Tag Archives: early start

Saturday 6th April 2024 – TODAY WAS ONE …

… of the worst days that I have had for quite a while.

In fact, it’s a day that harks back to the bad old days of winter 2015-16 when I was struggling to come to terms with this illness, or over the summer of 2015 when I’d moved to live in Leuven

It’s a combination of two factors really.
Firstly those stabbing pains that I have nin the sole of the foot returned yesterday and gradually worsened as the day wore on and accelerated through the night.
Secondly I was wide-awake at about 04:30 and there was no hope whatever of going back to sleep.

It totally beats me as to what would have awaken me, and awoken me to such an extent that I couldn’t go back to sleep, even at that time. It must be something quite considerable and important, so I’m surprised that I don’t know what it is.

What I was going to say was that I didn’t have a clue, but I doubt whether there would be many people who would disagree with that diagnosis.

And as it happens, I do have a clue about what time I went to bed last night, and it was late yet again, which is even more surprising considering how early I awoke.

But doing all this paperwork and making all these notes really does take its time and I’m surprised that I’m ever ready to go to bed.

So having settled down to go to sleep I was soon awake again, drifting into alternate fits of wakefulness and sleepiness, but always being awake nevertheless.

And that didn’t stop my imagination working because even though I was in this semi-wakefulness I was still off on my travels.

When the alarm went off at 07:00 I’d already been up and about for 15 minutes and was on the point of finishing dressing and going for a wash.

Not before checking the blood pressure though. 16.1/9.9, which compares with last night’s figure of 16.4/10.1 – pretty much the same by the looks of things.

After shovelling down the piles of medication I arranged the room for the nurse and then tidied up the knives and forks etc from the previous evening. If I’m having house guests, which looks pretty much like it in the near future, I need to learn some new habits.

Rather like the man in church praying to God – "Oh God give me patience! And hurry!"

When the nurse came round he plastered me up again but said that this will be the last of them as the foot has healed so well.

As it happens, I think that the foot has certainly healed but not as well as he thinks. Still, he’s the nurse, I’m not.

After he left I made a start on the dictaphone notes from the night and from the morning when I was half-awake. And apart from what seems to be the usual fact these days of getting up, getting dressed and ready to leave the bed but only in my subconscious mind (as far as I know), also later on there was a phantom doorbell to say that the nurse had arrived. That was at 03:00 and so it was extremely unlikely, but nevertheless I found myself getting out of bed for that as well. I’ve no idea what’s going on with me at the moment. This is crazy.

What this next dream was about was a woman who was visiting the doctor’s for some reason. He gave her an examination . Then someone like Ingrid came along. Because she was more ill he gave her the more profound examination and had to make sure that she was supported by enough orderlies but she could withstand the pressure that he was going to apply. It was all to do with rolling balls Up and down the body to find weak points. Obviously he’d roll them quite hard and then feel the resistance, to see where the body was in need of reinforcement

And before anyone says anything about it, I shall say myself that that particular dream sounds like a right load of balls. It’s an interesting concept though and I bet that there’s plenty of mileage in an idea like that if I were to take it to some of the more obscure clubs in Soho

In fact I could probably make a small fortune from clubs like that for the rights to the unexpurgated version of this blog

And then while I was lying there half-asleep Nerina and I were at a port somewhere on our way to cross the Channel to go to a party at a friend’s house. We didn’t have any preparations at all – we didn’t have a GPS to find out where it was, we didn’t have any accommodation booked for Nerina or anything like that. We were going to simply improvise and make it all up on the spot. So we boarded the ferry and I went to look out of the window but they were all misty and steamy so I asked the purser if he had any car windscreen wipers. He chuntered but had a really good search, chuntering all the time. Eventually he came up with a pair and handed them to me, which I thought was nice. I could sit down then and look out of the window to admire the shipping like I usually do.

And this brings back many happy memories of me being invited to a party and setting out to go there, and suddenly realising that I had no idea of the address or where the person lived. I drove around in circles for quite a while before in the end I gave up and went home.

As Kenneth Williams once so famously said, "I’m often taken aback by my own brilliance". It’s the kind of thing that only I can do.

Meanwhile back at the ran … errr … bed, this thing about Normandy involved the Normandy group on Social Network. In the end we’d sacked all of our advisers and dealt with everything on a question and answer basis amongst ourselves. That even included the vets. Everything there on the group seemed to be going much better since we no longer had advisers and people were resolving their own problems like this

In my case though I’ve simply sacked my Social Network. It’s becoming less and less of a Social Network and more and more a vehicle for adverts and publicity. If I wanted to see “sponsored links” and “suggested for you” articles I’d look for them. I don’t want them thrust into my face at the expense of stuff that I want to see.

So I went for my coffee and cheese on toast for breakfast and despite two really strong mugs full of coffee I crashed out quite completely and absolutely, and for a good couple of hours too.

And Nerina came to visit me again, but it wasn’t a very pleasant meeting so I’m not going to transcribe the notes. With all of these problems I’ve been told to do all that I can to avoid unpleasantness.

In fact, this illness has made a whole new person of me.

What I can say about it though was that the dream was building up to a ‘phone call, and sure enough, I had one too, and a real one. It was the delivery man with the rest of my Amazon order.

This afternoon, I really felt like death. It was the worst that I have felt for quite some considerable time.

Margaret Thatcher once famously said something like "anyone can do a good day’s work when they want to. To be successful, you have to do a good day’s work when you don’t want to" and I’ve ploughed nevertheless through some radio notes and a pile of Welsh homework when all that I wanted to do was to go back to sleep.

There was football on the Internet later, Aberystwyth v Penybont. Penybont are far too good a team to be involved in a relegation scrap where they are right now, but Aberystwyth are down near the bottom for a good reason.

And that was how it went on. Aberystwyth started well and had a couple of chances but faded quite quickly and Penybont took control.

A 3-0 win was probably about right but Aberystwyth will rue the errors that they made. However it’s not easy playing football in a monsoon like they had this afternoon during the game.

Tea was baked potato and salad with one of the delicious breaded quorn fillets that I like, and that’s it for the day. I’m off to bed, with an alarm for tomorrow as the nurse will be round.

And tomorrow afternoon I have biscuits to make as I have now run out of supplies.

But before I go, talking about obscure clubs in Soho and unexpurgated versions of writings reminds me of a former girlfriend who worked at the local library on Saturdays and who has featured on these pages on more than just a few occasions.
She was asked to order a pile of books so she was going through the list, and one title caught her eye
"What’s this book here?" she asked
"It’s called ‘Ferry across the River Kwai’" explained her supervisor
"But is that title right?" she asked. "I’m sure that it should be called something else"
"It’s all right" said the supervisor. "Don’t worry. It’s simply the unabridged version of the story"

Friday 29th March 2024 – THIS MORNING AT …

… 04:30 I was up and about making bread, would you believe?

And I’m still up and about now. In fact, this is probably one of the very few times that I’ve actually sat down today.

Not that I’m complaining about the early start though. I made the nicest bread that I have ever made. It actually looked and felt (not to mention smelt) like proper bread, and I do have to say that it was a triumph.

If I could make bread like that all the time I would be more than happy. Especially as, being short of money, I would knead the dough.

Earlier this morning, at 04:11 to be precise because I looked at my watch, I awoke. And I couldn’t go back to sleep no matter how much I tried so in the end I abandoned the idea and went into the kitchen.

It didn’t take too long to knead the dough but what I’d done differently was to use a little more water than usual, and warmer water at that. and then rather fighting it, I folded it over and over, just as gently as if I was massaging Zero’s clavicles.

And not just once either but a couple of times to make sure that it was properly kneaded. And off we went. And up it went too. It rose faster than my blood pressure when I realised later in the day that I had forgotten to take it this morning. Last night’s was 18.1/10.4 by the way.

While it was rising I put it carefully aside. I don’t want any nurses poking and prodding it. But I tidied up the kitchen area a little because it’ll be busy in a couple of hours.

When the nurse arrived she put on my puttees, had a chat and then left, pleased that we’d ordered her supplies for her. And then, as LeClerc’s home delivery was now open, I sent off my order. “Delivery between 10:00 and 12:00”.

Next task was to transcribe the dictaphone notes from last night. There was some kind of art school taking place last night with human models being used in the sculpting and painting classes etc for people to practise drawing or working on human figures. When they began to introduce a second model to work as a pair with the first one there were quite a few people who objected and there were obvious reasons too. It caused a great deal of unrest and unease amongst everyone because many people believed that art was pure and could not be corrupted and other people who believed that corruption was everywhere in the world and this was just another part of it. There were two extremes of people who were busy arguing over what the models were supposed to be doing. Everyone else was really quite bewildered that someone could make such an issue about something that was so ordinary, familiar and so straightforward.

And that’s a common occurrence these days. I’m convinced that there are some people who have nothing better to do except trawl the internet or their immediate neighbourhood to find ways in which they might be offended

And when they do find something that offends them they spend all their time and effort actually aggressively trying to upset everyone else by forcing their viewpoints on the World and expecting the 98% majority to suppress their own interests in favour of those of the 2%

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I have every sympathy with minority groups but sometimes consider that some of them go way beyond the bounds of what is reasonable behaviour.

When you see people complaining about what they see as pseudo-eroticism, like girls wearing bikinis and the like, and saying how indecent it is, that tells me far more about what’s going on in their mind than it does about what’s going on in the mind of the pseudo-offender.

And then I went back to sleep and this argument was still continuing. No-one was making any progress at all about either performing the piece of art or about having their points of view agreed. I quite simply didn’t understand the whole issue because there’s no objection to the art being displayed in museums etc and that’s where you’d think that people would be most upset but I dunno. I just didn’t understand it.

Later on I was still in this dream but I was actually dreaming it in Welsh. At one point while I was watching something on the TV there was a big crowd. I took something out of my pockets, some paper and rubbish, and simply threw it on the floor which was greeted by a barrage of heckling from the various people standing nearby. I didn’t just do it once but did it twice as well, I seemed to think, and it may have even been three times but I was having this dream in Welsh at that point.

So there I was, back in the same dream three times all told. And had I stayed in bed there might have been even more. But it was interesting that I was dreaming in Welsh because I’ve been thinking – and talking to myself – mainly in Welsh today which has surprised me. I must really have enjoyed that course.

As for talking to myself, of course I do. I’m reminded of Gandalf in LORD OF THE RINGS when he said "For I was talking aloud to myself. A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to".

When the LeClerc delivery arrived I put away the frozen food and then had breakfast. And my hot cross buns are superb. They were a definite success too – well worth waiting for.

After putting away most of the food I set about blanching dicing and blanching the carrots, followed by the broccoli, ready for freezing.

And the cleaner caught me in flagrante delicto. She came in to tell me that I can’t have my injections any more.

The situation is that according to the prescription they can only be given if the blood tests show a result of less that a certain figure for something. But seeing as the prescription for the blood tests has run out and the tests aren’t being done, they can’t check the figure.

That sounds quite logical to me, but it meant that I had to sent an e-mail to the hospital to ask for clarification

So tonnes of carrots and broccoli to freeze, and there’s a broccoli stalk to make a soup tomorrow for midday – dipping my fresh bread into it too. It should be delicious.

There was football this afternoon – Colwyn Bay v Aberystwyth Town. Both teams propping up the table and they played like it too. Having seem the beautiful, flowing football of TNS last weekend, ths game was a disappointment.

Mind you, played on a swamp in a monsoon, that was hardly a surprise. Colwyn Bay have a beautiful ground as far as the grandstands and terracing go, but the pitch is awful.

Aberystwyth took the lead early on with a scrappy goal that was really the only exciting moment of the first half. Things improved for Colwyn Bay after the break and they looked more lively but it was the introduction of a couple of substitutes by each team on 75 minutes that livened up the game.

From then on, each team was throwing the kitchen sink at each other with gaps opening up everywhere in the defence as each side went on the attack, only to be caught out by a quick breakaway

Just as the game was going into stoppage time Colwyn Bay scored a dramatic equaliser, but blow me if Aberystwyth didn’t roar up the other end and score immediately.

So Aberystwyth won and move up above Pontypridd United, but things look dark for Colwyn Bay. And they’ll be even darker as they’ll be without manager Steve Evans next game. I don’t know what he said to the ref after the final whistle but it was worth a yellow card.

And then he must have said it again because he received another yellow card. So that’s him out of the dugout and in the stands for the next game.

As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … I’m fed up of these petulant football players having crises all over the place during a game, and when the managers begin to do it, that really is the end.

The cleaner came not long after kick-off to do her stuff, and she left so quietly that I didn’t hear her go. But I now have a clean kitchen again which is nice.

The rest of the afternoon was either spend working on my Canada 2022 stuff or else, regrettably, asleep in my chair. Not that I’m complaining about that either. I’m surprised that I’ve kept on going as long as I have.

Tea was a burger on a bap, one of those burgers that I made from the stuff that my friend in Munich sent me. With chips and salad too, and it wasn’t disagreeable. It was rather gritty but that’s the ingredients I reckon and you can’t like everything absolutely

But it worked, and that was what counts.

Fighting with the freezer to put away the carrots and broccoli I dropped the carrots all over the floor. But picking them up (I’m glad that the floor is clean) I found the clip for the other puttees that I’d lost. Having found yesterday the other one that I lost a long time ago, I now have all four for each set which is just as well.

But I’ve also been busy booking Welsh courses. I’ve booked a week at the start of July with Coleg Cambria (and I hope that my own tutor isn’t tutoring it because doing a course with her two levels down would be embarrassing for both of us) and a two-week Summer School with Coleg Morgannwg at the end of August. So more “gyda” instead of “efo” for when I go back on my main course in September

It beats me though why Coleg Cambria’s courses are so early in the Summer break. I would have thought that they would have run their Summer courses just before the restart to set people off running when they start their next course.

