Tag Archives: belgium

Friday 15th September 2023 – AS BARRY HAY …

… once famously said, "there’s just one thing – IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK HOME".

And you’ve no idea the size of the sigh of relief that escaped from my lips when I collapsed into my chair here in my office.

Hardly surprising since I’ve been on the road since 05:20 this morning. That was when my alarm went off and I was already packed and dressed. It didn’t take too long to load up the car and then hit the road.

Alison dropped me off at the Kortenberg railway station and it took me a while to work out how to reach the platform. It’s not like a conventional station and things take some hunting down.

nevertheless I was soon on the platform and in time for the 06:28 to Brussels. And it was just as well that I chose that train because these are low-line commuter units where the floor is level with the platform, not like the urban express double-deckers where there’s a climb up into the carriage that I can no longer accomplish.

The rain pulled in bang on time so I had about 75 minutes to wait.

However, what I’d learnt so far today was that the 65 minutes to traverse Paris isn’t going to be enough. I need to think of another plan.

At the booking office they wouldn’t let me change my ticket, but up on the platform, speaking to the train manager I had better luck and she let me hop aboard one of the casual seats at the back of the bar, which I thought was very nice of her.

And it was just as well too because with the renovations taking place at the Gare du Nord they have moved the taxi rank from just outside the door and now it’s a real marathon trek to the rank. I really was finished long before I reached it.

As luck would have it, the taxi marshal waved me to the front of the queue and I had a really nice and chatty lady driver who drove me to Montparnasse.

There was 33 minutes to wait for the departure of my train so it was just as well that I’d caught the earlier train. I was able to grab a cup of coffee which was also just as well – that’s all that I had to eat or drink on the journey because I’d forgotten my bottle of ginger beer in Alison’s fridge.

The train was packed and we were crammed in like sardines. I managed a brief five minutes of … errr … relaxing, but that was all.

It was on time pulling into the station and I was lucky in that I only had to wait two minutes for the bus to the town centre. And from there I had a horrible, miserable walk to the bus stop at the port for my bus up here.

There’s no kerb there and the buses don’t kneel down very much so climbing in was a real effort. And then climbing up the stairs to here, I just couldn’t do it. In the end I had to take off my backpack and drag it on the floor behind me. I am not ever going to do this journey again.

Back here when I finally arrived I made myself an ice-cold drink and came in here where I crashed out on the chair and that was really that.

Tea tonight was sausage chips and beans (I’ll end up looking like a sausage after this week) and then we had football on the internet – Colwyn Bay v Aberystwyth.

The match was a real bottom-of-the-table shocker that Colwyn Bay won 3-1, and I have to be honest and say that they won’t ever have a victory as easy as that again. After only 40 minutes the commentator said “Mae Aberystwyth yn siomedig” – Aberystwyth are disappointing – and that was aun understatement.

One bright spark for Aberystwyth was that at half-time they brought on a left-back called Akeem Hinds. I hadn’t seen him before. He certainly livened up the team with some good interceptions and some beautiful crosses into the penalty area.

What with Colwyn Bay’s Nigerian forward Udoyen Akpan who has come to the club from Cyprus, here are two players on whom I shall be keeping a very close eye.

Mind you, I said the same about Okera Simmonds who played for Y Fflint last season, and he disappeared without trace. I must be the Kiss of Death.

Surprisingly, despite the short night there were tons of stuff on the dictaphone. I don’t know what was happening here but I was pulling nails and plastic skewers out of my foot. I took one out and it didn’t ‘arf hurt. I just wondered whether that was symbolic of the pains that I’m having in my feet or something at the moment.

The next thing was that the alarm went off so I trued to turn off the dictaphone and tried to turn off a couple of other things. I suddenly realised that it was the phone. I fell out of bed and crawled across the floor to turn off the phone. For some reason my brother wouldn’t leave the bed so the girl with me was wondering what on earth was the matter with him. Suddenly I looked at my watch and saw that it was 01:27. I’d awoken and actually dreamed of the alarm going off.

I was with my mother and brother. We pulled into Paris. We left the train and walked outside the station ready to walk across Paris to the next railway station. There were kids on bikes and scooters having fun in one of the squares. My mother said something like “we need to be careful around here because of all these kids” but they looked fairly harmless to me. For some eason we became separated. My mother and brother went off down one street and I went off down the other. I was sure that I was correct. This road took me to the top of a hill where I could see right over Paris. It looked miles away but the way my mother was going was even further away. I shouted for my mother but couldn’t hear anything so I carried on walking by myself in a field. I shouted again and this time she answered. The fence was quite high and I couldn’t climb it so I had to walk back to where the fence was low and then climb up a bank to go over the top. As I climbed up the bank the top kept falling down and I kept sliding down to the bottom again. This happened several times. In the end there was a vehicle, some kind of army lorry buried in the bank. Suddenly it gave a lurch and rolled over, throwing me onto the floor near where my mother and brother were . They said “quickly, grab that guy …” and mentioned someone’s name “… and he’ll take us”. But I couldn’t see who it was that she meant because I couldn’t see anyone around

I was with my friends from the weekend. We’d just left the train and gone walking. We came across a big bush that was on fire. We tried to stop the fire by stamping it but it burnt me. The fire gradually burnt itself out. All the climbing ivy over this object died so we scraped away some of the ivy and that was a job and a half of its own. We found a woman sitting there. Apparently she was with some kind of Social Services and had come to check up on us to make sure that we were all OK and not up to mischief. Of course we caught her like this.

When we finally did leave the house we ended up at the end of the drive and across the road into the chemist’s, nearly being knocked down by a big old Humber that stopped to let us through. I handed a form to the chemist and said “four dailies”. He said “this isn’t the correct form. Where’s the rest of it? It should be twice this size”. He showed me a full example of a form. The last thing I wanted was an argument so I took the form back and said “just give us four dailies”. She rattled off four dailies. One of my friends went to pay but it was £30 and something. That horrified him but I thought that this job of getting to the station to catch his train was just so complicated that we weren’t ever going to manage this at all at this rate. All we want is four tickets and it was turning into a right pantomime

I was in a butcher’s buying food for tea for about a dozen meals that I needed. He sat down with some huge piles of meat and began to give me things like brains of DH Lawrence etc. I wondered what on earth was going on because I was a vegan and he was giving me all these cuts of meat to eat for my tea

Anyway, I’m off to bed. Shopping tomorrow and I don’t feel at all like it. As I said, I’m not going to be doing this journey again. I just can’t.

Thursday 14th September 2023 – THERE’S GOOD NEWS …

… and there’s bad news.

The bad news today is that the professor came to see me today to tell me that they have tried everything that they have in their armoury and there’s nothing left to try.

Mind you, she did say that she was impressed that I’ve kept going as long as I have. She told me quite frankly that when I turned up there seven and a half years ago for the first time, she was worried that I wouldn’t pull through at all.

Anyway, my sleeping patters are back to where they used to be. I awoke a couple of times during the night and I was fast asleep when the alarm went off.

There had been plenty of little travels during the night. An Asian woman who was the mother of a friend of mine – in fact the mother of a girl whom I knew. I thought that it was a girl whom I knew from school but it could well have been Castor had come down to the road into Tarporley from Chester. She was ever so upset because someone from the school had turned up in an awful panic and said that she hadn’t brought any of the children with her. They were all about to get into her car and be driven here but they all disappeared. None of them actually got in and she couldn’t find them. The mother was distraught. I said that that reminded me of a dream that I’d had ages ago that she had actually turned up with a group of other children at this spot and I went to fetch her but she was with her brother and they all said that they had something else important to do and couldn’t do. They just simply disappeared from the spot where I was standing. I thought that that was an amazing coincidence that I’d had that in a dream and then something almost identical had happened like that in real life.

There’s an interesting story about this girl whom I knew. When she started at school everyone agreed that she would grow up to be a real stunner. Anyway a good few years later I’d been delivering freight to Northern Ireland and was on my way back home and decided to stop off for some fish and chips and a beer.

At Galgate just outside Lancaster was a pub that brewed its own beer and a fish and chip shop next door so I went there. And who was serving behind the bar?

“What are you doing here?” I asked.
3I’m a student at the University and I work here sometimes to earn some cash”.

It goes without saying that every time there was some freight to go north, I’d be the first to volunteer

Coming up to Easter “what plans do you have?”
“I don’t know. I want to go home but I can’t afford the trip”
“Would you like me to come and pick you up?”.

So back at home we went out together for a few times until the famous night that I invited her back to my house. My old black cat was extremely antisocial and always went to hide when people came round but when she walked in, the cat went over, jumped on her lap and settled down
“Ohhh look! Even Tuppence likes her!” I thought

On the way home later I said to the girl “thank you for the lovely evening. I’d be really happy if you’d like to come round again”.
“Yes-s-s-s-s” she stuttered. “But you’ll have to get rid of that cat! I hate cats!”
And the rest, as they say, is history.

