Tag Archives: thalys PBKA

Wednesday 12th January 2022 – THAT’S NOT SOMETHING …

… that I want to be doing too often.

When I went to bed last night at about 21:15 I didn’t think that I would ever go off to sleep – tossing and turning around for quite a while.

But when the alarm went off at 04:00 I was fast asleep. However I was up and about quite quickly. There was even something on the dictaphone but all that I remember about last night was that there were 3 or 4 of us waiting to board a bus or something. When it came in, one of the guys stepped aside to let us on. We asked him why he wasn’t going to board. He replied that he was waiting for someone who hadn’t turned up yet.

That was the only thing that I can remember from last night.

By the time that it came to leaving the apartment I was champing at the bit to be off. I’d long-since done everything that needed doing.

fish processing plant port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022When I left the building I went to the viewpoint at the corner of the Boulevard des 2E et 202E de Ligne and the Boulevard Vaufleury.

In order to make sure that the camera was working correctly I took a photo of the fish processing plant. Plenty of light coming from the inside and a couple of refrigerated lorries parked outside so there must be plenty of work going on down there this morning, despite the mist that’s hanging over everywhere.

It’s been said that every “floating” job in the fishing industry creates four or five jobs on land and that’s easy to understand when you find out what happens in places like a fish processing plant.

One of the things that I would like to do is to actually go for a wander around inside but even if it were possible, they wouldn’t allow it in the middle of a pandemic.

The walk up to the station was done in darkness and solitude and to my surprise it wasn’t all that difficult. The Aranesp injections must be working.

Bombardier B82792 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022At the railway station my train was already in and at the platform waiting.

But I wasn’t interested in that right now. I had to track down the guard of the train. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that yesterday I couldn’t change the ticket for the train to Caen because with the train being cancelled, they had cancelled all of the tickets.

She wasn’t about as yet, but I made myself known to the driver and explained my situation. He’ll tell the guard as soon as she arrives and if it’s an issue she’ll come to see me.

Bombardier B82647 gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022As it happens, the photo that I took just now wasn’t actually “my” train.

Well, it is in the sense that it’s not just a one-unit train but a two-unit train. The one you saw earlier was the rear half but I’m going to sit in the front half. There aren’t any reserved seats on this train and the farther you are from the entrance to the platform, the fewer people there are to bother you.

They give up the long walk and plonk themselves down closer to where they entered the platform.

The guard did come to see me and I explained my situation to her. I showed the guard the receipt for the purchase of the ticket and she waved me on with no issues.

The train was empty when we set off but by the time that it arrived in Caen it was heaving with people whom it had picked up on the way.

Bombardier Regio 2N 56629 gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo January 2022There was an hour’s wait at Caen due to having travelled on an earlier train, but the trip to Paris was pretty painless and I really enjoyed it.

It’s a Bombardier Regio 2N trainset and there are 447 of these rolling about on the French railway network. First hitting the rails in 2013, they are clean modern, comfortable and quick and I’d travel on these all day if I could. It’s almost enough to make me think about moving to the Caen area just to have the privilege of travelling regularly on them.

The 2N by the way stands for deux niveau, or “two decks”. These are double-decker units and didn’t the UK miss a trick when it heightened all of its infrastructure to allow the electrification of certain lines, and not heightening it enough for double-deckers.

One thing that was very important was that I snapped out of the deep, black depression in which I’d been for the last week or so. As soon as I boarded the train I made up a playlist of all of my favourite stomping Hawkwind numbers, the ones that I would play if I could lay my hands on a guitarist, a drummer and a violinist, because Simon House’s violin-playing on tracks such as STEPPENWOLF and DAMNATION ALLEY is absolutely phenomenal.

And then you have the full-length version of SPIRIT OF THE AGE and any one of another dozen that I could mention.

Mind you, the bloke in the seat in front didn’t like my singing much, so that was rather a shame for him, wasn’t it?

gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo January 2022The train arrived at Gare St Lazare on time and I had another nightmare occurrence trying to make the automatic machine read my ticket before I could leave the platform.

And in the ghostly, eerie, empty atmosphere of the railway station I could take a better photo than the one that I took last time. I’m not sure where everyone is becuase it’s usually packed. Maybe they heard that I was coming.

The trip from Paris St Lazare to Gare du Nord was straightforward – except that the ticket machine didn’t like a couple of my Metro tickets. It’s clearly not my lucky day to be travelling around, with all of these ticket issues that I seem to be having.

Thalys PBKA 4345 gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo January 2022There wasn’t long to wait at the Gare du Nord for my train to Brussels, and that’s one of the reasons why I came this way today

It’s a horrible station to hang around in, huge, cold, draughty and no shelter anywhere. When I saw the 2-hour wait for a train had I come to Paris on my normal train, I had blanched.

We were quickly ushered on board and once everyone was ready we hurtled off towards Brussels. Non-stop, direct, no messing around in Lille. That’s another good reason to come this way.

To my surprise we pulled into Brussels 2 minutes early. I wandered off to the Carrefour to buy lunch for a change. There’s usually some stuff there that I can eat, like some of their delicious buns.

Once I’d dealt with the question of food I was lucky enough to find a train almost immediately for Brussels Schuman.

Justus lipsius council of ministers of the european union rue de la loi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022When I arrived at the station I went up to street level and there was the building where I had spent 12 happy years of my life.

Well, not exactly because I was around and about in other buildings at various times, but that’s the Head Office. The very best ever thing that I did with my life was to fight my way into there. I often muse about how had I remained living in Crewe I’d probably still be driving a taxi or a bus.

Although I didn’t have an appointment at the bank, they saw me more-or-less straight away and sorted out my bank card issues. I should receive a new card in the post “within a week”.

Back at Brussels Schuman we had one of those conversations that you can only ever have in Belgium
Our Hero “do the trains still go from here to Leuven?”
Assistant at Information Desk “I don’t know”.

class am 86 multiple unit 931 gare de bruxelles schuman railway station belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022In the end a ticket collector pointed me in the right direction. Why I was having difficulty is that they don’t terminate at Leuven these days but continue on to Landen, so it’s “Landen” on the destination boards.

The train was one of the old AM86 multiple units and it came into ths station. These aren’t particularly comfortable and are rather lightweight compared to some of the SNCB multiple units but they have had plenty of use and they keep on going. Of the 52 that came into service between 1986 and 1991, there are still 51 of them running around, mainly in the centre of the country.

When the train pulled in at Leuven I went to the supermarket at the back to pick up some stuff and walked down here to my room. No upgrade again but I’m not all that bothered.

It’s freezing here in Belgium so I’m glad that I brought my winter woollies. I’m going to need them.

First thing that I did when I arrived in my room was to crash out, and that’s no surprise.

Later on I found the strength from somewhere to struggle down to the supermarket for the rest of the shopping and then back here to make tea.

Now that’s done, I’m off to bed regardless of the fact that its only 21:30. And with the alarm set for 08:30 I’m going to sleep until I wake up. I’m surprised that I’ve kept going as long as I have, with 137% of my daily exercise total done too.

But one thing is for sure, and that is that I’m going to stomp all my way home to Granville on Saturday. Every since back in my early teens when I discovered Radio Luxembourg, music has been my only constant and steadfast companion and immersing myself deeply into it has sometimes been the only thing that has kept me going.

One thing that I need to do is to have a rethink about the direction in which my life is going because things aren’t working out right now. Somehow I need to pay much more attention to the inner me and that almost inevitably involves music.

On THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR I was happy spending most of my time listening to COLOSSEUM LIVE and ON THE ROAD by Traffic and things only changed (for the better or for the worse, depending on how you look at things and I know how I look at them) when I stopped listening and went to do something else.

Perhaps I ought to listen to more music. I dunno.

Saturday 20th November 2021 – IT SEEMS TO ME …

… that you’ either getting photos or dictaphone entries right now – one or the other and not both.

But over the course of the next few days things will be brought up to date. But then that’s the story of my life these days, isn’t it?

gare montparnasse rue du départ paris France Eric Hall photo November 2021And while we’re on the subject of photos and stories of my life, look at this photograph.

For four and a half years I’ve been struggling through the underground labyrinth from the Gare Montparnasse to the metro station, going up and down flights of stairs like there’s no tomorrow, struggling with suitcases and all kinds of luggage.

Today, I walked up two half-flights of stairs and then up an escalator, and then you can see what I have to overcome in order to reach the Gare Montparnasse. Down at the end of the Rue du Départ in the distance you can see the station, one street that’s straight and level, with the only issue being to wait for the traffic lights so I can cross the road.

How easy is this compared to how I used to travel?

