Tag Archives: strawberry moose

Friday 22nd March 2024 – I’M NOT HAVING …

… much luck with my footfest this weekend. Cymru’s Under-21 match against Lithuania isn’t being streamed on a foreign carrier either tonight.

It’s just my luck, after last night’s stunning victory of the senior team against Finland following on from Cymru’s “C” team against England on Wednesday night. I was really looking forward to some football tonight. Watching Stranraer slump to a controversial 2-1 defeat to Elgin City on the swamp that is Stair Park was hardly any compensation

It’s been a really long time since I was at Stair Park – almost 50 years in fact. I was coming off the ferry from one of my trips to Northern Ireland when I saw crowds (well, perhaps not “crowds”) of people heading all in one direction, all wearing blue and white scarves. So I had to follow them to see what was going on, as if I didn’t know.

It’s so long ago now that I can’t remember who they were playing. Probably someone like Arbroath or Montrose or something. And as I don’t have my photos here from that period, I can’t even tell you the colours. But one thing that I can tell you is that the ground hasn’t changed one iota in that time. It still looks the same as it did back then.

Mind you, that’s a relief. The Taylor Report swept away many traditional football grounds and with football attendances in Scotland being what they are, we were left with far too many of these modern, soulless one-sided wonders with “room to build the other three sides when attendances improve”.

Yes, quite.

The problem in Scottish football can be summed up in two words, “Celtic” and “Rangers”.

Regular readers of this rubbish in one of its previous versions will recall that I stood outside Albion Rovers’ ground in Coatbridge where the average attendance was about 300 watching busload after busload of people wearing green and white or blue and white scarves all heading into Glasgow.

And then I was at Broadwood in Cumbernauld once watching a game between Glasgow Rangers reserves v Celtic reserves, both teams full of players that would have been a boon and an asset to any other club in Scotland. Rangers and Celtic had signed them not because they needed them but because they didn’t want any other club to have them and become a competitive threat.

And absolutely nothing whatever has changed, except that Albion Rovers have been relegated from the Scottish pyramid into the Lowland League. But as former Spurs manager Terry Venables once famously said, "if history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again"

However, I digress … "again" – ed

Last night was another one of those nights where I couldn’t tear myself out of my chair and into bed. It was something like 01:30 when I finally moved a muscle and set about doing my nightly chores. I’ve absolutely no idea what’s happening to me right now about this.

Anyway it was another really deep sleep like last night where I can’t remember a single thing until the alarm went off

When it awoke me I really was dead to the world and I had quite a battle to raise myself from the dead. They talk about “the quick and the dead” in Biblical terms but there was nothing whatever quick about it.

First thing was to check the blood pressure. 15.9/100, pretty similar to last night’s 16.0/10.1, taken when I was feeling rather stressed out trying to exert myself to go to bed. So what was winding me up during the night?

Anyway I wandered off into the kitchen to sort out the medication. I’m beginning to run low on certain things again – just supplies of a few of the tablets for a couple of weeks. I need to keep an eye on everything to make sure that I don’t run out.

Next task was to make the bread. And I put a lot of thought and effort into this lot and tried my best to knead it correctly, which is not easy.

After that I went for a good wash, scrub up and shave and all of that kind of thing, as well as washing to shorts that I’ve started to wear in bed. But I didn’t get as far as I would have liked because for once in his life the nurse was here early.

When he came in, he saw the bread buns slowly rising, said “oh look, bread!” and poked one, which promptly sank

He eventually managed to find a vein and extract some blood. And I’ve had the results already. The red blood count is slowly rising, which is no surprise given the amount of stuff they are injecting into me every Wednesday, but so is the carcinogenic protein. It should be between 59 and 104 and it’s increased from 267 to 275.

So if the red blood cells are increasing, what is the protein attacking? The answer is that it’s now attacking the platelets. They should be between 140 and 380 and they have decreased from 108 to 92. That would seem to indicate that the cancer is now moving into my bone marrow.

So what’s the next move going to be? Someone will tell me something in due course, I imagine.

Having switched off the heating in the apartment, I checked the bread again and it had risen really well and for once I was impressed, especially as I’m making hot cross buns on Sunday and I need some confidence and encouragement.

The bread baked perfectly too, lovely and soft. It made some really nice cheese on toast and there is bread for the next couple of days too

Later on today I went to pay the Property Taxes on my place in Canada. I tried for an age unsuccessfully to log into my bank account, only to discover that I was trying to access Scotia Bank Trinidad and Tobago rather than Scotia Bank Canada.

Once I’d found the correct bank, everything went really smoothly. I do like how easy it is to make payments and so on in the Canadian banking system

It’s not so easy making payments on-line in France to the French Government.

The French Government has at long last started a system of on-line payments where you can pay your bills via internet rather than sending a cheque. I went to set it up for me this afternoon, but it’s not easy.

The logical way to organise payments is to index everything by reference to a person’s identity card number, so you can log in, see your account, see what’s owing and pay it off all at once with just one payment.

Instead, everything is indexed by invoice number, so if you have more than one bill to pay, as I did, you have to log in more than once, entering all of your details, including card details, more than once, and it takes an age.

What makes life even more complicated is that it asks you to enter certain details from the invoices into certain boxes on the computer screen, and the names don’t correspond. You have to use some intuitive guesswork to figure it all out.

But what am I going to do about my place in Canada?

it was an inspired decision to buy it because all you need when dealing with Canadian administration is a Property Tax Assessment. I could open bank accounts, buy pick-ups, obtain insurance, have mobile phones, all of that, simply on production of a Property Tax Assessment and it eased my passage (if you’ll pardon the expression) around Canada.

But I’m never going to use it now and it’s just going to sit there with the apples falling off the trees year after year until the cows come home unless my niece goes up there to pick them up.

But while we’re talking about Canada … "well, one of us is" – ed … I wonder how Strider is getting on with his new owners. We travelled miles together, him, me and STRAWBERRY MOOSE. I hope that they are looking afer him.

And that reminds me – I told my niece to dispose of most of the stuff that was in there – tools, camping gear, expedition equipment and so on – but there was a Fender bass and amp in there that I used that I wanted her to keep for me. I need to think of a way of bringing them over here.

The cleaner came round this afternoon for her Friday cleaning spot, bringing my mushrooms and tomatoes with her. I retreated into my bedroom while she was here but I actually had a fall while I was in the bathroom. Luckily the chair was in my way and I fell onto that, otherwise it could have been nasty

There was some stuff on the dictaphone too, surprisingly. I had several Ford Corsairs in my drive last night. One of them was driven away and I can’t remember where it went. Someone else borrowed a set of my number-plates but hadn’t brought them back and I was becoming rather concerned about that. Anyway there was some more car-swapping that needed to be done. I had to bring another Ford Cortina into my drive. That was parked in Gainsborough Road so I had to go down there to it, start it and bring it back. That was a Safari Beige colour but I was thinking that if I were to paint it blue I could put on the number-plates that this guy had borrowed because they belonged to a blue estate. I could make a set of plates but what would be the position if someone saw both vehicles, mine and the one on which presumably the guy had put the plates, and noticed that there were two vehicles with the same set of plates? What would my neighbours say if I were to turn up with yet another car after I’d just had one taken away somewhere? I got into the Cortina Estate. The clutch was right down on the floor and it was difficult to start. I thought that I better hadn’t leave vehicles lying around for so long without actually starting them up otherwise I’m just going to make myself a lot of problems

This is something of a recurring dream, isn’t it, having Cortinas scattered all around the town. It’s just like in real life when I actually did, including a beige Cortina estate and a blue one too.

But swapping over number plates from one car to another? And VIN plates too? I look back on those years with amazement and wonder how on earth I managed to keep clear of some serious trouble. Six months at Her Majesty’s Pleasure would have been nothing. I had to stop and leave the country because those years were catching up on me rather rapidly

My excuse was though that when you are up to your neck in alligators, it’s hard to realise that you are really trying to drain the swamp. Taking drastic and rapid steps to solve short-term issues can lead to some really long-term problems further down the line.

It’s a surprise though having Ford Corsairs around the place for a change. I didn’t think that it would be too long though before a Cortina or two appeared.

So this afternoon I’ve chosen some more music for another radio programme and began to pair it off before tea but I ran out of time, mainly due to going away with the fairies for an hour or so. And miles away too, it has to be said.

But tea was lovely – the last Kale and Quinoa burger from Noz, and I’ll have to find a way of making those because they were nice, especially in breadcrumbs.

Last of the home-made mayonnaise too, although it might not have been had I used a more convenient container. Still, you live and learn.

However, the mayonnaise was an unqualified success. It was too thick and I’d used too much garlic, but those are minor problems. The principle was perfect and tomorrow, I’ll make some more, having learned from my first batch.

So what with that and making hot cross buns on Sunday it looks as if I’m going to be in for a busy weekend. And it’ll do me good right now because I seem to be doing too much of nothing right now.

So what else can I make while I’m at it? I shall have to pick Liz’s brains, and I’ll welcome any suggestions from anyone else too

But before I go, the story of my mayonnaise in the wrong bottle reminds me of that aerosol that came onto the market in the 70s. The publicity for it went something like "enough paint to cover 70 square metres of panelling"
And someone wrote underneath the advert "and enough propellant to get just about a quarter of it out of the can"

Saturday 16th March 2024 – AFTER I’D FINISHED …

… doing what I have to do in the evening I didn’t hang about and was in bed quite shortly thereafter. I don’t seem to be able to last the pace like I used to, especially if I didn’t have any sleep the previous evening.

But of course I have to admit that my bed is extremely comfortable. Seeing as I spend about a third of my life in it it went through some pretty rigorous tests, as in me lying down on every combination of bed and mattress that was on display in the IKEA in Caen.

The sofa too is extremely comfortable. That underwent the same series of tests and has been put to good use on several occasions when I have company, but that’s another story.

So last night I climbed into bed and that was that until the alarm went off at 07:00.

At that point I fell out of bed and went off in search of medication – the usual morning round of things designed to keep me going until we have the night-time’s helpings. 10 different types, and each one presumably treating the side-effects of the one that was prescribed immediately before.

In fact, as I take all of this medicine I’m singing to myself THERE’S A HOLE IN MY BUCKET because that’s exactly how I feel.

Having dealt with the medication I made the bread rolls for today and tomorrow and left them there to fester while I went and took down the puttees and rolled them up ready for the nurse. They are still wet but that can’t be helped.

When she came round she burst the blisters on my feet, put all the cream on everywhere and wrapped the puttees around my feet and legs. She’s told me that there’s no need to wash them tonight as they don’t seem to be soiling any, which is good news.

After she had left I checked the bread rolls. And for once in my life they had actually risen as I hoped that they might. I’m not sure what I did correctly today – I can’t recall doing anything any more different than I usually do and which up to now has proved to be singularly ineffective.

But anyway I had a lovely cheese on toast for breakfast which was really nice.

Back in here I checked the dictaphone and to my surprise there was actually some stuff on there. “Surprise” because for the first two dreams I remember nothing at all, which quite possibly explains why they seem to be a pile of gibberish. Anyway, There was something about being in a rock group in North Wales called Achmarchnad – “Supermarket”. We all spoke to each other in Welsh and I introduced the songs in Welsh too. We climbed up onto the stage and there was applause but when I began to announce what we were about to play plenty of people dashed off as though they were heading for the bathroom. I made some kind of comment about everyone going to the bathroom. They also turned off all of the microphones so I had to wait for someone to restart everything again before I could actually carry on. But I was dreaming in Welsh as I had to wait for these people to go as we all sit around here, phrases like that to the other members of the group.

Yes, there I was, dreaming in Welsh and presenting the music of a rock band. I’d give all that I own, and more besides, to be able to do that in real life. But as I have mentioned before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … dreaming in a foreign language is nothing new. Besides Welsh (which isn’t a foreign language of course) we’ve had dreams in French, Flemish and Spanish in the past.

It’s actually quite ironic really. Here I am, learning a language that I probably won’t ever speak, in practical terms, and yet during the night I’m speaking it quite fluently and can’t even remember a word of what I’ve said and could certainly never repeat what I said when I’m awake.

There was a story once about this – about some guy who had had a knock on the head and came back to consciousness speaking a language fluently that he had never learned or even heard before. I wonder if it’s some kind of similar phenomenon.

It’s a shame though that I’m no longer going to Leuven though. I enjoyed revitalising the Flemish that I learned when I lived in Brussels and was glad that I was able to put it to some use after all these years. I just speak it now sometimes with Ingrid.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed – when we had fully loaded our ambulance we were ready to leave and go back to current times but the ambulance hit a stone causing injury to Orly and someone in the back and we haul up and treat our injuries etc before we could head back and try to cross the border. Rooms were booked for us in a hotel a a place on the Welsh side of the river just before you cross the river into the English part …fell asleep here

The above two dreams I have absolutely no recollection whatever of them. As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … although I’m asleep when I’m dictating my notes, when I’m transcribing them I usually have some kind of very vague recollection of them.

