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Saturday 30th March 2024 – MY BROCCOLI STALK …

… soup was absolutely delicious at lunchtime.

  1. chop up an onion and fry it in a heavy duty saucepan
  2. dice your broccoli stalk and a potato into very small pieces and add them to the fried onion, and fry them
  3. add your herbs – I used coriander, chervil, marjoram and chives – a stock cube and some garlic, and fry them with everything else
  4. when you’re satisfied that all is going well, add enough of the water that you saved yesterday from blanching the carrots and broccoli florets – make sure that the stuff above is covered and remains so throughout the entire process
  5. simmer away on a low heat for about 20 minutes
  6. add a tub of soya yoghurt and whizz it all up with your whizzer
  7. serve with fresh black pepper and fresh-baked bread

That’s what I call a really decent meal for a lunchtime.

When I blanch my broccoli for freezing I only blanch the florets. But one of these 99 cents special offers of broccoli is usually more stalk than florets so you have to be inventive, and broccoli stalk soup is the way forward

However I wish that I knew the way forward out of my current sleep issues because they reared their ugly head today, and in spades too.

Last night was a late night again. Once more I couldn’t seem to have my tasks completed in anything like a reasonable time. They do seem to drag me down these days and like anything else around here, it’s never-ending.

Finally, hours later than intended, I managed to find my way into bed.

Once in though, I slept right the way through until the alarm went off without the slightest interruption, which is quite strange these days. Usually, the slightest noise awakens me, so I wonder if it’s something to do with one of the pills that I take just before going to bed.

When the alarm went off I fell out of bed again and went to check the blood pressure. 15.5/8.9 compared to last evening’s 15.9/10.1. So not a great deal of difference.

After the medication I tidied up in the kitchen and arranged everything for the nurse to come. She was her usual cheerful self today and it didn’t take her long to sort me out. I told her about the issues with the pharmacy and she thinks that I ought to see my GP about the blood tests.

My opinion is that they are called for by the hospital so it’s up to the hospital to decide whether I need them or not, and as for my injections, I’m in the hospital in 3 weeks time and if I don’t have them for 3 weeks, there’s plenty of time for the hospital to catch up

Back in here, there was nothing on the dictaphone yet again from the night, and even though that usually signifies a decent sleep it’s still disappointing because, as I have said before… "and on many occasions too" – ed … going on my travels is the only fun that I have these days.

Back in the old days before my health finally gave out, I’d always be travelling. And not just in vehicles either, but on foot. I’ve roamed miles over places like the Long Mynd in Shropshire, moors in Scotland, Arctic tundra in Greenland and Northern Canada and so on.

Who will ever forget my famous journey when I nipped out for a couple of hours in 2014 and ended up roaming for miles through the Pyrenees in Southern France, Spain and Andorra for several weeks?

But returning to last night, even though there was nothing on the dictaphone I do have a recollection of something else to do with Ford Cortinas scattered all over Crewe and that’s a regular, recurring dream.

Apart from making broccoli stalk soup, most of the day has been dealing with radio stuff, sorting out music for the next few programmes. Time to restart work after being away on a course for a week. and I’m still thinking and talking in Welsh when I talk to myself.

There was a lot of progress made with the radio stuff but I would have done more had I not crashed out.

And I crashed out good and proper for a couple of hours too, the deepest that I have ever been too and it was really uncomfortable too, really, really uncomfortable. I was so far out that I wouldn’t have come back for a week.

Nevertheless I came round and wandered off for my hot chocolate. And there was something on the dictaphone from when I’d crashed out, and that doesn’t happen too often either. I was on my way to see my sister and my brother. They had given me directions but the closer I came to where they were supposed to be, the less sense the directions made. I ended up on an island, a long narrow sandspit that was completely built up with a big apartment building. As I approached the front door there was a man there so I hurried and he held the door for me to enter. Inside I went into the lift and came out on the first floor. I asked on the radio which apartment they were in but their answer was garbled so I asked which floor and they said “top”. I went back into the lift and came out at the top and was now in the open air countryside, still heavily built up. I asked if they were on the water side or the inside but the reply was “down here” so I went down the road. There was still no trace of them so I asked which house they were in. They replied that there was nothing near them but a pub. There was nothing whatever like that where I was but searching around I came across a village name something like Rhydymwyn (but wasn’t) so I asked if that name meant anything to them. There was no reply to that – I’d gone out of range obviously and lost radio contact, so I must have been miles away, so I gave it up zs a bad job.

The likelihood of me ever wanting to meet my brother and sister would be so remote that they wouldn’t have to go to the trouble of giving me false directions to keep me away.

But the island, the long thin sandspit, reminds me very much of Long Beach Island in New Jersey. That was where I went to celebrate the Millennium. I flew from Brussels Airport, where I was interviewed by Flemish TV – in Flemish – to New York and hired a car, then just drifted around until I found somewhere nice.

And LONG BEACH ISLAND REALLY IS NICE TOO. I had a wonderful time out there.

TOTGA had just been abandoned by her husband and was left alone with a small baby. I invited her to join me on the trip
"Where would be staying?" she asked
"We’ll work that out when we arrive. Just drive and find somewhere nice"
"Actually, it’s not really convenient"

A few years later we were talking and she said "I’d have come with you if you’d had a place booked to stay, you know."

It was then that I realised what a lucky escape she’d had. In 2015 I slept out on the trail every night in Northern Labrador and Northern Québec, timber wolves howling in the distance and something or other scratching at Strider’s truck cap, wanting to come in and share the sleeping bag with me.

TOTGA would have had a heart attack a long time before that if she’d had to share a lifetime with me. Nerina was the adventurous type and would have been fine, but I’m sure that I tried her spirit a few times

But just in case you are wondering, these people who figure quite often in my dreams, like TOTGA, Castor and Zero and so on, they are actually real people whom I’ve encountered, or even had a close encounter, at some time or other and who have obviously left a very great impression on me.

There was football on the internet later – TNS v Cardiff Metropolitan in the other Welsh Cup semi-final.

To everyone’s surprise, the Met raced into a 2-0 lead but of course it couldn’t last. TNS changed out of first gear and off they roared.

TNS’s overwhelming dominance of the Welsh domestic game wouldn’t bother me all that much if they could take it further. But they are knocked out of European competition at the first hurdle and they really ought to be doing much better than

It would really be nice if they could make it to a European group stage for once and have a real stab at something worthwhile.

And it would be nice if other clubs could do well too, emulating Hwlffordd who actually made it through to a second round last season.

Tea tonight was baked potato with vegan salad and one of these breaded quorn fillets that I like. But aren’t plates heavy when they fall on your foot? I’m glad that there was just a quorn fillet on it at that moment and nothing else.

But now I’m off to bed. We lose an hour tonight of course with the change of calendar, and I have the nurse coming which is a pain. I need to be up early and have everything ready so I hope that the alarm works.

Not like back in the old days when I was always late for school
"And why are you always late?" asked the exasperated schoolmaster
"Please sir" I explained "there’s eight in our family but the alarm was only set for seven so I had to miss out."

Friday 1st March 2024 – DYDD GWYL DEWI HAPUS …

… to everyone who can understand that.

And a happy St David’s Day to those of you who can’t.

It didn’t occur to me until this morning that I ought to be making a leek and potato soup, or maybe some bara brith or lava bread. It completely slipped my mind until it was far too late to do anything about it.

However, I did remember to prepare a “St David’s Day Special” for the radio featuring nothing but Welsh rock musicians. People like Man and Deke Leonard pumping out the stuff, but also stuff like Kim Simmonds from his heyday with Savoy Brown.

And also The Neutrons, desperate for a female voice for one of their songs on TALES FROM THE BLUES COCOONS, and someone drags in this young dancer who they found in ballet school down the road, Caromay Dixon, who was only 15 at the time but whose voice hypnotised all of us there.

They even WROTE A SONG for her to sing on the album.

But anyway, I digress … "again" – ed

Last night was another late night and I didn’t have much sleep yet again. No football match to keep me awake – I was busy doing other things.

However for a change, it was good night’s sleep and I felt much better for it when the alarm went off. I still didn’t want to drag myself out of bed when the alarm went off, but it couldn’t be helped.

First stop was the blood pressure, and after all this time it seems that this part of the medication is working. Last night’s was 16.3/13.5 but this morning’s was 13.5/7.8, well within the parameters that they sent me at the start.

In the living room I had to track down some medication and then I could fuel myself up.

This morning’s task was to make bread for the weekend – three bread rolls. And even though I did exactly the same as I did last week, the dough didn’t rise today like it had done then.

The only difference was the yeast. Is this cheap yeast no good then? And ought I to be using the more expensive yeast that seemed to work last week? That’s an interesting idea.

My cheese on toast was still nice though so I’m not complaining too much.

While I was at it, I made a large rice pudding again to last me for the next couple of days. I’m becoming quite a fan of those too.

Having had my breakfast I came in here to listen to the dictaphone notes to find out where I’d been during the night and, more importantly, who had come with me. There was a group of us at some kind of athletics meeting last night. We were the ones putting out all of the hurdles etc for the athletes to jump etc. This went on for quite a while and then they announced the winner. I wasn’t paying that much attention but they also said that he’d won the student games and the National Indoor games in the summer. I was very keen to find out who he was so I decided to use the internet so I could look it up. We drifted on from there and were on our way home. Liz – the “other Liz” was with us and I was with Percy Penguin. We came out of High Street in Crewe and walked up Market Street in the pedestrian area. Percy Penguin and I had a very happy air about us as if something important had happened.

we were actually turning into Victoria Street at that moment from Market Street.

Next weekend it will be 15 years since the “other Liz” shuffled off this mortal coil. We served on the same University committees so we often found ourselves travelling together from one end of the country to the other – from Milton Keynes up to Newcastle upon Tyne and then down to Bristol for meetings of the Disabled Students group.

On one occasion, stopping off at Shrewsbury for a meal on our way from Bristol to Newcastle upon Tyne we encountered an old girlfriend of mine from school. On another occasion we came across a Wishbone Ash concert so we hung around for a while until it started.

She came to Brussels as a guest of the Belgian Association and attended a couple of meetings of the North European Students in Cologne with Jackie and me.

After she died I took her daughter to Canada to install her at University there and, leaving STRAWBERRY MOOSE to take care of her, I went off on my EPIC JOURNEY ON THE TRANS LABRADOR HIGHWAY

But anyway, all that was a long time ago.

After breakfast I made a start on finishing off the radio notes but I had another one of those cataleptic-like trances again – sitting for a couple of hours totally unable to function. It was just as if I had switched off. It was really strange.

But at some point I must have gone off to sleep because at some point in the proceedings I was changing the clutch cable in a Ford Sierra – and what a messy job that was having to route it through the bodywork. We ended up with most of the front panelling out of the car to fit it.

Being miles away like this, it took an age to come back into the present world but when I did I hauled myself off into the kitchen to make it look a little more respectable for the cleaner

While she was here I finished off the notes and then began to convert a pile of the music in the queue into an appropriate format to use on the radio. There’s tons of that in the waiting list and it will take an age to convert.

But at least I’ve managed to salvage a couple of albums that had become lost in the technological piles of spaghetti and I’m sure that there will be others hidden in there too.

Tea tonight was salad and chips with some of these nuggets. The air fryer came to the rescue again. I’m nevertheless going to have to look to see if I can make better use of it.

There must be dozens of things that I can be doing with it that I’ve not even explored yet. Cake-making, for example. I have a small cake tin that will fit.

And what else?

But as long as I can remain awake long enough to make them. I’m completely fed up of falling asleep at the drop of a hat. It’s really getting on my nerves.

Our old friend Gotthold Lessing said about some other subject "A man who does not lose his reason over certain things has none to lose" and I’m certainly going to lose my reason over this.

If I had a spleen I would vent it, that’s for sure.

And that reminds me of the doctor in that hospital in Verdun in 2017 who said that he wanted to check my spleen and began to undo my shirt
"I hope that you have good eyesight" I said
"Why’s That?" he asked
"Because my spleen’s in a glass jar on a shelf in a hospital in Montlucon 300 miles away from here"

Wednesday 14th February 2024 – IT LOOKS AS IF …

… I’ll be back in Paris at the end of April, despite what I said yesterday.

There’s a heart test already arranged for 24th April, so the doctor said “we’ll make it a stay for a few days and run a pile of tests on you”. Ahh well, can’t be helped, I suppose

All that way there and back and I was only with him for about 15 minutes, and even then he spent much of the time being interrupted on the phone by other people.

At least, it’s good practice, I suppose. Especially for me having to organise myself ready to travel.

Having had a good wash yesterday I still had plenty of things to do before I could go to bed so it was rather late when I finally crawled under my covers.

When the alarm went off I fell out of bed to switch it off and then to take my blood pressure. A mere 16.6/9.5 this morning – quite a change from the 18:8/10.9 of the night before.

Once I was up I dressed and then went to make my sandwiches for lunch – nice thick slices of home-made bread that had been stored in the freezer and left to defrost overnight, and filled with cheese, hummus, lettuce and tomato with garlic mayonnaise.

The taxi driver was someone who had run me round to the Centre de Re-education once so I knew her. We had a very interesting chat during which I learnt that she is on good terms with one of the guys off the radio. As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" … – ed, the World is becoming far too small for my liking.

She’s not been taxi-driving long so she didn’t know the way very well, but I helped as well as I could and we arrived at the reception desk bang on time. And then I was called for the interview.

When I’d been there last time his office was right at the far end of the corridor and round the corner so I went to sit there. Today, his office was right next to the reception desk so he had to come to find me.
"Walk this way" he said, beckoning me in his direction
"If I could walk that way" I thought to myself "I wouldn’t be in this flaming hospital having this blasted treatment in the first place"

He went through all of my results with me, and everything seems to be an improvement (that’s not how it looks to me, but never mind) so he’s pleased with the progress of his cocktail of medication.

He thinks that an in-depth examination will be called for after a few weeks, and so he reckons transforming this day visit into a hospitalisation for several days.