It might have been even easier had I had a good night’s sleep last night. But I don’t sleep very well at all in the beds at this place in Leuven and last night was no exception.

martelarenplein leuven Belgium photo November 2021It didn’t take me long to tidy everything up, make my sandwiches and pack, and I was on the road by 05:35

When I arrived in Leuven on Wednesday I had intended to take a photograph of the Martelarenplein in the daylight but I forgot and so I took a photo on my way into the station.

Of course, you can’t see the work very well because there is a fence and a covering all around it and I have to poke the camera through whatever gap I can find.

martelarenplein leuven Belgium photo November 2021And the work has now spread pout right onto the front of the station building.

They are uprooting all of that now and it looks as if they are about to replace it with a different kind of paving block, and as for why they would want to do that I don’t know.

In the foreground we can see some more tactile pavement of the type that we saw on Monday, and in the background you can see the fence with the covering over it to stop nosy people like me poking cameras in to photograph the work.

08187 class 08 electric multiple unit gare de leuven railway station Belgium photo November 2021It was 05:55 when I set foot on the station platform.

Having completely forgotten that it was early on Saturday, I found that the next express to Brussels was at 06:33 and it was freezing. However there was a local stopper, an 08 class multiple unit, leaving at 06:08.

Although it arrives at Brussels-Midi at the same time as the express, it’s a lot warmer and more comfortable inside the train than sitting on the platform so I clambered aboard. And so I did, and we set off bang on time.

Thalys PBKA 4306 gare du midi brussels Belgium photo November 2021Our train pulled in at 07:00 and my train to Paris doesn’t leave at 07:43 so I had to loiter around in the cold for a while because like most railway stations, Brussels-Midi is a freezing, draughty station with nowhere to sit out of the wind and the cold.

The train was one of the PBKA – Paris Brussels Cologne Amsterdam – units and although these are quite old now, the are quite comfortable and I was glad to be able to be allowed on board early.

It was packed too, with hardly and empty seat. It seems that the 07:13 that I used to catch is no longer running so everyone piles on board this one. I had a young lady sitting next to me but she didn’t say a word throughout the whole journey.

Well, not that I would know too much about the whole journey because I was … errr … resting for about half of it.

As I mentioned earlier, the trip from the Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse was the easiest that I have had to date, but when I reached Gare Montparnasse, the wheels came off.

There’s already a 75-minute wait on the freezing, draughty concourse of the railway station but I did notice that the train that I should be catching hadn’t yet arrived from Granville. We were supposed to leave at 10:54 but it hadn’t even come in by then.

By now I was frozen to the marrow so I went of to buy a coffee and as usual, exactly as you might expect, while I was distracted the train pulled in so I had to struggle on board with a suitcase, a laptop bag, a bag with my lunch in it and a full mug of coffee and just two hands to hold it all.

84569 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021As a result I couldn’t take a photo of my train – I’m not an octopus – and of course it had to be the rear of a two-trainset unit so I had to do the best that I could at Granville.

It was 11:36 when we eventually set off and for a change I was feeling rather dynamic and I’m not sure why, but I actually did some work on the train back home which makes a change.

Another thing that I did was to finish off reading a book that I had started to read a long time ago, the account of Parry’s voyage in Hecla and Fury which resulted in the latter being left behind on a beach on Somerset Island in 1829.

Her anchors were recovered and regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we went TO SEE THEM IN 2014

84567 84565 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021Having left Paris 40-odd minutes laten we were just over an hour late arriving in Granville and that filled me full of despair. I really could have done without that.

First thing that I did was to take a photo of the front bit of the unit on which I travelled. And then I took one of the front of the unit that was pulling me along. That’s the one on the left.

Being so late they had hauled another unit, the one on the right, out of the sheds to do the return trip back to Paris.

On the way down into town I called in at the Carrefour. Whatever else that might or might not happen, I can’t do without my mushrooms for my Sunday pizza. Not at any price.

For a change I took a new route through the town centre to avoid the crowds and thus it was maybe a little easier to walk.

It was still necessary for me to stop a few times on the way up the hill towards here, one stop of which was at the viewpoint overlooking the inner harbour.

marite belle france joly france philcathane port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021We have Belle France and one of the Joly France boats, the newer one of the two with the step in the back, moored together just down below.

Marité is down there too of course and over on the far side is the trawler Philcathane, moored where the gravel boats used to tie up. It looks as if we’ve seen the last of them.

And on the quayside is another shrink-wrapped boat. This kind of work is proving to be quite lucrative for the little Jersey Freighters.

boulevard des terreneuviers Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo November 2021On the way up the hill I noticed that the diversion signs had gone and the Rue Cambernon was open to traffic.

Accordingly I glanced down the Boulevard des Terreneuviers to see what was happening to the workmen’s compound. And there it was! Gone! And never called me mother!

What I shall have to do on Monday on my way to my physiotherapy is to go and see how they have finished off the work there.

Back at the apartment I struggled up the stairs into the apartment and crashed down in my chair for a good while to recover. I’d had a long hard journey.

Having backed up my computer with the files off the laptop I then went for tea. I had some falafel left over from Leuven so I finished them off with some pasta.

No washing-up tonight as the water is cold. And it won’t be warm until tomorrow. Anyway I’m too tired to do it so I’m going to vegetate for a while and then go off to bed. A good sleep will do me good but that remains to be seen.

And next morning (well, afternoon actually) I was able to bring up to date the journal with details of my voyages. On Friday night I was in my Welsh class. There was a teacher and a girl and then I turned up. That made two of us. At first I couldn’t understand what was happening because my screen was just so different from how it normally was but I eventually settled down. The girl had to leave nut another guy turned up. We were talking about going to the restaurant but he asked me “have you eaten anything yet? Are you going for a meal afterwards?” I replied “I don’t have any plans as such”. Then the girl came back by which time we had a man teacher, a change from a woman and we had to go back to read this article that we had just read a couple of minutes ago.

Later on I was with Shearings and a meal that we were having as though we’d all been away for a weekend somewhere, all the employees. I worked out where the girls were sitting so I picked a seat that was behind there so I could see them. I put down my stuff and went to find some bread to toast. Someone turned up and sat at my seat. I made myself some toast and went back and had them clear off and I sat down. I wanted some more but couldn’t find any bread. In the end, in the kitchen I found a pile of fruit bread and made myself some toast from that. Someone else came and sat down on my seat again. I thought that I would move them again in a minute. Then there was no coffee left, no orange juice left. In any case these girls hadn’t come down. I thought “this is turning into a right old mess, this is”.

Saturday 16th October 2021 – THIS NEW WAY …

… home actually seemed to work a lot easier than going home the normal way. So if ever my 07:17 from Brussels is cancelled in the future and I can’t have another cheap ticket any other way, I’m going to consider quite seriously going this way home again.

The alarm was set for 06:00 but it was pretty much a waste of time because I didn’t have much sleep at all. The heating made so much racket that in the end I went down and switched it off, and then I ended up with people talking outside my door for what seemed like hours.

Nevertheless I was up and about as soon as the alarm went off and it didn’t take me long to finish packing and to make my sandwiches. There was even time for coffee and toast for breakfast.

During the night despite the lack of sleep I’d been on my travels again. We’d been having a history class at University but the teacher hadn’t turned up so we’d been running it ourselves. He finally turned up and started, going round the class talking to each one of us. He mentioned to me about going round to teach his daughter guitar if I was free at 17:30 that evening. When I left work I went to park up somewhere to wait. After a while I thought that I’d better ring Laurence to tell her where I was, that I’d be late. She had obviously been asleep because she was very slurred with a tired voice. She just muttered something about the management but I didn’t hear a thing after that. Then I realised that I didn’t have my guitar so I thought that I’d better return to the office and fetch it.

We were all in a car somewhere. We turned up at a house where we were supposed to be. I couldn’t get my car into the drive because the cars were parked too far close up. I had my brother move his car but there still wasn’t enough room which I thought was really strange. Then I realised that the one on the left was too far over so I pushed that out of the way so that I could drive in. Parked in there was the red Opel coupé of a girl whom I knew, really rusty and rotten. Whoever it was with me said “no tax again”. I replied “it’s taxed until June”. Then I had a closer look and it was June 1988 in the window. I said “that sounds just like her, doesn’t it?”. We walked round the back of the house to go in ready to see the lighting of the Christmas tree.

07:00 is the latest time for me to leave my digs because there’s an express train to Brussels at 07:33. But I was on my way at about 06:50.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021The work that’s taking place in the Martelarenplein outside the station is another one of these tasks that seems to be taking forever. It’s been going on for a couple of years now and progress seems to be very slow.