But not those two. They mean absolutely nothing to me

Finally, I was doing something about the radio last night, recording all my programmes. I needed a tenth track. After much messing about I actually chose the track but when it came to using it to join up the rest of the music I couldn’t find it. I was searching everywhere but it just wasn’t there. The last time that I remember, it was still attached to a set of stereo headphones with the wires dangling everywhere but I couldn’t find it at all. When I awoke I was actually searching the bed for it.

But can you imagine it – searching for a digitalised audio file in the bed last night. Sometimes I really do shake my head.

This afternoon I’ve been a busy boy. Firstly, Rosemary rang me and we had a chat. Just a short one today – only one hour and three minutes. We’re losing our touch, that’s for sure. Whatever happened to the ones that used to go on for several weeks?

Then I’ve been working on my photos from Canada 2022, writing the notes for another big pile of stuff. I hadn’t yet fallen ill so I was still getting about and doing things, like ordering the sunroof for the only Ford Flex ever imported into Europe, and having fun with STRAWBERRY MOOSE.

The dramatic collapse in health is yet to come, and it will be interesting to see how the events of that period unfolded and led to a two-months stay in hospital and totally wrecked my health.

The stuff for a couple more days was completed and I could have done so much more except for a major crashing-out – another one of these total black-outs that last for several hours where it’s as if I just switch off without any warning.

Finally there was the football – Pontypridd United v Barry Town. Both teams are languishing near the foot of the table – Pontypridd due more to administrative errors than standard of play – but they will basically safe from relegation as heaps more woe and misery pile on Colwyn Bay and Aberystwyth below them in the table.

The league position of the teams was reflected in the play – scrappy and at times rather agricultural – but playing football in a tropical monsoon as they had this afternoon down in Pontypridd can’t have been easy.

The game seemed to go in spells. Firstly, Pontypridd would have a good five minutes and then Barry, and then Pontypridd again and so on. The result, a 1-1 draw, was probably about right.

If you want to see the rather one-sided highlights of the match, they ARE HERE

You don’t need me to tell you what I had for tea tonight.

That’s right – breaded quorn fillet with baked potato and salad. Those fillets really are nice and I’m glad that, at the moment at least, they are available in LeClerc’s on-line shop

“At the moment” because even over the short time that I’ve been using the service, I’ve noticed a few things that I would buy that have been withdrawn from the range and that is more than just a pity. It’s a tragedy

So now I’m off to bed, ready for my … gulp … 08:00 start so that i’m ready for when the nurse comes. Can you imagine that too – me having an alarm call at 08:00 on a Sunday? But I need to show willing

It reminds me of the time when a girl who I knew once said to me "will you awaken me at 08:00?"
To which I replied "What should I do? Knock on your door or give you a nudge?"
There were times when I wasn’t very popular.

But as yet an alarm call might be unnecessary. Where the nurse burst my blisters, every now and again (more “again” than “now”, as it happens) there’s a stabbing pain that goes right through me and if it doesn’t subside I can’t see me sleeping tonight.

However, I’m away to finish off what I need to do before going to bed. The last task for today will be to cover myself in boot polish and eat several packets of yeast. That way I’ll rise and shine in the morning

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"

Tuesday 27th February 2024 – I HAVE JUST …

… been flat-out on the chair for half an hour.

And that’s a shame because I have managed to keep going almost all day without feeling the effects

What’s particularly sad about it is that I’ve been a busy boy this afternoon too. My LeClerc delivery came and now the shelves in here are bursting with goodies. However, at the rate that I eat, the supplies won’t last long

It’s actually amazing how much food you need. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police who controlled the border between British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska in the Gold Rush days at the turn of the 20th Century wouldn’t let anyone pass into the gold-bearing areas without a ton of supplies for himself during the period when it was possible to work the streams up there.

As an aside, there’s someone in Western Canada who is still using her grandfather’s sourdough starter that was first begun by him as he set out for the goldfields over 100 years ago.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall my adventures with sourdough, when the sourdough would react when I wasn’t using it and then fail to react when I wanted it. I never got the hang of sourdough.

It’s like the ginger beer. For a few weeks that was interesting and then we had the explosion while I was away at hospital, and since then my visits have prevented me from restarting. Ginger beer is not something that you can leave on its own to ferment, as the TV in the lounge will testify.

That was another short-lived experiment – the television and the HDMI cable so that I could watch internet football on the big screen. The glass from the exploding ginger beer bottle saw to that.

That was quite ironic though – of the batch that I was making at the time, two bottles were bottles that I’d re-used after buying them full of lemonade, and the third was a specialist bottle bought from IKEA. And guess which one exploded.

What was even more ironic is that the specialist bottle cost €2:49 whereas the others cost €1:69 and were full of lemonade too.

In the bathroom now is a nice collection of these flip-top stoppered bottles that I’d buy, ready to use for ginger beer or kefir once I’d drunk the lemonade that was in them (and delicious it was too).

Anyway, I digress … "again" – ed

So, nice and early last night, I toddled off to bed and settled down to sleep.

Not for long though because in the middle of the night I sat bolt upright, wide-awake. And that was a surprise. I couldn’t wait to see if there was anything on the dictaphone that might correspond with it.

It didn’t take long to go back to sleep and I was deep in the arms of Morpheus when the alarm went off.

First things first – what was my blood pressure? 14.7/10.5, so it’s slowly going down. Last night it was 14.8/9.4. Looking at the figures from a week ago it’s quite a difference.

After the medication I went and had a really good wash and scrub up, and even washed the shorts that I wear in bed. Having called the cleaner down during the night after my fall a few weeks ago, I have to make myself sort-of presentable in case she has to come again, regardless of how I usually like to sleep.

Then there were the dictaphone notes. I started off with that girl – the youngest daughter of the woman whom I knew in the Scottish Borders and I can’t remember the girl’s name … "it’s “Beth”" – ed … Everyone was living in Caernarfon, somewhere out in the hills at the back. She was going out for the night so her father wrote a cheque for £50 for her so that she could make sure that she had a taxi back etc. He began to discuss the taxi prices. Someone said that it’s only £3:50 to go to the coast so it won’t be that much for going back but I was sure that it would be more. Someone mentioned something about excess charges if she swore at the driver etc. Her father said “perhaps I ought to have written the cheque out for £100 for you in that case”.

But that was quite a rum do, that affair on the Scottish Borders, and a lot of it went over my head because I didn’t understand the half of it, even though it was one of my bolt-holes in those days.

It had a terrible air of tragedy too. One of the young girls (not the one in the dream) who lived there took a year out after school to earn some money before going to University. She found a job in a supermarket that involved a 20-mile drive at some silly hour of the morning to work in her ancient, creaking Opel Corsa.

One night, a German tourist landed at Dover in his big, heavy Mercedes and drove all the way through the night up the M6 and M74, coming off at the very junction that this girl drove over.

Of course, in the small hours of the morning, a minor interchange onto a minor road, being overtired and being accustomed to driving on the right, the inevitable happened and the Opel and its driver never stood a chance.

Who will ever forget the events that followed

And then Zero put in an appearance, so welcome back Zero after all this time. There was a party taking place at Audlem so I went down to visit it with a friend. We’d been invited, and it turned out that Zero had invited me so of course I went. I took a present for her and a present for her mother. It was a big, modern detached house. We had to wait at the door to be formally greeted by Zero’s mother, we had to hand over our present to her and then go in. We were wandering around and someone came round handing out dishes of pasta and vegetable soup. They stuck a big dish of it in my hand. I couldn’t climb up the steps into the next room. I had to hand my dish to someone while I hauled myself up the steps bodily and then the person gave me back the dish. We went and found a place to sit down. There was some issue with his soup so he went off to find a spoon. I found a better place to sit and he came along to join me. There was some milk going round so even though it was 4% milk I had a drink. Then Zero appeared. I handed her present to her and STRAWBERRY MOOSE was just about to say something to her when I suddenly, dramatically awoke – and I mean properly awoke too.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that my subconscious seems to be erecting a barrier between my young lady-friends and me. Here’s another case where one of them makes an appearance and I awaken dramatically before I’ve had time for any interaction.

After that, I revised for my Welsh lesson, and that passed really well, although I have a feeling that I fell asleep at some point – I blinked my eye and they seemed to have moved on from where I’d remembered. Nevertheless, I was pleased with what I accomplished today.

My lunchtime apple was next, and then I sent off my order to LeClerc, which meant arranging the stuff in the kitchen so that there was space to put it.

It was a big order too and I’ve still not put everything away. But there were 2kg of carrots so most of the afternoon was spent washing, cleaning, dicing, blanching and freezing them. Shop-bought frozen carrots seem to be pumped full of water.

There was some time to write some more notes for the radio programme, and also to have a play on the guitar too. It’s been a while since I’ve had a good bash.

Tea tonight was a taco roll with some of the stuffing left over from yesterday. There’s plenty remaining for a leftover curry, and than reminds me that I have to make some more naan bread dough tomorrow as I’ve run out. I can’t have a left-over curry without a garlic naan to go with it.

So what’s planned for tomorrow?

Apart from the cleaner coming round, I don’t think that there’s anything on the agenda. I might be a quiet day for once.

There’s plenty to do though, and the postwoman has brought me more bills to pay. It seems to be all outgoing right now, and I can do with some incoming.

These days, there’s too much month left at the end of the money, rather like in the old days when, instead of being paid weekly, we were paid weakly.

During the Welsh class I told the story of how we were so poor once when I lived in that squat near Audlem that after dark we raided a farmer’s field and made a big potato and mushroom curry. A moth flew into it at a vital moment and we couldn’t extract it, and we were that hungry that we just stirred it in.

That was what being poor used to be like and I don’t want a return to those days. People talk about “the good old days” but to me, that was ice on the inside of the bedroom windows in the morning and grinding poverty. There was nothing good at all about it.

Deborah Oluwaseyi Joshua wrote "one day, you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide" and I suppose that to a certain extent, that’s true.

But that supposes that people want to survive. Far too many people are content just to sink further in, and that’s depressing.

For me, I’ll just be like Bhuwan Thapaliya who wrote in his poetry that "the older I get, the more I cherish the company of children. The children have no prejudices. They are what they are."

Monday 19th February 2024 – I HAD A …

… visitor last night. One of my favourite young ladies came to see me, and I even ended up waltzing with her.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Castor – since she turned her back on me and walked so dramatically to her ‘plane on that deserted, windswept airstrip in the High Arctic in September 2019.

Those three days were probably the most dramatic of my life but the World isn’t yet ready to hear the story. However, they were three days that changed my life for ever.

Samuel Gurney Cresswell, the British naval officer and painter who ha accompanied McClure on his trip into the Arctic via the Western passage, witnessed the frightening and dramatic brushes with death that the expedition had in the Ice and seen McClure change almost overnight from an ebullient, gung-ho cavalier to a frightened, timid mouse, wrote that "A voyage to the High Arctic ought to make anyone a wiser and better man"

My previous expedition ought therefore to have taught me a lesson, but the following year, as Kenneth Williams once said, "I was so far in that only my head was showing".

But be that as it may, for once I was in bed early last night, and isn’t that a change?

When the alarm went off, it took me quite by surprise and it was a real struggle to leave the bed this morning. Nevertheless, the blood pressure this morning was a mere 13.7/7.4 – and last night it was 45.4/10.4. It looks as if that blood pressure medication is slowly working on me.

It’s taken its time, that’s all I can say.

We had a little medication issue this morning. The chemist had to order a box of medication because she had none in stock. It didn’t arrive until this morning by which time I’d run out. My cleaner didn’t bring it round until this afternoon by which time it was too late to take it.

Back in here I transcribed the dictaphone note from the night. The cleaner came and awoke me this morning at 04:15. I don’t know why and I don’t know what happened but I was awake. I’d been with a rock group earlier. I’d been in and out but I’d been called back to play because the leader had died. We’d had a play and everything went well. We did this big concert which everyone seemed to enjoy. Afterwards when things had quietened down and people had left we all had a meeting to discuss events. They asked me what was my greatest feeling during this particular concert. I replied that it was a very personal moment. They all insisted and insisted, so after a while I was obliged to tell them

And then later on Castor was here! I was going round to drive a taxi for someone. It was quite a big family and they’d left me a pile of instructions. There was a taxi job to do from Stoke on Trent into Crewe followed by one from Manchester Airport. I had to fill the car up afterwards because he had an early morning job. I did the Stoke on Trent one and then went to Manchester Airport via Tarporley to go to see the girl whom I know there. From there, I went to Manchester Airport, fuelled up the car, picked up the passenger and came back to Crewe then carried on taxi-driving until it was time to go home. I cashed up and left the petrol receipt on the table as I usually did. Next day I went round to see how everything went and began to chat to one of his daughters, who was Castor. We had a really good chat until eventually she wandered off. I carried on doing what I was doing then on my way home out of the house I went into one of the bedrooms, which was actually outside and you went into it by a set of stairs and she was there with her younger sister teaching her to write. They were having something of an argument about how the “e” and the “s”, to make sure that there was no confusion. I watched for a while and then had a little chat to Castor. I said “maybe I’ll see you tomorrow”. She said “you aren’t coming this evening? as if to drive the taxi. I asked “why? Will you be here?”. She replied “no, I’m going to a party. I have to go to buy a dress at 17:00”. I asked about the party. It turned out that it was a grown-ups’ affair, not a kids’ affair and everyone would be there in formal dress, suits and ties, that kind of thing. We chatted about this for a while. In the end she looked me in the eye and asked “would you like to come with me?”. Of course I said “yes” so we we were there at this party and people began to dance. It was a waltz so I picked her up from her chair but she said that she couldn’t dance so I was there on the dance floor teaching her how to waltz with my arm around her etc.