But that’s enough from me for tonight. I’m off to bed. But doing all of these courses reminds me of the famous poem about Crawshay Bailey and his "engine
which was always wanting mending"

so
"he went to Cardiff College
for to get a bit of knowledge"

With this course at Coleg Morgannwg I’ll have been to most Colleges in the whole of South Wales "for to get a bit of knowledge" and it’s still not working, just like Crawshay Bailey’s engine.

It just reminds me of the small boy at school who had to repeat Year 6 three times. When asked how he felt about it he replied "I’m not bothered"
"Why’s that?" asked his parents
"At least I’m cleverer than my teacher"
"Why’s that?"
"Well" he replied "she was in Year 6 when I started at this school, she’s been in it all the time that I’ve been here and she’ll still be it again next year after I’ve left!"

Sunday 17th March 2024 – WHOSE SILLY IDEA …

… was this for me to make a start at 08:00 this morning?

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the alarm had actually gone off but somehow for some unknown reason it didn’t fire up and that was that.

Strangely enough, five minutes later, at 08:05 exactly, I sat bolt upright, wide-awake and that was something really quite extraordinary, especially as first of all it’s a Sunday and secondly, I didn’t go to bed until 00:20 this morning. I’ve really no idea why I should awaken like that just five minutes after the alarm should have gone off, but didn’t.

It’s actually quite surprising how long it takes to do everything that needs to be done before I go to bed. There’s the list of what I needed to do that I posted the other day, and even then I forgot about taking the blood pressure. Seriously, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t so firmly screwed on

And that’s why a baby never falls out of a pregnant woman – because it’s screwed in. But I digress … "again" – ed

Last night after I’d finished the notes I wandered around doing everything that I need to do before retiring, apart from washing these puttee-things. They aren’t soiling so there’s no need to wash them until we have the second pair.

And then, thinking that I’d set the alarm, I fell into bed.

As I mentioned earlier I fell out of bed at 08:05 and then checked the blood pressure. 16.0/9.9, compared to last night’s figure of 16.1/11.1. We shouldn’t go round taking these figures as gospel because there’s quite a discrepancy between what they show at the hospital and what is being shown at home. I have grave suspicions about my little machine.

Having taken my medicine I arranged a few things in order ready for the immediate arrival of the nurse.

When she turned up she tore into me because the stuff wasn’t here from the pharmacy. As I said, “what can I do about it? I’m firmly and completely in the hands of other people”. However, that’s no excuse apparently, and she carried on with her endless verbal assault.

She also had a good moan about me not taking painkillers. The whole of France is awash with Doliprane and I have no wish to join them. We’ve seen far too many cases in the past where people, pumped up to the gills with painkillers, fail to notice the damage that they are doing by continuing to use whatever member of the body is being numbed and the damage becomes permanent.

You suffer pain for a very good reason.

After she left I didn’t do too much. I had some food and then simply drifted around in cyberspace, that is – when I wasn’t asleep. I’ve fallen asleep a couple of times, once at the table in the dining room after two large mugs of black coffee. Something’s clearly not right there either.

But I did manage to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. I had another dream … "when was the first?" – ed … where all the passengers were soaked inside a coach. This time I’d been to a local bar and seen on the counter top a couple of trips advertised to different places, one of which was a trip around the nuclear power station up the coast. so when the landlord had a moment free, for he was the type who was friends with everyone I asked him about it. He had a moan about him hoping that I wasn’t someone who had just come in to waste his time but he let me see the itinerary, the brochure etc and I thought “yes, I’ll sign up for this” and put my name down. He was at the point of asking me for a payment and a deposit but we ended up playing football. I was substituted quite early on pretty much the same as that dream at the start of the evening … "which dream?" – ed … where all the passengers were given a soaking by the coach driver who pulled the choke mechanism and that released a water tower into the air vents

That was another dream about which I recall absolutely nothing at all and I’ve no idea at all to what it refers.

But later on I was back singing in a rock group again … "presumably in English tonight" – ed … One of the things that I had to do was to speak to someone there about singing some of the songs in a mixed-up kind of fashion like singing a song by the Moody Blues, giving a false title and having people guess who it was and who wrote it. I had to communicate with someone about it, another group’s arranger. He was speaking to someone else so I had to interrupt him. A policeman there tried to take hold of me and usher me away. I had to be really insistent to the point of actually almost being arrested before the policeman would let me speak.

That’s something similar to a quiz that we had a few months ago on the radio. There, we were snipping out sound-bytes from popular songs and having people identify them. Being ushered away by a policeman is however quite a new experience. Usually, from what I’ve seen, it would be “out with the handcuffs” or, these days, more like “out with the truncheon”.

When you look back to the 1960s and early 70s and the Monty Python sketches of violent policemen going berserk with their truncheons and how we all laughed at the satire because it was such an unreal situation, and yet here we are today where policemen going berserk with truncheons is par for the course.

We’ve come a long way since those days, and all of it completely in the wrong direction. It’s like Théoden said in LORD OF THE RINGS"The world changes, and all that once was strong now proves unsure"

And as Erma Brombeck wrote, "When humour goes, there goes civilization", and humour has long-since departed from this wretched world.

I’s easy to understand the sentiments of Bhuwan Thapaliya who said "The older I get, the more I cherish the company of children and the flowers. The children have no prejudices. They are what they are. And so are the flowers". That’s a position with which I sympathise.

What work I’ve done today has been to make a start on editing some radio programme notes. Not much of them because, being so tired as I am, I’ve not really felt in the mood for work.

In fact, I almost forgot about making my pizza tonight. Luckily I remembered just in time, and it was another delicious one.

So here’s hoping for a better day tomorrow. A good sleep might put me right, and then I have plenty to do. It’s never-ending. Who said anything about retiring making life easy?

It’s the one thing about old age, and that is that you have so much to do but you keep on forgetting to do it. That’s where I am now. It’s like the character in The Navy Lark who said "All of which reminds me of a funny story I once heard and which now completely escapes me"

As for me though, I’m like the character in “Gunsmoke” of which it was said "A lot of things can happen to people who get too lonely" – but as long as it only happens to me when I’m asleep, that’s OK.

Rather like the police who raided that woman’s apartment and found a knife under her pillow
"What’s this for?" they asked
"That’s in case someone breaks into my room while I’m asleep" she said "and brings me a cake".

Friday 26th January 2024 – MY BREAD ROLLS …

… were prepared quite early.

Much earlier than I expected too. When the alarm should have gone off at 07:00 I was already sitting working at my desk while the dough that I’d made was quietly rising away in the kitchen.

It was about 04:30 when I awoke, with a stabbing pain in my right foot (which is a surprise because usually I can’t feel very much in there). It turns out that these socks that I have to wear had been rubbing on a certain spot on my ankle joint and it had suddenly erupted.

Nothing that I could do would ease the pain and go back to sleep so round about 05:30 I gave up and arose from the dead. If I can’t sleep now I’ll probably sleep later, but I do that anyway so what’s the difference?

Mind you, I don’t know what the hospital will say when they see my blood pressure, taken as I was being wracked with pain. A reading of 19.8/11.7 is enough to put the willies up even the strongest of spines.

After I’d had my medication and a little pause to catch my breath, I switched off the alarm because, knowing my luck, the alarm would go off as I’m up to my elbows in dough, and then I attacked the bread.

You would think that after all of that I would have slid down another black hole but oh no! The optimistic mood prevailed. I found an antiseptic pad from about 100 years ago still in its sealed packet and strapped it around the wound with half a roll of sticking plaster. Then I could put on my socks.

Surprisingly, the pain began to ease and I could actually walk again so I walked back to the bedroom and the big computer where I transcribed the notes. And here we go again. The anti-potassium stuff that I have to continue to take did its stuff again. Apparently at some point I awoke again with that radio playing that I mentioned yesterday. I’ve no idea what’s happening here.

Later on I was in hospital and was listening to the news. There was a woman who was in Court for refusing to pay a taxi fare because the taxi had called her “Miss so and-so” instead of “Mrs so-and-so””. The taxi driver said “I’m here and you want to go there and you need to travel” so she went with him but didn’t pay. She complained about the extra £3;50 extra terrorism charge on the same day that her husband was arrested and had to identify himself and prove that he wasn’t a terrorist himself which was obviously a mysterious decision all the way round, and then there was another story about a certain company director who was denying rumours that he was paying for everything in gold coins after his company had declared untold wealth and profits and he’d been seen out socialising with someone senior from the Bank of England.

Not a lot on the dictaphone tonight but it’s not bad for only 5 hours sleep at most. And it seems that my favourite young ladies have deserted me again for the time being

For a change I made myself a quick mug of instant coffee and having checked on my bread to make sure that the dough was OK (well, sort-of) I came back and had a nice long chat with Liz. She’d found me a recipe for a black bean burger that she reckoned might work well with other sorts of beans.

As for where I’m going to find some of the ingredients, I’ve no idea. I bet that Leclerc won’t have them in stock. I can see my poor cleaner having to make a diversion via Biocoop on her way to Leclerc.

Earlier on I’d rolled the dough for my bread into a long sausage and then cut it in three equal portions. Now that it had proofed (I wouldn’t actually say “risen” – my bread is proof that I’d be no good as a spiritualist) I baked it and then made a toasted cheese and tomato and onion roll.

It was lovely with really fresh bread but I wish that I could make it rise. It’s compacted and as heavy as lead. But still nice of course.

Having had two mugs of strong black coffee, I came in here to sit at the computer – and promptly crashed out. This anti-potassium stuff really is wicked because it was a deep, complete and absolute sleep that lasted quite a while.

As a result, my lunchtime fruit was more like a mid-afternoon fruit, made even later by the fact that I did some tidying up in there as well. Imagine that! Me, tidying up!

There was some personal stuff that then needed my attention so I dealt with that and then went into the kitchen to make some hot chocolate, only to bump into the cleaner coming in through the front door with some post for me so we had a chat.

After she left I made my drink and then came back in here, where I crashed out yet again.

And if you thought that the last one was deep, what about this one? I even managed to go off on a nocturnal – although I suppose that you would say “diurnal” – ramble. While I was crashed out in the early evening before tea I was with my friend from the Wirral. He’d had some major disappointment and needed to make a phone call. There was a phone box in a cabin by the pavilion in the park where we were so we set off that way. It meant crossing some rough ground where I lost sight of him. Instead I saw a girl whom I knew so I shouted out to her “I thought that I’d lost you” and went over to take her by the hand. However I met my friend and we ended up at the pavilion. He asked me if I knew the dial code for Italy so after some thought I said that it was either 41 or 45 … "it’s actually 39" – ed … He went off to dial and I sat on the floor outside. There was obviously some kind of event taking place because a large queue built up for the Gents – all men in frock coats and top hats. Meantime I was counting out my small change because I’d promised him some liquorice allsorts but was dismayed to see that I didn’t have enough money and after some thought, decided that I’d have to use a note. Pretty soon this queue built up considerably and I found myself in the way. Some of the people began to moan and one or two people whom I knew from work told me that I ought to move or else there might be trouble. I just sat there totally impassively. Just as things were becoming quite heated my friend appeared. “Are we ready” I asked, and when he nodded I stood up and departed with him, leaving those people in the queue to sort things out themselves.

You’ve no idea, by the way, how much truth there is in a small story like that.

And not only that, have you ever had to try to work when you are totally wrecked by this miserable anti-potassiun stuff? I couldn’t see, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t write yet somehow I managed to pour out the remaining notes for the next radio programme. God alone knows what I’m going to find when I come to dictate them.

But I can’t keep going like this. It’s simply not possible. It’s only 21:30 and I’m wrecked yet again.

There’s nothing much to do over the weekend except a radio programme. I’ll probably have a day off tomorrow, spent totally unconsciously as I sink under the weight of this crazy medication.

Tangerine Dream will still be going round on the playlist as they did today but I bet that I won’t hear all that much of it. "To sleep—perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub" said Hamlet, but Richard Thompson told me that YOU DREAM TOO MUCH. IT’S GOING TO END BAD.

Mind you, Richard Thompson was singing in my ear to KEEP YOUR DISTANCE very loudly, and quite right too when I first encountered Castor and I took no notice. "I played" and I was ohhh! so close to being "stung", so what’s going to change this time? I didn’t regret it for a moment at the time, I still don’t and I will live on the energy and emotion for the rest of my life.

Mind you, that’s not saying all that much, is it?

Anyway, I’d better pack up and go to bed nice and early before I slide back into the pit again.

At least the good news is that with this knee brace stocking kind of thing I can move about a lot easier and in less pain too. Liz has found some more so if I’m lucky she says that I might end up with an early birthday present.

Nevertheless it did rather remind me of that famous story from the Crewe Memorial Hospital back in the 60s when a patient was in there with a bad leg injury

"We have some good news and some bad news, Mr Smith" said the surgeon
"OK. Tell me the bad news"
"I’m afraid that we’ve amputated the wrong leg"
"Jesus!" cried the patient. "So what’s the good news?"
"Your bad leg is getting better"

Tuesday 23rd January 2024 – SO THAT’S ANOTHER …

… French hospital that I can add to my ever-growing list. And remind me to cross it off my list of ones to revisit. Florence Nightingale was there and dropped her lamp on my toe.

But seriously, old and creaking though the hospital might have been, I couldn’t fault the service that I had yet again

“But I don’t want another one of these 06:30 starts again” said he, setting his alarm for 06;15 tomorrow. “I’m not as young as I was”.

Indeed I’m not. It took me over half an hour to wash and dress this morning which meant that I didn’t have time to make my sandwiches for the journey. Consequently I’ve been without food and drink all day until I returned home.

That’s actually not a bad idea either. It’s something along the principle of a long journey where “what doesn’t go in won’t want to come out” at an inconvenient moment.

The taxi was late arriving so I had to ring up to chase them up. And when it arrived, what kind of state was I in to stagger to the car in my condition? This is really beyond a joke now.

But eventually we set off, with the driver telling me that she had no idea where the Hospital St Antoine was so she programmed it into her GPS.