One of the things that he suggested was another lumbar puncture – and I went cold at the thought.

As for all of my detailed and comprehensive notes about my blood pressure, he scarcely gave them a glance. So much for those then, I suppose.

Finding a nice quiet corner I ate my butties, went for a visit down the corridor and then found my taxi driver, and we set off for home.

Shame as it is to say it, I slept almost all of the way back and I’ve no idea why. But both the outward and the return journey were the most trouble-free that I have ever had. The traffic was slow-moving on the Prif but we weren’t ever held up, either on the outward or the return journey.

My cleaner was waiting for me when we arrived. She’d volunteered to help me up the stairs but strangely, I didn’t need it today. I could climb up all 25 steps without any help. So maybe there really IS progress after all. I must admit that last night, for the first time since my bad fall, I’d felt well enough to restart my musculation process with my elastic strap around my legs.

Back in the apartment I made myself a nice mug of boiling hot chocolate and then came in here to transcribe the dictaphone notes. And there were tons of them. No wonder I was tired. I’d travelled miles during the night.

We were managing a rock group last night. The drummer in this group was only very young but was a prodigy, extremely good at his job so one of the other teams in the league decided that they wanted to sign him. I said that he’d only go if they made a ridiculous offer and we had another drummer to replace him. My team in the transfer window arranged a few more transfers in, a defender, an attacker and one player whom I didn’t know. I didn’t recognise his name so I wondered where he came from and what he did, thinking that he might be a replacement drummer to replace the one whom we were about to lose but it wasn’t. In fact he was another outfield player. So I explained to the club that it doesn’t matter how much money they offer, they can offer as much as you like but if he’s still under contract with us and we don’t have a replacement then he can’t leave for another club.

And that really does make a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

Mr Teale, our geography teacher at school was telling our class about the Midwest USA. He was talking briefly about the Oregon and California Trail that they took. So when he finished I told him about the time that I’d visited there and seen it. I had my photos that I showed everyone. I mentioned the big baskets at the top of the hill where the descent into California starts, where back in the past they went through and found all old bits of wood lying along the trail. They picked them up and stuck them in this basket. It’s extremely likely that much of the wood in there comes from these crashed Pioneer wagons that failed to make the descent correctly and came to grief somewhere along there on towards the end of the trail on this downhill slope

Regular readers of this rubbish in another format will recall that we have spent a considerable time on the Oregon and California Trail. in 2002 I went to see the famous trail ruts and Register Cliff IN GUERNSEY, WYOMINGand then went back there IN 2019, and one day I’ll finish editing the … gulp! … 6,000 photos from my famous trip

Then I put some knock-out drops into the air when our Geography teacher and one of the other teachers were talking about the summit of the Oregon and California Trail. I’d been there of course and knew all about it but it seemed appropriate for the class to have a break and go to sleep so that the rest of the room could occupy ourselves for a bit

As for the summit of the trail, it’s not easy to know what is meant by it. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we have been TO SOUTH PASS which is the watershed, where rivers to the east drain either into the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico, and to the west where rivers drain into the Pacific, so I suppose that that might be described as the summit.

However you’ll never lose a wagon down the descent there. Edwin Bryant, in his book WHAT I SAW IN CALIFORNIA described the slope either side as being so gentle that you’d hardly know that it was there, and that was my opinion too.

I also started later on talking about my Will, where I was going to leave money and to who. Actually finding it is a bit of a struggle but it was above the treeline on the route that these Oregon Trails took. But I found it sure enough and opened it to read. It’s different from the one that I have at home. My property will just be left to my heritee whoever that will be, with no mention of sorting it out amongst the people who ought to benefit so I hope that other people will understand, if they find this document, exactly what I want to do. I’ll have other ideas but I probably won’t get them down

That’s something that I really need to do – to write my will. It will be pretty straightforward and simple, and won’t take long. But that won’t be the end of the story because there will be a lot of work to be done in its respect and also in the respect of carrying out my wishes.

Apart from a few bits and pieces, it’s all going to be dropped into the lap of one person, and that person will certainly earn their share of the inheritance at the end of it. Mind you, they’ll deserve it

So who will that person be? The answer is that even though there’s a lot of ground between us, there’s really only one person honest and reliable enough in my entourage upon whom I could in theory rely.

And if that person doesn’t carry out my wishes? Well, there’s not much I can do about it, except to come back and haunt them, rather like the two gay ghosts who really gave each other the willies one night.

But that reminds me of Liz (not “this Liz” but “that Liz” who died in 2009) going in for a serious operation, and writing down a list of names
"Is this the list of people you want us to tell how it went, mum?" asked Kathryn?
"No, dear" replied Liz. "This is the list of people whom I’m going to come back and haunt if it all goes wrong".

Liz would have known about all of this, though. Having served on many University committees she’s had plenty of experience of holding hands sitting around a table and trying to contact the living.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed – as I said … "when?" – ed … but didn’t record, the people making this programme … "which programme?" – ed … presented her … "who?" – ed … with a teddy bear afterwards as a kind of memento of a trip that she’d made. Of course no-one from that voyage is with us these days except of course the teddy bear. That’s the only survivor of that first 1840s voyage across from East to West

That looks like an awful mess, doesn’t it? It looks as if it’s related to the Oregon and California Trail, but what’s the rest of it all about?

And then I was back at my little house in Winsford as well last night, wondering how things would have been if I’d actually stayed in Winsford and not taken the opportunity to move to Gainsborough Road in Crewe.

That’s a really good question. I quite liked my little house in Winsford but for some reason I felt really uncomfortable there.

Nevertheless, even though it was a Barratt House, I won’t ever hear a bad word against them as they helped me onto the property ladder. I went in three years from living in a van to owning (with a mortgage of course) a brand-new semi-detached house and I wouldn’t ever have done it without them.

While I was writing out my dictaphone notes I fell asleep again. It’s one of those days, I reckon, so in the end I went and made my leftover curry. It was delicious and the naan bread was cooked to absolute perfection. I’d eat all of this again and again if I could.

But now I’m off to bed. And I go, as Joachim du Bellay said, "heureux qui comme Ulysse a fait un beau voyage" “happy is he who like Ulysses has had a good journey”.

What I’ll be hoping is for more pleasant dreams like I used to have when TOTGA, Castor and Zero used to come to see me. It’s all very well giving me medication that has a side-effect of blanking them all out but as Tennessee Williams said, "If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels"

Saturday 3rd February 2024 – YOU MIGHT THINK …

… that the fact that I crashed out, and quite definitively too . round about 12:00 for a good couple of hours is indicative of the fact that the anti-potassium stuff isn’t the cause of this overwhelming desire to sleep at some point during the day0

However, I remain (for the moment) unconvinced.

The fact is that with the anti-potassium stuff I’m out like a light with no warning whatsoever and don’t even realise that I’ve been asleep. Today though, I awoke tired and spent most of the morning fighting off wave after wave of sleep.

It’s quite surprising really because it wasn’t as if I was late to bed or anything like that, and the night was nothing like as turbulent as some have been just recently.

For a start, none of my favourite ladies put in an appearance and from that point of view it was a very lonely night.

When the alarm went off I fell out of bed as usual and took my blood pressure. last night’s was an exciting 17.2/12.3. This morning’s was an interesting 18.1/10.7. and that’s after a relaxing night’s sleep. I wonder what it would be if one of the three girls had come and spent some time with me during the night.

Anyway, I wandered off into the kitchen for my medication and do on and then came back in here.

Things weren’t so simple to start off because I was so tired that I could hardly see. But anyway, after a good while, I began to transcribe the dictaphone notes. There was something about some kind of guy who had killed someone. The person had been put inside a coffin but he raided the coffin, took the corpse out and pounded it again. When he died, he was buried but a lot of people found out where he was buried, where his grave was, so they had this competition of throwing rocks at his grave until they unearthed his coffin, then they continued to throw rocks. He had some kind of coffin with special attachments etc and you could see that they had all been exposed and destroyed. It looked as if the top had come off the coffin but they were still pounding it with rocks. Then other people began to enjoy it. There were all kinds of mysteries happening about other coffins. We came to believe that one of the guys who worked for us was involved in this. The coffins that we’d set aside for us had been badly damaged somehow and no-one knew why. I suggested to my friend that perhaps we really ought to buy some more coffins. My friend immediately thought “that’s rather tempting fate, isn’t it with this guy working for us, making our drinks and food etc? Anything is likely to happen to us”.

As you can see, I have some exciting dreams during the night

But somewhere along the line we were dealing with things when past us in the window went a couple of coaches, old Plaxton Supreme Vs or something belonging to a company in the area. I suddenly remembered that what they did was to hire out their coaches to owner-drivers. They had a lovely V-registration (the old “V”) Volvo Plaxton Elite that was available for hire. I thought that next tie I took a private party onto the Continent I ought to think about maybe going to see them and talk to them about hiring the Volvo instead of hiring from Shearings or from the local company that I used in Crewe.

Later on I was with Hawkwind playing bass and we developed a really new number that we worked on. We were practising it and bashing it out. The producer came in. He heard that we were doing this song but said that there was one line that we had to change, one about being in Keele in April. The song might give the idea to people that everything was OK whereas in fact what we want was in the right character for people to know that it’s not OK … fell asleep here … Anyway so we had to change this lyric but when we did we found that it didn’t scan. I had to stop and think, to try to work on the previous line and the line that we’d just invented so as to make them scan. And then they needed to rhyme too and that was going to be quite a task. One of the players in the group who tried to play this line suddenly leant over and fell against the wall. We all then suspected that something else had been put in this coffee, not just chocolate powder, so we had to prepare a sample ready to go to a laboratory so that it could tell us exactly what it is that’s in there

But not that I would ever have ended up playing bass with Hawkwind of course, much as I would have liked to have done, but there’s a story here too. There are several Hawkwind tracks that I play where when I sing them I change one or two words here and there to change a meaning completely.

Sometimes they scan, and sometimes they don’t. I wonder if you could spot which word I would change in MOONGLUM for example.

And then I was with my friend from the Wirral. His life had completely changed. He’d had a divorce and was running some kind of photography place in the USA. He was over here so we met and we chatted about his new life etc. It turned out that it was his birthday so I said that I’d sent him a present. I had little 25-watt solar kits of a panel, a charge controller and one or two other little appliances. I thought that it would be nice to send it to him as a gift. I packed it up – it was much heavier than I expected – and I had to chisel his address out of him once or twice, his new address, but eventually I was given it. I wrote it down on the brown paper of this parcel but it didn’t stand out very well so I had to hunt for a marker pen to write it. Then it was a little indistinct. Anyway I picked it up and went off. We met somewhere on another car park. He felt the parcel and he thought that it was heavy too. I replied “never mind – it’s a little present for you that will come in the post”. Then I had to find a Post Office that was open. That wasn’t easy. I tried 3 or 4 and eventually found one that would accept it and send it off for me

By the time that I’d written all of that it was break time so I went for my coffee and toasted cheese sandwich, with my rock-hard bread. But nevertheless it still tasted quite nice regardless.

While we’re talking about bread … "well, one of us is" – ed … when I came back here afterwards I found that Sean had written to me about it. he thinks that I’m kneading my dough too hard and I ought to ease up and be as gentle as I was cutting that tile last night.

Looking at things, I do have a tendency to fight with my dough, I suppose. Maybe I shall have to pretend that I’m massaging the clavicles of one of my favourite young ladies.

But on the subject of bread, I remember very well my little voyage to Canada in 2012. I’d been writing a book ABOUT LANOUILLER AND BÉCANCOUR’S CHEMIN DU ROY and although the road was started in the 17th Century, you wouldn’t believe (but it’s true) that it’s still not finished.

Consequently I was determined to drive all the way down to the end to see what happens there.

It actually fizzles out into nothing but nearby is a port where there’s an icebreaker-supply ship that goes out through the ice to supply the outlying islands.

And so I turned up at the port and managed to blag my way on board the ship.

It dropped me off at one of the islands with a promise to come back in a couple of days to pick me up again (and apparently, my family and friends had a whip-round to pay the captain to leave me there) and I found a billet there with an old woman.

She made all of the bread for the island and I had an interesting lesson with her. And she used to have a real fight with her dough.

And one day she asked me to go down to the cellar to bring up a small sack of flour
"I can only see 56lb sacks down here" I shouted
"yes, that’s the small one"

When you are only approvisioned for 8 months of the year I suppose that you have to keep a good stock on hand. That’s what we had to do in the Auvergne – stock up with food. We could have half a metre of snow overnight and not be able to go anywhere for several weeks.

But anyway, I asked her what she did for fuel because there wasn’t a single tree on the island and I know all about Québec Hydro electricity prices.
"Everyone waits until the water freezes over then they go over on their skidoos to the mainland to cut down the trees and drag them back"
"Well, if you don’t mind my saying so, you don’t look the type to go over the ice on a skidoo"
"I don’t" she replied. "But everyone else does. How do you think that they pay for the bread?"

That’s what I really call “kneading the dough”.

Yes, I learnt a lot, an awful lot on my voyages to the edge of the World. But as Samuel Gurney Cresswell said after a voyage with M’Clure, "A voyage to the High Arctic ought to make anyone a wiser and better man"

But having said that, look what happened on those last few days in 2019 on my final trip up there.

But I digress … "again" – ed

Back here I began to write up the rest of the notes for my radio programme as best as I could with all of this sleep going on, but I ended up curled up on my chair asleep, despite the coffee. I must be immune to caffeine.

While I was asleep I was on one of the smaller Channel Islands walking down a footpath, behind a group of people who had a couple of young children. They were walking slowly but I couldn’t go past them. When the footpath came to the sea there were two Martello-type lighthouses really close together, one at the end of the island and the other that I imagined was a French one on some small rock in French waters. We walked on with the sea to our right and round a corner we saw that the crescent moon had a planet shining from within the horns of the crescent. I reached for my phone to take a photo but no matter how I tried I couldn’t switch on the camera. I tried for ages to switch it on but to no avail

That’s how deep the sleep was. I was miles away, quite literally too. But how many times have I had this dream about my camera not working? It was night after night after night some time not so long ago

This afternoon I didn’t do very much – just watched the highlights of a couple of football matches from last night and made a start on a little project that I’d been promising to do for a while.