The “girl in Tarporley” by the way was the one who wanted me to abandon Tuppence, my old black cat. But no-one comes between me and my cat.

She was a very anti-social cat who used to go to hide if anyone came to the house, but she set out to drive away that girl who was in danger of taking her place as mistress of the house.

With Nerina though, Tuppence didn’t have the opportunity. Nerina loves cats as much as I do and when she saw Tuppence the first time that she came to my house, it was “ohhh, a cat!” and Tuppence was in her arms before the poor cat had time to think about it

There is however quite a funny story involving a “first time” between Tuppence, Nerina and me, but it’s another one for which the World will have to wait for another time.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed I stepped back into that dream (so don’t let me tell you that I never step back into dreams that feature my three young ladies) and was dancing with Castor again, doing a waltz with her.

So after all this time, Castor puts in another appearance in my nocturnal voyages. Welcome back.

And dancing with her was the best that I could do. Still, it’s better than nothing at all. George Bernard Shaw allegedly said that dancing was "a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire" so I shall just have to be content with the perpendicular expression and leave the rest, if there ever is any more, for another time.

The saddest part though is how we parted. As I said, I couldn’t understand it until two years or so ago when I had to say goodbye to someone at an airport. And had I known how difficult it would be to leave someone, I’d have departed like that too (except that it wasn’t me departing, but never mind)

Some goodbyes have to be said like that. My suitcase wasn’t big enough to bring both her and STRAWBERRY MOOSE back to Europe.

Having dealt with the dictaphone (and there was more, but you don’t want to read it if you are finishing your meal or something) I made a start on the work for the day.

Not that I managed to go very far because Rosemary rang me with a problem with which she needed help. It concerned one of these on-line meeting programs, and what do I know about those? I did what I could anyway.

Ther’s talk that she and a few people from the Auvergne might come to see me soon. That will be nice. Not that I can do very much right now, but nevertheless I might be able to manage something, even if it’s just to sit in a car or a café and chat.

Having finished my chat with Rosemary someone else then wanted a chat and what with one thing and another (and once you start, you’d be surprised how many other things there are) it was quite late when I finally restarted work and I eventually managed to finish the radio programme that I started yesterday.

And then I was hunting down some more music that I need and eventually found it. Then I had to extract it, reformat it and re-mix it so that it’s suitable for broadcast. There are still a few more songs that I need for the next programme but I’ll deal with that tomorrow after my Welsh class tomorrow morning.

Going round and round on the playlist for the last couple of days has been Bruce Springsteen.

Just like Neil Young, his battles with depression have led to some really diverse music. There’s the very dark, moody, brooding NEBRASKA written when he’s in the pit, contrasting with the exuberance of some of the songs of BORN IN THE USA written when he was on the crest of a wave.

But all through his music is the spectre of the Failed American Dream. I was told once by someone with whom I used to work that "the USA is a great place to succeed, but a terrible place in which to fail". All over the USA there are the evident signs of failure and depression and much of Springsteen’s music is about those.

His song THE RIVER is probably one of the saddest songs of all as it follows the downhill spiral of Bruce Springsteen’s brother – teenage pregnancy, unemployment and despair. It sums up much of the hidden USA that’s never shown in the media.

"Down to the river, but I know that the river is dry". All his hopes and dreams are washed away.

But the track that I’ve been listening to is RACING IN THE STREET off DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN.

That’s a really sad track about two ageing men desperately trying to cling on to their long-gone youth while the wife of the singer, who was with him in his youth, now sits at home alone in despair.

It’s something that I’ve actually lived. Substitute “From the fire roads to the interstate” to “From the fire roads to the Trans-Canada Highway” and I’ve been there, done that, with various people.

As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … you could move the whole of southern New Brunswick into Tennessee and neither the Tennesseens or the New Brunswickers would ever notice the difference. Living there for months on end was in danger of turning me into a redneck.

But never mind that for a moment. Aren’t the lyrics "She stares off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born" some of the saddest lyrics you have ever heard?

Tea tonight was a stuffed pepper. And really delicious too with the stuffing made of couscous. That was a good invention, that was and I’m glad that it worked so well.

So now I’m off to bed, to sleep and have pleasant dreams. And hopefully Castor will come back to me again, although it’s unlikely.

While we’re on the subject of Springsteen … "well, one of us is" – ed … in “The River” you probably heard him sing "is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?" I can answer that question.

And that is that it’s something worse. My dreams don’t ever come true and I’m never likely ever to dance a waltz with Castor. I won’t ever see her again in real life.

But not to worry. Gene Kelly said "you dance love, you dance joy and you dance dreams" and I shall just have to dance the dreams, that’s all. Remember that Neitzsche said "those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music", and I’ve always been able to hear the music

That’s what’s kept me going.

Sunday 18th February 2024 – MY HOME – MADE …

… vegan mayonnaise worked to absolute perfection and if I can do it like that every time things will be great around here

It’s slow and time-consuming, but the results are well-worth it, and it’s another good reason for having bought my food processor at the end of last year.

The end of last night was rather a mess. I didn’t go to bed until well after 02:00, but that was after dictating two radio programme notes though. And as usual these days, they are a real mess and will take a lot of editing down to make them sound any good.

However that wasn’t a problem for last night. Being half-asleep I hauled myself off to bed

And it was a really good sleep that I had too. When I pulled my head out from under the covers and checked the time, it was 11:55. A good sleep indeed

When I eventually rose from the Dead, it wasn’t 11:55, I’ll promise you that. But there was the blood pressure to take – 17.4/10.6, surprisingly similar to last night’s 17.6/10.0

After the medication I went into the bathroom and put the washing-machine on the go. There’s my bedding and plenty of clothes that need attention. The bedding in particular could do with a really good hot wash.

Then I came back in here to check the dictaphone. I was sleeping solidly when I awoke with a start. Somebody pointed to me saying “this piece goes under the yellow”. It was someone from the hospital. They were trying to put something in the bed underneath the blanket but STRAWBERRY MOOSE was in the way. I went to help them but awoke instead. It seems that there had been a football team playing in a football league. It was one of these leagues where they had physical plans like musculators for the legs and things like that permitted. I was signed up to play and I had my legs all strapped up so that the bits of me that weren’t working were protected but the bits of me that were working were active so I joined this team and played n°s 5 to 11. I mostly played in attack. I remember two people saying that if I have as much more luck in attack then they’ll be conceding goals in the other team’s attack and I should be absolutely great, obviously referring to my periods in hospital. Instead, after a few days I demanded some annual leave so that I could clear out my bus and the shed where I’m living and clear out the dirt of my café. I was granted a bus and went to change it. I noticed from the change that this was a priority, not an ordinary run-of-the-mill school bus so I rang them up to find out about it because this should never have gone on a trip like this with me but kept in reserve until it was needed.A t the reserve they told me that it was all mine if I was careful so I put most of my things in and went back to prepare for leaving.

And that was rather confusing.

Later on I went to the hospital. The prescription was for double the treatment to my legs, i.e. double the injections and everything down there. On the way home I stopped and thought. There was a shop that was selling St Bernards and Alsatians. I thought that seeing as they were already in and around the farm somewhere so I might as well … fell asleep here … I knew that having a twin tailpipe was going to cost me twice as much in fines as having that single tailpipe just now but I thought that it was well worth it because of the difference in performance and difference in layout and well-being of their house, it would be much better this way

Here I am, having a dream within a dream – that’s an interesting concept. DENNIS WHEATLEY in his Satanist collection of books has his hero travelling between various levels of dreams within dreams but so far, I’ve only managed the two levels.

That’s complicated enough. I shudder to think what it would be like by the time that you arrive at your eighteenth or nineteenth

I was fast asleep just now dictating to nothing and I can’t remember now but it concerned our final match of the season, at the end of April against another Bangor team. We had all the support so we should overcome them quite easily but I mentioned the fact that the other team in Bangor now, mine was so much better with this new steering and I did a really good series of turns with it on the road to Amlwch. I was delighted with it and that I’d spent the money on it having it done

That sounds like something else where there’s a bit missing out of the middle. I wonder where it went

And finally I was with a friend from University (yes, I did have some) last night. I’d been absent from work for a while and was retiring on health grounds. She and I bumped into each other somewhere and ended up having quite a nice chat. She asked me about what I was doing so I explained. She said that I’d been very much missed in the office with people sending me their regards etc. Before I retired I had some kind of relapse and was not doing very well at all. She said that she’d asked someone how I was. They said that he seems to be OK but he’s gone a little wild these days. I thought that that was a pretty good description. She filled me in with all the news. I began to explain about things that I’d been doing before I retired and the office was going to be in quite a shock because I was doing so much. I had all these meetings arranged including one on the day that I was supposed to be retiring and no-one as yet has approached me to ask me how they are going to be covered. As far as I was concerned they aren’t going to be covered at all and I couldn’t care less. She was surprised at my attitude because she thought that I was going to leave thousands of ordinary people sitting around with less money than they ought to have. In a way she was right but I was just up to my ears in anger, I suppose, and I just couldn’t wait to leave that office and leave them with all kinds of complications that they’d have to sort out. maybe then they’d realise just how much work I was doing in that place.

It’s quite strange really. Before I retired I did take off some time as sick leave. And I counted – three different drivers rang me up about different aspects of the job that I was doing. In other words, it took three people to replace me.

But what was quite funny there was when I made a suggestion about how things might be improved. I was told “what do you know about this kind of work? ” by the guy in charge.

So on the way home I stopped at the stationer’s and bought some cheap A4 picture frames. And next morning as the guy in charge watched, I hung up my framed couple of Taxi Owners’ Operators Licences from Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council and from Congleton Borough Council, my framed copy of my Certificate of Professional Competence to Operate a Fleet of Coaches in the UK, and my framed copy of my Certificate of Professional Competence to Operate a Fleet of Coaches in Europe – the latter two being issued by the European Union .

Having done that, I asked him if he needed to see anything else, Strangely enough, he never said anything to me again after that.

In most jobs these days though, they have taken to sending home on the spot people who hand in their resignation. It was much more fun in the old days when you could plant time bombs in your working routine to go off after you’ve left, like asking 12 people to come in for an interview at exactly the same time when you know that there will be only four officials present, or booking 12 coach jobs simultaneously when the company has only 5 coaches.

You could spend hours thinking up imaginative and inventive time bombs to confound, confuse and demoralise an antagonistic employer.

All of the above was interrupted by brunch – porridge, strong black coffee and my cheese on toast. At the end of the day I wasn’t too discouraged by the bread. It still tasted nice with bread, cheese, tomato and onion.

Once I’d finished the dictaphone notes it was time to make the mayonnaise.

  • 120ml of soya milk was whizzed around until it began to thicken
  • Once it started to become thick, add a teaspoon of wine vinegar and also your flavouring, like garlic, tarragon, sea salt, lemon juice, chives, diced onion
  • Whizz that lot up for 30 seconds or so
  • Scrape around the sides and base of your whizzing bowl to free off anything that is stuck to it and then whizz again for 10 seconds.
  • Start up the whizzer and while it’s whizzing add 240 ml of vegetable oil drop by drop by drop.
  • Once about a third of the oil has been added, you can slowly increase the speed at which you are adding it
  • Scrape around the sides and base of your whizzing bowl to free off anything that is stuck to it and then whizz again for 10 seconds.
  • Put it in a pot in the fridge

It takes an age adding the oil drip by drip and it’s quite uncomfortable holding the container. I will have to think of a work-around to make it easier. Some kind of plastic container maybe with a pin hole at the bottom perhaps

Back in here I started with the radio programme, one of the ones where the soundtrack was recorded a while ago but not yet edited. And by the time that I’d knocked off for tea it was almost all ready. The final, 11th track has been chosen and remixed, and I just have to write, dictate, edit and assemble the notes that go with it and then assemble it.

That will be tomorrow morning’s job.

There were a few interruptions. For a start … "or for a finish" – ed … the washing machine finished its work and I had to hang out the clothes. And this little trolley really is worth its weight in gold being pushed around the apartment by my crutches, with all kinds of different things on it.

After lunch I’d taken out some pizza dough from the freezer and by 18:00 it had defrosted so I could knead it again and roll it out onto my pizza tray.

After it had stood for an hour or so I went back, assembled the pizza and then baked it. And it’s not denying that it was one of the best that I’ve ever made. Everything about it was just about right tonight.