With Nerina, Tuppence never stood a chance.
“Ohhh look! A cat!” she said. And she’d bent down and picked up the cat and began to stroke her before Tuppence had even had time to react.
And the rest of that was history too.

Then we were in Nantwich, walking up Welsh Row towards the school. We met a girl whom we knew who was really quite excited, telling us that they’d had a visitor at school, someone really important. It turned out to be the King or Prime Minister, someone handicapped who needed help to move around but was one of the most important men in the Kingdom. He’d been to the field opposite the school

And finally I was having a big chat with a neighbour and a few other people, discussing globalisation and international commerce from an individual’s point of view last night.

There wasn’t long to hang around though because Alison was in a rush. We drove through the fog and mist to the hospital where I had to wait for an age to sign in.

The kidney specialist poked and prodded me as I told him my tale of woe. Not that it did me much good because although he listened quite intently, he didn’t change anything at all.

He did give me a prescription for the next batch of medication – three months of it too. I went and had the prescription made up and I’ve no idea now how I’m going to manage to take everything home with me.

The doctor had sent me off to give a blood test too and to my surprise (and yours too) the nurse had no problems whatever in finding some.

Next stop was the Social Services department. I’d received a bill for treatment which surprised me because there’s a direct billing arrangement with my health insurance provider.

No need to give a blood sample in the afternoon, having given one in the morning.

At the meeting with the doctor though she did the usual bit about asking me all kinds of questions and then doing nothing whatever to change anything that I’m taking. And then the professor came to see me for a chat.

There was some good news too, as I mentioned. The doctor considers that the state of my mobility is now non-existent so she game me a certificate to that effect.

That means that in principle (because insurance companies can be bizarre) I’m entitled to claim my travelling expenses. In other words, while claiming the train is out of the question, I can go by taxi, obtain a receipt and then submit it for review in the hope that someone somewhere will pay it.

Consequently I had a hospital porter push me to the front door in a wheelchair, and then had a nice new Mercedes taxi back to Alison’s house.

Once I was back here I had a little … errr … relax and then slowly began to pack my things.

Tea was more pasta and sausages and now I’m off to bed because I have to raise myself at … errr … 05:15. Alison wants to be on the road by 05:40 at the latest and I have a train at a wayside station at 06:28.

That’s something that I don’t want to miss because I shall be in a rush all day tomorrow.

And I’ll tell you something for nothing – I’ll be glad to be back home and I won’t be doing this again.

Wednesday 13th September 2023 – IT LOOKS AS IF …

… I’m slipping back into my old routine again, as far as sleep goes right now. For the first time for several days I awoke in the middle of the night.

Not only that, I crashed out again in the middle of the afternoon for 20 minutes and it’s been a good few days since I’ve done that – apart, obviously, from when I’ve been exerting myself by going walkabout outside.

Regardless of all of that, I was still wide-awake before the alarm went off, just on the point of putting my feet down onto the floor.

However, it seems that I’ve been going one place backwards yet again. The sofa is quite low and for the first couple of days the only way that I could stand up is by going via a chair. After that, I was able to push myself up from that low position. But today, it was a real struggle.

After Alison had gone to work I spent all of the day sorting out stuff for the next series of radio programmes that will be broadcast in the second half of next year.

Importantly, there are two festivals that have caught my eye. One programme will be broadcast on the anniversary of the first Hawkfest and another one will be broadcast on the anniversary of the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival.

The Hawkfest one is going to be quite interesting.

There are half a dozen groups which, if my listeners and the radio station manager would stomach it, I would broadcast during an entire programme non-stop from start to finish. Hawkwind would be one of them. Unfortunately that’s not really appropriate.

Hidden away in my music collection is a whole pile of esoteric stuff relating to groups who have played at one or other Hawkfest so what I’m going to do is to recreate my own Radio Hawkfest for broadcast on the appropriate anniversary date. That’s one of the things that I’ve been doing today.

The Isle of Wight Festival is a much easier proposition. I’ve found a list of bands, a few set lists and all that kind of thing so a programme like that won’t be too difficult to assemble. Most importantly, I’ve been able to trace quite a few press reports and the like that give interesting facts about the performers and the music that I can add in as appropriate

It’s not easy though, doing all this audio-editing on the laptop. It’s not the most powerful of computers and that was one of the reasons why I bought the monster desktop version. But whatever I can do here, regardless of how long it takes me, means that I have less to do when I finally return home, even if it will be much quicker.

In between everything else I had another wash. Once more in the kitchen because I cant make it up the stairs. This time I remembered to close the blinds in the kitchen before I started so as not to surprise anyone who might be walking down the path of the house next door.

Alison had even found be a bucket so I could give my feet a good scrub. I can’t fit them in the sink and I’m not able to climb onto a chair.

Really? I ask you! What kind of state am I in these days?

There was a lot of stuff on the dictaphone from the night. I’d had a huge row with my family, a really violent argument. In the end I stormed away, climbed into Caliburn and set out to drive away to the family home. I didn’t really want to go home because that was where they’d come looking for me. In the end I parked up somewhere in a field and sat and watched these vehicles driving down the track alongside the river suddenly come to the end and trying all to find ways to drop down into the field. There were things like these old Morris vans, a 3-wheeled version rather like Heinkel bubble-cars but enormous ones that were trying to drop down into this field with 1 or 2 overturning on the way. In the end I set out to walk into town from there. My brother bumped into me and insisted on following me about. While I was in one particular street there was a place advertising Bed and Breakfast. I thought that with it being a Sunday tomorrow I’d go in here and see. It meant climbing down a couple of weird flights of steps to reach the front door but the people came out. They seemed nice and friendly and charged me £30 per night which I thought was reasonable. My brother insisted on hanging around and I couldn’t get rid of him – he just wouldn’t leave me alone. I remember saying that¨£30 per night, I’ll remember this place if I have to come around in this kind of situation again.

And then I had a Ford Cortina that was causing me a few problems. I had it in the garage and was crawling underneath it. I could see that the exhaust was broken. I had to cut off the back box part to have a look to see what was happening. I cut it off and I could see the air filter inside the exhaust. Cecile came down and she was interested in what was happening. I showed her and she went to fetch a friend to show her the air filter. At that moment a girl whom I knew came in. She had a boy with her and they were talking so I thought that I’d go into the kitchen and wash my hands. My mother was in there. We were talking about washing my hands when the phone rang just once then stopped. She had a look and said that it’s Nigel Gregory ringing for your sister to apologise for last night. I said “she’s in the garage with some guy at the moment”. She replied “it won’t take long”. While I was washing everyone came in for tea. We were talking about the exhaust. I said that the exhaust for a 1.6 is cheaper than for a 2.0 so I suppose that we ought to have that, waiting for some kind of comment from Darren. He didn’t actually say anything at the time. Earlier on I’d been in some kind of woodworking class where there was a kind-of bench. I was trying to draw a circle on a piece of OSB with a set of compasses but it was much more complicated that I thought. The people next to me were borrowing my tools and putting them back so I didn’t object too much. They made a comment about my little socket set that I had. I said “just wait until you see the big one that I have in the car”. When I’d drawn my circle to some kind of satisfaction I took a G-clamp and went to clamp it to the bench but there was no threaded rod in it so I had to find another one then clamp it to the bench. I borrowed the wood saw off the guy in the bay next to mine and began to saw away at these marks that I’d made ready to cut the circle out of this OSB

Someone posted a photo of the National League South table pointing out “look how well Torquay were doing” but someone else commented that that was the National League South and it’s the National League here so that photo shouldn’t be posted, which led to some kind of heated debate

Tea tonight was pasta in a cheese and tomato sauce with vegetables and a couple of those delicious vegan sausages. They really were delicious too.

It’s Castle Anthrax tomorrow where they can check up on me and see what this last 4 months has done to me. So I’ll probably go to bed and hope for a good sleep on my comfy sofa. It’s an early start as Alison is dropping me off on her way to work. I’ll have to catch the bus home afterwards though.

It’ll be interesting to see how I’ve been doing after all this time without treatment for my cancer. That might be stable at the moment but the problem is that everything else is breaking down.

It’s for that reason that my trip to Paris will be interesting. Not so much that I’m expecting them to work miracles – it will just be nice to see them try. You never know what might happen.

Tuesday 12th September 2023 – I HAVE HAD …

… the kind of day today that you can only ever have in Belgium.

In the middle of my Welsh lesson, during which I was speaking Welsh, I had a ‘phone call which I had to answer, and ended up having a conversation in French.

Back to the Welsh lesson, speaking Welsh again, and someone came to the door, so I ended up having a conversation in Flemish.

