Tag Archives: taco roll

Tuesday 20th February 2024 – MY WELSH CLASS …

… passed surprisingly well today and I’ve no idea why.

It’s not as if I’ve done anything different at all. I’m still having no end of trouble trying to remember anything with this teflon brain that I have. And “teflon” because nothing seems to stick to it.

Homer Simpson is famous for saying "every time I learn something new, it pushes something old out". My problem is the opposite. I can sing you any kind of song lyrics from any kind of obscure rock song of the late 1960s but trying remember why I’ve just walked into the kitchen is something else entirely

So I have this brain, but nothing is sticking to it.

At least I can remember where my bed is. That would be a catastrophe if I couldn’t.

But I couldn’t remember to go to it at any kind of reasonable time. It was another depressingly late night and I have to stop doing it. I ought to be going to bed much earlier than I do.

Even though it was only a short night, it was a comfortable one without too much tossing and turning. When the alarm went off I was in our bedroom at Gainsborough Road checking on Nerina. She seemed to be fast asleep tucked up under the blankets so I whispered gently “I’m just going up for my lunch now” and turned to go. Just then the alarm went off. I thought to myself “it’s just typical, isn’t it? I’ve just made sure that Nerina’s nice and comfortable and now she’s going to be awoken by the alarm”.

However it was in fact mine in my bedroom, Billy Cotton shouting his WAKEY WA…..KEY! to half of the street and the people on the Ile de Chausey so I fell out of bed and checked my blood pressure. Only 15.4/9.6 this morning compared to 17.6/10.6 last night. Things are getting better.

There was a full house of medication this morning. I have all of the pills and tablets that I need for another few weeks, as well as four injections that my cleaner brought me yesterday. In fact I’m not really short of much at all right now so I fail to understand how my next LeClerc delivery next week is going to be over €60:00 and 33 items. I must be going all suburban these days instead of living the usual hand-to-mouth.

Back in here I had a listen to the rest of the dictaphone notes from the night. This was the story of Springsteen’s first album. It was a totally unexpected hit and how the leader of the group – it wasn’t Bruce Springsteen – was actually in the bath when the news broke. All of the reporters and journalists came his way but he didn’t understand what was going on either. When the reporters found out that it was Bruce Springsteen who had written them some of the journalists tried to interview him but he was ready with a quip about how his girlfriend had written one of the tracks but no-one wanted to talk to her. But they were all taken aback by the success. Springsteen related to the fact that none of them could actually speak the language that was being used. It was all a kind of elite grammar and pronunciation whereas Morse and his friends came from the back streets and spoke in a different fashion than Sprinsteen who had written most of the lyrics of the songs.

But this is really the Springsteen story. When Columbia Records fist saw him he was a solo artist playing his acoustic guitar and they immediately thought “the new Bob Dylan” and signed him up. When he turned up with all of this friends and their electric instruments Columbia Records was so disappointed and shunted him off to a studio out in the sticks

With no promotion his first couple of albums bombed but I remember back in the 70s seeing a television programme in which he was complaining about the lack of back-up. And then BORN TO RUN happened.

And although Springsteen’s then-girlfriend Karen Darvin didn’t write any of the lyrics, it’s been claimed that the song SHE’S THE ONE, one of my favourites and for obvious reasons too, refers to her.

"no matter where you sleep tonight or how far you run
Whoa – she’s the one, she’s the one"

Meanwhile back at the ran … errr … bed, an office trip had been proposed and various people were thinking of going but the organisation was completely chaotic. The person who had taken on the job had suddenly fallen ill. In the end they managed to complete something and have some people ready to go, so everyone was ready for the next weekend. In te meantime they’d proposed some kid of race and I took part in it. I just followed someone round until the last minute and then overtook them and went through the chequered flag but she came and berated me for not telling everyone about this office trip. I told her that I hadn’t organised it. When she asked who had, I gave her a list of people whom I knew, all of whom are off sick. “I don’t even know who’s going but I’m sure that you can find someone around the office who can give you the information and see whether there are any places left to go”.

And I suppose we’ll now have all the old jokes about the certain people who were so disappointed when they learned that that proposed “Office Outing” referred to a day trip at the races.

But the funniest thing that I knew about office trips was the person who proposed a day trip on Concorde (when Concorde was flying) to somewhere interesting at a price not unadjacent to several hundred pounds per head.

He collected all of the money and when all of the passengers turned up at the airport they found that no such trip had been arranged and their erstwhile colleague had disappeared with all the money.

That’s the kind of thinking that I appreciate. It’s certainly a most elaborate and novel way to hand in your notice.

Having dealt with the dictaphone notes I revised for my Welsh lesson for a couple of hours and then went to make some coffee. The bread and butter pudding went the Way of the West on Monday so we’re back on the fruit buns.

The bread and butter pudding was in some senses a big disappointment. I made it beautifully and it tasted really nice too, but nature overwhelmed it quicker than I could eat it. Even dividnng it up into weekly amounts didn’t work if, like this last lot, there was a day that overran a weekend for some reason.

So we had a really good lesson and for a change I finished on the podium during a class quiz. And that’s something that hasn’t ever happened before.

This afternoon I had a little relax without doing very much for a couple of hours, and then attacked the radio notes. I’ selected, paired off and joined up all of the music for the first one and even begun to dictate the notes for it.

And while I was at it I even began to choose the music for the following programme. And if I manage to do that and dictate both lots of notes I’ll be up to the end of October once I’ve edited and assembled the backlog.

Having a stock saved up for the future is a good plan, and for obvious reasons too. I intend to live on, long after I’ve gone.

So having sent off the programme for this weekend, I went and made tea. A taco roll with stuffing, with rice and veg.

As for my new mayonnaise, the taste is absolutely delicious but it’s too thick. I was hoping that it would pour out of the bottle but it’s even thicker than store-bought mayonnaise. Next time I’ll use more milk to make it thinner so that it’ll pour.

So while the mayonnaise isn’t exactly what I wanted, it’s certainly proper mayonnaise as mayonnaise is supposed to be, and I’m not going to be troubled by vampires while I have any of this around the place. I might have gone a little overboard with the garlic.

IN a few minutes I’ll be going to bed. Despite a few wobbles here and there I’ve kept on going all through the day so I’m quite tired. A good sleep will do me good because I have plenty to do. My hero the Irish politician Boyle Roche tells me that "at present there are such goings-on that everything is at a standstill" and that sounds about right.

But not that I have much hope of doing it. When PG Wodehouse used to write his novels he said that quite often "I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit".

In my case though, it’s a keyboard and I curse a lot.

Tuesday 13th February 2024 – I’VE BEEN SUMMONED …

… back to the Centre de Re-education. They’ve arranged a visit for me for the 5th March, and even sent me a bon de transport so that I can have a taxi there and back.

There were several pages of notes setting out my medical history and what they have discovered during the examination. They reached the conclusion that

  1. dealing with my case was difficult due to all kinds of problems
  2. technical aid is proposed
  3. a timed walk that should have taken 43 seconds took me 6 minutes
  4. a further appointment is planned

And so by the same post an appointment on 5th March was sent to me.

And at 09:20 too – be there 10 minutes beforehand. What do they think that I am? I know that I might be up and about on my own two legs by that time but I’d hardly say that I would be coherent enough to discuss my medical affairs so early in the morning.

Mind you, I’m hardly coherent at the best of times so I don’t suppose that it makes much difference

However, I’m intrigued as to this “technical aid”. I wonder what they have planned for me. There isn’t much that would work around here that immediately springs to my mind.

But retournons à nos moutons as they say around here.

Last night, I couldn’t go to bed.

What I mean by that is that I couldn’t summon up the motivation to leave my comfortable chair and drag myself off to bed. Instead I wandered aimlessly through the internet and it was well after 01:00 when I dragged myself off.

You know the feeling though – when you can’t seem to find whatever it takes to raise yourself up and go to bed.

It would be no surprise to anyone if I had had a difficult start to the morning but instead I seemed to be quite lively for a change – and that’s a surprise. I shall have to do this more often

So I hauled myself off into the kitchen to take my medication.

