Tag Archives: Brussels

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.

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.

Wednesday 10th May 2023 – THIS WORLD IS …

… far too small for my liking.

There I was, struggling through the railway station at Paris Montparnasse making my way towards the exit when who should I fall in with but a friend of mine, Xavier, who works for Eurosport and who just happened to be in the station.

He comes to Granville occasionally and submits to the radio reports of his visits to various restaurants in the area.

Anyway, we’ve made an arrangement to meet up for a coffee and a chat next time he comes to the seaside.

As you can gather from the above, I’ve been on the move today and I’m currently sitting in a little room in the “Ibis Budget” at the back of Leuven station waiting for things to happen tomorrow.

Quite a lot has happened today already, including me being wide-wake at 06:15 this morning and up and out of bed at 06:30, a good half-hour before the alarm went off.

One thing that didn’t happen was yesterday, when I forgot to switch off the immersion heater.

So after having got everything ready Caliburn and I headed for the railway station. The car-park there was full so I had to park on the car park of the office down the hill and hope that they don’t become too upset.

At 08:20 I walked onto the station to find that the train was just on the point of pulling in. That meant that I had somewhere warm and comfortable to sit until departure at 09:00.

The train was crowded too and I had a nice, friendly companion but I didn’t speak too much to her because I … errr … relaxed somewhat.

Bang on time we arrived in Paris and after my chat with Xavier I went outside and begun the long and weary walk to the Metro. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, Gare Montparnasse was moved to a new location but they didn’t move the metro so it’s a long walk down the street, especially in the rain.

Down all the steps is somewhat difficult, but another difficulty that I’ve encountered is that with the seats being deliberately designed to be uncomfortable, I can’t haul myself out of them. It was a real struggle.

Luckily the escalator at Gare du Nord was working so I didn’t have that awful, desperate climb. And one big advantage of being on crutches is that I can have a comfortable seat in the special “disabled person’s waiting room”. I have to have some advantage out of all of this.

Everyone on the SNCF has been very helpful, but that’s more than you can say about the people on the TGV who don’t seem to appreciate just how difficult the smallest amount of disability might be.

And the TGVs aren’t designed for people on crutches, so my deepest regrets to the person sitting in the seat in front of me when my water bottle fell on her head.

It took a while to find my crutches at Brussels, which for some reason had gone out of my reach. Some young lady came to my rescue.

The lifts at Gare du Midi are quite useful once I found out where they were, and I only had to wait 10 minutes for my train to Leuven. It was another push-me-pull-you going to Liège and I have a great deal of difficulty climbing into these double-decker carriages.

Getting out at Leuven wasn’t easy either, and the steps down to the underground passage took some negotiating. I stopped at the supermarket for supplies on the way to the hotel and here I am.

On the dictaphone was some stuff from the night so I transcribed that. I was on a sailing yacht last night. We were coming in to moor at some kind of marina. I needed to do some work on the boat but I couldn’t get it to keep still. I had a rope but it wasn’t long enough to tie it to the jetty. Someone in a neighbouring boat gave me some kind of lecture about being unprepared etc. He threw me a rope so I went to tie my boat to it but it wasn’t long enough. I said “no problem. I have some here”. That involved shinning up the mast, tying together the two bits of rope, hooking them over a mooring column or whatever you call it. I had a load of other stuff in my hands. The other person in the boat asked me how I was doing. I replied “this is just crazy. I need three hands here. I can’t do anything”. I thought that if I drop something that will leave me with one hand free. Instead, I dropped everything including the keys. They bounced down onto the jetty and as luck would have it, they didn’t roll over the edge into the water otherwise I’d have had it. I thought to myself “I won’t ever do that again and be so lucky”. Everything that I was trying to do to maul this boat was going completely wrong and taking three times as long as it ought to have done.

And later I was at work, and on my way back to the office on a bus. It was a Sunday lunchtime. Someone was giving some kind of running commentary on what was happening in the street. He talked about a queue outside a fish and chip shop that Sunday lunchtime. As the bus pulled in to the stop next to where we were working I noticed that at the fish and chip shop there, there was no-one there at all. I fancied some chips and beans at that moment so I went back to my desk and wrote a message to the 3 people on my team and to 1 or 2 others whom I knew to see what their thoughts were about having some now or having some at 17:00 for the evening meal. But writing this letter, addressing it and sending it turned out to be much more complicated and time-consuming than it actually was. It should have been something simple and straightforward but I seemed to be making a mountain out of it.

The strain of everything caused me to have yet another … errr … relax and when I returned to the Land of the Living I found that Liz had been trying to speak to me, so we had a little chat.

There is no microwave here – I must have imagined it – but my cold curry was quite delicious all the same and it was a really good plan to bring it. But having eaten that now, I’m off to bed, early though it might be.

And so, how was the journey?

Tiring. Really tiring. And I have a pain in my right leg. But it wasn’t difficult – or, at least, as difficult as I was expecting it to be. If the return trip is like this, I won’t be too worried about doing it again but it would be nice if I could do it better.

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.

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.

Thursday 27th October 2022 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not sitting in a rainbow but lying in a hospital bed. They took one look at me during my second examination and that was that;

But anyway, the hotel was nice and comfortable and I actually managed a couple of hours sleep at some point. During the night I dreamt that my missing parcel had turned up last night. There was a note on it “delayed due to suspicious contents”. I was wondering whether it was the nutmeg in it that had attracted their attention or not.

At about 07:00 I set out for the station, hobbling all the way down there to the ticket machine where I bought my ticket for the 07:24 express to Leuven.

Although the train was on time it was held up on a couple of occasions and ran at a snail’s pace all the way Consequently we were 15 minutes late arriving.

Added to that the buses were all in chaos and the one that I wanted didn’t arrive. I had to wait 10 minutes for the next and as a result I was very late arriving at the check-in.

The first test was a breathing exercise which I failed miserably, coughing everywhere. In the end she didn’t bother with the final test.

The second exam was my nephrology test. There I poured out all my woes, not just about this illness but about everything that is affecting me too. They gave me several tests of all kinds of things, including a balance test where I had to walk by putting one foot in front of the other. And I forget how many times they had to grab me to stop me falling over.

That was enough for them. They telephoned to arrange a room for me. And here I am.

The rest of the day was spent being pushed around in my bed for a pile of examinations.

One of then was to push a camera down my throat to check my lungs. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, that’s the kind of thing that will happen over my dead body, as I explained. Despite their assurances, I was still unwilling so they gave me a pill to “relax” me.

Three hours later I regained consciousness with the examination completed. They told me that I have an atypical viral pneumonia.

