse at 10:59 and as I alighted from the bus it was 10:59 precisely.

Never mind, it was a good try. At least, with all of the running around that I had to do I must have lost a good few kilos.

train RER D gare de stade de france paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022Now that I’m here I may as well push on.

Down on the platform I waited for the train to come in. The next stop is the Gare du Nord anyway and that gives me plenty of opportunity to work out something else. There has to be a Plan D somewhere.

At the Gare du Nord I didn’t even come up into the daylight. Here is RER line E and the terminus of that is at Gare St Lazare (well, near enough anyway) so I may as well see what gives there.

printemps department store rue caumartin paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022Where the RER station emerges into the street is right at the back of the Printemps Department Store.

Round at the front is the Boulevard Haussman where you find the headquarters of SPECTRE and several other extremely exclusive premises. But as you might expect, I’m not going that way. I’m going in the opposite direction.

There may be a considerable amount of time to spare but I’m not going to go for a look around in Printemps. It’s the kind of place where people like us need a credit account in order to simply look in the window.

gare st lazare paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022When I was here last I didn’t have too much time to take a photo of the Gare St Lazare so here we are. We can see the clocks that we saw last time outside the building but from a different perspective.

And here, I had my only slice of luck today.

When I arrived I noticed that there was a train to Caen at 11:59, one hour earlier than the one to Cherbourg on which they had booked me. Now if there would be a train from Caen to Rennes that connects with it, I will be à la maison and sec as they say around here.

Sure enough, the train arrives in Caen at 13:58 and at 14:10 there’s a train departing for Rennes so I sallied forth into the ticket office with right and a certificate of cancellation on my side.

Bombardier Regio 2N 56670 caen normandy france Eric Hall photo February 2022Just by way of a change I met a very pleasant and helpful SNCF ticket agent who took one look at all of my paperwork (Government officials on the mainland LOVE paperwork and rubber stamps) and issued me with a ticket for the earlier train.

It’s one of the really comfortable and quick Bombardier Regio 2N electric double-deckers. I was in the front coach upstairs with about 2 other people so I could settle down with my bread rolls and have a crafty nibble.

When the ticket collector came round I showed him my original ticket and gave him all of the rest of the paperwork that I had and he hardly bothered to check them. I went back to eating my bread rolls and listening to Hawkwind again.

And I still think that the violin solo on STEPPENWOLF is one of the best that has ever been recorded.

Bombardier B82650 84555 gec alstom regiolis gare de granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022And here I am at Granville. My train is the Bombardier B825 on the left.

When I arrived at Caen it was already in and raring to go. It was quite full too and there are no luggage facilities, seeing as it’s a cross-country train. But I struggled aboard and eventually found somewhere for my suitcase and me.

There is no electricity on board these trains so I didn’t switch on the laptop. All the way to Granville I listened to COLOSSEUM LIVE on the telephone.

As I explained a while ago, I usually encounter interesting young ladies in peculiar situations whenever I listen to this album, such as in the High Arctic in 2018 and again a year later on the same ship in the same seat in the same place when I had two of the strangest encounters that I have ever had in modern times.

Today though, I’ve already had so many strange encounters, one way or another, that I probably wouldn’t have noticed another one by this time.

It’s no surprise that I dozed off for 10 minutes on the way home. And I immediately went off on a little wander. I was with another taxi driver and we were talking to a third. He had had the right to an engine in compensation for something but his wife at the time was now living with yet a fourth taxi driver and he had received this engine. He had fitted it into his car, “the T-reg”. I was surprised that after all of these years he was now back on the road but the reply was yes, it’s called “Creamony Cars” or something like that

Here at Granville on the right is the train that I should have caught. It beat me here (assuming that it was on time) by about 2 hours. And I don’t suppose that that was too bad because there was a moment when I was standing in front of the sign at the RER station at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport that I thought that I would never arrive at all.

The walk through the town was a nightmare. Even going down the hill was agony.

harbour gates closing port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022Climbing back up the hill up to my rock was even worse and it took me an age.

During one of my rather too frequent pauses during my climb I looked down at the harbour to see what was happening and I was lucky enough to see the red warning light flashing and the gates slowly closing.

So whoever might have been in the harbour loading up has now long gone and I won’t know who they are.

It was like Ice Station Zebra in here too when I arrived but ask me if I care. I made a coffee and collapsed into my chair.

No pizza tonight. I was too late to take some dough out of the freezer and it wouldn’t defrost so I had potatoes, veg and vegan sausage with vegan cheese sauce. It was lovely too.

Tomorrow is usually when I set an alarm for 06:00 and spend the day working on the radio but if anyone thinks that I’m doing that then they are mistaken. I’m going to bed and going to sleep until I awaken and hard luck on anyone who expects me to do anything. I’ve had a harrowing day.

Mind you, that could all change if TOTGA, Castor and/or Zero invite me to come with them for a midnight ramble. Imagine my sharing a room with Zero the other night and she not being there!

Saturday 27th February 2021 – THAT WAS A …

sncb class AM08 multiple unit gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall… long, long day!

And to give you some kind of clue about it, if you have a look at this image here you’ll see the time that this train is leaving the railway station at Leuven to make its way out to Halle.

It wasn’t even my train either. It was advertised as “Brussels” but it went along the city-centre avoiding lines past Merode, Schuman and that way. I had to wait another 20 minutes for my train to pull into the station.

Having gone to bed at some kind of relatively early hour (like 23:10) I staggered out of bed a couple of minutes after the alarm went off at 05:00. There were my sandwiches to make for lunch (and I’m glad that I did – read on), the packing, some tidying up, and then I could head off to the railway station.

sncb class AM96 multiple unit gare du midi bruxelles belgium  Eric HallIt was at 06:16 when a train to Brussels Midi came into the station. With it being Saturday morning, a lot of the early commuter trains aren’t running.

It’s one of the AM 96 multiple units, te ones with the doughnut ring around the front that make them airtight when two or more are coupled together. And an added novelty, when they are joined in tandem, the driving cabs at the join pivot out of the way so that passengers can pass from one unit to the next.

They are actually quite comfortable for multiple-units and they are quite often used on long-distance routes where passenger numbers don’t warrant a locomotive with carriages.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4524 gare du midi bruxelles belgium Eric HallWe pulled into Brussels bang on time and I noticed that my train, the 07:17 to Strasbourg, was already in the station. It’s one of the TGV Reseau 38000 units that we travel on quite regularly.

Strangely, and rather uneasily, there were several other TGVs there too. The 06:06 to Marseilles hadn’t left yet and the one after that to Bordeaux was still at the platform. That didn’t seem at all normal to me and I suspected that there was something afoot.

As we waited for them to open the doors so that we could climb in, a hostess came by. She told us that someone had trespassed onto the railway at Ruisbroek and been struck by a passing train. Nothing was heading south towards Lille until the mess had been cleared up.

With nothing else to do, we boarded the train – and waited. And waited.

After about an hour or so they announced that the 06:06 TGV would be leaving “imminently” so we all piled out of our train onto that one. I’d probably missed my train from Paris to Granville by now so it really didn’t make much difference but moving anywhere was better than not moving at all.

We’d been on that one for about an hour or so when they announced that this one wasn’t going to go out either. They would be laying on a fleet of buses to take us to Lille.

But no chance of that. We’ll be there for ever. One thing about train apps on mobile phones is that you can check for other alternatives. And in 5 minutes time there would be a train leaving Brussels for De Panne (coincidentally, the same train that I’d come into Brussels on, but 2 hours later) and 5 minutes after that train were to pull into Gent St Pieters, there’s a local stopping train via Kortrijk to Lille-Flandres.

And then 10 minutes later, there’s an express train from Lille-Flandres to Paris Gare du Nord.

That was enough information for me. I grabbed my things and ran.

sncb class AM96 multiple unit gare de lille flandres railway station France Eric HallAnd here’s my train from Gent to Lille, here in a platform at the Lille-Flanders railway station.

It was one of those mornings when I was fated to travel on a whole fleet of AM96 multiple units. The one that took me to Gent was an AM96 but I wasn’t able to take a photo of that because it was already on the platform when I arrived there and it pulled out almost as soon as I climbed aboard.

And then this one is an AM96 too, but a rather special one, for a few of the fleet are dual-voltage machines designed to run on the French and on the Luxembourg railway networks as well as the Belgian network so that they can operate some cross-border services like this one.

No-one controlled the passengers on either of these two trains – no ticket inspector or anything so I didn’t need to argue or negotiate, which is always good news.

TGV reseau duplex INOUI 210 gare du nord paris France Eric HallThere were ticket inspectors on the turnstiles to the platform where the train to Paris was waiting but they didn’t need much persuading to let me on board.

The train was one of the Reseau Duplex double-decker trains, nice, fast and comfortable. Up on the top deck there’s a kind of small sofa at the top of the steps intended for people to make and receive phone calls instead of doing so in the main seating area disturbing everyone.

They aren’t booked out to passengers so I made a beeline for the sofa and that was where I stayed for the entire journey in relative comfort. A ticket collector came by so I told her my story and she didn’t seem to be bothered at all.

All in all it was quite a painless journey from that point of view.

From Paris Gare du Nord I took the metro to Paris Montparnasse and then went to the station offices to tell them my tale of woe. They weren’t too bothered either particularly. It goes without saying that I’d missed my train but they gave me a ticket for the next one. It meant a wait of about 1 hour and 50 minutes but there wasn’t really any alternative.

84565 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallThis train was pretty busy. Luckily they had given me a seat so I was fairly comfortable on the way home.

While I’d been waiting I’d eaten my sandwiches so I spent most of the journey home editing my Greenland photos. It’s nice to have a laptop that is powerful enough to do all of that kind of thing. I managed to shift quite a few by the time that we pulled into the railway station at Granville.

It was 17:45 when I returned home – 3.5 hours later than I was intending. And more than 12 hours after I’d set out from my digs in Leuven. No wonder that I was pretty fed up. It meant that I hadn’t had my couple of hours chilling out before I had to start to do things.

Tea was out of a tin and then I listened to a repeat of my “Strife” concert. If you missed it, it’s available AS A PODCAST.

And now I’m off to bed. I’ve had a very long day and I’m exhausted. And no day off tomorrow as I’m having visitors.