Back in here I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I had been during the night. We were back in some kind of music dispute between Hawkwind and a group called Wyneb Wyneb … "which is Welsh for Face-Face" – ed …. It concerned a song that Wyneb Wyneb wrote. There was a considerable amount of plagiarism in the song, so Hawkwind said, and they were very unhappy about it. The two groups found themselves at the same music festival and this led to a great deal of complication and confusion with people threatening to sue and to counter-sue etc. It was sorted out at the last minute by Wyneb Wyneb withdrawing from this concert and playing at another at a later date with a couple of other acts who were also withdrawn. Basically anyone who bought a ticket for the main concert and didn’t want to go because Wyneb Wyneb weren’t appearing could claim some kind of refund that would go towards the cost of a ticket for the next festival.

Anyone would think that I have an obsession with Hawkwind. They have been regular visitors during the night over the last couple of weeks. It would be interesting to find out what’s going on that’s triggered off something like that.

What else has happened ever since they’ve been appearing is that my whole dream pattern seems to have changed and they are nothing like what they were in the past. So is one of the tablets that I take in the evening playing havoc and disturbing my subconscious? Or is something else happening?

But be that as it may, I had a Welsh lesson to deal with and that went on until 16:30, with a couple of breaks and an interruption from my cleaner who brought me my post as mentioned above.

Once it was all over I had my hot chocolate and then had a good scrub down and a change of clothes to make myself all pretty for tomorrow.

During the breaks I was dealing with the radio programme that I’m planning, and writing the notes. I managed to complete some and was planning to write more but instead I crashed out this evening.

All through the lesson I was fighting off waves of sleep but my bad night eventually caught up with me and I didn’t finish it.

Tea was a nice taco roll with some of the rest of the stuffing, and I’ll finish that off tomorrow in a leftover curry with one of my naan breads. I’ll have to make some more naan dough sometime soon as I’m in danger of running out

So that’s it now, ready for tomorrow. I need to take some bread from the freezer to defrost ready to make my sandwiches because it will be a long day. My appointment is at 12:40 when I shall find out my future.

What I suspect is that they’ll transfer me to a more local hospital – either Caen or Rennes, and more likely the former. I’m sure they won’t keep me there, going back and forth to Paris with what it costs to transport me.

Nevertheless, "how you gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?" And knowing hospital food as I do, at least I had friends in Paris and Leuven who would smuggle me some supplies now and again. I know no-one in either Caen or Rennes who can help me break the monotony of the dreadful food supplied in these places..

And as Joni Mitchell SANG,
"I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
Nobody was calling me up for favours
No one’s future to decide
You know I’d go back there tomorrow
But for the work I’ve taken on
Stoking the star-maker machinery
Behind the popular song"

And I am going back there tomorrow, maybe for the last time. I can’t see me going there again, certainly not unfettered and alive anyway.

That’s a shame because of all the times that I’ve walked through the city singing that song, and the nights that I’ve spent trying to get the metre of the song correct when I’m trying to play it on the guitar.

The last time that I walked through the city was almost two years ago, in the company of someone who figures regularly on these pages, usually during the night, but right now I can’t even wander around my apartment.

Frank Harris, in his rather … errr … explicit autobiography said "all human beings took what pleasure they could get whenever they could get it" and that’s certainly true of the past and the present. Make the best of whatever comes your way because that’s all that there is.

As for what happens after tomorrow, I shall just have to rely on my hero the Irish politician Boyle Roche and "all along the untrodden paths of the future, I can see the footprints of an unseen hand".

When I climb into that taxi in the morning I shall remember the words of Tom Bombadil – "be bold, but wary! Keep up your merry hearts, and ride to meet your fortune".

Tuesday 6th February 2024 – MY CLEANER IS …

… a heroine.

She came in yesterday, as I mentioned (with no little embarrassment) yesterday and I gave her a shopping list for her weekly visit to Leclerc – there are several things that I need that aren’t available on home delivery.

There are plenty of really nice vegan recipes floating round, like the one for vegan sausage roll stuffing, that rely on chestnuts to give the food some flavour. I have a spare puff pastry roll left over from Christmas so some vegan sausage rolls would be nice but of course I have no chestnuts.

The issue with fresh ones is that you have to take off the outer skin and that’s a complicated procedure so I wanted some ready-cooked ones with the other skin removed.

And sure enough, even though I’ve searched everywhere in the shop and never found them, she’s put her hand on 2×200 gramme packets of steamed and vacuum-packed chestnuts.

So once I buy some mushrooms at the weekend it’s sausage rolls-a-gogo. Making those should keep me out of mischief for a while, I reckon.

And during the night I’d thought that I’d kept out of mischief too because I had another really good sleep and didn’t remember a thing about anything

When the alarm went off I fell out of bed and too k my blood pressure again. 17.2/10.2 this morning compared to 18.3/11.3 last night

After the medication I went and gave myself a really good scrub in the bathroom so that I’d be fit and proper for my Welsh class, and then came in here to transcribe the dictaphone notes.

And to my surprise, there were quite a few, considering that I knew nothing about last night. There was a Dutch rock group that was quite well-known. One of the musicians was taking quite a lot of medication so they were going through different kinds of medication to sort something out for him in a the same way that they are doing for me at the moment. This became quite a habit for there to be a lot of medication about but during Wold War II this was complicated but they did their best to keep him supplied with the medication that they needed to keep him alive. One day the Germans raided the group and a concert and wanted to go along and arrest them all. There was no indication as to how this ended but there was one person who helped this group a lot with their paperwork and administration and in some respects looked after the medication of this musician. After the war, no-one ever found out what had become of him. They interviewed a lot of people who were leaving the concert hall at the time. They can remember the Germans trying to frog-march someone out of the building but who collapsed and went lifeless during this frog-march so they ended up carrying him away. The suggestion was that this guy had bitten the cyanide capsule in his hollow tooth to do away with himself to avoid interrogation.

But talking about the medication, I’m sure that that’s what they are doing to me – trying various cocktails of medication to try to find one that works.

That’s not a criticism of the hospital by the way. We’ve all seen the reports that this illness is so rare that there is no approved treatment plan and that each case must be dealt with individually. So I give them full marks for wanting to try.

Anyway, after all of that, I had a visitor during the night again – and to think that I could remember nothing about it. Yes, Percy Penguin came round last night. The two of us went out. We were in Crewe Town Centre but I couldn’t remember where to go. Not that that would be a problem in real life because in Crewe I had a whole family who would be quite willing to tell me where to go, and probably did too. Anyway, wherever I was going to, I’d forgotten the way so I dropped off Percy Penguin in Delamere Street, did a beautiful U-turn and she climbed back into the car. We carried on through Market Street and Mill Street. We were talking about my health. She asked a whole variety of questions to which I didn’t really know the answer. She asked me if I’d had a picquire – injection for this and a picquire for that. I told her “no” so she told me that she was licensed to take blood so what she’d do about this mess was to make me a really good meal and then take my blood pressure and then take a blood sample, not just from the usual areas but also from areas that were different from anyone else to see what that’s like. I told her that I was extremely doubtful for a variety of reasons but she seemed to be quite confident about the idea and quite willing to have a go so I thought that I’d let her get on with it.

As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … I wonder whatever happened to Percy Penguin. At one time she was the only light that shone through some very dark times.

One thing I’ll always remember was putting on a tape of QUADROPHENIA. on the cassette.
"What’s that?" she asked.
"It’s “Quadrophenia” by The Who" I replied. "Released in 1973"
"1973?" she snorted. "I wasn’t even born then!"

Yes, I keep on forgetting that I’m an Ancient Monument.

So having dealt with all of that, I prepared for my Welsh class. But not before I’d made a few phone calls.

And as a result, I’ve cut all my ties with Leuven. I’ve cancelled the appointments that were arranged for this week and told them that there’s no need to reschedule them. It’s pretty pointless if I can’t go there.

That’s a real shame. I loved the hospital, I loved the town, I loved the year or so that I spent living there and it goes without saying that I loved seeing Alison and the others who would travel up to see me from all over Europe.