And then back to speaking Welsh.

It reminded me of the time years ago when I was living here and there were 14 of us sitting round a table talking in French, and French was the mother-tongue of none of us.

Something else that was good and interesting was that I had another excellent night’s sleep again and I wish that I could have a few more of those. I’ve really no idea why that might be because sofas are not actually renowned for their comfort and my bed was the best that I could afford.

Anyway I was up once more before the alarm went off and had a very slow awakening before I was ready to Fight The Good Fight.

Alison was going to work late this morning so she dropped me off at the supermarket in the village where I stocked up on the basics that I need to keep me going until Friday morning.

The walk back here with a heavy rucksack was not easy because it’s much further than you might think and the road is quite uneven. So I was glad to be back and have my cheese and tomato on toast, especially now that I have some tomato to go on it.

There was something on the dictaphone from the night. I was in Canada talking to my niece. Actually, I wasn’t in Canada but somewhere else and she was there. We were chatting and she was talking about the tyres. She had a little Subaru vehicle that she used as a private runabout. She had a certain type of tyre on it which she found to be great in winter when she was in and out. My car over there had Arctic Grip tyres on it but her husband’s vehicle had racing tyres which surprisingly gave him the best grip of all in the snow and ice. They’d already had snow and ice there. There was plenty of snow but it had all levelled out. They also had a guy with a cattle truck, one that my father had found for him. He used to work for people in the area including my niece in transporting the cattle around from one day to the next to different places in the area.

It’s not easy having my Welsh lesson using the mobile phone but the computer isn’t powerful enough to run videos. We have a couple of new students in our class this year so hopefully we’ll keep on going.

The good news is that there’s no exam at the end of the year so I might go to take the exam that I should have taken last summer. Having spent all that time away and then in hospital, I didn’t feel that I’d done enough prepare me for it.

The discussion in Flemish was with the guy who mows Alison’s lawn, but the phone call in French was with the hospital where I went 10 days ago, and that was much more exciting.

"Mr Hall, we’ve arranged a bed for you. We’d like you to set aside a week to come to stay with us, starting 25th September"

So six weeks from seeing the Specialist to seeing the Hospital Consultant, and then three and a half weeks from seeing the Consultant to being called into the hospital. It’s not quite the four days that I had to wait when I first came to Leuven in 2016, but it’s still treatment that you would never have on the NHS.

After the lesson was over I had a slice of toast and a coffee and then crashed out. I’d been fighting off sleep since I came back from my walk but in the end I succumbed.

While I’d been asleep we’d had a rainstorm so the Angel Of The Lord Came Down And Gave Another Rinse to the clothes that I’d had drying outside. They aren’t ever going to dry at this rate.

For the rest of the afternoon I’ve been doing more radio stuff and then I went for tea – burger on a bun with pasta and veg in a tomato and cheese sauce.

When Alison came back we had a chat and then she went off to bed. Now that I’ve written my notes I’m going to bed too and if I sleep as well as I have done this last couple of days I’ll be more than happy.

Monday 11th September 2023 – EVEN THOUGH I …

… had the alarm set for 06:30 this morning I was still up and about before it went off.

As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … this settee is one of the most comfortable places where I’ve ever slept.

Even more interestingly, I’ve not had one of these night-sweats that I’ve been having just recently back at home. I’ve no idea what’s happening. I think that Alison might be afraid that I’d be wanting to move in here permanently.

Something else that was quite surprising too is that I remembered to take my medicine too – the first time since Thursday last week. It’ll be interesting to see what will happen to my sleeping pattern now that I’m back on the medication.

Loads of stuff on the dictaphone from the night. I started off in Nantwich, walking up Welsh Row towards the Grammar School where I used to attend. There were people there and it was late at night. I was intending to walk up one of the side streets that were there. Suddenly we came under attack. We were in a big spacecraft thing so we all had to fit into our flying suits, like a large sack of something. We had to unzip it and it was like 3 flying suits all joined together. It took ages to sort them out because we’d never done this before. We were panicking quite badly because the attack was quite severe. In the end the first person in front climbed into his. I managed to unzip the parts behind him so I could climb into the middle piece. Someone else unzipped the part behind to climb into the back. We were then ejected n some kind of capsule into Space. We could see the fog, mist and ice forming on the outside of our helmets etc. It was freezing cold in this capsule but the 3 of us inside more or less the same flying suit meant that it was extremely warm in there too as far as we were concerned. We were quite comfortable even though ice was forming everywhere. But what this had to do with Nantwich I’ve really no idea

Back into this dream again. The woman recognised her daughter first then the father recognised her later. There they were in the middle of the Square in Sandbach dressed informally and were giving her a hug. They tried to question her about where she’d been and what she’d done but I explained that this wasn’t the best time to do it here in public because you never know who’s listening and what kind of capabilities they had, where the surroundings actually either don’t help anyone or just work in their favour.

I was with a girl last night talking about a couple whom we knew. They were a very strange couple. She was a straight-laced young girl and he was an older guy, rather wild. She asked if they had any profession or anything. It turned out that she was a former probation officer and she was someone whom she’d encountered during her work and they’d started a relationship together, which was extremely strange. This conversation went on for quite some time. She suggested that we go to meet some people whom she knew. She took me on a walk around the town in the rain. We ended up in these blocks of buildings which were actually 4 flats. She just came to the door of one of them and walked in. There were all kinds of people around here in this living room, I suppose, where she’d entered without even knocking. There was a girl having her eyebrows plucked by someone. She was in her underclothes. There was a cat being fed with a bottle, a pile of kids and an old woman. She went off into another room to fetch someone. I had to make some small talk with these strange people, introduce myself etc. It was certainly not the meeting that I’d been expecting with people. It was one of the strangest groups of people or families that I’d ever encountered

I don’t know where this fitted in with anything but on my travels during the night I saw a National Express coach reverse into a parking bay at the same time that a pile of kids were trying to alight. It was a woman driver reversing it. I thought that it was probably the most dangerous thing that I’d ever seen, all these people alighting from the coach as she was backing it up into this bay.

All of the day has been spent choosing music for the radio programmes for next year. I’m doing things slightly differently for next year so choosing the music is much more complicated in certain circumstances. It’s the more complicated ones that I’ve been doing today.

There was an interruption though – the Jehovah’s Witnesses came a-calling. They didn’t stay long though – I soon to saw to that.

Washing myself is a complicated affair so I can’t go upstairs. I ended up washing in the kitchen and I was half-way through when I thought that it might be a good idea to close the blinds in the window.

While I was at it I washed my clothes to date. I managed to hang them over a couple of chairs in the garden, only for them to receive an extra rinse. We had a torrential downpour this evening.

Tea tonight was pasta in my home-made cheese sauce with a vegan burger in a baguette. It was surprisingly delicious.

Alison was late coming home from work so we had a good chat for a while and now it’s bedtime. Tomorrow I’m going to have an attempt to go to the supermarket. It’s 400 metres up the road so it will be a brave try but we are running low on supplies.

So I’d better clear off an have a good sleep so I’m ready to fight the good fight.

Sunday 10th September 2023 – SO FAR THE SCORE ..

… is “Eric 2, Alison’s cups and saucers 0”. And that was just trying to make one meal here this evening. By the time that I leave here after my hospital appointment Alison won’t have any crockery left

However, look on the bright side This sofa on which I’m sleeping is one of the most comfortable on which I’ve ever slept. Once I’d finally gone to sleep last night I had the best night’s sleep that I’d had for some considerable time.

So much so that at 06:15 I was awake and by 08:00 I was up and about, feeling quite refreshed. How about that for a Sunday?

Hans came down a short while later and brought me a coffee, and when everyone had finally assembled down here we went for breakfast in Tervuren where we were yesterday.

Alison knew a scenic route through the park and the forest and quite luckily there was a parking space nearby.

Everyone else had patisserie but I had my bread rolls with jam, coffee and orange juice. We sat in the sun for hours and put the world to rights.

Later on we came home and an elderly lady passer-by actually helped me into the car which was very nice.

Back here we sat in the sun, nibbled on bits and carried on with our chat, and then Alison took Hans to the airport and Jackie to the station. There wasn’t much point my going, although after seeing the kind of damage that I can do while tidying up, I bet that Alison wished that I’d accompanied her.

Instead, I had a listen to the dictaphone. There was something going on last night about finding medals stuffed down sofas. When we uncovered this one we had a feeling that it was fake. later on there was an issue at a petrol station. I was with Paul. In the end I can’t remember very much but ha had to speak to a cashier. At the end of each line of petrol pumps at these Motorway services there was a kind-of hatch where there should have been a bank employee sitting. We had a drive around this fuel station but could only see one that was occupied, right at the top of the hill. We had to go to the bottom, swing the car round and drive back up again to pull up alongside the kiosk.

