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Wednesday 13th March 2024 – THE DEED IS …

… done and I’m now registered for an Easter Welsh course with … errr … Caefyrddyn

Enrolling on a Welsh course rather like Macbeth and the murder of Duncan actually and "If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly". Caerfyrddyn was the only centre that had any spaces left on its Easter revision course when I went to sign up.

It’s a symbol of how popular learning Welsh became at Covid. When the courses were face-to-face (or wyneb-wyneb for regular readers of this rubbish who recall a dream a week or so ago) they had about 100 applicants each year. When Covid hit and the courses went over to video-conferencing, they had 1031 applicants.

That’s not the kind of thing for which infrastructure exists and they had to be quite inventive to fit everyone in

With my class, I’m quite lucky because already being involved and registered, my place is assured. However, for this revision course, I’m dropping down two levels and so I have had to re-register

So with studying a course down in the south, I’ll be saying things like gyda-gylid instead of efo-gylid and caeth e instead of cafodd o. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago why it was that the Welsh language evolved differently in the south and in in the north.

If I had had any sense, not that that is likely of course, I should have enrolled last night while I was talking about it and maybe I would have found something more convenient. But instead I had a little relax to unwind before going to bed.

Once in bed though I felt nothing at all. Nothing whatever and it was as if I’d slept all the way through the night undisturbed.

When the alarm went off though I was already awake and it didn’t take much to have me out of bed.

First stop as usual was the blood pressure. 16.0/10.0 this morning, compared to 17.4/10.6 last night. It really MUST have been a calm, comfortable night.

Second stop was to go to take my medication for the moment, half a tonne of it as usual. And then some tidying up ready for the nurse to come round. I’d like her to think that people actually lived here.

We had a good chat about the things that the hospital wants the local nursing staff to do. Some of the things don’t come within their remit, so it’s tough luck on me but the rest is going to start tomorrow at 08:45 and how I’m not looking forward to that, especially on a Sunday

She took the blood sample and gave me my weekly injection of the Last Resort and then wandered off while I organised some breakfast.

The coffee is really nice around here, and my flapjack is definitely a success. I’ll make some more of that another time if I can remember the ingredients that I used. They biscuits that I made on Sunday are overcooked, but not so much as they are in-edible. I’ll make more of those too at some point.

Next step was to listen to the dictaphone notes to find out where I’d been during the night. And I must have been stark out last night as I remember nothing at all of these. Did I dictate the dream about the person that I’d killed in that motel room? … "no, you didn’t" – ed … He was beaten quite badly and I was about to finish him off when someone began to come into his room. I quickly had to clean him up, tidy him up and remove as many visible marks a possible to make it look as if he was treating himself for his wounds before they came in, which was difficult. Somehow I managed it and he passed by quite normally without having any suspicions. Then I had to restart these videos, all three of them, to find out exactly where the secret place was where you had to puncture the skin in order to kill someone – someone had worked out that you could leave very minimal marks by just putting something long and pointed in through these three places. He’d prepared a video of it, that I’d been watching but of course with this other guy coming into the motel room to see what was happening I actually lost the place in the video and couldn’t find it again on all three tapes for all three points on the body

That’s the stuff that dreams are made of, isn’t it? If videos like that really did exist and I really did have access to them, there would be far fewer people on this planet than there are today. I can think of quite a few who would shuffle off this mortal coil with my assistance, if I had any say in the matter.

But I di have some gruesome dreams; don’t I? And many have been far more gruesome than this. It reminds me of Dr Cameron in Tannochbrae in the good old days of Dr Finlay’s Casebook – or Dr Kenley’s Feesbook
"And what’s the matter, Janet?" asked Dr Cameron
"Och Dr Cameron, it’s gruesome" she replied
"Well, look again Janet" he said. "It’s gruesome more"

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed I was going on a flight somewhere so I had to walk through the airport and look for my train to London. I eventually arrived at the station part and the next train to London was 22:02. It was only 21:00 so I thought that it was going to be cutting it a little too fine. I’d better go to find something to eat. I found what looked like a bakery or hot food stand and asked if they had a pâté végétale. She replied “no, no” and pointed to half a dozen things that she had on the shelves, the usual mainstream type of normal kind of food. She did have some large fruit bread. I thought that I could buy one of those but that would be quite a waste because I wouldn’t be able to eat all of that.

Not that anything like that would normally bother me, especially if I’m going on a flight somewhere. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I always take food with me on a plane. I’ve learnt from bitter experience that you can’t rely on airlines to always respect special diets on their planes, and it’s a long way and a long time across the Atlantic with nothing to eat.