This kind of thing they tell me usually clears itself after a week or so but with me having no immune system it’s anyone’s guess when it will clear. Consequently I’m here for a while being pumped full of antibiotics in the hope that something might work

So right now here I am. I’ve asked for and been given a sleeping pill and I’m hoping for a really good sleep.

And I might even have one too.

Wednesday 26th October 2022 – STRAWBERRY MOOSE …

…. is missing!

He and the rest of my luggage failed to meet up with me in the baggage claim area of the airport this morning.

The fact is that he’s probably aware of the fact that this was our last great adventure together and seeing that Canada has always been a happy hunting ground for him, he’s stolen all of my equipment, made good his escape and gone off adventuring on his own account.

Anyway, even as we speak, enquiries are being made.

Mind you, strange as it might seem, in the peculiar circumstances of the moment my luggage not arriving at the airport is something positive. It means that I don’t have to maul that huge suitcase around with me for the final stages of my journey.

To be honest, I’m totally done in. This was one journey too many and one journey too far in my state of health right now.

It was another night when I had had no sleep whatsoever. How many is this now over the last week? I coughed and spluttered through every minute of the long flight, and it was long too because despite leaving only a handful of minutes late, we were 1:20 late landing in Paris.

And shame on Air Canada who wouldn’t pay for a proper terminal but wanted to decant us in the middle of the runway. And on a greasy, slippery set of metal stairs too.

There was no chance whatever of my making that with my backpack full of heavy electrical equipment. I sat inside with the other disabled people (this is how I’m seeing myself now) waiting for the wheelchair lift.

That promptly broke down so in the end I was helped down by one assistant while another carried my bag.

My helper passed me through the express route into France, where presenting my carte de séjour at the same time as presenting my passport means that I don’t need my passport to be stamped. And then the eternal waiting in vain for STRAWBERRY MOOSE

Eventually I filed a lost luggage complaint and then crawled wearily the entire length of the airport (and you’ve no idea how long the airport is) to the railway station.

Here was just about my only bit of luck for today. The TGV from Rennes to Brussels was running over an hour late which meant that it would be here in 7 minutes. Just time enough for me to buy a ticket and get to the platform.

And here on board, I had a beautiful, blissful sleep of all of about 5 minutes.

At Brussels-Midi I bought some banana-fjavoured soya milk, a couple of bricks, and then walked to my hotel. It’s 400 metres from the railway station yet it took me 20 minutes and I almost fell over twice.

It’s a different hotel than usual. Slightly more expensive but much more luxurious and better finished. I stayed here one a good few years ago. And I’m not disappointed either. Luckily even though I was early, my room was ready for me, and it’s a nice room.

First thing was to have a shower and wash my clothes. The only clothes that I have with me are the ones in which I’ve been travelling and I’m very mindful of something Rosemary once said to me. After I’d been on the road for a couple of days once she told me that I looked like a tramp. And to be honest, today I knew that I did. With my hospital visits tomorrow I have at least to make a pretence of civilisation.

Having done that I came in here, crashed out on the bed and went away with the fairies for three hours.

When I awoke, I had a packet of crisps and then got into bed ready to wait until tomorrow morning.

Talking of eating, do you want to know what I’ve eaten since Thursday lunchtime last week? well, 2 bananas, half a baguette, 2 slices of pizza, one airline meal and a packet of crisps

My appetite has gone completely, and so will I if this carries on much longer.

Saturday 6th August 2022 – AS BARRY HAY ONCE …

… famously said, IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK HOME.

And, shame as it is to admit it, it was good to have Caliburn at the railway station too because the train can be 15 minutes late arriving in Granville, I can go to do a pile of shopping in Lidl, and still be back home before the usual time that I would have been had I walked, and without any of the stress and fatigue.

Just as well too because apart from the fact that it was a scorching afternoon that would have burnt me to a frazzle had I tried to walk, I’d had another bad night. In fact, when the alarm went off at 05:30 I was already up and about tidying the room.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Never mind the 06:33 to Oostende, I was well in advance for the 06:09 to Knokke via the airport

For a change, I was out of the building quite rapidly and soon at the Martelarenplein. That’s been under renovation for years too so it’s really nice to see it almost clear of the evidence. Just a portaloo and a little compound to go.

But by the looks of things, Birnam Wood is now on its way to Dunsinane, and presumably intending to travel there by taxi too because it’s just behind where they are that the taxis line up to take away the passengers.

And you can see the time on the station clock just above the trees.

glad road sign martelarenplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022It goes without saying that I’m quite happy too. Especially as I’m on my way home.

Seriously … “just for once” – edGlad is Flemish for “slippery”. What this sign is referring to is that there’s a spiral cycle ramp just here and when it rains and the water comes cascading down it’s quite treacherous.

It beats me why someone would want to bring a horse up there, but I was going to go for a closer look but there were no little girls around to come with me, presumably something compulsory, judging by the accompanying sign.

sncb 535 am96 multiple unit gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Bang on time the 06:06 pulled in so I clambered aboard that and headed into Brussels via the airport.

It’s one of the class of AM96 multiple units with the rubber bellows end and the driver’s cab that tilts away when two or more trainsets are coupled together. These are quite comfortable, compared to some of the trains that work this line.

Not much luggage space though which is rather sad for a train that goes back and to via the airport. When the train is full we’re all somewhat overwhelmed with suitcases, although it was quite empty today.

ukrainian refugee centre gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022At Brussels I had a few things to do there so I was glad that I was on the earlier train.

First thing to do was to check the Ukrainian Refugee Centre to make sure that it was still operating. It was all closed up when I went by but that’s presumably due to the early hour. It looks as if it’s still operating in normal times.

Second thing was to draw more cash from the one-armed bandit. I don’t use very much cash at all these days, preferring to pay by card for everything but nevertheless it’s still handy to have some floating about.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that as a result of years of bitter experience, I keep €50 tucked away in my phone case and another €50 tucked away in Caliburn just in case I forget my bank cards when I’m on my travels, and I’ve had to rely on them more than once.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4537 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022There was only a short wait after that because much to my surprise, and everyone else’s too they posted the train to Paris half an hour before the next one so we all swarmed up to the platform.

Today’s train consists of two trainsets, each of 8 carriages. Mine is a “PBA” trainset, one of the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam Reseau 38000 tri-volt units. Quite elderly now but still quite capable of cruising for hours effortlessly non-stop at speeds of over 300kph.

Despite their age, it’s still by far the most comfortable and quickest way to travel to Paris. Many people think that an aeroplane might be quicker but it takes an age to travel from Brussels to the airport at Zaventam and then from Charles de Gaulle to the centre of Paris.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4533 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022The other trainset is also a “PBA” and that’s a surprise. We’re quite used to having hybrid trains consisting of different types of trainsets.