But that trip in September killed me and I’m a lot worse than that now. Even if I were to make it there, I wouldn’t make it back. And there’s no point whatever in having the best treatment from the best hospital in Europe if the journey to and from is going to negate the effects of it.

The Welsh lesson went surprisingly well, so much so that I put Plan B into operation.

It’s half-term next week but browsing around the LEARN WELSH WEBSITE I found that Coleg Aberystwyth is running a two-day revision course on Monday and Tuesday for a level well down from where I’m supposed to be.

Nevertheless, it’s just what the doctor ordered, I reckon and it’s just £15 and there were 6 places left. That might fire me up a little. Only 5 places left now.

The advantage is that with it being Aberystwyth, it’s teaching the North Wales syllabus.

If you look at a map of Wales, you’ll see that there are two mountain masses divided by the valleys of the River Severn, Afon Dyfi and the Afon Mawddach. That’s a natural route from England to the Welsh coast and which invading armies have taken for 2000 years.

All of the fortifications that have been built there over that period have effectively divided the country into two and so the language has evolved differently in each area.

Curiously, some of the words that I’d learnt from my grandmother were “south-id” words rather than words from north-east Wales, and it wasn’t until I found her old Welsh family Bible after she died that I found out that her family actually came from the south in the past – presumably moving north like many families did when Gresford Colliery near Wrexham opened in 1908.

That was terrible, that. After she died all of her possessions went into a skip, including her ancient family Bible, written in Welsh, with her family tree in it going back several generations. I had to climb in after it to rescue it and many of my family wished that I’d stayed in the skip.

This afternoon the first thing that I did now that I’m nice and clean was to change the bedding. And when I took it off the quilt and pillows it walked into the bathroom on its own. I really ought to take much more care of myself and my hygiene that I do. I keep on overlooking some of these basic things that I ought to be doing so much better.

And then the cleaner came round with my shopping – and I wasn’t in the … errr … smallest room this time either.

But anyway, now I have more peppers, tiny tomatoes and vegan cheese as well as my precious chestnuts. Yes, I don’t know where I’d be without her, that’s for sure.

After all of that and my mid-afternoon hot chocolate, I carried on writing my radio notes and I’ve almost finished this programme now ready to dictate on Saturday night.

Tea tonight was a lovely taco roll filled with some of the leftover stuffing and accompanied by rice and veg. But this couscous stuffing seems to work quite well, better in fact than bulghour or quinoa so I might continue to use it. I’ve added couscous to my “list of favourites” on my Leclerc on-line shopping site to remind me.

It’s actually an advantage because couscous is available on-line whereas bulghour and quinoa – at least in loose form – are not.

So now having done my notes, it’s time for bed in my nice clean bedding.

Well, actually, it isn’t. There’s the blood pressure and the medication to take so it’ll be a while before I can rattle my way back to bed.

Nothing is easy these days with all of this, but we have to keep on going. What else is there to do? Bear Grylls, the adventurer and TV presenter said of his exciting travels "Life doesn’t reward the naturally clever or strong but those who can learn to fight and work hard and never quit", and I’m not going to quit until I’ve done the blood pressure, the medication and been to the … errr …. smallest room, preferably without the cleaner coming in.

Tuesday 30th January 2024 – JUST FOR A …

… change, my Welsh lesson passed really well today and for some reason that I don’t understand, it even rekindled some enthusiasm in me.

We weren’t all that many in class today but we all worked well together and covered a lot of ground. And with all of the hospital visits and ill-health over the last 15 months I’m still miles behind, but I’ve not quite dropped off the edge yet.

It’s quite surprising really because I had another late night last night. I didn’t go to bed until late.

After I’d had the medication I came back in here and had a play around on the guitar. I was overwhelmed for some reason by yet another wave of nostalgia and ended up trying to pick out the chords of A-Ha’s I CALL YOUR NAME

When I was shuttling between Brussels and the farm, 700 kilometres through the night through Charleroi, Charleville-Mézieres; Chalons sur Marne, Troyes, Auxerre, Nevers and Moulins, stopping just for fuel and to fill up my thermal coffee mug from my flask at Auxerre, I probably had just two albums going round on the cassette.

The N77, N151 and D977 roads wind through the Monts de la Bourgogne like a serpent but if you caught the rhythm of the road you could go flat-out (in the days before speed cameras) in old LDVs and Ford Escorts and new Ford Transits and provided that the tyres were good, you’d make every bend perfectly

No-one about at all at 03:00, 04:00 or 05:00 so I’d have the hammer down and for some reason there would always seem to be the same two albums that came round on the cassette at some point during that leg of the journey – STAY ON THESE ROADS, which was somehow quite appropriate considering the speed at which I’d be travelling, and SCOUNDREL DAYS.

Not what you might expect at first glance to be ever on my playlist but their first album full of pop songs that made their name took even them by surprise. However with Mike Sturgis, later of Wishbone Ash and Asia on drums, their next two or three albums had a much more rocky sound and if you haven’t heard them, they are worth a listen.

But where was I? Yes, on my way through the mountains to Nevers with A-Ha on the tape deck in the van, and not knowing why this sudden wave of nostalgia had overwhelmed me

Anyway, so late to bed, it was a very weary me who crawled out from underneath the covers when the alarm went off.

Despite the nice relaxing night, blood pressure was through the roof again. Last night we had 18.5/10.4 and this morning a mere 17.6/11.8. What was this about 14.0/9.0?

After the medication I came back in here to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night and, more importantly, if any of my favourite young ladies had come with me.

But no such luck. I was a folk guitarist last night on the acoustic guitar belting out numbers that related to the river than ran right the way through Middle Earth. They were all pounding acoustic numbers with occasionally someone playing acoustic guitar in the background. I can remember some of them and one reminded me very much of a Steve Harley song and I’ll tell you the name in a minute … "ONLY YOU" – ed … They were all about the river than ran through Middle Earth and they all took place along its banks in different places. It was a very relaxing even if it was rather noisy – sound and situation.

Back in that dream again later and I dreamed that I was in Middle Earth walking along the river and began to play the acoustic guitar. I played it loudly and pounded it out. In the end I had about 8 or 9 numbers that would turn into an LP so I made an LP of it. One or two of these numbers were really imprinted deeply in my mind and I can still hear them now. Yes, I actually fell asleep and dreamed that I was out there doing it and it was great

The guitar obsession I can understand but regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I seem to have an obsession right now with Middle Earth and I don’t know why that is.

But not to worry. "In the end it’s only a passing thing" as Sam said to Frodo in … errr … "quite" – ed

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed, did I dictate the one about me being in a rock band etc? I’m sure that I did … "no you didn’t" – ed … That dream went on and on until we were all in France when the French Government announced that fines for Parking Tickets etc was increasing from €12:00 to €20:00. It caused a complete scandal around everywhere and there were all kinds of meetings called. I should have been going on board a ship – a big 2000,000 tonner – but instead I was called to my company’s offices and told to report back to Granville later. Before I left, I was there when they were loading this container ship and it had a list fore and aft of 40°. I thought that this was going to cause a real problem because the ship wasn’t designed for this kind of stress. If it hits a storm in the Atlantic it would have a great deal of problems with the hull at 40° to the horizontal but no-one listened to me

But talk about a 200,000 tonne ship here in the harbour at Granville. You won’t have anything much more than 2,000 tonnes coming through the harbour gates here, which is a pity.

Having dealt with all of that I prepared for my Welsh class and then settled down to enjoy it.

Actually I had a cunning plan. With my Welsh class I usually take a pot of coffee, a mug and my breakfast but these days I can’t carry it. I can only just about manage with me.

But my coffee pot is actually a thermos jug (I made sure of that) so I made my coffee, put the pot, the mug and my slice of bread-and-butter pudding on the trolley that I use for moving my washing about and pushed the trolley into the bedroom

And it worked perfectly too. I was impressed.

However, next time I’ll put a tray on it.

After the lesson I had a few things to do, like tidying up. So I promptly dropped the box of couscous from last night all over the floor.

It took about 20 minutes to sort out the vacuum cleaner, and then the pipe was blocked, and then the container was full. It was almost never ending, trying to vacuum that lot up. A simple five-minute job took nearly an hour.