The fencing is still all around the work so it’s very difficult to take a photo, and the dark early morning doesn’t help very much either, but I did the best that I could in the circumstances.

With having set out so early, I was well in advance of my timetable and luckily, there was an earlier express train, the 07:21, so I didn’t have to wait too long because it was absolutely taters out here and I wish that I’d brought a coat..

class 18 electric locomotive 1903 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that came into Leuven was pulled by, despite its number, a class 18 electric locomotive of the type that we catch quite regularly.

In the darkness I couldn’t see anything of the journey, but we pulled into Brussels with 45 minutes to go before my train to Paris.

And sitting on a draughty station in this weather for that long froze me to the marrow. If there’s a waiting room at the gare du Midi I have yet to find it.

Luckily though, the train came in early and we were allowed to board pretty quickly, which was just as well

Thalys PBKA 4304 gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that I’m on is one of the PBKA – Pars, Brussels, Cologne, Amsterdam – trainsets, the one on the left in this image taken at the Gare du Nord in Paris.

having scrambled aboard the crowded train to warm up, I found myself sitting next to a Chinese student who was confused about the application of the Eurorail pass. He didn’t realise that there’s a supplement to pay on the TGV and so he was stuck for an excess charge.

This train is a direct one to Paris. No changing at Lille, which is good news for me because the walk is a painful one in my state of health.

As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … I don’t know why the train from Lille to Paris goes from a different railway station to the one that the long-distance TGVs use.

Much of the route to Paris was spent catching up with my beauty sleep so I was wide awake when we arrived in Paris. I had to show my vaccine passport on arrival and then go to look for RER track E.

It’s actually quite a walk but it’s on the level with no obstructions and on a really good surface so it didn’t seem like too much effort.

Down in the bowels, I didn’t have long to wait for a train. Much more comfortable than the metro, rather like a cheap mainline multiple-unit in fact, and it was only 15 minutes to the Gare St Lazare.

There was quite a walk from there too but once more, it was all on the level and going up to the station was on an escalator so there wasn’t any struggle with the baggage.

clocks outside gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021According to my notes, I’ve never been to the Gare St Lazare before so I went outside for a look around as I had some time.

This was quite interesting, all of these clocks. It’s a design by someone called Armand Fernandez, known as “Arman” and not “Arman in Havana”, and was commissioned by the French Government in 1985.

The station is pretty cramped in its surroundings by other buildings and nowhere is it possible to take a decent photograph.

gare st lazare France Eric Hall photo October 2021Inside the station though, it’s light and airy, having been modernised and upgraded about 10 years or so ago.

It’s not very easy to navigate though as the destination boards and platforms aren’t very clearly indicated.

And while finding where the platform that I need is one thing, finding my way onto it was something else completely.

There’s a “magic eye” that reads the QR code of your ticket, but the eye isn’t where you expect it to be and it took me 5 minutes and the assistance of a passer-by to enable me to find a way to pass the barrier.

56643 class Z 56600 electric multiple unit gare st lazare paris France Eric Hall photo October 2021My train is a newish double-decker multiple-unit, a class Z 56600 Electric Multiple-Unit “Regio 2N” double-decker built by Bombardier and entered service in 2014.

It has all mod cons and is very comfortable. Furthermore it’s non-stop to Caen and it doesn’t hang about either, with a top speed of 200kph.

It’s certainly worth remembering this route for the future if ever there’s a perturbation on my regular route. And if they do electrify my line, something that is under discussion right now, we might even see these in Granville which would be nice.

gare de caen railway station Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021At Caen there’s a one-hour wait for the train to Granville so I could go for a walk around outside.

No problems with photographing the station here because there is very little to obstruct the view. i’ve actually been here once before, but not on a train. I came this way on the bus once when there was a rail strike and we stopped here for a breather

It’s not the original railway station of course. Like so many others in the battle zone in Northern France, it was heavily bombed during the early summer of 1944 to prevent the rapid deployment of Axis forces by rail.

eglise st michel de vaucelles caen Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Further down the street in the distance above the tram is a church that I think is the Eglise St Michel De Vaucelles.

There was a church on this site in the days of Charlemagne but there is no trace now of any remains from this period. The church that we see today dates from the early part of the 12th Century although it has been heavily modified since then.

It’s one of the starting points for the pilgrimages to the Mont St Michel.

By now it was lunchtime so I went back inside to eat my sandwiches and I actually treated myself to a mug of hot coffee. I’m really pushing the boat out these days, aren’t I?

bombardier 82792 gare de caen railway station Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021The train that I catch from Caen is one of the Bombardier units that we have seen quite regularly in Granville.

It’s quite bizarre because there are only four power points per carriage and they take some finding. I had to wait for half the journey before a seat at one of them became vacant.

But imagine that! Just four power points, and in the 21st Century too!

These trains are little branch-line rattlers and not as comfortable as the one on which I’ve just been travelling, but at least it does its job and brought me back to Granville.

marité philcathane belle france chausiaise port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Coming back home was easier than it has been recently. I only had to stop four times coming up the hill to home.

One of my stops was at the viewpoint overlooking the inner harbour. Marité is down there of course, with the trawler Philcathane across the harbour on the other side.

Down here close to me are Belle France, the new ferry for the Ile de Chausey, and Chausiaise, the little Chausey freighter in orange, grey and white.

By the looks of things too, there’s someone having a go at mending his nets on the quayside too.

sailing school baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo October 2021Further up the hill at another one of my rest stops I could see that the sailing schools were in full operation today.

There are a couple of the yellw and orange ones having a sail about, but the black ones seem to be having a conference of some kind.

Arriving back at the apartment I made myself a coffee and reflected on how nice it was to be back home. And only four stops coming back up the hill with the load that I had in my suitcase was quite some progress compared to how I’ve been just recently.

Football later on, in the Welsh Cup. Colwyn Bay of the 2nd Division against Cardiff Metro of the 1st. A game rather short on skill and technique, but a proper cup-tie all the same played in front of a big, noisy crowd. Cardiff Metro had most of the play, missed a penalty, had a goal disallowed for offside and missed three or four absolute sitters.

Colwyn Bay, who were on the back foot for most of the game and only had one real shot on goal. And so, as you might expect, Colwyn Bay won the game 1-0 to move into the next round.

Now that I’ve had tea, I ought to be going to bed but I’m not tired right now. I’ll go to bed at about 03:00 I suppose and then sleep through until tomorrow afternoon.

That’s what usually happens.

Saturday 24th April 2021 – THERE ARE MANY …

… things in this life that I don’t understand. And the older that I become, the more I realise that the less and less I actually do understand.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a few weeks ago I was going through a phase of not being able to haul myself out of bed at any price regardless of however many alarms that I set and how loud and for how long I set them.

On Thursday I switched off the alarms so that I could have a lie-in and then on Thursday night before going to bed, I switched them back on.

The chattering birds outside my window, helped by the rattling fridge downstairs, awoke me at about 05:20. And not being able to go back to sleep, I lay awake waiting for the 06:00 alarm.

When I checked the time again, it was actually 06:10 and the alarms hadn’t gone off. It seems that last night I’d set them for 08:00 in error. And had I not been awake and instead slept right through to when the alarms would have actually gone off, I’d have missed my train home.

So what would have been the odds on that in similar circumstances a couple of weeks ago?

And this is what I just don’t understand – that I can actually do it when I have to so why can’t I do it when I don’t have to?

But anyway, there I was, up and about on time so I tidied everything up, made my sandwiches, packed up and headed off for the railway station.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric HallHere’s something that is extremely interesting.

Something else that regular readers of this rubbish will recall that not long after I came to live in Leuven in 2016 they closed off the Martelarenplein outside the railway station in order to completely refurbish it. And since then, it’s been all fenced off and the fences covered with tarpaulins so it’s impossible to see through it.

This morning though, some of the tarpaulin covering has been taken away and it’s now actually possible to see what they have been doing for all of this time.

And to be quite honest, it really doesn’t look all that different than it did before, although I do have to say that judging by how the place appears right now, there is still a great deal of work to be done. Another project around the town that has gone on far longer than it ought to have done.

So on the station, I didn’t have to wait too long for my train to come in.

automotrice am96 multiple unit 543 gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric HallThe train that I’m catching this morning is the 08:19 to the Belgian coast, calling at the Airport, and then the city centre before it clears off coastwards.

Just for a change, it’s not one of the depressing and dirty AM80 units but a much more modern AM96, the type with the rubber bellows and the swivelling drivers’ cabs. Bang on time it was when it pulled in and it pulled out on time too.

When we arrived in Brussels I still had 90 minutes to wait before my train came in so I went and sat in the main concourse for a while.