Yes, my spicy or fruit bread has saved me from a fate worse than death on many occasions, as have my Subway sandwiches from the airport at Montreal. Consequently a large fruit bread would have been a gift from Heaven on a flight from an airport

Back in here and surfing around on the internet looking for something, I made a fantastic discovery. Carol Reed’s famous and spectacular film THE THIRD MAN starring Orson Cart and Joseph Cotton is now out of copyright and is available to download

What a film that is, too. It’s not so much the acting and the dialogue but the way that it’s directed that makes it a classic – with all these cuts of ordinary, old people filtered into the scenes that really give it the kind of panic-stricken atmosphere that must have existed in the immediate post-war Vienna.

My acquaintance with Vienna is somewhat more recent than that. And the last time I was there, actually in the city, was 1998 when I took a 15-tonne lorry there from Brussels.

It’s a film that in my opinion is on a par with THE MALTESE FALCON as one of the greatest films of all time.

The cleaner came round with my missing pieces today, and it’s a shame but she’ll have to be going back because the nurse needs some stuff to treat me, so she’ll write out a prescription tomorrow morning. We’ll go through the medication tomorrow too and see where I’m short, as one or two things are running out.

But poor cleaner. She’s not had much of a rest on her week off, has she?

The rest of the day has been spent finishing off the notes for the radio programme that I began the other day. They are done and ready for dictation sometime, but I’m not sure when. It won’t be at 01:00 on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, I’ll tell you that, not it I’m having to be up and about by 08:45.

After a session on the guitar I went for tea – another one of my delicious leftover curries with naan bread.

But while I was in the freezer I noticed that I seem to be running low on frozen vegetables again. It looks as if my last pre-Easter order from the supermarket will be going off on Monday.

That means that I’d better check my hot cross bun recipe and make sure that I have everything that I need. And then work out how to make the dough rise properly.

Hot cross buns are made with milk, not water, and that makes the issue far more complicated. I tell you – it’s not easy baking and being a master-chef when your oven only works when it wants to and you don’t have a clue what you’re doing anyway.

But you can’t have an Easter without hot-cross buns so I’d better learn quite quickly. It’ll give me something to eat while I’m taking part in my Welsh lesson, I suppose

At least I don’t have to worry about the Easter bunny coming to visit me. It’s not like the time years ago, when I had that part-time job just before Easter looking after these small bunny-like creatures just after they were born and making sure that they grew into responsible adults.

That was what I would call a hare-raising experience.

Wednesday 30th August 2023 – AS SEEMS TO BE …

… usual these days when I have to go somewhere important, I was actually awake and up and about (in principle, at least) when the alarm went off at 07:00

That was despite having gone on several travels during the night. There was something about trying to download the course book for my next lot of Welsh lessons and then trying to find and download a mannequin and various poses for when we’ll be taking off a Welsh lesson but I can’t remember too much at all about this and I fell back to sleep afterwards.

And then I was with Rosemary. We’d been staying for a weekend with a couple whom we’d met somewhere who had 2 children, a young girl and a young boy. They were in the middle of rebuilding a house so I went up on the scaffolding to have a good look around. He didn’t really understand what he was supposed to be doing so I gave him a few tips from my experience and we actually did some work together. I told him of a few things that he needed to buy, one or two tips about sanding down the wood and filling gaps etc. He was very impressed. Sooner or later it became time to go so we had to climb down and say goodbye. For some reason this was a really heart-breaking moment. I remember saying to this woman and guy that I wanted to stay. Rosemary said that it’s not quite possible and we’d have to go which was certainly true but for some reason I was truly heartbroken about having to leave. That was what was most disturbing – not so much the dream about having to leave but how I was actually feeling about leaving

Finally I had to take the young girl to the station because she was going to Boarding School. When she’d been before, she’d been taken as far as the barrier and sent through on her own to look for her own school party. She was saying that that was really difficult so she asked me if I’d come through the barrier with her down onto the platform and help her find her group of people. I didn’t see any reason why not so I said that I would. She was talking about being sent away to school, basically to give her mother some free time which I knew but I had somehow to explain to the girl that it was so that she would learn a whole variety of different things that she’d never learn at home, how it would be a big experience for her and how much of a better person she’d be because of it, although I wasn’t convinced myself. On the way to the station we walked down the street past the University Library. She made some comment about how a pile of books had been arranged in a Y shape but we were talking about the library saying how untidy it was. I said that I was surprised that the librarians would let a University Library fall into this state. I was really enjoying my conversation with this little girl. again, it was another thing that I was going to be really sad when it was all over and she’d gone.