Then I knocked off for an early tea. Burger on a bap with vegan salad and chips. Delicious as usual. My air fryer is really working well and I’m pleased that I decided to buy one.

Tea was early because there was football on the Internet – FALKIRK v TNS In the Scottish Challenge Cup.

Although it’s a Scottish competition clubs from England, Wales and Northern Ireland are invited to compete and TNS have fought their way all the way to the semi-finals

As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … I’m no fan of TNS, and for several reasons too, but when they are flying the flag for the Land of my Grandmother (and mine) on foreign soil, they’ll receive all the support that I can give them

But what if they were playing a team from Canada? Having a grandmother from each country would make life rather complicated.

Anyway, I’m not going to tell you the score of the game. I’ve posted a link to the match and if you want to see how it ended, you’ll just have to watch it.

So now that I’ve finished my notes, I have to start work.

There are three lots of radio programmes that need to be dictated and that’ll take a while. But as Hamfast Gamgee said, "It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish" so I’d better get a move on.

After all, as Mona Lott said in “It’s That Man Again”, "It’s being so cheerful as keeps me going"

However I always remember a character in the old 1950s radio programme “Dragnet” say "It’s no crime to get lost" and so I will.

Goodnight.

Sunday 28th January 2024 – I DON’T KNOW …

… what the hell is going on here.

Back in the old days, like 6 months ago, I could sit down with a clean computer screen and in 4 hours bash out a radio programme all the way from the very start – like choosing the music – to the very end, like having it up and running.

So having dictated the notes last night, all that I had to do today was to edit them, assemble the programme, choose the final track, write, dictate and edit the notes for that and add it in. So here am I, it’s quite late in the evening and I’m nowhere near finished.

It all went wrong last night. What I dictated was, as I expected, total rubbish and having tried unsuccessfully to edit some of it, I gave up and re-dictated it.

But it’s hopeless trying to dictate anything here during daylight hours at a weekend. I lost count of how many times a motorcycle went past the window causing me to stop and after it had gone past, going back and re-dictating from a point farther back

Having edited it and halfway through assembling the programme I noticed a couple of places where I hadn’t gone back far enough so I re-dictated the segments.

Then I couldn’t make the tones of the new part match up with the old parts despite trying for hours. So in the end I ended up having to re-dictate it yet again.

Where I’m at at the moment is in the editing stage.

But at least I know how long the gap is for the eleventh and final track so that’s all ready and the notes dictated and edited. LOVE AIN’T FOR KEEPING is one of the most beautiful love songs ever and you don’t need me to tell you when was the last time that I played it to an audience

And it was an audience of one too.

But anyway, I digress … "again" – ed … I’m fed up to the gills with this blasted stuff that’s making me sleep, making me see all kinds of strange things when I close my eyes and totally churning up my brain so I can’t concentrate on anything.

More by luck than judgement I’ve fought off waves of sleep today but everything is turning into a total mess. I try to keep the notes on my whiteboard tidy so that I can follow them backwards if necessary, but that’s a total shambles too.

It’s all a total morass at the moment, and in years to come, people are going to look at the notes from this last week or two, shake their heads and say to each other "I don’t know what he must have been smoking when he was writing all of that, but I wish that he’d passed it around to the rest of us"

It’s like the time that the Cambridge boat sank in the middle of the Boat Race and everyone going round, pointing at the crew and saying "they were totally out of their scull".

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed, I had something or a better sleep last night. Maybe that accounts for why I managed to go through the day without actually crashing out.

It was about 01:00 when I finally went to bed, and I awoke (but that’s not to say that I left the bed) at about 10:00.

It was a leisurely start to the day, as befits a Sunday, but eventually I managed to make a start on the dictaphone notes. We started off with the story of a small girl who was elected for some kind of competition because she could run so fast. She was taken to somewhere like the Centre de Re-education for a medical examination. There, she was confronted by a bear and then by a polar bear. When people asked about that, the answer given was that where she’s going she might actually encounter these animals so she’ll have to know what they are, what they look like etc and whether she could out-run them. While she was having her medical they were preparing the meals. The meals were very scanty, that’s for sure, but specially prepared to give the most energy from a small amount of food. They came to me and asked if it was true that I was a vegan. I replied “yes” so shortly afterwards they gave me a chicken salad type of thing which of course didn’t go down very well at all. Then the giri was made ready for this competition

That reminded me of the time that I was up in RED CANYON IN UTAH IN 2002.
A tourist there asked one of the tourist guides "is it true that a bear won’t attack you if you carry a clove of garlic in your pocket?"
The guide replied "it all depends on how quickly you can carry it."

Later on while I’d been asleep I’d received a mail from a friend about a group of people who had bought a field and were going to use it as a kind of forum for telling jokes. The jokes were going to be kind-of middle of the road jokes so that they could develop a kind of middle of the road humour that would satisfy most people about the political correctness of the modern world and those who are upset about the outrageous nature of some crude jokes. He went on to show some kind of complicated maths calculation that went down to something like the 3rd or 4th line of a multiplication problem. Much as I’m pretty good at simple maths I couldn’t get my head around this of something like 2/3 of 5/8 of 7/8 of 3/7 or whatever it was. Also in the field was an old school bus up on jacks that was going to be their office. All in all I thought that it was going to be a strange situation for anyone to be in to come to this place and maybe give it their support

This would be one of those occasions where I’d have to call on the services of my namesake the mathematician who told me once that three fifths of five eights was … errr … nothing

But actually this is quite apposite, especially as my teatime viewing at the moment is SPACEBALLS. It reminded me of the famous Mel Brooks quote that "good taste is the enemy of comedy".

There was more stuff on the dictaphone too but good taste notwithstanding, you really don’t want to read it, especially if you’re eating a meal right now.

So after lunch I attacked the radio programme, and that’s where I am right now, stuck in the middle of all of that nonsense wishing that I could get out of it

There was the usual series of breaks to deal with the pizza of course, and quite enjoyable it was tonight too, even if it was the wrong flour that I used. But that’s the problem – on line, I can’t order the flour that I really like so anything will have to do as I go by trial and error.

But now everything is finished I’ll go back to deal with the radio programme. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, once said "The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well"

However I feel more like the Duke of Marlborough on his way to do battle in Flanders. "God knows I go with a heavy heart, for I have no hope of doing anything considerable"

Saturday 27th January 2024 – SITTING IN MY FRIDGE …

… right now, even as we speak, is a bottle full of carrot and broccoli water from when I blanched and froze those carrots and broccoli the other day.

That’s right. Brain of Britain here forgot about it and so didn’t use it for making his broccoli stalk soup today

Mind you, the soup was still really nice and I enjoyed every last drop of it. I thought that I’d made enough for two days but after the first couple of drops soaked up into a lump of bread roll made fresh yesterday, the idea of saving anything for another time went right out of the window.

There have been plenty of broccoli stalk soups that have passed through these pages so if you want to see the recipe, just click on the “broccoli and potato soup” tag at the foot of this entry and it will take you to several pages.

In these pages I talk a lot about my cooking, and for several reasons too.
Firstly, my mother was a hopeless cook so I spent a lot of time later living out of tins. It wasn’t until I met Nerina that I began to eat really well. With an Italian mother, what do you expect? I learnt a lot from Nerina, and from Liz and also from that Italian Restaurant in Wandsworth where I worked one winter
Secondly, I’m proud of what I cook. Although it’s pretty basic stuff, I eat really well considering.
Thirdly, with not going out or anything like that I have plenty of time on my hands and I need a good hobby. I’ve arranged my kitchen so that if I prop myself up in the corner between the sink and the hob, almost everything except the freezer in the bathroom is at arm’s length and I don’t have to move anywhere
Fourthly, if anyone can ever suggest any improvements in my recipes feel free to send me some tips. I’m always grateful to receive them.

But that Italian restaurant was a riot.

It all began with a friend of mine living in Newcastle upon Tyne complaining that he was unemployed and couldn’t find a job. I told him to go to London where there were plenty of jobs. But he found excuse after excuse to everything I said.

In the end I was so fed up that one winter when I had nothing to do I put an ad in one of these local newspapers in London asking for a room. And I had one in Wandsworth arranged within half an hour.

On the train (I was determined not to use the car) I came to London, the Underground to Wandsworth and then a bus to my digs. I was installed.

Before I’d even unpacked I walked down to the High Street past a parade of shops where there was an Employment Agency and an Italian Restaurant. And within 15 minutes I had a day job driving a bus for schoolkids for Merton Borough Council and an evening job delivering food

The Christmas period was chaos though. The schools had closed so I was full-time in the restaurant. There at 06:00 to prepare for opening (as a café) at 07:00. Close at 14:00 and then prepare for the evening.

When you finished, everyone slept underneath the nice warm pizza ovens for three hours or so before getting up at 18:00 ready to open at 19:00. When the restaurant closed, you’d prepare for the next morning.

No question of “that is your job, this is my job”. Everyone did everything – cooking, waiting at table, preparing, driving. My tomato sauce actually passed muster in a professional environment, thanks, Nerina.

It was absolutely insane, but I daren’t tell you how much money I took back to Brussels after three months, all in used fivers in a plain brown envelope.

However, let’s turn our attention to last night. In bed nice and comfortably for once, rather later than I was hoping, I was asleep quite quickly as you might expect after this anti-potassium stuff.

However, it was quite a turbulent night . On the dictaphone there was a ton of stuff, much of which has an important significance so it really must have been quite interesting too.

I started out with my rock group last night. There was something going on, whether it was a rehearsal or something I dunno. I was in the middle of playing one of our numbers when wherever we were was raided by the police. We managed to get the young girl violinist away before anyone said anything but the police wandered around, noticed that she wasn’t there and insisted that she be brought. We said that it was impossible so they threatened us for a blood test etc. They kept on insisting that she turn up. This was going to turn into a rather nasty situation. I was in some kind of school hall or something I dunno. When the guy with me said “have you ever seen the dawn rise in the morning?” he took me outside and we watched the sun slowly rise over the horizon.

And you’ll be surprised about how much truth there is in a short tale like that. One of these days I’ll tell you about it but the World isn’t ready yet to hear the story.

That thing about me and the World War that broke out. The Germans bombed all around Mill Lane and the British denounced them as terrorists yet all around Mill Lane (wherever Mill Lane might be) were all kinds of ammunition factories therefore it was all perfectly legitimate so the UK should not have denounced them at all, particularly when you consider some of the things that they were doing

You’ll be surprised at how much truth there was in this story too. One of my University theses for my degree (I actually wrote two) was ABOUT COVENTRY AND IEPER and reading the howls of indignation about the bombing of Coventry in 1940 despite the fact that it was clearly a legitimate military target, yet three years later when the UK had acquired the technology to do so, they were shamelessly targeting the civilian population of Germany with no restraint whatsoever.

By the way, if you want to read MY SECOND THESIS, all five pages (there was sixth one added to finish off the story) were redacted for the web.

Having had a great deal of trouble completing the practical work for some of my modules (or not even starting it at all) due to the chaos that ensued after September 11th 2001 I was miles behind with my course and I chose two modules with theses and no practical work so that I could write them in the car while sitting on places like deserted airfields in former East Germany day after day after day, all of that kind of lark, in the hope that that would pull my score back up.

However, as we all know, there’s a huge problem with “mature” (I use the term loosely) students.
Firstly, we were too old, too experienced and too worldly-wise to be herded around like 18 year-olds. Many of the tutors who came in from other Universities had no experience of dealing with people like us and their attitudes and attempts at discipline just didn’t wash
Secondly, life tended to get in the way of course work. “This assignment should have been handed in yesterday”. “Yes, but my baby was sick” or “my house burnt down” or “I had to go on a mission for my boss”. These were genuine excuses that many of the tutors didn’t understand. These weren’t “18 year old” problems to which the tutors were accustomed.
Thirdly, and this was my great problem, I wasn’t studying for a career path and desperate for a degree. I had my career all nicely planned out and I was heading where I wanted to go (that’s not to say that it didn’t change dramatically once I graduated, but that’s another story completely). I was studying for my personal interest and if there was a qualification after it, well, that’s nice but it wasn’t the name of the game. I’d find something that interested me and follow that trail for miles and miles, suddenly finding that I’d departed a long way from the core of the course and was totally off-target. But did I care? I was totally absorbed and having fun.

However, as an aside, I can still add “B.Sc.Hons” to my name if ever I feel like it.

In another dream I had to go to Manchester – I’m not sure whether it was work or for the hospital but I awoke rather late and wasn’t sure whether they knew about my trip etc. As I was dressing I turned on the radio and found that I could pick up the channel on which their cars broadcasted so while I was washing i listened to any sign that they might be coming to pick me up. I got as far as my T-shirt and undies off and was washing myself waiting to hear that the taxi company was coming to pick me up but I wasn’t really optimistic that they’d written it down or remembered.

At one point during the night I was turning around over and over trying to be comfortable when I felt that the bed was moving and suddenly stopped with an almighty jolt but it can’t move as its a fixed bed. It did it again later on too. I’ll tell you what – I’d get good money for this anti-potassium stuff on the back streets of Granville if only I could walk out there.