Once I’d worked out where my train would be arriving (there’s only a choice of 2 platforms for the Thalys and the train to Amsterdam pulled into one of them) I went up there to wait.

A few minutes later I was joined by a young lady. “This platform is quite big and lonely and there aren’t many people about” she said. “Would you mind if I waited near you? I’d feel safer”? She clearly didn’t know me very well.

Thalys PBKA 4331 gare de brussels midi railway station belgium  Eric HallSoon enough, a train pulled into the station at my platform.

It’s one of the PBKA (Paris – Brussels – Cologne – Amsterdam) units, number 4331, a nice clean and shiny one just out of the carriage wash. But it only had 8 carriages, numbered 1-8 which didn’t really suit me because I had a seat in carriage number 18.

My lady-friend had a seat in carriage 8 so she cleared off to board the train and take her seat. I had a few enquiries to make, such as to go and find an arrivals board to find out what trains were due to arrive in the very near future. That should tell me everything that I need to know.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4536 coupling up to Thalys PBKA 4331 gare de brussels midi railway station belgium Eric HallAnd I was quite right too. 5 minutes before my train was due to depart, a TGV was coming into the station from Amsterdam. And sure enough it pulled up at this platform and I had the pleasure of watching them couple up two trainsets together.

This one is one of the PBA (Paris – Brussels – Amsterdam) Reseau 38000 tri-volt trainsets, number 4536, and once it was all coupled up I could take my seat in carriage 18. It was really busy too which is no surprise seeing as it’s the only train to Paris this morning and I’m not sure whether there will be one in the afternoon either.

We set out bang on time and arrived bang on time in Paris too, and there the passengers had to run the gauntlet of a police barrage, checking papers.

Although I don’t have a valid Covid test result, I’ve been out of the country for less than 72 hours and have a Carte de Séjour to prove my address and residence status, so I didn’t have a problem. A really good plan, that, to apply for my Carte de Séjour when I did.

And I’ll tell you something else as well, and that is that the gendarmette who questioned me at the station can detain me for further questioning any time she likes. Actually, I should be being paid by the police force, judging by the number of times that I’ve had to help them with their enquiries.

The metro was quite rapid and when I arrived at Montparnasse I even managed to find a seat, which was just as well because I had a wait of about 90 minutes for my train. I could eat my butties in comfort.

82694 Bombardier B82500 84559 GEC Alstom Regiolis gare de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt was a 6-carriage train (the one on the right, not the Bombardier B82500 on the left) to Granville and it was packed.

Even worse, there were no reserved seats. But I was one of the lucky ones in that I didn’t have a neighbour so I could fall asleep and drop my laptop on the floor in comfort.

We were held up somewhere in the countryside by electrical current issues but we made up the missing minutes as we hurtled down the line towards the coast.

And when we arrived, actually a couple of minutes early, we’d somehow managed to throw out most of the passengers and there weren’t all that many of us left.

When I’d left Leuven this morning it was pretty cold but here in Granville we were having a heatwave and I had to strip off to walk home, down the steps and through the park.

citroen ami electric car parc de val es fleurs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIn the past we’ve seen some pretty awful and horrible-looking cars but this is one that really takes the biscuit.

It’s a Citroen Ami all-electric car and I do have to say that it’s one of the most hideous that I’ve ever seen.

The climb up the Rue des Juifs was rather painful in the heat and seeing as I’m not feeling myself right now, I had to stop for a breather half-way up the hill and that’s not like me at all. And I can’t blame the shopping that I was carrying because I’ve come up the hill with much more than this.

Having put the cold stuff away I came in here to watch this evening’s football.

And this was the match of the season – TNS, top of the table, against Connah’s Quay Nomads in second place. The Nomads do have some quality but they aren’t consistent enough to do it every week, whereas TNS are like a well-oiled machine and tick over quite smoothly.

Ordinarily we might be expecting a tight game but Nomads have been known to crumble at the most inappropriate times so I don’t think that too many neutral supporters would have had their money on the Nomads.

But while you always find the odd player here and there who has a bad game, it’s very rare to find half a dozen who are having a poor performance all at the same time. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the TNS centre-half pairing of Blaine Hudson and Ryan Astles were having a nightmare match.

Despite having 60% of the ball TNS never really did much with it and Connah’s Quay simply swept them aside. Michael Wilde, a player released by TNS a few seasons ago, scored a hat-trick and Jamie Insall scored a fourth while Astles and Hudson stood around watching them.

In the end TNS had 5 strikers on the field and while they did manage to score one early in the game, they never ever looked likely to trouble the Nomads back line and when they were awarded a penalty towards the end of the game, Oliver Byrne in the Nomads goal saved it quite comfortably.

It’s been about 20 years since I’ve been watching the Welsh Premier League and I have never ever seen TNS play so badly as they did today, although a lot of the credit should go to the Nomads back 4 and Callum Morris just in front of them who stopped almost everything that TNS tried to do.

One thing that I forgot to do until later was to listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. I’d started out with a former friend of mine and we were in Nantwich, Crewe Road end, going to visit some people. There were two girls there talking away and the guy was some kind of electronics guy and his house was a total tip worse than mine and there was stuff everywhere – all bits and pieces for making radios and so on. These 2 girls were young teenage girls busy talking away and at a certain moment I said to one of them “what language are you speaking? Is it Welsh”? They replied “no, it’s Slovensko”. So I asked “Slovene”? and they replied “no” so I asked “Slovak”? and they said “no” so we agreed that they were talking Czech. I was intrigued to know what they were doing while they were looking at all these bits and pieces. At the end of the road I looked out and there was an old guy on a walkframe, delivering the newspapers. It looked as if he had a paper round. I thought “it’s one way of keeping busy when you are old”. I went off into my shed, rooting around for something. There were all these old people standing around, not saying or doing anything, just standing there and it was making me feel uncomfortable. I of these 2 girls came in and she asked me for something. I couldn’t remember what it was she asked me but she saw it while I was searching through stuff so I let her have one. The other one came in and asked “where’s mine”? So I had to find one for her as well. I told her to make sure that she used it otherwise I’d be wanting it back.

Later on I was in Winsford with my father and a few other people, and Denise was there (as if that was ever likely to happen). One of my sisters was talking to Denise about operations, telling her about how she should have had a breast cancer operation a long time ago. Paul Ross rang up but my father was on the other phone so he couldn’t speak to him. Paul Ross came round and said that yesterday evening Dave Clark had died. We worked out that since Christmas we’d had 4 deaths in the immediate close circle and it was enough to make you wonder who was going to be next. Everyone looked at me but I said “as far as I’m concerned, it’s the creaky gate that hangs the longest, isn’t it”?

Anyway, now I’m off to make some sourdough mix and then I’m going to bed. No alarm in the morning and quite right too as I deserve a lie-in after my efforts today.

Friday 29th January 2021 – HERE I AM …

… back home again after my marathon voyage.

The journey always takes a lot out of me but usually I’m back by 14:30 so I have a few hours to recover before I can deal with whatever needs dealing with. Today though was rather different.

This morning not only did I beat the third alarm, I beat the second one too. I had a quick whizz around the pad and tidied everything up, washed up, made my sandwiches for the journey and then packed my stuff for the road.

sncb class 18 electric locomotive gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallThe rain wasn’t all that heavy which was very good, and a quick walk brought me to the station in time for my train – the 07:22 which was the first one on my list.

It was another one of the expresses from Welkenraedt to Oostende – a rake of modern double-deck coaches pulled by one of the SNCB class 18 electric locomotives. Nice and comfortable and quite rapid and much better than one of the elderly multiple units that sometimes travel on the line.

It arrived at Brussels-Midi with 90 minutes before my train was due to depart but after an hour or so the platform for the train came up on the display screen so we could go up to the train.

tgv thalys pbka 4331 gare du midi brussels belgium Eric HallOur train to Paris this morning is one of the PBKA (Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam) units and either it was a short train or else (more likely) a unit is to come in from either Amsterdam or Cologne and couple up behind it.

And wasn’t I disappointed? Having read all the Official Notices for travelling, had a Covid test, filled in piles of paperwork, had all my documents to hand, there wasn’t a single policeman about to check my right to travel.

Our train left on time and, even more surprisingly, arrived in Paris Gare du Nord on time. During the trip I had dozed off for a couple of minutes and they had to wake me up to see my ticket. There wasn’t even a wait at the Metro because I arrived on the platform at the same time as a train.

TGV Atlantique series 24000 trainset 386 gare de rennes railway station France Eric HallAt Montparnasse there was an hour to wait before we could all pile on board our TGV. This is one of the “TGV Atlantique” Series 24000 units.