First thing was to dive into the shower and clean myself up ready to be poked and probed by a doctor, and then, having grabbed by backpack and crutches, Caliburn and I headed off to the railway station.

Luckily there was a parking space available outside the station so we managed to tuck ourselves in without having to walk miles.

The train was already in the station and, to my surprise, the coffee machine which has been out of order since Covid struck is now working so I could fuel up with a coffee in peace and comfort. I can’t carry a mug while I’m walking as I don’t have my hands free, so I had to drink it leaning up against the wall.

For a change, I was lucky with the train. The earlier train that had set out before this one had encountered a fallen tree across the line but the issue had been resolved by the time that we set out and we arrived in Paris on time.

Being limited to what I could bring with me, I didn’t have the computer but I did have a book.

Ages ago I’d bought a copy of Dashiell Hammett’s famous novel THE MALTESE FALCON but I’d never had the opportunity to read it so I brought it along.

Much as I like THE FILM which is one of my favourites and I can watch time after time, the book goes into the story in much more detail and answers several questions that were left unanswered in the film. Some of the action is quite different too and makes much more sense.

We pulled into the station on time for a change but I had to wait a while for my lift to arrive and then they drove me to the hospital, flashing blue lights through red traffic lights, the whole works.

At the hospital I had to wait around for some time but eventually I was dragged into a room where they gave me the works. It was another one of these electrical shock things that really hurts and I really hate, and it was much more thorough than the ones that I’d had before. It took much longer too.

The doctor spent some time examining the results and then we had a chat. He tells me that there are two reasons why I might be suffering. One is that my underlying illness might be eating its way into my nervous system, or else I might have a serious infection.

However, everything that everyone has seen in all of the examinations that I’ve had, the lumbar puncture included, don’t show any of the classic symptoms that they would expect to see in either of the two situations.

The net result of this is that at the moment they are puzzled. However "we can’t leave things alone and leave you like this".

What they are proposing is that I "would probably benefit from a stay here for a few days while we undergo some more exhaustive tests".

They’ve taken all of the details about the hospital in Leuven too in order to contact them about my case and compare notes.

And so we’ll have to see how the future unfolds, but at least I haven’t been abandoned to face my destiny on my own, and that’s a good thing to know.

There’s a café outside the building where I was being examined so I went and had a coffee before I was picked up again and taken back to the station. Here, to my dismay I found that my train would be departing from Vaugirard, so I had a long walk down the platform, during which I came within an ace of falling over.

There was a very long wait for the train back home and we didn’t pull into the station until 23:10. It was 23:30 when I finally sat down in my little apartment, thoroughly exhausted and wasted. It had been a very long day and, to my complete surprise, I hadn’t crashed out at all.

However I was far too tired to do anything else so I cleared off straight to bed. It’s actually 5 years to the day that I first encountered The Vanilla Queen and 4 years to the night that I’d had the first of a short series of the strangest, most bizarre nights that I’ve ever had

All of these were events that totally changed my perception of various aspects of humanity.

The artist Samuel Gurney Cresswell who had accompanied James Clark Ross on his Arctic voyage of 1848-49 and said of Captain Robert McClure, who had almost come to grief in the ice, that a voyage to the High Arctic “ought to make anyone a wiser and better man”. All that I can say is that it didn’t work for me.

But ask me if I want to change any of it.

That’s something on which I can dwell while I’m deep in the arms of Morpheus.

Sunday 31st July 2022 – I’VE ACTUALLY BEEN …

jet blast st martin de brehal Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo 31 July 2022… out and about today, just for a change.

There was a group called “Jet Blast” entertaining the lunchtime crowds at the summer street market at St Martin de Bréhal up the coast from here and Laurent had sent me a mail to ask me if I would like to go.

It meant setting an alarm this morning and regular readers of this rubbish will recall how well that goes down on a Sunday, but it’s high time that I got out and about to changer mes idées as they say around here.

It’s pretty much common knowledge that most people think that I ought to get out more often.

As a consequence of my early start (and isn’t 09:50 an early start on a Sunday?) I was early in bed for a Saturday night. Not quite before midnight but there wasn’t all that much in it.

It was a highly mobile night with tons of stuff on the dictaphone but I didn’t have time to transcribe it. I didn’t even have time for the medication because the side-effects take a while to work. Instead, I went and had a shower and a good clean-up. I need to look pretty.