Someone called Ruth was running some kind of garage in the neighbourhood and had become friendly with me. Although I liked her coming around, I wasn’t really interested in a relationship. One day I was hurt and had to go to hospital. I knew that she would be coming round later in the day so I didn’t say anything to her. I had my cleaner help me when the car came to pick me up and take me off. I had a good chat to my cleaner about the situation and a chat with the taxi driver too. It seemed to be the best solution that one of the two of us (Ruth or me) move away. She was probably the most likely to move as the garage wasn’t doing very much. I had my treatment and asked “what time is it?”. It was about an hour to return home and it was 14:00 and she was coming to see me at 15:00 so I thought that we’d make it fine. He set out to drive me home. On the way back he asked me a riddle about the United Kingdom but I can’t remember it now. I could actually work it out, which was quite impressive. We talked again about this woman on the way back. When we arrived it was 15:00. We were just arriving when on the way back we went past her garage and there were just 2 cars on the front, an Austin Maxi at £1745 and another vehicle for about a similar price. I thought “she’s not going to make any money trying to sell those cars at that price. No-one is going to pay that much money for them”.

And considering what I wrote earlier, it’s totally ironic that someone called Ruth should appear in my dreams later on. But the owner of a garage? I really don’t think so.

I was going through another long rambling dream concerning Norman Smith, the recording engineer better known of course as the rock star Hurricane Smith who produced several albums and was going to produce an album for a woman who sang with Abba which was to be filmed on a dusty petrol station near where we lived so we went along to see. But once more I ended up being taken to hospital again where they checked me over and took my blood pressure. I was polite to them but I didn’t see why they needed to take my pressure. The nurse who was rather like Oddjob in GOLDFINGER came along and soon quietened me. This went on for a while with a lot of intervention. Eventually I was let go at about midday so I reckoned to the driver that we could make it back at 13:00 when all of this began. I can’t remember any more about the rest but I know that it was very interesting.

One thing that I did remember about that dream that comes back to me was talking to the taxi driver about death and dying- him saying that if I did decide to take my own life I would probably be disappointed because there weren’t all that many people in the concert hall to watch Hawkwind which I didn’t believe at all. I was polite enough not to say. However my brother-in-law who was a part-time goalkeeper went flying past somehow on some kind of mission for someone – not on an aeroplane etc bust just floating in the air flying along overtaking a car.

A group of us had gone off to climb Mount Everest or something like that. We’d set out early one morning. There were several other people making their way up the mountain. We all trudged in a weary line until it became early evening. There was a kind of café-restaurant there so we all swarmed in. After everyone else was seated there was only one place for me, by a young girl. I went and sat next to her and we slowly began to chat. It turned out that she was from Montréal although she spoke English. We talked a lot about Montréal and when she found out that I’d lived in Chester she talked about her visit to Chester. We were handed a menu. I had a look down it and there was only one vegan dish. She told me what she wanted so I ordered it and ordered my vegan one. She seemed to be quite pleased at that. We carried on chatting and ever so slowly my arm went around her. She slowly cuddled up against me which I thought was unusual. My brother came along, as he would, and talked about going to fetch something from the shops. Someone gave him their order and someone else ordered something else. The two of us ordered something (we were definitely “the two of us” by this time). He wandered off to the shops. Every now and again we saw some people come back. She would ask “is that him?”. I replied “no, he’ll be walking with a limp”. She asked “why is that?”. I replied “because he’ll be shocked having to spend all that money”. Eventually he came back and handed her a receipt for repairs to her car. I found out that she had an old Zephyr 6 which impressed me greatly. He said “you know that your repairs are going to cost you over £1000”. She didn’t say very much to that. We walked outside this restaurant and there were parking places at the back for cars. She asked if they were private places. I replied “yes they are”. She replied “if I leave my car here I won’t have to come back, will I?”. In an automatism I gave a despairing “Awww” – actually a real despairing Awww too. I could see the look on her face slowly change to one of happiness. I thought to myself “whatever is going on here now with this girl?”

Yes, “whatever is going on here now with this girl?”. Here we are, almost on the point of finally Getting The Girl and the dream grinds to a halt. And we can’t have a dream like this without at least one person from my family coming along to try to spike my guns, can we?

Incidentally, we – or rather my father when we were kids – had a Zephyr 6 mark III, a black one, 3816 TD. I remember it well.

And after I sold my MkI Cortina (which features regularly on these pages) I had a MkIV Zephyr 6 for a short while but it caught fire. We’d been to see Jethro Tull at that venue in Ardwick, South-West Manchester … "the Apollo" – ed … and I’d parked on a demolition site around the corner. Coming off after the concert, I grounded out on some rubble, not realising that it had scraped away part of the fuel line and there was a fuel leak that ignited.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errrr … bed I’d forgotten something about the girl. We ended up back in a rented apartment that I’d rented. There was only one bed so naturally I explained to her the situation. She seemed to be quite comfortable with it so that night we slept together, and slept together for a considerable number of nights. After that she came to Granville for a look around to see what the town has to offer. As her visa was about to expire she went back to Canada and I hoped that I’d see her again and that she wished to come back.

And so Our Hero finally Gets The Girl after all of these years of dreaming. And it takes the French Government’s Interior Ministry to intervene this time and put a stop to whatever is going on. Do you ever get the feeling that you are just not going to win?

Back in this dream … "which dream?" – ed … I met a car with 4 boys – I don’t know if they were the four that I mentioned before, if indeed I did mention them … "no, you didn’t" – ed … I had a Ryobi drill and was doing some things with it. In the end I took the mandrel off and fitted a huge mandrel like a bolt thread that you’d use for drawing nuts up long distances. For some unknown reason it wouldn’t go in and I didn’t want to force it. The guy next to me said that he’d done it on his old car and it will fit so I had to squeeze it very tightly to open the internal jaws on the drill and fit this attachment in. Then I couldn’t find the nut so he asked if anyone had a nut. One guy replied that he had one but it was on his A40. We ended up talking about old cars – I had the Cortinas, ha had the A40, someone else had an A50 and the conversation became quite interesting.

So after all of that – well, most of it anyway, the alarm went off and I arose from the Dead.

Once more I’ve no idea what they will make of the blood pressure figure this morning. Not wracked with pain so it was only 18.0/11.6. What did the letter from the hospital say? Ahh yes – “target figure maximum 14.0/9.5”.

After the medication and checking the mails and messages I came in here to begin to transcribe the dictaphone notes. There were that many, as you have seen, that I was nowhere near finishing them when I went off to make my delicious broccoli stalk soup.

Back hereat my desk at 11:15 after all of that and despite two cups of strong black coffee I crashed out immediately. Really, this stuff that they are giving me is ridiculous.

while I was asleep, crashed out in the morning I was waiting for a tram in Haslington. Along came the mother of The Farmer’s Daughter, someone who has figured a few times in my dreams in the past. She said a few encouraging words which quite surprised me – I was half-expecting her to tell me to keep away from her daughter. She said a few other things too that quite surprised me. After she’d gone my mother came along. She said that she’d heard a few stories about the woman, including that she was terrorised by her husband who seemed to control her far too much. I said “you know, you aren’t the first to say that. You aren’t even the second”. “Why?” she asked “Who else has said that kind of thing?”. I replied “what do you think she’s just been saying to me then?”.

It was 12:48 when I awoke and do you know what? I hadn’t felt a thing. It was only the fact of meeting that woman in my dream that made me even realise that I’d been asleep. It was just as if someone had flicked a switch and I’d gone out like a light.

It took an age for me to get my head together after that and continue with the dictaphone notes, stopping and almost dozing off every 5 minutes. It took me almost until hot chocolate time to finish them.

After the hot chocolate I started work but Rosemary rang me later. Only 1 hour and 28 minutes this time. A short ‘phone call then. We spent tons of time chatting about nothing at all, as friends often do. She’s also talking about coming to visit me, which will be nice

Tea tonight was, seeing as I have run out of those lovely quorn fillets that I so like and Leclerc had none in stock, a burger on a bap with air-fried chips and a vegan salad. As I said, my food is quite simple but it isn’t half delicious.

So hallucinating badly every time that I close my eyes and trying hard not to fall asleep I’m going. I might crash out for an hour or so and then I have the radio notes to dictate.

God alone knows what’s on them. This stuff that I’m taking is making me talk – and type – total rubbish in this confused state in which I find myself right now

Not half as confused as the old woman in the Old People’s Home who once hurled a volley of abuse at the old Queen Mother.
"Don’t you know who I am?" asked the Queen Mother indignantly.
"No, dear" said the old woman. "But don’t worry. Ask the Matron. She’ll tell you."

Sunday 7th January 2024 – WHAT A WAY …

… to spend a Sunday – all doped up and nowhere to go.

Yes this morning they gave me some more sodium – sodium sulphide this time – but in liquid form. “Here – drink this!” and so I did, and it’s disgusting.

No hallucinations, so no Zero, Castor or TOTGA to keep me company, but it didn’t ‘arf knock me for six and I was flat out for a good part of the day.

It was rather unfair, because I was awake quite early – ridiculously early for a Sunday in fact. And there’s tons of stuff on the dictaphone too as you’ll find out in a minute.

One of the nurses came by. "If you need any help in the shower, don’t hesitate to ask". To which I took no notice.

But when the second nurse came past and repeated the same phrase, it was "Okay, okay, I get the message. I need a shower."

Mind you, it was nice under the shower. I really did enjoy it.

After breakfast I transcribed the dictaphone notes. I’d been living a kind of extremely nomadic life … "no surprise there" – ed …. It wasn’t that I was broke either. I had plenty of money. I was living in the attic of a folk club where I had to climb up a whole series of strange steps to haul myself up through into the top so all my post was being directed to my eldest sister. She forgot to deal with some of it for a while. It turned out that I’d had the option on a house for which I’d signed and for which the bank was arranging a mortgage but she didn’t give me some of the letters which meant that the option had expired so I wasn’t going to have that house after all. That was extremely distressing to me. At the same time I was driving around in BILL BADGER my old A60 van. It had no tax on it and I’d already been stopped twice by the police. It had no insurance on it either and they had noted that. I’d also driven through a speed camera at one time faster than I ought. I was living a temporary, nomadic life and none of this had been taken into account anywhere so one day I would be called to account, I’d have all these things on my driving licence. I’d have 9 points and with another 3 points I’d lose my licence. I could see that it wouldn’t be long before that happened, having these 9 points all together and then having to go carefully for all this time and in the meantime having the van MoT’d. I could see that all of my life at the moment was falling to bits. Nothing was going right and I had all kinds of problems. I was just extremely distressed by all of it.

And that’s not an unusual state of affairs in my dreams – and in real life too, is it? Nothing going right and the wheels dropping off everything all the time

I forgot to mention that at one point I had to climb into my attic at this folk club. There were plenty of people there. Sitting at the foot of the stairs was an old guy with 2 children. I thought that one of them was a girl so I said “excuse me, miss” but it turned out to be a young boy. That was extremely embarrassing too.

There was a young boy rather similar to Jimmy Clitheroe, very tight with his money and always trying to find some more. There was some kind of party that he had to attend, which involved spending £5:00 to go. He was keen to go but there was an argument downstairs at the door when someone who appeared to be drunk said that he was a representative of the Co-op or something. Jimmy Clitheroe pushed him out and closed the door, but the pane of glass broke. Everyone else was broke too. One old man who was there was complaining about how hard up he was. He’d gone through his accounts to show that he was broke, rang up the glazing company and gave them the measurements for the window. When asked about the payment foolishly gave his own bank card number. This boy Jimmy Clitheroe was quite pleased about this because he’s got away without paying anything but his mother had learnt what was going on. When it came to giving him his pocket money for the next week she handed it out and said “here’s you pocket money minus £1:00 for the old guy who had to ring up etc an here’s another £1:00 for the house for the inconvenience”. That meant all his pocket money and he didn’t have any money to go to visit his friends at this dance so he couldn’t go … fell asleep here … what I meant to say that everyone thought that he would be unhappy about it but instead he remembered the song about “one wheel on my wagon”. He went off singing that. That seemed to make him a lot happier about the situation.

For the benefit of new readers, of which there are more than just a few right now, I don’t actually fall asleep. I am asleep when I dictate these notes – something that years of practice has enabled me to do. What happens is that slowly I drift off into total silence while I’m dictating and after a few seconds you’ll hear a slow, deep rhythmic breathing,

There was also a dream involving a herd of polar bears being given sledges on a kind of miniature railway to go downhill to the sea. Instead, on their way down they encountered a herd of wildebeest and the wildebeest encountered a couple of humans and you don’t really want to know what happened especially if you are eating your tea right now.

I was round at an estate agents later on trying to find a house. There was one described as “2 bedrooms with study” so I wanted to find out more about it. I noticed that it had a large garden, part of which was lawn etc and the other part was gravelled over as if someone had been parking several cars there. That immediately piqued my interest. There was also a discussion about commercial properties. There was a shopping mall that had been built a long time ago but no-one was quite sure when. Several of the units were empty so people were looking at them with a view to trying to find some kind of clue as to their origin. They seemed to think that it might go back as far as 1890 but that was doubtful. There was one big unit that was empty. It seemed to be the kind of unit that a certain ladies’ clothes shop was seeking so they contacted the shop. They came to see it but it wasn’t really suitable for them. In any case the description of “large sales floor with plenty of storage” didn’t seem to fit. I couldn’t find the storage anywhere. It certainly wasn’t in the basement underneath so I was wondering where it was and how it was controlled or made.

And then I was being interviewed by the police about something or other. They asked about my movements over the last few days. I explained that they were extremely difficult but nevertheless I pointed out two calls to the hospital between the first and the third of the month to which I’d been invited. That was what I’d been doing for a couple of days just recently. It was the First of March until the Third of March and this was about the Fifth of March. He saw that there were several difficulties recording them and asked me if I could transfer them over to my big computer. I told him that it would be put on the big computer in due course which seemed to satisfy him for the moment but to me he was more interested in my notes and records on the computer than he was on this murder in my opinion. He didn’t seem to ask me many questions about the murder at all.

Of course, in real life I was a great deal of use to the Cheshire Constabulary. Almost every day I was being asked to help them with their enquiries.

As I said just now, I’m asleep when I dictate these dreams. But usually when I’m typing them out later I have some kind of vague recollection of them in the back of my mind. Rarely though, I have no recollection whatever, and that one was one of those.