Friday 6th November 2020 – AND THAT WAS …

… more difficult than it ought to have been too.

And when the TGV broke down somewhere in the wilderness I really did think that I’d had my chips too.

This morning I totally ignored the alarm yet again and had a lie-in until about 07:30. More stuff on the dictaphone of course that I transcibed after I returned home.

We were in the USA last night. I can’t remember exactly what we were doing but it involved my father and a whole group of other people whom I knew. There had been some big kind of political debate. Some politician had made a disgraceful affair and all the other politicians were standing up for him. Someone went to get into their car but found that the locks had been changed. This evil politician had gone around changing everyone’s locks on everything. At that stage I became quite simply fed up and beat both of them into a pulp. I had to sell someone about something or other and I can’t remember what. It was to do with a car needing work or something. I got into my car which was a very new one. I managed to get in and drove away from the scene. As I came up to a set of traffic lights a police car pulled out of a side road right in front of me, blocked the road and put his stop lights on. When the traffic lights changed he went off presumably to drive round the block to come up behind me. But it was a really inconvenient place to stop. There was an abandoned fuel station just across the traffic lights so I pulled over there, of course bitterly regretting what was going to happen next – I was in no illusions. There were a couple of guys there getting petrol out of this abandoned fuel station. They said something about parking there. I said “that’s all right. I’m waiting here to be arrested”. They looked at me a bit wide-eyed so I said to 1 of them “yes the police are coming to arrest me”. He thought that he had better get a move on and do what he’s doing quickly and get out of the way. Just then I saw a group of my friends coming along. They were carrying an engine lift, tools and everything as if they were going to lift the engine out of a car somewhere after what I’d said to them. I thought “this policeman is taking his time isn’t he? I could nip off if I wanted to leave my car there.” But did I want to leave my car there? Did I want to nip off? Did I want to go? There was a cheap Honda Acty microvan things parked up and I was having a look at that.

A little later I was a kid, a teenager doing something with a house. We’d all been working on bits of it and I’d been painting the bedroom. The 1st coat hadn’t worked properly because some filling needed doing on it. I’d done most of that and painted what I’d already done. It hadn’t appeared too badly and I was reasonably pleased with it. Then the tutor came in and started to give me instructions about what he wanted me to do next but I reckoned that in view of the time factor it would be a good idea just to fill the rest of the wall where it needed filling and paint one coat over it to see where it was low. We could fill it again to make it up in the meantime and the coat of paint would be on it ready for the top coat. We had a lengthy discussion about that and in the end he agreed to let me do it as I wanted. He told me that I would have to put a curtain up somewhere over one part where the walls were uneven but I thought that that was going to be a silly idea – it would just draw people’s attention to it but he was pretty adamant so in the end we agreed that we would talk about this again. I did the calculations that by the time I had finished this room putting these coats and this filler on I would have had my A levels by then in which case no-one would be in a position to contradict me at all and I really could then do it as I liked.

There was also something where I was doing something with a pile of musicians – it might have been Man or something like that. We were just sitting around talking about drugs, all this kind of thing. Deke Leonard saying that he hadn’t shot up for a whole 15 concerts but was quite busy taking the weed – the same with a few of the others. I said that I didn’t even know whereabouts to go to get it. I wouldn’t have a clue. They said “that girl who came to your party in your building. She sold us a bag”. I thought that was a bit if a shame because I liked her. Then we ended up at someone’s house after this – it might even have been this girl’s. It was a much nicer apartment than mine, on the floor below from where I was living. We were all getting ready to go places and were sorting through a pile of things and having to tidy everything up. I was sorting through these stones, I’ve no idea why. Some were precious and some weren’t and I was getting it all wrong. There were 3 gear lever knobs from a vehicle in there. It was a really confused thing that I had to sort through. Someone came over to give me a hand. He clearly knew what he was doing. I had to resort what I’d already done because it wasn’t right. I ended up going for a walk around and having a look at her garden which was really nice. On the way back I saw everyone else coming for a walk around the garden. I thought that I might as well have waited until they decided to come rather than go out on my own.

After that I was taping a Man concert, trying to get that organised but it was again something that I was only doing half-heartedly and missing most of the joins, thinking that I would have to go back and check it over again. The question of London came up, the question of a restaurant in the basement of a hotel that we go to near the railway station but it had moved down to South London. A girl I was with suggested that we should go there and have a meal. I thought ” that’s a long way to go for a meal and come back. It’s not as if it’s at the railway station where it used to be where we could be in and out in an evening. With this we have to hike most of the way across London to get to it and it’s not going to be the same, particularly with only another two weekends to go…

If that’s not enough, then later I was walking along Crewe Road into Sandbach and as I was passing the houses at the end of Park Lane I was thinking that I had to go to the bank. But the bank wasn’t where it is but in the street that runs about half a mile to the south – Hassall Road – so I had to find my way around like a deviation. In the end I got to 3rd Avenue and I remembered that I could walk through there that way. I walked down there – there were some kids playing netball in the school plating area there and a couple of boys playing football. I went on and came to a set of steps that I had to walk down. There were two young girls there who were rolling balls down it. Obviously whose ball rolled furthest down the most stairs won. They had a rake that they were using to pull the balls back up. One of them was pulling a ball back up and the rake swung back over her head and nearly impaled me as I was waling past so I made some kind of light hearted remark about it and they laughed. Then I noticed in one of the swimming pools in the back garden of a house round there was a skeleton so I asked “is that your last victim?”. They laughed again. By this time a woman had come down. She thought that it was funny as well so we had a chat. We got to the bottom and there was a really deep puddle. She was talking about the gypsies who lived in Sandbach and how they had sometimes washed their clothes in it. When we reached the bottom she said which way she was going, and I thought that this was the other direction so I said goodbye to her. I turned left and she went a little further on and she turned left too. We bumped into each other again. I said “I thought that you were going the other way”. She said “no, this way. I have to fetch some money from the bank”, a different bank. She started to ask “where shall we go from here?” so I said “hurry up and get your money” so she dashed inside the bank.

Later on I stepped back into this dream. I was walking back to the bus. I got on the bus by the centre door and for some reason I didn’t want to sit down at the front so I chose a seat right opposite the centre door where I didn’t have to go very far. Then this woman appeared, the one with whom I’d walked just now. I was hoping that she would get on the bus and come to sit next to me but that was when I awoke.

But back in Belgium I had a nice little relax instead (and I felt that I needed it after all of that) and then a really good tidy up before setting out for my journey home.

SNCB Siemens Class 18 electric locomotive Leuven Belgium Eric HallThere was already a train in the station going to Brussels but as I wasn’t able to run for it with the load that I was carrying, I let it go and waited for the next one.

This one was pulled by one of the Siemens Class 18 electric locomotives that work the line from Eupen and Welkenraedt to Oostende. We travel on these quite often.

Unfortunately I wasn’t very lucky with this one because it was pulling a rake of older-generation carriages – the type with the old PVC seats, that sort of thing. It would have been really nice to have had one of the usual sets with the modern cloth upholstery.

But I’m getting greedy. At least it was on time both here and in Brussels.

Thalys PBKA 4301 Gare du Midi Brussels Belgium Eric HallThere was an hour to wait, sitting on a draughty platform on Bruxelles-Midi but luckily this train, one of the PBKA units, came in early so having had our tickets checked, we could scramble aboard.

Even though there are only three trains per day between Brussels and Paris right now, this one was pretty empty. Fewer and fewer people are moving around. In fact, the railway station was like a ghost town.

There was a police patrol on the train too, and we all had our identities and movement forms checked. Luckily all of my papers were in order, and I’m glad that I went through all of that trouble 18 months ago to obtain a French identity card.

Then we had the engine failure. All of the lights and power on the train went out and we ground to a halt, down from 300kph. All hope of catching my connection – the only one to Granville today – seemed to vanish before my eyes.

20 minutes later, they managed to fire it up again and we limped into the Gare du Nord.

Leaping from the train I hared off through the station to the Metro where, luckily, there already was a train at the platform so I leapt aboard and we shot off to Paris Montparnasse, where we arrived with 25 minutes before my train was due to depart.

Just three people in the SNCF offices as well so I went in to see about organising a refund for the tickets for the trains that were cancelled And to my surprise, they cancelled the tickets for the current voyage (which was in fact more expensive) and endorsed the tickets for the cancelled train giving me authority to travel.

84573 GEC Alstom Regiolis Gare de Granville Railway Station Manche Normandy France Eric HallWe were allowed on this train early too, which was very pleasant. In fact, it took me by surprise as I was in the middle of eating my butties.

Once the train set off, I curled up on my seat and slept for an hour or so. I’d already had a couple of dozes prior to this but this was a good ‘un. I didn’t feel a thing.

For some reason though, the seats didn’t seem to be as comfortable as they have been in the past. It reminds me of that really uncomfortable flight that I had back from Canada two or three years ago where I just couldn’t settle down comfortable.

Our train arrived early too, so I even had time to nip into the Coccinelle Supermarket for some bread seeing as I don’t have any here.

place general de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallOn the wat back I walked past the Place General de Gaulle.

You wouldn’t believe that it’s Saturday night right now. This lockdown is clearly working. I was picturing tumbleweeds and all that kind of thing coming blowing across my path as I walked by.

However I made it home without too many problems and made myself a bowl of soup out of the freezer, which I ate with the bread. And then I released the valves on the kefir and even though I took great care, I still ended up with a face full and a bath full. It wasn’t ‘arf lively after having been left alone for a week or so.

It’s good to be home anyway. I like my little apartment. I’ll have a good sleep and pleasant dreams (I hope) and then I need to go out tomorrow and buy some food. No Caliburn so that’s going to be an interesting trip.

Friday 30th October 2020 – OUCH!

gare du nord paris France Eric HallThat was an expensive day today!

So while you admire a few more photos of the outside of the Gare du Nord in Paris before they start on any redevelopment, you’ve probably gathered that I’ve been on the move today.

What with France going into lockdown, and the word on the streets (thanks, Alison) suggesting that Belgium might be following suit imminently, I reckoned that if I don’t go to Belgium right I won’t ever go at all

Hence my frantic rush around yesterday to change all of my tickets and organise all of my paperwork ready to travel this morning while I still can.

gare du nord paris France Eric HallMuch to my surprise this morning, I was very very close to beating the second alarm, never mind the third alarm. That’s progress, and it goes to show that I can do it when I really try.