So that’s all that I’m doing today. Despite Sunday being a Day of Rest I’ve really been quite busy, and like the Duke of Wellington said after the Battle of Waterloo, "I don’t think it would have been done if I had not been there".

Right now I might actually go to bed if I can summon up the energy to do so but I dunno. Maybe I should remember the words of baseball coach “Yogi” Berra and "If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there"

Sunday 11th February 2024 – MY VEGAN SAUSAGE …

… rolls are not quite the success that I was expecting.

Either the sausage filling has expanded during cooking or the pastry that I used has shrunk, but they have come apart where I thought that I’d joined the pastry, so there’s a slit up the middle

But we live and learn, hey? Rome wasn’t built in a day. I shall just have to have more practice with this rolled-up puff pastry stuff.

While we’re on the subject of thinking … "well, one of us is" – ed … I had plenty of time to think while I was in bed last night.

It might have been 02:00 when I finally staggered off to bed but when I opened my eyes this morning and looked at my fitbit the time was 11:42. That’s much more like a respectable time to awaken on a Sunday

As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … I’ll get up at any time you like six days per week without a problem (well, in principle anyway) but on Sunday don’t call or message me on a Sunday unless …

  1. … the building is on fire
  2. … the fire brigade is in the building trying to fight the flames
  3. … and the firefighters have given up all hope

So 11:32 was when I opened my eyes. That is of course not to say that 11:32 was the time that I left the warmth and comfort of my bed.

When I did raise myself from the dead I took my blood pressure. 17.8/9.9, a little less than last night’s 18.9/11.2. The hospital asked me to collect all these readings but no-one has told me what to do with them.

After the medication I transcribed the dictaphone notes from the night. The game of rugby was invented in the late 19th Century and what we know about everything of the game dates from 1915 when they abolished the machines that surveyed the touchlines as humans did it, on the grounds that when there was a human call that differed from that of the machine it sounded as if the integrity of the sport was all wrong. Of course not everyone had a machine * it was only a few clubs so it was why these differences in calling in just a few clubs was quite different between the males and the machines on several occasions

And I’ve no idea at all what that’s all about

Later on I was out somewhere. I’d had a lot of money given to me as a discount for something. It was exactly the same price as a large teddy bear so I had the large teddy bear instead. I carried it around with me for a short while. Then I had to go off to do something else so I put the teddy bear in the common room by the entry into my daughter’s school – my daughter might have been Roxanne. Later on my partner and I had to go to pick up Roxanne from school. When we did I told her that she had this new friend. When I explained that it was too large to bring home we’d have to bring it home another time. I explained to her where it was. She asked his name but my mind went a total blank. I’d given it a name when I’d bought it but I just couldn’t think of it at the time of this dream.

It goes without saying that STRAWBERRY MOOSE can see himself in part of this, but no-one who has seen Sid James and Peter Butterworth in CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER won’t eve rforget his name.

Finally, we’d been to Munich and ended up staying in a hotel – one of these hotels where the staff is extremely superior etc. I found the hotel to be quite reasonable and didn’t have an objection to coming back here again but one of my friends didn’t like it at all. I couldn’t understand why. When we were cleaning the rooms ready to leave we came across all kinds of things like envelopes, photography paper etc in a kind of welcome package that made the deal even better but one of my friends said that he wouldn’t stay in this hotel even if they gave him a printer that he could sell to have his money back. I was really puzzled as to why. I tried to ask him but he was quite evasive about his replies. I didn’t know how the situation could advance if he wasn’t going to answer correctly. I found the hotel to be good value and quite reasonable. I’d be really happy to return here.

This is an argument that I’ve had on quite a few occasions. When I look at the comments on some of these booking websites and see what people have written, it bewilders me. I’m usually on the budget plan when I’m travelling and I don’t expect there to be much in the way of facilities for the money that I want to pay.

It seems to me that some people expect to pay bus fare but travel in a Rolls-Royce the way that some of these comments go.

There was that dreadful motel in Flagstaff in Arizona where I stayed 20-odd years ago but it was the cheapest motel that I could find so I wasn’t complaining.

That was the time that I was attending a Biodiesel course in Colorado and then going down to pick up up a couple of wind turbines in Flagstaff.

Knowing how things worked, I paid a credit to my credit card supplier and also told them where I was going and where I was going.

However after picking up the wind turbines and paying for them, I went to fuel up the Mustang only to find that my credit card was now blocked for “unusual spending patterns”, despîte having told them.

And so I had to rely on the small amount of cash that I had on me until next morning when I could telephone the bank and have the situation resolved.

In those circumstances, you don’t complain about the quality of your accommodation.

However, it’s these kinds of things that teach you a few lessons. I now have three credit cards from three different banks in three different countries.

That kind of thing can lead to some kind of excitement. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall MY STAY AT THAT MOTEL IN FARMINGTON, MAINE where I was asked to prove my identity so I produced …

  • Identity – British passport
  • Proof of address – French Driving Licence
  • Vehicle registration – New Brunswick plates
  • Mobile ‘phone – Québec number
  • Payment – Belgian credit card

That’s the kind of thing that will keep them occupied for a while.

After lunch I dealt with the radio programme for my Hawkfest. That was a really complicated thing to assemble and took me well into late evening before it was up and running. And up and running it is too.

Much to my surprise, considering that I was working it inside-out and all at once instead of doing as I usually do and adding the final track later, it was just 13 seconds too long. That kind of editing is no problem at all and it was soon down to one hour in length.

There was a pause while I made the dough for the next few pizzas. And I don’t know why but the dough rose up like a lift, quite the opposite of my cannon balls from the other week. So why can’t I make my bread rise up like this?

While it was rising, I was making the stuffing for my sausage rolls. The vacuum-packed chestnuts worked perfectly with mushrooms and in principle it all went very well indeed

The final result was maybe less than I was expecting but you can’t win a coconut every time. They’ll still freeze nicely and finish off quite well in the air fryer with a portion of chips and some baked beans.

The stuffing tastes rather sweet to me but I suppose that it’s meant to be like that.

There was enough stuffing left to make a kind of burger or patty so I’ll fry that and have it with a baked potato at some point in the near future.

The pizza was absolutely perfect. The dough was lovely and soft and crumbly, and I remembered the cherry tomatoes this week.

So all in all, a busy day today and one that was quite successful. I accomplished a lot today.

Those chestnuts will be on the menu again now I know where they can be found, so my cooking will go up another notch. I have plenty of vegan recipes where chestnuts are an important part of the recipe.

A few more busy and productive days like this will be really good, but it won’t be next week. Monday and Tuesday I have this Welsh course, and then on Wednesday I’m off to Paris for my important meeting with my specialist.

THis is where we’ll decide what happens to me in the future. Will they still deal with me? Will they abandone me? Will they refer me to a hospital closer to home?

But what does it really matter? As Jacqueline de Bellefort once said, "one must follow one’s star, wherever it leads – even to death itself."

But I shan’t be dying alone and unloved. At least the French medical service seems to care about me to some degree – probably just until I’ve paid these bills that I owe them.

Friday 2nd February 2024 – JUST FOR A …

… change, I’ve had a very quiet day today, with little in the way of interruptions.

In fact, apart from my cleaner coming in to bring me my mushrooms and to start this extra hour per week on deep-cleaning the place, that’s been about it

There were however two telephone calls from the hospital. One was asking why they hadn’t had the blood test results. Had I had the blood test and did I have them.

The answer to both questions was of course “yes” so I sent them off to them

The second conversation was much more useful. “You don’t need to take this anti-potassium stuff”. That’s what I call good news. I hated that stuff and the effect that it had on me.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … office after I’d finished last night’s notes, taken my blood pressure, had the night’s medication and so on I came back in here and played the guitar.

Bashing out quite a few tunes it was quite late when I finally crawled into bed.

No-one around to awaken me either. Just Billy Cotton on the alarm as usual and that was that.

Just after I’d finished my medication and stuff like that my cleaner stuck her head in the door (I’d forgotten about this one). Was it just mushrooms and what about the anti-potassium stuff? Has the new prescription arrived?”

“Yes and no”.

So she went off to do her work and to the shops on her way back home and I came in here.

Then I went back out again. I’d forgotten that I hadn’t made the weekend’s bread so I had a very pleasant hour or two making some bread rolls.

But once again, no danger of the dough rising very much. You can use these things for cannonballs they are so heavy. Bread is supposed to be light and airy and I’ve no idea where I’m going wrong but no matter what I do, the dough doesn’t seem to want to rise.

But still, the toasted cheese sandwich was very nice even if it was rather heavy on the stomach.

Then I came in here to transcribe the dictaphone notes, of which there were more than just a few. I was married and had a little cottage somewhere with my wife. We were both young. It was in rural France somewhere, in the depths of it. Just a little further down the road was another house that was quite old and had been abandoned. A single woman had bought it. She seemed to be slowly doing up the inside of the house although the outside of the house was a total mess and swamp. You needed wellingtons any time of the year to go to her front door. One day she came over and told us that the inside of the house was finished and was ready to start work on the outside, which would be good news for everyone. A short while later I needed to know something so I thought that I’d go over and ask her. I waded my way through the swamp and went to the front door. I knocked on it and when she opened the front door I noticed that all the inside was a total mess again. It was still far from finished. This went on, that every time she came over to out house and told us how her house was going on, it was finished inside. Every time I went over there it wasn’t. On one occasion she had some post for me and was going to hand it to me. I made sure that I stood away from the door so that she’d have to come out. She did, and handed me three envelopes. She’d crossed off the address on the front and scrawled our address on the back in black biro but in huge untidy letters. I thanked her and left. This was something that was totally bewildering me and my wife – why it was that every time she came over to us her house was finished yet when we went over there it wasn’t. It was as if there was some kind of magic or mysterious power gripping everything that was causing all this problem and her house was somehow possessed, or maybe she was.

People using magical or mystical powers during my dreams is exciting, that’s for sure

Back into this dream later. For some reason I received a message on my telephone. Instead of the usual telephone message it was another message alert sound that went off with the Monty Python “what is it, my good man? Do you have a message for me” sound. That bewildered me. We seem to have made it into some kind of big time with my guitar and her violin. My wife and I made it onto this folk circuit that was managed by this guy who used to do festivals. It looked as if the two of us would be doing festivals every summer which was very good news indeed. But we were still puzzled by this message that went off first thing after I’d gone back to sleep just now

And when the World is ready to hear it and the Statute of Limitations clicks in, I’ll tell you all a story about that

And while we’re on the subject of stories … "well, one of us is" – ed … that story that I told yesterday about the Byrds and SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO. It seems that I’m not the only one who likes the album.

Grahame sent me a “thumbs up” for mentioning it. I’m glad that it’s on your playlist too. It really is a most extraordinary album and well worth a listen

If anyone else wants to write to me, please feel free to do so. There’s a “contact me” button on the bottom right. Just be aware that if you’re writing to me on a Gmail address then it will be STRAWBERRY MOOSE replying to you.

Another reminder that, if you haven’t read the notice in the sidebar to the right, I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on one of the Amazon links in these pages and subsequently order something via that link, I receive a small commission from Amazon. It doesn’t affect your purchase price but the commission helps me pay some of the costs of hosting these pages so it’s quite welcome.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed a friend and I were working on someone’s house. We were tiling the work surface in the bathroom. He’d already made a start but was having a lot of trouble. When I came to join in to carry on I looked at what he was doing and asked him if he’d started from the back or started from the front. He said that he’d started from the back so I told him that normally you’d start from the front and work backwards. After some complainin ghe took up what he’d put down already and made a start. I had to cut a tile so I used the small angle grinder with a cutting disc on it. Someone else came over to me and asked how good I was at cutting tiles. I said that I could cut L-shaped bits out but I wasn’t any good at any fancy work. Anyway he brought a tile to me and asked me if I’d cut a piece out of it so that it would fit around the sink somewhere in another job that was being done in the house. I said “fair enough” and cut out this piece and it actually worked.

Can you imagine it? me with a delicate touch with an angle grinder? I ask you!

Finally, in our building we had a bunch of kitchen assistants who were a really good laugh. We also had a colleague who was extremely tight with his money. He’d pick up the offcuts of carpet that we’d sold and sell them, and at strange prices like €19.83 or €20.41, something like that and I’ve no idea why. I’d been away from work for a while on holiday. I’d come back and it was break-time, and I’d found myself in the lift with this guy so we went down together. When we reached the bottom the door wouldn’t open. Jokingly I told him “well perhaps we’re out of linoleum and it’s €12:43 so that we can leave”. We heard someone at the other side of the door so we shouted “go on! Get this goddam door open!” in a voice of, like, impatience. Eventually the door opened and it was the two cleaners. In a kind-of mock anger one of them said “trust it to be you to give grief to people who are trying to solve questions about your sport and have them correct” so we made up and she asked me how my holiday went.

It wasn’t the kitchen staff with whom we had the best time. It was the staff in charge of dealing with the rubbish. They were a good bunch of guys and we always had a laugh and a joke with them.