I then had to go to pickup someone at the airport at 12:45 – pick them up to take them to the airport. I was in one of these Japanese-style midi vehicles from the 1980s. I found the address and pulled up outside but no-one came out. I was waiting for about 15 minutes. Then I saw that the door was open and the keys were in the door. I imagined that they must have wanted me to go along and knock. I went and knocked, and a guy and a few boys dressed in some kind of sports uniform and track suit came out, said their goodbyes to whoever was in the house and went into my vehicle ready to leave.

Later on Alison had bought some kind of dancing sheep, cut-out trains and earth-moving equipment that were being used as a promotion for a cartoon film about sheep. She asked me to look at it. It was cheap and not very good, one or two of the things didn’t work properly so for just £1:00 or whatever I thought that it was quite interesting and amusing. It turned out that she’d paid £60:00 for one pack and £50-odd for the second. I thought that that was absurd. She realised that it was expensive, particularly as one or two of the things didn’t work but she happened to fall in love with them when she saw them being stored at the side of the road. Later on when we were around at her house which was actually Rosemary’s, thinking of something else I asked her if all the vehicles had been removed from that plot of land, thinking of the place where Terry found that old van that we drove away. She said “no, there’s just the old red one left”. I couldn’t remember any red one there. She said “the one that my son was going to use when he started his business before he died. I had someone come and take away all the others but that one hasn’t gone yet”. I realised then that we weren’t talking about the same plot of land at all. I was talking about one next to her cottage in France which was all overgrown etc.

There was something else with cars too. We were preparing a fleet of vehicles ready to go to a war zone, big red American-type tipper vehicles towing trailers. We prepared them. Before that there was a building site nearby. I’d been there to ask if they needed any volunteers to do any work. They asked about what I did, and to come back the next morning. I was there preparing these cars. In the end there was just one like an American Cobra sports car left. We couldn’t find the key to it. We spent hours sorting out the seat belt for it. When it was ready the guy looked under the table and found the key. he asked “what’s this key doing here?”. I replied “I don’t know – I’ve never seen it before”. he looked at it, looked at the registration number of the car and said “it’s one off the buses off on the holiday tomorrow”. I asked everyone what I was supposed to be doing tomorrow. One of his children – he had four, 2 boys, a girl and another who, although it was the oldest, was the smallest and rather fragile. This smallest one said to me “it’s lime-washing tomorrow again, I’m afraid”.

We had something about a cup of tea. Tea in Italy was something of a delight and they’d bought me a tea and a biscuit. The tea had milk in it but it tasted really nice. I couldn’t understand that because normally I wouldn’t drink tea with milk. It tastes bitter anyway

For tea I had pasta in a cheese sauce with olive oil, black pepper and oregano along with a couple of the vegan sausages that I’d bought yesterday.

Alison has an early start in the morning so I’m going to bed early. It would be nice to drink a coffee with her before she goes to work.

And then I can find a few things to do; to keep me out of mischief.

Saturday 9th September 2023 – ALISON’S SOFA …

… is one of the most comfy places in which I’ve ever slept.

There is actually a bed for me but to tell the truth, I can’t make it up the stairs any more so “arrangements” were made. Oh!!! How the mighty have fallen

For a change, I was the first awake (with no alarm) but the others soon came to join me and we sat outside in the heat and drank coffee.

Later on we headed into Tervuren. Alison knows a nice cafe where they do pastries so while they were tucking into pastries and coffee I had bread rolls and strawberry jam.

Up the street we then went to see Alison’s new house. It looks quite small from the outside but it’s a real labyrinth inside. We had the guided tour while she outlined her plans.

The sale was only concluded on Monday and she’s decided to have a pile of work done to it before she thinks about moving in

On the way back home we raided the English Shop for Ginger Beer, ice cream (I even found some vegan ice cream) and vegan food for me, then we came home to sit outside in the heat with ice cream and ginger pop like something out of an Enid Blyton novel.

We found a new vegan restaurant that does a buffet where you pay by weight so that seemed like a good idea.

We knew where it was but driving to it was another complication but we eventually settled down. And I’m glad that we went because the food really was delicious.

Back here now, everyone’s exhausted and gone to bed. I’ll be going too in a minute, but not before I exploit a remarkable discovery that I’ve made.

If I select more than one piece of music (like a whole album-full for example) and keep them selected while I go into “properties”, I can batch-edit all of the properties for each track simultaneously.

1994 was the first time that I played with “Windows” and it’s taken me that long to work this out.

What’s even more bizarre is that I discovered it by accident too.

One final thing – the dictaphone. There was some stuff on there from my nice, comfortable night. I had posted on a Social Network page that I was planning on leaving Leuven and going back home. Someone posted to ask if I could bring something back. I replied that it wasn’t possible so someone else asked me if I could bring back something else. I explained that that wasn’t possible either. It ended up with me being given a rather unfortunate heap of abuse.

There was also a dream about a load of Port Vale replica football tops which were not in Port Vale colours at all and a series of bad “knock knock” jokes told by a girl of about 4. And I’m glad that I can’t remember them. After all they won’t trouble my sleeping any.

Friday 8th September 2023 – THAT WAS A …

… horrible journey and I don’t ever want to do it again.

As usual, when I’m going away, I had a bad night’s sleep and spend much of the hours of darkness tossing and turning.

Nevertheless I was up and about (in principle) before the alarm went off

First thing that I did was to grab a shower and then I did a few last-minute things before going out for the bus.

The bus was there but the driver wasn’t so I had to wait a few minutes before he turned up. And then we set off with a bunch of kids who were staying at the youth hostel in the town and who had been for a morning run.

The bus threw me out at the port and I had a 200-metre walk to the bus stop around the corner where the next bus would pick me up. And it was this 200 metres so early in the journey that convinced me that my travelling days are over.

There was a 20-minute wait for the bus during which time firstly my cleaner went past and rearranged my backpack on my shoulders, and then one of the girls from the radio came past and said hello.

The bus didn’t drop me off at the station but across the road so it was a long walk. And with my carriage being right down at the far end it was something of a scramble to be seated before the train pulled out

Updating all of those files took an age, not helped by the fact that I had a little … errr …relax at some point, and we were late pulling into Montparnasse too.

What with one thing and another I’d decided long-since that I was going to throw caution to the wind and have a taxi across Paris, but the walk to the taxi rank was about as far as the walk to the underground, which is regrettable

The ride with a friendly taxi driver wasn’t as expensive as I thought, but my leg had collapsed again getting into his car so I wasn’t enjoying it one bit

To make matters worse I staggered into the Disabled Persons’ room and asked for assistance to board my train to Brussels but they told me to clear off because I hadn’t booked 24 hours in advance.

So four of the assistants there sat and watch me make my slow weary way all the way down the platform to my carriage right at the far end of the train.

There was plenty of stuff on the dictaphone from the night. We were back at school – some kind of sports day with competitions etc. We were with our own House and had to stay with our own House all day. There were all kinds of things going on in the way of competition etc. The final one was a football match so we all had to go to our various common rooms afterwards to prepare. It was then that I realised that in all my things I didn’t have any shoes with me do it looked as if I would be playing in my socks. I didn’t really fancy playing too much because of that so when they began to talk about goalkeepers someone asked a girl “have you ever tried to be rather rough with a goalkeeper when you have the ball in the penalty area. I replied “you can always try it with me and see what happens” but no-one seemed to pick up on it so I didn’t bother all that much. I went up to the common room to prepare. One of the girls was closing the door so I had to insist and make some kind of rude comment before she’d open it again. There was a girl there from about 2 years younger than us whom I knew. Her boyfriend was in our year. The two of them were together and there was another girl in a green check dress – our colours were blue so I don’t know where she was from and what she was doing in there.

Back into this dream again, I eventually made it into the room when they let me in and sorted out into houses except these two girls and I don’t know what was happening with one of them. The other one was with her boyfriend, and we were joking about the football with my ingrowing toenail on my right foot and wasn’t going to be very happy for it especially as I didn’t have my shoes etc with me.

Back once more into the same dream and we were all back in our groups again, going back up Welsh Row towards the Grammar School dressed in our school uniform. Something happened and one of the boys pointed to another one in our class and called him names because he was more interested in eating a bar of chocolate than playing football. There were a few other things like that too.

This was another dream that took place in connection with a school. This time I was in a bath and the water was coming out with such a force that I was sure that it would break the porcelain fittings etc so I was prepared to be dumped into the middle of the bathroom. Somehow the contraption kept on running which surprised me greatly.

still on the theme of children, there was something going on about therapy for children who had been troubled. It was like a drawing and colouring class. What they had for adults was like a painting-by-numbers where you could go along and paint yourself a picture and hope to get rid of stress and tension by doing that.