My cleaner came around too. She’d been shopping and had bought some stuff for me, including the soya yoghurt. So my leftover curries will now go from being delicious to being absolutely delicious.

It was round about now that I crashed out again – and for about an hour too. Dead to the World I was as well and when I finally awoke, it took an age for the room to stop spinning.

And once I’d pulled myself together I finished sorting out the music for my Hawkfest. Thanks to Adrian Shaw, who was bassist with Hawkwind for a while and to the Estate of Nik Turner, the much-missed saxophonist and flute player who later had his own Hawkwind tribute band, “Sonic Attack” who played at several Hawkfests, I now have plenty of music from which to choose

So that’s tomorrow’s job – pairing off the music and writing the notes.

Tea tonight was a delicious taco roll with some of the leftover stuffing from yesterday. The idea of using couscous really worked and I might do that again as long as I don’t throw it all over the floor.

But right now, later than usual, I’m off to bed and sweet dreams, I hope. But my three young ladies seem to have deserted me. The last visit was from Castor on 13th January.

Doesn’t time fly? They say that time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like an over-ripe banana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s never-ending, isn’t it?

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

Wednesday 3rd January 2024 – THE NEXT POSTING …

… or the one after that, or the one after that, may well be from a hospital bed somewhere down the coast of the Baie des Granvillais – either Granville or Avranches, I dunno.

There was a blood test this morning and this evening the doctor rang me up. “There’s a desperate anomaly with your blood and you need to go to the Hospital urgences immediately”.

However as I said the other day, I’m far too busy to die right now, or
"to make my grand departure
from a world getting way too small"

as SEMISONIC would have it.

There’s a man coming here at 11:00 to talk about stairlifts and then in the afternoon I have no fewer than 4 sessions of people at the Centre de Re-education. So I can’t possibly go to the Urgences until Friday morning, I reckon.

But too right! The world is really getting way to small. I know 6 people in Greenland well enough to call them by their first name and on one Saturday night here in Granville we had 5 of them present.

And then there was the occasion when I booked a room IN A TWO-ROOM GUEST HOUSE in a tiny village down the “Forgotten Coast” of Québec and found that the other room was occupied by the notaire or lawyer from a town adjacent to where I was living in the Auvergne.

There are dozens of stories that I can tell you about things like this – amazing coincidences of meetings, including one legendary one between Nerina and me in Brussels – that prove that the world is shrinking rapidly.

Did I ever tell you the story of my mother, living in Margate, who went to Frome in Somerset to visit the people to whom she had been evacuated in 1940? There was a “mystery trip” advertised by the railway departing from Frome so on a whim they booked tickets. Anyone care to guess where they ended up?

Meanwhile, back at the ran …errr … apartment, when the alarm went off I was somewhere – I don’t know where. I’d been to a meeting with some girl. It was a kind-of political meeting but there were all kinds of people there, including some religious folk. The subject of the Conservative Party came up. Someone announced “yes we reduced the price of Covid fees and injections to £1:50 so I wrote underneath it in a space where people could see it “what? You mean that you pay for Covid tests and vaccinations in the UK?”. We proceeded onwards with this meeting. I ended up chatting to this girl afterwards because someone had said during the meeting that you could receive £1500 for a Covid test under certain circumstances if you ere disabled. I asked “how do you apply?”. She replied “don’t you remember? We did but we were 2 days late with the application”. Then I recalled that I’d made a lot of enquiries with the Government departments and even sent a large pile of correspondence to one particular Government office but I was leaving the UK to go back to France so I wondered how this was going to work because the person who would intercept all this post eventually after it had been redirected a couple of times would be my father . I’m sure that he wouldn’t know what to do with it. We ended up talking to a girl about living accommodation. She was showing me around her house. I explained that my apartment in France was just 2 streets from the sea and was probably as big as 2 rooms in her house that were joined together with â passage down the side but I was talking just about the 2 rooms and paying just £4:00 per week for it which I thought was a good deal but was fairly normal for that area in France where I was living. She was extremely impressed by the price that I paid.

But I managed to pull myself together and take my blood pressure. Then I went off for my medication, all 15 tablets of it, and managed to forget one of them

Back here I made a start on my concerts, completely forgetting that the infirmier – the nurse was coming to take a blood sample and to give me my injection

It was Isabelle today and she found a vein with the second go. Good for her.

After she had gone I carried on sorting out these concerts and chatting to Liz who put in her appearance on line.

At lunchtime I completely forgot to take my blood pressure and to compound the agony the taxi company forgot me again and I to remind them

It was electrotherapy to start with, followed by this relaxing muscle therapy, finishing up with Severine, my masseuse

Back here there was plenty of work to do like transcribing the dictaphone to find out just where I’d been during the night. I was actually with a girl from school last night. She was with a guitar. She decided that we’d break up. I was totally devastated and couldn’t believe for a moment but it was certainly the case. She’d written a song about the break-up, which wasn’t particularly helpful about the break-up. All in all I felt totally and utterly crushed by the news. I tried to convince her to stay with me but she said that she’d completely and utterly made up her mind that she wanted to do certain things but wanted to do them alone but in another 6 months if things didn’t work out how she liked, maybe she’d be back. I said that of course in 6 months time I can’t guarantee where my heart would be but she still didn’t pick up the real message that I was trying to say. This dream went on between us for a very long time as I was trying to argue with her to stay, she was trying to convince me that leaving was the best thing and it was a scene that drifted all over London including Kilburn. We were at Kilburn where we decided that it was a 20mph speed limit because of all the accidents on the road. There was a lot of unhappiness and disappointment, people protesting in the streets. I was there but I don’t know about her. There was this organisation and their members erected a kind of barricade on the railway line and the road. There were hundreds of people from the locality out there on the street. No matter what I did though, I still couldn’t persuade this girl to stay with me and I was totally distraught.

This brings back a few adolescent (and not-so-adolescent) memories, I can tell you. Young girls at school wielding guitars? Who can they possibly mean?

Tea tonight was a taco roll with some of the leftover stuffing, and rice with vegetables. All very nice and there’s enough stuffing for a leftover curry, if I’m still here tomorrow evening.

“Still here tomorrow evening” sounds rather ominous, doesn’t it? But seriously, I don’t have the time to die right now. I’m far too busy for that. Here’s hoping that it’s only a minor ailment. If it’s something serious, well, there’s not much more of me that they can cut off now.

Tuesday 12th December 2023 – THE DOCTOR CAME …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 5th December 2023 – IN ANSWER TO …

ginger and orange biscuits christmas cake christmas pudding Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo December 2023 … the thousands … "well, maybe not thousands" – ed … of requests, here’s a photo of my weekend’s efforts.

On the left is the figgy pudding and on the right is the Christmas cake. You can see where the edges of the cake were stuck to the baking tin but once the cake is covered with marzipan and icing no-one will notice.

Marzipanning and icing are planned for this coming weekend so now is the time to send me a few handy hints. After the debâcle last time, I’ll remember to put the cake in the fridge before I ice it. Icing a warm cake produces some rather interesting and artistic results.

In the background is my box of ginger and orange biscuits. And believe me – they do taste as nice as they look.

Thinking on, I should have stuck a couple of fruit buns in the photo too. There are a couple floating around in one of the biscuit tins.

Anyway, I ended up going to bed reasonably early last night and awoke again at some kind of ridiculous time. But at least the person with the hatpin didn’t come back.

Although I did drift off back to sleep, Zero didn’t come to visit me. And neither did Castor nor TOTGA. But the sleep did me some kind of good.

When the alarm went off I staggered into the kitchen for my medication and my half-litre of flat water flavoured with a dash of orange juice. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve run out of C02

Back in here I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. I had a photo and was trying to identify the subject and the folder in which it belonged. I was strolling through the directory that seemed to me to be the correct one looking at all the photos but just couldn’t identify the subject at all by doing that. I began to wonder whether it might have been from another folder but at the moment there was still some stuff in the first folder to wade through so I just ploughed on regardless but still couldn’t find it

Later on I was back in the same dream looking again through a pile of photos when just at that moment the alarm went off. We all had to leave. There was a girl missing. When I looked up I could see the small girl way up somehow on a pile of tubing that had been arranged like a scaffolding. She’d somehow climbed up there but was unable to descend. One of the boys in the room took it upon himself to climb up there and rescue her. At first I didn’t understand what he was trying to do so I tried to stop him but then it suddenly occurred to me what he was doing so I let him on his way and helped him as much as I could.