They would always let us look through the skips and on one occasion I salvaged a complete computer and monitor that had been binned.

When I brought it home and got it to work I found to my delight that the operating system was GEM – Graphics Environment Manager, the forerunner to Windows. One of the languages in which I’d learnt to program was GEM (T223, anyone?) so I had loads of fun playing around with it

But that was all a long time ago of course.

This afternoon passed so quickly and I can’t think why. I wrote out most of the notes for the next radio programme and there are only a couple to do now, but I can’t think where the rest of the afternoon went.

But I’ll tell you where it didn’t go. No anti-potassium stuff so despite feeling tired, I haven’t crashed out today. And that’s a novelty. I wonder if I can keep that up or is it just luck and there’s another medication causing the problem.

Tea was air-fried chips with vegan salad and the last of that pile of vegan nuggets from Noz. The freezer is emptying rapidly now and I really do need to think long and hard about making burgers, baking pies and the like. I reckon that it’s time.

Then after a quite chat with Liz and a write-up of my notes I’m ready for bed. And quite right too. I’ve had far too many late nights just recently and I’m beginning to get a stiff neck.

It’s not because I’m sitting in a draught or anything like that. It might be in anticipation of one of my favourite visitors during the night and I haven’t swallowed the Viagra quickly enough

Sunday 21st January 2024 – TODAY HAS BEEN …

… another one of those days where I have emulated my namesake and done three fifths of five eights of … errr … nothing.

And that’s hardly a surprise. In between my leg and this blasted stuff to cure this excess of potassium, I’ve not been in any fit state for anything at all.

While we’re on the subject of this anti-potassium stuff … "well, one of us is" – ed … after taking the stuff last night I stayed up to see how long it would be before it overwhelmed me if I tried to fight it.

It’s as well to know these things, I suppose.

So I stayed up, and up, and up, and fought, and fought, and fought, but by 03:30 I was well and truly done and I crawled off to bed as best as I could.

It was round about 10:50 that I finally awoke, and that’s no sleep at all for a Sunday.

And I had a head like lead too. I don’t know what’s in that stuff and I really don’t think that I want to. But it really is the pits, as John McEnroe would say.

So having made it out of bed and dressed, I staggered off into the kitchen for the next batch of medication, and then back in here it took a good while for me to come back into the Land of the Living.

Once I’d gathered my wits, which, seeing as I have so few these days, takes much longer than it ought, I sat down to listen to the dictaphone to find out if I’d been anywhere during the night. I was living in Wistaston last night with a group of people last night and had to go into Crewe. I set off on foot and I went down to the end of our road which was a dead end, and found that the obstruction had been cleared away and we could walk through. I carried on walking and ended up in Crewe on Brookhouse Drive. I thought “this is going to be convenient if they leave this footpath open like this without the obstructions that they’d had before. I went to do my shopping and then came back and announced to everyone “do you know what they’ve done? They’ve moved the obstructions from down the road now so that we could walk through”. Someone made some kind of remark and my mother showed me an article in the newspaper about how they’d now created a road between Wistaston and Shavington. “I suppose that that’s it” she said. Reading the article I thought that it looked like it. That’s bad news because they would be building apartments or something like that alongside and there’s a little more greenery gone so I was disappointed. I mentioned it to a couple of people but they weren’t sympathetic at all. One of them was certain that apartments would be built and thought that it was a good thing. In the meantime there was some more school to attend that morning. It was Saturday morning and I had my music lessons. My mother wrote out a shopping list. I asked “do you want directions to this new street?”. “No” she replied. You’ve been there once, you’ll know it now”. She put 2 extra streets on this list and handed it to me. It was just like the usual shopping list with these 2 extra streets on it. I set out and halfway down I came to some kind of yard like a school yard. There were people playing so I went in. Somehow I ended up on my knees so I walked on them instead. When I was inside I met a guitar teacher. He had a girl whom I knew with him. She was about 10. I said “hello” to her because I knew her. I had a look around the yard and then I left. I said to her “not going to music school today, are we?”. She asked “why not?”. I explained that it would be 10:00 soon and it’s a long way to go. She said “it’s only 5 minutes and it’ll take me less time because I’m not on my knees” which I thought was rather insulting but never mind. I smiled and laughed with her. I set off on my knees on my travels down this new footpath thing. There were many people on it. I thought that it was looking like the M6 on a Friday afternoon these days.

Yes, I know. My family yet again.

Mind you, I had better luck next time. I was with my Dutch friend. She’d come to visit me in the Auvergne. We were talking about all of our friends because she was now living in a commune. She mentioned someone who had transformed a cellar there into a small apartment. It sounded really interesting so she asked me if I’d like to go. We went along and had to climb down these steps. It was really nice, what he’d done. It was very small but everything was well laid out to make the most of the space. I was quite impressed. He didn’t have very much in there so I said to him “it’s rather Mies van der Rohe, isn’t it?”. he didn’t understand the significance so I said “you know – less is more”. He said “yes, certainly”. He had a friend down there who was caulking the joint between the skirting board and the wall, doing a good job of it. It really looked quite nice. My Dutch friend and I ended up back in the main house again. I said that I’d come to see her in a couple of days. A couple of days later I set out from my house. I was nearly hit by a car reversing out of a driveway. He pulled away but I overtook him and carried on. He was behind me for a while but then disappeared. I turned up at my friend’s with an old denim jacket that I wore occasionally. I’d mentioned earlier to her about embroidering it. She’d agreed to do it so I had it with me. My friend and I ended up in bed together but it wasn’t a sexual thing, just lying there talking. She said “I can’t pay you, except maybe for an afternoon or something like that”. I said “you don’t owe me anything. There’s no need to pay me anything at all. Let’s just stay here and be comfortable

With a little voyage like that, what would you do when you had read all of the notes. I gave her a ring and said "I dreamed about you last night."
"Did you?" she asked.
"No" I replied. "You wouldn’t let me"

And Mies van der Rohe – there’s a name to conjure with. He was a director of the Bauhaus, the modernist school of architecture in Germany and after the excesses of the Victorian period of architecture, pioneered the idea of minimalism in design and construction with his famous slogan of "less is more"

The ghastly buildings of the immediate post-war period prior to the arrival of the even more horrific Brutalist movement of the 60s and 70s can be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of Mies van der Rohe and his fellow crew of Bauhaus barbarians

Having finished the dictaphone notes I went off for my porridge, cheese on toast and strong, hot, black coffee. I’m back eating again after the last few days that I mentioned when my appetite went for a while.

However, having said that, I’m not sure how long I’ll continue eating because I’m in total agony every time that I try to stand up and try to move, with this perishing leg. I really have done it a major mischief but a scanner and a handful of X-rays can’t lie, I suppose.

And it’s no good if I can’t stand up because I can’t make any food to eat.

And then there’s the question of this anti-potassium stuff. This is killing me. Every time I sit down I either fall asleep or if I close my eyes I begin to hallucinate again. If I could walk I’d be forging prescriptions for this stuff and hawking it around the back streets of Granville.

It goes without saying that I’ve crashed out more than once this afternoon, and quite definitively too.

Whenever it’s been possible, I’ve been chatting to people here and there. Ingrid rang me for a chat, then Liz and a couple of my neighbours have been texting me too. I seem to be in demand these days, which is nice.

In fact I was speaking to Ingrid for so long that I forgot about my pizza in the oven. It’s not like me to forget my food, is it?

As I said yesterday, it’s the wrong flour so the pizza wasn’t the dazzling success that it might be, but it was still nice, edible and filling.

So that’s it for the day. I’m off to take my blood pressure, take that nasty horrible stuff with the rest of the medication and then go to bed. I’ve had enough for today and I’m not sorry.

Tomorrow I restart work after my Christmas break, hospitalisation, recuperation etc. But I don’t feel much like it. Not with this flaming leg and this blasted anti-potassium stuff. If I could stop those I’d probably feel a little better but if I don’t, then when I come back from Paris on Tuesday I’ll start writing out my … errr …. instructions. It’s about time.

What I hope for is that someone will give a good and loving home to STRAWBERRY MOOSE.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’ve travelled halfway round the World and well into the Polar regions with, quite often, only him as company. My faithful companion and I have travelled miles together and so he deserves a nice comfortable retirement somewhere where someone will look after him properly.

Thursday 18th January 2024 – JUST IN CASE …

… you are wondering, after last night’s rather intemperate outburst, I’m still here today.

Not all here, of course, but anyone who has been following these pages for any length of time will have worked that out a long time ago.

In fact I’m feeling a little better in myself and for the first time since I can’t remember when, I actually managed some breakfast today. Only cornflakes with lovely, ice-cold soya milk followed by bread pudding and hot, strong coffee, but it was something

Something else that helped was that I actually had a better night’s sleep last night and wasn’t anything like as tired as I have been of late. I can’t have travelled far during the night because there was only one thing on the dictaphone. I was out in the Midwest USA. There was some kind of car show on. I’d spent the night at a hotel and set out next morning. I was in my red Ford Cortina estate again. I found this parking with all these vehicles pulling onto it so I thought that I’d join in. I had a good seat on the front to watch these like drag racing but it wasn’t that. I watched for a while. I kept disturbing my neighbours by having to go to the bathroom. They said one or two things so I apologised, saying that I was a foreigner. They asked where I was from and I replied “not round here”. They said something about local manners but weren’t particularly unfriendly. When it came to leaving I let the crowd go then walked over to my car. I thought about how I was going to fit a stereo in and came to the conclusion that it would have to go on the bulkhead behind my head (although there wasn’t a bulkhead of course in a Cortina). As I began to leave there was this really ancient Lada estate, long before the ones that we knew in the UK and was in terrible condition. It had an MG Owners Club sticker in the back window so I thought at first that it might have been something British … "in fact it was a Moskvich 401-424E" – ed … There were plenty of old British cars around here, Austin A55s etc. An old woman went into it and began to drive. I wound down my window and shouted “you’re brave, aren’t you?”. She replied something like “I thought you might be a gentleman”. I replied that I was a gentleman but I was totally astonished that she was in this and it was keeping going. The woman said something to her companion in the passenger seat. I suddenly realised that following this woman, I was going out of the wrong entrance. I had to perform a U-turn at a road junction nearly ploughing down a pile of spectators standing at the corner so that I could head back the way that I had come and look for the exit that I particularly wanted.

But I’ve done some miles during the night in the red estate – probably more than I’ve done in Caliburn and it’s certainly travelled all over the USA during the hours of darkness.

In the daytime it still resides quietly along with a 2000E saloon and a Traction Avant in my warehouse in Montaigut en Combrailles and if you remember the diesel Escort van that I mentioned a while back, that diesel engine was destined to go into the estate but like everything else down in the Auvergne, that project is now consigned to the dustbin of history

But I do say that there was only one thing that I dictated about the night. I really am beginning to wonder whether I really am missing anything and if so, is it important? I can’t go around missing visits by Castor, TOTGA and Zero.

Having adopted a new tactic of charging up the phone during the day, it was by the bed last night so I didn’t have far to reach when it went off this morning.

And then it took me, would you believe, 15 minutes to put on my trousers. What kind of state am I in? Just as well that I checked my blood pressure before I began to dress.

Then I had to sort out the medication and watch the pile of morning medicine grow before my very eyes. Swallowing it takes some doing these days and my half-litre of water flavoured with fruit juice doesn’t seem to be enough

It took an absolute age to pull myself together today and feel something like anything but I eventually managed it, much to my own surprise. The hot coffee didn’t help much – in fact I crashed out for a while not long after drinking it

Later on in the day though I decided that I’d have a really good wash before the taxi came for me but as you might expect, it came early today, and at a most embarrassing moment too. It’s a good job that the large disabled persons’ conveniences at the Centre de Re-education were empty when I arrived.

There was half an hour of gentle musculation followed by an hour with Ophélie the ergotherapist where we didn’t accomplish much, and then half an hour with Séverine on a massage table.

Highlight of the day though was the climb back up the stairs. I actually managed four steps on my own before I needed help from the taxi driver and if that’s not progress after yesterday, I don’t know what is.

But look at this! Four steps and I’m celebrating. Are we really down to these depths?

My cleaner popped round today too. She’d been into town for this anti-potassium stuff and I bet that you can’t guess what it is – although you probably can.

That’s right – it’s this dreadful cement mixture that they gave me in the Land Of Grey And Pink. I told my cleaner about how awful it was and she suggested flavouring it with something. I’m sure that if it is meant to taste good it would have something already in it but what the heck – I have some sirop de cassis, some sirop de menthe and in honour of HIS NIBS, some sirop de fraise.

Tonight’s tea was a lazy tea. I didn’t feel like doing much so I had a frozen aubergine-and-kidney-bean whatsit with pasta and veg.

That’s a throwback to my chauffeuring days in Brussels. The hours (and days) we worked were so irregular and long that it was impossible to maintain any kind of timetable.