We then had an issue of dark olive green cabs for lorries that had been discovered somewhere in Greenland. These cabs were new and had never been fitted. I was trying to identify them. They looked very much like ERF cabs to me, or maybe Foden cabs but someone seemed to think that they were MAN cabs, and if I posted them as MAN cabs someone would immediately recognise them and claim them as theirs as not having been delivered. I was looking through the internet trying to find identical cabs that had been labelled but I wasn’t having much luck because for some reason the computer kept throwing me out of the page that I was trying to search so I couldn’t actually see properly what the results were of my search on line.

Finally there was an advert in one of these magazines about a girl looking for a companion. Out of boredom I replied. Much to my surprise I found that, mush as she was a bit of a flighty piece, she seemed to be quite nice and what’s more, she seemed to like me very much. We developed quite a good rapport quite quickly. It was while I was running the taxis so I could only see her on Saturday nights but somehow that seemed to fit in with her timetable too so she was there making plans etc on what we’d do on different Saturday nights. She planned a night where we’d go to have a drink or something and end up sitting on top of a kind of cliff somewhere like at Frodsham and watch the stars, which sounded very nice to me as we’d just been for a drink but for some reason we’d had to come home early. Back at home early she was making a drink. There was still a group of taxi drivers there waiting for work to come in, and there was a pile of little children being dressed in winter coats ready to leave. But while this girl was making a cup of tea I was standing right behind her as cose as I could be, holding her by the waist. We were laughing and joking. My elder sister came in and made some remark about us being home early but last week we’d ended up in some farmyard or other for several hours completely up to no good. I didn’t realise that I was being spied upon so closely. That was what I said, but it was all extremely humorous. My elder sister began to chat to this girl as if she was already one of the family. It ended up being quite a warm ambience of the type that we have in dreams every now and again, something that was quite pleasant and I didn’t want it to stop.

Terry came on line for a chat later, to remind me that it’s the anniversary of our visit to the Stade Louis Dior where we stood on the terraces and watched US Granville, who play in the equivalent of the Conference North with a team of taxi drivers, school teachers and shop assistants stuff the Girondins of Bordeaux in the French Cup.

And how Bordeaux were unhappy and completely lost their cool as well. It was embarrassing to watch a Premier League club behave like that.

We travelled many a mile together, Terry and me, and we worked on many roofs.

tt would always be the same story. Terry would ring me up a about 08:00 "are you free today?"
"You have to say the magic words, Terry" I’d reply
"Liz is baking."

And for someone who said how much he hated cats, I’ll never forget how gentle he was with those two feral kittens he found asleep in a tyre in his barn at Le Fournial.

Liz came on line later too and we had a chat for a while which was nice. I also had a chat with someone who appears quite often in these pages, but usually during a nocturnal ramble. That was lovely too but I wish that she’d appear in real life too. As for who she was, I’m sure that regular readers of this rubbish will recall a few names and have a good guess.

The doctor came by but didn’t have much to say for himself. He asked about the perfusion so I told him about the hallucinations, so I suspect that that’s reason for these drinks today.

Apart from that, I’ve had some reading to do. And talking about global warming, I’ve found a paper presented to the Woolhope Naturalists’ Club of Hereford as early as 1867 by a certain T. Curley, CE FGS, discusses the subject and that really is the earliest that I’ve ever seen where systematic global warming has been the subject of discussion.

Not only does he discuss it, he presents some interesting calculations too, some of which I know to be confirmed by other scientists and geographers.

But I’ve also been asleep for much of the time thanks to this witches’ brew of sodium sulphide. During one of my (many) dozes during the day I went off into a dream with a group of young people but I awoke quite dramatically and the whole thing evaporated from out of my mind. Absolutely all of it.

And now that I’ve had my depressing evening meal (I’m glad that I brought these extra food supplies) I’m going to have yet another one of these sodium drinks. So I imagine that it won’t be long before I start to fall asleep and disappear into the Arms of Morpheus. I suppose that I’d better find the bed quickly before I crash out on the ………. zzzzzzzz.

Friday 5th January 2024 – HERE I ALL AM…

… not sitting in a rainbow but sitting in a room at the Hôpital Pitié-Salpetrière in Paris, where I’ve been summoned due to an emergency – they’ve found something in my blood sample from Wednesday that has them in a panic.

So there I was, at 06:00 when the alarm went off, struggling to my feet.

First thing was a good wash, scrub and change of clothes. I might as well look the part, I suppose.

Next thing was to check that I had everything packed. Those bread rolls that I made yesterday evening were good and made nice sandwiches – the food at the hospital is rubbish of course so I need some reserve supplies

Next thing was to unplug all of the appliances and it was in the middle of doing this that the driver arrived – an elderly guy who I’ve not seen before.

He helped me into the car and we set off for Paris. He didn’t go as fast as the younger drivers but we had good luck at Ceen with no hold-ups so we made very good time.

There was even time to make a pitstop halfway between Caen and Rouen, and a mug of coffee is always welcome. I treated the driver seeing as he’s doing al the work.

Our good luck ended at the Porte d’Italie exit of the Boulevard Péripherique where there was a gridlock the like of which I have never seen. IN the end we went back on the “prif” and took the next exit. But as a result we were late arriving and I had a very concerned phone call from the hospital wondering where we were.

Anyway, I’m now installed in my little room here on the second floor, still with no internet which is a shame, and the food is rubbish, as I expected so I’m grateful for my emergency supplies.

But at lest I’ve managed to make the heating work, which is something, I suppose, and under supervision I managed to walk 6 steps without my crutches, which is something of which I can be proud.

But what a celebration hey? Me, who would think nothing of walking though the night from Chester to Hankelow, all almost 30 miles of it.

They had four tries before they could take a blood sample, and three to fit a catheter in my arm and once the catheter was in, they began the perfusion.

There was a combination of three perfusions which gave me the most extraordinary hallucinations, during which Zero, Percy Penguin and my old LDV van made their appearance.

The LDV van I remember well. After 2 Transits I had the LDV van for a couple of years and was the first of the vans that I had that would keep up with modern traffic with its 5-speed gearbox.

It blew up the engine not long after I had it so we bought a Maestro diesel for £50, swapped the engine out and received about £350 for the bits of Maestro when we sold them on the internet.

It then lost the clutch going round the Boulevard Péripherique one night and I had to drive it 300 miles with no clutch, even starting from a standstill on a couple of occasions.

What had happened was that, with it being a hydraulic clutch, the clutch slave cylinder had fallen off and was just hanging on by the hydraulic pipe. The bolts on the door hinges where the same size and same thread so I pinched a couple of those as a temporary but permanent repair.

Then a brake pad separated and we lost the asbestos pad part of it. I had to drive it home through the Brussels traffic with no brakes and in the days before internet marketing it took quite an effort to have a pair sent from the UK.

The handbrake cable then snapped on it, so we had no handbrake but what killed it off was the little trail of rust inside the back of the van.

There was this little streak of rusty water running down the inside wall of the van so I climbed inside to look.

At first I couldn’t see where it was coming from but when I twisted myself round, with my hand on the roof, the whole roof lifted off on one side. The joint between the roof and the side wall had rotted away and I had a big roof rack on the roof and I’d been carrying all kinds of heavy equipment on it.

So that was the end of the LDV. You couldn’t drive that on the road in that condition.

Next van was the ex-Telecom Ford Escort diesel. And how that brought back all kinds of memories of my travels with BILL BADGER. It was exactly the same kind of van and I found myself doing exactly the same things.

That was a vehicle that I’d bought because of the 1.8 litre diesel in it, which I wanted for one of the Cortinas. But it surprisingly passed an MoT even though there was a pile of things wrong with it.

But I had a year’s use out of it and it did a few miles too, and then along came Caliburn.

And there’s just time to transcribe the dreams from the night before I go to collapse in my nice comfortable bed. There was a load of folk music going on last night probably related to what I’ve been listening to just now. The music seemed to have affected everyone. At one particular moment I went into work and there was someone stuck in a folk music loop singing folk music songs. I happened to mention i( to his superior who became extremely upset and began some kind of enquiry. Many years later the same thing happened again. There was all this folk music. Some people were listening to it of course, concentrating and so on. I was enjoying it very much bu at work the big boss came and began to ask me all kinds of questions like “did I feel mentally unstable?”, “did I feel that I was being a difficult person?” etc. I couldn’t understand what was happening. He said something about starting work. I replied that as far as I was aware that has never happened at all. He asked “what about this incident?” and brought up the one about folk-dancing early in the morning. Of course I was totally bewildered because I didn’t remember things like this. I wanted to know why this folk-music thing had suddenly become so important to so many people for what seemed to be reasons that seem to be completely detached from what the music actually represented etc. I was just totally bewildered by it all.

Later on there were 4 of us who used to hang around together. One was a boy from school whom I came to know quite well. We’d agreed to meet in Sandbach for the fair at a certain time but it was a very informal, insincere kind of agreement. Anyway I went along and, sure enough, there were some people there so I walked back to Crewe, found some plants and walked back. And there I met my friend and some other guy of our group so we began to chat. They were surprised that I’d been here twice but I said that I wanted to make sure that the festival was going so I was here early. The place was crowded with people. I needed to go to the bathroom but they told me that the bathrooms were filthy here and I wouldn’t appreciate anything at all of those. Nevertheless I wandered over that way to go for a look but the alarm went off.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … hospital I’m told that despite already having had a couple of examinations with one of these electrode machines, there’s another one planned for during the night in another building, one that goes into things and greater depths.

Once they’ve done that, they’ll have a better idea, but I suspect that they know already, and I have an idea too. In May 2021 they discovered the cancer in my kidneys and I underwent an operation to remove the tainted bits – and it also removed bits of another part of my body, to my eternal regret. My betting is that it’s come back to whatever kits of my kidneys are left.

What’s your bet?

What’s your bet?

Tuesday 2nd January 2024 – I DON’T KNOW …

… which one it is, but one of these new medicaments is having a strange effect on me.

It’s as if I’m drunk. My head is all light and airy and my co-ordination is gone. It’s quite a strange feeling really

There’s one of the ones that I take in the evening that is giving me these wonderful nocturnal voyages and whatever it is I’m not going to stop that one and miss out on a night of fun with Castor, Zero and TOTGA but the one that’s giving me this strange feeling, I’ll have to see about that.

When I was at the Centre de Re-education I mentioned it there to a couple of people and presumably it will pass to whichever doctor takes over my case now that Dr Sigaud has left.

There’s also the question of the Christmas pudding, as I mentioned the other day. Following my post the other day I had several suggestions as to what to do with it, some of which were physically impossible and that tells me more about my friends than it does about my pudding.

But I liked Sean’s suggestion best. “Why don’t you just eat it?” but he and a couple of other people suggested that I wrap it well and freeze it so, having had an extra helping this evening so it’s now down to half its size, I’ll probably try that. But the pudding was a perfect success and I was so pleased with it.

So this morning I was up as soon as the alarm went off, and I took my blood pressure. And something extremely embarrassing happened this morning. And I’m not going to say what happened so don’t bother to ask.

After the medication I came back in here to transcribe the dictaphone notes. I was in North America last night. I’d talked to my father that I was needing a new van. He said that he knew someone so I left it at that. I was upstairs with a friend of mine who was rather shy and timid and wouldn’t do anything unless he was pushed into it. He and I had a little chat. I understood that there was a girlfriend in the building in one of the floors below. We had to wait until these dancers either stopped or created a gap in their formation so that we could nip through. He went off to look at the girl. I went to the window to look at what was going on because my Canadian relative was running a garage and had all kinds of things in, like snowmobiles etc. He was expecting to buy a vehicle on a trailer – it might have been a small tractor or something similar, I can’t remember, so he was busy making room in his drive. But there were all vehicles parked outside. Suddenly someone nudged me and pointed to a queue of cars that were now being parked outside our house and next door’s house. At the end of the queue was a yellow transit series 1 so wondered if that was what my father meant. The driver exited and began to check the wheels and tyres, hitting them with a hammer etc. I was wondering about that. Then he must have come into the building because someone shouted that he was there. I quickly grabbed a few friends and made some chips. We had some cod in batter so we had cod and chips arranged and helping with this guy. We went down and met my friend and he joined us. I told him to go to telephone someone because we had a meeting arranged for this afternoon and it looked as if I was going to be unable to do it. He said “right-ho” and shot off. I thought “that’s not like him at all”. Anyway he reached the ground floor and we went over to the dance hall and began to talk to this guy. We were surrounded by a couple of young girls who were doing some dancing there. I was talking to the guy about the van. He gave me a price, which sounded quite realistic but I didn’t realise that this was his private vehicle which he only used in the winter for shovelling snow, and with a backplate on it, for towing other vehicles so I could understand the low mileage but I was worried about the treatment it had had as a towing vehicle and I wasn’t so sure about it now.

There was some dispute about the FA Cup. In the end the FA decided that they’d replay the previous round with all the clubs concerned still in it but they would give some kind of points adjustment from now on. Teams that were supposed to be really good would be given no points deduction and the lesser teams could be given as many as 12 on some kind of sliding scale. They decided that they’d play the previous round’s matches on this basis. The team for whom I played had a “minus 2” by the side of it. We went out to a game nut although we won it, it wasn’t enough to overcome the points deficit that they had. So I went back to work. People saw me come in and immediately asked about the result. I told them, and 1 or 2 people thought that it was funny as you might expect and 1 or 2 people were really seriously concerned

While I was transcribing I noticed that yesterday I was in Flagstaff, Arizona, and people were telling everyone else to be very careful about the town.

They aren’t joking either. John Bourke, the aide-de-camp of General Crook, was stationed there for a while as Crook and his army campaigned against the native Americans.

In his wonderful book ON THE BORDER WITH CROOK he describes several events and notes that "Man’s inhumanity to man is an awful thing".

It’s in Flagstaff that I had ONE OF THE STRANGEST MOMENTS OF MY LIFE, so strange and bizarre that I didn’t realise what was going on at the time. But I worked out what was going on quite quickly later on.