She was … errr … past her prime, shall we say, and moaned and complained all the way to Paris about just about everything.

When we reached Paris we zigzagged up and down the streets as she kept on misreading her GPS, we almost speared another vehicle on a couple of occasions as she swerved dramatically across carriageways and nearly took out a couple of bollards as she did another handbrake turn at a missed junction.

A proper olde-worlde taxi driver she was, and I’ll tell you something for nothing, that I’d travel with her again. She made the journey quite interesting.

Finding the hospital was one thing. Finding the building that I had to visit was another. And then finding a parking space was something else quite difficult. In the end we negotiated with two ambulances and persuaded one of them to leave.

It was a desperate, agonising crawl on my crutches to the lift, to the reception and then to the waiting room. And my driver was helpfulness itself. Nothing was too much trouble for her and once she was away from the steering wheel she was actually quite a pleasant person.

We were 30 minutes late, not a problem because I telephoned them en route to say that we were “held up in traffic”. I suspected that something like this that happened.

There were quite a few people waiting but I jumped the queue and they saw to me straight away. Now I have a machine and its terminals stuck to me until tomorrow morning.

Yes, they want me to bring it back by 10:00 but they are of course joking. I’m not going back tomorrow. If it’s that important they should have given me a bed for the night.

Anyway I have the Holter Machine now, and I left the Technical Department here, the Haematology Department at Hospital Pitié Salpetrière and the taxi company fight it out between them if the hospital wants it back tomorrow.

Whatever the outcome was, the net result is that I have to be up and about to hand it to someone at my door at 06:30. And I suspect that it will be what my old boss when I was chauffeuring in Brussels would call a “Spanish 06:30”, meaning “any time they like”.

Having done all that, we set off for home. On the way back I had a message from the Hospital Pitié-Salpetrière – "Please stop taking medicament X and we’ll send you a prescription for medicament Y instead".

And I bet that After the blood test results on Wednesday There will be further changes.

We arrived back early, which was nice, and my helpful cleaner met us at the door to help me up the stairs. I’d be totally lost without her.

Once I’d settled down I made some hot chocolate and a nice baguette sandwich of lettuce, cheese and tomato which was excellent for a starving man.

And then back here I downloaded and printed the prescription for my long-suffering cleaner to take to the pharmacy tomorrow. She came down to collect it and we had a chat.

Then there was the dictaphone notes. Tons of them. I travelled miles during the night. I can’t remember much about this dream but it was one of those that rambled on. I was back at home with my family. One of my niece’s children was there. Everyone else was there. The girl was in a wheelchair because she’d had a problem and was going to the doctor’s very soon. They were going to give her a respray of her artificial suntan before she went. There were 2 other people disabled in that house and me too. I said to my mother “don’t you think that there’s something wrong somewhere with us that you have so many disabled people here all at once,”. She replied “yes you don’t usually have that many disabled people in a household do you?”.

Disabled people apart, there was a lot that was wrong about our family and household and disability wasn’t one of them.

There was then a dream about my youngest sister. A woman had decided to teach her to dance some kind dance. She held her backwards so that my sister couldn’t see what was behind her. They began this dance. There was a huge snake that lived in this room. When my youngest sister had her eyes closed and was dancing near that direction. Someone shouted “it’s OK baby. The snake (they used the snake’s name) has her jaws closed quite tight”. Obviously the inference being that this woman was going to lead my sister up towards the snake and the snake would devour her. My sister was immediately on the defensive and became much more nervous and tight in this woman’s arms than she had been before that person shouted out that comment.

And then my sister was there again later on. There was a digger there that slowly picked her up. She was dangling over different parts of the audience of the State Fair. Then she happened to fall or something fell from her hand. Instead of reaching for it this machine’s hand took her higher until she was in some kind of despairing reach of what she’d dropped. It slowly lowered her and she kept that position. The arm of the machine moved around. My sister actually soared up and went off in a very nice aeroplane. Someone standing by me tried his best but was carried away and the plane once it got going went more and more out to Haverfordwest. Before she left she gave me this little ball of dough and told me how to ply it and pull it apart … becomes very indistinct and tails off

Not much of that latter dream makes sense but it was really difficult to decipher, especially as I began to taper off into nothingness. I wonder how it would have ended had I not done so.

Then I was back in a dream from a while ago, I think about some people investigating a murder. They were following up several clues, one of which was something that had fallen from a TGV. Anyway, a TGV was going full speed ahead when there was an enormous bang from underneath. They slowed right down and stopped. This stopped the whole TGV network. They looked underneath the line but couldn’t see anything so they walked slowly back along the track to see if they could see anything. They came to the TGV that was following them but was stopped. he said that just 20 metres back he had run over a dead cat. He was certain that it wasn’t there before when he was on the outbound trip. They began to look for this cat but couldn’t find it.

This dream moved on to someone having been killed. They’d picked up some evidence about a vehicle being seen somewhere. They made a few enquiries at an isolated farm in the vicinity. The farmer said that he knew absolutely nothing but it was the pace that his denial went that made them extremely suspicious They looked further around and came across another farmer who had a vehicle but something about this didn’t seem to fit anything. Eventually they found a third farmer who had had a Bedford CA van but had taken it to be scrapped. He was in the area at the time but had left the van unattended for a while and then gone back to it. He was sure that it had been moved. They were then convinced that they’d found the vehicle that was used so they went and bought the van and drove it back, deciding that rather than have it forensically tested they would try shock tactics and drive to the first farm in it. As soon as the farmer saw the van coming he ordered his men to open fire. A couple of them did but when he saw that it was quite pointless he put his gun to his head and shot three bullets through it, finishing himself off.

There was plenty more where that came from, but you don’t really want to read it especially if you are having supper or something.

My supper tonight was a taco roll with rice and veg – really delicious yet again. I don’t know why I complained about the taste yesterday. And with no sauce left I made my own with olive oil, wine vinegar and lemon juice with some garlic paste. Totally delicious.

And now, having already crashed out twice and an early start in the morning, I’m off to bed. Today has really exhausted me. But there’s my blood pressure, my medication and my on-line food order before I can go to sleep, not to mention my early start tomorrow.

It’s never-ending, isn’t it?

Thursday 28th December 2023 – IN WHAT CAN ONLY …

… be described as a new, rather regrettable record, I was actually up and about, taking my medicine and preparing to start work at 03:20 this morning.

Feeling absolutely wretched and totally washed out, I was in bed early – at about 22:30. And I must have fallen into a deep sleep almost immediately because there was something on the dictaphone with a timestamp of not much later.

But then there were all kinds of strange things happening during the night and I ended up awakening at about 02:15. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t go back to sleep after that and in the end gave it up as a bad job.

Firstly, there was a strange entry on the dictaphone that I have absolutely no recollection of dictating. “All that seemed to be missing from last night’s adventures was a visit from TOTGA but we’ll just have to make do without that” was what I recorded.

And that was early on too. The one that I’d had almost as soon as I’d gone to bed went “we started off with a very long complicated and involved dream that I can’t remember now. It all seems to have disappeared from my mind but at one point there was a young girl in Nantwich waiting for a load of other girls for the local dance hall to open so that they could all go in. This would be in the early 60s when beehive hair and all of that was in fashion. Some older man came and began to talk to her, to chat her up. Another girl in the queue accosted the man and told him what she thought of him, and generally made him feel uncomfortable until he left. That girl was actually a very young Marilyn Munroe who had come to Nantwich for some kind or other of show promotion but was standing in the queue at the dance hall just like any other young girl of that particular age and behaviour at that particular time. There was nothing special about her at all” which has absolutely nothing whatever with what came after it.

However, I do have a vague kind of ethereal feeling that at some point during the night not only Zero but also Castor came to see me. And if that’s the case I’m surprised that I didn’t dictate it. Maybe it’s my subconscious blocking them out for reasons that I can only speculate, or else it’s simply that I don’t want to share my experiences with anyone else. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, with coming from a large family where nothing was ever my own, I don’t “do” sharing if it’s something nice like one of Liz’s vegan cakes, and I can’t think of anything very much nicer than having Zero and Castor around.

Zero as we know drifts in and out of my nocturnal rambles, doing her own thing and going her own way, what around here they call son bonhomme de chemin but as for Castor, I haven’t seen her in the flesh since that morning in early September 2019 when she turned her back on me and walked to her ‘plane to Ottawa on that windswept airstrip at the Coppermine River, just a short walk from where in 1771 Samuel Hearne had stood helpless and horrified as his Dene guides fell on and butchered an Inuit hunting party.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, it puzzled and bewildered me for quite a while as to why she left me as she did. And it wasn’t until I had to say “goodbye” to someone in similar circumstances a year or two ago that I realised that sometimes, goodbyes have to be done like that.

Castor has been back during the night a few times since then, but not for quite a while. If indeed it really was she (and Zero) last night and I missed it, I’ll be helpless and horrified too.

However, it was what happened next that was the killer.

There was another dance taking place at Wistaston. There was a group of kids and I was going but I was going to buy a big motorbike and hopefully turn up on it to arrive there. Then I had a think about first of all, it wouldn’t be registered, then it won’t be taxed. And where would I leave it because there would be no burglar alarm or anti-theft device fitted on it. Much as I wanted to have it and take it there it would cause quite a few problems. I was listening to a couple of bikers talking. One was actually knitting while he was talking. he was talking about his travels out in the USA as a road racer around a lot of circuits in California. They were talking about his bike, how it would still pass an MoT in the UK after that. Their conversation was extremely interesting. They wanted to know about the amount of Marshall Aid that would be applicable to importing over something that they’ve had in the USA but I wasn’t able to give any help. This question of this big motorbike was something eating away at me – how was I going to bring it to this dance with all of the problems that I had to face? Many of them were insurmountable because they required a lot of input from a lot of other people in a short space of time.

“Another dance” indeed because there had been a dance at the Wistaston Memorial Hall on the Saturday night of August Bank Holiday weekend in 1973 and every moment of it is etched onto my brain as if it was yesterday.

At that time I was sharing an apartment with a guy who played synthesiser in a rock band and his group had been invited to play at the Windsor Free Festival on the Sunday.

Everyone was stony broke in those days and they couldn’t afford the fuel so they arranged the dance where they would play, as a way of raising some petrol money.

My friend from the Wirral had been to school with one of the musicians so I invited him along and he turned up on his motorbike, a 350cc Triumph.

It was at that dance that he met a girl called Jane, and I met Jane’s friend Sheila, someone who has appeared in these pages on a few occasions. There was nothing particularly serious about any of this, except that my friend fell rather badly, but I imagine for the two girls is was more of a case as Al Steward described in SWISS COTTAGE MANOEUVRES as "I could see myself nailed to a dormitory tale as a holiday night’s escapade".

However, Sheila and I went on for more than a night (not much more) and I’m glad that it did because apart from the fact that she was a nice girl, her father kept a pub, the Whore’s Bed in Walgherton and that was where I met Paul Elson, drummer of “Strife” and a big friend of her brother.

And not so long ago, Paul sent me a recording of a “Strife” concert that he’d found in all his old papers and I featured it on one of my rock shows.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … Wistaston Memorial Hall, at the end of the concert we loaded up all of their gear into the back of the old J4 van that they had and they they discovered that they were still short of money. And so for £1:00 per head they would take anyone who wanted to go to the Festival. You’ve no idea how many people piled into that van with all of the gear already in it.

My friend and I decided that we’d go down on the motorbike so we set off and went a different way to Windsor.

But those in the van had a nightmare. Going down the M1 a tyre burst and with all of the weight that was in the van they were all over the road until the driver could bring it to a halt. It was a miracle that it didn’t overturn.

Horrible thoughts of 12th May 1969 must have flashed through everyone’s mind – the night that Fairport Convention’s van overturned at almost the same spot killing drummer Martin Lambie and guitarist Richard Thompson’s girlfriend Jeannie “the tailor” Franklyn, to whom the Jack Bruce album SONGS FOR A TAILOR was dedicated.

We stayed down there all weekend, without any sleep whatsoever, and then came home on the Monday night. My friend fell asleep riding back so he asked me to ride the rest of the way home but when we hit a bump in the road he fell off the seat so in the end we had a couple of hours curled up leaning over a table in a Little Chef near Oxford.

That’s not my best memory of the Windsor Free Festival either.

When I was living at home a schoolfriend and I decided one summer that we’d go to one. Not wishing to let on to my parents where I was going I said that we were going camping, which was perfectly true.

All went well until I returned home to a pair of furious parents. The Festival had been on the news on the television and there on the 21:00 News on BBC that Sunday was Yours Truly staggering past the TV camera with a Watneys Party Seven can tucked under his arm, and all of the family, friends and neighbours had seen it.

Ahhh well. We all have memories of what and what might have been. Some more than most

"Childhood comes for me at night
Voices of my friends
Your face bathing me in light
A hope that never ends
Pages turning
Pages torn and pages burning
Faded pages, open in the sun
Better bring your own redemption when you come
TO THE BARRICADES OF HEAVEN WHERE I COME FROM
"

But anyway, after all that, I just couldn’t go back to sleep again.

So here I am, up and about, trying nicely and calmly to fit the blood pressure tester to my arm. And after several unsuccessful tries, Our Hero notes on the box that is says poignée. So put it around your wrist, you berk.

Going for a ride on the porcelain horse to calm down again, I come back and take my blood pressure.

"The aim is to have a blood pressure of below 14.0/9.0" and so with mine being 17.0/8.0, I can see that we are starting as we mean to go on.

And as for what it was at lunchtime, I forgot to take it. Start as we mean to go on indeed.

Then there were 15 pills to take and that was … errr … complicated. I earned my coffee and cornflakes after that.

So today I tidied up the kitchen area so it looks as if someone lives here, and in my spare time I made a start on the next radio programme – chosen the music, paired it off and written some of the notes. There have been a few visits and phone calls too.