In my apartment in Jette I had a huge freezer which Liz will remember. Whenever I had a free afternoon I’d cook full woks of curries, chilis, all that kind of thing and bag it up in portion-sizes and put it all in the freezer

Then if ever my boss was at a meal or an event in the evening in Brussels or the vicinity (the apartment at the Avenue de L’Exposition was right by a motorway interchange) I’d nip home, throw a potato, a handful of frozen veg and a bag of frozen something into the microwave and then grab a shower, by which time tea was cooked. It would be eaten and I’d be back on the road before he’d finished his cheese and biscuits.

Despite the somewhat itinerant lifestyle, I always tried to maintain a healthy diet back in those days.

But now I’ find myself in a quandary. There’s a pile of medication that needs to be taken, and my blood pressure too. But the instructions on the blood pressure machine say “take your readings when you are relaxed … ” (yes, quite) “… just before going to bed”.

And than it goes on to say “take your readings before you take your medication”.

The amount of medication that I need to take, it will be a long time before I go to bed, so not even the makers of this tensiometer have a clue what’s going on with some people.

What hope do I have?

It’s rather like Eomer in LORD OF THE RINGS. "Do not trust to hope. It has forsaken these lands"

Tuesday 16th January 2024 – WE HAVE REACHED …

… the nadir today.

After my visit to the Centre de Re-education today I couldn’t climb back up the stairs to my apartment and I was stranded on the second step (and I still don’t know how I managed to climb those two). Totally stuck, with no opportunity of moving.

It wasn’t until one of my neighbours turned up 20 minutes later that I was able to make it as far as the lift. And have you ever, ever heard of the absurd situation of two disabled old men, taking it in turns to help each other up the stairs one by one?

Yes, I really plumbed the perigee of despair today and I’m thoroughly sick to death of all of this.

So as you can see, the depths of the dark pit into which I slid last night are nothing whatever to where I am right now.

And do you know what made it worse?

TOTGA came to see me last night. That would be the kind of thing to immediately perk me up and bring me back into the Land of the Living.

But no such luck. And what with Castor (because I’m sure that you are all aware by now that it was she who came to see me a few nights ago, at long last) coming to cheer me up just now to no effect, things are really bad.

All I need now is for Zero to come to see me and I’ll have had my three favourite young ladies. But that’s wishful thinking and even if she were to put in an appearance, it wouldn’t do any good. I’d still be just as miserable

Cue another load of unwelcome immediate relatives tonight then, and my life will be complete.

It was another lousy, pain-ridden night last night where I felt every single jolt or bump, and I do wish that STRAWBERRY MOOSE would behave himself. Whatever will it be like when there’s a cat on there too? That is, if I ever do move down to the apartment below and don’t peg out beforehand.

But there must have been some passages of sleep because you won’t believe how much stuff there is on the dictaphone. And it wasn’t all about sleeping either because the first thing that I said when I opened my eyes in bed in the middle of the night at one moment was “oes rhywun sy’n gadael y llyfr yn y bedd” – “there is someone leaving a book in the grave?” and I didn’t understand that for a minute but that was what I said.

There they were later … "later than what?" – ed …, Jerry, Mike and I can’t remember the name of the third person, a girl whom we knew and I’ve forgotten. They were all there singing. I heard the song about “you being in my bed” which I thought was wonderful

At some later point I awoke and found myself in TOTGA’s bed. A couple of her daughters, which is strange because she only has one, were milling around fetching cups of tea for different people etc but I was being conspicuously left out of it which shows how welcome I was at the moment. Then TOTGA came and got under the covers with me and curled up. I thought to myself “this can’t possibly be right”. Even in a dream I knew that it can’t possibly be right but “hey!”. We were discussing things about a book that I was reading, where people were actually screws and had different characteristics according to what screw they were. She said “you should have said that you were from such and such a place” which was somewhere in the book. “That would confuse everyone”. I replied “I’m quite happy saying that I’m from no-tea town seeing as I’ve been here for half an hour and no-one’s offered me a cup of tea yet”.

And discussing screws in bed? It reminds me of that Excise Inspector whom I mentioned a while back giving evidence in connection with the case of a fraudulent medium. When one member of counsel asked him his occupation he replied "Excise Inspector"
"Testing spirits?" asked counsel
"Yes" replied witness "but not the kind of spirits that we are discussing at the moment"

And I know that if I ever were lucky enough to be in bed with TOTGA talking about screws, it wouldn’t be the kind of screws that came up in the dream

Then there I was in the hospital with TOTGA’s family too. We were still taking this barium meal thing. We were lucky because we were moved away at one point and the whole families left behind were at the mercy of the people who’d captured them. I continued to take this stuff, then they began to deal with all the results. I was swollen up quite badly with all this liquid but they began to take the results. They found that my condition had improved so I didn’t need to take as much of the product. The others could slowly stop it. This was how it continued, me gradually taking less and less and the swelling slowly disappearing etc. But it was still all kinds of nightmare and torture etc and I was really hoping that I didn’t have to do this again, and really hoping that TOTGA’s family didn’t. I wondered how she was getting on but there was then some kind of emotional reunion where we both met up but we were still connected to these kinds of things but it looked as of we were on the winning side of how everything was supposed to be.

And I was back in this dream again. This time we’d had the same preliminaries but I was tied up somehow. They asked if I was still coupled to the perfusion. I said yes so they started up the machine to give me more product. I could feel myself ballooning up like a lamb and at no time at all I was at the 21st stage where there was an old man chatting to one or two people. This was me, where I was going to be for a while. A nurse came to check my pochette and my injection and compared the muscles … fell asleep here … it all seemed to be favouring the woman who was with me at the beginning but everything settling down etc. She seemed to be being taken care of but I seemed to be just shunted around. In the end while I was sitting there singing to myself someone came to take control of me, measured everything and slowly reduced the product bit by bit until in the end it was just a small nominal amount that was going in me. I could see my friends on the other circuits … fell asleep here

All I could remember of this particular one was the blue plastic spines of how we’d been arranged when they had initially taken our measurements. I was one of the one s who had been sorted out for higher doses and the others had not so it was quite obvious that I’d be taken away from these blue plastic spines and started again from another point. I ended up on the north side of the building. That was when they began the treatment. I could see myself slowly ballooning up and could feel the product rising inside of me. I’d be interested to know what the figure was but of course no-one at that stage was going to take it. I’d have to wait a good while before someone would come along to do anything about it. I spend a lot of time thinking about TOTGA and her children, how we’d ended up in this particular situation which wasn’t very nice at all, wondering when everything was going to happen. But I’ve had this dream, it’s been a continual dream, dozens of times tonight and I really don’t know why

I was dropped off in the middle of Ottawa one night by my cousin who lives there. It was in the middle of winter and I was just wearing a shirt and tie, jacket and trousers. I was carrying a big file of paperwork, one of these site-workers’ radios and something else. I wandered around for a while, found a building that was open and went in. I had a wander around and found that it was a Little Chef. I sat down and went through this paperwork and managed to find out something that might have been her address for the moment. She was staying with a friend who was a dentist whom I’d briefly met. I made a note. By this time it was pouring down with rain outside. Luckily I had my winter raincoat so I put it on. I had a small waterproof bag in which I could crumple all these papers so they wouldn’t be wet and I could keep it underneath my raincoat. The old site radio would just have to take its chance. I set off outside into the rain with absolutely no idea whatever of what I was going to do now

Yes, Ottawa in the middle of winter in just a shirt and tie, jacket and trousers and it begins to rain. If that’s ever likely. Ottawa is the second-coldest capital city in the world, beaten only by Ulan Bator in Mongolia and it was freezing cold when I was there in November 2010 on my way back to see Katherine in Windsor.

But that’s not all the stuff n the dictaphone, but you really don’t want to know about the rest, especially if you are eating a meal right now.

when the alarm went off it was a mad scramble to find the phone and I really didn’t feel like getting up, but there I was.

And after the medication and typing the dictaphone notes I tried to do so much but it seemed that the whole wide world and his wife wanted me on the phone. I couldn’t even have a wash in peace.

And as a result I was also late for my Welsh lesson and the lesson itself was a disaster too.

The car came for me on time and it really was a struggle to go to the Centre de Re-education today. The ergotherapist had me cooking food today to see how I managed (and I brought it home too) and then Severine massaged my poorly knee. But you can’t perform miracles with shoddy material

After we’d finished I had this nightmare to come home where I made myself some hot chocolate and then crashed out like a light over my desk.

Tea, the first time that I’ve eaten today, was a taco roll with the pasta and veg from the Centre de Re-education and it was delicious.

So what are the odds on visitors tonight? It’s odds-on that my family will be here, but Zero will be a rank outsider because she’s the only one of the three who’s missing. Castor will probably be even farther out, having made her annual visit the other day.

But we might have a surprise visitor too – I mean, how long is it since the Vanilla Queen came to see me?

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, she’s a girl who once quite literally dogged my footsteps all the way from Montreal across to Edmonton, then to Whitehorse in the North West Territories and then onwards into the High Arctic.

She was someone whom I admired greatly. She was a hairdresser (“hair stylist!”) from Montreal who had a passion for the High Arctic just like me and one day just happened to notice that the lease on a hair salon in Iqualuit on Baffin Island was available.

So "gone! And never called me ‘mother’!". How brave was that?

But that’s even less likely than Castor.

The stage is probably being reached where not only would it be Nerina but I’d be quite happy about it too. But there’s no point in brooding about things like this. As if I don’t have enough to brood about right now.

If I’d stayed in Crewe I’d almost inevitably have ended up in Shrewsbury Nick or something or else driving a bus or taxi somewhere. Of course, all work is honourable, no matter what it is, but how do you keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?

If I’d stayed in Crewe I wouldn’t be where I am now, and I’ll remember that quote next time I’m having to think about spurious quotes to attribute to Boyle Roche.

So "as I write this letter I have a pistol in one hand and a rapier in the other". Good night

Saturday 13th January 2024 – “IT SOUNDS TOO …

… good to be true”.

Yes, doesn’t it just?

There I was, lying awake, watching the clock on my fitbit tick round and round. 05:35 came round certainly – I saw it and watched it. And a few other times too.

It seems that even being a passenger in a car, never mind the driver, is having this effect on me. In the old days, as I have mentioned previously… "and on many occasions too" – ed … I’d go for a good run before going to bed in order to ease the stress, but I can’t even go for a good walk these days.

And even less so, starting from this afternoon

There was football on the internet, Cardiff Metropolitan v Caernarfon, and I watched the first half on my knees. I’d tripped over something coming into the bedroom and ended up flat on my knees. It took me 50 minutes before I could invent a means of standing up.

My right leg, which was bad before, is now completely impossible. I’d tell you more but there’s no feeling in it as you know. I’ll have to wait until I go to the Centre de Re-education on Tuesday to find out just how bad it is.

The good news (and there has been some today and, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, it’s been a long time since I’ve had any) is that my leek and potato soup was cooked to perfection and the home-made bread rolls were delicious too

For tonight’s meal, the oven chips cooked in the air fryer were done to absolute perfection too so the meal of salad, chips and one of those soya steaks in breadcrumbs was wonderful

Not so much the bread pudding. That was definitely the worse for wear after my week away from home so that’s now pushing up the daisies. But me no daft, me no silly, I’d cut a big pudding into 4 large sliced and there are still 3 in the freezer.

So meanwhile, back at the ran … err … bed I checked the dictaphone when I finally did awaken at 09:50 and there was tons of stuff on it.

We started off with me playing bass and singing in a rock group with a guitarist, my friend from the Wirral on rhythm guitar and a drummer, and we were playing a concert in a pub somewhere in Crewe. Neither the gear nor the van had arrived. It was my friend from the Wirral who was driving it. He eventually turned up, much to the applause of the audience and much to our relief, about an hour late, and we set up our instruments. My friend from the Wirral just sat on the floor, refused to move, refused to stand up and refused to play. He was known for having his moody fits and outbursts and was just in one of them at the moment. In the end the guitarist and I just shrugged our shoulders and began to play. We began to play BORN TO BE WILD. When I awoke I was actually singing it, live on stage, something that took me completely by surprise.

This dream is famous for several things.

Firstly, I did have a friend like that. He would freeze in times of stress and would be totally incapable of acting if a problem arose. On several occasions his friends have had to rally round and help him out of his problems.

Secondly, I was always happier playing in a power trio of drummer, guitarist and me. I had a very good drummer with whom I had a good rapport and we as a rhythm section played in several bands. But every time a fourth (or fifth) member came along, it usually dissoived into chaos.

One thing though, was that I loved to sing but the guitarist with whom I was most associated was also a singer who loved to sing so my chances were few and far between, even though I actually owned the PA that we used (a 200-watt Hiwatt amp with 2x 4×12″ columns and several treble horns).

There’s a story behind those horns too. I wanted a set and there was a pair advertised in the Manchester Evening News at an address in Stockport so we went round hot-foot. And who should open the door but Graham Gouldman, songwriter and bassist at Strawberry Studios down the road from there.

On the subject of people called Graham, I hear that Grahame and STRAWBERRY MOOSE have been having a lively chat via e-mail today.