Some of these are over 30 years old but you wouldn’t think so by looking at the interiors because they are quite clean, tidy and comfortable. And even more interestingly, between 1990 and 2007, it was one of these train sets (admittedly a shortened unit) that held the world railway speed record of 515.3 km/h.

This one unfortunately took two hours to travel all the way to Rennes, which is not really surprising as it also stopped at Le Mans and Laval. But two TGVs in a day – I’m really living it up, aren’t I? T

gare de rennes railway station France Eric HallWe pulled into the railway station at Rennes at about 14:00 – – only the second time that I’ve been to the railway station there. Plenty of time to go for a wander around and photograph the town from the overbridge.

Despite the time available, I didn’t go far and for a couple of good reasons too. Firstly I had a rather heavy load to carry around with me and secondly, the railway station is such a maze that to find out where I would find my connection took me a good bit longer than it ought to have done.

By the time that I had reached where I needed to be it I was glad to sit down.

rail replacement vdl coach gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere was no train back home this time. There was a coach connection to Granville and I had to wait for 75 minutes for it.

To wait for the bus I had to go to the Gare Routier or “bus station” which is presumably built in what might have been the old goods yard sidings a five-minute walk away from the station.

We had to wait outside in the open air for it to turn up but by now it was sunny and reasonably warm for the time of the year. And although the journey home on the coach was comfortably, it still took about two hours to reach Granville railway station.

cow and penguins on roundabout place pleville Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere’s no carnival this year in Granville dur to the virus but that hasn’t stopped the town from decorating the place.

A brisk walk from the station and through the back of the town brought me to the viewpoint from the Rue des Juifs where, looking over to the roundabout at the Place Pleville I could see a cow and several penguins loitering around there watching the traffic.

It’s certainly something different to liven up the time a little and bring a smile to the faces of the general public. It’s making me wonder what the theme of this year’s Carnival would have been had it gone ahead.

pointing rampe du monte regret Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallA little further on along the Rue des Juifs I came to where they had been doing the pointing at the Rampe du Monte Regret.

During the whole week in which I’ve been away, they haven’t made as much progress as I might have expected . No-one engaged in the building work that I have seen over the last week seems to be in an awful hurry to complete their tasks.

My brisk walk brought me back home at just about 18:00, having been on the road for just about 11 hours and I knew all about every minute of it. For a couple of hours I vegetated in the chair and then grabbed a frozen meal out of the freezer.

Later on I had a listen to my dictaphone to see if I’d been on my travels during the night. I was at home and there was a sports match about to come on the TV. Terry and Liz – Liz had asked me if I could buy her some special cheese from LIDL. She had given me the packet and I’d managed to get one or two bits for her which I’d left on the kitchen table in my house but my brother was coming round so I went outside and hid, with the idea that he would go past, find my house with everything all laid out in there and so on and the sports match ready. He’d be wondering where I was and I could creep up and surprise him. He walked past, it was about 19:10 and just then the bus came past, a Crosville bus. So I hopped on board and went to sit upstairs. It started to drop a few people off but instead of going into the village of Shavington it shot off down a back lane somewhere and ended up on the road between Crewe and Nantwich via Willaston. All the roads had been realigned – it wasn’t the same road alignment. Everyone was wondering why he hadn’t gone to Shavington. He said that he was going to Shavington but he was just going to drop someone off in the country lanes first. We thought that this was going to be a hell of a long way round to get home if he’s going to be doing things like this

Bed-time now and I have to be up early in the morning as I need to go shopping. But i’m not going to be fit for much for the ret of the weekend. At least, if I can change my appointment to Thursday, come home on Saturday, I can have a complete lie-in on Sunday and I won’t have so much stuff to carry around with me.

And I’ll look forward to that.

Friday 9th October 2010 – I’M GLAD …

… that I took Liz’s advice to vent my kefir in the bath.

That’s because it went up like the traditional four-bob rocket when I released the caps, and actually blew the caps and wires out of their sockets. So this will be a good batch. I hope.

Yes, for all my vicissitudes, I’m now back chez moi at the seaside and apparently I’ve brought the bad weather back with me. It was quite nice this morning, so I was told, but about an hour after I came back, it had clouded over.

This morning though, in Leuven, there was a heavy, damp, humid mist of the kind of which I’m so familiar, as anyone who has ever been in Belgium in the autumn will remember. I was up and about bang on the dot of the first alarm at 05:30 – just to prove that I can do it when I really try – and after finishing the packing and making my sandwiches, I headed out for the station.

SNCB 1906 Class 19 Siemens Electric Locomotive Gare du Midi Brussels Belgium Eric HallAt the station I had to wait 10 minutes for my train – the 06:21 to Blankenberge from Genk.

Being a shorter train than the usual Welkenraedt – Oostende train that I catch, it pulled up short of where I was standing. I had to run a hundred yards or two down the platform to the train. It was pulled by a Type 19 electric locomotive – basically the same as a Type 18 that we had on the way out to Leuven, but fitted with an automatic coupling system.

It was pretty busy too, even right down at the front where I usually sit. That’s quite a surprise at that time of the morning.

Thalys PBKA 4302 Gare du Midi Brussels Belgium Eric HallMy train to Paris-Nord was already in at the platform when I arrived – 40 minutes before departure, but we couldn’t board right now because while the passengers were there, the crew wasn’t.

This morning we’re going to Paris on one of the Thalys PBKA units – the ones specially-built for the Paris – Brussels – Cologne – Amsterdam service. They differ from the usual PBA units in that they are equipped to work on the German electric railway network.

They are getting on for 25 years old now and surprisingly, are still in quite good and comfortable condition. I’m quite happy to travel on one of these any time. But not so many other people were. Admittedly the 07:35 is the first service to Paris of the morning, and also the cheapest, but there were very few people on board today and we could spread out.

Our train hurtled off from Brussels bang on time and we made such good time that we had to sit outside Paris Gare du Nord for 10 minutes for our slot for the final half-mile.

It was rush-hour of course in Paris – 09:13 when we arrived – and while the Metro was busy, it wasn’t crowded as you might expect. As I said on the way out, it seems that the business life of Paris has changed somewhat with the Corona Virus and that might explain the lack of custom on the TGV.

At the Gare Montparnasse our train was in the station already even though it wasn’t advertised yet. It’s because it’s the only one that has “NORMANDIE” written all down the side of it. No point in trying to board because it will be all locked up, so I took a seat on a bench and read my book.

84559 GEC Alstom Regiolis Gare de Granville Railway Station Manche Normandy France Eric HallAfter waiting around for 35 minutes, the train to Granville was announced we were all allowed on board.

The train set is one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis units. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we travel on one of these each time we go back and forth to Paris. There are 361 of these and they started to come into service in 2013. They were so successful that they allowed a whole raft of old equipment from the 70s and 80s to be swept away, and they are all that you ever see now on much of the French railway network, including the Paris-Granville service. I’ve never done the route in anything else.

And I was lucky in my neighbour today on the way back. She can sit beside me any time she like.

The voyage was pretty uneventful so I had a listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night.

I was back running the taxis again and I had a yellow Mk IV but was completely yellow, a tidy little car. There was a driver driving for me who lived next door to a Hackney driver but didn’t get on particularly with him. He was quite good at his job. When he came round to start work one morning I was in the middle of changing windscreen wipers over. I’d got them off an old car that we’d had, the wipers and arms, and I was busy switching them over to then new one, getting it ready to go out, the yellow one. This guy was going through the sheets writing out his list of jobs. There were a couple of jobs, long ones and he wondered why he hadn’t been given them. I didn’t know so I told him that it might be something to do with the fact that they didn’t think that the car would be ready by then. Then someone else from another taxi company turned up from Northampton. While I was busy changing the wipers the other driver started chatting to them asking their advice – should he put these jobs down on his sheet or not. I had all the wires – dunno why there were wires on this – tangled up and I was trying to untangle them, everything like that. The more I tried to untangle them, the more tangled they became.

Having done that, I merged a few more composite files and than quietly ate my butties.

Our arrival in Granville was a couple of minutes early. I’m not used to this. It was a pleasant if not tiring walk back home from the station, and the first thing that I did was to spray the bathroom with orange-flavoured kefir.

Most of the stuff that I bought was then unpacked (I forgot some) and then I swapped the files over from the portable computer onto the big office machine. I didn’t do as much as I wanted to do because, what with the early start, I … errr … had a little relax.

That’s possibly because I had the heating on in here. It seems that the cold has arrived.

Tea was taco rolls – there was some stuffing left over from Monday followed by a slice of Blackberry pie out of the freezer.