And then I was working for an express bus company last night. I was given a job to go from London to Swansea Docks and Carmarthen. When I was going through the paperwork there was a woman there talking about Swansea Docks. I found out that she was going on the same route as me with a bus but to Swansea Docks and Llanelli. We were due to leave at about the same time so we decided to travel together as far as Swansea Docks because I didn’t know where the pick-up point there was. We talked about Gloucester Services – what time we’d arrive, how long we should stop. I made the remark that I’d have to let Zero down again. She asked “what do you mean?”. I replied “this is the 13th consecutive time that I’ve promised to pick Zero up and my working schedule has been changed so I’m not going to be able to do it”. The woman asked “what did she say?”. I replied “she doesn’t know yet. We’ve only just had the work schedule. Someone else will have to pick her up”. We set out to pick up our vehicles, across a very busy main road. She was nattering away about her husband and tyres etc. We reached the place to pick up our vehicles. They were 2 mark I Cortina estates. I thought “this can’t possibly be correct, this”.

After I’d slipped back into oblivion later on I had exactly the same dream again, word for word.

Finally I went to look at the new shopping complex near Goodall’s Corner in Shavington. It was dark and I’d had the lights on the car but couldn’t see anything at all so I’d had to increase the brightness of the dashboard lights which increased the brightness outside. I reached where I thought it would be, climbed out of my car and went in. It looked like the door to someone’s house. I wandered round and there was a yellow French pillar box just inside the door so I thought that it must be somewhere around here. I went round and round all these corners until I came to an enormous Post Office with about 2 dozen clerks sitting around. It looked as if there were 1 or 2 members of the public in so I asked if they were closed. She replied that they were. I said “that’s a pity. Could anyone sell me a stamp?”. Someone had a rummage round on the top of a desk and came up with a 1st class stamp

There was some more stuff too but you don’t really want to know about that, especially if you are having your tea.

Once I’d finished that I had a couple of chats on line with a couple of different people and then sat down to revise my Welsh, stopping for a good wash in between seeing as I’m going out.

Armed with a fruit bun and a full pot of black coffee I sat down for the lesson and to my surprise it went quite well.

We were discussing extreme weather today, so I told the class about the time when we were on the trail of Sir John Ross and a group of us walked across Philpot’s Island about 800 miles of so from the North Pole to map the far side in a temperature of minus something ridiculous and we were caught in a blizzard.

My friend Mike who was leading our group decided that this would be a good time to have a yoga session so there we were in a white-out lying on our backs in a snow bank.

What worried me most about that was that you really had to struggle to see your hand in front of your face. We could have come face-to-face with a polar bear and it would have been too late to have done anything about it.

We did have an armed guard with us but his job, so he told us, was that if he saw a polar bear in a confrontation with a human, his job was to shoot the human. "It’s far less paperwork" he said.

Actually, it’s a fallacy to suggest that the best way to survive a polar bear attack is to run faster than the bear. You just have to run faster than one other person in your group. Since my mobility has been … errr … restricted, I’ve been asked on several occasions by Mike and Jerry if I would like to return to the High Arctic and go exploring with them again.

After the lesson the car came to pick me up and take me to the Centre de Re-education.

My ergotherapy session was cancelled again so there were just the two sessions. And Severine told me that she is noticing an improvement in my muscles in my legs. So she must be doing some good somewhere.

In the musculation sessions there was just an old man and me and the therapist had us using our strength (or what we have of strength) against each other with whatever aids they had lying around – things like giant rubber balls, elastic straps and so on.

My upper body strength was better than his but he had more power in his legs.

Severine is probably right about the improvement. Coming back up the stairs later, I could actually lift my left leg high enough without any difficulty and it was the easiest climb back up the stairs that I’ve had for a good while.

Nevertheless, I was still exhausted and crashed out for a while once I sat down.

The radio notes are now finished off ready for dictating and I went for tea- a taco roll with rice and veg.

Before I go to bed tonight I’ll dictate the radio notes and I’ll prepare the programme tomorrow morning. The car will come for me at about 14:30 or so if I’m lucky so it should be finished by then.

And then I want to press on with these photos that I’m supposed to be annotating. It’s taking for ever and it shouldn’t be this complicated.

Right now I’m short of things to fire my enthusiasm which is hardly a surprise given everything that’s going on right now but whatever the answer is, feeling sorry for myself isn’t it. It’s not going to be finished if I just sit here and look at it.

There is the rest of my Christmas cooking too. I need stuffing, of course, but that’s not available over here. I suppose that I could invent something with breadcrumbs, onions, garlic and herbs so I’ll have to find a decent recipe. I have some gram flour somewhere in the kitchen.

And then there are the hash browns. When I’ve made them before, they have been a dismal failure so I need to work on those too ready for Christmas.

Something else that I need to think about is to restart the ginger beer factory that I had running here at one time. I still have the bits missing out of the wall to remind me about how powerful it was.

It actually worked very well until I had to restart Leuven on a monthly basis a couple of years ago. Brewing ginger beer requires constant attention and you can’t leave it fermenting for four days while you are away, as my walls will testify.

A powerful batch, that. Shame I never got to drink any of it.

Tuesday 28th November 2023 – MY BREAD AND BUTTER …

… pudding went the Way of the West this morning.

It was looking rather suspicious yesterday and this morning when I opened the cake tin my suspicions were confirmed.

Either it wasn’t cooked through thoroughly enough or else my cake tin isn’t air-tight or, more likely, it’s a combination of them both.

It has to be said that I’m actually baking with a cheap table-top oven and I’ve long-known that it’s pretty much hit and miss. To cook anything in it I have to increase the temperature 20° and increase the cooking time by 50%

What’s sad about all of this is that in the back of Caliburn not only do I have a proper built-in oven that I picked up in Macon from Jean-Marc last summer after he and Jacqueline remodelled their kitchen, I also have the units to fit it that I picked up from IKEA in Munich. It’s handy having friends who live next door to the largest IKEA in Europe.

But be that as it may, in the van they are and in the van they’ll stay because there is no way on this earth that I can bring them up here in the state in which I find myself.

As for airtight containers, I have quite a few more and better ones of those too but they are up on the top shelf in the kitchen and I can’t reach them. What kind of state am I in that I have a set of steps here but I can’t climb up them?.

Anyway, that’s enough of my moaning. Life isn’t all about being dealt a good hand of cards, it’s all about how you play the cards that you’ve been dealt and instead of worrying about problems, I ought to be thinking about solutions.

All of that will give me something about which I can think while I’m in bed tonight, so I’m hoping that it will be a longer night than last night because what with one thing and another (and once you make a start you’ll be surprised at how many other things there are) I ended up going to bed late last night.

And having spent all that time talking about garlic keeping away vampires and my three favourite young ladies, I had a visitor last night. TOTGA came to see me.

When the alarm went off at 07:00 I staggered to my feet and wobbled off into the dining area for my medication. And back here afterwards I listened to the dictaphone notes. I’d been a guest in someone’s house and had been interested on one or two items in someone’s collection. Every time I went to have a closer look at them I was suspected of stealing them. The whole situation in this country house-type of place became very complicated. There was one of the guests, a girl with one leg. She was wearing a pair of trousers. She asked me if I’d change the trousers and put a pair of shorts on her. Of course that would be something that I would find extremely difficult to do so I tried to hedge. In the end she explained to me that I was the only person here so it had to be me who would do it. The girl and I had to think of a way in which it would be possible to do it. Every idea with which I came up seemed to have a pitfall in it that wouldn’t make it work. And that seems to be par for the course these days.