Bang on time to the second Laurent rang the bell so I went downstairs, grabbing a raincoat on the way because it looked grey and overcast. And then we headed off.

st martin de brehal Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022It’s been several years since I’ve been to St Martin and I’d almost forgotten what it looked like.

And with it being the summer market, the place was packed. We were lucky enough to find a car parking place within staggering distance of the centre of the town which was just as well because I’m not as mobile as I used to be.

And then we walked down the road into town past some of the really nice houses and Laurent filled me in with a few of the secrets of the owners of the properties.

The larger places are mainly second homes of wealthy people from Paris who have all kinds of skeletons in their cupboards that only the locals know.

st martin de brehal Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022The main street was closed to traffic and that was where the commerçants had set their stalls out.

You could buy almost anything here this afternoon, and there were all kinds of people walking around carrying all kinds of things that they had purchased.

Even the local lifeboatmen – the Sauveteurs de Mer – had a stall selling tee-shirts and similar in order to raise funds.

The cafés and restaurants were packed as well and trying to find a place to have a coffee was simply not possible this morning.

st martin de brehal Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022Instead we walked down to the promenade to see what was happening there.

The tide doesn’t come in anything like as much as it does at Granville down the coast so there’s always quite a few people enjoying the beach at all hours. Except, of course today, because I really was thinking that it was going to rain and so did everyone else by the looks of things.

The likelihood of rain doesn’t make any difference to anyone who fancies a dip in the sea hence the two people who were brave enough to do in there this morning and good for them

marité st martin de brehal Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022I was glad that I’d taken the NIKON D500 and the 70-300mm LENS with me.

As usual, I was having a good browse around out at sea and was able to pick up some sails out there on the horizon. It didn’t take much identifying to work out who she was. She was of course Marité out and about this morning in the bay.

As for the boat that was with her, I couldn’t recognise her and there wasn’t anything shown on the radar so whoever she was, she didn’t have a working AIS on board so that was that.

la granvillaise st martin de brehal Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022You don’t need an AIS beacon to tell who she is.

The configuration of her sails is enough to suggest that she’s La Granvillaise and in fact when I returned home and enlarged and enhanced the image I could see the writing of her registration number on her sails.

There was actually quite a lot of maritime traffic out there this morning but down at sea level it’s not always easy to make it out. I’m much happier at 50 metres above sea level on my cliffs back home.

Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022And talking of the cliffs back home, it’s amazing what you can see with a good zoom lens.

The long tall building in the centre is the College Malraux and the slightly taller building to the left is where I live. The slightly smaller building to the left of that is where the public rooms are, where the wedding took place yesterday. The whitish building in between the two is the Foyer des Jeunes Travailleurs.

My afternoon walk goes from my building along the top of the cliffs to the right all the way down to the end where the lighthouse is, and then back down the path on the other side of the headland.

So now you know.

jet blast st martin de brehal Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022So then we had “Jet Blast” up on stage.

A three-piece band that performed a pretty staple diet of rock and funk music, I’ve seen much better than these. But I’ve also seen much worse too and for a small seaside resort on a Sunday morning I don’t suppose that they were too bad.

What let them down very much was their choice of songs. Musically there wasn’t much wrong with them but with the kind of voices that they had, they shouldn’t be trying to sing songs like “Live And Let Die”.

jet blast st martin de brehal Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022As for their version of “The Immigrant Song”, I much preferred the version by THE VIKING KITTENS.

And who could possibly sing the wrong words to “Born To Be Wild”? Even with me the way I am these days – I can sing the lyrics perfectly to obscure rock songs of the 1960s but ask me what I went into the kitchen for five minutes ago.

It reminds me of when I went to see “The Who” in London back in the early Seventies with Roger Daltrey singing “… errr … root ti toot ti tattoo too”.

We did have a few drops of rain too after about 15 minutes but it didn’t last all that long. Nothing at all to worry about.

jet blast st martin de brehal Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022Their finale was a rather low-tempo version of SOUL SACRIFICE, a long way from the original version.

What was interesting about this is that in the live version by Santana, there’s a very lengthy percussion solo. “Jet Blast” imitated that (to a certain degree) by not only the drummer but the guitarist and the bassist abandoning their guitars for some percussion instruments.

It was certainly a different way of performing it so hats off to them for initiative and innovation, even if it lacked the inspiration of the original. But then no-one can play Santana quite like Carlos Santana

jet blast st martin de brehal Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022They were on stage for about 90 minutes or so altogether and all in all I don’t suppose that it was too bad at all.