Pleny of stuff on the dictphone too, as I was to discover when I had a listen to it later. I must have travelled quite far during the night.

I was with Mike and Jerry and all of that lot. We were doing something in he mountains. There was a catalogue that I was thumbing through, trying to get ideas for Christmas presents and I got to this illuminated map of the far north of Canada and the entrance to the North West Passage round by Bellot Strait, that area round there. It was a crystal, cut-glass etching upright on a plinth. I thought that that was wonderful so I said to Jerry “here’s what I’m going to get for you for your Christmas”. They all came over and were all poring over this and having a good look at it, working out where they could go to get one, all this kind of thing; It was powered by an old mobile phone thing that you plugged into it bit it really was something impressive

Later on there was something else going on about a girl and boy. They were staying in my apartment. The girl was asleep in bed and all this time this boy was sitting by her, looking at her, making sure that she didn’t fall out, something like that. When she awoke it developed into a kind-of romantic scene between the 2 of them. I was rather disappointed that she’d decided on him but I thought that they would make a very nice couple anyway so I wasn’t particularly bothered by it. Somawhere along the line we were working out some kind of calculations for something or other. I remember saying that we had to add two on for something, but then thinking that there was a load of other little things, fixtures and fittings, tha kind of thing.They would all need costing into this as well. I didn’t really know how much they were going to be and this was going to confuse the issue a lot

This morning, I finished off the packing, took the rubbish out, washed the bins, did some tidying up vacuuming, and even washed the floor round by where the kitchen is, to make sure that everything is clean and tidy for when I come back.

Having fed the sourdough and put it in the fridge, I bleached all of the drain outlets and then hit the streets.

neptune port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallThis morning proved that I had been right about something.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a few days ago we saw piles of roadstone gravel being delivered and I predicted that very soon we would be having one of the gravel boats in shortly to take it all away.

And sure enough, as I headed down the Rue des Juifs into town, I glanced over the wall and there moored at the quayside is Neptune, one of the three or four that come in here every now and again.

When I first came here, there was one in the port every month or two, but this is the first since March and before that it was almost exactly 12 months ago. I was beginning to despair of ever seeing one again.

84569 GEC Alstom Regiolis Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallFor a change, I followed the road along the Boulevard Louis Dior and through the car park of the regional offices of the département, that way to the railway station.

The coffee machine was once again out of order and he train wasn’t in either which meant that we had to wait around on a windswept platform until it finally arrived. Another one of our usual GEC Alstom Regiolis multiple unit.

Just a one-unit train today instead of the usual 2-unit ones, and even so, there was still plenty of room for us to spread out. I had a seat all to myself and spent most of the journey copying files from a portable drive onto the little Acer laptop.

Bang on time in Paris. probably a little early in fact as we had to wait for 5 minutes for a slot to get into the station. Not many people in the Metro either – in fact there was only one person in the queue for Metro tickets at the Gare du Nord so I went and bought another pack of 10.

gare du nord paris France Eric HallNot that I need them yet but usually there’s a queue a mile long and I’m always pushed for time when I need to buy some more, so I may as well get ahead while I can.

There was half an hour before my rain was due to depart so I went outside to take a few more photos of the exterior. As there are plans for the redevelopment of the station, I wanted to make some kind of record of how it looks.

It will be a big shame if they do any damage to the main train shed; It’s a wonderful example of 19th Century railway architecture.

TGV Duplex Inoui 207 Paris Gare du Nord France Eric HallBy now it was time for me to go back into the station and see about my own train.

Much to my surprise, they had already started boarding. That’s not like them at all. Usually it’s 15 minutes prior to departure and not a minute before. And so I quickly took a photograph of our train – one of the TGV “Duplex” double-decker train sets.

Then on to the platform through the electronic gates that check your ticket, and how I wish that they would install them at Lille Europe, for reasons that you will soon find out.

TGV Duplex Inoui 215 Paris Gare du Nord France Eric HallThis is a double train-set and of course, my seat is in the second unit. Right down the end of the train too in the wagon just behind he driving unit. At least it means that I don’t have to walk far at the other end of the journey.

And despite it being a double train-set, i was pretty empty too. Lockdown is clearly working in France and potentially in Belgium and very few people seem to be travelling about.

The journey was pretty uneventful and we arrive in Lille Flanders on time as well. I’m not used to this at all. And then there was the usual inconvenient walk down the road to Lille Europe to catch the train from Montpelier to Brussels.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4512 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThere was only a wait of about 10 minutes before the train came in so we were soon on our way.

And herein lies the problem.

When I went to the railway station at Granville to change my ticket from Saturday to today, the booking clerk typed out the details and handed me the ticket. And like a fool, I didn’t check it.

When the ticket collector checked it, he noticed that instead of 14:45 she had typed 15:54, and so of course it wasn’t valid for the train that I was on. After quite an argument and despite using my best persuasive powers I was still stuck with a penalty fare of €70:00.

And serves me right for my awn stupidity.

multiple unit sncb am80 automotrice gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallOnce again, there wasn’t long to wait in Brussels for my train to Leuven.

and to my dismay it was one of the ancient, elderly AM80 multiple units. These machines are on their last legs, with old vinyl seats and linoleum floors, and covered in graffiti inside and out. Not a very good advert for the Belgian railway system I imagine that they will be the next batch of machines to be replaced.

Within an hour I’d arrived at Leuven, walked down to the Dekenstraat, picked up my keys and installed myself in my room. Another upgrade this time – business must be quiet.

Later on I went to Delhaize for my shopping where amongst other things I bought a tin of baked beans. That was because the fritkot down the road was open, so tea tonight was chips and beans. Delicious.

Tomorrow I’m having a lie-in. I’ve done enough these last few days so a rest willdo me good. I hope that no-one comes along to spoil it.


I am having a desperately bad day today.

Nothing is working, nothing is going to plan and everything that I touch seems to be breaking. I’m now at the stage where I’m too scared to go to the bathroom!

And it all started off so well too! I’d had a good sleep for what it was worth and even managed to beat the alarms out of bed.

A nice breakfast, nothing on the dictaphone to copy out, and a good crack on at the splitting of the digital files.

But that was as good as it got. The rest of the day descended into chaos.

First task was to book my accommodation in Leuven for the period 18th – 23rd March. And, surprisingly, all of the cheap accommodation had been sold out already. I’m having to go up-market into a higher class of accommodation – at an additional price of course.

The rail trip was next. And, surprisingly, there were no trains available at all on that day, or the day before. I used the SNCF chatline and whoever was on there confirmed that the trains were running, and that I should call the helpline.

At that point I went for a shower and then headed off into town.

railway station granville manche normandy france eric hallFirst stop was the railway station. But I didn’t get as far as i would have liked because I was bewildered by the lack of funfair.

It’s not there now – the ground’s all flat. They’ve folded up their tents like Bedouins and crept off silently into the night by the looks of things. I’m sure that they were here for longer than this in previous years.

At the station, the person at the counter told me that the trains were indeed running and there’s no reason whatever to think otherwise. She told me to book on the ‘phone if the internet still isn’t working.

And if I’m stil unsuccessful, to come back and see her.

clearing confetti carnaval avenue marechal leclerc granville manche normandy france eric hallOutside in the avenue Marechal Leclerc they were tidying up now that the fete foraine has gone.

The guys with the pressure-washers were out again washing the confetti into the drains for it to be discharged into the sea, which is a pretty thankless task, i suppose. It’s a good job that it’s made of paper.

At LIDL I bought a few things – some button batteries which always come in useful of course, and some new vinegar and olive oil dispensers.

The reason why I bought those was because they looked as if they were spray-on containers but when I unwrapped them at home, I found that they weren’t. And that disappointed me greatly.

But they did have leeks in – a bundle at €0:99 and I was thinking only the other day that I really fancied some leek and potato soup. So I bought a bundle and I’ll make some of that too.

crane impasse de la corderie granville manche normandy france eric hallOn the way back, I had a look at the building work going on at the impasse de la Corderie.

They don’t seem to be making much progress so it’s difficult to see what it is that they are going. What I’ll have to do next time that I’m over there is to go to have a closer look and see what’s going on.

Had I not been running quite late and had a lot to do, I would have gone over then and there. But I had to press on regardless

fairground dismantling rue st sauveur granville manche normandy france eric hallInstead, today I went on down into town and La Mie Caline to pick up my dejeunette.

On the way though, I stopped to see what was going on with the big funfair because if the small one had gone, it was quite likely that the big one would follow it quite quickly.

And I was right about that too because they have broken camp and are in the process of clearing off too. But at least it gives me an opportunity to admire the balcony and French windows of that showman’s caravan just there.

piledriver pier rue du port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallAs I’d been walking through the town I’d heard a pile of banging coming from down in the port so I was wondering what was going on there.

By the looks of things, they are installing a second one of those big grey pillars that we’ve been seeing. There’s a piledriver attached to the big crane and it’s that which has been making the noise as it drops down and drives the pillar into the silt.

And this is starting to cause me more than a little concern. Are they going to ba having some of these pontoons going out perpendicularly into the harbour basin?

And if so, how are the big gravel boats going to be able to turn round if the width of the harbour is thus restricted? I don’t like the way that this is shaping up one little bit.

Back here, I telephoned the rail booking point. They confirmed that the trains were running normally, They could book me tickets on the phone, no problem, so I gave them all of the details.

And then we had the “ohh dear!”
“What’s the matter?”
“I’ve no idea. The system will let me take you as far as Lille but no further. And on teh way back, it won’t let me book you from Brussels to Paris”.
“Why not”?
“I’ve no idea. It looks as if the TGV isn’t accepting our bookinss”

Well, that’s a badger and no mistake. But at least it’s solved the problem of my morning walk tomorrow. It looks as if it will be a walk up tp the railway station and see if I can book it from there.

Next stop was to order a new glass for the mirror on Caliburn. And having specified a “right-hand” one, when I had the “confirmation of order” in my mailbox, it quite clearly states “left-hand”.

So what the heck happened there? I had to send them an e-mail and hope that they read it before they post the glass.