Everyone suged aboard and I could understand why they posted the train earlier too. There were 16 carriages on this train, all of which except the two buffet cars have 108 seats, and there wasn’t an empty seat on the whole train.

Getting that lot on board would take much longer than 15 minutes.

My seat was squashed in a corner out of the way so I passed the time of the journey choosing more music for my radio shows and keeping myself to myself.

Paris was heaving too. I was lucky enough to grab a seat on the Metro and we whizzed through the drains quite rapidly.

At the exit at the Gare Montparnasse Metro station a couple of people offered to carry my suitcase up the stairs for me, which was very nice of them. I didn’t take up their offer as I have to do all that I can to maintain my autonomy.

Nevertheless I am glad that I found that easier walk down the street instead of struggling through the labyrinth.

Gare Montparnasse was heaving with people this morning but then the first Saturday in August, that’s hardly a surprise. And I was lucky to find a seat next to an electric socket that actually worked so I could charge up the phone and listen to a live concert of Steve Harley and Nick Pynn which has one of the best versions of “Riding The Waves” that I’ve ever heard.

84558 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo August 2022The train back home was as usual a Gec Alstom Regiolis

Once again we were called early to the train which was once more just as well, and for the same reason as before. 2×6-car units and not a spare seat anywhere.

Lucky me! I had a lovely travelling companion but she didn’t say much and I carried on choosing music, reading a couple of books and … errr … falling asleep as we all went West.

The car park at the station was heaving too and leaving took quite a while. But I’m glad that I took the opportunity to go to Lidl because I could stock up with stuff for the next few days.

You’ve no idea how glad I was to be back at my apartment. I struggled up the stairs not once but twice with my stuff and ended up having quite a long chat with my neighbour from upstairs and we put the world to rights for a while.

Once I’d installed myself inside I made a nice strong coffee and a couple of rounds of toast – the first stuff that I’d eaten today and it was 15:30.

While I was drinking the coffee (two cups) I backed up the big computer in here and even before I’d finished the coffee I’d fallen asleep again. This time it was a good one and I was gone for about an hour and a half.

Tea was what I should have had last night. Alison coming by yesterday was a surprise so we had eaten out and I brought the stuff back with me today. It’s a shame to waste it.

There was the dictaphone to deal with at some point too. I was cooking some food in the oven. There was some stuff in there that I’d bought and there was a pie in there, something like that. I put the pie in what was really the vegetable container in the fridge but that was in the oven. When I went to turn the pie over to do the other side I noticed what i’d done and had to take it out. I went to pull the vegetable tray out but it was made of glass and really hot. I dropped it on the floor. Luckily it didn’t break and didn’t damage my pie. I had to look around for a pyrex bowl in which to put my pie so it would heat up properly in the oven while everything else in there was cooking

Later I was in charge of a gaol last night in Alabama or Georgia somewhere in the USA. There was turmoil because the State declared itself independent from the USA and everything changed. The townspeople wanted to take control of the gaol because there was an Afro-Caribbean prisoner in there who they wanted to summarily execute. I’d arranged for my men to be in the prison so that there would be no violent takeover. Anyway the people came in. I was standing there with a loaded shotgun. They considered that to be provocation. One man sidled up towards me supposedly out of my vision to try to overpower me but I stepped back and drove the butt of the shotgun into his stomach. I’d sharpened the butt of the shotgun into a point so it was like a spear. It pierced his skin and that took him by surprise. We ended up in a back room where I stabbed him several more times with this shotgun. He ended up unconscious on the floor. I walked back into the room with the shotgun in one hand and an automatic pistol in the other and asked “what happens now?”. That took them completely by surprise that I’d managed to overpower this guy so easily.

Finally Zero’s dad had given me a small red FIAT car that was in really good condition. I’d brought it in through my front door and into the house to give to Nerina, the idea of the house being that he couldn’t claim it back just in case there was a problem because I wasn’t sure about how reliable this gift was going to be. Then I had to go and do some work on the computer so I went upstairs to my office . I’d arranged all the furniture at one time that meant that I couldn’t see the computer screen from where my desk was so I had to rearrange it all back again. While the computer was warming up there was a programme on the internet about some kind of race through these fields by the people of this village. They had become so bogged down in the mud etc that they’d had to bring dogs in to tow them out. One of the competitors had to stay behind because they had a pair of chains to use to attach these dogs to all the teams. Instead of being clear favourites they were way down the field by the end. The judges had to mark their lateness as being compulsory rather than voluntary and that was controversial. The judges had to stay there really late to mark this particular leg so they weren’t happy either. It was all rather chaotic

It’s been an age since Zero has come for a wander with me during the night but every now and again her father pops up uninvited. He’s obviously “The Banquo at my banquet, a cuckoo in my nest”. Why can’t he send Zero instead?

So now I’m off to bed. I’m exhausted and a good sleep will really do me good, I reckon. I’ve been invited out tomorrow but I don’t know if I shall go. I’m not feeling up to it right now so we’ll have to see if I’m feeling any better in the morning.

Wednesday 3rd August 2022 – I’VE DONE SOMETHING …

… today that I vowed that I would never do. But needs must when the devil drives and it’s a sign of how far down the slippery slope I’ve slid just recently.

In fact what I’ve done, while we’re on the subject of driving … “well, one of us is” – ed … is that I drove to the railway station this morning in Caliburn.

It totally beats me why they can lay on a bus service that serves our building, and then send the bus off to places that don’t include the town centre or the railway station or anywhere else that anyone would realistically want to visit

Having spent far too much time hanging around in the past, I set the alarm for 07:00 today and that gave me enough time to prepare myself and to have a whizz around the apartment to clean it a little and take out the rubbish.

84569 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo August 2022There were a few parking spaces free just outside the station which was my good luck. I didn’t have too far to walk

As a result I was on the station in plenty of time for the train, which pulled into the station through the fog. The weather was clammy, foggy and not very encouraging this morning.

Our train was, as usual, one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis models, consisting of 2×6-car units. It was quite busy today and by the time that we arrived in Paris it was totally crowded.

Nevertheless I was lucky in that I had no-one sitting next to me so I could spread out and work in comfort.

It didn’t take me long to update the computer and then I read a book all the way to Paris. For a change, it was a novel, “The Man Who Was Thursday” by G K Chesterton.

eiffel tower sacre coeur paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022By the time that we reached Paris the fog had gone and we had a bright blue sky.

My seat was a good one this morning and as we pulled into the city and passed over the petite ceinture, the railway that used to perform a complete circle of the city in the olden days, I had a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower.