Everyone in the audience seemed to enjoy it anyway, some more than others.

Just for a change, I didn’t take too many photographs, but those that I took are ALL ON LINE

We managed to grab a table in a café afterwards and have a coffee and a chat. We made a few plans for some more trips out but all of that depends very much on how things develop with my health. I can’t plan too far ahead these days.

kite surfer Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo July 2022Later on Laurent drove me home.

Before I came in I went over to the wall at the end of the car park to see what was happening there and, being distracted by a kite surfer, I forgot to look down onto the beach.

Back here I had work to do. I went through and edited all of the photos and created the web page to which I referred to make sure that all of my images from today are on line. And then I set about transcribing the mountains of dictaphone notes.

I was at the top of Vine Tree Avenue in Rope Lane. There were a couple of people waiting for the bus. Just then Sweep, my grey cat, came and they started to call it names so I asked what was up. They said that it was mean because it attacked them. I picked her up and stroked her and asked them if she looked as if she was a mean cat that attacks people. They must have been mean to it to make it attack. We had a little chat about cats etc. Then I decided that I’d come in and I’d bring Sweep in with me. I brought her into my flat but she didn’t seem all that happy being indoors and wanted to go back out again. I was getting the impression that she was going to start on a kind-of new life somewhere that didn’t involve me as a human in it and I felt really disappointed by that.

Later on I’d gone to get a job in an office somewhere talking about car insurance. It was specialising in Ford Cortinas. The talk that I was given told me that I was going to be learning all about Cortinas even down as far as the MkII. I said that that was very nice but I owned my first MkI Cortina in 1974 … “actually 1973” – ed … and since then I’ve owned the lot and I have at the moment a MkII, 3xMkIV and 2xMkV. We had a chat about them. Then I went round to one of my garages because I had Cortinas dotted about all over the place in different garages and workshops. In one of them I had a couple of engines up on pallets but the pallets were uneven so I was looking for slivers of wood to even up the pallets. I was hunting around for ages for these, then I suddenly realised that in my workshop I’d have them where I’d been cutting wood. My workshop was open with hordes of people milling around inside it, all my tools and everything were in there. I went in and found a few bits of wood but by dismantling some kind of template that I had in there I found all the wood that I needed. There was a girl in there whom I thought looked quite attractive, a young girl. She came over to me and asked “didn’t you used to do the car boot sales for MENCAP?”. I replied “I was there driving a friend but I didn’t actually take part in the organisation or anything. I was certainly present”. She was telling me who she was there with and having a chat. I said “hang on a minute”. I was chewing on a piece of wood. “Let me take this wood out of my mouth”. She looked astonished. “What are you chewing on?”. I replied “wait a minute” and took these pieces of wood out of my mouth. I started to chat to her again and we had a nice friendly conversation.

I had an office at the back of a railway station on top of a railway line. I was doing some research into one of their locomotive engineers there. Something came up about this nationally so I offered to let someone have a look at my research. They seemed to think that I was in much more need of help myself because of all of the mess that I was in. I said that I was in a mess but it was all a question of organisation, not of facts. I collected a great many of the papers and it was just a matter of sorting them out but they were quite welcome to come along and refer to some of them while this was all going on.

There was something in there that they were going to be giving their workers fewer holidays and less paid time off and that sparked a walk-out of people from there.

There was something going on about computer programming. I can’t really remember very much but it was to do with people getting old and cars parked in the street restricting the flow of traffic but I can’t remember any more about this.

We (whoever “we” were) were at a motorcycle rally and someone’s motorcycle had broken down. We went to have a look at it and took the back wheel out which was no problem at all but it wouldn’t detatch from the hub housing. I left it on one side and had a look around the rest of the motorbike. In the end the driver admitted that what was happening was that it was the primary-chain tensioner had given up so I asked to know a way of adjusting the timing or getting a new chain and tensioner to fit. He explained that with these new-fangled motorcycles it’s not as easy as that and in any case you can’t just set the timing by eye even if you were able to change the chain and tensioner. It has to be done by some kind of celestial line-up that means that you have to take the motorcycle to either Mexico City or Moscow in order to set the timing. This is way beyond any technical capability I ever had so I could see that I was going to have to admit defeat before I started on this particular motorbike because there was no way that I had this kind of facility.

Finally I had a go at the music that I’ll be using in the radio programme that I’ll be preparing tomorrow, pairing it off ready for writing the notes tomorrow morning.