And then later on TOTGA turned up, as I mentioned earlier. I’d gone with someone to some kind of club meeting because a guy had some Land Rover wheels and some kind of jacket for sale. My friend was very interested in them so I agreed to go with him to have a look and to help him. We arrived there and he found the person whom he was wanting to see so he wandered off for a chat. While I was wandering around on my own I came across TOTGA and we began to talk. What had actually happened was that there was some kind of snake slithering along the ground. All of a sudden its tongue darted out and caught a most enormous beetle, swallowed it, and slithered off on its way. I pointed it out to TOTGA and asked her if it was a snake or a slow worm. She didn’t know and neither did it. I’d taken some photos of it but the colours looked rather weak and insipid so we ended up talking about colours, palettes etc for photography and images. She told me that she used a palette that was called something like “City of Oklahoma”. I began to do some research and found out a few things about it but couldn’t find out how to load it up. In the meantime my friend came over to me, handed me his glasses in the glasses case and told me to put them in my pocket. I put them in my pocket but just the something hit me really hard on the foot. I thought that the glasses had fallen through a hole and dropped on my foot that way but they were still in my coat. It can’t have been them. I couldn’t see anything at all around there that might have dropped onto my foot. My friend gave me one or two other things, said “come on, give me a hand” and began to collect up the wheels and this jacket. Obviously he’d had a successful negotiation and was now prepared to carry away his prizes.

And wouldn’t I have liked to have carried away my prize too? But as I have explained before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … TOTGA always had far more sense than to allow herself to be swept up in my evil clutches.

Fighting off (sometimes unsuccessfully) waves of sleep I prepared for my Welsh lesson and to my surprise it passed off quite well, which took me by surprise. We spent much of the morning discussing shipwrecks and ocean travel, and I spent time talking about trailing along in the wake of John Ross.

Something else that we had to do today was to produce something from our day-to-day life and talk about it.

Of course, it goes without saying that I produced STRAWBERRY MOOSE and we discussed the events surrounding his confrontation with the Minister of Education, an unexpected death and the issue that arose with a group of students in Scotland, all of which led to his expulsion from the University.

Mind you, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, had he had different friends and companions, the eventual outcome would have been much different.

This afternoon, despite falling asleep on several occasions (and I don’t know why because it’s not as if I’ve done much) I finished off the radio notes ready for dictating later tonight, and then carried on with the photos from Canada 2022.

That latter task is taking far longer than it ought but I’m hoping that tomorrow after I finish the radio programme I can finish those off too. And then I have the notes to write, which will probably take me another 3 months.

And if you think that that’s a long time, I still haven’t finished the post-production of the … gulp … 6,000 photos that I took in the High Arctic in 2019.

Tea tonight was a taco roll with rice and veg, and there’s still some stuffing left to make a left-over curry tomorrow

So tomorrow I have a radio programme to prepare, photos to finish off, forms to print out and a physiotherapy session down at the Centre de Re-education. And then I have to think about what I’m going to do about Friday and my trip to Paris.

One thing’s for sure, and that is that you won’t get much sense out of me on Saturday. But then again, why should Saturday be any different from any other day anyway?

Tuesday 21st November 2023 – MEANWHILE, IN THE ….

… Social Services office –
Social Services Officer – "Do you have any problems with your hearing?"
Our Hero – "Pardon?"

Yes, I’ve been up to my ears in interviews today

And believe it or not, I prepared well for it today by crashing out on several occasions. Not that I’m sure that I know why because last night was one of the better nights’ sleeps that I’ve had quite recently, and I can’t remember very much of what was going on during the night.

When the alarm went off I staggered to my feet and went in search of my medication. A fine way to start the day.

Back in here afterwards I had a few letters to write and some information to pull together ready for people whom I’m likely to meet during the course of the day.

Once I’d prepared my papers I had a listen to the dictaphone notes and to my surprise and delight I was joined, at different times of course, by a couple of my favourite companions. And what a shame that I didn’t remember all that much about it. First out of the block was Zero, whose birthday it apparently was last night and there had been a big party. I’d been staying there for a few days and the morning after we decided that we’d make a start on tidying up. There were some things needed from the shop so they asked me if I would go to fetch them. The car there was a Chrysler Neon so I took it and drove away to the shops to do the shopping. Their driveway was between two pillars of brick and was fairly narrow but on the way back I just drove past and reversed in as I would normally do anywhere else. As we were walking in Zero’s mother said something about tidying up but I didn’t quite understand it – I didn’t quite hear what she said – so I sad to Zero “yes, go and put all the balloons in the cellar and jump around in there”. Her mother looked at me and said “that’s a much better idea than mine”. I was surprised because I thought that that was what she’d actually said but she must have said something different that I didn’t hear correctly. In the house when I went in there were loads of people sleeping around on sofas etc, dogs and cats etc everywhere. Apparently Zero had had a rabbit for her birthday and was playing with it somewhere.

As for the rabbit, I’m not quite sure where that fitted in, but I remember hiring a Chrysler Neon on a couple of occasions when I was in the USA 25 or so years ago and for a basic uncomplicated saloon car it was quite a pleasant vehicle

And then later on I was with Percy Penguin too. She’d finished work and gone home but she contacted me to ask me to come to pick her up. I thought that I’d go along to see what was the matter with her. When I pulled up she said nothing but just got into the car with a very depressed look on her face. After a couple of minutes she began to tell me her problems with her father – how when they go away on holiday he just lies in bed all day and doesn’t do anything. You could never force him out to do things etc. He’d completely lost interest in life and it was weighing down heavily on everyone. I set off to go for a drive with her and let her talk but for some reason, 2 or 3 times we ended up back outside her house and leaving again as if she kept on changing her mind then changing it again. We drove for a while as she told me all about these things. In the end we came into Shavington. There was some kind of fair there so we went for a walk around and came across some kind of craft fair that was proposing exhibitions and workshops. One was to make your own teddy bear and was on Wednesday at 17:30. I was explaining it to a father who was looking for some information for his daughter and noticed that Percy Penguin was listening too. I explained all about it to her. In the end we agreed that it was a shame that she knew no-one on Shavington because she could have gone there after work to wait until this course started, done the course and I would have taken her home after I returned from work. After a while of this she said that she wanted to go home. I asked why, if I could persuade her to stay out, but she said that she hadn’t yet done her homework for the week. I had the feeling that was an excuse rather than anything else but in the end I ended up taking her home.

Now there was someone who doesn’t feature half as often in these pages as she deserves. Her simple, uncomplicated, undemanding nature helped me through quite a few really stressful periods that I went through at one time or another and I wish that there were more people like her in this world.

Having transcribed the dictaphone notes I sat down to revise my Welsh ready for today’s lesson but regrettably I had the first of a couple of sessions today where I was away with the fairies for a while.

Armed with my coffee and my slice of bread-and-butter pudding I went for my lesson, which passed well enough although I’m convinced that I’m miles off the pace with this course. I just can’t concentrate on what I’m supposed to be doing.

However, as for my bread-and-butter pudding, it’s really turned out quite well and I’m very pleased with it. However it tastes quite differently from the bread-and-butter pudding that my mother used to make when we were kids, but that’s probably a good thing because my mother was not well-known for her culinary prowess.

In fact I had to wait until I met Nerina before I really began to eat well. And that’s no real surprise – anyone brought up by an Italian mother is bound to be at the top of the game in that respect and I was rather spoilt.

After I’d had a good wash and clean-up the car came for me and we set off for the Centre de Re-education where Severine put me through my paces. She told me that my sessions last week were cancelled because the ergotherapist had damaged her leg and was off work – not exactly the best recommendation for a Centre de Re-education.

With no ergotherapist I had to loiter around for a while before my appointment with the Social Services. She didn’t really have very much to tell me that I didn’t already know but she took copious notes which might serve some kind of purpose in the near future, I suppose.

Back here I had my hot chocolate and chocolate biscuits and then began the task of taking the inventory of what I have in store here.

And within a matter of a handful of seconds I came across 2kg of flour that I’d overlooked and also a tin of custard powder that I must have bought in the English shop in Belgium at some point when I was living in Leuven.