In fact you might say that I really had an Eiffel of it.

Over on the right on the skyline is the Sacré Coeur church in Montmartre. Where we stayed a couple of months ago was just round there about 10 minutes away but we didn’t have the time to visit it back then. I haven’t been there since I went with Nerina at some ridiculous time of the morning before the rush-hour traffic hit it some time years ago.

We were about 15 minutes late arriving in Paris but that didn’t matter too much because there was a long wait for my train to Brussels today.

ukrainian refugee centre gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022As usual I walked down the street in the open air to the Metro station instead of going through the labyrinth. It was blistering hot and I melted through the streets to the Metro. The Metro was packed but I managed to find the last remaining seat to Gare du Nord.

At the Gare du Nord I went to check to see if the Ukrainian Refugee post was still operating.

There’s a very active Group of activists in Normandy who are very interested in the lot of the refugees and I have some connection with a couple of them. While I’m on my travels I like to see what’s going on in this respect so I can pass on the information to people who can make use of it.

And then there was the wait for the train. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’m not taking the earlier “Ouigo” train and going via Lille. I’m not up to the walk across town at the moment so I’m paying extre and going on the later “Thalys” direct to Brussels.

The Gare du Nord was packed as well and there was no hope of finding a seat anywhere. I headed off to my usual comfortable secret bolt-hole where I was shouted at by a trolley driver but I took no notice.

Thalys PBKA 4301 gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022And then I had to fight my way on board the train to Brussels.

It was one of the PBKA – Paris Brussels Cologne Amsterdam trainsets and it was packed. There wasn’t a single seat free.

There was all kinds of confusion about the seats too, to which I contributed somewhat, with the ticket inspector having flicked over my electronic ticket while checking it so I ended up sitting in my seat for the return journey instead.

And in the confusion I lost my computer mouse. I had a feeling that it wasn’t my lucky day today.

sncb class 18 electric locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022As our train pulled in to Brussels, so did a push-me-pull-you for Leuven.

An ancient graffiti-ridden vinyl-upholstered relic of the 1970s as you can see in the photo where they have done a pretty poor job of cleaning it up but it was here and now do I fell aboard and that whipped us off to Leuven.

It was pushed by one of the Class 18 electric locomotives that these days are the mainstay of main-line passenger trains on locomotive-hauled lines. We’ve been on plenty of these in the past.

Having done a little shopping in the supermarket at the back of the station I came on here to encounter a load of confusion about the keys to my room.

And they have put me up two flights of stairs as well and I really don’t need that at all. Not in my state of health right now

pennsylvania volkswagen naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Later on I made it down to Delhaize for the rest of the supplies for my stay here.

And on the way down, this Volkswagen caught my eye, mainly because it’s carrying a number plate from Pennsylvania.

Why I’m interested in this is to find out how the car managed to come over here. There is a vehicle ferry from Europe to North America and back again but it’s for unaccompanied vehicles only and the prices are on another planet.

If I could find a ferry that is at amore reasonable price I’d sell Strider, my Canadian pickup, and take Caliburn over every year to North America.

roadworks Weldadigheidsstraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a while back in the Weldadigheidsstraat there was a rather large crane that was doing some kind of work at a house down there.

And so going past today I had a look down the street to see if it was still there, only to be confronted by a pile of paving blocks and building materials.

There’s some kind of process of gentrification taking place in Leuven right now and this street looks as if it’s about to fall victim to the designs of the planners.

What’s regrettable about this is that once the council does this it adds on about €20,000 to the house prices in the area and this makes the properties even less affordable to low-income earners.

Prices in town are already far too high for many people and this kind of thing won’t help any.

In Delhaize I stocked up with stuff and it wasn’t all that expensive. But then again with me being much more restrictive on what I eat these days, I’m not buying as much. And i was lucky enough to find a hard-wired mouse so I’m back in business, and after tea I can write up my notes.

photographer naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022One thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall is that my pages are full of photographs of people taking photographs.

Here’s someone else whom I caught doing it at the corner of the Naamsevest and the Naamsestraat. I had a good look round but I couldn’t see what had attracted his attention but never mind. I cleared off home.

Tea was a vegan burger with pasta and veg – the vegan burgers that I bring from home because LIDL actually does a good line in cheap vegan burgers

The reason why I do that is because if I have one with me and I’m too tired to go to the shops after I arrive, I can buy a bag of chips from across the road and I still have something like a meal to keep me going until I feel better.

What a state of affairs to be in.

Meanwhile – the dictaphone. We were at school, a whole mob of us, and there was a radio play in which we were performing. It started off with someone falling over a pile of students’ outstretched legs so it was a long stretched-out “AAARRRGGGHHH” sound to open it. This was how this radio play opened. It was one of a series of radio plays that the school was actually doing. There was much more to it than this. I was around with a few of the kids so I was a kid myself. We all had something to do with this, a group of us, and I was involved in this and there was definitely something happening in which we were involved but I can’t remember now what it was. It was just how this radio programme started up.

Later on my car was away at the garage having work done at it. There was something involving British Salt and the garage there but I can’t remember what it was. I needed a car to go to Chester and the wholesale warehouse. My last port of call was at my sister’s to see whether she had something. They were living in a mobile home place. I went there and knocked on the flyscreen but no-one came. A neighbour came round and started talking to me about it, pointing out this old car and saying that this was her old car but she had to have one because some of her kids went to Nantwich High School and some went to the local one. This is what you have to do when your children are spread out like that. I knocked a couple of times but she didn’t come to the door so I wondered what was happening. This was not like her. If she had been there she would have come. There was much more to it than this but that’s all that I remember.

And finally I was running tours around Perth and Scotland. I had a variety of part-time people helping me. One young boy, a friend of TOTGA, had just quit because he misunderstood the situation. He expected something else other than guiding tourists around. We were waiting at Tourist Information for a party that was turning up at 16:00. I’d told a friend to turn up at 14:00 so that I could show him a few things and point out to him so that he’d know about them. Time dragged on and he wasn’t there. It was 14:30,14:45 so I phoned him and he was still at home. He said “well I was out last night”. I said “I need you here to do this”. He said that he’d come down and tried to engage me in conversation over the telephone. I said “we’ll talk about this when you arrive because we’re in something of a rush at the moment. Come here as quick as you can”. The person with me asked me about this boy quitting. What did I think? I said that it was rather silly. I could see that once again I was going to be plagued with unreliable employees. I could see that I was going to be here full-time doing all this on my own as usual. I thought that I’m not going to be able to go home until Sunday after everything finishes. It’s a long way to go in an evening to go home. I said that I’ll be going home on Sunday evening. Someone asked “doing what?” so I replied “going home” “doing what?” going home!”. I suddenly realised that they were asking me “doing what” when I was back home. I replied “going back to work of course”. The friend had been telling me that it had been raining which was why he hadn’t come in but actually where we were it was bright sunshine so I had no idea why he decided why he didn’t want to come in and do this and even less of an idea why he didn’t want to tell me that he didn’t want to come in and do this.