But one unwelcome visitor was the taxi to take me to the Centre de Re-education. he came 20 minutes early today and I was as nature intended in the bathroom having a good scrub up

But they put me through my paces and I came back here for more spoonsful of cake and some hot chocolate.

Tea tonight was nothing complicated. Pasta and veg in a cheese sauce. Quick, simple and delicious.

With having an early start, I’ve had several moments where I’ve been away with the fairies but as usual, I’m now not tired enough to go to bed.

So which childhood voices of my friends will I hear tonight? And whose face will bathe me in light? If it really had been Zero and Castor last night, wouldn’t it be nice if they were to come back?

But it doesn’t happen like that, does it? I’ll take my blood pressure and go to bed, and probably meet some of my family heading my way. I’ve no idea why they keep on putting in an appearance like this but I wish that they’d clear off and leave room for people whom I really want to see.

Sunday 24th December 2023 – AFTER ALL OF …

… the effort that I went to so that I would be up and about at 08:20 – and on a Sunday too – the nurse didn’t turn up until 09:20.

And it wasn’t Yoan either. It was his weekend off so he sent his sidekick Isabelle to deal with today’s issues, including sorting me out.

That was actually quite nice because I like Isabelle. One of her children was on a University exchange programme in Dublin last year so they met up in Belfast and went for a wander around for a week. I suggested a few places for them to visit.

My memories in Belfast aren’t quite so pleasant as that. I used to do deliveries there in the mid-70s in a van with British number-plates and on one occasion I was “detained” by a military patrol while my bona fides were checked.

Mind you, it was coming back from one such delivery that I had my encounter with that student from Lancaster University that I recounted a couple of months or so ago – the girl who didn’t like Tuppence, my old black cat.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … apartment, it wasn’t really all that much of an effort to raise myself from the Dead in time for Isabelle. In fact, I was actually up and wandering about at 07:45 this morning.

And that’s not something that happens every Sunday, is it?

Once Isabelle had gone (and come back to see if I actually had some injections in stock, and then departed again) I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. The first was another dream of which I’ve forgotten most. They were talking about putting me under and they were asking which side of my body I wanted to come round on. I misunderstood the question and replied something to do with strawberries because I had a fancy at that moment to eat something like that. The discussion went on about the hospital. They asked me how I liked being there. I replied that it was far better than I imagined. The treatment that I’m having here couldn’t be better anywhere else. Again there was a lot more to it than this but unfortunately it all evaporated while I was trying to dictate it.

Those are sentiments that I would certainly echo about the Hôpital Pitié-Salpetrière – if only the food were better and they’d turn up the heating.

And then I’d been with my friends from the Wirral on a motorbike voyage somewhere for a while. We ended up back at their house. I was having to travel on back to my house but for some reason I needed to unwind because the final leg had been extremely difficult – even though we had been on motor bikes we’d had to lower our baggage down some kind of cliff somewhere in order to reach the bottom which was extremely complicated. While we’d been in Wrexham there had been some kind of riot or disturbance and they’d actually blown away a whole cliff so that there was a view from the town right the way down the Dee valley into the mountains there. We made our way down these mountains and this cliff. The husband caught something in a pool – he’d wandered off to a pool and was there with his hands in it. We ended up back at their house. They went and sat in their living room and I just slumped into the kitchen for a while. Then I noticed that what he had done was that he’d caught some kind of small fish and put it in a bowl. I knocked on the door of their sitting room and they opened it. I told them that one of my cats has a pet goldfish. I recounted the story of how it caught it and brought it home, then it had actually fished another one out of a pond and brought it home too. Then I began to prepare to leave. Foolishly I took off my boots and then I couldn’t put them back on again as my feat swelled up. I noticed that I was wearing odd socks – one was a dark brown and the other was a slightly lighter shade of brown.

Back into another dream that I’ve had in the past. We’re discussing railway locomotives. It turned out that not only did one railway company put a locomotive at an experimenter so that he could make his experiments, it put a whole fleet out to one guy and allowed him to experiment all up and down their main line with a fleet of locomotives. These were interesting because although they were coal-fired they actually started up on oil. To make them start you lit an oily rag and stuck it under the chassis at the air intake. This was at the height of World War I. There was a huge casualty sorting station – I said that it was at Valenciennes but it can’t have been because that was behind enemy lines – where they would take all the wounded prisoners and soldiers from the front line back to a field hospital. Anyone who was injured there and taken away was really lucky because the locomotives and the field ambulance trains really worked extremely well and all kinds of experiments went on. I should have been working there and helping these people shift coal around but I was far more interested reading books about this and talking to some of the workers. We even made whole charts of how much more efficient it would be taking all factors into account, including the factors of children killing donkeys – if a donkey was old and overworked it was put into a field to recover but all of the children would climb all over it and there were several instances of donkeys killed by over-enthusiastic children. There was one particular incident where I was reading a book when I should have been moving coal. Some woman dropped a few things as she was carrying the coal and told me to stand guard over it until she could come back to pick it up so that no-one else would take it.

Yes, lighting oily rags and holding them up to the air intake while someone else turns the motor. I remember very well doing that for my father in the winter of 1963. Gardner 5LW and 5LX engines were notoriously difficult to start in the cold and there was always an endless collection of old Fodens parked up outside our house at night in those days.

The winter that year was so cold that at times we had a paraffin heater underneath the fuel tank to stop the diesel from freezing, and I’ve seen fires lit under fuel tanks too.

But as for experimental trains running wild on main lines, the Great Western Railway company lent an experimental train to a Doctor Dionysus Lardner and the train would turn up unannounced at all kinds of strange places.

When Brunel was asked what he would do if he encountered Lardner and his train coming towards him on the same line, Brunel replied "I would increase my speed and rely on my superior velocity to drive him off the rails".

When Sir Daniel Gooch wrote his memoirs just before he died, he commented on the incident and said "whatever would be said of such a mode of proceeding today?"

So having dealt with all of that, I’ve had a very quiet day today. I’ve made my hash browns, for better or for worse, and despite following the instructions carefully, they don’t seem to be any better than any others that I’ve previously made.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, of course. They’ll be on the breakfast menu tomorrow along with beans on toast, vegan sausage and mushroom paté on toast and we’ll see how it goes. But I really don’t know why I can never make hash browns properly

So, tune in tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about them, if I haven’t died of food poisoning in the meantime.

Saturday 16th December 2023 – WHEN THE ALARM …

… went off this morning at 07:00 I was already sitting half-dressed on the edge of the bed.

Being a light sleeper, the slightest thing awakens me but I usually go back to sleep quite quickly. However there’s definitely something going on that’s awakening me in the morning before the alarm went off.

But anyway I wandered off into the kitchen for my medication and then came back in here to have a look to see where I’d been during the night.

However, I didn’t go far before Liz contacted me. She has a good recipe for a vegan wellington that she serves up to her daughter and her family on Christmas Day and so she sent it over for me to look at, and we had quite a chat about it.

The big issue about this is that it requires a lot of stuff that I don’t have in stock and LeClerc won’t deliver. If I’m back from hospital in time to go on the bus to the Carrefour at St Nicolas before Christmas I can conceivably find the things that I need.

However, if I don’t come back in time, I shall have to think of a Plan B. But I’ve really no idea when I’ll be back. The letter that I received just said un hospitalisation – “a stay in hospital” and apportez vos affaires – “bring your things”. No idea of any dates or anything.

Once Liz wandered off to do family things, I carried on with the dictaphone notes. There was something going on about a railway line, something to do with a murder mystery. Someone whom I suppose was Hercule Poirot was investigating it. He eventually came to the railway line and saw that a train was about to leave from the railway station so he ran after it. The other person with him tried to prevent him. But it all came out when he eventually managed to arrive there and found things like pie moulds etc hidden behind the door. It was something to do with the guy with him who was causing all of these difficulties and not however it was who was the chief suspect

I actually had a girlfriend with me from school. I don’t know who she was but I wish that I did. We’d been out for a walk around a seaside town and had come to a kind of industrial plant like a foundry or similar. Everywhere was all very tight. They had a Morris Minor pickup that they’d cut down so that it could pass under these beams and round tight corners and down a type of hairpin bend ramp carrying a load of stuff that was needed at the bottom. We stood watching it for a while. In the end we realised that we needed to be back in the street which was quite some way up some steps. There was a kind-of escalator for pedestrians that people could use to go to the top. It was a heavy-duty thing, more of an industrial type than the type that you’d find in a shop. I asked for permission of we could use it and a guy there said that we could so we jumped on board. It didn’t ‘arf go quickly. I had the feeling that when it reached the top I’d have a lot of problems trying to dismount. I was right. It practically threw me off at the top, it was that quick. I had a real struggle to regain my balance after that. The girl with me pointed out someone and said that it reminded her of another girl from school whom I knew but it wasn’t her. Anyway we set out to walk home. When we were close to my house I asked her if she’d like to come in for a coffee. She certainly agreed. Just as I was about to open the front door and let her in I awoke! Can you imagine!

Yes, I actually dictated “can you imagine” in my sleep. But that’s no surprise. The other night I had Zero on my plate and just as I was about to stick my fork into it, I awoke and she disappeared. And here I am tonight in exactly the same position. Just about to lure a willing young lady into my lair and the same thing happened again.

"Gone! And never called me ‘mother’" yet again.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed I had been out somewhere with Zero’s father. We’d had quite a few little adventures and were going back to Virlet. It involved walking over a railway bridge. When we’d been over there a few times in the past there had been some plots of land being used as scrapyards etc. We noticed that they had seemed to be starting to clear them away. When we went over tonight all the scrap had gone. There was just the rear axle of a lorry sitting there in the middle of it. We imagined that it’s some land that will now sit vacant for 25 years before anyone does anything. We carried on, came back to Virlet and walked up my drive which was a load of uneven rocks. He fell over and hurt his ankle, and walked on a tin can that he’d overlooked. With my huge collection of keys and huge collection of padlocks I actually found the correct one straight away, to my surprise, so I could unlock the padlock to the garage and we could go in. There was an arm of the hinge that went over the corner of the door that meant that despite the door being high, a high vehicle couldn’t go in. I was thinking about changing that. He’d gone off to look at next door’s garage where there had been a similar problem. He came back and said “how long do you think it would take to shift that arm?”. I replied “probably about an hour”. He answered “yes but after all that time it’s still there. They’ve done a few things but the arm is still there” and we went inside the house.

Yes, Zero’s father. But not Zero herself, which was rather depressing.

Later on I was actually inside Virlet. The place was a tip as usual. I thought that while I was there this time I would really make an effort to tidy it up. But one thing led to another led to another as usual. It was coming close to going back home and I’d hardly done anything. I began to look for 1 or 2 things but couldn’t find anything. In the middle of the doorway between the front room and the rear room a little girl was sitting there. Every time I walked past she seemed to be putting tea leaves into a jar or teapot. I asked her what she was doing. She replied that she was making tea. I asked “when is going to be ready? You’ve made it long enough”. She replied “I’m putting the tea leaves in now and then I can put in the water when it’s ready”. I wondered when that would be but she didn’t really seem to have any idea herself. She was just sitting as if she was playing “house” sitting in the middle of the doorway getting in the way of everyone else who was trying to go past.

And then I was in my Luton Transit. I’d been to High Street in Crewe to pick up some things and were on our way to an Indian restaurant. There was a bunch of kids wandering down the street. As I let out the clutch to pull off I stalled the van. Of course all the kids cheered so I started again, let out the clutch and as it swung round out into the street the wing mirror hit one of them on the back and almost knocked him over. I thought “I’d better go and disappear into the ether for a while”. I had someone with me. It wasn’t Zero and it wasn’t Roxanne but a very small person, someone who was only used to ever being in the house because we had a talk about how she felt being outside in the street for the first time. I had a feeling that it was one of my cats. The cat was talking about the winter and how the winters were uncomfortable but they made the most of them. We were just driving around Crewe town centre becoming more and more confused about the correct side of the road, one-way streets, going up them the wrong way. The cat was talking about being outside for the very first time and enjoying it very much.

This final one was another dream where I found myself dictating into my hand again. I was back in the previous one with this little girl or cat. On Chester Bridge in Market Street I decided to stop to take some money from the bank seeing as the road was quite wide there. My passenger seemed to be in something of a hurry and was rather impatient to get under way again. That was something else that confused me because just sitting there doing nothing, it wasn’t as if she was in any kind of hurry etc but it seemed that she really just wanted to leave that spot at that moment.

So back in the same dream at another time on a couple of occasions. I can manage to do that on a fairly regular basis, but never when I want to, such as when I have Zero around or when I’m just about to invite a girlfriend from school into my lair.

It’s almost as if my subconscious is deliberately putting the brakes on my nocturnal activities. Obviously it’s a much stronger influence than my conscious mind that never seems to slow me down sufficiently when I’m about to run amok in real life.

But then, it’s strange little facts like this that the project that we are doing is all about.

It’s actually been running now for 25 years or thereabouts and I often wonder what conclusions were reached. I can’t even remember now who it was who organised the project, never mind whether his thesis was ever published.

The Luton Transit is still down on the farm after all these years, slowly dissolving into the landscape. But it’s the aluminium body on the back that’s interesting. There is a pair of MkIII Cortina rear quarters in there for the 2000E saloon that’s in the warehouse in Montaigut for a start, and you can’t buy those at any price these days.

There are a couple of engines and gearboxes, petrol and diesel, for Volkswagen Passats, a 2.3 diesel and type 9 5-speed gearbox from a Ford Sierra that were going to go in the red Cortina estate that’s also in the warehouse in Montaigut, to mention just a few things.

If my memory serves me right, there’s also in the back of the Luton Transit a big diesel generator that we used to run on recycled plant oil.

There’s a funny story about that diesel generator. I had it, with a huge pile of other stuff, in the back of the LDV when I was stopped by a flying customs patrol.

They wanted to look in the back so I told them that I’d open it because I knew exactly what was going to happen.

One of the guys brushed me aside and wrenched open the rear doors.