Anyway, this morning I came across a recording that I’d missed – a live football match featuring Caernarfon v Colwyn Bay. Of course, with no longer using social networks I don’t receive the updates and announcements that I used to.

But anyway, after years in the wilderness Colwyn Bay were unstoppable in the Cymru North division and were promoted to the Welsh Premier League this season.

However, as clubs like y FFlint, Airbus UK Broughton, Afan Lido and several others have found recently, the gulf between the second tier and the first tier is enormous, and Colwyn Bay, despite having made a few intelligent signings, are finding it tough going.

Caernarfon are renowned for having the best midfield in Wales and despite losing Noah Edwards and Rob Hughes in the summer, their replacements are even better

The defence has been rather fragile but the signing of Ben Maher and putting him alongside Dion Donohoe in the centre of defence has made them a much more formidable proposition.

Thy had no attack whatsoever last season but Jack Clarke from Chester and Adam Davies from Airbus UK Broughton, the power up front is impressive.

However there’s an injury and suspension crisis at the club right now and neither Donohoe and Maher were on the field.

The crisis has hit the goalkeepers too and between the posts was youth team keeper 16 year-old Hari Thomas. And when they have a “save on the Month” programme I’ll let you see the save that he made from Colwyn Bay midfielder Tom McCready. And if you can’t wait until the end of the month, go to 00:01:23:00 of THIS LINK.

Despite the injury and suspension problems there was really only one team in it but they made hard work of a 2-1 victory. I can’t understand why, with the signings that Caernarfon have made in the close season, why they are only 6th in the table. They should be doing much better than that.

After that, for the rest of the day while I’ve been here I’ve been dealing with the concerts that I’ve been sent from Shrewsbury, including one by Judy “I’ve Looked At Clouds” Collins – 82 years old and still able to rock a large crowd. Would you believe it?

Yes,
"So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way"

Except that it wasn’t clouds that got in my way

And
"Oh, but now old friends they’re acting strange
They shake their heads and say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day"

they are sentiments with which I can relate too.

However
"But now it’s just another show
And you leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away"

Doesn’t that bring back a few memories and regrets?

At midday I had a good wash and at 13:00 the taxi came for me to go to the Centre de Re-education. Two sessions today, one with the ergotherapist and the other with Severine on the couch.

While I was at it, I mentioned this problem with one of the medicaments and hopefully they’ll report it

There was some stuffing left over as well as the Christmas pudding, so I had a stuffed pepper today using the stuffing instead of the bulghour or quinoa that I usually use.

And do you know what? It actually worked and was delicious. Plenty left over for a taco roll tomorrow and a leftover curry on Thursday. I’m really doing well with my meals.

So now that I’ve finished my notes I’m going to bed. Tomorrow I’m at the Centre de Re-education almost all afternoon and there’s plenty of paperwork to do in the morning. I’ll be a busy bee for the next few days.

At least if keeps me out of mischief, so the story goes, But I can get into mischief regardless of any constraints. There has been years of experience.

22nd December 2023 – BYE BYE STRIDER!

strider centreville new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022Amongst the fall-out from the developments over the last 15 months is the parting of ways from one of my faithful companions.

Strider will be off to a new home as soon as his log book arrives here and I sign it and send it back to New Brunswick’s Motor Vehicle Bureau.

He’s not going far at all, as it happens, but even half an inch is too far to be separated from someone who has served me well for 9 years and God alone only knows how many thousands of miles.

strider ford ranger centreville canadaHe first appeared on the scene in November 2014.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall the disputes and arguments that I’d had with car hire companies in North America who found it impossible to believe that “unlimited mileage” meant that mileage was unlimited and you could go as far as you like.

After 2010 when I’d taken CASEY, THE CHRYSLER PT CRUISER over the TRANS LABRADOR HIGHWAY one of the first vehicles to travel across 1800 miles of the worst roads in the World when the final 300 miles over the Eagle Plateau and through the Mealy Mountains were finally opened, I was on some kind of blacklist.

labrador city 813 kilometres canada september septembre 2017So when someone turns up with a lightweight 4×4 pick-up with off-road pack, how can you say “no”?

STRAWBERRY MOOSE And I found our soul-mate and we set off on our adventures that took us thousands and thousands of miles all down the Eastern side of the North American continent.

And apart from a gearchange linkage falling apart in Québec in 2019, he never gave a moment’s trouble. And even then we still limped home after a fashion.

We’ve been as far north as it’s possible to go by road or trail in Labrador and Northern Québec … "and on several occasions too" – ed … as far south as Georgia in the USA and as far west as several miles beyond Ottawa

But we aren’t going any further. I can’t travel over to Canada any more and it makes no sense having him sit around when someone else can use him.

The total irony of all of this is that his seat is exactly the right height for me with my disability, his brake pedal can easily be operated by the left foot and the cruise control will move him along without using the accelerator.

There’s no reason at all why, if he were over here or I were over there, I couldn’t continue to drive him.

He drinks petrol like it’s going out of fashion though … "well, it is" – ed … being an old-technology V6 4.0 litre, but down at the bottom of my field I have another scrap Transit with a 2.5 diesel engine that would drop straight in.

However, if I were fit enough to change an engine over these days, I wouldn’t need the vehicle in the first place.

"What do you want us to do with the stuff that’s still in it?"
"The only things of interest to me are the Fender bass and the Fender combo amp. Share the rest out amongst yourselves and bin the rest"
Tons of tools, camping equipment, vehicle maintenance stuff, expedition equipment, all gone just like that that. But what can you do?

Here’s hoping that Strider has a good home.

Luckily, I have a good home, and I’m glad to be back in it.

Last night I finally went to bed at 02:30 and with no alarm, I was still awake at 07:15 and up and about by 07:45. There’s not much point in having a lie-in these days.

As usual, it took an age to wind myself up ready for work and I began by unpacking my backpack and sorting out the washing.

And if anyone tried to listen to “The Mountain Queen” and Hein Mars and Paul Weststrate last night or early this morning, I posted the wrong link. I’ve corrected it now and it’s THIS LINK that you want.

Sorry about that.

Armed with a coffee I had a look at all of the papers that I’d brought back. I couldn’t make head or tail of some of them so my cleaner said that she’d come round later to help me look.

And so I went off to listen to the tons of stuff on the dictaphone. Firstly there was a continuation of a dream that I’d had a couple of nights ago. It concerned some kind of exhibition of ancient vehicles or something or other. I was going through my photographs trying to identify the people, the location, the vehicle that they had with them etc. I came across a photo where I recognised the person. He was a radio presenter. It just so happened that at that very moment he came out of the building towards the car park so I ran after him and caught up with him as he was standing by his car. I showed him the photo. he replied “that’s not me”. I replied “the car’s a Rover 90” – it was a red Rover 90. He suddenly said “ohh yes, 1954, that”. I asked “what? The car, the photograph or you?”. He replied “no, the car. The photograph was probably taken in 1974. It’s the car that’s 1954”.

Later on we were spread out on a desk in a laboratory obviously run by this doctor. A girl was going through, counting off so many. When she arrived at the number that she wanted, the person she was standing next to, she pointed out and that person was taken away. She said that she was preparing a table and discussion for, I think, her brother who was obviously the psychiatric doctor. As it happened, the people with me and I were saved. We attracted his attention when we went into the boudoir to be interrogated

And I’m doing it again – dictating into my hand. We were going to have a practice with our rock group so I went round to pick up our singer. She was a young girl, and wore one of these party/ballroom dresses type of the 18th Century when she came out. I had to practically lift her up to climb into the van because it was so high up. I climbed in afterwards. She asked “what’s new?”. I replied “we have a gig on Tuesday”. She asked where so I told her “Nantwich”. We set out from her house and drove, and ended up at the back of Alvaston Hall going over a bridge that had been built to keep the vehicles off what was a prehistoric settlement on the ground. We were heading for the recording studio where our group practised.

And this is really strange (or maybe it isn’t). Talking about Simon House yesterday, and the times that I’ve played the bass to some of those tracks, something came into my head yesterday about a girl at our school. She was 4 years or so younger than us, quite small, long dark brown hair, brown-rimmed glasses and a round face, but she sang and played the violin and piano, and to a really good standard too. I was actually imagining her weaving her web around me playing her violin as I played the bass lines to Damnation Alley or Steppenwolf.

Bizarrely, this isn’t the first time that she has come up in a discussion. In Munich 18 months ago my German friend, who was in my class at school, and I were discussing her and her violin for some reason, and neither of us could remember her name. And I still can’t.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed I was in the gold 2000E estate that’s in the barn in Virlet. I was driving to Stoke on Trent. I had to be there for 18:00 but was early. There’s a place that I know where you can park where there’s a good view of the city (if ever there’s a good view of Stoke on Trent from anywhere). I parked on there with about 3 or 4 other cars. It was just underneath a pub. By now the gold estate had transformed itself into a service bus. I was sitting in the seat behind the driver. The door opened and a couple of people came in. One was a young girl. She was obviously waiting for someone but she had her phone and was describing the passengers on board this bus to whoever was on the phone presumably for security reasons. She looked at me and said “there’s an old guy with a small face” so I stuck my head up and said “yes, and extremely handsome” which made her laugh. She moved on to another guy there. She said “he’s the guitarist from the pub”. Another couple of people came on and everyone began to chat. It became quite friendly. Someone asked me why I was there. I replied “I have to be here because I have to be at someone’s front door at 18:00 on the dot and not be early”. They thought that that was an extremely strange command which I suppose it was but if that’s what the person wants, that’s what the person is going to have “so I’m just sitting here killing time”. After a couple of minutes I had to make my excuses and leave. It was time for me to be heading off.

Having done that, I set about photocopying all of the paperwork that I’d received from the Hospital. There was a whole rain-forest of it too, and it all has to be distributed amongst the appropriate recipients.

Anyway, the cleaner came round and we sorted out everything that needed to be sorted out. And then she set off for the Chemist’s.

When she came back and gave me the stuff, I arranged it on my shelf. And now I’m well over into a second shelf of medication.

And do you want to know how much a month’s medication is costing? If you do, then I’ll tell you that it’s €7104:00 and I know because I’ve seen the bill. And my contribution to that is nothing whatever (I almost said “Zero” but that could have been misconstrued).

On top of that I’ve been issued with a tensiometer and a heart monitor.

My blood pressure needs to be measured 3 times a day, morning, noon and night, when I’m sitting calm and comfortable without stress. And when is that ever likely to happen?

The aim is for the blood pressure to be below 14.0/9.0. And when has that ever happened?

There’s to be an injection of this Aranesp substitute every Wednesday by the infirmier ambulant and it has to stop if my blood count rises to 12.0.

And how do we know if my blood count rises to 12.0? That’s because the nurse has to take a blood sample every week. He’ll enjoy that because he can never find my veins.

With the heart monitor, I have to send off the readings and the blood pressure figures every day to the hospital for further instructions – keep on doing what I’m doing jusqu’à nouvel ordre in fact.

There’s another couple of IRMs that needs to be arranged – one for the heart and another for something else that I forget now.

And then there’s the medication. When I walk around in future, you’ll hear me coming because I’ll be rattling. Honestly, I have never seen so much anywhere except in a chemist’s, and then not all the time.

At this rate, sorting out all of this paperwork and medication and keeping all these records, I’ll be far too busy to die.

In between all of this I prepared an order for food and sent it off to LeClerc. It was shockingly expensive today but I’ve bought presents for everyone who has helped me this year, to express my gratitude.

Nothing really exciting because LeClerc’s home shopping isn’t blessed with a great deal of choice. Just boxes of chocolates and also a bottle of champagne for my cleaner. Anyone who comes round tidying up after me thoroughly deserves it.

Tea was a salad with burger and chips, some of which were sweet potato chips – LeClerc’s home delivery won’t deliver less than 1kg of sweet potatoes and I only needed a few hundred grammes for the wellington. And it was all delicious too.

So tomorrow I’m going to start on the vegan wellington. I don’t have everything but I’ll do what I can with what I have. It should be delicious anyway, whatever goes in it. I have all kinds of vegetables to go with it – 7 varieties of different veg in fact.

Yes, there was more broccoli on offer so I bought another one. Once more it’s mostly stalk so I’ll be having broccoli stalk soup again tomorrow.

So there is broccoli and 2kg of carrots to blanch in the morning, and the vegan wellington in the afternoon – if I’m still here after taking my first tablet.

This is all beginning to look rather uncomfortable to me.

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.

Thursday 7th December 2023 – I HAD ANOTHER …

… telephone call this afternoon.

"Mr Hall. Your appointment on 19th December is cancelled"
"And why is that?"
"We want you to come on Monday 18th December instead. And bring your jammies because you’ll be staying for a few days".

The appointment on the 19th was with the Cardiac Unit but this stay is with the Haematology Department. So things are definitely pushing along from that point of view. They did say “the beginning of the New Year” but events are unfolding quicker that I expected.

Getting out of bed wasn’t unfolding as quickly as it has done just now. It took me about 20 minutes to raise myself from the Dead this morning. But even so, I was still sitting at my desk working at 06:20, 40 minutes before the alarm went off

After I’d had my medication I came back here to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. I awoke with a really bad attack of cramp in the middle of a dream about events taking place in a village and so forgot most of this dream. It concerned certain goings-on in the village and in some localities. Some localities were only known by their informal name and there were many other names for some of these places so if someone had a secret about one of these places and it was known by its proper name no-one would ever find it. This was a question of these secrets that needed to be discovered. There was one thing that was very interesting. It was something concerning a girl’s bikini. I noticed in a house as I was passing through it doing something or other, that on top of a shelf in the sewing room was one of these mannequins that is used for adjusting clothes. There was a girl’s bikini on there. I was wondering whether this was in fact that particular girl’s bikini. Of course the easiest way to hide something is to hide it in plain sight and not draw anyone’s attention to it.