Unreliable employees was the bane of my life wasn’t it?

Having already crashed out once earlier, I’m off to bed now. I have no fewer than four appointments at the hospital tomorrow so I can’t afford to hang about. I need a good night’s sleep.

Saturday 12th March 2022 – AS BARRY HAY …

… once famously said at a concert that I witnessed at Scheveningen in 1993, “there’s one thing that I gotta tell you, man, and that it’s good to be back home”

And he’s dead right too.

And I’ll tell you something else for nothing as well in that in the past I’ve been happy to stay out for as long as possible and even longer, but this little apartment perched on my rock surrounded on three sides by the sea is the first ever place where I’ve been keen to return.

Anyway, I digress.

When the alarm went off at 05:30 this morning I was already up and about. Having sleep issues can sometimes be an advantage.

It didn’t take long for me to make myself ready to leave either.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022Down at the Martelarenplein – the Square of the Martyrs – now that they have almost finished the resurfacing after all these years there’s a really beautiful view of the railway station.

It looks absolutely magnificent lit up like this, with the modern trainshed illuminated behind it. The modern bus station to the left is a disaster and the least that is said about that the better.

The story behind the Martelarenplein is that it relates to the events of August 1914 when the Germans, in a fit of rage, totally destroyed the city and reduced it to rubble.

Hundreds of civilians were caught up in the orgy of destruction and massacred, or later killed in reprisals for what the Germans considered to be acts of terrorism – events that have a parallel with events that are taking place elsewhere in Europe even as I write this.

It totally dismays me that after all of the destruction that has taken place over the last 108 years, some insane madman is doing exactly the same thing and that we as ordinary civilians are powerless to prevent it.

537 am96 electric multiple unit gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022With my early start, never mind the 06:33, the 06:14 was in the station when I arrived and I had time to leap aboard.

The train was the one that goes to De Panne and is made up of an AM96 unit, one of the ones with the tilting cab so that passengers can walk through when another trainset is coupled up.

There was a moment of panic when my telephone told me that I didn’t have a ticket. It seems that I’d been disconnected from the SNCB website. And so I switched my phone back on and for some reason it wouldn’t accept my e-mail address.

Just as well that no-one came to check my ticket.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4538 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022When I arrived at Brussels-Midi I went into Carrefour to grab some bread for breakfast, and then went to hunt down my train.

It was already in the station and to my surprise we were even allowed to board. It’s one of the old TGV Reseau 38000 Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam trainsets and it was absolutely crowded. There wasn’t a spare seat anywhere.

Once I’d found my seat, I spent the journey transcribing the dictaphone notes for the last few days. And I’d actually done half of them by the time that we arrived at Paris.

Bang on time too, which was nice, and I didn’t have to wait too long for a metro. As a result I was out of the underground and walking down the road in the open air towards the Gare Montparnasse in quite good time.

And aren’t I glad that I found this easy, comfortable way in the fresh air from the metro station to the railway station.

With an hour or so to wait for my train, I treated myself to a coffee and a nice relax while I waited for things to happen.

84566 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo March 2022No rpizes for guessing which one is my train.

It’s one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis trainsets that we always have. It was just a single 6-car trainset today and it was, like the TGV, packed out. No spare seats at all and I had a companion as far as Argentan.

Despite the abominable state of the track that had me thrown from side to side and made me realise why I never write anything while I’m travelling this route, I did manage to finish my dictaphone notes and I can tell you where I went during the night.

We were on a spacecraft last night. We’d started off with an equal number of each sex but many of the men had been killed when they’d landed on a foreign planet. Now there was just one man in charge and the rest were women and children. The children were gradually ageing and becoming young people. I was on board and we were still landing on strange places an being attacked by the local inhabitants and having to quickly close the door and scramble away. We landed on some kind of mountain and the guy said that he wanted to go to some kind of casino that night. A couple of us went for a walk around and we came to some kind of precipice where we could see straight down many, many, many thousands of miles below us a town that someone pointed out to us and said that it was Pompeii which was where this casino was. There was a huge, enormous palace construction somewhere that we could see and the person with us said that that was the palace of the Borgias. There had been some kind of incident with a loaf of bread as well that had been badly burnt on one end. I had that with me and I cut away the burnt end and I had both pieces in my hand. Then we went back to the spacecraft. When we went round a corner on this rocky path there was a girl, probably about 9, with blonde hair sitting there. She panicked when she saw us and couldn’t move. She had a cat with her. I tried to talk to this girl but of course she didn’t understand anything that I was saying so I started to stroke her cat. After a couple of times her cat started to respond to the stroking. I thought that if I managed to win over the cat I might win over the girl and we could rescue her and take her away in our spacecraft.

Later on we were out around Nantwich last night. We’d come down the Middlewich Road towards the Barony and turned right towards Chester when a strange machine went past. It had four huge wheels and it looked as if they had fish hook fastened to them. We could see what it was doing, that the fishhooks were digging into the ground as the wheels spun so that it go go past in all kinds of soggy and wet and muddy ground. It had a flat frame and someone was sitting on it working a couple of levers with handles and these wheels were really enormous, 4 of them, but very flimsy construction, very thin. We all made a few comment about that Somehow we all ended up in Crewe, near where the old Earl of Crewe used to be. There was some kind of discussion about Doctor Watson who had developed some kind of process that made eyebrows for children’s toys. He was talking about the method that he was using, that sounded quite logical in the dream but I can’t remember it. Sherlock Holmes had given him some advice and charged 2 guineas for the advice that he’d been given but Watson considered that it was really good advice and worth every penny because that was what made the difference between being good and being really excellent

A letter arrived for me from a guy whose surname was Ralf. I knew immediately what it was and I opened it. It was a time sheet and a cheque because I’d taken a lorry and a tanker for him overnight somewhere or other and that was my salary. It was the first-ever payment that I’d had for driving a lorry and that meant that I was a professional HGV driver. My father saw it but he didn’t think that it was enough so he telephoned this guy to tell him off. I had to wrestle the phone from him and tell Ralf to take no notice because I reckoned that it was OK and I wanted to drive for him again in situations like that. I was quite happy. He asked how it went and I said that we went along at a steady speed between 60 and 60 mph. Everyone else was going past me but the lorry was running so smoothly at that speed that I thought that I’d leave it there Everything else had gone fine and because I’d done it in the evening and overnight there was no traffic about so it wasn’t as if I was panicking or anything like that in traffic queues and so on. I quite enjoyed the experience. We chatted about a few other firms that we knew and seen on our travels and by the time the phone call finished I hoped that I’d made a good impression that he might call for me again if he had any more overnight jobs where he couldn’t find a driver.