Next was a phone call from the people at the radio trying to make me reconsider my decision to withdraw from Group activities. Despite their pleading, I stood firm. Not necessarily because I want to withdraw, but simply that if I change my mind, then that won’t change theirs and things need to change – and change drastically – at their end of we are to progress as a team and do things correctly.

With all of this going on, it was lunchtime by now so I made my butties. And then I started work on the radio project that I have to do.

There was an interruption for my walk, and this was where the calamity of calamities hit me. For some reason or other, the BIG NIKON has stopped working!

It’s refusing to read the memory card that’s in it.

So back here, I tried almost every single memory card in the apartment (and there are more than enough of them around here!) and no luck whatsoever. This really IS a calamity!

With something of a bitter taste in my mouth, I carried on with the radio project and, clearly being unable to think straight, I’ve made something of a dog’s breakfast of it and some of it has to be done again.

Tea was some of the leftovers from yesterday – the lentil curry with rice and veg, followed by apple crumble and some of that Alpro soya dessert stuff.

For my evening walk I fired up the old Nikon D3000 but didn’t get very far with that. As for my runs though, I managed to go quite far with them and imrpved my distances more than somewhat.

It just goes to show what having a good diet can do for you.

And not crashing out today either. That’s good news too.

But in view of my dreadful day today i’m going to have an early night and a good sleep – write off today as a total loss and start again afresh tomorrow.

It’s the least that I can do.

Thursday 23rd January 2020 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not sitting in a rainbow but sitting in a posh living room in a duplex apartment here in Leuven.

The one thing about being a very regular customer of these apart-hotels is that if there’s a higher-grade accommodation vacant, they give me a free upgrade and I’ve struck lucky this visit.

A lovely big double bed, nice and comfortable. All I need is a nice and sweet young lady to share it with me and I’ll be well away. Ohhh yes – even at my age I can still chase after the women. I just can’t remember why!

The only down side is that I have noisy neighbours who seem to be partying. But I can’t hear a thing because I remembered to bring my really good headphones with me and with Colosseum Live going full-tilt into my ears I can’t hear a thing.

But that album has its downside, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall. Although it’s one of the top five live albums ever recorded, it was the one that was going round and round on an endless loop while I was on The Good Ship Ve … errr … Ocean Endeavour in 2018 and 2019.

Of course it immediately brings back all kinds of memories, mostly good but some quite bad and there are people like The Vanilla Queen and Castor and Pollux going through my mind as I listen to it.

Somewhere I read something along the lines of “anyone who spends any time in the High Arctic will come back a different person” and that’s certainly true.

Just for a change, this morning I was up quite smartly and it didn’t take me long to get everything ready for leaving. I’d had a shower last night before going to bed so I didn’t even need to deal with that.

Plenty of time to go a-voyaging too. The first little trip had something to do with the website and about how I’d changed round the radio programmes or something like that so that there was a whole new series of numbers starting on 1st January 2020 on the first January of the year with all kinds of different – there were two different strands of numbering now one of which was the radio concerts and one of which was something else but I can’t remember any more about it now unfortunately
Later on, there was a huge dispute between us over something or other and it led to someone coming storming round to our house going to throw a cup of cold tea over everyone. I had a cup of cold tea ready and he came storming in. I told him to sit down but he said “I’m going to throw this cold tea over you. What are you going to do?” I replied “I’m at my house. I’ll throw a cup of tea over you and you’re the one who is going to have to suffer”. He looked at me for a minute and then said “I can see that you aren’t going to flinch. You are brave enough”. I asked “so how are we going to sort this out?” He said “we need foue elastic bands like this size” and he showed us one of them. Of course I didn’t have any that size so I had to go across the road and ask one of the neighbours. We were in Vine Tree Avenue at the time during all of this.

Back in the Land Of The Living, I finished getting ready. The rubbish went out of course and then I followed it up to town.

bad parking rue lecampion granville manche normandy france eric hallRegular readers of this rubbish will recall that bad parking plays a prominent role on these pages.

Hardly a day goes by without me seeing some new depths to which the general public has sunk and here’s another prime example. We’re at the roundabout at the end of the rue Lecampion and this motorist has decided to park his car right across the entry to the new block of flats.

The motorist in the big SUV can’t get his car out of his own car park because of it, and I would have loved to have had the time to hang around and see how this story would unfold.

Alstom Regiolis gare de granville railway station manche normandy france eric hallInstead I headed off to the station and there I was treated to the delight of the train being already at the platform.

No coffee though. Once again the coffee machine is out of order and this is really annoying. How am I expected to go on a journey like this without being armed?

The ticket-stamping machine was having issues too and it took several goes before it would accept my ticket and stamp it.

Bang on time we set off and I fell asleep. A right deep sleep too and it took the ticket collector a good minute or so to awaken me from the dead to check my ticket.

We were 15 minutes late arriving in Paris but it didn’t quite matter so much because, as predicted, out train now arrives in the main station rather than in the vaugirard annex and that saves me a considerable amount of time.

The metro was running too and was quite rapid, so I had a good half-hour to spare before my train to Lille.

That half-hour was spent in a queue at the SNCF office. I’d had an e-mail yesterday telling me that my seat had been changed and I would have to make further enquiries.

inoui tgv reseau 226 gare du nord paris france eric hallEventually I managed to make someone deal with me quickly and, armed with a new seat number, I could take my seat on the train.

It’s one of the older “Reseau” TGV trainsets, number 226 which puts it in the first wave that were delivered between 1995 and 199.

Nice and comfortable they are, and I could sit and eat my butties and fruit in comfort, which is always nice. And have another little doze too. I’m not in any great rush to do anything.

Due to “affluence on the line” our train was 20 minutes late arriving in Lille- Flanders.

With only 15 minutes (and having to cross town to Lille-Europe) between trains, you might think that I would be panicking by now.

But not a bit of it because if there was “affluence on the line” for us, there would be “affluence on the line” for the Marseille – Brussels train that would be folllowing behind us too and that was the one that I was catching.

inoui tgv reseau 38000 gare du midi bruxelles belgique  eric hallSure enough, that one was half an hour late so I had plenty of time to ring up the hospital and check my appointment time. 13:30 it is tomorrow.

The trainset that came for us is a model that we have seen before on a regular basis because it’s this type that does the Paris-Brussels service, The Thalys PBA trainsets, albeit in a different livery.

My place here was quite comfortable too and I even managed to doze off for half an hour or so yet again.

sncb inter city genk gare du midi bruxelles belgique eric hallIn Brussels I only just missed the 15:58 – I had my hand on the door when it pulled away.

But there was another one right behind – the 16:13 to Genk. It’s one of the push me – pull you train sets and coming into the station in reverse so I didn’t get to see the identity of the locomotive pushing it.

So by 16:50 I was in Leuven after a relatively painless, straightforward voyage for once and wasn’t I a happy bunny?.

Having organised my room I went shopping at Delhaize. Tons of stuff for the next few days to keep me out of mischief and I shall have to add “herbs and spices” to the list of things that I bring with me from home. I’ll make up a sachet of oregano, basil, tarragon, garlic, chili powder etc and put it with the coffee.

So tea tonight was a vegan burger with mixed vegetables, spinach and pasta, all tossed in a tomato sauce and it was delicious. Pudding was peach halves with mango sorbet.

The party next door seems to have finished so I can go to bed. Nothing much to do tomorrow morning so I’ll have a lazy day before I head off to the hospital round about 12:30, something like that.

I wonder what they will tell me.

Tuesday 7th January 2020 – I WAS RIGHT …

… last night when I doubted that I would be able to stay awake long enough to finish my notes for the day.

About half-way through I felt myself going off and although I managed something of a recovery, it wasn’t for very long and 5 minutes later I was in bed under the cover and away with the fairies with the notes unfinished.

At least – I think that I was away with the fairies because when I checked the dictaphone this morning it was bearing a rather strong resemblance to my bank account, or to the cupboard of Old Mother Hubbard.

One thing about crashing out early was that I was awake early too – 05:35 in fact. But I still managed to have to fight to beat the third alarm call out of bed.

After the medication, I made a start on today’s project. And that is to do another radio programme for my weekly rock show. I’m actually working now on the first programme after Brexit and while I’m not allowed under the terms of my contract to “engage in polemic”, nevertheless I have a cunning plan.

As Pete Seeger once famously said, “songs are weapons” and I haven’t given up the fight.

fork lift truck shellfish port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallThere was a break for breakfast of course, and having worked all the way through the morning afterwards, it was 13:20 when I went into town for my dejeunette.

Down at the fish-processing plant I was treated to some excitement. The first fishing boat in was unloading and it look as if they had a big pile of crabs.

It wasn’t appropriate to go for a closer look because they were working quickly, so I had to content myself from here.

victor hugo port de granville harbour  manche normandy france eric hallThe harbour gates were closed so I went that way round over the path on top.

Here’s a photo of Victor Hugo and what’s interesting is not what’s there in the photo but what’s not there. Yes, Granville seems to have gone out for another trip somewhere.

And I shouldn’t be surprised if Victor Hugo will be joining her at some point because her bridge was busy. There were three our four officers having a discussion on board her

thora port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallWhile you admire the photo of Thora here, I’ll tell you about my encounter with a guy from the Port Authority.

He’d come out of the Port Authority office and was clearly looking very official, so as he strolled around the harbour I fell in with him.

Having asked the right questions, I can tell you that the gates open 105 minutes before High Tide and close 105 minutes afterwards.

And furthermore, he told me that there has been no gravel boat in port for over two months and he has no idea when the next one will be arriving

thora port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallThora was there and all loaded up. Those big builders’ bags had been all loaded on board.

One thing I’ve been meaning to do is to chat to the skipper but once more the ship was deserted and no-one was about. So that was that.

Instead, I went and picked up my dejeunette from La Mie Caline and came back home for lunch.

trawler baie de mont st michel brittany coast granville manche normandy france eric hallThe afternoon walk was taken in the cold and the wind (although not as windy as it has been).

Once more, there was a light out in the Baie de Mont St Michel over by Cancale on the Brittany coast, and I’ve seen enough of these now to be able to make an educated guess that it’s a trawler-type of fishing boat.

And here you are. I cropped the image and enlarged it when i returned home and sure enough, I was right about that too.

yacht baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france eric hallAnd that wasn’t all of the excitement either.