With all of everything that had been going on today I’d forgotten to take the dough out of the freezer so there was no pizza tonight. Instead I had sausage, beans and chips and that made a very acceptable meal. I also finished watching FAREWELL MY LOVELY which is one of the most powerful films that I’ve ever seen, up there in the same class as THE MALTESE FALCON and THE BIG SLEEP.

Now that I’ve finished my notes I’m off to bed. It’s an early start in the morning and I’ve plenty to do as usual. And then I have to summon up the courage to go to Leuven on Wednesday.

How I’m not looking forward to that.

Friday 7th September 2018 – AND THERE I WAS …

*************** THE IMAGES ***************

There are over 3,000 of them and due to the deficiencies of the equipment they all need a greater or lesser amount of post-work. And so you won’t get to see them for a while.

You’ll need to wait til I return home and get into my studio and start to go through them. And it will be a long wait. But I’ll keep you informed after I return.
***************

… lying on my palliasse wondering whether I ought to heave myself out of my stinking pit.

I’d had a really bad night. For some reason I was very sensitive to the engine noise. It was constantly changing pitch and consequently constantly keeping me awake all through the night and I can’t recall if I ever managed to drop off to sleep.

And as the 06:00 alarm suddenly started to sound, a voice shouted down the loudspeaker system “Polar Bears at 3 o’clock”.

In my half-awakened state I thought to myself that he’s a good few hours late with this announcement, but then it clicked and I grabbed the camera, dashed out of my room, bumped into a lady, she screamed so I dashed back into my room and put on my clothes and then dashed back onto the starboard beam.

At first I thought that it was two polar bears on the ice floe but as events unfolded, I noticed that there were three. A mother and two cubs.

Mum was in position by a seal hole awaiting breakfast, and the two cubs were in their snow-bank den waiting for mum to come back with the grub.

She was totally unperturbed by the passing of the vessel even though it would keep away the seals, but the thing about living in the Arctic is patience. Never mind the “Ohh God, give me patience. And hurry!” – I once heard a delightful story about a group of Inuit who went to the Arctic meadows on Ungava for some hay, found that the grass hadn’t grown enough, so they pitched their tents there and waited.

And this was exactly what mummy was doing, perched by the seal hole. Not pitching her tent waiting for the hay to grow of course, but you know what I mean.

The photos are unfortunately rubbish but then it’s with the Nikon 1’s light-hungry zoom lens in the half-light from a moving ship when I’m not even half-awake. What did you expect? David Bailey?

After taking a score or so of photos, I went back to my room for my medication and other stuff.

And while I was sorting out my laptop, it reminded me of last night’s later events. The bearing on the binnacle was 121°, so we are going in the opposite direction. 0° is North, 90° is East, and so we are heading more-or-less south-east right now, back down Lancaster Sound.

Breakfast was in company of a couple of travellers who seem to have taken a shine to me, and I’ve no idea why because I’m not usually the kind of person whom others like, and we had a really good chat about this and that.

Not about the other though. That’s a rather sore point right now the way that things are. I think that Strawberry Moose is having more luck than me in that respect.

Later I was up on the bridge admiring the pack ice away in the distance to the south, and looking at the beautiful scenery of this corner of Devon Island. I’ve no idea where we are going next, and I’m not convinced that the crew and the captain know either.

Mind you I did manage to speak to a member of the crew about the ship that I keep on seeing. Apparently there’s another ship – the Fram – that’s loitering around the ice edge waiting for a gap to miraculously appear;

We’ve seen several icebergs go drifting past, some of them extremely impressive but none more so than this one with a hole in the middle, like a floating polo mint.It’s apparently called a keyhole iceberg. The hole is caused by some kind of subterranean river in the glacier

And while I was photographing that iceberg I noticed out of the corner of my eye a ship away in the distance. This time, it was no problem in the light to photograph it at distance and to crop it down to see what it was.

It’s indeed a Canadian icebreaker of the kind that would be on stand-by duty around here to watch out for icebergs and also for ships that might risk running headlong into the pack-ice. There are several ships in the channel and also several communities that have not yet received their winter provisions, so with the seas icing up so quickly already, they will be in for a tough time if the icebreakers can’t open up a channel.

We had a couple of discussion session, several of which didn’t interest me very much so I didn’t take part in them, and the one on the story of Franklin’s expeditions and the Erebus and Terror stories, but I didn’t really learn all that much that I didn’t already know.

I did however manage to buttonhole the camera guy and we discussed the camera, the images and my technique.

He had a good look at everything and had a few things to say about it.

Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with my technique except that with it being a lightweight camera, I’m pressing too hard on the switch and making the camera shake at the crucial moment.

Secondly, the images come out the same on his laptop so it’s not a fault of my laptop,

As for the quality of the images, that’s as good it can be. So the fault lies in the camera itself. Not that it’s a bad camera, but simply that it’s not designed to do what I want to do with it and I’m pushing it to the limit of its technical capabilities and even beyond.

It was then lunchtime so I nipped off and had a salad. And to be quite honest I spent more time talking than eating. The yoga assistant is a big fan of 70s rock music so I’ve invited her to come and listen to some of the stuff that I have on my laptop.

It sure beats etchings, doesn’t it?

On a totally different tack, does anyone still remember our trip to Red Bay in Labrador
and the Bernier?

There’s a girl on board ship – one of the staff – called Bernier so I asked her what she knew about the ship. Nothing whatever, she told me, but she did know that there was a very famous Canadian sea captain called Bernier and one of the pages on the Canadian passport depicts him.

Another member of staff told me that Bernier (the captain, not the ship) worked in the High Arctic and it was he who actually claimed Bylot Island – which we will be passing – for Canada in 1906 and he had his crew carve something emblematic on a cliff face.

I’m writing this now because everyone else is outside looking at a bird colony. But as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, the only birds in which I have any interest won’t be found clinging to a rock in the High Arctic.

And this is a fine time for the battery in the camera to start to go flat, and we’re off out in an hour or so. I’ve had to bung it on charge and of course, it’s now that we’re starting to sail through the ice. Good job that I have the phone handy, although what the quality might be like is anyone’s guess.

But it actually worked out, because the sea was so rough at this point that the water in the heated pool was going everywhere except where it was supposed to go, and I was able to take a few videos of it.

The phone didn’t last too long though. There was a huge iceberg away in the distance – more like a large sheet of float actually – and the phone camera will never do justice to that, so I’ve had to go down and fetch the Nikon.

They are still trying to do their best to entertain us seeing as everything that is planned is falling apart. And so we had afternoon tea while we played a kind of game where we had to find out bits and pieces about each other. I sort-of took part in it in a half-hearted way because I’m not really in to being sociable as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

There’s a National Park at Tay Bay on Bylot Island which is on our route and it’s been decided that we will go for an evening ramble around there.

We needed a briefing from Parks Canada (done vitually) before we could go and, much to my surprise, we were first to leave the boat. I had to get a wiggle on to get changed into my winter gear, and then there was an almighty panic as I couldn’t find my badge.

Nevertheless I did manage to find it and we struggled ashore onto our beach where the perimeter of our walk was guarded by Polar Bear watchers.

Strawberry Moose enjoyed his ride in a zodiac and he made many new friends. Plenty of photo opportunities for him too.

Introducing new species onto an island here is definitely not allowed and there are no moose here. But I shall be wondering what scientists will be thinking when in 1000 years time they are analysing polar bears with antlers or moose in white coats with claws and teeth.

And for me. I had a good walk around to kill the time, which the cynic inside me tells me is the reason for this stop. There were some exciting views of all kinds of things – nothing that I found really interesting though.

There’s a tent ring on the shore but that’s believed to be contemporary and not historical.

As an aside, anything over 50 years old is classed as historical and so that includes a great many of the passengers on board the ship. Me especially. I’m feeling like 150 years old right now with the weight of the world resting on my shoulders.

And there were several icebergs of some beauty. I even saw the sun, such as it was, disappear down behind the mountains and that was fairly spectacular too.

But I do have to say that, much as I enjoyed the pleasant walk, I’ve come here to do much more than this and it’s leaving me somewhat disappointed.

One thing though really stuck in my mind. There’s a young Inuit boy – probably aged about 20 but then again what would I know – on board the ship and I’ve had many a chat with him. He comes from the area and he was pointing out some of the glaciers to me. he was saying that even in his short life the glaciers have receded dramatically and how he was fearing for his grandchildren.

He told me a story about how, even today, he will come over for a large lump of glacier to take home to melt down as water. This ice fell as rain thousands of years ago when there was no pollution in the air and so is as fresh and pure as anything that you might find. It makes the tea taste magnificent, so he said.

It was a wet ride back to the ship, with His Nibs safely inside his plastic bag. And then there was an enormous queue at the boot-washing station as someone apparently decided to do a week’s washing.

A hot shower and a wash of the undies was called for, and then I came down to tea. In a change to my usual habits, I have decided to mingle with different people at mealtimes and chat about different themes seeing as I seem to be stuck in a big rut right now.