But thirdly, there’s something that I really don’t understand about this dream is that although I didn’t dictate it, we had another person up on that stage for a while. And I know that we did because I even remember introducing her to the public, the words that I used to introduce her, and the songs that we played.

Anyone care to guess who it was?

When I introduced her to the public from the stage in Crewe as she came up and put on her guitar, I used her real name (not the name by which she is known in these pages), I mentioned her age (which is something that I would absolutely not do these days for anyone) and so asked the audience to “be gentle with her, because I am gentle with her”, something that might have raised a good laugh 50 years ago but would be an absolutely outrageous thing to say today.

We played several numbers that we had worked on together on THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR (so you’ve probably guessed now who she was) including that one by Green Day … "BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS" – ed … where that young Inuit boy on board joined in with us.

But what’s astonishing about this is that she put in an appearance and I didn’t dictate it. The other week when I mentioned that my subconscious must be creating a barrier between me and certain people, I wasn’t sure that I was being serious.

After last night’s escapade, I am now. And what I would like to know is how many times and for how long has it been doing that.

One of the most extraordinary things that came out of this exercise that we do about dreams was the girl who dreamt that she could run around in the fields and forests even though she was born without legs and had never un an inch in her life. But this can’t be far behind that.

What happened after this was pretty banal by these kinds of standards. I was part of a delegation that went to South Korea to a military air base there to discuss the products of our company with some people from the Korean military. One night while we were there the guests inn the bar were Widespread Panic. Of course, we went. There was a problem with the cash machine in the restaurant where the concert was to take place. It kept on ringing up ice cream as “various” and charging a purely nominal amount for it so of course we were ordering ice cream all the way through the night like most people would order a beer. We were eating tons of it and I was sure that we would be sick next morning. When we returned it showed the bill from this night at the restaurant had twice as many ices as we had ordered. Instead of there being three for some rounds there had been six. The accounts department was extremely concerned and called us in. I explained that at some part of the night another three people had noticed what we were doing and came over to talk to us. They joined in this ice cream orgy. The accounts department then asked why it was that we considered it to be appropriate that their ice cream should be added to our bill. I explained that these three people were in fact a delegation from Airbus there to see the Korean military too. We were of the opinion that it would be a good idea to entertain them to ice cream because it could open a lot of doors for our company in the UK and France which otherwise would never ever open to anyone. That seemed to settle the matter and everyone seemed quite happy. A few of our colleagues were surprised and disappointed and questioned the bill but that was more out of jealously than anything else.

I’ll have to stop leaning over to where my dictaphone would be in Paris. Anyway Nerina and I had gone on a boat trip around the harbour in St Helier and the Channel Islands area. It was one of these large motor yacht type of things that would carry a dozen couples or something. We boarded it and it set off. We were given something of a running commentary. We noticed that there were plenty of kids up at the front, fishing out of the water all kinds of plastic like old buckets, fishing buoys, jerry cans etc, trying to clean up the harbour. Anything that they noticed, they pulled out. I went to have a look. There were loads of letters there too so I began to fish them out. Many of them were addressed to me so I was quickly collecting a pocketful. There were some addressed to others and looked quite important. In the meantime this guy was busy talking. We noticed that one or two of the couples were actually jumping into the water, swimming around and then catching up the boat. For some reason Nerina and I jumped in and we had a great time splashing around in the harbour. We suddenly realised that the boat was a long way from us by now so we had to swim like hell to catch up with it. I was pulling out more letters from the water at the same time. Eventually we managed to climb aboard. She climbed up the steps at the back and asked me how I came on board. I pointed out a ladder that was there on the rear corner of the boat that she obviously hadn’t seen. We sat down again and I began to open these letters. There was one that was from Poland and had a diplomatic stamp on it. I wondered what this was all about. I managed to open it discreetly. There was a return envelope inside, a pre-stamped one with a Polish diplomatic pass stamp on it addressed to someone at our address urging them to make their donation to their war relief as quickly as possible. I showed it to Nerina to ask her what she thought about it. We sat there puzzling over it.

And as if I’d ever want to swim around in the harbour of St Helier. I’ve seen what’s pumped into there.

The soup was, as I said, delicious.

  • chop a small onion and fry it in olive oil and butter
  • add a couple of garlic cloves with coriander and chives
  • when these are browned and smell nice, add in your finely chopped leeks and potatoes, and stir round to fry for 10 minutes
  • add just enough water to cover, add a stock cube and leave to slow boil (with the lid on) until the potatoes and leeks are really mushy
  • add some soya cream
  • remove from the heat and whizz up with your whizzer
  • then eat with the fresh bread that you prepared earlier and baked while all of the above was going on

As for quantities – leeks and potatoes, how many do you have that need to be used?
And the rest – it’s all down to taste.

There had been some washing going on while all of this was happening so after lunch I hung it up to dry.

Then I … errr … had a little relax.

Watching the football from the floor was a new experience, although I managed to pull myself upright by half-time. Caernarfon had to do better against Cardiff Metropolitan than Hwlllffordd did against Y Bala in order to qualify for the playoffs for a European place next season.

And in a pulsating game that roared from end to end with Caernarfon’s new signing from Porthmadog, Morgan Owen, having an outstanding game, they were still 2-1 down with minutes to go while Hwllffordd were 2-1 up.

But in wild drama at the end, first Danny Gosset scored an equaliser for Caernarfon with just minutes to go, and then down in West Wales Y Bala scored 2 quick goals .

So it’s Caernarfon who push on for Europe while Hwllffordd have to join the fight against relegation.

Tea as I said was excellent so now as I’m cold and in total agony from my knee, I’m off to bed.

Will the young lady from last night come to join me for the second half of our gig? Or will it be someone new?

And more to the point, if my subconscious really is trying to block out some people from visiting me, I can name half a dozen for a start and my subconscious can block them out starting tonight, with my full permission and pleasure.

Wednesday 10th January 2024 – IT’S AMAZING …

… how much of a big difference a couple of little actions can make. And that’s something that I’m going to remember for the future, that’s for sure.

This morning, they brought me two bread rolls for breakfast. And a couple of hours later they brought me a mid-morning coffee. You really have no idea and can’t possibly imagine how much those little gestures have meant to me and how much they have improved my morale from yesterday’s miserable efforts.

Mind you, I did have a shower and clothes-washing session in between. Years of living on the road has taught me to take advantage of every shower that comes my way because sometimes they are hard to find. And when you do find a shower, take your clothes in with you and give them as good a wash as you possibly can.

That’s an old tip that I learnt from the Bible –
"while shepherds washed their socks one night
all seated round the tub
the Angel of the Lord came down
and gave them all a scrub."

Something else that cheered me up were the messages that I received yesterday

Sean wrote to me to say what a horrible night Monday must have been and to keep my chin up for things can only improve. And he was right this morning, as I have already said. That bread roll and coffee, and your message, cheered me up immeasurably.

Grahame’s message cheered me up too. In fact it made me laugh. I’d been talking about hallucinating and Hawkwind, and he wanted to tell me about the time that he did both together many years ago. I thought that that was an avenue down which it was unwise to go any further.

But it did remind me of the time that Nerina took me to see Hawkwind at Keele University one night. Nerina is quite a bit younger than me so when the band came onstage she rushed to the front like all the young’uns do.

After a while she came to look for me and found me standing at the back
"Why don’t you come to the front?" she asked. "The view is so much better there"
"That’s as may be" I replied " but hey! The smell is so much better at the back, man."

Rhys wrote to me a short while ago but his message is buried under … gulp … 450-odd others that have come in while I’ve been busy sorting out transport and all that kind of thing.

He thinks that I’ll outlive everyone else who has had this illness and set new records. Well, I didn’t feel like that yesterday but a good night’s sleep and my bread roll and coffee fired me with a new enthusiasm, and who knows? It won’t be for the want of trying, and it won’t be for the lack of support either, medical or moral. Not that “moral” is a word that is usually used when I’m about.

But to be serious … "for once" – ed … Rhys was one of my close friends from University and I was lucky enough to be honoured to be best man at his wedding in South Carolina in 2005

The marriage didn’t last as long as it ought and poor Gretchen is no longer with us which is a shame for Rhys and her family.

But I remember the wedding – and more importantly, the weekend afterwards while they were away – vividly. I met a young Mexican girl at the wedding and we spent a lovely weekend together down at Charleston and then back at Columbia for a Widespread Panic concert on the Sunday night.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I have a certain weakness for Southern Rock – groups where the lead guitar solos can sometimes go on for several weeks, groups like the Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, Doc Holliday and Blackberry Smoke (who I photographed when I was official photographer for the Fredericton Jazz and Blues Festival in Canada).

But the leading group of all, surprisingly unknown in Europe, is Widespread Panic. I’d first encountered them when I was with Onion River Radio in Montpelier in Vermont years ago and I’d always wanted to catch them at a concert because like most Southern Rock groups, it’s simply not possible to reproduce on an album what they actually do onstage.

Anyway, there they were, topping the bill at the Three Rivers Festival that Sunday night in Columbia so Itzé and I blagged a couple of tickets (Press Passes always come in useful at times like this) and that was that.

Even now I still keep in touch with them and they’ve been kind enough to send me a few concerts to broadcast on my radio programmes

When I was on my marathon trek in 2017 saying goodbye to everyone whom I knew in North America, I managed to meet up with Rhys again and we had a weekend together. But the journey took so much out of me that afterwards I ended up at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina where I holed up for several days to recover my strength ready to go back to base.

Not the first time that I’d been to Myrtle Beach either. I’d been there in 2005 for a weekend too.

And that was strange. I thought (and still do) that Myrtle Beach is a bit of a dump – Rhyl with the sun, in fact.

But when I worked at that strange American company in Brussels where I met Alison, there was this woman going on about this brilliant place my the seaside where her husband had taken her for her honeymoon a couple of years back.

She espoused at great length about it and finally mentioned its name. Myrtle Beach. "Ohhh, Myrtle Beach" I said. "I was there last year. I thought that it was a bit of a dump. I’ll bring my photos in and show you"

Funnily enough, we never heard another word about Myrtle Beach. But the people there were strange. It was like being on another planet.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … hospital, I mentioned a “good night” a little earlier.

That was obtained by the simple expedient of putting the perfusion pump in the bathroom and closing the door. And for once, I had enough silence that I could have a good night’s sleep.

Well, not quite. There I was, asleep, listening to Hawkwind’s MOTORWAY CITY in my dreams when one of my sisters brought me a really strange kind of bun like a cupcake with chocolate over the top and one or two other decorations but it smelt of onions. I wondered what it was going to be. Just then I actually awoke because of something on the music to which I was listening. I awoke, to find that it was “Motorway City” actually playing so in the end I switched off everything and went back to sleep. But it was quite strange having this onion-flavoured bun given to me by one of my sisters.

By about 06:00 my reverie came to an end as someone came by to take a blood sample, and that was that.

It was an endless stream of medical staff doing all kinds of things in here today, but an ominous sign is the doctor saying that she’ll send a physiotherapist to see me. If I’m going home soon that would be totally unnecessary so it looks as if I’m in here for longue durée as they say around here.

Some of the morning’s activities have already been mentioned, particularly the messages that I’ve received. It’s nice to hear from my audience so if you’re a new subscriber, of which there are more than a few just recently, or a long-time lurker, send me a message to say “hello”. There’s a link to a form at the bottom right corner.

Just be mindful that if you have a gmail address, I can’t reply to you. I’ll either say something on here, or if it’s private, you’ll receive a reply from STRAWBERRY MOOSE.

The rest of the morning was spent trying to decipher where I’d been during the night. And I’d put some miles in too. A friend of mine lives in Canada just inside the border. Right by where she lives was a railway bridge, called “Cedar Bridge”. It was a prominent feature of the landscape so all the slaves and everyone escaping the USA would flood across the border and head for Cedar Bridge. That would be the symbol that they’d reached safety. It was an iron bridge over the railway built for pedestrians only. One night at some point but I can’t remember the date it was just swept away. Cedar Bridge was destroyed. It was a terrible loss as a symbol of freedom from persecution for a great many people.

And then I’d received an absolute mountain of paperwork from a hospital in Canada about my illness, a mountain of it. I had to go through it and scan it all which took for ever. Then I had to post some of it to somewhere and some of it to somewhere else so it became incredibly complicated. I was halfway through doing it when I received another e-mail with some more stuff and some stuff that cancelled some of the first stuff. I had to restart what I was doing but I’d forgotten where I was. I’d lost my place. Then I had to send some information to my brother. The only way that I could do that was to send it to my niece and ask her to contact him. That started to become even more complicated still. I was there with all these papers and all these e-mails with all of these forwarding and “copy to you” kind of stuff. It was incredible. I was just so confused with it all and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if anyone else was too. When it came to writing up my notes at night it just turned into a load of gibberish. I just couldn’t seem to make it make sense

That sounds about right. I’m submerged in paperwork from my hospital visits and can’t sort them out properly before I’m overwhelmed with yet more from another hospital stay which contradicts everything that I previously received.