There was another yacht today out there in the Baie de Mont St Michel. Not as extravagant as the one out there yesterday with the bright red sail but still nice enough.

But what wasn’t there though was Thora. She must have cleared off quite rapidly as soon as the harbour gates were open.

Back here, I had another little … errr … relax – something that is annoying me because I was doing so well just now – and then pressed on with my project.

There was another brief pause because our “outside broadcast” from the Bain des Manchots – the Swim of the Giant Penguins – at Donville les Bains was being broadcast. And for those of you who missed it, you can HEAR THE PODCAST at your convenience, provided that you take your phone there with you.

It was 19:20 when I finally finished my radio programme – it had taken me far longer than I expected seeing as I’d made really good progress this morning.

What with being late I had another helping of the curry – lengthening it with some frozen spinach and one of the remaining endives.

Alone again on my evening walk, and my run was agony. I was ready to give up long before I hit the ramp although I pushed on nevertheless.

That good spell of health that I’ve had this last couple of months is coming to an end unfortunately . All the signs are there.

shellfish containers port de granville harbour manche normandy france eric hallAlthough Thora is no longer with us, there’s more activity down at that end of the port.

They look like the shellfish cages and so that can only mean one thing, and that is that Normandy Trader must be on her way into port. Those are part of the load that she fetches and carries for this Jersey Co-operative thing.

So I headed home, all alone in the wind and light rain that had now sprung up.

So having done the radio programme that needed doing, tomorrow I’m going to freeze the carrots that I bought, deal with the orange and ginger drink and then start on the programme of the football supporters. I want that finished by the time that I come back from Leuven on Sunday.

That is – if I ever get there, because I’ve just heard that my train from Lille to Brussels is cancelled.

Thursday 12th December 2019 – WELL I NEVER …

… ever thought that I would make it to Leuven today. But here I am none-the-less, sitting in my little room in the Dekenstraat waiting for tomorrow and my rendezvous with doom at Castle Anthrax.

It all started so well too this morning, even though I was the first to realise that on a day of “National Action”, the situation can change in the blink of an eye.

Last night I wasn’t in bed as early as I would have liked, what with having a few things to do, but nevertheless I comfortably beat the second alarm call this morning, never mind the third.

During the night I’d been on my travels too. There was something going on about something to do with the radio last night. We were in Granville and it was to do with the copyright. Someone said that I had gone on for an hour doing something yet according to my calculations it was less than 10 minutes. But they insisted that it was an hour. Ann Myatt was there and she was getting involved in this argument about copyright and I wasn’t quite sure what was going on.

No time for breakfast or anything this morning. I made my butties (I’d bought an extra dejeunette yesterday) and generally packed my things for the trip. As well as that, I took all of the recycling down to the bins.

thora normandy trader port de granville harbour manche normandy franceEventually it was time to hit the streets so valiantly braving the rainstorm I set off.

The first thing that I noticed down in the harbour is that there had been a shuffle-round of the ships. Thora had moved place and that Normandy Trader was now in the unloading bay underneath the crane next to Marite. She must have slipped into port under cover of darness too.

And all that I can say is that Normandy Trader must have had a really rapid turn-round.

alstom regiolis gare de granville railway station manche normandy franceAt the station, much to my surprise, my train was in and waiting. Yes, start with some good luck because I didn’t expect it to hold out.

And I was right too.

Firstly, the station coffee machine was out of order. That always puts a dampener on any of my travels, that does.

Secondly, I don’t have much time to traverse Paris, and no Bourvil to carry my suitcase either so when they announced that “the train will be making a few additional stops” my heart sank into my boots.

eiffel tower paris franceThe weather was quite miserable though. There’s a good place to take a photo of the Eiffel Tower from the train and I was in a good place on the train to seeit and photograph it.

But not today though. There was a pile of damp mist and low cloud obscuring it and the photo was a waste of time.

12:05 is the arrival time of my train in the Gare Montparnasse-Vaugirard in Paris. We finally pulled into the station at 12:20. And with my train out from the Gare du Nord at 13:15 I needed to get a wiggle on.

No chance of the metro though. All closed off and boarded up with the strike.

Still, there’s always the Bus 39 so I hurtled off outside to the bus stop to find that everyone in the whole wide world had had the same idea. When the bus eventually came, we all piled in and were crammed in like sardines. I’ve never ever in my life been in such a crowded bus.

It wasn’t to last though. After about 5 or 10 minutes or so the driver announced that he wasn’t going to go to the Gare du Nord but his “colleague behind” will be doing the trip. We all had to alight knowing full well that we had been sold a pup, but there was nothing that we could do about it.

No “colleague behind” either. We were standing there like piffy on a rock for about 15 minutes until a 39 came by. It was already heaving but nevertheless there was a mad scramble and once the lucky first 10 had wedged themselves aboard, he closed the doors and off he shot, leaving the rest of us behind.

After about 10 minutes I realised that any further wait was pointless. I’d been keeping my eye open for a few minutes and then, sure enough, a taxi with his flag up came by. I let out a yell and he pulled up. Grabbing hold of the door to claim it, I shouted to the people at the bus stop “taxi share to the Gare du Nord?” but they all looked at me as if I have two heads – which I probably have. No-one came to join me so I set off alone with the driver and badger that lot!

Finding a taxi was one thing – getting to the station was another. Everything was conspiring to be in our way today and we eventually reached the Gare du Nord at 13:35. It cost me @24:00, which was not, I suppose, too unreasonable for Paris on a day of General Strike.

Next stop was at the Thalys office to negotiate a new train, but it turns out that it’s not them but the SNCF that I need to see (exactly the opposite of the situation last time) so I wandered off to their office.

tgv inoui gare du nord paris franceAnother lengthy wait but it was worth it because there was just one more train out to Lille – at 14:45 – and I managed to blag my way onto it, free, gratis and for nothing.

While I was waiting, I’d done some research. My new train is due to arrive in Lille at 15:48. There was a local train from Lille going across the border to Tournai in Belgium at 16:02 (arriving at 16:34) and an SNCB train from Tournai to Brussels at 16:44 (arriving at 17:48)

Having found my seat, I settled down and dozed off (and who can blame me after my exertions?).

I awoke some time later to find that our train was stationary in the countryside. “Obstruction on the line” was the reason. By the time that it was removed and we had set off again, I could see all of my hopes melting away into the distance. And when we finally arrived at Lille, it was 16:20 and my train had long-gone.

But I’m nothing if not determined. Browbeating an attendant, she sent me off to the SNCF offices to see what they could do. They could find me a Local train to Tournai at 18:08 but from there I would be on my own.

It sounded like a reasonable option to me though – at least I’d be on the right side of the border. But I was convinced that I could do better.

Off down the road to Lille Europe – the big new TGV railway station. It took ages to find my way in, due to all of the reconstruction, but eventually I made it to the SNCF office. After yet another long wait, I was told that they could get me on a TGV direct to Brussels – the next one being at 20:08. And the receptionist wasn’t very pleasant either about that.

Another option is the Eurostar office. I’d seen that there was a Eurostar from London to Brussels, calling at Lille-Europe at 17:30. I tracked down the Eurostar office and went in there with my sob story. The girl there listened, looked at me for a moment, had a little think, and then simply stamped my ticket “bon for voyage 17:30” – free, gratis and for nothing as well! She told me that I would have to make my own seating arrangements.

eurostar gare lille europe railway station franceAnd she was right too. The train was heaving and it took me ages to find a free seat. Probably the last one on the train.

But what was interesting was the ticket control on the station. It wasn’t the railway company as such that did the ticket checking but a couple of security guards. They were wandering up and down the platform checking people’s tickets on a rather ad-hoc basis rather than at a barrier at the head of the stairs, which would have been the most logical place to control the passengers.

They had a brief glance at my ticket, saw the rubber stamp from the girl in the office and that was that.

gare du midi brussels belgium We pulled in to Brussels-Midi at 18:11 and I had to wait until 18:28 for my train to leuven.

But no matter what, I wasn’t going to wait on the platform. There was one of those bitter, biting winds that finds its way through your clothing, your skin, your flesh and your bones. I came down onto the little walkway underneath the platforms where I could admire the station and the crowds of people.

Brussels-Midi is a very old station in the sense that it hasn’t been modernised any time recently, so it has a quaint kind of character all of its own that many main-line stations have lost.

class 18 electric locomotive december leuven railway station louvain belgium Bang on time at 18:28 our train pulled in and I was well on the way towards Welkenraedt.

Today we had one of the Class 18 electric locomotives, one of the workhorse classes of the Belgian SNCB that pull a great many of the long-distance trains around the country, even if their introduction to the railway network was not without its issues. But now you see them all over the place.

We finally pulled in to Leuven at about 19:00. And when you think about this, then despite all of the issues that I’d had, I was only two and a half hours later than normal. And Had I gone via Tournai on the train that I had planned, I would have been just 15 minutes ahead.

Now I’m settled in. Too late for the shops, I’ve had beans and chips for tea and now I’m off to bed. After all of that effort I think that I deserve it too.

How close was I to having my chips today?

fishing boats unloading port de granville harbour manche normandy france
fishing boats unloading port de granville harbour manche normandy france

christmas lights rue lecampion granville manche normandy france
christmas lights rue lecampion granville manche normandy france

Sunday 20th October 2019 – APARTMENT SWEET APARTMENT!!

Yes, after almost 4 months away from home, here I am back in the comfort and safety of my own four walls.

And what a nightmare it was in order for me to make it back here.

The day started well enough – or actually, badly enough as it happens because even though I was in bed “something like”, a couple of girls decided that they were going to have a party. What annoyed me was that I’d made a special effort to have an early night, even watched (the first five minutes of) a film just to make sure too.

But then they came in later and started to party, and woke me up.

From then on I was tossing and turning throughout the night, going on some amazing voyages but then eventually the alarm awoke me, as it always does.

For a change I was quickly out of bed, packed and then had a few things to attend to. It’s the birthday of someone very dear to the heart of Strawberry Moose and he wanted to send a card. I had to help him of course, so I hope that the person concerned received it. It goes with all of his greatest esteem and affection and with particular (but not exclusive) reference to one night and several evenings.

Food was next so I enquired of the night porter where I could buy a baguette. He took me a few doors down the road to a large wooden door, and after banging on it for a while, it opened.