And then there was a plan to build new railway headquarters in Crewe. I was asked if I would like to supervise the overall control of the project. With nothing better to do I agreed and called for all the paperwork. I received a large box with almost nothing in it, no plans, no nothing. When I asked for it I was told that it was all arranged by photographs. That was the modern way of doing things these days. I thought that it was one of the most crazy things I’d ever heard. It’s quite simply not possible. And they hadn’t even sent the photographs in this box. A couple of days later someone from the Home Office came to see me and began to talk about the project. he asked how much they’d agreed to pay me. I said “they haven’t agreed anything”. He was surprised and said “you ought to be paid”. I answered “I thought that that was your job to pay me. These instructions came down from your department that I was to oversee it. I wasn’t told to contact the project managers for payment. The instructions came from the Home Office so I imagined they they would pick up the bill”. I told him about the complete and utter miserable state of affairs of this big box with almost nothing in it.

At another moment there had been a huge issue about some kind of property boundaries in the centre of a small town somewhere. I had a total feeling that it was all wrong. After a huge, lengthy investigation and battle I finally discovered that I was perfectly correct and that land that had been in dispute in the town centre was actually mine and I could move into it. It made me extremely happy because first of all I could park my car somewhere. I went for a walk after this with a girl friend of mine to celebrate. We came round a corner and in a yard was an axle that I recognised immediately as off a BMC half-ton van. I looked up and they had one attached to a crane that they were just going to winch off somewhere. I went to have a word with the guys to tell them that I’d been looking for one of these for years. Why hadn’t he told me anything about it? Of course, I had had BILL BADGER for a great length of time and travelled miles with him. The discussion then came round to a BMC FG pickup with a damaged cab and we talked about that. I explained that there was nothing wrong with it and the cab can be replaced on these anyway. We began to talk about Bill Badger again and those kinds of days back them.

I had that half-ton van for several years and went miles in it. But one of the rear leaf springs broke and being a very obsolete vehicle I couldn’t find another one. I had car springs on it for a while but the slightest load sagged the rear right down and after an uncomfortable moment with some of Cheshire Constabulary’s finest I decided that it was time to move it on.

When I awoke I was in bed but the cleaner had just come into the apartment bringing me a big mug of really hot coffee. I told her to put it on the kitchen worktop, wait a couple of minutes and I’ll be ready. I’ll come in and drink it. Then I awoke with cramp again.

Later on I had been at work all day. In my spare time I’d been doing something else. When I’d finished I’d gone to my University night classes and didn’t return home until 23:30. There was some bricklaying that needed doing so I began to sort out a few bricks prepare some stuff to mix some cement. My mother who was sitting around with her feet up and the other kids who were just sitting there playing around all said “you aren’t going to start work now, are you?”. I replied “this job has to be done. All you lot have been doing is sitting around here all day doing nothing”. My mother said something about the kids being delicate or something. I replied that they were all just bone-idle and that she was the woman who had made them. Whatever it is that her kids have turned out to be is a reflection on her more than anything else.

Actually, my University experience was nothing like that. It was usually a ‘phone call at 03:30 “My Hall, we have to go to Dusseldorf (or Bielefeld, or Berlin, or Den Haag or somewhere else like that)’
“Very good, Sir Brian. I’ll be round in half an hour”
And then into the boot went a flask of coffee, a pile of sandwiches and my course books. And while he was entertaining visiting dignitaries, putting the World to rights and dining on lavish slap-up dinners I was curled up on the back seat of the car on a draughty corner of a freezing military air base with a sandwich and a mug of coffee poring over a course book

When I was trying to do my degree it was one of the most crucial times in Western History in modern time and I had the misfortune to be associated with someone rather pivotal. We didn’t have a break for 18 months.

It meant that I wasn’t able to complete any of the practical work. Regular readers of this rubbish in one of its previous versions will recall that I had taken a week’s holiday to go and do some water sampling of a river. I’d hardly put on my wellingtons before a group of people flew a few aeroplanes into a couple of buildings, all leave was cancelled and we were recalled to work.

That didn’t just put paid to the practical work for that part of the course, it put paid to the exam too.

A couple of people have suggested that I ought to write a book about that period of my life. But it’s one of those situations where if the first impression isn’t published posthumously, the second impression certainly would be

But meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed there was also something somewhere about me being in Canada with my niece’s husband (but it wasn’t him). I was making a pot of tea and when I was rinsing the teapot in the sink it fell apart in my hands.

Next stop was the radio programme. I’ve chosen all of the music, some of which was complicated, and then I paired it off and wrote notes for some of it

There was an interruption – yet another phone call. This time it was the ergotherapist. She’s going to come to visit me here on Monday afternoon, inspect my apartment and suggest ways in which my life could be improved.

After a good wash and scrub up the car came for me and we went down to the Centre de Re-education.

And how the mighty have fallen! If it was depressing yesterday being taught how to go to bed and how to get up, today was even worse. Can you really imagine that it’s necessary for someone at my kind of age to need lessons on how to put on my socks?

The ergotherapist had noticed something with one of the muscles in my left thigh and she had a word with Severine, who spent our session working on that muscle to try to free it off. Not that it worked very much.

There are three lifts in the Centre de Re-education and two of them were broken down. As a result it was chaos trying to leave the building. In the end I climbed up the stairs and by the time that I was halfway up, that was me done for the rest of the day

Back here I bumped into my cleaner as I entered the building and she helped me up the stairs into my apartment.

The doctor rang me too. He’s already sent off the demand for the taxi to Paris but I wasn’t going to tell him to cancel it – at least, not until I have something in writing from the hospital.

But I’d told him that I was running low on medication when I’d written to him so he’s going to come to see me on Tuesday to check me over before he issues a new prescription.

And then I came in here and crashed out.

Tea tonight was something from the European Vegan Burger Mountain, with pasta and veg, and now that I’ve finished my notes I’m knocking off. As I’ve said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … all of this remedial treatment is al l very well but if the journey is killing me off it’s all pointless.

So right now I’m off to bed. Shopping tomorrow if the weather is better, and that’ll wear me out as well.

This weekend I’d better tidy up the apartment ready for all these visits next week. I seem to be in demand right now. It’s not usually like this, is it?

Friday 24th November 2023 – AS YOU MIGHT …

… expect, having decided not to go to the shops this morning in case the garage came to pick up Caliburn, they didn’t turn up at all.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, this is par for the course. Only I can do things like DRIVE 500 MILES TO VISIT AN ISOLATED ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE and find it closed for the season, or load up Caliburn to go to the dechetterie and pick the only day in the month when it is closed.

And in 2022 where I booked 4 nights in a hotel in Montreal to find that the only day that the train to the east left was on the third night

That’s the kind of thing that crops up all the time and regular readers of this rubbish are used to this by now.

Having said that, it was really just as well that I didn’t go because I really didn’t feel like it. It was another horrible night where it took ages to go off to sleep and when I did, I had another incredibly mobile night.

When the alarm went off I staggered into the kitchen, to find that I was actually feeling rather more steady on my feet today than I have done just recently, and I even managed 4 steps without leaning on anything.

It might be Severine’s exertions that are working, or it might be my nocturnal exercises with the elastic band wrapped round my ankles, or it might just be my imagination.

After the medication and checking my mails (and I’ve had authorisation to have a taxi for Paris on Friday next week) I had a very slow start to the day and it took a while to wind myself up ready to start. We were on board a ship again last night and every time we’d go ashore I’d always sit with the same person, another guy. On this particular occasion we all lined up ready to climb into the boats to take us ashore. I sat down in a good place but the guy walked straight past me and went to sit down next to someone else. In the end I had either a girl or a woman sit next to me but I was more interested in listening to what these other 2 guys were doing. They were having a tremendous amount of fun talking about Queen Victoria as a painter, cracking jokes with each other etc. One of them was having a go at painting and everyone was crowded around having a look. All of a sudden, even in the dream, I felt really lonely and alone.

Liz once asked me a good while ago if I ever felt lonely, living as I do. But in fact I don’t actually live alone. The advantage of having a split personality is that there’s always a group of me living inside my head and there’s that much noise going on that I’m certainly not lonely.

But in actual fact, the alternatives to being lonely are probably worse. “he who travels fastest travels furthest” and “he who travels fastest travels alone”. And I’ve certainly covered much more ground alone than I otherwise would have done.

The only time that I have really regretted being on my own was at times such as strolling across the Little Big Horn battlefield or standing on the top of South Pass, or visiting the Norse Furdustrandir on the coast of Labrador and there was no-one to share the experience with me.

But of course, had I had someone in tow before I set off, I wouldn’t have ever arrived at anywhere like that. I really ought to have had a daughter. Castor enjoyed my little stories when we were alone together on THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR late at night.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bedroom we were all discussing what we would be doing on a particular evening at home. Almost everyone had various plans but it ended up that I would be there with my 3 younger siblings at home wo we were trying to work out what we would be doing about a meal. I tried to find out whether there was any food that needed collecting because sometimes there was but the food that I could have picked up coming back from Percy Penguin’s I’d picked up the previous day. There were 1 or 2 things from other outlying farms but it was quite out of the way to go. They did ask me if I’d go out there to pick it up but for some reason I said that it would be difficult. As they were leaving my parents turned to me and said “you’ll be OK organising this meal for the other 3 won’t you? And you’ll be paying”. That was the first news that I heard about it. They had never ever discussed the payment with me for a single minute until they had some of their feet outside the door.

And then I had exactly the same dream half an hour later – word for word.

Later on I was seeing on some kind of basis a girl who had the same name as one of my regular visitors, but it wasn’t she . A third by began to hang around occasionally. I’d invited the girl back for a meal and I’d cooked something but the guy showed up. Out of courtesy I gave him some food. He asked for something but I only had a little so I said “you’re eating me out of house and home aren’t you?”. He replied “it’s not my fault. I didn’t ask to come for a meal”. I replied “you asked to asked to hang around with this girl. What did you expect?”. In the end it ended up in one of these arguments that we had. I said to the boy “there’s only one person who can decided who the girl goes out with and that’s the girl herself” and I went off to clear the table. About 30 seconds later he said “it looks as if I’m stealing your girlfriend” and walked out of the room with her. After she left she stuck her head back in the door to say “if you see (something) belonging to me you’ll remember to give it to me won’t you? You will still keep looking for it, won’t you?”. I answered with a very non-committal “yes” and carried on clearing the table.

Some of my plants are going to miss my layered kitchen but I’m going to have it remodelled as I can no longer walk up the steps. One of the plants was an adopted plant that came from a level kitchen anyway so it wouldn’t have too much trouble readapting but the others will probably find it difficult because the steps in the kitchen are completely beyond me now. It’s high time that I had the floor and everything put on the level. And what that has to do with anything I really don’t know at all.

There was another dream too. We were on holiday. I was with a girl but I can’t remember who she was. There was a variety of older couples. There was a very young girl there with a much older man. He was disabled. We formed the opinion that she wasn’t looking after him correctly. She seemed to be a nice enough girl but there was something about how the reaction between the 2 of them didn’t seem correct at all. When we travelled to this particular hotel we could see that the old guy was having a hard time but the girl didn’t seem to be particularly concerned all that much. Next day we were going somewhere and the girl appeared on her own. She tagged onto our little group of people. We didn’t really say all that much to her but when we climbed out of the coach to go on the way back to the hotel we began to chat. We asked about the guy and she gave some very non-committal answers. I had the uncomfortable feeling that she was trying to ingratiate herself with me for some reason but I wasn’t really sure why. As we climbed up and down the steps across this entry to go to the hotel I shouted out to my girlfriend “all those in favour of a coffee say ‘Aye'” and the girl shouted “Aye” too. I had no idea exactly what was happening but there were some things about this situation that just didn’t seem right to me at all.

That’s just another one of a whole series of strange encounters that I’ve had with strange people. 25 years ago I had an e-mail from a girl. “I’m a clandestine from Myanmar here in Brussels with no papers at all. I think you can help me”.
My biggest default has always been my curiosity and that has led me into a pile of difficulties and problems in the past but nevertheless, I responded.
We met up in Brussels and she got into my car. A beautiful young Oriental girl, probably early 20s at most. Perfectly manicured hands, perfectly coiffured hair, designer denim jacket with matching jeans.
If it looks like a rat and walks like a rat and smells like a rat, then it’s a rat. There’s no way she’d fought her way through the mangrove swamps on the border between Myanmar and Thailand

She played me along for a while and I played her along for a while but she eventually grasped the message that whatever she wanted from me she wasn’t going to get until I in my turn had some answers to a whole host of difficult questions, and that was something else that fizzled out.

There was another complicate dream about a girl who lived on a model housing estate that wasn’t quite finished. She had a pet that might have been a dog. As she travelled a lot she relied on one of the neighbours, a young guy, to feed the dog for her. On one occasion that she’d been away something had gone wrong about the dog food. In the end the guy had only ended up making meals for the dog for 3 days instead of 7. It led to quite a few complications, not only for her and the guy but for a few passers-by who heard their discussion. That’s all that I remember about this dream but it did go on for hours and hours and at one point I remember sitting on the kerb overlooking this housing estate eating a meal that I suspected was dog food.

There was something to do with a Prisoner-of-War camp. There were civilian internees, of which I was one, who had to go to the camp during the day but were allowed home on parole at night. On one particular occasion I was one of the last ones to leave. There were 2 women who had come there but were both ill in bed. By the looks of things they weren’t going home. The female commandant grabbed hold of me and began to give me things, festooning me like a Christmas tree. There were all kinds of stuff that apparently these women had brought that needed to go home. I couldn’t understand how I was supposed to carry all of this but she said “things like the Hoover here you can pull by the cord and it’ll follow you”. In the end, being in no position to argue, I shook my head and set off to catch the bus back to where I was staying. There were all kinds of complications about bringing these things into the lift. The Hoover snagged on its cable around a step, it was left out of the lift when we went in and the doors closed. There were all kinds of extreme difficulties through which I was going, trying to move these things while these 2 women were just lying there in bed doing nothing while I was doing all of this and upsetting everyone else who was trying to share a lift with me, waiting at the entrance to this building while the door opened. I can’t ever remember feeling as frustrated as I did about this

And that used to be a regular feature during my nocturnal voyages too.