We arrived at Granville bang on time and then, having called in at Carrefour for my mushrooms, I began the long, weary trudge back home – the trudge that is more than enough to finish me off.

And for some reason, my suitcase seems to weigh three times as much as it usually does. Never mind the apples that I brought back – I must have put the tree in as well.

bad parking rue des juifs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Regular readers of this rubbish that pathetic parking used to be a habitual feature of these pages, but I’m as fed up of talking about it as you probably are of reading about it.

However, sometimes the pathetic parking can’t be ignored, and this one here in the Rue des Juifs is one of those.

The reason why is that this is of course, as I have said before, a service bus route and there’s no conceivable possibility that an 8’6″ single decker service bus with an overhang front and rear can pass through that gap there.

But what does that matter to this delivery driver as long as he doesn’t have to walk more than two feet to deliver whatever it is that he’s delivering?

bicycle shelter place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022One final photo to take before I stagger into my apartment.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we saw them erect a bike shed in the Place d’Armes and then dismantle part of it again. So while I was away in Leuven they have come back and finished it again.

The next photo of it that I will take will be when someone will leave a bike in it – unless I happen to catch some goings-on behind of of the type that used to go on behind the bike sheds that we had at school.

But those photos will only be available in a plain brown envelope.

Back here I made myself a coffee and when I’d finished drinking it I started to back up the big computer with the files off the laptop that i’d created or edited while I was away.

And it will come as no surprise to anyone to hear that I crashed out for half an hour too. You’ve probably already noticed that I didn’t have my customary half-hour here and there on the way home.

Tea was the burger that I didn’t eat last night in Leuven, being out with Alison again. And they are quite delicious.

So now I’m going to relax for a while before I go to bed. I’ve done enough today and I think that I’ve earned my lie-in tomorrow. As long as I don’t have another ‘phone call when i’m trying to sleep.

Wednesday 9th March 2022 – I HAD A STROKE …

… of luck this morning.

There I was going down the stairs towards the front door when out of the lift came one of my neighbours.

“Are you off to Belgium?” she asked
“Yes I am” I replied
“Come with me” she said.

She was on her way to work so she took me and threw me out about 200 metres from the station and you’ve no idea how much I appreciated it.

That’s because I’d had a really bad night. I hadn’t taken one of those pills before I went to bed and I don’t know whether that’s anything to do with it, but it took an age to go off to sleep and then I awoke again at 04:30 and that was that.

Despite trying my best, I couldn’t go back to sleep and so when the alarm went off at 06:00 I was up and about quite easily.

By 07:30 I was ready to leave so I loitered around until 08:00 and then went off out where I bumped into my neighbour.

concrete pad gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Just or a change, I was at the station at 08:10.

That gave me plenty of time to have a look around to see what has been going on here. And this concrete pad is certainly new

It’s taken over two or three spaces of the railway station car park and unless I’m mistaken, it’s the area where electric cars could be charged too. So if they have been removed, where will the electric cars be charged now?

That’s something that is causing me a little concern. There’s a commitment to phase out new fossil-fuelled cars over the next 15 years or so and so they need to think long and hard about the necessary infrastructure and to have it in place long before the cut-off date – not leave it until the last minute.

And to install a whole new system of wind and tidal power generation. The wind doesn’t stop blowing and the tides don’t stop changing at night when everyone is asleep in bed and not using power. There will be tons of energy available to charge up vehicles if they organise themselves.

mural gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that when we were here last at the railway station they had a pile of scaffolding up inside the building.

Now that they have removed it, we can see what they were doing. We now have a lovely mural of Granville as it was in the days when we had wind-powered “Newfoundlanders” sailing out of the port to the Grand banks of Newfoundland for the cod.

“The cod were in largeness and quantitie … that they stayed our ships” wrote Richard Hakluyt in the 16th Century when he was discussing voyages to “The New World” that went via Newfoundland.

But that was a long time ago.

84567 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022For even more of a change, the train was already in the platform so I took my seat quite quickly.

You might be thinking that that means that the train started off bang on time, but in actual fact we were 5 minutes late leaving.

The train was packed and I had a rather irritable neighbour so while I was able to update the laptop, I wasn’t able to do any work. I read a few theses about medieval castles in Cheshire instead.

By the time that we arrived in Paris we had made up a couple of minutes so I had time to pop into the ticket office at the Metro to buy another set of 10 tickets. I’m running rather low right now

225 TGV Reseau Duplex Gare du Nord Paris France Eric Hall photo March 2022Travelling to the Gare du Nord on the Metro was quite painless – especially since I’ve found my short-cut in the open air.

My train to Lille – Flandres was already in. It is, as you might expect, one of the TGV “Reseau Duplex” double-deckers. Old and showing its age but quick and reasonably comfortable.

As usual we weren’t allowed to board it. There’s an 8-car trainset that comes in later and couples up to the rear of this trainset and then all 16 cars go back to Lille. We have to wait until it’s all coupled up and ready to go before we can board it.

210 TGV Reseau Duplex gare de lille flandres lille France Eric Hall photo March 2022This is the power car of the second trainset, photographed at Lille Flandres as I was leaving the station.

Our train was a few minutes late leaving, like the one from Granville, but that didn’t matter so much as there was plenty of time to walk across the city from Lille-Flandres to the Lille-Europe railway station.

There was even time to find a quiet corner at Lille-Europe and eat my lunchtime sandwiches before boarding my train. But I had to keep an eye out for the railway police who were cautioning people for not wearing a mask. And it’s difficult to eat your butties whilst wearing a mask.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 PBA gare du midi bruxelles belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022When I descended to the platform, the train was already in. It’s one of the PBA – Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam trainsets on which we travel quite frequently.

For reasons that I don’t quite understand, it waits here for about 20 minutes before departing. It’s more-than-likely due to the timing of the various connections that it makes with trains along its route.

And it was packed too and someone had taken my seat which was a shame, for I had rather looked forward to being out of my brain on the 5/15. I ended up sitting elsewhere, hemmed in and once more unable to do any work. I listened to “Colosseum Live” on the phone instead.

2730 class 27 electric locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022At Brussels-Midi there was a train to Leuven already so I didn’t have to hang around waiting.

Running (as best as I could) down the concourse I leapt aboard with no problems and settled down for the journey to Leuven.