Later on in the evening I went out for a walk around the headland in the dark. And first thing that I noticed is that the old Opel estate that had been been abandoned on the car park for the last however many months has now been removed.

Les Epiettes Cap Lihou Chantier Navale Port de Granville Harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallThere was a strong wind, but nothing like as strong as it has been. Even so, I didn’t want to hang about. Instead I had a wander around and ended up at the Chantier Navale to see what was happening in there.

We’re down to just two boats now. Les Epiettes, the boat from the Département des Ponts et Cnaussées is still in there on the right, and the trawler on the left which is Cap Lihou is still in there. She’s been there for quite a while and probably now a permanent fixture.

My runs tonight were pretty disappointing. I only managed two and the second one of those was a little shorter than it has been of late. I need to work myself back into it again. Instead of going for my third run, I headed slowly for home. I’ve still managed 114% of my daily activity.

Having written my notes, I’m now off to bed. It’s shopping tomorrow and I need a few things to replenish the stocks. And there’s football tomorrow night too so I’ll be busy.

And what is left of my kefir is delicious.

Sunday 15th December 2019 – AND FINALLY …

… I made it back home.

And the journey was exciting, but nothing like as exciting as the outward trip.

Once again last night I was in bed early with every intention of watching a film. But before I went to do so, I carried on listening to the radio programme to which I had been listening before I slipped beneath the sheets.

And that’s how I found myself a couple of hours later. Out like a light of course. So I switched off the laptop and went back to sleep.

During the night there had been a few voyages. And strange ones they were too.

There was a fancy dress party taking place and I had decided to go as a woman, don’t ask me why because I don’t have a clue either. I had the dress and tights everything like that and I went out all dressed up and people were looking at me rather strangely as you could imagine. But I ran out of time and didn’t have the make-up so I had to do without the make-up which spoiled the whole effect as you can imagine. But I went outside and there were all these people outside, cheering me on, men were pretending to chat me up, so on. There was Malcolm Madeley (!) and he clearly didn’t recognise me, something like that and he made some kind of offensive remark. I said “you want to get a grip, Malcolm” to which he suddenly stopped and disappeared. He realised that it was me. I had to walk round to Aunt Mary’s. I knocked on her door and the guy who was with her who was a guy a lot younger than she was but was something to do with our family from somewhere or other and these two little kids about 3 or 4 came out. We were talking about some kind of court case involving these kids. Aunt Mary was saying “well now they are here it’s only 5 weeks to go before this case”. But as these kids walked out of the step there was this pram coming the other way. It hit them and they flew through the air and actually landed on top of the pram. I thought “these kids are going to get hurt. They are always doing these kinds of thing, always getting hurt, all kinds of stupid accidents, breaking their arms, breaking their legs, something. But this time they were all right which was quite a surprise. Then we had to hobble off – me hobbling on my high-heeled shoes back towards picking up my car to go to this do again but it was this thing with the kids that was so surprising. And I’ve no idea what that was all about at all.
Later that night I was with someone last night and it might have been Nerina but it might not and we were in Northern Wyoming, somewhere like that. On our way to visit some battleground, somewhere like that of the Native Americans. The road was a really difficult road. It started off being a decent road but was all gravelly, a dirt road as you might expect. We were behind this lorry and there was a car coming the other way, a big jeep-type thing swerving in and out of the traffic and he nearly hit us going past this lorry. We were wide-eyed about that. The GPS was talking to us about this road, giving us a talk. We suddenly breated the brow of this hill and came to where all these dressed stones were, in a pile like some kind of wall. It was telling us that this was where the fort was this was the barbecue was, all this kind of thing .We dropped down the hill into the village by the river and there were ancient railway locomotives on display there. We went inside the museum and there were all beds there with people sleeping in them like they might have done 100 years ago, 2 or 3 to a bed, babies in the bed, all this kind of thing and newspaper reports about “how my parents are going back to the UK after visiting us”. It turned out that we were now in Newfoundland and Labrador for some unknown reason and we were giving a tour of this museum with all of these toys and artefacts going back 100 years or something and life must have been really primitive for people living there in those days. So we had a tour of this museum with these old toys and old dirty beds and dirty people sleeping in them and I remember saying to whoever I was with that we ought to be going as we have a lot to do and in any case I wanted to see these old steam locomotives but she was busy engaged there talking to people and she didn’t really want to come away.

But despite all of this, I was soon up and about when the alarm went off at 06:00. Beat the second alarm by a country mile.

First task was to make my butties because I had a feeling that this was going to be a long day. Tidying up everything and packing my bags and collecting up my shopping, I headed out for the station.

am96 multiple unit gare de louvain leuven railway station belgium december 2019I arrived at the railway station about 06:50 and didn’t have long to wait for a train.

There was a direct train at about 07:20 direct to Brussels but there was an earlier one from Genk at 07:08 that goes via the airport and on the basis that a bird in the hand is worth any number in the bush I leapt aboard that one.

It’s one of the AM96 multiple units built by Bombardier and delivery to the SNCB started in 1996. They have a peculiar characteristic in that the driver’s cab pivots round 90° so that when two or more of these multiple units are coupled together, the passengers can go through from one unit to the next.

My train to Paris was at 08:43 so I had about an hour to kill. I drew some cash out of the bank and then bought my raisin buns for breakfast from Carrefour.

Thalys PBKA 4302 gare du midi brussels belgium december 2019 I didn’t have to wait long because the train came in quite early and we were ushered up to the platform.

It’s one of the Belgian SNCB PBKA (Paris Brussels Cologne Amsterdam) train sets, number 4302 upon which we have travelled on previous occasions. These PBKA train sets are becoming somewhat long in the tooth these days, being first delivered in 1995, but they still rattle along at an impressive 300 kilometres per hour when there’s nothing in the way to slow them down.

While we were waiting to move off, I had a quick look on the internet. The 13:54 to Granville was still down as running so I hoped that it would still be listed by the time I reached Montparnasse.

Bang on time we were, pulling into the Gare du Nord. I wandered over to the SNCF offices where they checked the trains. The 13:54 is still listed as running for the moment, but there’s nothing else going anywhere near Granville now for the rest of the day so it’s that one or nothing.

The girl stamped my ticket to Caen to effectively prove that I’d been to the SNCF offices (one thing that I’ve learnt since living in Europe is that European officials love paperwork and rubber stamps so you should never ever miss out on an opportunity to have a rubber stamp put on a document whenever there’s a crisis looming).

hotel terminus nord rue de dunkerque paris franceWell over three hours to go before my train, and the day wasn’t too bad out there so I decided to walk.

Unleashing the big Nikon D500 I took a test shot of the big hotel, the Hotel Terminus Nord, just across the road from the station.

There is also this rather bizarre statue here too, just outside the station and I’ve absolutely no idea what it’s supposed to represent. I imagine that it’s some kind of winged beast, but that’s about it.

river seine paris franceAccording to the route map that I consulted prior to setting off it was something like 5.5 kilometres as the crow flies between the Gare du Nord and the Gare Montparnasse.

But the way that I was planning to go, it worked out (I checked later on the fitbit) at 7.5 kilometres because I wasn’t going to miss out on a few of the sights while I was in the vicinity. Paris isn’t my favourite city – far from it in fact – but there are still places to see that ought not to be missed.

notre dame paris franceLike Notre Dame for example.

It’s been years since I’ve seen it and it doesn’t half look different now. On 15th April 2019 it caught fire and was very badly damaged. The roof has gone and it took the spire with it. It’s really in a sad condition like now and so here’s hoping that like a phoenix it will rise again from the ashes.

The estimates are that it will cost billions of Euros to restore it, although a considerable part of that money will be to restore parts of the cathedral that were in poor condition prior to the fire.

motor bike sidecar rue de buci paris franceAcross the Pont Neuf or “Bridge number 9” we’re in the Latin Quarter, so puer amat mensam to you, hey?

My intention was to go for a wander around for half an hour but I completely forgot, being sidetracked by this beautiful outfit here. A horizontal twin motorbike, which might have been an elderly BMW or a more modern Urals or Cossack, with a very period sidecar attached.

It’s not the kind of thing that you see on the streets every day and it took me completely by surprise.

inflatable polar bears boulevard st germain paris franceSomething else that took me by surprise was on the corner of the Boulevard St Germain.

It goes without saying that on my travels I’ve seen plenty of polar bears, but never one on a street corner in Paris. We’ve seen actresses standing over the air grids of the Paris Metro and seen their skirts disappear in the updraught, but an inflatable polar bear family is something else.