This final part looks as if it might be something to do with the previous one. There was something about a clinic, people who have financial health problems. Part of the therapy there for children is drawing. For adults they had a few of these huge “painting by numbers” outfits with pictures even taller than the people themselves. The adults could spend as many hours as they wished simply painting the image.

At Brussels I didn’t have long to wait but climbing into the train was next-to impossible on these double-deckers with their steep stairs. Next time I go to Leuven I’ll have to wait around for one of the local stopping trains. These are all on the same level, and a level that is level with the platform so there’s no trying to climb in.

Leuven was roasting hot when I arrived and the walk along the platform to the lift finished me off.

And for some reason my phone wasn’t receiving messages so Alison and Jackie didn’t know that I’d arrived.

Eventually we met up and roared off to meet Hans at the Airport.

Alison knew a lovely Indian restaurant in Sterrebeek so we went there and had a delicious meal. Then we cam back here and sat outside in the heat until God Knows what time chatting.

My sofa is comfortable so I’m going to get in it and sleep for a week. I don’t ever want to do that journey again. Not on any terms.

Friday 12th May 2023 – AS BARRY HAY …

… once famously said – “What else can I say except IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO BE BACK HOME

As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … out of all of the places where I have ever lived, the only place where I’ve ever experienced homesickness when I’ve been away is this beautiful building here with the spectacular scenery and wonderful neighbours.

Mind you, it was a struggle to get back here. having crowed so lustily about the outward trip, the return was nothing like the same.

It always seems to be at railway stations where it all seems to go wrong, as witness my rather dramatic and spectacular fall on a railway station in Montreal in October.

And so it was today. To pass through the automatic barriers at the Metro at the Gare du Nord in Paris you have to move smartly. I wasn’t smart enough and ended up being trapped as the barriers closed between me and my backpack. It took the combined efforts of three passers-by to free me from my trap.

And the struggle was clearly far too much for me because I had another bad fall straight away afterwards, and a couple of people had to pick me up because I couldn’t pick myself up.

One of the guys was going my way so he took my backpack and helped me onto the Metro as far as Montparnasse. Ahh well.

As usual, when I have a reason to leave the bed, I have a fitful restless night. And so it was last night. But when the alarm went off at 06:25 I was up quite quickly.

Once I’d packed, I was down to the railway station and as usual with the SNCB it was an antediluvian AM80 that came in this morning and I have all kinds of difficulties climbing into one of those. And climbing out at Gare du Midi in Brussels too.

The TGV was already in but they wouldn’t let us board for ages. And we had a “security issue” that delayed the loading even more.

The train did however set off on time and I spent the journey doing some research for my High Arctic photos of 2019. And you have to admire the naming conventions of James Rae as he roamed around the High Arctic explaining his reasons for the names that he gave to the geographical features that he encountered, such as, for example, Bence Jones Island in the Rae Strait “after the distinguished medical man and analytical chemist of that name, to whose kindness I and my party were much indebted for having proposed the use of, and prepared, some extract of tea for the expedition.’”.

One of the Inuit ladies I encountered on Devon Island gave me some of her native Labrador Tea to try. I shall probably have to name my new apartment after her because the tea was “much enjoyed”. She was so pleased that I enjoyed it that she performed a drum dance for STRAWBERRY MOOSE and I’m sure that you think that I’m making this up.

At the Gare du Nord I had my “issues” but with an aching leg and wounded pride I made it down the Rue du Départ to Montparnasse and my train without encountering anyone I know. And with catching a later train out of Brussels this morning I didn’t have long to wait.

The train was acually half-empty but for some reason they had me sharing a seat with someone. But once I was sure that evryone who was on was on, I went across the gangway and had a seat all to myself.

At Granville we pulled into one of the older platforms that the Caen-Rennes diesels use and with our train being higher you’ve no idea the struggle that I had to exit the train.

The leg is definitely weakened though because hauling myself into Caliburn was a struggle and I was back to how I was in January without the force to press the brake pedal properly. As I’ve said before, each time that I have a fall, it takes longer and longer to recover.

back here I made a nice strong coffee and came in here to collapse in a chair, from where I didn’t move for hours.

Earlier on, I mentioned my restless night. Tons of stuff on the dictaphone to prove it too. I’d bought a property last night. I’d paid a lot of money for it but I could afford it. It was in rural Normandy somewhere. We were discussing plans to move into it etc but I wanted to have a closer look at what was involved. I managed to dig up an old sale brochure for it from years ago where there was a house, an annexe and a Plaxton Embassy-bodied coach that had been converted into a race car transporter with some kind of car that had been modified for racing. There was a big garage and workshop area. I thought that this was absolutely fine if I could find someone else to come to share it with me. We’d be away with all of this if it turns out to be the same kind of place.

Someone wanted a letter posting but for various reasons they weren’t able to do it. They asked me if I would go. After much persuasion I went on the pushbike. The first thing that I noticed was that there were no brakes on it. I thought that I’d be really running a risk going all the way to the post box particularly as I’d have to cycle through Crewe town centre. But cycle I did, nearly knocking people over, taking wide turns and nearly ending up on the wrong side of the traffic island. I eventually reached the cinema which was absolutely packed because there was an extremely controversial film being shown. There were 2 pillar poxes outside, one of which had a stamp machine attached. I didn’t know which pillar box to put the letter because the time of the collections was exactly the same. It looked as if they were both receiving the correct attention. In the end I simply put it in the newer one of the two.

And then I was in a fast-food restaurant last night in the USA. I tool a banana. There was a guy there mopping the floor. He took three bananas and put them on the scales with mine. I told him to clear off and it led to a strange argument where he insisted that I was paying for his bananas. The clerk behind the counter also thought that I was. We had something of an argument for about 5 minutes. In the end I took my banana off the scales, pout $0:60 down on the countertop and began to walk away. That ended up into another discussion that turned out to be much more friendly and I’d no idea why. We ended up talking about shift rotas etc. The cashier showed me how her shift rota worked and how she had to change a few things round. I bet that you’re really enjoying these exciting moments.

We were working on something for the radio. We needed a troupe of dancing children. We recruited a couple of kids whom we knew but we were short on numbers. I went past a sports field and there was a group of kids there. There were two who were controlling the crowd and dancing in time to some music that was going on in the background, a boy and a girl. They looked quite good so I thought that I’d go over to talk to them. I went over and said “hello”. They replied “we aren’t allowed to talk to strange men” … “obviously your reputation is spreading wider than you realise” – ed … “and there’s no teacher here at the moment”. I said “no problem. The headmaster knows me from something else so I’ll give you a note, you can give it to him and he’ll decide what to do”. The idea was to write a little note to the headmaster say what was happening and take the matter from there. Going through my pockets, first of all I couldn’t find a pen. I asked if anyone had a pen. One of the people standing around, I could see that he had some pens in this top pocket but he didn’t volunteer. Eventually I borrowed one from someone but then I couldn’t find any paper on which to write. I thought “here I am snatching defeat from the jaws of victory yet again!”.

Finally I wanted a new ladder so I was going to go to the DiY shop. Half a dozen people said that they wanted things so we all piled into my van and went. I bought my ladder and a couple of things. Someone else bought a roof ladder etc. Then I had to go to pay for it. Then we’d all go to sit in someone’s car. There were quite a few people crowded around in cars and it was really cramped. I told the driver to pull down the road and stop. I had to pay with a credit card. he said “ohh not another credit card”. I replied that it’s far better walking around the streets with a credit card than a wad of cash. I was about to give him a few other good reasons but the guy in the back began to be annoyed because we were driving through an area full of local police. For some reason he didn’t want to involve them. The guy in this car wasn’t going to stop. It looked as if he was going to take me all the way home to drop off this ladder and for me to pay him. Then of course I had to return to pick up everyone else and pick up Caliburn. I thought “for just a simple ladder, this is something else that’s becoming extremely complicated” and that wouldn’t be a first time, would it?

Tea was sausage chips and beans – some of the vegan sausages that I’d bought in Jersey and beans with vegan cheese now that I’ve found a reliable and hopefully constant source.

But I dunno about going to bed because as usual after all of this effort I can’t relax. Back in the old days when I was stressed out after chauffeuring around Brussels I’d go for a long run around the area where I lived. These days though I couldn’t even run for my life.

Thursday 11th May 2023 – THE GOOD NEWS …

… is that I don’t have to come back here until 13th September.

More good news is that there’s a new ice-cream stall in Leuven that has vegan speculoos and coffee ice cream. Right next door to my favouritefritkot too!

And even more good news is that I finally made it to the Asian supermarket and stocked up with fennel, fenugreek and cumin seeds. The Indian cuisine in my apartment can therefore remain on the menu … “PERSONSu” – ed.