Having dealt with all of that (which took much longer than it ought) I attacked the radio programme. And despite several occasions when I went off with the fairies I actually finished all of the notes. That leaves me tomorrow afternoon for starting my Christmas baking because I’m shopping in the morning.

With some time left over I carried on going through one of the back-up drives in the array on the shelf and made another pile of space.

Tea tonight was a delicious sausage, beans and chips. If I’m not careful I’ll be running out of sausages in due course. That batch of vegan sausages that I bought in Jersey is delicious but I won’t be able to buy any more. Beans though are no problem. Ric and Elaine bought me some last year and Liz and Terry bought me a pile this summer when they came over.

So I’m going to bed now, ready to fight the good fight in the shops at St Nicolas tomorrow. I need some mushrooms for my pizza on Sunday and a few other bits and pieces too.

And then I’ll have to think about an order from LeClerc. At the moment I’m doing Ok for supplies but I’ll never be able to find anything when I really need it.

Ordering my shopping is just like waiting for the garage to come for Caliburn, really.

Sunday 5th November 2023 – MY CHOCOLATE AND COCONUT …

… biscuits with a hint of orange flavouring are absolutely excellent and I’ll make some more like that another time too.

And I’m glad that something went right today because not much else did.

For a start, I had another miserable night and it wasn’t until 11:30 this morning when I finally left the bed. I did mention last night that I needed a really good sleep.

Actually, I was in bed rather later than intended last night. After I’d dictated my radio notes I was on the point of going to bed when Alison came on line for a chat. And while I was chatting to Alison, my niece in Canada appeared too.

It’s really quite strange, this telepathy thing. I’d just been typing in my notes about making biscuits when up popped my niece – “here’s a lovely biscuit recipe that I found”.

And if I’d have had any peanut butter and maple syrup I’d have made them today instead.

It’s not the first time by a long way that there has been such telepathy. Nerina and I certainly had it and I’ve experienced it with other people too.

So after I awoke this morning, I had a listen to the dictaphone. And there was a huge pile of stuff on there, including a recurring dream that appeared a few times during the night. There was a party going on at someone’s house and a game of cards had been organised – a game of bridge. I’ve no interest in a game of bridge so while they crafted a scorecard to keep a late arrival happy I pretended to be dummy and that suited me fine. They wrote up the scores bearing in mind the fact that I hadn’t played, to which I had no objection. While they were playing I was wandering around. People were chatting about their medication. I noticed that one of the people here had a huge pile of medication but it was just a big lump of stuff so I sat down and began to sort it out into different types. I ended up in the end with a range going right across the table of all different types of medication. I tried my best to have it arranged in “morning, noon and night” too. I can’t remember now any more about this but it was another one of these dreams that went on for ages.

And then there was a big group of us. We’d been out somewhere and were on our way home. I was in BILL BADGER my old A60 van. We pulled up at a motel to stop there for the night. We ended up sleeping in a variety of rooms, 2 each to a room. I had someone whom I didn’t really know who seemed to be a reasonable guy, an older guy, rural type. The discussion came round to talking about ghosts and spirits. Just then I went into the bathroom but the sudden noise in the bathroom which was connected to the next room made the occupants in that room jump wo we had quite an exchange of conversation about spirits and ghosts etc. When I came back into my bedroom there had been some kind of issue about keys. I didn’t actually have my keys with me. I was convinced that I’d left them in the ignition but when I’d looked earlier they weren’t there. I remembered that I’d changed my trousers so the keys were in the pockets of the dirty ones. Now I wanted one of my mint sweets that were in the van. I found my keys, and with more teasing about ghosts being out there waiting etc I set out. When I reached the van what there was was a huge baker’s oven, the type with probably about 6 shelves. For some reason I opened one of the shelves. It was packed full of all kinds of strange food, a type that I hadn’t seen before, wrapped in portions. I was scratching my head wondering “what’s all this food about? What is it? Who is it for?”. I’d seen nothing like this in the past.

But that did remind me of an interesting court case where a woman was put on trial for having obtaining money by false pretences. She had been holding “seances” to attract visiting souls and charging fees for attendance, whereas the “visiting souls” were actually her friends pretending.
One of the witnesses gave his occupation as “Customs and Excise Officer”
“Testing spirits?” asked prosecuting counsel
“Yes” replied the witness “but not the type of spirits that we are discussing at the moment”.

There was something going on in a house about preparing for an operation. What first caught my eye was a row of cats all spread out across the top of the back of a settee watching a TV programme. The discussion came round to this operation. I volunteered to be one of the first to be treated, on the grounds that the quicker you start, the quicker you finish. That’s not like me at all. Usually I wait until the last minute before volunteering for something like that, especially something rather groovy and here I fell asleep)

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I am actually asleep when I’m dictating my notes, but in cases like this, when I refer to “falling asleep” what I mean is that everything suddenly goes quiet and then I can hear myself snoring.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed another group of us had gone out for a meal, a sort-of pizza evening. All 8 of us were sitting round a table. They began to bring out the slices of pizza. Depending on what pizza you ordered, you ended up with 1, 2 or 3 slices before anyone else was served. Some people were well on their way with their meal but others hadn’t even begun. The conversation came round to houses. I was talking about my house but I hadn’t realised that everyone else was from the UK. They began to ask me questions about my house. I explained as best as I could but it was just making the situation more confused. In the end someone turned round and said “I thought that you lived in France”. I replied “I do” which puzzled everyone even more. In the meantime my meal still hadn’t arrived. There was some kind of greasy-type things, crackers that were being passed around. I grabbed a box of those, sat down and began to eat them because by this time I was starving and I wasn’t sure when I’d receive my pizza. The conversation carried on and I began to talk about my little apartment in Granville.

One thing that I had forgotten about the previous dream was that we were staying the previous night in someone’s house before this meal. It was a Sunday morning and I’d left the bed to go to the bathroom. Just then my bedroom door opened. It was the woman of the place where I was staying, wondering if I was OK. I asked her what the problem was. She replied “it’s 16:00 and you’ve been asleep for 14 hours”. I explained about Sundays, how they are Days of Rest etc but I don’t think that she took it seriously. She was extremely concerned that I hadn’t shown any sign of life until just now. I think that she was rather offended that I’d chosen to spend all my time in bed asleep instead of coming down to mix with everyone else in the house at some reasonable point.

I was back in the dream about the pizzas later on. everyone else had gone to visit one of these 19th Century workingmen’s villages of the type built by philanthropists to house the employees in their factories. This was a village out in the countryside. After the factory had closed down years ago the village had fallen into ruin. Gradually people had been slowly restoring it. A group of us went. I remember having my breakfast with a family with 2 children, talking to them. Then I went off for a wander around the village on my own. It really was quite interesting because the original buildings were marked with the fact and buildings subsequently built mere marked as being later editions. It was clear that although a lot of it was in very poor condition some of it had been rebuilt quite nicely. There was an enormous amount of potential in this place. I began to wonder whether there might be some kind of small cottage for me to buy. By now I was actually running, pushing some kind of trolley in an effort to keep fit. I overtook the people with whom I’d had breakfast but I carried on running around the village like this looking at the shops – there was a good array of shops, even a fish and chip shop – and looking at the stone buildings. I was absolutely enthralled by the whole place and the possibilities that existed here.

At one point while I was wandering around that village I came across a car accident. 2 cars had collided. One of them looked quite bad but I’m sure that it wasn’t as badly damages as it looked so I began to measure things up to see whether it was safe to be on the road. The father of the 2 children began to ask me “why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that?” but the wife kept interrupting him saying “leave him alone to deal with it. It looked as if he knows more of what he’s doing than you do” which offended her husband quite a lot.

Of the vehicle that had come off worst in the accident I’d had part of the floor up, measuring the chassis for deflection. The guy asked in an exasperated tone why I was actually doing that. His wife told him again to keep quiet and let me continue with my work as I clearly seemed to know what I was doing

That took me right up to and beyond lunchtime so my porridge and cheese on toast was rather late today.

This afternoon I made a start on one of the radio programmes and then wandered off to make my biscuits. However, just after I’d sorted out the ingredients Ingrid telephoned me.

It was Ingrid’s birthday yesterday so I’d telephoned her but she was busy so she called me back today. And we had a Rosemaryesque chat that went on for 68 minutes, mainly about our illnesses.

The chats that Ingrid and I have are actually really quite interesting. We usually start off in French until someone can’t remember a word and then we switch to another language and we end up usually rotating through English, French, Dutch (Ingrid) and Flemish (me), quite often one person speaking in one language and the other replying in a different one.

Dutch and Flemish are very similar languages by the way, and if you know one you’ll understand the other, in the same way that a Londoner will understand Scots English and vice versa

Actually Ingrid was one of my two choices to come with me to this wedding in Michigan next weekend – the other being Rosemary after our success in the Arctic in 2019. But of the only two people who might be free, they are both too unfit to travel.

And that’s a shame because even though I’m not supposed to say it, it’s my favourite relative who is marrying and I would move heaven and earth to be there with her. But I can’t go on my own – my week in Belgium in September proved that.

So back at the biscuits. And a standard mix of 10/8/4 of flour and oats/butter and coconut oil/sugar with a generous helping of ground almonds, desiccated coconut, orange essence and vanilla essence and there we were.

While all of this was going on I’d had a dollop of pizza dough defrosting and when it was ready I made myself a pizza. Delicious as usual but I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I run out of my vegan cheese.

In between everything I finished off one of the radio programmes and so the first task tomorrow will be to finish off the second one, and then start the next after that.

The nurse should be coming tomorrow too in order to discuss my Covid injection with me. So I’d better hurry up and go to bed. I’ll have to have a good wash before he comes too. But at the moment, the shower is out of bounds.

And I’ve only just realised something – and that is that I must have just come in here out of the kitchen without using my crutches. Fancy that!

Thursday 17th August 2023 – I’VE HAD A REALLY …

… horrible afternoon today.

There were a couple of moment during my Welsh lesson when, for some reason or other, I felt myself drifting away into never-land. Then later on, after I’d had my hot chocolate when the lesson finished, I crashed out completely.

And I DO mean “completely” too. For about 2.5 hours I was totally out like a light in probably the deepest sleep I’ve had for quite some considerable time. Not a thing was moving during that time.

It’s not as if I didn’t need it though. What with one thing and another I didn’t go to bed until after midnight last night. Just as I was on the point of going to bed a Paul Temple mystery came round on the playlist so I stayed up to listen to it.

Despite all of that, I had woken up and was out and about (after a fashion) before the alarm went off, which goes to prove that there’s no pattern to what’s going on inside what’s left of my brain right now.

As usual, it took a good while to wind myself up, and then I had a couple of phone calls to make. Firstly there was to the chemists to order the next month’s supply of Aranesp, and then to the doctor to order another supply of medicine as I’m running out of certain supplies.

There was the dictaphone to listen to, to find out where i’d been during the night. I was with someone like that guy whom I knew when I had my taxis, me and a girl. For some reason we’d gone to California in Caliburn but he was driving. We went all the way to California. The girl and I were talking about settling down there, going to school etc, creating a new life for ourselves. We had to go back to collect our equipment. They drove us back and they said “we’ve been in your bank accounts and paid back all the money that you spent on this trip”. I told them that they didn’t need to because it was for us anyway, but they insisted. I began to collect my things together. I disposed of one scrap car out of my garage but there was a gold Cortina MkIII in there where I had half the axle out but a rear wheel had seized on a bearing so that bearing was still in the axle. He brought a pile of screws and nuts for me. They were mine anyway but he said that he wanted me to have them back. I went into the garage to find a box for them but he followed me in. He was looking at my tools and equipment saying how wonderful they were. he looked at the Cortina. I told him about the wheel. He replied “we can have that off”. I explained that I’d tried just about everything for months but I’ll end up having to cut it off. In the end we were preparing to go. But this thing about him turning up looking around my garage began to fill me with unease. I’d no idea why that would have been

And later I was back in this dream again talking to a friend of mine about my illness. We were talking about Zero. He was saying that if I’d been in good health she would have probably been living with me by now. I was chatting to Zero (so welcome back to her, who has been absent from my voyages for quite a while) and I asked her how she fancied living in California. I explained to her about portable oxygen cylinders, how I could buy one and walk around etc. She was worried that the heat in California would be too much for me. I explained that if we were to live by the sea it would be quite comfortable. We had a long, lengthy chat about moving, living down there by the sea etc. This was another one of these rare dreams where everything seemed to be going so right. It really felt much more than just an ordinary boring dream, a lot more intense feeling that there was in most, which was quite a surprise.

And what’s going on with California? I’ve been going there quite a lot just recently which is bewildering because I’ve never been farther west THAN ARIZONA OR UTAH. So I’ve no idea what’s happening about that.

After spending some time doing my Welsh homework I went for my lesson. The morning didn’t go too badly but gradually as the afternoon went on I found myself fading away, and that kind of thing is doing me no good at all.

During my brief moments of lucidity today I’ve been writing notes for my forthcoming radio programme and then I went for tea.

Tonight’s tea was another really good one – mixed veg and falafel in a vegan cheese sauce. And I’ve got the hang of all of this now.

It makes a world of difference being able to lay my hands on what to date is proving to be a consistent supply of vegan cheese. In the past I’ve only been able to grab it when I can but it looks as if the supply from LeClerc is going to keep on running for the foreseeable future, although nothing in this World is certain.

Having done all of that I’m off to bed, ready for a trip down into town before my lesson. Mind you, I probably won’t sleep, having had a really good session this afternoon.

But it was nice to see Zero again last night and it would be even nicer to see her again tonight. But what on earth is going on about California?

STANDING ON A HILL IN MY MOUNTAIN OF DREAMS,
TELLING MYSELF IT’S NOT AS HARD, HARD, HARD AS IT SEEMS

Well, yes.