It made me quite nostalgic for the High Arctic and I wonder how I’m going to get there next year, having had a little disagreement with some people

tour de montparnasse rue de rennes paris franceBy now I was starting to flag a little, so it was with an enormous sigh of relief that I caught sight of the Tour de Montparnasse at the end of the street as I rounded the corner into the rue de Rennes.

It seems to have slipped my mind to mention that I was not actually travelling light today. I had my rucksack which was quite heavy anyway with this and that, and a carrier bag with with a pile of heavy shopping in it.

And even though I can see the Tour de Montparnasse, my walk is far from over. The railway station is a good few hundred yards behind the tower and then I have this enormously long hike all the way down the station to reach the Vaugirard annexe.

electric vehicle charging points rue de rennes paris franceWalking down the rue de Rennes I came across this wonderful sight.

Definitely a sign of the times, this is. With the European Union promising to phase out the manufacture of the internal combustion engine by 2040, there needs to be more electric vehicles on the streets. But there won’t be unless the authorities provide places where the owners can recharge them.

And so this charging station here shows how far along that road the French authorities are in this respect – in great contrast to how they are in several other countries, including the UK.

gare montparnasse boulevard de vaugirard paris franceOn that shocking note I went past the Tour de Montparnasse and there in the distance behind it is the Gare Montparnasse.

The original station, the one where the Granville train failed to stop all those years ago and went hurling across the concourse and out of the end wall into the street, was actually on the site of the tower. And that explains why when the metro from the Gare du Nord throws me out at the “Montparnasse” metro station, I still have this very long underground walk to the Montparnasse railway station.

Yes, they moved the railway station but they didn’t move the metro station with it

Looking at my watch, it was 12:00 or thereabouts when I reached the Gare Montparnasse. 90 minutes or so it had taken me, and that was really impressive considering that I’m not at all well and I had my heavy load to lug around with me.

Mind you, it’s not something that I want to do too often because I was pretty nigh exhausted after that. I was pretty much at it non-stop, without a rest. Next time I do it, if there is a next time there will have to be a pause-café somewhere along the route.

There was a long wait for the train but we were allowed on board earlier then usual. And so we had a longer wait for the train to leave, seeing as its start was delayed by 15 minutes.

Without a ticket I had to sit anywhere in a vacant seat. And so of course it goes without saying that it was reserved to someone else so I had to move.

The ticket collector came by so we had a chat about my ticket, in a delightful conversation where I spoke in French and he replied in English.

alstom regiolis gare de granville railway station manche normandy franceAnd that was one thing.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that having gone for time after time after time in the past without having my ticket checked, it was checked on every train today. Probably a grève de zèle or “work to rule” going on too. So it was just as well that I’d been to the SNCF office to declare myself a “stranded traveller” and have my ticket rubber-stamped by an official.

After all of that I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we reached Vire. And we pulled into Granville bang-on time despite the extra stops that we had and the 15-minute delay.

thora port de granville harbour manche normandy franceHaving left the station and feeling surprisingly fit considering my long walk today, I walked back through the town to the apartment.

While I was going up the rue des Juifs I looked over the wall and there tied up at the unloading quay is our old friend Thora. She’s come in on another trip from the Channel Islands.

This evening I’ve not done much. Finished off the falafel with some veg and cheese sause, and I declined the opportunity to go for a walk. I reckon that with 162% of my daily activity carried out, I’ve done enough. No wonder I was exhausted.

But now I can’t sleep. So I’ll probably be awake for ages but we’ll see how it hangs out. I have a busy day tomorrow.

And as an aside, there were plenty more photos from where these came from that haven’t made it onto this page. If you want to see them, which I hope you do, you need to go to THIS PAGE.

Monday 18th November 2019 – SO HERE I AM …

… back chez moi after a pretty uneventful journey home.

And I do have to say that I’m not sorry to be back because I like my little apartment here on my little rock. It’s not much, but it’s hoe all the same.

But as usual, I couldn’t sleep last night. 01:00 I was still up and about. And I saw 02:00 come round too. But I don’t suppose that it mattered too much because there’s not too much else to do on the train except sleep.

At one point I did manage to drop off to sleep and I was joined during the night by Castor and Pollux. I’ve no idea why or what was going on but I do remember them leaping off the ship into the icy wastes. And I can’t even say if the ship was The Good Ship Ve … errr … Ocean Endeavour either.

The alarm went off at 06:00 as usual and by the time the third alarm went off at 06:20 I was dressed packed, had returned the key and was halfway down the street towards the station.

sncb class 21 electric locomotive leuven railway station belgiumAnd there wasn’t much time to loiter about for the train either.

Well in advance of the 06:42, I was in time for the 06:29. But I wasn’t sure whether that might have been a good idea when I saw what was pulling my train.

It’s one of the old Class 21 locomotives, the oldest of which is now 35 years old. And as more and more of them break down, and as many spare parts are no longer made, the worst ones are starting to be cannibalised to keep the others running for as long as possible.

interior of elderly train sncb belgium But never mind the locomotive. Where there’s an elderly locomotive it’s likely that there will be elderly carriages too and that was the bit that I wasn’t going to enjoy.

And I was right too. We had a rake of rather elderly carriages of the type with the plastic leatherette benches rather than the comfortable cloth seats that are found on more modern rolling stock.

So I settled down thinking to myself how lucky I was only going to Brussels and not to anywhere else any further away.

Things have progressed dramatically on the SNCB over the last few years, haven’t they?

Plenty of time at Brussels-Midi so I bought some raisin buns and sat on a seat to eat breakfast. As usual these days, I was harassed by the odd beggar or two and I told them to p155 off.

But a short while later there was “a commotion” elsewhere in the waiting room involving these people, the Police and Railway security staff were there, bags were being searched and people were being led away.

How bizarre.

Thalys PBKA 4322 gare du midi bruxelles brussels belgiumThe train was already in the station so we could board it quite quickly.

It’s one of the “PBKA” – Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam – trainsets. Quite comfortable of course, and I was asleep before we had even left the station.

The motion of the train departing awoke me and I noticed that we were 15 minutes late leaving. So when the controller came past I asked her if she could note my ticket in case I missed my connection.

However she reckoned that we would make up some of the time and that anyway I’d have plenty of time to make it to Montparnasse – Vaugirard.

So I went back to sleep.

She was right though.

We’d made up about 5 minutes of the lost time and I sailed through the station to the underground and down onto the platform where there was a train already waiting.

As soon as I put my sooty foot upon it, it cleared off out of the station.

No issues on the line as far as the Montparnasse metro station, and then for someunknown reason the walk all the way through the labyrinth undergound and then through the station to the Vaugirard platforms didn’t seem as long as it usually is.

Mind you, there was a diversion for pedestrians due to development, and the new route took me along a platform where TGV had just pulled in, so I was swamped with people.

84xxx gec alsthom regiolis gare de granville manche normandy franceHere’s my train (on the left) at Granville railway station next to its brother who is working the Caen – Rennes line.

My train was already in at Montparnasse – Vaugirard although we had to wait a few minutes to board it. It was a shortened train too, just 6 carriages instead of 12 so there were no seat reservations and it was a free-for-all.

Luckily I managed to have a seat to myself, and I slept most of the way back to Granville.

That’ll teach me to have a late night.

erecting christmas lights rue couraye granville manche normandy franceAnother very good and brisk walk all the way back home again.

The odd stop here and there to see what was going on in the town. And it must be getting near to Christmas because they are now erecting the Christmas lights in the town.

This blasted year has gone round round far too quickly for me.

Freezing cold in the apartment (9°C) so I wound the heater up full blast. did a little casual unpacking and then had a relax for a while doing some stuff on the computer.

And carrying on with my project about downloading digital tracks of some of the albums that I own on vinyl. I’m determined to digitalise everything.

Tea was a bag of aubergine and kidney-bean whatsit followed by fruit salad and coconut cream.

night jersey channel islands granville manche normandy franceAnd then I hit the streets – and immediately came back for the tripod because t was a really beautiful night.

The sky was so clear that you could actually see the individual lights on Jersey – all of 58 kms away, so I was determined to capture them.

But then I hit a snag – I couldn’t work out how to make the delayed shutter action work, so this one hasn’t come out as well as it might have done.

night baie de mont st michel st malo brittany granville manche normandy franceBut by the time that I had made it round to the headland, I’d worked it out. And so this one is much better.

Away in the distance across the bay and behind a headland or two is the city of St Malo. And tonight not only could you see the glow of the lights in the sky, you could actually see one or two lights over there.

It was a good idea to go back for the tripod.

trawler baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy franceThere was a load of traffic out there at sea tonight too.

While I was busy setting up my equipment and taking the photos, I’d seen a light slowly coming closer and closer towards me.