On the other hand, the bad news is that I should be enjoying and making the most of whatever I can do and whatever health I have because it’s not going to get any better and it’s all downhill from here.

Despite all of the bits that they’ve taken out of me over the last few years, there are more signs of the disease in my heart and in my kidneys. And they suspect that the problem with the nerves in my leg is the illness taking a hold.

Add to that the brittle bones that I have due to the blood problems, and it seems that they’ve done all that they can. Hence the five-month gap between now and the next visit.

The doctor gave me a pile of stuff to give to my own doctor and he expects him to be keeping a closer eye on me in future.

So it looks as if things are going to be changing. I’ve already given instructions to put Strider up for sale. No point in paying out all this money on insurance if I’m never going to be using him.

One idea going through my head is to fly to Montreal, hire a car, drive down to empty Strider of all of my possessions, throw away or sell some of them and take the rest back to Montreal and rent a storage locker at Jarry like I used to do in the good old days

However, that’s a long way away yet.

It’s more to the point to talk about the rest of the day. I was in bed early and fell asleep quite quickly, which is hardly a surprise given how much exercise I had yesterday.

And apart from the odd tossing and turning here and there, I slept through until the alarm went off.

After a shower I headed off and caught the bus to the hospital.

First appointment was with the kidney guy. He gave me a good going over and was surprised to see the difference in my blood pressure between standing up, lying down, and standing up immediately after lying down. He’s never seen anything quite like it previously.

There was a long wait for the next couple of appointments so I went and found a power point and transcribed the dictaphone notes. I was in bed quite early and asleep quite quickly. I was away on some kind of interesting dream quite early when I had a huge attack of cramp in my sleep. That awoke me of course and the dream disappeared. The cramp stayed for quite some time. And I DO mean “quite some time”.

Later on I was in a court room. There was a case taking place about an inheritance. The plaintiff was some old woman who said that she’d been a nun and had waited devotedly on a guy for so very long so she ought to inherit some of his money. It went to trial and the defendant put into the witness box a friend of this old guy to testify, but as soon as he took the oath he repudiated all his testimony. He went over to the defending counsel and mocked him which didn’t go down very well. It looked as if the plaintiff had actually won by a mile. The case was adjourned for the final summing up that would take place on the Monday. But the friend made a special point of asking for all his phone records back that made the defence suspicious. He went through the phone records and was able to follow them up. He found out that there was something not right between the relationship between the friend and the woman concerned. He made further enquiries and had an adjournment for a couple of days. When the case restarted he smuggled in someone under a blanket into the court. He asked leave to adduce other evidence which he did. He asked the person under the blanket if she recognised anyone in Court. She immediately pointed to the plaintiff and described her as being some neighbour of the old guy or something to do with him but with no relationship whatsoever. Defending counsel asker her who she was. She whipped off her blanket. It was a little old woman underneath there. She declared herself to be the person the plaintiff was alleging to be. She could describe in intimate detail all her early life which was documented and a lot of personal stuff, and describe all about the home and the life of this guy and how she’d been living in poverty somewhere miles away but the defence in the end had managed to track her down and bring her into court. The plaintiff not only lost her case but she and the friend of the dead man who had repudiated his evidence found themselves in a lot more serious trouble than that.

Then I had exactly the same dream again except that it focused more on the start of this story when this kid was probably 6 or 7 years old on a pushbike fighting the boys etc and followed her through adulthood. And then her testimony. Of course it was much harder for the defendant to win but he still managed to pull it off in the end. All the members of his branch of his bank know about this guy just in case he pulls the same scam against somewhere else

Finally I was in bed and at 05:00 the phone rang. I was sure that it was a taxi job and I really didn’t feel like it at that time of the morning. I answered the phone and it was a woman. She asked if we could get together to sort out some insurance issue. I asked what she was talking about. She replied “the solicitors have now told me to contact you to settle the matter. I vaguely remembered something about an accident but no solicitor had been in touch with me. “You need to ask the solicitor to contact me to tell me that and I’ll phone you back”. We had this pointless discussion for about 10 or 15 minutes. Suddenly she was there in the room, a little girl from the Philippines or Indonesia or somewhere saying that her boss had come to stay with her and what the heck was her boss doing staying there when she should be staying in a hotel or something like that. She hated the idea of people taking advantage of her. I thought “this is 05:00. What is this to do with anything?.

Much to my surprise (and yours too) the nurse who took my blood sample did it first go with no pain at all. That was impressive. Not like the people at Avranches who on one of the days that I was there had to take five goes and I ended up looking (and feeling) like a dartboard.

My final appointment was for 15:30 so there was an hour to wait. And they called me to be seen at 17:45, and then only after I’d complained twice. Consequently I wasn’t in a very good mood at the time. Still, having spoken earlier in the week to someone in the UK who had to wait 10 hours for an emergency ambulance and then 12 hours in Casualty before they were seen, I don’t know why I’m upset.

Anyway, the meeting didn’t go to plan. One thing that I do know is that a heart transplant is out of the question. For that to be considered, you need to be in pretty good health and they reckon that the way I am at the moment, the rest of my body wouldn’t stand the shock.

The good news though is that I still have a heart right now. That proves that I’m not a Tory.

It was 18:45 when they threw me out, so it was a good job that I’d been to pick up the medication during the pause at midday.

And despite the rain, I decided to walk home. He’d told me that I need to exercise more, but that’s not easy on crutches of course so I have to do what I can.

At that time of night I didn’t expect the Asian supermarket but my luck was in, which was good news.

With my spirits flagging by the time that I reached the town centre, I went for a bag of chips at the Ali Baba. And finished it off with an ice cream from next door.

It was a long stagger back to the hotel but I found an easier, more convenient way to the hotel that involves much less athleticism. And I was flaming glad to find my way back home after all of that.

53% of my daily activity doesn’t sound a lot but it’s more than I’ve done just recently. No wonder I’m whacked.

So off to bed for an early night. I have to be up early because I have a train to catch in Brussels at 08:13. That’s not something to which I’m looking forward.

Friday 3rd March 2023 – HERE I ALL AM ..

… not sitting in a rainbow but sitting on my comfy seat in my bedroom. I’ve made it back home.

With just the usual problems, such as losing my keys on the train and having to rouse the staff that was asleep in the office at the station. A good job that it was at the terminus and there was still another train to come in otherwise I would have been well and truly snookered.

And that reminds me of the old French joke –
“Frappe! Frappe!”
“Qui est là?”
“Lost”
“Lost qui?”
“Oui”

Anyway, after another miserable night’s sleep, I was awake yet again before the alarm went off. And after the previous night there was nevertheless plenty of stuff on the dictaphone to be going on with

I was out with an American policeman last night driving around California. he was showing me all these mountainous areas where people had moved in and put cabins. These were in some of the routes taken by wolves during their migration and the cabins were blocking the routes. I awoke quickly after that.

Later on I was at one of these competitions on TV about 2 items. There was an explosive shell. For some reason I began to look inside the shell casing. I dropped it and all of the gunpowder went everywhere all over the film set. We tried washing it away with water but of course that didn’t work. It froze immediately. Some girl was about to skate off and go right through it

I took a girl to the airport last night in a taxi. I don’t know who she was but I ought to. We were discussing the airport, saying how handy it was for us. She said that her father ran some kind of taxi service in the airport area. He’d bought a couple of limousines, a black one and a silver one with the idea of trying to get hold of some high-quality airport work. The chat went on for quite a while. We arrived at the vicinity of the airport. I grossly undercharged her for going and I’ve no idea why that would be. I only ended up charging her £6:00 or something like that. Going to the airport cost a lot more than that back in the day. It was an extremely interesting chat about her father and his 2 silver K135 cars

We were in Walsh class last night reading a paper on changing roles in society. It listed probably 10 roles like mending a fence, mending your roof, taking money to the bank etc. The discussion was about how modern people are now changing their way of thinking. The key word here was “remuneration”. We’re all older in our Welsh class. I was saying that I was up on my roof in August. Someone else said that they’d fixed their own fence the other week. It seemed that we were bucking a trend about this question of changing DiY into paid remuneration.

And so I was up and about and ready to go out of the door at 07:00. The train that came in at 07:10 was another push-me-pull-you double decker and I have a hard time climbing on board them. Someone having chained his folding pushbike to the disabled handrail didn’t help matters at all.

At Brussels Gare du Nord I left the train and found my way onto the concourse but the lift downstairs was out of order so I had a very delicate walk down the stairs. I’ll tell you something for nothing and that is that no matter how much better I’m feeling, it’s a totally different kettle of fish with a backpack on my back.