After about half an hour or so I was probably about a tenth of the way through the shelves but I’d already found enough room to store the food processor and its accessories. I’ll have another half-hour at it tomorrow when I’ll probably discover the 10 lost tribes of Israel, Lord Lucan and Martin Bormann.

Here and there when I’ve not been asleep I’ve been making a start on the next radio programme. The music has now been paired off and I’m halfway through writing the notes. I’ll finish that off tomorrow and dictate them tomorrow night. I have no visit to the Centre de Re-education on Thursday but the engineer is coming.

Tea tonight was a taco roll with some of the stuffing from yesterday. And there’s plenty left to make a leftover curry for Wednesday night. There’s still some naan bread dough left in the freezer.

As well as everything else I’ve had the acoustic guitar out again for a good while. I’m not sure why because I don’t think that I’ll ever play again in public but I suppose that nevertheless I ought to do my best to press on regardless.

Having finished my notes I’m going to have my hot drink and then go to bed. I probably won’t sleep much tonight with having had several goes at it already but I’ll do my best. And I’ll wonder about who will come along to visit me tonight.

Tuesday 14th November 2023 – WHEN THE ALARM …

… went off this morning, I was round at Liz and Terry’s. Two visitors came round, a young couple. The woman was a teacher at the same school as Liz. There was a big banquet that had been prepared but there wasn’t very much that I could eat so I had to pick my food carefully and then I ended up eating some feta cheese by accident. While I was sorting out my food I was listening to this couple recounting to Liz and Terry a tale of woe about how some kind of dirty deed had been performed against them. As I listened, a light went on in my head because I recalled from a previous conversation that I’d had with someone else that I’d heard this story before, told by a different person and from a different point of view which, nevertheless, didn’t put it in any better light.

So I made it to my feet and went off in search of my medication. I’m starting to run out of some of that now so I’ll have to contact the doctor and see what he can do about it. I’m going to have to be much more reliant on him these days if I’m not going to Leuven again.

Back in here the first thing that I did was to transcribe the dictaphone notes. And there were quite a few this morning. I’d had a busy night. I’d done some work on the laptop and gone to put the SSD back into it but it wouldn’t work. It took an absolute age to load up. I replaced the SSD with another one and then another one but each time it took really so long for the opening programme to load up onto the laptop – the homepage. I couldn’t understand why. Usually a clean install works quite well, the original hard drive was unaltered but the two other ones were new. There I was, stranded again with all of this going on again without a laptop for the moment.

And then a group of us had tickets for the European Cup Final. We arrived at the stadium quite early and found it fairly empty. We settled down on a couple of seats right at the very edge of where the stage was. There was a lot of discussion about football clubs – who was qualifying and where? Who did you need to support to get someone else, a long complicated discussion. I was busy looking at the speakers on the corner where we were sitting thinking that we’ll be deafened by these. They were in fact old PA speakers from The Who from one of their tours a few years ago. I couldn’t understand why they would be there. Slowly the hall was filling up as people were coming in and people were going. I was beginning to wonder whether we ought to make for a better vantage point than this because the music out of the PA speakers just by where we were sitting would be absolutely deafening.

There was something happening in my life about being divorced or separated etc. Catherine came to see me because we’d had a discussion the previous day or two ago about some kind of appointment. The Social Services had intervened early on that particular morning because the situation that I’d described to them had changed. Catherine asked me for the official date of my divorce or separation. There was no such thing as far as I’m aware. We agreed in the end that once the Social Services had found out the change in circumstances, should we say “5 minutes before that?”. It made no difference at all to me so I agreed. Then she suggested taking me off for an appointment with various different Social Services and Welfare people. She wanted to know about my personal papers, whether I had all of them. I replied “as far as I’m aware”. She asked “there’s no sign that your cupboards and drawers have been forced?”. I replied “no. They aren’t even locked”. She was astonished by that. I said “we aren’t that kind of people. We didn’t really have secrets”. She found a lot of it extremely difficult to believe. I don’t think that I was able to convince her of the truth.

With all this talk of divorce the fan must have been working quite hard. Just as we were talking about Labrador, the “Big Land” the head of the fan flew off and hit a dog that was standing close by us.

At some point I remember being in a motorbike race when I lost control of my bike on a band and skidded across the track and collided with the corner of a grandstand making some people sitting in there jump for safety

And then I’d found a mouse when I was round at someone’s house, a yellow golden colour, not exactly a mouse but something of that description. We managed to catch it and keep it in a jar. It was extremely friendly. We let it out at night when we went to bed. Next morning when we awoke it was still here. We caught it again. I decided that I’d keep it (as if that is ever likely to happen) and take it home. I went to the householder and asked if there was any food that the mouse could eat. They thought that there might be some bread or something but in the end when we looked through the fridge we came across half a cold cheese and mushroom omelette. We have it some of that. The person who fed it gave it an enormous amount, probably 3 times bigger than the mouse itself. I thought that if the mouse was starving you don’t want to give it that much food. It could quite easily kill itself. We put the mouse down to attack away at this cheese omelette.

And that’s pretty similar to the story of the Donner Party. In 1846 they set out on the Oregon and California Trail – a trail that I’ve been following bit by bit on foot over the last 20-odd years – from the Mississippi to emigrate to California, which was in those days part of Mexico.

Edwin Bryant, who travelled part of the way with them, wrote in his autobiography “What I Saw In California” that he was so dismayed with the slow progress that the Donners were making that he and his friends abandoned them and pushed on alone, and I had a lovely lunch in 2019 at one of their lunch stops among the same cottonwood tress where they ate their lunch along the Sweetwater River in Wyoming back in 1846.

Anyway, Bryant was not wrong. The Donner Party arrived in the Rockies so late that they were snowed in and ended up eating each other to stay alive.

But worse was to come. One of the few survivors so gorged himself on food brought by John Sutter’s relief expedition the following year that he dropped down dead.

And it’s a shame that I never made it as far as what became subsequently known as Donner Pass. I made it as far as South Pass – the watershed between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans – and a couple of miles further on, but that will have to be that.

Meanwhile back at the ranc … errr … apartment I went and had a good strip-down wash (I’m still wary about getting into the shower) and fighting off wave after wave of sleep I prepared for my Welsh lesson.

Today, I didn’t stay until the end. My first session at the Centre de Re-education was at 13:30 today so I had to finish early and prepare myself to leave. You really have no idea how long it takes me to put on my shoes.

At the Centre de Re-education I had a very long chat with someone who began the conversation with “how are things up on your rock?” and I don’t have a clue at all who he is.

But he clearly knows me, and that’s worrying.

There were just two sessions today, not three as I had been told last week. Someone had a chat with me about making some kind of plan to build up my muscle tissue, such as still remains, and then Severine pulled and tugged me about for half an hour.

It was later than I hoped by the time that I returned home, where I bumped into my cleaner who had run to LeClerc this morning and had taken a list of mine with her.

And thanks to her, we don’t just have the European Vegan Burger Mountain and European Potato Mountain but also now the European Vegan Cheese Mountain. She has done me proud.

But checking the spuds today, I shall have to do something with them. I suppose that there’s no reason why I can’t freeze them. When I’m freezing carrots, I wash, scrub, dice and blanch them and that works well enough for them, and also for the broccoli and sprouts that I have frozen from fresh.

And so I reckon that doing the same with potatoes will work well enough. If it doesn’t, I suppose that one of you lot will tell me about it

For the rest of the day I’ve been recovering from my exertions and doing a little radio work. As well as checking over the radio programme that will be broadcast this weekend.

It’s always a good idea to listen to the programme before it’s included in the stream to broadcast. I won’t ever forget when Liz and I were running Radio Anglais back in the good old days when I’d prepared a programme about “Yes” bassist Chris Squire, only for him to drop dead the morning of the broadcast.

That must have been the quickest re-write in history.

Tea was a taco roll with some of the leftover stuffing, with rice and veg. And while regular readers of this rubbish will recall the monotonous nature of my meals, they are in fact quite tasty.

So off to bed now, and tomorrow I’ll push on and finish the notes for the radio programme if I can. And then off to the Centre de Re-education. Coming back up the stairs was a little easier than it has been and I wonder if really is Severine who is doing her stuff that is working.