It turns out that it’s the door of a commercial bakery that supplies bread to hotels and restaurants, and for a mere €1:00 they sold me a baguette big enough to have made lunch for the entire hotel – staff and residents combined.

What I did was to make my sandwiches for lunch (of course) and also a couple for breakfast – saves me buying my raisin buns. And with what was left I made some butties for tea too.

For the first hour of being back on the road, things were going on as normal. I left the hotel and, dragging my heavy load behind me, made it up to the Gare du Midi.

The train was already in the station so I was one of the first aboard and settled down in my comfy seat ready for the off.

We were about half an hour or so into the journey when the commotion started. The ticket collector came along to check the tickets, and it turned out that the young guy sitting on the seat across the aisle from me didn’t have a ticket. The ticket collector asked him to 3come along with” him, and that was when the violence started.

As I said, I am (unfortunately) a different person from when I set out on my voyage. The artist Samuel Gurney Cresswell remarked that a voyage into the High Arctic “ought to make anyone a wiser and better man”.

Well, I don’t know about “better” but it’s certainly made me a lot wiser, after everything that was thrown at me on that final voyage and it’s awoken a lot of things in me that had lain dormant for years. And so while I vowed that for as long as I lived I would never ever help anyone out about anything ever again after how I was repaid for it, I wasn’t going to stand by while some young thug was dishing it out to an elderly gentleman merely doing his job.

Sparing you all of the gory details, the net result was that when we arrived in Paris there were four policemen and a police dog waiting on the platform and he was carted off. The ticket collector (the complainant) went along and I was “invited” too, ostensibly to give evidence but possibly in case the assailant started to complain about his dislocated right arm and shoulder. He won’t be hitting anyone again for quite a while.

The drive through Paris was exciting – just like Louis de Funès in the old Renault Estafette – blue flashing lights and sirens and the full works.

Three hours I was there waiting my turn, and upsetting everyone by wandering off to look for a toilet. I ended up in someone senior’s private office and “there will be an enquiry” about that, apparently.

By the time that they had dealt with me, my bus had long-gone and that was that.

But not quite.

After a 10-minute walk I found my way to the ticket office at Gare Montparnasse (luckily the Police Station wasn’t far away) and joined the mile-long queue, everyone trying for revised travel arrangements due to a lightning strike by the TEC drivers.

And I was lucky. There was a TGV going to Brest in half an hour’s time and there was a seat vacant as far as Rennes. At Rennes there would be a 20-minute wait for the last train to Granville – if it’s running.

So I took a gamble and scrambled aboard the TGV. If the train to Granville isn’t running, I fancy my chances much more finding a hotel in Rennes than in Paris. And thinking on – my ride in a police van had meant that I hadn’t had to struggle around on the metro.

But my luck is in! And isn’t that a change from just recently? The Granville train is running, and it’s here, and I can climb aboard without any problems. So I do – and promptly fall asleep.

At Granville I decide to bite the bullet and for once, take a taxi. But there isn’t one. So I go round the corner to the café to ask the proprietor if he knows of anyone. He nods to someone at the bar who replies
“I’ll take you. 15 Euros”.

Like hell he will. I only wanted a ride, not to buy his cab from him.

The walk was difficult with my 30kgs of luggage, but once I’d organised everything it wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. I took my time and had plenty of rest stops but I made it fine enough. I’m badgered if I’m going to pay €15:00 for a 3-km trip.

But the strap on my fitbit has now definitively parted company. I’m annoyed about that.

So here I am, safely back home in familiar surroundings at long last. But for how long? What’s next on the agenda? and how long will I be away for? I was disappointed that my nice little office chair was broken but it wasn’t made for heavyweights.

So I’m off to bed. I’ll check round the place tomorrow and see what else needs doing and then I’ll start to unpack. I’m not doing anything tonight. I did make a start on backing up but the spirit was weak.

It’s probably a good idea to go to bed – my first night in my warm comfy bed. And I’ve missed it, although I wouldn’t have missed for anything the experiences that I have had over the last four months. Good or bad experiences, they were all good really regardless of the outcome. Je ne regrette rien

But here’s a thing.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I’ve had a great deal of issues with the statistics recorder on this blog, convinced that I’m not having accurate readings.

As a result, a week ago, I spent some time uploading a new statistics reader to run alongside the existing one, and the difference is startling. The new one is much more accurate, much more up-to-date, updates quicker and tells me much more about my audience.

So why doesn’t my audience tell me more about themselves? You can see the “Leave a Reply” link just underneath the title up at the top. Use it to introduce yourselves.

And I shall add my best birthday wishes to those of Strawberry Moose. I hope that you enjoyed your day.

Saturday 19th October 2019 – I SEEM TO HAVE …

… made rather a mess of things just recently.

If coming home from North America to Europe via Africa isn’t bad enough, then the tortuous route that I have to take to complete my journey home really puts the tin hat on things.

of course, there are several reasons for this. The constant changing of my plans didn’t help, my own unwillingness to leave North America and of course my constant vacillation (never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until next week) are all factors that have contributed towards this, although I can quite rightly curse my bad luck on occasion too.

But let’s start with this morning.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I half-jokingly said that I would probably be wide-awake at 04:30 this morning. Well, do you know what? I wasn’t all that far out.

Last night I couldn’t believe how quickly time went by while I was writing up my notes and doing some housekeeping. In no time at all it seemed to be 03:00 in the morning and I was far from tired.

But to be on the safe side I switched off the alarms and went to bed. And resorted to the usual stand-by of watching a film on the laptop. It never seems to fail to work … “it has done once or twice, you know” – ed … and this time was no exception. Flat out after about five minutes.

There is a good reason why I never travel home the day immediately following my medication, and that is that there is sometimes a Counter-coup and this is exactly what happened today.

I was out like a light until 10:00 and didn’t feel a thing all night. And I still managed to go to sleep again until 11:00 when I was awakened by the chambermaid wanting to clean the room. But I chased her away.

It really was time for me to raise myself from the dead I suppose and I set to work. And this is where my troubles really began.

For a start, there are major reconstruction works on the railway line south of Brussels so there are no early morning trains. My favourite, the 08:13, is one of those that has been cancelled so I’m having to go later.

No chance of catching my 11:15 or whatever train to Granville, so it’s just as well that that has been cancelled too. In fact there are no trains going from Paris to Granville tomorrow, for some reason or other. The best that I can do is to take a bus at about 13:00. And that gets into Granville at heaven alone knows what time.

And if that isn’t bad enough, I seem to have forgotten that it’s Sunday tomorrow and there are no buses in Granville. So I’ll have to walk, with about 30kg of luggage about my person.

I’m not doing too well, am I? But at least, the absence of a printer to print my tickets has made me finally go “paperless” by adding some apps on my mobile phone, so at least some good may have come of it all.

Having organised that, the next thing to organise was some food. Off I headed to the Delhaize in the railway station for a baguette, some tomatoes, hummus, bananas and drink. What I ate was delicious and there’s more for tomorrow too.

This afternoon, in the absence of my decent graphics program (Paint Shop Pro) that has gone with the wind following the collapse of the old laptop, I’ve had to learn how to use the add-on facilities of Irfanview in order to carry out a project that needs to be done this evening for tomorrow.

Despite all of the time that it took me to do it, it’s simply not possible to do it as well as Paint Shop Pro might have done it. But it’s a free program and it’s reminiscent of Samuel Johnson’s remark on women’s preaching – “It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

As if to underline the benefits of prudence when I’m having my medication, I was obliged to take to my bed round about 17:00 and I slept it off until about 18:30 or so. The strain is certainly proving too much for me right now.

But I made it into town this evening to my little cafe for a plate of lentils with bread. No chips though – I’m going to keep on with this “cutting down” of my dietary requirements to see if I can keep the weight off, and I’m also going to try to add another daily walk into my routine when (if) I finally make it home. At first that should be pretty easy because there is no food in the house and without a mobile Caliburn I won’t be able to do a large mega-shop for a while.

And to ease off all of the pain and torment about my problems right now, I had a listen to some more music. Ocean by a German group called Eloy, and it’s probably one of the finest “Krautrock” albums ever. I never tire of listening to it.

The opening track, “Poseidon’s Creation”, includes the line “Son of the Gods, daughter of the earth .. ” and who does that remind you of? It’s quite bizarre how things suddenly appear like that and trigger off a switch in your mind?

So on that note, seeing as we are discussing music, I’ll go to bed and try for a good sleep. It’s going to be another long, hard day tomorrow.

Sunday 17th February 2019 – WHAT A BEAUTIFUL …

… day today.

Shame that I had to spend much of it sitting about on the Gare du Nord in Paris.

The mystery of why my train was cancelled was revealed today, and I really ought to stop myself from being so cynical. Apparently some workmen digging a hole by the side of the railway line during the week had come across an unexploded bomb from World War II.

It was still viable and so it needed to be defused. This had been programmed for Sunday morning and the entire neighbourhood had been evacuated and all of the trains stopped while the bomb squad defused it.

My suggesting that they run a Eurostar full of Brits past the bomb to make it explode was greeted with a great deal of support by the railway staff, but was not (unfortunately) put into practice.

For once in my life I had leapt out of bed with alacrity (and you all thought that I slept alone!) when the alarm went off.

And without my breakfast and without my medication, I attacked the packing, making sandwiches and the tidying up. As well as doing a back-up on the big computer. I also copied a pile of updated files onto the USB key that I take with me when I travel.

brocante place charles de gaulle granville manche normandy franceOff into town with my heavy load – I don’t know why I need so much stuff just for a couple of days, and past the Place General de Gaulle.

Here, they were setting up a brocante for the day. They always seem to have them when I’m either not here or on my way out.

And when I have been here to attend, there’s never been anything actually worth buying.

aux dames de france rue couraye granville manche normandy franceMy route to the railway station takes me from the Place General de Gaulle up the rue Couraye.

I’ve seen this building before but I’ve never really taken much notice of the facade above the shop window.

It seems that this has been a ladies’ outfitters since it was built, judging by the inscription in the concrete work above the first-floor windows.

gec alstom regiolis gare de granville manche normandy franceThe train wasn’t in when I arrived so I had a coffee and a sit-down outside. It was a pleasant morning for the time of the year. No-one would ever have said the middle of February

Once the train pulled in, we all piled aboard, me clutching the coffee that I had bought from the machine.