And a good chat I had too. We talked about exchanges as students, Switzerland, the Northern Lights and primitive aircraft. All in all, quite an agreeable time and I shall have to do more of this.

It’s quite late now. We didn’t return to the ship from the shore until late and tea was thus even later. I’ll loiter around for a while and then wander off. I doubt that I’ll be around until midnight or later this evening. I need to bring at least some kind of semblance of order into my life.

One thing that has tired me out though is that I had a very emotional, disagreeable and stressful task to do, one which needs to be done and done quickly too before things take a turn in escalating out of hand.

Rather like MacBeth and his “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”.

This afternoon the opportunity presented itself so I bit the bullet and did it. The sooner I do it, the sooner it’s over.

It didn’t work out how I hoped that it would, but that would have really been clutching at straws. And in any case, it’s all my own fault for not listening to myself and all of my best counsels in the first place. Proverbs 19:21 is what I should have kept in my mind, isn’t it?

It’s not the first time that I’ve ended up in a mess like this. Far from it. Anyone would think that I would be used to it, but not at all. I fall into the trap on every occasion and it never turns out well. I always start off with the best of intentions, it all somehow goes wrong, I always end up saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong moment and it never ever comes out as I intend it to. In fact, usually exactly the opposite.

I am reminded of Sidney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon and “In the heat of the action men are apt to forget where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away” and it happens to me all too often.

I really shouldn’t be let out without a keeper. But then, who would want to be responsible for keeping me?

Thursday 1st January 2015 – HOWEVER DID THIS HAPPEN?

Yes, at 07:30 this morning, the alarm in here went off. I’ve had it switched off for over a week, so I’ve no idea what’s caused that to go off. And after an 04:00 finish last night, that was the last thing that I needed.

Never mind, I turned over and went back to sleep and that was how I stayed until just before 11:00.

After breakfast, I watched Stacy Keach as Mike Hammer in MURDER ME, MURDER YOU, one of Mickey Spillane’s detective films. It’s not the best of the hard-bitten private eye films – for that you are going to have to go a long way to find anything that will beat The Maltese Falcon or the Tony Rome films, but it was on sale with another Mike hammer film at a throwaway price in NOZ and I can say that I haven’t wasted my money.

Apart from that, I’ve had a day of rest today. I haven’t even cooked a meal. We have however had a beautiful Alpine day which had thawed out the taps so that I can at last isolate the front water butt and when I’ve emptied that I can change thr fractured tap.

I’ve had fire issues too. I tried several times to get the fire to light but to no avail. In the end I sorted out a pile of new wood offcuts and that managed to stimulate a reasonably healthy blaze.It seems that the wood that I brought in the other day is saturated and that’s not helping matters, to while I had a good blaze going with the new wood, I put some of the other wood in the oven to dry out. We’ll see what that is like tomorrow.

So Happy New Year to everyone. I wish you all for 2015 exactly the same that you all wished for everyone else in 2014.

Thursday 25th December 2014 – MERRY CHRISTMAS …

… to all my readers. And I shan’t make any wisecracks about the walls of the public conveniences on Crewe Bus Station because I say the same thing each year and you must be sick to death of it by now.

During the night I was in Rome being fleeced by an Italian shopkeeper, and having to sort out a few kids, some of whom were mine and the rest of whom were kids that I was looking after, and they were having a fight in a hotel room and the police had been called.

I was awake early this morning but managed to stay in bed until about 08:30 – I wasn’t in anything of a rush to leave my stinking pit as I’m sure that you can imagine. And after breakfast, I did precisely zilch.

I’ve watched a few films though. First up was The Mask of Dimitrios starring Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet. Lorre is one of my favourite actors and this film continues the joint roles that the two of them played in The Maltese Falcon. That’s a film that I can watch time after time after time, and having seen the Mask of Dimitrios, that will be the same.

I’ve also watched the first couple of Fantômas films. Louis de Funès is my favourite actor but occasionally he has a tendency to over-act and these films are not amongst his best. But still, I found a box set of the Tantomas films going cheap

I’ve not eaten much today either. I have plenty to nibble on so I’ve been attacking all of that. I even found a bag of Bombay mix from I don’t know when and that tasted wonderful.

And do you know what? It’s more of the same tomorrow. I’ve absolutely no intention of going anywhere or doing anything at all. Which is probably just as well as when I went out just now to take the stats, there was the start of a heavy frost. Everywhere is cooling down again and there’s snow forecast for Sunday.