Have you any idea of how loud a person can scream when a huge single-cylinder cast-iron Lister diesel generator drops onto his foot from a great height?

Most of the rest of the day has been spent, when I’ve not been away with the fairies, on the photos from Canada 2022.

Right now I’ve alighted from my train at Moncton and am now heading west on the “Coach Atlantic” towards the border with the USA.

And that train journey was the most depressing train journey that I have ever undertaken.

There’s only one passenger train in the whole of Canada east of Québec City (the miners’ train to Schefferville excluded), I was on it and Canadian National, and in particular its “Viarail” subsidiary would like to wipe this one out too.

There’s been no investment on the line for years, the 2 locomotives that pulled it were built in 1985 and if you want to see what the carriages are like, THIS WAS HOW THEY WERE IN 2010 and they are now even worse.

The promised investment that was mentioned in 2010 never ever took place. But I don’t suppose that anyone ever really believed that it would.

And being used to hurtling around the European continent at speeds of over 300 kilometres per hour on a modern 21st Century rail network, we covered the 1095 kilometres from Montréal to Moncton in, would you believe, 19.5 hours.

That’s an average speed of 56 kilometres per hour or 35 mph.

If anyone wonders why passengers are deserting the railways in North America in record numbers, then this journey told me everything that I needed to know.

In the good old days, I’d walk out of my digs in the Rue St Hubert in Montréal, go round the corner to the coach station in the Rue Berri 200 yards away and catch the “Orleans Express” coach that goes to Gaspé.

I’d alight at Rivière du Loup and 90 minutes later the “Coach Atlantic” from Moncton would come in. When the driver had had his break he’d turn round and go back, with me on board. Seven hours from door to door.

However, with inter-Provincial travel being prohibited with the pandemic, “Coach Atlantic” turned round at Edmundston, 120 kilometres away from Rivière du Loup on the New Brunswick side of the border with Québec.

And since inter-Provincial travel restarted, only “Coach Atlantic” knows the reason why it hasn’t reinstated the service northwards over the Appalachians to the St Lawrence and instead of 7 hours, I’m stuck with a journey of no less than 27 hours.

So abandoning another really good rant for the moment, I went and had my tea. Baked potato and salad with one of those breaded quorn fillets that I like. And I’ve actually now mastered the art of baking potatoes in my air fryer and they are delicious.

There are some radio notes to dictate and that’s really it for today.

Tomorrow I have biscuits to bake and when I was tidying out the shelves the other week I came across some coconut oil. If I use that instead of vegan butter I could make some stunning chocolate biscuits

There’s some bread to bake too because if I’m going to be at the hospital for 11:00 and won’t be admitted to the ward until 13:00 I’ll need some butties because lunch will have gone by. I asked my cleaner to pick up a lettuce while she was in town as I’d run out and she duly obliged so I’ll have some really nice salad sandwiches for lunch on Monday.

There will be a few other things to do too, I reckon, but I’ll worry about that at the appropriate time.

As if I don’t already have enough to worry about.

Tuesday 12th December 2023 – THE DOCTOR CAME …

… round here at the end of the morning, with a student trailing along behind.

As he walked into the apartment he looked at me and said "it’s getting worse, isn’t it?"

Considering that when he saw me a year ago after my torrid three months away from home he told me quite frankly that he thought that I was dying and that I wouldn’t pull through, his comments today weren’t exactly encouraging. How much worse can it be?

It has left me with the feeling that the clock is winding down rapidly now and the first thought that came into my head when Frodo and Sam were staring despair in the face near the end of LORD OF THE RINGS
"Have you thought of an ending?"
"Yes, several, and all are dark and unpleasant."

He was insisting yet again that I ought to see a therapist (read “psychiatrist”) to help me come to terms with “events” but as I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … anyone who sees a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.

And I really would feel terribly sorry for whoever it is who draws the short straw and has to probe the depths of my subconscious mind.

Actually, I don’t honestly think that he’s too far off the mark because I haven’t had a good day today.

It was another disturbed night and an early start in the morning because I ended up not being able to sleep all that much.

After the medication I had a few things to do and it ended up being another nostalgic trip down Memory Lane. And as PG Wodehouse once famously said, "memories are like mulligatawny soup in a cheap restaurant. It is best not to stir them"

Eventually I managed to sit down and transcribe the dictaphone notes. I was going through editing my blog last night. As well as that, I was comparing a few web pages to check on things. I came across 2 that were absolutely identical so I deleted one of them. It wasn’t until later that I realised that one of them was actually the copy on the hard drive and the other was the copy on the server. I needed to have the two copies of course but I couldn’t remember the name of the file. I then had to go all the way through, count the files and compare each of them one by one. This led to its own complications because the only way to identify the different web pages was by the images on them but I kept on losing count. A couple of people there were trying to help me but they weren’t particularly helpful. There was one occasion where I missed an image and just wanted to go back a short way but she reset the machine that she had so that it went right the way back to the start so we’d have to start all over again. I had a feeling that this is a job that is never ever going to be finished because no matter how many times I make a start on it I can’t keep my concentration going long enough to count all of the web pages and images correctly (and doesn’t this sound so familiar?) and I’d just keep on slipping up every time. I’d never find this missing file that I deleted in error.

I was then doing something different with the blog. I was trying to prepare a report of each and every football match that had taken place over the last 4 or 5 years. I had some notes and we had some old newspapers. By going through them we were able to make some kind of rough approximation of what had happened the previous season and were able to make some kind of report of each game that had taken place so that with the aid of a couple of very small children I went back and did a couple of years. That seemed to work fine. I set a little task and sent the children away to do the previous years but I was rather over-ambitious with that and the children weren’t able to do it. A couple of parents came to see me and in the end we all sat down, had a talk about it and went to work it out. One woman complained in a light-hearted way that I was speaking Geordie to them but another one replied “no, that’s Scots” and they were all being rather confused by my accent. I actually awoke before we finished it. But someone had asked me about how many years back I was going to do. I replied that that would be the last one because we couldn’t rely on having copies of the newspapers any further back than that. Without access to any records it was going to be practically impossible to complete.

Later on last night I was in Leuven, preparing to go to do my shopping. Then a flyer came round from LIDL. I thought to myself “I haven’t been to LIDL for months and this would give me a good opportunity to go”. I didn’t know where the LIDL was in Leuven. I’d have to have a look at the map to work out a route. 5 minutes later found me out in the street and I’d forgotten to look at the map. I was wandering off, daydreaming as usual down the road and almost ended up driving through a red traffic light. All kinds of traffic came to join me at the next traffic light. There was a while MkIV Cortina saloon full of people etc. Then I suddenly had a brainwave about where there might be a LIDL – miles out of my route but I may as well go while I’m out. I began to plan my itinerary about what I was doing, where I was going and what I was going to buy while I was sitting in the van at the traffic light.

Rapidly changing country, I was at the Centre Normandy, somewhere like that, standing at the reception when a giant rat scurried across the room. I picked up one of these pointed letter-openers and threw it at the rat and skewered it straight away. I felt really impressed with that, except of course that the idea of a rat running around somewhere like that is horrible.

Finally, we were in Virlet preparing to come back north. Someone had already heaved a brick through the windscreen of the Ford Escort so I wanted to make sure that everything was properly burglar-proof. One of the windows was rather badly-damaged and was easy for anyone to try to come in that way so I was trying to find some string to secure it but I found a piece of wood that was exactly the correct size to blank it off. I went looking for my drill, screws and bits. I found them lying around on the floor in all kinds of places where I’d left them the previous day when I’d been working and been too tired to put everything away. I began to collect everything together to prepare. I can’t remember who I was with now but Percy Penguin was also there.

There was some more stuff than this but you really don’t want to read it, especially if you’re eating your meal.

After a good wash I prepared for my Welsh lesson and it was a disaster. Nothing whatever would sink into my head today. And being disrupted by the visit of the doctor didn’t help at all.

The car came for me later to take me to the Centre de Re-education and I don’t know why, but I fell into the pit with the Black Dog. And fell quite deeply too.

Not that that usually bothers me because I’ve fallen in there many times before, and sometimes much deeper than this, but I’ve always consoled myself with the thought that when things are really bad, they can only improve. However, at the moment, it’s difficult to see quite how.

Severine pulled and tugged me about for half an hour and then I had the ergotherapist who discussed her report with me.

Back here later I made my hot chocolate and biscuits, and then promptly crashed out.

The hospital and I had a chat at some point. My visit on Monday is now cancelled and I have to come on Tuesday, as previously advised, instead. However it still involves a stay. But that’s next week. There is still plenty of time for further changes before then.

My cleaner came round too. The doctor had given me a prescription for more medication so I’d sent her a message to ask her if she could fetch the products. I warned her that she’d need a shopping trolley

Tea was a taco roll, and there’s enough stuffing left over for a leftover curry tomorrow.

There’s the Centre de Re-education again tomorrow and then I’ll finish off the radio notes. I waded through a pile of them earlier before tea and I’ve done about 70% already.

But right now I’m exhausted again so despite how early it is, I reckon that I’ll go to bed. Not that it’ll do me much good but I have to show willing.

Saturday 9th December 2023 – MY CHRISTMAS CAKE …

… now has its marzipan cover.

Unfortunately it doesn’t look very pretty, but it’s for eating, not for exhibiting at the Royal Academy. And in any case, it’ll be a different proposition tomorrow evening when it has the icing on it.

Sean’s advice to fill up the obvious depressions with lumps of marzipan before marzipanning over the top seems to work because it actually does look quite level now, although I’m the first to admit that I have a lot to learn when it comes to marzipanning.

However, as it’s only the second cake that I’ve marzipanned, I’m quite pleased with how it’s turned out.

The acid test will be tomorrow when I try to ice it. That should be something that will sort out the men from the boys.

But pleased as I might be with my marzipanning, that seems to be the only thing that did go according to some kind of plan today.

Once again I was wide awake at 05:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep. By 05:50 I was up and about having my medication.

For a change, I knew what it was that awoke me this morning. We’ve had high winds for most of the week but yesterday everything calmed down and it was nice to go out in the sun to the shops.

This morning though, the storm broke again and we were being lashed by the wind. It was the rain smashing against the bedroom window that awoke me

After the medication I came back in here to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. Somewhere in late 1940s London someone had stolen a rare stamp from a bank vault and had managed to evade the police who were pursuing him. He eventually made his way back to where the guy who had commissioned him to steal it was situated. He was there with another guy. The robber explained how come he’d managed to do all of this. They guy who commissioned him said “now we have to go back and enter the vault in daylight”. The robber couldn’t understand why on earth anyone would want to do that but the guy said that it was important to lay some kind of trail for the police. After a great deal of convincing they set off. By now I was attached to this party. We were walking through the streets. Coming towards us was a group of people going to a club. They guy who’d organised the robbery recognised them. At one time he’d been the owner of a club and had barred these people. He was expecting some kind of trouble in the street but they walked straight by. They went to the place to which they were going but couldn’t go in so came back. This was when some kind of confrontation arose between the organiser of the theft and this group of people. Someone suggested calling the police so at that moment one or two of the other people and I discreetly detached ourselves from the group and slipped away. We went around a corner and were somewhere in South-West London where there were 2 or 3 Underground stations very close to each other. A couple of other people with us, one of whom was Katherine Ayers, disappeared and left me on my own. I was suddenly aware of the fact that I had to return to the North of England somehow. I’d need to take the Tube and change at one of the stations to catch another Tube that would bring me to either Euston or another station that would take me North. This ended up with the kind of confusion that we’ve had in several dreams in the past when I’ve been wandering around London Tube stations either trying to find people or to find the correct train – back once more in that situation.

Later on I’d been out for a drive in Strider. We’d been going through the Appalachian Mountains on the border between New Brunswick and Québec. I thought that I’d better fuel up at a petrol station as they were very few and far between around here. I came to one where the next one was advertised as being 60 kilometres away so I fuelled up here and wished that I hadn’t when I saw the prices because I’d been doing very well up until them. Suddenly I awoke with the most enormous start and the whole of the rest of the dream disappeared

After that I must have gone back to sleep because I was at work. It was coming up to Christmas and I was planning to leave to go into retirement but things just kept popping up and I couldn’t ever get round to handing in my notice. I could see that come Christmas I’d just walk away without telling anyone and never go back. Everyone else was preparing for Christmas. One guy was asking me for the recipe for Simnel cake saying that the cake that I’d made for my birthday was really good etc. Eventually I managed to tear myself away to go home. I should have had things to do that evening but I decided that I wasn’t going to. I thought that I’d ring up Nicole to see if she fancied going ice skating or swimming etc but for some reason I couldn’t get through. I ended up back at home. There was talk about moving. The place was an absolutely despairing tip with all kinds of things lying around. I decided that I’d make a start and went through my workshop. All the little scraps of wood that I’d been saving for projects, I bundled them up and wondered if someone would like them for firewood or kindling etc. My mother then turned up and said that Cécile fancied fish for tea. How would we cook it? I told her to cook it in a bechamel sauce with a dash of lemon juice. The idea of Cécile having fish is crazy. She is as much a strict vegan as I am.

The idea of me tidying up and throwing things away shows you just how much of a dream this must have been. And Cécile eating fish too is something that would only ever happen in a nocturnal ramble.

This morning I spend several hours de-duplicating files that are in one of the back-up drives that is in the desktop array. Another 24GB of files had bitten the dust by the time that I’d finished.

For an hour or so I had a play around on the guitar and ran through a few numbers on my playlist just to keep in practice.

This afternoon I attacked the Christmas cake. There was some marzipan left over from last time but it was rather brittle so I used it to fill in the depressions once I’d kneaded it, and then used the fresh stuff that I’d bought the other day to do the job properly.

It looks rather strange, with the marzipan being in tricolour but as I said, once it’s iced it won’t make any difference and it will still taste just as nice.