Drinking the coffee and nibbling away on the biscuits that I had bought for breakfast, off we set. And for a couple of hours I had a comfortable sleep on board – just a little tossing and turning here and there.

eiffel tower paris franceDuring all of the time that I’ve been travelling this line, I’ve never really managed a good photograph of the Eiffel Tower.

Today, thought, the conditions were perfect and I finally managed to take a good photo of it.

And in thz background to the right on the crest of the hill you can see the Eglise Sacré Coeur away on Montmartre.

The metro though Paris was crowded today, but it was a strangely deserted Gare du Nord to which I arrived. Just a few people about and only two people in the queue for metro tickets. So seeing that I’m running out, I took the opportunity to buy another packet of 10 tickets.

In the Thalys office they wouldn’t put me on an earlier train – for the simple reason that there wasn’t one.

There was another Thalys on charter to a private group and the girl telephoned to see if I could go on it. The reply on the phone was “yes” – but at the gate it was “no”. So we had a big discussion about that.

4343 Thalys TGV PBKA gare du nord paris franceAnd as it happens, it didn’t make any difference anyway because nothing was moving until 15:00.

Eventually I was ushered onto the TGV anyway, and at 15:01 we hit the rails. What surprised me about that was that the train was half-empty. It seems that everyone had been turned away or decided not to travel.

Another thing that surprised me was that we didn’t seem to take the usual route either. It looked completely different until after Charles de Gaulle Airport.

push me pull you gare de bruxelles midi leuven belgiumAt Brussels I had a wait for my train, so I went to the shop for something for pudding and a bottle of water. I always seem to develop quite a thirst when I’m in Leuven.

The train that brought me from Brussels to Leuven was heaving. It was one of the “push-me-pull-u” express trains from Oostende and there were kids all over it brandishing sand-encrusted buckets and spades.

They had clearly been enjoying themselves in the fine weather – and who could blame them?

I took the lift up to the gallery to walk across the railway lines, only to find that the lift on the other side was out of order. So I had to go back down again and brave the subterranean passage.

Here at my little hotel complex I had rather a surprising conversation with the manager.
“There’s something that I’ve always been meaning to ask you. Didn’t you used to play in a rock band years ago? Your name looks quite familiar”.

Now I can’t remember what I was doing even half an hour ago. So I’m bewildered how come some Flemish guy might remember my name from the only time my name ever appeared in the Music press – when I played bass for a well-known drummer from Wales in an ad-hoc band that played for just one night at Crewe Teachers’ Training College in 1976 or 77.

Having had a good sleep on the train I wasn’t really all that tired so much to my own surprise I didn’t crash out on the bed. Instead, I had a few things to do.

university library herbert hooverplein leuven belgiumA little later I went for a walk into town for my pizza. After all, it IS Sunday.

Walking past the Herbert Hooverplein, the University library looked splendid, all illuminated in the dark. And with no-one around to spoil my view.

It was just inviting to be photographed and so I duly obliged.

Having had tea now, it might only be 22:00 but this is probably the cue for an early night. I need to catch upon my sleep and save my strength for the battle ahead tomorrow.

Thursday 14th February 2019 – TODAY’S BAD NEWS …

… is twofold.

Firstly, my TGV to Brussels on Sunday is cancelled. Due to a perturbation, or disturbance, so they say, but more likely it’s under-subscribed and there’s plenty of room on the ones before and after.

Secondly, I had a letter back about my taxe d’habitation. I asked for the years 2013 and 2015, but instead they sent me the ones for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Just as did the Tax Office in Montaigut-en-Combraille.

So I’ve no idea what’s going on there. I’ll have to ring them up to find out.

Last night wasn’t as early as I was expecting, and I left the bed … errr … somewhat later than the alarms. i’d been on a nocturnal ramble too, but all that I remember was going into someone else’s office to sharpen my pencil – the plot of something that I was watching on a DVD at teatime last night – to write it down.

We had breakfast and a shower and general clean-up, and then headed off to the shops. Just LIDL today of course. And the only thing that I bought was a new balaclava helmet to wear under my crash helmet. The old one that I have is ancient and filthy and so it’s high time that I replaced it.

marité normandy trader loading up port de granville harbour manche normandy franceBut I was waylaid on my way to the supermarket.

Normandy Trader was in port this morning, moored up at her usual mooring place next to Marité. She was unloading what looked like piles of shellfish, and the empty crates were being loaded back on board.

There were also sacks of what looked like sand or gravel just there on the quayside, presumably waiting their turn to be loaded up on board.

Back here, I made myself a coffee and attacked the remaining carrots that needed preparation and freezing. They were peeled, diced and blached with a couple of bayleaves, and then stuck in the freezer.

That was anough for the morning. I had a little relax while I reviewed what had been going on during the morning.

No excitement as yet – that is to come later.

After lunch, I carried on with my text database and all of December is now complete. I’ve done a few more blog entries and I’ve now reached back as far as 24th December 2018. The 23rd is the day that I went to Köln to see Jackie, and there are so many photos from there that I’m working even as we speak on a web page to display them all.

people on beach pointe du roc granville manche normandy francelater on this afternoon, I went out for my usual walk.

Around the walls in the glorious winter sunshine. It was such a beautiful day today.

And I wasn’t the only one out there enjoying the weather. There were crowds of people swarming around on the pathways and down on the beach making the most of the school holidays.

sea tide beach waves plat gousset granville manche normandy franceThe tides and currents were interesting too, and the crowds on the beach down there at the Plat Gousset weren’t the only ones enjoying them.

There were some beautiful swirling waves coming onto the beach with the tide, making some spectacular patterns up and down the beach.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything look quite so artistic as this. Nature can do some wonderful things sometimes.

street decorations rue paul poirier granville manche normandy franceCarrying on around the walls, I looked down on the rue Paul Poirier. They have strung up a pile of decorations across the street – probably today because I don’t recall seeing them yesterday.

This year, Carnaval is the weekend of 2nd/3rd March and it looks as if they are setting their stall out already.

The Carnaval here in Granville is certainly special, and attracts crowds from hundreds of miles away.

yachts baie de mont st michel st pair sur mer granville manche normandy franceDown in the harbour, Normandy Trader had cleared off – presumably fully loaded with whatever it was that was piled up on the quayside.

But it looks as if the sailing school was in operation today because there were a few yachts outside the harbour doing a little manouevring around in the Baie de Mont St Michel.

Everyone seemed to be out there enjoying the weather today and I can’t say that I blame them.

Back here, I had a coffee and carried on working, fighting off wave after wave of fatigue. In the end, I went to bed where I stayed quite comfortably for 90 minutes, most of which was spent asleep.

I’ve gone on from an occasional 10 minutes here and there to a regular flat-out 90 minutes and it’s worrying.

For tea tonight I didn’t have my potato curry. In fact, by the time I’d been through and sorted out the bit of a leek and the mushrooms that were remaining in the vegetable rack, the rest of the stuffing from yesterday made a decent-sized proportion.

And it was delicious too.

night rue du port de granville harbour manche normandy franceOutside tonight for my walk in the calm, cool evening, and almost colliding with a couple of shadows making their way around in the dark, I noticed that there wasn’t anything to see in the tidal harbour.

Probably something not unconnected with the fact that the tide was too far out.

Instead I noticed that the restaurant down on the rue du Port was open and, presumably, frying tonight. I’ve taken a few photos of the street down there but I’ve never noticed the restaurant before.

night english channel pont aven st malo granville manche normandy franceThis photo and the next one might not be of any interest to you, but they are to me.

Right out in the distance there was a bright light slowly moving across the horizon. And so I took two photographs of it, messing around with the exposure controls and the camera speed.

The first one (this one) is over-exposed, and the second one, below, is underexposed.

night english channel pont aven st malo granville manche normandy franceThey aren’t very clear at all and you can’t see what they feature, because after all, it’s only a 50mm lens, but I can have a wild guess.

It was round about 21:15 when I took the photos, and so that tells me that the lights could well be those of the Brittany Ferries ship Pont Aven setting out on its 20:35 sailing to Portsmouth.

I really need a better camera to bring out the best in this kind of shot.

So back in the apartment again, and I’m getting ready for bed. If I can go to sleep after my repose later on this afternoon.

I need to sort myself out.

And today’s excitement?

Mrs Mayhem put her proposals yet again before Parliament. And once again, she was defeated.

But is she taking this latest humiliation seriously? Not in the least. She’ll keep on going by keeping on presenting her proposals every week, wearing everyone down with the threat that if they don’t accept her plan, they’ll have to accept a no-deal pull-out.

Something that will suit her husband – and piles of currency traders and Futures dealers – down to the ground.

She will go down in History as having laid down her country for her life.

beach sea pointe du roc place d'armes granville manche normandy france
beach sea pointe du roc place d’armes granville manche normandy france

beach tidal swimming pool plat gousset granville manche normandy france
beach tidal swimming pool plat gousset granville manche normandy france

sea tide beach waves plat gousset granville manche normandy france
sea tide beach waves plat gousset granville manche normandy france

waves beach tidal swimming pool plat gousset granville manche normandy france
waves beach tidal swimming pool plat gousset granville manche normandy france

casino sea tide beach waves plat gousset granville manche normandy france
casino sea tide beach waves plat gousset granville manche normandy france

Wednesday 23rd January 2019 – WHAT A HORRIBLE …

… day I had today.

It finished by being all right on the night, but it not without a great deal of effort.

For a start, I had what they might call a nuit blanche. Despite a reasonably early night, I don’t remember going off to sleep at all.

I suppose that I must have at one point though, because I was off on my travels for a short while. And here’s a blast from the past. I was back playing in a rock group again and we had a booking lined up somewhere in West London. There was a girl from school whom I quite fancied (which I actually did all those years ago, funnily enough) and she was at University down there. She had suggested at one time that I should drop in and look her up. I’d suspected that this was just a little bit of flannel but nevertheless it was worth following up so as I was in the company of her brother (who coincidentally has sent me an e-mail just yesterday) I’d check up. His reply was that “she’s very popular with her fellow-students down there, you know”, which of course told me everything that I needed to know. Even I could read between those kind of lines.