When we arrived, I nipped down to the head of the train to see what was pulling us along. It’s one of the old Class 27 electric locomotives and we’ve had a few of these just recently.

Considering that they must be getting on for 40 years old, they are still clocking up the miles on mainline services with little sign of slowing down.

At the back of the station is the little supermarket so I went there and bought the bread, vegan margarine and stuff to drink. It saves on the weight that I have to carry back from the big supermarket later this evening.

martelarenplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022Now here’s a thing!

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that for the last however-many years we’ve seen (or not seen, as they case may be) the Martelarenplein, the Square of the Martyrs, all fenced off and covered while they have been renovating it.

Today though, apart from just one small area, all of the fencing has been removed and we can actually walk across the square if we choose to do so.

Not for me right now though. I’m tired and exhausted and and I can’t wait to find my way to my little room.

And once more I’m up a couple of flights of stairs and that’s killing me. Luckily the manager saw me struggling up the stairs so that might hopefully mean a change of room in the future.

Despite a nice hot coffee, I crashed out definitively, and for a good half-hour too.

electric three wheeled vehicle Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo March 2022You’ve no idea just how much difficulty I had trying to rouse myself to go to the shops for food.

Nevertheless, I’m glad that I did because I encountered this strange machine. It’s a three-wheeler and it’s probably electric because it was quite silent. But whatever it is, it was quite interesting to say the least.

At the supermarket I don’t know what happened there but the shopping bill was much less than it usually is. I don’t reckon that I bought any less than I usually do.

At some point I managed to find the time to transcribe the dictaphone notes. Last night started with a family thing again with my sister and her first husband. It was probably 01:00 and they were thinking about going to bed and I had all of my paperwork to do which involved those two. I had to set the time on Big Ben and a few other things too but I kept on having trouble seeing because the lights on this big tower clock were so dim that I couldn’t actually see how I was setting it. Occasionally it would all light up bright and I’d see that I’d done in incorrectly and had to go back but to be very careful not to wipe off everything that I had done so far – just go back 1 or 2 steps and start on. By now of course it was daylight. I could easily see what was happening and there were all kinds of things going on on this clock face – people laughing and cheering at it. In the end I had to set it by some kind of analogue means moving the hands because I couldn’t make it go correctly by doing it digitally. In the end I managed it but by now it was 06:40 and broad daylight. I had to be up at 10:00 and they had to be up earlier than that. In the end I said that I was going to bed. My sister’s husband said that he was going to lie in in the morning because he was exhausted. I thought “how does he think that I feel?”. On the way back they were rationing out some things for issue and showing me some kind of drink made by a well-known pop manufacturer in a very distinctive bottle. They said that last tie they had issued this it was 17 shillings and so many pence but now it’s just 4.5 pence and they can’t understand what has happened. I asked if it was generic stuff. They replied that it was so I replied that maybe the patent has expired so now it’s being cloned or something but they couldn’t seem to understand. Neither could I but I didn’t really want to because I was so tired

Later, I was in backwoods Canada or backwoods USA sometime in the 50s or 60s judging by the cars that were driving around. I was writing up someone’s memoirs from a set of old war letters, something like that. I’d gone to this house ad he’d let me have all of this communication and I was going through it making notes etc. Gradually one of two other people had let me have their stuff as well. The first guy was concerned that this was going to slow me down doing other people’s stuff as well but I explained that it was all part of the same thing. They gave me a time and said that I had to be finished by something like 18:15. He thought that time was dragging on but I said that I’d be back tomorrow and that seemed to be OK. Various people came to see me and talk to me about everything while I was there making all of these notes and what had happened in the past. It gradually worked out that I was writing stuff about current events as well for a more immediate publication. This was something that concerned all of the people in this area. But all of the cars were fantastic. Someone was driving a pickup where instead of having the pickup bed behind him it was something like an enormous American saloon convertible thing with just 1 seat for the person driving it and the pickup bed was at the side where the passenger would sit. There were all these kind of weird machines that looked like something out of the 50s and 60s

And then I was with Claude and Françoise last night in the Auvergne. They owed me some money and I had a few IOUs and we were settling up. While I was there I showed them how many US dollars I had. I explained about the time that I had to use the toilet in a cafe and I didn’t have any money to go in so I had to write out an IOU. I told them about a trip that I’d made to the USA with 2 girls. We’d roamed around the Midwest in a big American car which was a small Opel saloon from the late 60s, a type 1. On one occasion I’m not quite sure what had happened but these girls must have been in their night clothes in this diner. They had gone to the toilet to have a wash and brush-up but they came out in their night clothes as well. I asked what was going on so they said that they were going back to the car to change. I asked why they hadn’t taken their clothes into the ladies toilets and changed in there instead of doing it on the car park of this diner

Now that I’ve had tea I’m off to bed. I know that it’s early but I’m exhausted and I’ve almost fallen asleep twice. Hospital tomorrow so I’m lying in with no alarm.

After last night’s disaster, I need all the beauty sleep that I can get.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wherever did I find the time to go to sleep?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the ticket office they proposed the following itinerary –

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


Only three hours later than usual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all I needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 15th January 2022 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not actually sitting in a rainbow, but sitting in my nice comfortable chair in my office thinking that Barry Hay was absolutely right when he said “there’s one thing that I can tell you, man, and that is that it’s good to be back home”.

And after one of the most uneventful journeys that I have ever had too.

In fact the only thing that went wrong during the trip was that the ticket collector caught me having a crafty bite out of my butties. Since 3rd January 2022 it’s against the law to eat on public transport. So he had a good moan at me about it.

The morning started quite bizarrely because although the alarm was due to go off at 05:00 I had left my bed a long time before hand and was busy drinking a coffee and making my sandwiches when the alarm did go off.

Despite the somewhat reduced sleep, I still managed to go off on several voyages during the night. I’d picked up my daughter (!!!) from Crewe Railway Station and we had to go to Edge Hill in Liverpool to catch a boat so we hired a car and drove there. Everyone else stayed on the train. At Edge Hill we had to board this boat to go across the ocean but I can’t remember where now. It involved stepping onto this beach where there were 3 wild animals, an elephant, a tiger and a third animal. The tiger was extremely playful but nevertheless it unnerved me quite a lot as I was trying to walk around this island. It kept trying to pretend to stalk me by getting behind me and attacking me. I had to turn round to face it and chase it away. Then the elephant joined in and started to push me around with its tusk. This was starting to become really out of hand. I had the feeling that this elephant, if I let it, was going to do far more than just play around with me. I told the person who was with me, whoever it was, that if they didn’t do anything to control these animals the elephant was going to have a bullet through the brain. They insisted that it was just being playful but it wasn’t very playful as far as I was concerned and I was determined to deal with this elephant permanently either by having it taken away or else by the fact that I was going to shoot it and I’d do the same to the tiger as well if they didn’t organise themselves any better and control their animals

This was the dream about the “Hawkwind” group about which I’d been thinking. There were a couple of girls called Aral or Araf, something like that, who had joined as well but that was all it was really, about the two groups and merging together to perform those Hawkwind tracks that I had mentioned and I can’t remember anything else about it (and I’d love to know what I missed recording that made me dictate this in this particular way).