And then the rest of the afternoon has been spent working on the notes for the photos from Canada 2022. I’m currently riding around the mouth of the Baie des Chaleurs and down the Straits of Northumberland on my way to Bathurst and Miramichi.

There’s still a very long way to go though. I can’t believe how slowly this train is travelling. For a developed country, what is left of Canada’s passenger rail network is an embarrassment.

Tea tonight was a baked potato with salad and one of those strange veggie burgers, made with real veg. They are really quite nice and I’ll be disappointed when they’ve all gone Noz was very kind to me with its bargain offers of strange vegan food and it’s a shame that I can’t go there any more.

The advantage is that it will encourage me to do more in the experimentation line.

On the list of things at which I want to have a go is bread-crumbing and battering. Battering is a question of flour and milk so there’s no reason why I can’t try that with plant-based milk but I shall have to have think about bread-crumbing.

Google might be our friend here and so I typed in “Breadcrumbing” – and had page after page after page of websites talking about stringing someone along in a pseudo-relationship and nothing at all about cookery. I’m clearly light years behind the times.

Tomorrow I have fruit buns to make, pizza dough to make and a Christmas cake to ice. There are radio notes that need dictating before I go to bed so there will be a programme to do too. It’ll be a busy day so I’m glad I had a rest today.

My new scales came today and I had to go downstairs to the post box in the entry to pick it up this evening. One of my neighbours was in the hall and we had a chat. I bet he was wondering what was going on.

Going downstairs was interesting because my slipper fell off so I resolved that issue by throwing it all the way up to my front door and went barefoot. And the climb back up froze my feet but it was surprisingly much easier than it has been just recently.

There’s no reason for that really. I don’t think that it’s the exercise. Maybe it’s because having sat around all day, I wasn’t tired. Or maybe my legs were lighter with no shoes on.

But whatever it is, I’ve given up trying to fathom it out. I’ve already crashed out half a dozen times today, sometimes quite definitively, so I’m going to have a hot drink and then dictate the radio notes before going to bed. I wonder what time I’ll awaken tomorrow.

Friday 8th December 2023 – AFTER THIS MORNING’S …

… efforts I’m totally exhausted. I really don’t know how long I can keep this up .

At least last night when I went to bed I fell asleep quite quickly, judging by the timestamp on the first of the sound-files on the dictaphone.

It was another restless night though and once more I was up and about long before the alarm went off.

After the medication I came back in here and had things to do.

Firstly, there was a bill to pay. That involved writing out a cheque, finding a pre-paid envelope, etc – and that involved some tidying up of my stationery drawers.

Secondly, there was everything that I needed to print off for my demand for intervention from these Autonomy people. Having had the Social Services help me complete it the other week at the Centre de Re-education I now had everything that I needed.

Even down to the A4 manila envelopes. Fed up of trying to squeeze a whole rain-forest of papers into a standard-size envelope, I went berserk on the internet earlier in the week and ordered a packet of 50 envelopes into which I could fit every tree on the planet.

Thirdly, there was another letter that needed writing. This one was rather complicated because rather a lot depends on it, it has to be worded precisely and accurately, and in French too.

After a quick wash I headed out for the bus where I was swamped by a load of young teenagers heading from the High School across the square to the Ecole d’Hotellerie out at the Pointe de la Crête between Granville and St Pair sur Mer.

At St Nicolas I alighted from the bus and first port of call was the Post Office to send off all of my letters.

And there was some good news there too. They see no reason why I can’ open an account there, pay in some money from my Credit Agricole card, have a bank card and then draw cash out of their cash point outside whenever I need it.

Having been stranded for a day or two in Flagstaff in Arizona 20-odd years ago when my bank card was paused for “unusual expenditure” even though I’d told the bank where I was going and what I was doing, I’ve always had a couple of accounts and bank cards on the go “just in case”.

But with not being able to go any more to my bank in the town centre because of the lack of access to the bus back home, I need some way of laying my hands on some cash every now and again, even if it’s only to pay my cleaner for whatever she buys for me at the shops.

At Carrefour I had some luck. I was sure that I’d seen some gas cylinders tucked away somewhere on one of the shelves so I’d taken the empty one with me. Sure enough, they did have them on exchange, although they did cost les yeux de la tête as they say around here.

Imagine that – the highlight of my day is finding a gas cylinder in a shop.

As well as the usual stuff I bought another packet of icing sugar too. I’d had a quick look in my baking box and wasn’t sure if I had enough in stock.

But the cylinder was heavy and walking back for the bus after my coffee I was thoroughly exhausted even before I reached the bus stop.

The climb back up the stairs was another difficult problem that I found it had to solve but once in here and with everything put away I made my coffee and cheese on toast and came back in here.

Fighting off waves of sleep (quite unsuccessfully at times) I transcribed the notes from the dictaphone from last night. And “hello” to Nerina who put in an appearance last night. We I had been living together and for the first time for a considerable period I went through and carried out an inventory of the food that was on hand. I discovered to my surprise that we had almost next-to-nothing. When she came home from work I told her about the situation and that we’d have to be very careful about what we would do and what we would eat over the next few weeks but she went down to the kitchen and pulled out a box that was full of vegetables that I hadn’t seen before. I don’t know how I’d come to miss it. I was busy there examining the contents thinking about exciting things to make with it when she pushed two straws into a navet"turnip" – ed. I thought “why has she done this? What is this going to be used for now?”.

I was in Scotland last night as well. I came across a family who had a couple of girls aged probably just in double figures, I suppose. They’d moved into a big new house and invited me to see it. It really was lovely, a quite modern 1960s-type split-level house, all square with flat roofs. The younger girl told me that they’d been living with the Scots in Glasgow prior to this. She was telling me all about her house and that didn’t seem to be quite bad afterwards. The subject of preparing the older girl for boarding school came up. She had to go to pack her things. I asked her if she needed help because I wasn’t actually doing anything at this time. She said “yes” so I answered “first of all, is there anything that you DON’T want me to touch?”. She replied “yes, my sister’s notebook”. That sounded like a strange request to me, why that would be the most important thing not to touch. I went down a corridor and through a maze of rooms, including the younger girl’s bedroom into the older one’s. It was huge. There was a lot of stuff lying around. She picked up an object and asked me what I thought it was. I replied that it was a bed cover. She began to fold it up so I found some similar ones lying around and folded them up too. She had some kind of plant like bamboo or something. It had obviously seen much better days. She said that it was 3 years old but she kept it because it was very nice and made an interesting shape. We carried on tidying up her room and putting aside the things that she was taking to boarding school.

These two girls actually had a history. The family reminded me very much of a woman and two girls whom I met at that Folk Festival in Scotland where I used to be the camp site Night Security Guard for a couple of years. That was where Louise, with whom I’m still in contact, had her first encounter with STRAWBERRY MOOSE

I was in that freight yard again, on the lowest level when the girls came past on the highest levels on a railway locomotive pulling a couple of lime-green coaches piped with yellow. And then we had exactly the same conversation that we’d had in the previous version of it. And if you’re wondering why that seems to make no sense whatsoever, don’t worry. You aren’t alone because I don’t understand it either

There was something about several files relating to a Paul Temple mystery that I had on my laptop or whatever that I’d transferred onto my watch. One of them was something to do with him him being in a cloak like a superhero so I had ideas about renaming all of them. However that was when I awoke with a severe attack of cramp so I can’t remember now where it went after that

And then I was with a girl from school last night. I can’t remember who she was but she lived out Audlem way, Buerton somewhere on the way to Newcastle under Lyme. I was wearing old clothes because I’d been doing some work. I’d ended up in that village where I met her, and we were chatting. We’d encountered a couple of yokels who had an old recoil-starter type of electric generator that you could carry around in one hand and would power a radio. They’d rigged up some kind of 1930s-type of valve radio and were trying to start this generator to power it. After they’d been playing with it for about 10 minutes I went to look as they wandered off. I could smell straight away that the petrol was probably 20 years old. I drained out the petrol, cleaned the carburettor, put fresh petrol in and fired it up. It ran, and we had the radio playing so I took it over to them. We carried on chatting. We were pointing out a Tudor house in this village that had been left to ruin, how the roof had sagged etc. Then the girl came back. We went into her house to continue to chat, just the 2 of us. All of her family was there except her mother and father. I was just sitting there, quietly listening to them talking, feeling very uncomfortable being in working clothes. When her mother came back they began to talk about knitting. The girl had been spending a lot of tie knitting just recently and just had one line to finish off on a cardigan that she’d made. One of the others in the house said that they’d finish it off in exchange for her doing something else which seemed to be a good idea for her. But time was dragging on and I was wondering how I was going to be able to leave but of course I was quite interested in this girl too. After a couple of minutes she looked at me and said “should we go?”. I thought “yes, we’ll go if she wants” but then I was going to have to think about what would happen. Obviously I would want to spend the evening with her, doing something exciting, going for a meal, going to the pub, going for a walk, but not in the clothes that I was wearing. I was stuck in a quandary yet again – how was I going to organise going home, changing my clothes and generally tidying myself up etc while I had the girl with me. But a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush, she was there, she wanted to go so why would I argue with that?

Not that that would ever have stopped me in the past. No-one has had more experience than me for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

There was also a dream at one point about I’d been walking and had come to a set of stairs, up which I just walked normally without having to cling on. I was so surprised that I went to find another set of stairs and walked up there normally too without hanging on to the handrail. I thought “if only I’d realised yesterday that I could do that”. That was of course quite obviously a dream and I wish that that had happened when I encountered the stairs on the way back to the apartment here after my shopping trip.

After I’d transcribed all of that I attacked the radio programme and finished off the notes for that ready for typing tomorrow night.

With the time left I carried on with the Canada 2022 photos. We’ve climbed out of the St Lawrence valley, over the Appalachians via the Matapedia Pass and we’ve now just rattled into Campbelltown Railway Station on the banks of the Baie des Chaleurs.

Jackie and I had a chat on the internet too. She’s actually quite worried about me, as are many people, so it seems. But there’s really no need to worry. I know what my fate is and I’m quite resigned to it and comfortable with the idea. I’m not worrying about it and there’ no reason for anyone else to either

Right at the beginning I was told that this illness has a lifespan of between 5 and 11 years and how long I keep going depends on how long my heart can keep on going, which is why there’s now all this concern about my cardiac issues. It’s now over 8 years so I’m “well in” and one day it will catch up with me.

Tea tonight was a burger on a bap with chips and salad – really delicious too.

For the rest of the evening I won’t be doing too much. Everything seems to be wearing me out so I’ll sit with my feet up.

Tomorrow I’ll be marzipanning my cake. Liz reckons that I should leave the marzipan to set for a while so that it doesn’t bleed through the icing and I seem to remember that I had that problem last time I made a Christmas cake.

Something else that I’ll be doing is to track down some recipes for vegan stuffing. I can’t have Christmas dinner without sprouts, roast potatoes and stuffing now, can I? I shall have to throw something together.

With not being able to buy my Seitan slices these days (I used to buy them at the Asian wholesalers in Leuven) I’m not sure what I’m going to have for a main course. I’ll probably have to throw something together there too.

Wednesday 6th December 2023 – THEY AREN’T LETTING …

… the grass grow under my feet.

It was only on Friday that I was at the hospital in Paris when they told me that they need to be sure that my heart can withstand the shock of this new medicine that they think might work.

This afternoon I had a mail from the hospital – “you are summoned to attend the cardiac unit for an echograph at 09:15 in the forenoon on Tuesday 19th December”.

So that means leaving here at about 04:30 and arriving at Paris bang in the middle of the morning rush hour. And how much am I not looking forward to that?

But it least it goes to show that I’m in good hands and people are taking an interest in my case. I wouldn’t have this service in many other places.

So I’ve had to dash off a letter to my doctor to ask for a bon de transport and hope that the Social Services agree to pay for it. While I was at it I wrote and asked for another prescription as I’m running short of medication.

That’s all now in the handbag of my cleaner who will drop it off at the medical centre on her way to her clients in town in the morning.

It seems that early mornings are going to become a regular feature, and not just when I go to Paris either. Once again, when the alarm went off at 07:00 I was half-way through editing the radio notes that I’d dictated before I went to bed. I’d been up since 05:10 this morning.

First thing that I did after the medication was to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. I started off with one of these North American road-movie type films with a couple of teenage girls sitting on some kind of embankment overlooking a motorway watching a big American articulated lorry come down a slip road onto the motorway. In front of them was some kind of large panel van. It came onto the motorway first and drifted right away across the lanes into what was effectively then the outside lane nearest the central reservation before heading off again. One thing that was interesting about this was that everyone was driving on the left.

Later on we had something about a wild dog. It was much more than a wild dog, terrorising a neighbourhood somewhere in the USA attacking just about everyone who went close to it and making a right mess of them, killing most of them. On one occasion it cornered a young woman. It had an object in its paw like a pillow and was continually hitting this woman who was trying to escape. It was gradually weakening her until she began to sag onto the floor and the wild beast was ready to leap on top of her and presumably tear out her throat.

And then I was in North America looking for some fermented human juice with which to make my evil Christmas pudding. In the end I established myself in some kind of corridor where I’d attack people who were walking along it and absorb them into the floor as they panicked etc. I’d have some kind of apparatus like a giant hypodermic with which I’d suck the life-blood out of the humans whom I was attacking. That was what I’d be adding to my Christmas cake.

As you can see, I’m back in the nightmares again. But then, I’ve had much worse than these in the past but I choose not to type them out. One or two that I’ve had at times have been so disturbing that I couldn’t even bring myself to dictate them

Caliburn and I had been out on an expedition somewhere in South-West UK. We’d met a guy and been talking to him for a while and then we’d set off along the road. Then he phoned me back to say that he had something else to say. We tried to find a place to perform a U-turn. In the end we’d drifted off the main road somehow and ended up on what basically was a farm track across the fields. It suddenly turned into the steepest road that I’d ever encountered. When we reached the top I could see railway lines that were all covered in weeds and overgrown. It seemed that I’d climbed up the end of a demolished railway viaduct that crossed over the river. While I was stopped, taking a photo of the rails, 2 guys went past on motor bikes. We said a couple of words . They told me that I was somewhere near Wells. Then I set off to go back to the guy’s house but ended up driving over a green field. I thought “I don’t remember this way at all”. As I looked closely the track that I was following did a U-turn and came back down the side of the hill about 100 yards from where I was. I thought to myself that I was completely and utterly lost at the moment. I’ve no idea where I am right now, I’ve no map or anything. I’m stuck in the middle of all these green fields without a clue of where I am.