My bus was due to leave at 08:20 but there was no sign of it. All the others were in and gone, and ours finally staggered into the loading bay 40 minutes late. But there’s one thing about being a disabled passenger and that is that even though it’s difficult to climb up the steps into the bus, they let me on first so I can have the pick of the seats.

Between Brussels and Lille I had a very charming young lady sitting next to me and we had a lengthy chat all the way. It’s a long time since I’ve had such an erudite companion so if you read this, Pauline, un grand bonjour.

She alighted at Lille and I had another companion as far as Rouen. He didn’t have much to say for himself but he picked up my phone for me when it fell to the floor.

From Rouen to Caen I was on my own but we did have a moment of excitement when we were stopped in a police barrage and the bus was searched for drugs. Two people were taken off the bus to be interviewed but they were allowed back on afterwards.

It’s no surprise to anyone that I missed the 16:10 train to Granville. But there’s another one at 17:10 so I was able to grab a nice hot coffee. I hadn’t had too much to drink on board the bus, on the basis that what doesn’t go in won’t want to come out. 8 hours on a bus is a long time and the toilets are really inconvenient for people with mobility issues.

As we pulled into the station at Granville I checked my keys and put them into the outside pocket of my coat so that they were handy. When I reached Caliburn on the car park I no longer had them. In the confusion of organising myself to leave they must have fallen out.

It took a while to awaken the people in the station. Presumably they had gone off for a coffee before the next train comes in, but eventually they arrived and we did the necessary so that I could collect my keys. Serves me right for being disorganised.

Back at Ice Station Zebra I made a drink because I had a thirst that you could photograph. And then I watched the football. Connah’s Quay Nomads v Y Bala in the Welsh Cup semi-Final.

The Quay took the lead after just 35 seconds and from them on we had a right full-blooded cup-tie that was played with an extraordinary amount of skill. A really good advert for the Welsh Premier League.

In the second half Bala scored 2 quick goals to take the lead but with 10 minutes left the Quay equalised. We were heading for penalties when Bala popped up with a third and despite Connah’s Quay throwing everything including the kitchen sink at Bala in the dying seconds of the game they couldn’t find an equaliser.

They did actually have the ball in the net right at the end but with Jack Kenny holding down Alex Ramsey in the Bala goal, there was no way that the goal would be allowed.

And how I wish that Jack Kenny, who is one of my favourite players in the WPL, would stop moaning and protesting every time a decision is given against him. He’d be a really good player, one of the best in the league, if only he would stop being so petulant.

On the bus I’d eaten some of my butties so at half-time I fetched the leftovers and demolished them with a pear and a banana. And now I’m off to bed.

Tomorrow I’m shopping, and as I missed my St David’s Day, when I return I’m going to make some leek and potato soup for the weekend to vary my diet a little. I’m quite looking forward to that.

And I’m looking forward to my own bed as well. The hotel bed was comfortable, but it’s not mine.

And just a word before I go. Travelling everywhere on crutches is difficult, yet it would have been much more difficult without all of the help that I received from all kinds of people who showed me some extraordinary kindness as I went around on my travels.

It’s the kind of thing that restores my jaundiced faith in humanity and I am really grateful to everyone who helped me along the way.

Thursday 2nd March 2023 – JUST ONE LOOK …

… was all it took for them at the hospital to send me off for a blood transfusion. it was that obvious. They didn’t even wait for a sample of my blood.

No wonder that I’d been feeling like The Wreck Of The Hesperus for the last week or two.

They asked me a few pointed questions about some symptoms and when I answered in the affirmative that was all it took and I was off dragged to the Day Centre.

It was cold in my room last night and what with that and the general change in situation (because I’m having some real difficulty sleeping right now, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall) I hardly had any sleep at all last night and it was most uncomfortable. There was nothing whatsoever on the dictaphone, and that should give you a clue.

Breakfast was included in the price of my room so when the alarm went off I was downstairs quite quickly. Breakfast was actually quite nice although there wasn’t anything special to eat. And then back up here for a nice shower.

At 09:00 I was out of the door and across the road into the bus station and I didn’t have to wait long for a bus. It was quite crowded but I managed to find a seat.

Registering at the hospital was quite quick but then I had to wait an age to be seen because I’d arrived well in advance of my appointment. The doctor had quite a long chat to me and then went to fetch her professor who had an even longer chat with me.

They weren’t too happy that I hadn’t gone for my appointments at the New Year but I explained all of the issues that I was facing – how I couldn’t walk, how I can no longer go through Paris, how there were no buses running when I needed to leave etc etc.

It all resolved itself with them saying that they will arrange a few appointments for me in 3 months time and they would like me to attend.

We shall see.

It was a different Day Centre to the usual one. It was quite a hike as well so they stuck me in a wheelchair and sent for someone to push me. I had to wait about half an hour for someone to come and then we set off on our marathon hike.

At the Day Centre I had another long wait until a comfy chair liberated itself and then an even longer wait for the blood to arrive from the central repository. They found me some food and a few cups of coffee while I was waiting so it wasn’t all despair.

Everything took so long to organise that it was almost 18:30 when I finally left. Too late to go to the chemist to redeem my prescriptions and too late to go to pick up the spices from the Asian warehouse. Instead, I caught a bus back to town.

On the way back to the hotel I popped into the supermarket down the road and bought some bread and tomatoes. It’s going to be another long day tomorrow on the road and I’ll need some supplies.

And then I borrowed a knife from the restaurant and made some sandwiches here for the journey back home.

There’s a fritkot around the corner from here and you can’t come to Belgium and not have your supply of fritjes so I went down there later on and had my fritjes with some vegan loempjes that they had. One thing about being in Leuven is that with so many students here there’s a good range of vegetarian and vegan food.

So an early start tomorrow, probably without breakfast because they don’t start serving it until 07:00 and I’ll be leaving Brussels on the bus at 08:20 so I need to get a move on.

Wednesday 1st March 2023 – THAT WAS A …

… loooooooooooooooooooong day today.

14 hours I was on the road in total, give or take a few minutes. I left my home at about 07:10 and arrived in Leuven at just about 21:00.

Yes, I’m in Leuven. I’ve heard nothing from the heart people and nothing from the people who are dealing with my cancer, but regardless, the kidney people contacted me for an appointment.

Not that I’m all that bothered, because as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, after the events of October and November I’m pretty-much resigned to the inevitable, but I was interested in seeing, as well as I could, how I could cope with the travelling.

And so having gone to bed rather early last night, I was up with the lark at 06:00 and made some sandwiches and so on, and did a little organising.

Plenty of stuff on the dictaphone last night. My mother was a policewoman last night. She was interrogating a suspect or witness or something similar but was doing it at home. This was dragging on into the night and we as kids couldn’t go to sleep. In the end there was no real point going to bed so we were just sitting up waiting for her to finish. But it just went on and on. We’d go in regularly to ask how she was doing. She said that she wasn’t ready yet. We’d go in to pick a banana or something to eat. In the end one of my sisters went in. My mother said quite sharply that it wasn’t going to be finished before 05:00. This was the final straw as far as we were concerned. That was a ridiculous time for children to be still up and about waiting for their mother to finish her work.

This dream continued later on. We were crying out for toilet paper or tissues etc. Some guy came into the apartment where we were living with his arms full of rolls of toilet paper and just dumped it on the floor in one of the rooms and then left. We kids had to go in there to sort out what he’s just brought and check what we had then organise the bathroom with it.

Plus tard nous avons eu l’idée de reintégrer le chasson dans la famille qu’on a du faire alors le chef s’est adapté assez rapidement et le chat de la famille est poussé en dehos du groupe alors celà a provoqué une investigation comment on a fait commencer et c’est à ce moment-là qu’on a eu la série de la pied d’entre nous

So, a dream in French yet again. And I haven’t translated it because it’s total nonsense that makes no sense whatsoever.

Just after 07:00 I headed for the hills and Caliburn and we drove to the station where I was lucky enough to find a parking space almost right outside the door.

When the train came in, I headed off in the direction of Rennes, but only as far as Avranches where I alighted. Public transport is so messed up here that you end up going all round the Wrekin to get anywhere.

The bus came in at 08:55 and we drove through the snow (yes, the snow!) and ended up in Caen where we had a half-hour wait for the next bus. This was packed to the gunwhales but I found a seat eventually and we roared off to the big underground bus station at Bercy in Paris.

This time a wait of 45 minutes before the next bus came in. This was likewise packed but the driver made sure that I had a comfortable place by the door. We called at the airport and then all the way to Brussels, making a stop at a service station where I grabbed a coffee.

Stuck in the traffic for ages, we eventually arrived in Brussels rather later than planned so I’d missed the train that I wanted and had to catch a later train. The escalator up to the platform wasn’t working so I had a long walk to find the lift.