I was definitely awake at 05:20 and when the alarm went at 06:00 I leapt out of bed (well, sort-of) immediately.

With most things already being packed, I just drank the rest of the contents of the drinks bottles and rinsed them out, gave the room a quick once-over, and was then out of the door well before 06:30.

1849 sncb serie 18 electric locomotive heavy snow gare du midi bruxelles belgiqueThere was snow and ice all over the place and it was a difficult walk up town.

But I was on the station in time for the earlier train to Brussels. It was being pulled by one of the Siemens Serie 18 electric locomotives.

The SNCB owns 120 of these and, beleive it or not, despite their looks they are only about 8 years old. They get plenty of use.

heavy snow gare du midi bruxelles belgiqueMy train from Leuven brought me early into Brussels.

This gave me a good opportunity to go for a look around outside the station at the heavy snow was falling. It looked quite impressive this morning, illuminated with the flash on the camera.

And then off to the supermarket, which was now open, for my raisin buns for breakfast.

Thalys PBKA 4302 gare du midi bruxelles belgiqueThe TGV was on time this morning.

It’s our old friend 4302, one of the PBKA (Paris-Brussels-Kôln-Amsterdam) series 43000 units of which there are 19 – built in the mid-90s when the service was launched

I was looking forward to having a good sleep to catch up with what I had missed during the night but it wasn’t to be.

Instead, because of all of the snow (it really was heavy) the train had to slow down because otherwise it might overrun signals. And so we crept along at a slow but steady 180kph instead of a flat-out 300kph.

We were warned that we would be at least 40 minutes late arriving in Paris. That meant that I had to go off and hunt down the train manager to have her sign my ticket. I have a feeling that I’m going to be horribly late in Paris and if I miss my connection, the next train is 3 hours later.

I don’t fancy spending three hours sitting on a freezing cold, draughty platform and I certainly don’t want to have to pay for the privilege if there’s a way of avoiding it.

First off the train and along the platform – a long time since I moved so fast. And just as I arrived on the Metro platform a train pulled in. So I leapt aboard and it rattled off.

Arriving at Montparnasse, I was first off the train and off on the long walk to my platform right at the far end of the station miles away. I even took all of the travelators and even though they were rolling, I walked along them to speed things up.

And I was lucky I did. It’s about a 2km walk from the metro to my train, and I couldn’t afford to hang around.

84565 gec alstom regiolis granville manche normandy franceI turned up at my platform just as the guard was about to signal the departure. No sooner had I put my feet on board than he blew his whistle and the train pulled out.

I was so stressed out with all of this that it took me a while to regain my composure. Totally out of breath I was.

The snow eased off by the time we reached Surdon and we rattled along quite steadily. Somewhere round about Vire or so I fell asleep because I remember nothing whatever from then on until we arrived in Granville. Dead to the world.

marite thora port de granville harbour manche normandy franceIt was another struggle back up to my apartment.

What with all of the effort I stopped to catch my breath half-way up the rue des Juifs and I could admire the harbour.

As well as Marité down there at her mooring too we have Thora tied up at the quayside. I can’t see what her load is today, and there didn’t look as if there was anyone down there

gravel trawler port de granville harbour manche normandy franceIn the previous photo you might have noticed one of the gravel lorries driving onto the quayside.

They have obviously been very busy because there’s quite a pile of gravel accumulating on the quayside now, and that can only mean one thing.

Very soon we might be receiving a visit from Neptune who will come to take it all away back to the UK

It was cold and windy out there, although nothing like as cold as it had been in Belgium. But it was freezing in here and the first thing that I did was to switch on the heating.

There were a few things that I needed to do back here but round about 18:30 I’d had enough. I’d had a very bad night with almost no sleep, I’d been up early, dashed about all over the place and moved like I had never done for years. On top of that, I’d missed most of my siesta.

So that was that. I went to bed. When I awake, I’ll carry on.

Saturday 9th June 2018 – THIS IS TURNING INTO A DISASTER

And I’m not quite sure about where to start either.

I could, I suppose, make a start by telling you all about last night’s nocturnal ramble. And that was such a confused, jumbled, rambling voyage too and I’ve probably forgotten most of it.

But I do remember leading a party of other motorists to Granville but it was nothing like the Granville as we know it, and the road to there was even more different. Doing it in the semi-dark was another thing too, especially as there were no signposts. However I had been there once before and I could remember the way – at least everything looked familiar like the roundabout near the yacht harbour where we had to turn left. At a certain moment we left the main road and were driving along a farm track where there was suddenly a terrific drop. I remembered a drop, but nothing as terrific as this one but it had to be here because there was no other way that resembled this. Everyone else looked in a panic but I pressed on down the slope and it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.
At some other time during the night I ended up in Bill Badger, my old BMC half-ton van from the 1970s. I’d put it back on the road after more than 20 years and it was running fine. I’d done some work on the engine too and that had me thinking about “why don’t I find a BMC 1622 diesel engine and fit that in the vehicle?”
From there I drifted into YLO, my first Cortina mkIV and I was going round to visit some sportsman. Much to my surprise he was living in very modest circumstances, the only sign of affluence being a small sailing boat in his garden that he was restoring. There was a notice on the gate to the effect that “no matter what, the boat isn’t for sale so don’t waste my time and yours enquiring”. He explained to me that his wife had just given birth and people always though that when you were there with new family commitments that took up much of your time, your hobbies would be the first to go, and go quickly and cheap too. I sympathised, explaining that I had a Transit van and another vehicle up on ramps in my garden right now.
Somewhere in all of this my mother put in an appearance. I’m not sure why. She was being assailed by a couple of women and even though I had no time for her at all, I couldn’t help feeling some sympathy for what she was suffering.

So there I was, at 05:20 sitting on the edge of the bed typing out all of this before I forgot it, despite the fact that with a long and exhausting day ahead of me, I needed all the sleep that I could get.

So an early breakfast etc, and organising myself, packing and the like. Ant at 08:30 I was at the supermarket buying a bottle of drink and a baguette.

Having made my butties I went off to hand in my keys and book the room for my next session, giving a big stroke to the cat on my way past.

It was here that today all started to go wrong, if you don’t consider awakening at 05:20 to be wrong.

My next visit here coincides with the big Werchter Rock festival in mid-Belgium, so there is no room at the inn. Not at any other inn in the region so I have been told. And I can’t change my appointment at Castle Anthrax because it fits in nicely with my other arrangements. And I can’t book a hotel in Brussels because I’m in Caliburn and there’s nowhere reasonable to leave him.

But there’s always a Plan B. It’s been years since I’ve been to Liège and I hardly know the city so I might book a hotel there and that will give me an opportunity to go for a wander around the city. I might even at last get to visit Welkenraedt – something that I’ve been trying to do for 45 years since I first saw it as a train destination at Oostende in the early 70s

Not only that, it’s easy to escape from too – avoids the necessity to struggle through the traffic on the edge of Brussels. There’s a motorway that goes from there to France via Charleroi instead.

But it’s still annoying.

sncb gare de leuven railway station belgium june juin 2018At the station I didn’t have to wait too long for a train. It was another Oostende train and so it was heaving with holidaymakers. I ended up being crammed into a corner with about 20 young German kids, several crates of beer and a music centre playing “oompah” music.

That was certainly not what I wanted at that time of the morning, but at least I had a seat. So I can’t complain too much. Especially as one of the boys actually offered me a beer (which I of course declined).

At the Gare du Midi I didn’t have to wait too long for the TGV to be called and to my surprise it was already in the station so we could take our seats and settle down in comfort.

But that was to no avail because the train didn’t move. After a while we were told to dismount. We were apparently having a “technical problem”. They called for a new trainset and they coupled that up to the next TGV so we were half an hour late leaving Bruxelles-Midi.

I went in search of the train manager and made a fuss about my connection to Granville. We had a lengthy discussion and in the end she endorsed my ticket to Granville to the effect that I would miss my train due to their fault and not mine.

We pulled into Gare du Nord 35 minutes late, not 30 minutes late – and that extra 5 minutes proved to be crucial as we shall see.

There’s an RER “express” that does part of the route of Metro Line 4 missing out several stations, so I gambled on that as far as Les Halles. It was indeed much quicker but whatever time I saved was lost by having a long walk between platforms so it wasn’t any quicker really. But I have timed the journey in the past going on Line 5 and then Line 4 and I know full well that I didn’t have enough time today so it was a gamble to nothing.

At Montparnasse I rushed as quickly as I could but it’s a long way, and I reached my platform just in time to see my train departing. For the first time since 1992 I wished that I was back in the UK where the trains run when they feel like it and only pretend that there’s a timetable.

This meant a trip all the way back to the ticket office. It’s possible to travel to Granville on the TGV to Rennes and then the Caen and Cherbourg train from there, alighting at Folligny where there’s a bus that connects with the train. But that goes at 14:14 and by the time I’d walked all the way back to the ticket office and queued to see a counter clerk, that train had long-gone.

The clerk wasn’t all that helpful and I was in no mood for her light-hearted attempts at laughter. She refused to consider finding me an alternative route (far too much effort of course) and so there was no alternative but to wait three hours for the next train.

Another marathon walk back to my platform where I ate my butties and read my book. And listened to the desperate news that “the train arriving from Granville” … which will be the one that will be taking me back … “has been delayed by 40 minutes due to a signal failure”.

sncf gare de granville railway station manche normandy franceBut to give them their due, as soon as it arrived and the passengers alighted and the crew had checked it for lost property, we were immediately waved on board. They hadn’t had time to clean it so it was something of a mess, but I didn’t want to wait around for another half an hour. 10 minutes late was quite enough.

During the whole route back I was in something of a daze. That 05:20 start had done me no favours whatsoever and the marathon dash and consequent stress had made things even worse. I wasn’t in much of a state to pay much attention to what was going on.

To make things worse, in view of everything that had happened today I was going to treat myself to a bus back home. But the last bus goes at 20:00 and we arrived back at 20:10 so that was that i had to walk.

And to make things even worse, the only bakery open in the town at that time of night had sold out of bread and buns for tomorrow.

It was a very long drag up the hill and I was stopped by a couple of tourists who needed directions.

So back here after all of that and I’m not up to much at all. I couldn’t even face making any tea. I’m going to go to bed and sleep until I awake. After all, tomorrow is another day.