No prizes for guessing what it might be either. It can’t be anything else but a trawler of course, so I took a few photos of it at different speeds and exposures to see if one good one comes out of it.

trawler fishing boats fish processing plant port de granville harbour manche normandy franceIt was a hive of activity in the port tonight.

The tide was quite a way in so there were plenty of fishing boats in the harbour unloading at the fish-processing plant.

I had a good look at them for a while and then came back. Running for part of the way – just a hundred yards or so.

Mind you, I had run up the stairs here to get to my room for the tripod so I’m not complaining.

Tomorrow I’m having a little lie in and then I’m back to work. There is plenty to do and not enought time to do it – the story of my life I suppose.

But at least I’m back home and that is good.

erecting christmas lights rue couraye granville manche normandy france
erecting christmas lights rue couraye granville manche normandy france

erecting christmas lights rue couraye granville manche normandy france
erecting christmas lights rue couraye granville manche normandy france

night baie de mont st michel st malo brittany granville manche normandy france
night baie de mont st michel st malo brittany granville manche normandy france

trawler fishing boats fish processing plant port de granville harbour manche normandy france
trawler fishing boats fish processing plant port de granville harbour manche normandy france

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.

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.

Sunday 20th January 2019 – IT’S BEEN BUILDING …

… up for a while so it’s no surprise that I was going to have a bad day sooner or later. But to have one on the day that I’m travelling is not what I was expecting at all.

Possibly it was the late-ish night that didn’t help, or possibly it was the fact that I couldn’t drop off to sleep..Or maybe even the fact that I awoke at about 05:40. But whatever it was, it wasn’t very good.

Still, no point in holding off the inevitable. I crawled out of bed.

No medication, and no breakfast either. Instead, I had a shower, a clean-up and a change of clothes, and then unplugged all of the electrical appliances (although I realised later that I had still left a few plugged in).

Packing the food and making the butties was next. A quick bit of cleaning up and tidying was next and then I hit the streets.

It was a long, lonely, difficult crawl up to the railway station and I really didn’t feel at all like it.

84569 gec alstom regiolis gare de granville manche normandy franceWhen I arrived at the station the garrulous cleaner was there so we had a little chat about things.

Luckily the train was in so I quickly grabbed a coffee and clambered aboard to my seat. I could sit and eat my breakfast in comfort while I waited for things to happen.

The train set off bang on time and that’s always encouraging, but my optimism didn’t last all that long. We’d only travelled a few miles before there was a call over the PA ystem “could any doctor or nurse on board make themselves known to the ticket collector?”.

Is there a doctor in the house? I hadn’t realised that I looked so bad.

But as it happens, it wasn’t for me.

medical emergency gare du folligny manche normandy franceOur train made an unscheduled stop at Folligny and all of a sudden there were a lot of people running around outside. Eventually, an ambulance pulled up on the station forecourt and the emergency personnel started to run around.

Round about this time I dozed off to sleep but by the time that I awoke we had the SAMU here too. And after a good while they evacuated a person on a stretcher. Judging by the heavy covers over the stretcher and the lack of urgency of the emergency personnel, it can’t have been good news for whoever it was.

75 minutes late, we headed off on our route. I made sure that I had the ticket collector sign my ticket to say that the train was delayed. It’s going to be touch-and-go for me to catch my TGV in Paris.

At Villedieu-les-Poeles I was joined by a fellow-passenger – a charming lady. I was looking forward to some convivial company but she just buried her head in her book and that was that.

70 minutes late at Montparnasse-Vaugirard so I had to move fairly rapidly – the last thing that I felt like. I was interrupted too by some African woman who wanted me to tell her the directions to somewhere or other – but what do I know?

We had a long wait for a metro too. This wasn’t looking good. And it was crowded too but I managed to grab a folding seat and make a start on my butties.

Thalys PBKA 4304 gare du nord paris franceMuch to my surprise, when I arrived at Paris Gare du Nord our train was already at the platform. She is our old friend PBKA 4304. We’ve travelled on this one on several occasions

Even more surprisingly I found that I still had half an hour to wait before I could board the train. I hadn’t been delayed as long as I thought. There was even a free seat in the public area for me to sit and finish off my lunch and that was even more surprising.

We were allowed on board the train early and I ended up with another charming and personable companion. But she was busy on her telephone so I curled up and went to sleep – just waking up long enough to have my ticket inspected.

train railway station leuven belgiumThe train arrived in Brussels a few minutes early which was very nice. I actually had plenty of time to buy my ticket for my train to Leuven.

That was on time too so it wasn’t long before I was in Leuven. A nice comfortable ride in a nice comfortable train.

But winter is here in Leuven, that’s for sure. It’s minus 2°C and there’s plenty of frost lying about all over the place.

At my little lodgings there is no trace of my passport unfortunately, but at least my room is warm and comfortable. I unpacked everything and then, shame as it is to admit it, I crashed out. And for two hours too. I was well away with the fairies.

drainage work tiensestraat leuven belgieI was awake later long enough to walk into town to pick up a pizza. After all, it is Sunday.

One thing that I noticed was that the Tiensestraat is closed off and they’ve dug up the road. Judging by the look of things it seems to be something to do with the drainage. But whatever it is, it will keep them out of mischief for a while.

My pizza was absolutely delicious and I really enjoyed it.

But I was soon back in bed. I just can’t last the pace these days, can I?

medical emergency gare du folligny manche normandy france
medical emergency gare du folligny manche normandy france

drainage work tiensestraat leuven belgie
drainage work tiensestraat leuven belgie

drainage work tiensestraat leuven belgie
drainage work tiensestraat leuven belgie

Thursday 27th December 2018 – THE ONLY PROBLEM …

… with going to bed early is that despite all of my best efforts, I end up waking up early.

But no danger of me leaving the stinking pit at 04:50. Instead I turned over and tried to go back to sleep until the alarm at 06:00.

I’d been on my travels too. I was making some coconut macaroons so I’d deep-fried the mandarin oranges and I’d assembled a pile of desiccated coconut but I couldn’t remember what else to put in them. And so I was scratching around trying to find a recipe.

When the alarm went off, I was up quite quickly and finished the packing. I left some stuff behind but all that I could practically take, I brought with me.

It was a good plan to come home today because there was almost no-one around. At the station, I arrived just as the express from Genk pulled in. And it was still there by the time I had bought my ticket so I leapt aboard. Usually it’s packed to the gunwhales but today it was quite empty as the commuters have another day off.

No-one in the queue at the Carrefour supermarket on the station where I bought my raisin buns for breakfast, and I forgot AGAIN about the chemists – to see if the one on the station would be open.

Thalys PBKA 4304 gare du nord paris franceOur train was our old friend 4304 – one of the Thalys PBKA (Paris, Brussels, Köln, Amsterdam) trainsets from the mid-90s. Nice and comfortable but starting to show its age like most of them.

There were a few spare seats on board too so we weren’t too hemmed in. I sent the journey to Paris reading a book in comparative comfort.

At the Gare du Nord I stepped onto the Metro platform just as a train pulled in. And that was empty too. I had a seat all the way to Montparnasse which was just as well because this lt in my luggage was heavy.

84577 gec alstom regiolis gare de montparnasse vaugirard paris franceAs I negotiated my way around Montparnasse, Rosemary rang me. And we had a little chat for a few minutes. Then I had to nip down to Vaugirard for my train.

It was already there so I had to shift someone out of my seat before I could make myself comfortable. And it was cold on there too. Ice and frost everywhere and as we left the station we rolled into a thick bank of fog that came with us all the way to Granville.

Not that I know all about it because I had a little doze along the way.

Outside the station I was almost squidged by a woman driver who doesn’t seem to understand the principle of a zebra crossing.

It was a struggle to come back here. I was definitely feeling the strain of all of my exertions. But I eventually made it back and I was glad, even though it was cold in here.

I haven’t done much since I’ve been back. Just some unpacking (but not all of it) and made my tea (a burger and the veg that I brought back).

night fog fishing boats port de granville harbour manche normandy franceLater on, I went for my usual evening walk around the headland.

By now, the fog had come down and closed in and it wasn’t very easy to see anything. Everything outside was swathed in a surreal orange glow thanks to the reflection of the street lights.

It wasn’t thick enough to dissuade the fishing boats from working. There were plenty of those unloading in the harbour tonight.

So now I’m off for an early night. I’ve earned it, and I need it too. But whether I’ll get it is another thing. You know how things are these days.

night fog fishing boats port de granville harbour manche normandy france
night fog fishing boats port de granville harbour manche normandy france

night fog fishing boats port de granville harbour manche normandy france
night fog fishing boats port de granville harbour manche normandy france