Later on, I won a prize in a competition. It was a baby pig. How on earth was I going to cope with a baby pig? A group of us who had had to go our separate ways arranged to meet at the Cheshire Cat in Nantwich. I eventually found my way there with this pig screaming and squealing and wriggling in my hands so in the end I just let it go. I didn’t know what else to do. Then I saw a bus go past, a bus from my school. It had “Competitors” written on it. There were loads of schoolkids on it, many of the ones whom I was hoping to see in the Cheshire Cat. I thought “this is going to be a wash-out, isn’t it?”. I reached the door of the Cheshire Cat. There was a Bouncer o duty. I asked him how many people were in. He replied “about 2”. I said “I’d better go to buy a 3rd drink, hadn’t I?”. When I walked in I found one of my friends sitting at a table with 2 other guys. I asked my friend what he wanted to drink. He wanted a beer but these other 2 guys wanted rum and coke. I thought “2 beers and 2 rum and cokes is going to cost me a fortune too”. Instead of going to the bar the main way I decided that I’d take a short cut through the crack in the wall which I did and ended up in the middle of 2 girls having a dancing class. They were girls whom I knew so I thought “at least I’m going to have some pleasant company” because I’m going to end up chatting to these 2 girls, I hoped. But this was all turning into a complete, confused mess too. I thought to myself that with all this going on today and I’m not having any luck whatsoever. I was having all this work to do and I just don’t understand any of it.

“… turning into a complete, confused mess”. And that’s something with which I can relate at the present moment, right enough.

Back in that dream again later, I had to leave so off I went. It was a Friday and I couldn’t go back on the Saturday so I was back Sunday lunchtime thinking that I still had 2 drinks left in the tap that I’d bought on Friday. There were just 2 people in there so I left myself in the glorious arms of the folk singer Miss Colwill who has figured in these dreams in the past but I don’t know where she fitted into this dream tonight.

And who is Miss Colwill? The names “Ruth Colwill” and “Rebecca Colwill” came immediately to my mind but there’s no trace of either

But stepping back into a dream again. Why can’t I do that whenever I’m about to lay my grubby paws on Castor, TOTGA or Zero?

Everything came to a dead stop round about lunchtime when they brought me a glass of sodium sulphide. And for several hours afterwards I was away with the fairies.

In mid-afternoon a discreet mug of coffee smuggled into my room revived me somewhat And I carried on with my studies of Victorian methods of tree pruning. I’m not sure why because I won’t be pruning any trees ever again. But in these ancient, 150 year-old books that you can download for free fromARCHIVE;ORG there are tons of useful, long-forgotten facts.

Tea was rubbish as usual but somewhere along the line the needle in my hand had been dislodged so all the perfusion was running up my arm. In the end the nurse had to take it out and stick it in somewhere else.

In fact he asked me to tell him where I would like him to stick it and, do you know, I was sorely tempted …

More sodium sulphide has found its way into here so in a minute I’ll stick the perfusion machine in the bathroom, switch off the Hawkwind playlist that’s been playing for the last couple of days, and hope for another pleasant 5 or 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep like last night.

But whether or not I’ll get it is another thing. There’s too much going on here for that. So I’ll just hope for pleasant dreams

Look out Castor, TOTGA and Zero! Hee I come!

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.

Thursday 21st December 2023 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not sitting in a rainbow, but sitting on my comfy chair in my office/recording studio/bedroom (it’s not just STRAWBERRY MOOSE and me who do multi-tasking around here.

And I’ll refrain from quoting Golden Earring, Sean, just for you. I’ll just let everyone imagine it.

First of all, let me announce that the completed entries for the last three days are now on line so you can go back to Monday and read forward at your leisure.

But let me give you a little warning – if you are offended or upset by anything that I’ve written over those three days, I’m really sorry, but that’s how it is, I’m afraid.

For the whole of my life (yes, the whole of my life) I’ve been falling into the deep dark pit where the black dog lives and then climbing out again later on. And sometimes I fall into it deeper than other times and it takes me much longer than other times to climb out.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been in the pit but the other day I slid down probably deeper than I’ve been for 30 years and couldn’t climb out again.

At times like that I have a tendency to give vent to my feelings maybe more than I otherwise would, something like a safety valve blowing off excess steam.

People have asked me before why I don’t go back later and edit what I write. But the answer to that is for someone who is suffering from a long-term terminal illness, a control of the mental health is as important as a control of the physical health and I need to see how my mental health is evolving as the illness progresses through my body.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’ve been advised by many people … "and on many occasions too" – ed … to seek counselling as my health deteriorates more and more, to prepare me for “the end”, but counselling won’t solve my problems, and it won’t help anyone else who follows my trail.

And so you are stuck with these notes, for better or for worse. And if you read something that makes you raise your eyebrows, don’t worry about it.

As for my dreams, I have no control over them at all. And how I wish that I did.

A few people are actually quite adept at reading the signs in my postings. Almost immediately after I posted last night’s entry, Alison came on line and spoke to me for quite a while, for which I was extremely grateful.

So for the last few nights, I’ve had Alison, Rosemary and Jackie helping me along as I deal with all of these issues, and I’m very grateful.

So grateful was I after my chat with Alison that I awoke this morning feeling much better than I did when I went to bed last night. Mind you, it was 07:20 so I suppose that was partly the reason.

The nurses came and did their usual nursey things and told me that I’d be leaving today, critical blood count or not. But last night before going to bed, I had an injection of a product similar to Aranesp, the “last resort” for stimulating the red blood cells to fight against the carcinogenic protein.

They took the card that I gave them so that someone could ring up the taxi company to tell them to fetch me. I told them not to hang about because he has a 4-hour drive to come here for me.

And after breakfast I finally, at long last, had a good shower. And how much better I felt for it too.

The doctor waited until about midday to come to see me with an enormous sheaf of papers, including my permission to leave.

She also brought me the very bad news. If you want to see what the lumbar puncture and the thoracic puncture disclosed, you need to READ THIS

Of course, I’m not going to have any old common or garden complication to my illness, am I? It has to be something that is “an extremely rare neurologic complication”.

And as if I don’t have enough issues already with which to deal, without having all of this dropping on me over the last few days.

But no-one can say that they weren’t thorough.

While I was waiting for the doctor to come I transcribed the dictaphone notes. We were on board ship, a whole pile of us, kids from school. We’d gradually settled down into groups of friends. I was with a couple of people, other boys from other places. Someone suggested a game of cards. We found a pack of cards and went to the deck above to the games room where all of the card tables and all the other tables were. But there wasn’t a card table free. There was one table where there were some boys from the year above us, They were playing and said “we’re playing here”. I replied “I can see that you’re in the middle of a game. In the end they invited 2 of our party to join in with them to make up the numbers. That left a couple of us. We were trying to work out what we were going to do. As far as I was concerned I’d be quite happy to sit on the floor and play. The 2 other boys seemed to be much more interested in finding a table or something like that. I thought that that was rather unnecessary given the circumstances.

Later on there was a big battle in the American Civil War between the North and the South. The Southern forces were completely overwhelmed and the North was victorious. What happened then was that the North suspected that several women had been extremely active in helping the Southern forces. They rounded up these women and arrested them. The women had to go to General Headquarters so they were put on some kind of primitive bike each. A group of them set off. They came to a steep hill so they had to dismount and walk up the hill. When they reached the top they could remount and ride back down again. At the top of the hill they leapt onto their bikes and pushed off to start pedalling. Just at that moment the wife of a Northern military dignitary decided to cross over the street. As a result she collided with one of these women and was killed. The woman was then rearrested on a charge of murder and was taken away. Many people had seen the incident and agreed that she couldn’t possibly be guilty of murder – it was quite simply nothing more than an accident. They somehow found their way into the tribunal. When a vote was passed for whether or not she should be prosecuted it ended up being 325 in favour and 325 against. It was necessary then for another committal hearing to be held. She was still nevertheless taken off to a ladies prison. While I was watching her in the hallway of this big building waiting for the carriage to come, I awoke.

Did I dictate the dream about everyone coming upstairs to visit an apartment next to mine? … "no you didn’t" – ed … The interior was black and white. As they came up they kept on commenting on some signs that were there, like “Mrs So-and-So – 1st prize for baking” etc. One of the people said to everyone else that whoever lives there says that we’ll have plenty of nice home food, implying that she’d baked it but in fact it’s obviously her mother who’ll have baked all the food for them. So there was some general rumbling. I stepped out onto the landing to see what was happening. There were all these people. They asked me if I was a member of a certain church too. I replied “no, this isn’t a church. It’s a block of flats”. They all looked at me quite strangely.

Somewhere along the line I was planning on doing something or other but I didn’t know what. I wanted to make changes so I’d gone out for a walk to think. I’d seen a Volvo B58 coach parked in the yard of a coach operator. It had been completely stripped out of seats etc and the back panel was missing. I thought to myself “I could make myself a nice little car transporter and caravanette-type of thing out of this, the way it is at the moment. It was an old 53-seater, probably N or P reg Duple body. I had a quick look around. It looked clean enough so i went to ask for the proprietor. While I was looking for him I found a Morris Traveller that was also for sale. I had a really good look around the Morris and found that they wanted £650 for it, which I thought was cheap. Meantime I found the proprietor and he pointed out a woman to whom I had to talk. It meant jumping across a kind-of ditch. Of course I landed in the ditch all the way up to my knees but eventually found the woman. I asked about the coach. She said that it had been one of their tour coaches that they’d had from new. It’s a really good vehicle. They’d advertised it for sale as a coach for £2,500 but there were no takers so they began to break it for spares. They found that it was too good to break for spares so the idea was that one of the car racer people might like it. I asked how much and she replied £650. It needs an MoT that they can arrange and a few other bits and pieces. I thought “£650 is nothing for a coach like that”. I se off back for home thinking to myself “how am I going to break the news to Nerina that I’ve just bought her a Morris Traveller and there’ll be a big Volvo coach turning up at the house in a week or so. She won’t be too pleased about this and it might cause a few problems at home”.

A short while ago someone offered me a reasonably modern 53-seater coach for £1500 and had I had my health I could have been sorely tempted. I even drew up some plans to make it a 12-seater coach with kitchen and 12 berths for sleeping, and use it on my trips around Europe with my friends but it wasn’t at all a realistic proposition the way that my health is going.

I was then back in that dream again … "which one?" – ed … and we were all in Virlet, although it wasn’t the Virlet that I know. We were tidying up around my house, finding all the loose rocks that were lying around and either putting them in a pile or putting them back where they belonged in the fabric of the house. This huge group of people had come together as a result of issues in the previous dream, all marked “present”. The situation was explained to them. We began to tidy it up and were doing really well. We’d done two sides of the house but the 3rd and 4th side of my house are on a different level. I thought that we’d have stayed on this particular level where the other two sides of my house are and tidy up all around there before going down into the marshy morass and dealing with that. For some reason one of the women who was co-ordinating the party went down below and began to move the stones around. We tried to call her back but she took absolutely no notice and carried on moving the stones around down below. Some of them were really heavy and required 2 people to lift them comfortably but she was lifting them on her own. I was convinced that she was being deliberately stubborn and she’ll end up with a bad back at the very least at the end of all of this if she doesn’t stop, come back to us and co-operate with the pattern that we are trying to do. There were some other people involved in this dream who lived in a nearby house that was actually a chateau but I can’t remember what their actual involvement was.

The secretary came to see me after the doctor had gone. “Your car will be here between 16:00 and 16:30” she said, meaning that she had only just phoned for it. So I settled down to do some work and … errr … a little relax.

By 17:00 they all wanted to go home so they began to harass me a little and eventually they moved me into a waiting room outside. And 20 minutes later the ‘phone rang
"Where are you?" asked a voice
"Batiment Heuyer" I replied.
"Ohh, not where you were last time?"

It seems that no-one had told him where I was, even though I’d given the taxi company a copy of my convocation and the secretary had said nothing when she rang, so he’d been trying all of the doors in the building where I was last time.

Eventually we set off for home, right through the Paris rush hour and hit the open road. It was a good drive – I’ve had this driver on a Paris trip before and I’ll travel with him again – and we even had a 10-minute break.

At one point on the journey I dozed off, and then had one of those really dramatic awakenings that I have sometimes when I suddenly sit bolt upright. It scared my driver to bits.

What made me laugh though was the taximeter. Somewhere on the autoroute between St-Lô and Villedieu les Poeles it rang up over the €1000 mark and by the time we pulled up at my door at 21:45 it was showing €1178. It’s a good job that the Social Security has prise en charge the journeys.

First thing that I did was to make myself a big bowl of porridge and then collapse in my comfortable chair.

This weekend I’m not going on the bus to the shops. First task will be to go through all of the papers from the hospital and work out what to do. Then to check Liz’s vegan wellington, order the stuff (or ask my cleaner to buy it) and send off the next big order to LeClerc.

Right now I’m totally exhausted but as usual, after a journey, I can’t wind down enough to sleep. In the old days when I was chauffeuring, I’d go for a run and that would help me unwind but these days I can’t even go for a walk.

How the mighty have fallen, hey?