Apart from the fact that the scenery was green, the landscape of all of this was very similar to the recurring dream that I had on several occasions about the mountain pass in the snow.

Then I had a girl with me. It might have been Cécile. We’d been out for a drive somewhere in Caliburn and stopped in a lay-by at the side of the road. Once again, Caliburn this time was a right-hand drive vehicle. From a flask she poured me a mug of coffee which I sat and began to drink but I began to tidy up a few things (so it must have been a dream, me tidying up). There were loads of elastic straps just lying all over the place so I was tying then to attachments and coiling them up. She was eating a cheeseburger (and as if Cécile would ever have eaten a cheeseburger. When we first began to chat to each other at the Anglo-French Group in the Combrailles it was to exchange vegan recipes). While I was busy sorting this out we were having a little chat. Then we decided that we’d go. I can’t remember exactly what happened after that because I awoke quite suddenly but I know that there was a couple of younger girls walking past who were involved in this dream somewhere.

Finally I’d been away camping for a few days and was absolutely filthy. I don’t know why. I hadn’t washed for several days. I made it back home and Zero was there with her parents (so welcome back, Zero!). The first thing that I did was to go to the bathroom for a really good wash. Zero came in and brought a small portable TV with her. She was watching some kind of programme. While I was washing I was talking to her but she replied in grunts and monosyllables as if she wasn’t really taking much notice. We talked about the journey back and how in Cheadle I’d been stuck behind a row of PMT buses. Her father said “there won’t be any of them soon, and they won’t be red. All of PMT’s operations outside the core area of Stoke on Trent are being withdrawn. They are having to bring in taxis etc to cover the trips. I explained that that was probably why I’d seen a couple of strange buses wandering around there looking as if they were doing things but certainly weren’t part of the PMT fleet. The we began to talk about chip shops. I told him that there were 2 chip shops that had been the first in the UK to stop selling fish and chips at a fixed price. One was down Longton way which was where we were at that particular moment. The other was up in Burslem. After I’d finished washing I tuned in Zero’s TV for her which was slightly off its station and went back into the living room where I told everyone quite happily that I was so pleased to be clean – the first time for several days.

And then I made a start on the radio notes. The dictation was slightly better than just recently but I had tied myself up in knots in a few places and it took some entangling. With the final track and the notes, I ended up 10 seconds over but that was edited down quite easily. I always include in my speeches quite a lot of stuff that isn’t really vitally important and I can cut it out as I go along, if necessary.

Once I’d finished that I finished off the notes for the photos that I’d taken when I arrived in Montréal and those three days are now completely on line. If you START HERE and go forward for the next couple of days.

The car came early for me today, and I wasn’t ready, due to things that, no matter how rich and famous you might be, you can’t get anyone else to do on your behalf.

At the Centre de Re-education the first session was at the tapis roulant – the rolling carpet. Apart from walking as it rolled away underneath me and being given advice about how I’m carrying myself, there were two other tasks, both of them rather like computer games.

One was to catch a thrown paper ball in a waste basket. But you move the basket by adjusting the balance of your weight by using your feet. The farther to the extremes the paper ball is thrown, the harder you have to press with the appropriate foot. Extreme right was pretty impossible for me.

The second one was like a 1970s Space Invaders game but once again you control the paddle with your feet. Again, the extremes were difficult

In Ergotherapy the therapist ran me through a few tests (one or two of which I failed miserably) and then showed me a way of getting in and out of bed more comfortably. She’s going to come here one morning next week to inspect my apartment and suggest ways that I could improve my life.

Here’s hoping that she gives me advice about getting in and out of the shower.

Severine ran me through my paces afterwards. She noticed that I didn’t have the same improved force that I had yesterday and that was borne out by how I climbed back up the stairs to here afterwards.

She seems to think that the tapis roulant took too much out of me, and that might explain why it always seems to be more difficult to climb back up after I’ve been shopping.

Back here I had my hot chocolate and biscuits, sorted out the letter to the doctor and then regrettably fell asleep for a while, which was no surprise.

Tea was a delicious leftover curry but I lost concentration at one point and the naan bread ended up being overdone. Still, you can’t win a coconut every time.

Then I checked the mails and messages again. A big thank-you to Sean and Liz for sending me some useful tips abour marzipanning and icing. Every tip that I can receive will come in useful

Tomorrow morning I might have a relax ready for the Centre de Re-education tomorrow afternoon. I’m expecting a parcel delivery and that will need checking.

The cheap kitchen scales that I have eats batteries like they are going out of fashion and it’s very inconvenient. I’ve found one on line that has a built in 5-volt battery. 5 volts equals USB connection of course and that should hopefully work much better.

Adding 120 grammes of sugar to something, having a battery go flat at 90 grammes, hunting around for a new CR2032 battery and then forgetting how much sugar I’ve already put in is no way to run a chemical operation.

Alison has a beautiful set of Olde-Worlde analogue scales but they aren’t really practical.

The new scales will come in handy at the weekend when I have the pizza dough and more fruit buns to make, along with marzipanning and icing the cake.

What with the scales and my new FOOD PROCESSOR I’m definitely going up in the world. But if I can’t go out anywhere and can’t do anything outside, I may as well find a new hobby.

The right equipment will help of course, and then I can always eat the fruits of my labours.

Monday 4th December 2023 – WHEN THE ALARM …

… went off at 07:00 this morning I was well on my way through preparing the radio programme notes for which I dictated on Saturday night.

The other day when I awoke at something like a ridiculously early time, I ended up going back to sleep and having a pleasant half hour in the company of Zero.

Today though, being awake at 04:30, I couldn’t go back to sleep no matter how hard I tried and in the end round about 05:10 I gave it up as a bad job and arose from the Dead.

Last night I’d actually had an early night for once and I don’t suppose that it took me too long to go off to sleep.

But then I hauled myself out of bed at 05:10 and went for my medication.

Back in here the first thing that I did was to transcribe the dictaphone notes. I was being taken somewhere, either on board or off a ship. I was in a wheelchair and like that Brazilian company that I knew, they had 3 groups of numbers and lots of individual ranges in each group. They were checking through one particular group to see if I was in there because I was either leaving or joining the ship. I was dying to go to the bathroom but that wouldn’t make them hurry up this task any quicker and it looked as if I’d be there for ever

Later on I’d been back to visit Alison again. I was with a guy and a couple of his children, girls who were probably aged about 5 and 6. Just a couple of doors away from where Alison was living was a sign about some kind of Theme park of “Enchanted Magic” etc. I often wondered what happened there so seeing as I had 2 small children with me we took ourselves off. Eventually we managed to find the entrance because it wasn’t straightforward. We paid for the entrances – we could either have paid or opened an account which we’d settle on leaving but I preferred to pay as we went round. I went for a glass of water. There were several carafes of water that were in the direct sunlight on the windowsill so I went to look for one that was in the shade. We even talked about staying the night in this place because it was possible and the girls would love it. I happened to mention Alison and the guy said “yes we could even go out for a meal with Alison tonight”. I didn’t know what his plans were and what his intentions were but they were his daughters so I let him decide what was going on.

Finally, some famous travel author or similar was going on a walking tour through the mountains of one of these South Asian republics east of the Caucasus. He was looking for volunteers. In the end I decided after much thought that I’d like to volunteer and was accepted. It was something of a cheat in a sense because we travelled extremely light and had a support vehicle that carried the luggage for us for our overnight stops. We were walking through the foothills of these mountains. It was something of a disappointment in a certain respect because if we wanted to follow his exact route and stop exactly where he wanted it was great but if we saw something that was a little off the beaten track that interested us, he wouldn’t stop. We would either have to go ourselves and then run after him, which was complicated, or else ignore it. It happened to me on a couple of occasions, things that I would otherwise have stopped to photograph were left behind. We suddenly came round a bend in the track and came across some headstones. Most of them were American Army headstones from 1977 but a couple were American Army headstones from 1844, in the days before there was really an American Army of course. We could understand the 1977 ones but the earlier ones were a complete puzzle. I was determined to photograph them even if it led to an argument. In the end he set off and I took out my camera to photograph them but somehow a load of mud had come onto the lens. No matter how I tried I couldn’t clean the mud off the lens. I was there for ages trying to do this and he was going further and further away.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that having dreams about camera failures was something that happened quite often at one time in the recent past but we’ve not had one for a while.

Armed with a mug of instant coffee to fire up my enthusiasm I made a start on the radio programme that I mentioned. And once I’d added in the final track and the speech it over-ran by 3.6 seconds. But that didn’t take too long to edit down

Then I took myself off to look at the results of my labours yesterday.

One lesson that I learnt was that I should have lined my cake tin with baking paper before putting in the contents. When I sprung the hinge it left a few lumps stuck to the side.

Not that anyone will notice once it has the marzipan and icing on it of course. And in any case, I’ve made it to eat, not to look at.

Another lesson that I learnt was that my pudding steamer doesn’t make a perfect seal and I hadn’t wrapped up the pudding sufficiently. Steam get everywhere, into the smallest gaps, and my pudding looked rather damper than I would have liked.

In the end, I put the oven on low for an hour and gently dried the pudding inside it. Now it looks much more like a Christmas pudding.

That’s one of the (many) reasons why I keep these notes. You’ve probably noticed that there’s an index with keywords for each entry and there’s an *.sql database that controls all of the keywords.

So next year, I can just search the database for “Christmas Pudding” and call up all of the notes that I’ve made on the subject, read them to find out how I could have done better, and hopefully improve on everything next time.

With a memory like mine, you’ve no idea how much of a necessity it is.

One thing that I can say, however, is that the Christmas Cake is delicious. Those bits that stuck to the side of the tin didn’t go to waste. They made a nice breakfast.

Much of the rest of the day has been spent, when I haven’t been sleeping off my early start, finishing off the tidying up from yesterday and then sorting out the music for the next radio programme that I’ll be preparing.

The music took longer than it might have done because the programme will be broadcast on Rinus Gerritsen’s birthday. As far as I can tell, he never sang the lead on any of Golden Earring’s songs and he only wrote one or two of them.

With it being his birthday I ought to include something. It took me an age to identify a track that he wrote on his own, and even longer to actually find it and convert it for radio.

When I moved to Brussels and started running again, I had a huge cassette tape with all kinds of Golden Earring tracks that were the right speed for my running, but can I find it?

When I started running again here at night after Covid began, I think that I ran to the accompaniment of the Dead March.

Tea tonight was a stuffed pepper with pasta and veg – just as good as ever. And there’s stuffing left for a taco roll tomorrow and probably to go into a leftover curry on Wednesday.

But we’ve hit a crisis in that my gas cylinder is empty, so no more sparkling water for me. Cylinders are available on line of course, but you have to pay the full whack, not just the exchange refill. And I can’t ask my cleaner to struggle back on foot from LeClerc with a refill

Tomorrow there’s the Welsh class and if the car comes for me, the Centre de Re-education. There are three sessions organised for me so I’ll be fit for nothing when I return.

If I have the chance, I’ll finish off writing the notes for this radio programme. After I’d finally sorted out the music I wrote half of them so it won’t take me long to finish them.

But right now I’m off to bed. I still haven’t recovered from my early start and I need to be on form tomorrow. But coming back up the stairs after three sessions at the Centre de Re-education will finish me off for good.

Saturday 2nd December 2023 – I AWOKE THIS …

… morning at 05:30, even after all of my exertions last night. And I was feeling so awake that by 05:40 I was seriously thinking about leaving the stinking pit.

But I’m glad I didn’t.

Some time later I must have fallen asleep again. And I’m glad that I did because during that little period I had a visitor. Zero came to visit me.

In fact her presence so startled me that I awoke bolt upright. And this time I actually did leave the bed before the alarm went off. Not my much, it has to be said, but any period of time is worth noting.

First port of call was to take my medication. And that was especially important seeing as how I’d abstained yesterday.

Second port of call was to check the temperature. When I lived in the Auvergne the temperature was just one of the several dozen records that I took twice a day so I could make graphs that would hopefully show a correlation between the different types of weather and the different types of energy that was being produced and consumed but I don’t do anything at all like that here.

What was important today was the fact that even though we’re so close to the sea, everything was iced up outside.

And sure enough, at 07:00 this morning the temperature was minus 3.5°C. That’s the lowest temperature that I’ve seen here, but it’s still a far cry from how things were in the Auvergne. Rosemary rang up for a chat later on (as you will find out in due course) and she told me that the temperature in the Combrailles had dropped to minus 7°C and as things had warmed up in the morning they’d had a fall of snow.

But as for my temperature (well, the temperature outside actually) it was enough to put me off going out.

After yesterday’s exertions I was really exhausted but I wondered whether I should force myself to go out but as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, if I fall over I can’t pick myself up again and staggering about on the ice in sub-zero temperatures is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, I came in here and finished off my order for LeClerc. I was going to send it off on Monday but instead I added in everything that I would otherwise buy at the Carrefour and it was on its way even before I’d had my morning coffee.

There were no tomatoes on delivery today but my cleaner usually goes to the market in town on Saturday morning so I sent her a message and she duly obliged.

Next stop was to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. And, more importantly, who had come with me. I’d been collecting up tools, the kind that you’d find on market stalls in the northern UK. I’d been making a collection of all kinds of stuff. Then I’d been going through it and deciding what I wanted to keep and what I didn’t, and maybe I would advertise the rest for sale or something like that, maybe even visit a market stall to try to sell them or even try to have a market stall myself so much of last night was spent going through this collection of tools and making decisions. There were things like hammers and drifts, taps and dies, files etc that I would have loved to have had at another moment.