The train was a push-me-pull-you double-decker and climbing into these proved to be quite difficult as the steps in are quite high. I had quite a bit of difficulty and it was extremely awkward.

Having eaten my sandwiches on the way to Paris, I tucked into my potatoes and lentils on the train and that was a really good plan because they went down a treat.

Leaving the train at Leuven was difficult too but I managed in the end.

The hotel where I’m staying must have been wonderful 100 years ago. It’s certainly seen better days. It’s not one of my usual haunts but it’s right outside the railway station so I don’t have far to stagger. It’s expensive too, hence I’m only staying for two nights and coming home on Friday.

And the verdict?

It’s quite difficult and I’m glad that I did bring two crutches, not just one. When things are on the level I’m fine and I could in theory go for miles but carrying a backpack up hills and steps is quite complicated and I have real difficulty trying to carry a coffee cup too.

At one point I was thinking that I might be ready for another adventure with backpack and airline ticket but having done all this today, maybe I’ll leave it a while before making more plans.

But I got here, and that’s a miracle in itself

Friday 9th December 2022 – “THERE’S ONE THING …

… that I got to tell you man, and that it’s Good To Be Back Home”.

So said Barry Hay on the beach at Scheveningen in the Netherlands back in 1993 when I was there on my old CX500 and I can’t disagree.

But I owe a great big thanks to two of my neighbours who drove to the railway station here at Granville at 19:00 to meet me off the train because, believe me, I was finished, totally finished when it pulled into the station

And I was right about my affairs at the hotel. I really was given the run-around and at 07:00 when I was on the point of leaving and wanted to pick them up, I was told that they weren’t there as far as they could see and I could stand there all day and wait for them if I liked and it would change nothing at all.

So that’s the NIKON D500, the 70-300mm LENS and all of my photos from Canada along with all of my portable electronic equipment gone the Way of the West.

Ahh well!

It’s not surprising that i was in a bad mood about this because I’d had a bad night, as I always do when I’m having to go somewhere early. Not that it stopped me going off on my travels and although I don’t remember much about my travels, I do recall that had I not awoken suddenly, I would have had a visit from one of my favourite young ladies.

So maybe that’s why I awoke suddenly. My whole outlook on life has changed just recently.

Having finished my rather acrimonious but otherwise pointless discission with the hotel staff (I seem to be arguing with everyone right now) I set off in the ice and freezing cold that made my already unsteady gait even more so.

But not for the railway station at Bruxelles-Midi. Instead, I clambered gingerly down the stairs into the metro station at the Boulevard Lemonnier. Crossing the road to get there was fraught, and no mistake.

Even more fraught was crossing the tram rails to the opposite platform and I was convinced that at one point rather than travel by tram I would be out on my ass but in an incredible feat of gymnastics I just about managed to keep my feet.

The platforms at the Gare du Nord were a mess and I must have staggered for miles trying to find my way up to ground level, having to be helped up a few steps by a few people. But when I did I had to go round and round in ever-decreasing circles in order to find my way out of the station.

Yes, “out of the station” because I’m not going by train.

Eventually I found my way outside in the freezing fog and having completely lost my bearings, I wandered around (such as I can) until I stumbled quite by accident on that for which I was looking.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that back several years ago when there was a rail strike I ended up HAVING TO GO BY BUS. I remembered that it called at Caen and then went on via several stops to Bruxelles-Nord – without going via Paris.

It was going via Paris that was frightening me. Can you imagine the fight in the Metro and the long walk down to the station at Montparnasse? Not on your nellie!

But trains now go from Caen to Granville and there were, to my surprise, two that corresponded with the arrival of this bus. So sitting comfortably (not that it’s comfortable on these buses but you get the point) all the way to Caen without moving has to be a good deal.

It’s not surprise to anyone that I had to be lifted onto the bus, and then I was sat in a seat by the door. And to make sure that I didn’t move, I didn’t eat or drink anything all the way to Caen. What doesn’t go in can’t come out.

It was a long, boring drive all the way to Caen but every time I started to become fed up, I began to think of the fight through the metro in Paris and that restored me to my senses.

We were late arriving at Caen which means that I missed the 16:11 but there was plenty of time for the 17:16. And that wasjust as well because it’s a long walk from the bus stop to the station. Once I’d bought a ticket from the machine I bought myself a coffee (first drink of the day) and made a tomato butty while I waited for the train.

And what a stagger it was to the lift, through the subterranean tunnel and back up the lift on another platform. I was really gone by this time and I just fell into the nearest seat on the train. My journey had been well-documented on social media and you have no idea the size of the sigh of relief that I breathed when Marie and Anna asked if I would like to be picked up.

The station at Granville was iced up and I was even more unsteady that I had been in the morning and I took hours to leave the station. Marie and Anna were heartbroken to see me because, believe me, I am not the same person who left here in September. That trip to Canada was one trip too many and one trip too far.

When we arrived back here there was a little ad-hoc reception committee that met me but I was really in no mood to see anyone. Marie helped me into my room here at Ice Station Zebra and that was that.

When I’m finally tired enough to sleep, whenever that might be, I’ll go to bed. And there will be no alarm until Monday. Not that I care either. It’s been weeks, if not months, since I’ve slept with no alarm and I deserve some time off

And when I’m ready, I’ll rebuild my life with what’s left of my health and what’s left of my possessions and start again until the end. I just can’t fo it any more.

A big thank you to everyone who has been so kind to me on my travels around and who has helped me in my difficulties. So many of you that have helped restore my faith in humanity. I love you all, more than I can say.

Thursday 8th December 2022 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow but sitting in a room in a hotel by the railway station in Brussels.

And I actually made it here without falling over and if that isn’t a miracle I don’t know what is.

But there is one thing about which I was right, and that is having spoken to several different people in the hotel, my missing possessions have yet to reappear. Every time I see someone, it’s “you need to see my colleague who comes in later”. At the moment I’m down to “seeing the cleaning staff” which, seeing as I’m leaving at 07:00, is going to be difficult.

The alarm went off as expected at 06:30 but I didn’t care all that much. It was about 08:30 when I finally arose from the dead.

There was some stuff on the dictaphone. Last night I was on my way to bed. It was midnight when my father turned up. I was so surprised to see him. He’d been out partying or something and came back and said “did you know that we had some taxi jobs on?”. I said “no” but I had a quick look at the book. There were 2 jobs, one of which was a trip to Colwyn Bay and the other was to a place called Kingsley near Wrenbury. I sent my father off to pick up this Colwyn Bay job and put a SIM card in his microphone. I went to get another car to head off. Then I heard a voice on the radio or something. I said to my mother “do you know if Alpha One has a radio on?”. She said something so I said “I’ve sent him to Colwyn Bay and I’m going to Wrenbury. Do you know anything about this Kingsley?”. She said that it’s a big place where a load of chartered accountants hang out, but that’s all she knew. I basically said “never mind. I’ll try to find it when I’m on my way out there”. I headed off for Wrenbury and this place called Kingsley. It was strange how my father turned up just as I was going up for bed, there were taxi jobs on and there was no-one around at all and I knew nothing about it.

It was a slow morning when I didn’t do all that much except fend off the cleaning staff who were trying to make their way into my bedroom. It was just like Mrs Mopp from ITMA and her “Can I do you now, sir?”.

Anyway by about 11:40 I was on my way. I left all of my “extraneous possessions” at the hotel reception desk and Alison will try to pick them up. If they end up going missing it won’t be too bad because there isn’t anything of earth-shattering importance in them and I shall still continue to live.

It was a slow struggle, and I do mean “struggle” down to the station. Slow and uncomfortable. Luckily there was a ticket machine in the subterranean passage so I was able to buy a ticket without having to go all the way across to the station building.

A train had come in early too and was waiting patiently at the station. A type 08 multiple unit on its way to Kortrijk so I climbed aboard and found a seat right by the door where I was joined by a young family with a hyperactive toddler.

At Brussels I alighted with difficulty and found an escalator down to the ground floor.

According to the map it’s 460 metres to the hotel and it was the longest and most difficult 460 metres of my life. All I had with me was my backpack with the laptop and that alone weighed a tonne but I staggered on regardless and to my great surprise I made it here.

Here the fobbing off about my possessions began but at least I have a nice room – not really surprising given the amount that I paid for it.

Later on I went down once more to see about my possessions and then out to the shop a couple of doors down for some food. I’ve had bread and tomatoes and a large bottle of orange juice and that’ll do me for tomorrow.

And tomorrow, assuming that I find my possessions, which is not always guaranteed, I’m off on what might be my final leg home. That’s going to be difficult although I’ve tried my best to make it as easy as possible.

To prepare myself, I’ve had a few naps but now I’m off to bed for a good sleep as it’s an early start tomorrow. Let’s see how we get on.

Keep your fingers crossed.