I was in Canada last night. I’d just arrived. I’d been to a car auction and there was someone there trying to sell one of these minivan things. He didn’t want very much money for it – about £700 or £800 – but it was a non-runner and needed a lot of work doing to it. It was really only suitable for using as a shed or something. There was a big argument going on between a woman and the auctioneers and a couple of other people about this. The next lot to be offered was an old panel van, the type from the 1940s or 50s. I was talking to the girl. This had no engine in it or anything like that so I said “well if it’s only for a garden shed this is what I’d use as it has no windows in it for a start. It turned out that she was only looking for $50 for it and that was much more reasonable.

Then I ended up at my niece’s house. She was saying something like they could only have one egg delivered by the ‘phone. She gave me a letter than hadn’t been opened and asked me to deal with it. It was something about some company stopping deliveries to the house. I rang them up to find out what had happened. It turned out that there had been a delivery to the house 2 years ago but no-one had signed for it so they were recommending to courier companies that they no longer delivered here. That would stymie just about everything for what was going on in Canada with her and so on so I rang up the tyre depot to speak to her daughter. I asked if she knew anything about this company. She replied that that was the company she dealt with. I asked her about this parcel. She said that she remembered it so I told her that she had to ring them back straight away and explain the situation to them otherwise we aren’t going to have any more deliveries. That will bring the business to a halt. She sounded drunk on the phone, something like that, and I couldn’t get any sense out of her. I carried on talking to her but it was still extremely difficult. Trying to give her the phone number was extremely complicated because she wasn’t paying any attention to anything that anyone was telling her. I thought “this is going to end in tragedy, isn’t it?”

martelarenplein leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022There’s a reminder alarm that goes off at 05:30 but at that time I was already down the street on my way to the railway station.

Of course I can’t go and look for a train without checking on how the work in the Martelarenplein is progressing. And the answer to that is, unfortunately, “slowly”. They don’t seem to have made very much progress at all since we were here four weeks ago.

It’ll probably be just the same when I come back here in four weeks’ time, if I do. At the rate at which I’m going, I’m not convinced that I’ll still be here in four weeks’ time. I feel as if my battery has gone completely flat.

557 am 96 multiple unit gare de leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022There’s a choice of three trains to take me to Brussels – the 06:08 stopper, the 06:11 that goes via the airport and the 06:31 direct, all of which arrive at roughly the same time so it makes no difference really which one I catch.

However, the airport train was one of the very comfortable AM96 multiple units. It was already in the station too and looked quite warm and inviting – it was absolutely taters outside – so I clambered aboard that one.

Having gone the long way round, it was 06:58 when it pulled into the Gare du Midi and that left me 45 minutes to wait for my train to Paris. I can cope with that, even if I can’t find anywhere warm and comfortable to sit. I hate these huge, draughty stations where you can’t ever keep out of the wind.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4538 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo January 2022Much to my surprise, the train was announced a long time before the usual 15 minutes. And even more surprisingly, we were actually allowed to board it.

It was quite empty this morning so we had plenty of space to spread out. Not the usual “crammed in like sardines” situation. I made myself comfortable and listened to my Hawkwind concert – the one that I had prepared on my way to Brussels on Wednesday.

And during the journey I did some more work on making notes on the Flatey Book and I could have done more than I did but to tell the truth, I had something of a “relax” for part of the journey.

At the Gare du Nord it took me a few minutes to find a metro ticket that worked, and then I was able to board probably the most crowded metro train that I’ve ever seen

place du 18 juin 1940 paris france Eric Hall photo January 2022At the Montparnasse metro station I came up into the Rue du Départ, plumping for the easier walk on level ground rather than up and down the steps in the labyrinth.

Behind where I come out of the bowels of the earth is the Boulevard Montparnasse and the Place du 18 Juin 1940. I wlked from down that way somewhere when I did my TRAVERSEE DE PARIS during the strike of public transport.

The walk in the opposite direction was quite straightforward and it’s quite depressing to think that I hadn’t thought about walking on the surface beforehand.

At the station it was much quieter than when I was here four weeks ago and I even managed to bag a comfortable seat with a power point.

84564 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo January 2022No prizes for guessing which one was my train to Granville.

And even more so when the red lights came on with about 15 minutes to go before we were due to depart.

When the train was called, we trooped off to find out seats. Mine was right down at the far end of the train near the driver. And once again, the train was empty. 12 carriages and I reckon that the passengers on the train could have had a carriage each.

On the way home I listened to my concert again and read a book about a cavalry unit from Michigan during the American Civil War. And tried rather unsuccessfully to eat my sandwiches.

84559 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022Our train was made up of two 6-car units and I’d been in the front unit. I hadn’t photographed that in Paris so I took a photo of it on my way out of the station at Granville.

First stop was at the Carrefour down the hill from the station. A pizza isn’t a pizza without mushrooms on it and they sell 250-gramme punnets at €0:99 so if I can’t go to LeClerc for my loose ones, I’ll pick them up here.

And that reminds me. I’ve run out of pizza dough so I need to make some more tomorrow.

The town was fairly quiet this afternoon with no tourists and I took the back way home anyway so I had even less to worry about – except for the ambulance that nearly ran me down in a back street. And then reversed back to have another go seeing as he had missed on the way past.

replacing bricks on wall rue des juifs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo January 2022Going up the hill towards home dragging my suitcase behind me was something of a struggle and I was glad to stop halfway up and eat my butties.

There was also some work on the wall in the Rue des Juifs that I’d missed. Some of the capping bricks had crumbled away and they have now been replaced. I suppose that they will be back on Monday to point them.

Back here I had a coffee and collapsed into my chair without moving for a good couple of hours. All of this travelling is exhausting me and the final climb is killing me off, I reckon. And if they can’t find the problem at the hospital, I suppose that I’m going to be stuck like this.

Tea was some of those small breadcrumbed soya fillets with veg and potatoes. Really quite delicious. I needed that.

And now I’m off to bed. I’m absolutely whacked after my early start and my trek home. A good sleep will do me good, so just watch someone phone me up or something.