And in a certain region of India a man was having an extreme amount of difficulty trying to buy many items that would be considered to be normal, average everyday use in the rest of the World. At a certain moment he won £721 in a lottery for deprived areas so used his winnings to place an internet order to buy stuff on line that he could have sent to him. He went on one of these reality TV programmes to talk about his winnings and his order. Some visiting dignitary from his Province’s Government climbed onto the stage without invitation and immediately began to denounce everything that he’d ordered that had not yet been delivered, claiming that it was all Chinese warmongering equipment, even things like barbecue grills, and had no place in an ordinary decent home in his Province. he was picking up these things and throwing them about on the stage, coming out with all kinds of rhetoric. I tried to calm him down but he wasn’t going to have anything about this so in the end I reluctantly decided that the only way to deal with this matter is to have a huge confrontation with him on the TV and embarrass him by his lack of knowledge and obvious prejudice.

Later on there was a couple of domineering parents who had 4 teenage children. One day they decided that they would assassinate some kind of Russian emigré noblewoman. He knew where this noble emigré woman went to relax so the arranged to be present with rifles. As the woman was leaning against a wall smoking, the father gave a signal and everyone levelled their rifles across the room at this woman relaxing in the doorway. At the very last moment she saw them and swayed to one side as they fired. Instead of being killed outright one hit her in the cheek, another hit her in the shoulder and the other 4 missed. In a fit of anger she stormed over to this table where these 6 people were sitting and tore an absolute strip off the father and demanded that he give her a glass of gin. He was astonished that she was still moving and insisting on a glass of gin, which he poured for her. First he took a mouthful himself before giving it to her. One of this children piped up “just look at that! Now you can see what it is that we as kids have had to suffer for all our lives. He can’t even give someone a drink without having to take a drink of it himself. You’ve just met him for 10 minutes and he’s treated you like this but this is how he’s treated us all out lives”.

This was when I awoke at 05:30 and as I said just now, when I went back to sleep Zero put in an appearance. I was at school and it was the middle of summer. There were loads of kids milling around. I’d been working on a few of the radio programmes. One of the guys who ran the radio asked me if I’d put together a pile of programmes that had been broadcast previously which were my favourites. I had an enormous amount of difficulty trying to find the ones. I was looking for some certain live concerts but every time I opened a folder it was the wrong one. Eventually I put 4 or 5 together onto a memory stick and walked out of my classroom ready to go downstairs. I was wearing a shirt with no sleeves that was completely open, a tie that was actually around my neck and not around the collar of the shirt and a pair of shorts which I never ever wear. You could see the skin imperfections on my legs and you could also a great big scar running down the inside of my right arm. As I walked down the steps there were all these girls sitting down there. One or two made a remark about my sartorial elegance. I explained that if they thought that I would wear full school uniform on the hottest day of the year they are totally mistaken. One of the girls talking to me had a very white pasty face and hair as if she’d been covered in flour. There was another one, a much younger girl, who was flirting around with me as she was talking so naturally I was flirting around with her too as I was replying. Then I set off and ended up in Market Street in Crewe in the period before they demolished it all. Zero came in at some point as I was going through the directories looking for these particular files. Whether she was helping me or whether she was actually involved in one of the programmes I can’t remember now but she was certainly there as I was searching through these directories looking for the specific files.

But what is going on here? I’m flirting around with another girl while Zero is in the immediate vicinity? I really must be losing my touch these days!

By this time the shopping – including my bigarreaux confits – had arrived and I was in time to watch the delivery guy go head over heels on the stairs up to my apartment. No bones broken so he was lucky. Slabs of solid granite are really hard when you fall on them.

Before I’d sent off the order I checked the promotions to see what was on special offer, and they had broccoli heads at 99 cents so I’d ordered one.

It was more stalk than florets so after I’d trimmed it and blanched the florets ready for freezing, I decided to have a broccoli stalk soup for lunch.

  • Cut up an onion and fry it in oil in the base of a heavy saucepan
  • Add in your herbs. I used
    • chervil
    • tarragon
    • coriander
  • add in a sliced lump of garlic
  • dice your broccoli stalk finely and add it in
  • dice a potato ditto
  • fry it all up nicely for a few minutes
  • add back enough of the water in which you blanched the broccoli florets
  • Simmer it until everything in there is extremely soft, and then add in some cream. I used soya yoghurt as I have plenty that needs eating quickly
  • whizz it up with your magic wand
  • eat it with some of the crusty bread that you remembered to add onto your order with LeClerc

Fighting off (sometimes unsuccessfully) a few waves of sleep I carried on writing the notes for Canada 2022. I’m still wandering around the vieux port – I had no idea that I’d taken so many photos there.

Rosemary rang me up too (as I said just now) to find out how things went yesterday so I told her the bad news. She tells me that in the Spring next year she’ll come to visit if her operation passes ok.

If she does, I hope that she remembers to bring with her my big bass combo amp that’s sitting in her shed. That’s the one that I found in a pawn shop around the corner from Sandra’s in Ottawa in 2019.

And while we’re on the subject, sometime in the future I’ll be expecting another parcel delivery from Canada. In the back of Strider were a Fender bass and combo amp that travelled around North America with me. Now that Strider is, apparently, no more, it’ll be in the way at my niece’s house and I need to bring it here.

Apparently my talk about Christmas cake earlier in the week inspired Rosemary and she checked in her cupboard where she found that she had all of the important ingredients for a Christmas Cake.

She’s had all of her fruit soaking since then but now she can’t find her baking tin. And at least I can smile because although I moved to the Auvergne in 2006 and still haven’t unpacked yet, Rosemary moved to France more than 30 years ago and she is far from being unpacked even yet.

Anyway we agreed that cooking and baking is a fine hobby to have if your mobility is restricted. You don’t need to move around much and you can really enjoy the fruits of your labours – in the literal sense of the word.

Tea tonight was a burger on a bap, which I can enjoy now that I’ve found that I can order on-line the special burgers that I like. With a baked potato and salad it was delicious.

So tomorrow I have a lot to do. Before I go to bed I’ll be dictating the radio notes that I prepared the other day (if I get pull my head round in the right direction) so that I can prepare a programme tomorrow.

Then there’s the Christmas Cake and Pudding that need baking too.

Finally too, I have biscuits to bake. I had a couple of store-bought packets lying around but while the first packet was fine, the odour that came from the second one that I opened today convinced me that I didn’t need to taste them.

There’s some freh ginger lying around, some almonds and a few other bits and pieces so that looks as if it will make a really nice biscuit mix. It’s a good job that the vegan butter was on special offer today and I took full advantage by buying an extra packet.

So before I go to bed I’ll have a play about on the guitar and work my way through some more of my playlist. I might have a good run through RECOVERING THE SATELLITES

"We only stay in orbit
For a moment of time
And then you’re everybody’s satellite
I wish that you were mine"

Now who does that remind me of?

Thursday 23rd November 2023 – HAVING SAID …

… the other day that I was thinking about getting up before the alarm went off, I actually managed to make it out of bed this morning before the alarm went off.

A few months ago I went through a phase of early rising, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, but just recently it’s been just a distant memory.

Mind you, at one point I didn’t think that I’d ever go to sleep, never mind awaken. For several hours starting shortly after going to be I was wracked by attacks of cramp, one after another after another.

But something must have awoken me this morning and I’ve no idea what it was but I couldn’t go back to sleep afterwards. So I spend 15 or 20 minutes doing some exercises in bed with the elastic strap with which I sleep, wrapped round my ankles, and then I raised myself from the dead.

After the medication I had a listen to the dictaphone. And considering that it was a short night, it was quite a lively one. There were some huge problems about confrontations between the Government, the University and the Students’ Association. The Students Union magazine that was sent round for that month had dozens and dozens of cases in it where students claimed that they had been provoked by the Government or University into a whole variety of things. As members of the Executive Committee we had to sit and examine these cases. I was on my way to a meeting, walking through a street where all these ragged children were playing around telling each other jokes etc. When they were running around they were leaving their shoes all over the place. I had a couple of particular pairs of shoes that I’d encountered and had been playing football with them up and down the street as I was walking. One of the kids noticed and began to chase after me, making a few remarks. I was distracted because there was another instance taking place right before my eyes of the goings-on between the Government, the University and one of the students. I was in a hurry to go along and actually witness it first-hand so I couldn’t stop and sort out this boy’s shoes for him.

strawberry moose bill rammell open university Eric Hall photo April 2002And that brought back a few memories from the time that the Minister of Education was invited by the University to address the student body, and being forewarned by one of our “moles on various committees” we laid an ambush with STRAWBERRY MOOSE and the Minister fled. Such was Strawberry Moose’s fame in those days.

But of course, Strawberry Moose had the final say, as you might expect.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bedroom I was going off by road to the far north of Canada. We set off in a big double-decker express coach. I had my huge suitcase with STRAWBERRY MOOSE in it. I handed it to the driver, boarded and found a seat. There were a few other people sitting near me and we had a chat every now and again but I spent a lot of time dozing off. We eventually pulled into a service area with a restaurant etc where we had to alight because this was where our different buses came in to take us further on our way. I alighted from the back along with these other people whom I’d met. The driver began to take the cases out of the coach. We were checking times with each other and discussing our plans etc. One of the girls with us asked where the restaurant was. I said “it’s behind you” … "ohh no it isn’t" – ed … so she turned round. Of course by this time the bus had gone so you could actually see the service area. It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t have my case and the bus has gone. It’s dark and I could hardly see anything on this motorway service area. I certainly can’t remember my case being taken off the bus and now he’s disappeared.

And later I was with a girl who might have been Roxanne. She wanted to know if she could borrow my big Bosch hammer drill to drill a hole through a piece of wood. We had a look at the wood and saw how thick it was. We ended up having to tape a couple of drill bits together. I put them in the drill and was busy giving her a lesson on how to drill wood and how to drill deep lengths etc.

Nerina and I had had some friends round at one point – another couple. We were chatting away and it was becoming quite late. I said something to Nerina about going to bed. It caught her unawares and she sked me exactly what I meant. I explained that I was having to go to the bathroom so if she was planning on going to bed at some point in the near future I’d switch on her electric blanket for her so that her bed would be nice and warm. I switched it on and the evening carried on. I wandered off to do something. later on I went upstairs and she was there in bed with the bedclothes thrown back. I asked if the bed was warm enough. She replied that it was too warm. I asked why she hadn’t switched off the electric blanket but she didn’t say very much. We ended up having a lengthy discussion about Christmas and birthday presents.

Later on there were 3 of us. We were having a virtual tour on the internet of Yeovil, getting into a virtual car and on one of these map sites having a street view out of the town. We decided that it looked fairly sophisticated so we found another way back into the city. I went a strange way because I said that it’s one way of seeing what’s in people’s gardens. We came across a nouse where behind a tarpaulin were dozens and dozens of police motorbikes all with white fairings. They were a model that I hadn’t seen before so I imagined that they had been imported from somewhere obscure and were slowly being prepared for sale. This visual programme was incredible. We ended up on the very top of a hill really high up looking over this really beautiful valley with a river and viaduct in the distance etc. We climbed out of the car to look and the car just accelerated away on its own down the hill. I could feel the wind whistling through my hair as Nerina, this other guy, another couple of people and I stood there watching it. All 5 of us seemed to go at the same time. The woman of this other couple completely forgot who she was with and took my hand as we walked away which of course had everyone bursting out into laughter.

The last time that I was in Yeovil was with Sue from Swindon. I moved her from Brussels when I had my Luton Transit and we saw each other a few times after that if I happened to be in the UK. We celebrated the Solstice together at Avebury one year but like most things involving the UK it petered out.

Thinking about it, I was in the UK for half a day in 2013 to pick up a lorry-load of slates to deliver to the South of France and Rosemary and I went in Aberdeen in 2019 to pick up THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR instead of flying to Greenland to meet it there, and they are the only times that I’ve been in the UK since 2011. And, to be quite honest, I’ve no intention of ever returning.

Having finished the dictaphone notes I carried on with the radio programme and that’s now finished and up and running, ready for broadcast on … errr … 5th July next year.

In between all of that, I had my coffee and bread-and-butter pudding and phoned the garage to talk about Caliburn and his controle technique. He actually has a vacancy and he’ll send someone round “shortly” to pick him up. And Caliburn will soon be 17 too.

The lift engineer who came to chat with me was a woman – not that that’s a surprise in itself these days – but I wouldn’t go doing any lift engineering in the clothes that she was wearing. And she was wearing enough perfume to pole-axe a bactrian camel. It reminded me of the story about the guy spreading white powder outside his front gate and his neighbout asked him why.
"It’s to keep Polar Bears off my cabbages" he replied.
"But there are no Polar bears within 5,000 miles of this place"
"Powerful stuff, isn’t it?"

This afternoon I’ve been sorting out more of my Canada 2022 photos and I’m now about to board my train in Moncton ready to travel back to Montréal. And what a journey that was.

As well as that I’ve been going through one of the backup drives checking duplicates and disposing of yet more.

Tea tonight was steamed veg and veggie balls in vegan cheese sauce, delicious as usual. Tomorrow’s tea with have to be sausage and beans, not salad, as I’m not going shopping in the morning. At some point the garage might come by for Caliburn and I’ll probably be out at the shops or something so I’ll stay at home and wait, which will mean that he won’t come.

But I’ve plenty of other things that will keep me out of mischief. At some point I’m even going to soak my fruit ready for Christmas baking and that’s the kind of thing that will be exciting.

My first ever Christmas cake a couple of years ago, coached on the internet by Hannah from Batley, was a resounding success but I put that down to beginner’s luck. And in any case Hannah is no longer in our Welsh group so I’ll be on my own for this one.

But I learnt a lot last time. Here’s hoping that I can remember it.