It’s all very well about healing the sick, but I wonder if there’s a massage that will raise the dead.

Tuesday 7th November 2023 – I HAD PLENTY …

… of time to recover from my exertions this afternoon at the Centre de Re-education. The vehicle that came to pick me up was 90 minutes late.

What I expect actually happened was that the vehicle that should have come for me picked up someone else because there was a driver from another ambulance company wandering around for ages trying to find her passenger.

And it’s just as well too because after the night that I’d had, I needed a good rest, although I doubted if I would be so lucky as to have one.

It was another one of these extremely mobile nights where there was a lot going on here and there. Plenty of stuff on the dictaphone as I was to discover later, and I was sure that there was much more to it than that which I recorded too.

Anyway, when the alarm went off I staggered to my feet and went off in search of my medication.

Back in here afterwards I did the very final version of this important letter that I have to write, and then I had to print off the details of my medication to take to the Centre this afternoon.

Surprisingly, there are 14 medicaments on the list, but I’m actually only taking 10. I know about 2 that I’ve stopped taking, but I’m quite curious about the others.

It’s not easy to double-check either as the prescriptions are in Flemish and the trade names of medication in Belgium are quite often different here in France. It’s pretty much some kind of inspired guesswork to fathom in out.

For example, there’s a product that I have to take that contains “Natrium”, which is unknown in France. However, the chemical formula Na refers to sodium and once you realise that, you can work it out. My ‘O’ Level Latin didn’t go to waste. But if only all of it was so easy.

After that I prepared for my Welsh lesson. I took my time at it too but regrettably I crashed out while doing so. The strain of last night was obviously far too much.

In between all of that I was having a chat on the internet with Alison and with Claire. It’s totally bizarre but everyone whom I know seems right now to be ill.

However, that’s not really all that much of a surprise. We’re all pretty much of a similar age and it’s catching up with all of us.

It reminds me of 5 years ago when I was in Liège and met a guy with whom I went to school years ago and who now lives in Munich. We were in a restaurant eating a meal, surrounded by tables with all these cute young girls sitting there eating, and we were talking about our medication.

That was when I finally decided that I was getting old. Prior to that, I always understood that someone who was old was someone 10 years older than me, no matter what age I actually was.

But kids have a habit of deflating your ego. I remember when I started to see Laurence 25 or so years ago and she brought her daughter Roxanne along with her. We were playing guessing games.
"Guess how old I am" I asked six year old Roxanne
"A hundred" she replied, without even drawing breath.

Much of the Welsh lesson passed quite well and I was quite pleased with that, but not so the rest of it.

We usually stop for 10-15 minutes for a coffee break after a couple of hours and so I went for a strip-down wash, seeing as I’m still quite wary about going into the bath for a shower.

And have you any idea how long it takes me to put on clean socks? I am really having the most extraordinary difficulty in performing even the most simple of tasks these days.

The car came for me bang on time and so I struggled down the stairs and outside, and we set off for the Centre de Re-education.

It’s a fantastic place, formerly one of the biggest and most luxurious hotels in the Baie de Granville.

It was requisitioned by the Germans in 1940 and after the Americans captured the town in 1944 it was badly damaged during the infamous German raid from the Channel Islands in the early Spring of 1945 when a detachment of German troops landed in the town and stole a freighter laden with coal from right under the noses of the Americans.

After that it was left semi-derelict until it was converted and it is probably one of the most impressive places that I’ve visited.

As it happens I actually know one of the girls who works here. She was one of the physiotherapists who worked on me in the days when I could walk and used to go twice a week to that centre by the station.

But anyway, a young girl gave my legs a workout and spent some time searching around for damaged nerve ends and the like. And I have to say that she can massage my clavicles any time she likes. There have to be some benefits of being ill.

The next session was a series of “time trials”. They have a kind-of obstacle course and the equivalent of a “measured mile” and I had to negotiate all of it against the clock.

And then I had to wait.

But I now have my programme for the next couple of weeks and it includes a chat with a social worker and also a representative of that body about which I’ve talked previously that it concerned with autonomy and keeping people in their homes as long as possible.

Strangely enough, climbing back up the stairs to here was probably the easiest that it has been for a couple of weeks. It’s probably just a coincidence or maybe even wishful thinking, or maybe it’s that the trousers into which I changed earlier today aren’t as tight as the previous ones.

On the way up I bumped into one of my neighbours, and I was glad to see him. He’s also disabled and has had his car converted to hand controls. I wanted to pick his brains about where he had it done.

After my hot chocolate and biscuits I transcribed the dictaphone notes. I was being interviewed by someone who was wearing some kind of badge that wasn’t the usual badge that I would have expected someone in that position to have been wearing. Just as the interview began and before I could ask too many questions about it I had a falling sensation again in bed and awoke with a frightful start.

It was exactly the sensation that I have when my right leg gives out and I cascade to the floor, and it was really strange that I had exactly the same feeling when I was lying horizontally in bed. As I’ve said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … there aren’t ‘arf some strange things that go on during the night that have been brought to … errr … light during this project.

And then I’d had a whole pile of homework to do – an enormous amount of it. It was all in various textbooks and on line. I needed to make a start on it but as usual there were all these different distractions etc that were preventing me until I finally managed to sit down at the computer and open one of the workbooks. There was something else happening in this dream about moving around in Shavington and something yet again about a group of us children being divided up into 2 teams by some kind of teacher for a game of rounders. Where that all fitted in I really don’t know but I do remember quite a lot about this trying to sit down and make a start on all of this homework that I had to do.

Later on I’d been out to do some shopping. I was back home in my apartment trying to sort it out and put it away. There were some things that were confusing and I didn’t know exactly where to put them. There was also some flour that i’d bought to make some kind of fruit bread so I threw the flour across to one particular pile on the table but it didn’t arrive. I thought that I must have miscalculated the weight and while it was in the air it must have fallen to the floor. I had a good look round but couldn’t see anything at all around that related to the food that I’d just bought.

Back with this dream about shopping again. I was trying to put everything on the correct shelves but there was so much that needed to be sorted out, things that I hadn’t actually bought before but there was no room for it. I had to start to shuffle everything around and squeeze things up in order to make more room to spread out and sort out my shopping that I’d just received.

And with the manoeuvres of just now, when I’d organised my things I fell over onto the ground but no-one noticed. Once I’d caught my breath I put my hands up to the table to try to raise myself up but at that moment a woman who happened to catch sight of me and hadn’t realised what was going on let out a great yell. She was really shocked. And interestingly, this was something that I dictated in French by the way.

Finally there was another one of these Government safety reports published during the night that laid bare a lot of the failings of the Government with regard to security breaches etc. Most importantly it continued on to say how the Government was trying very hard to shift the blame onto the ordinary people. Of course it wasn’t the people who were talking indiscreetly and the people don’t know any of the secrets anyway. If the people did know any secrets the fact would be that it would have been from leaks in the Government security system that those leaks had come into the public domain. A couple of journalists were tearing quite savagely into the Government last night with this report that they had published.

Later on I wrote out a few more notes for the radio programme on which I’m working, and had a chat on line with my cleaner. We need to change her hours around, what with me having to go out tomorrow afternoon.

And I’m having a visit on Friday afternoon too. I wonder what that’s all about.

Tea tonight was a taco roll made with some of the stuffing left over from Monday, with rice and veg. Tomorrow I’ll have another leftover curry and naan bread.

But let’s see how things go tomorrow down the road. The hard work is going to begin and as long as they can make some progress – or, at least, retard the deterioration – I’ll be happy. But with the Social Services and APA being involved, things are starting to happen.

And that can only be a good thing.

Tuesday 31st October 2023 – BANE OF BRITAIN …

… strikes again!

This morning, trying to connect to my Welsh class, nothing was working. My camera didn’t seem to connect to the site and neither did my microphone. Even worse, no-one accepted my request to be connected to the group.

You’ve no idea what I went through to make it work – connecting and reconnecting, even switching off and restarting the computer.

Eventually, the light went on in the back of my head and I worked out what was going on. It’s half-term, isn’t it?

Still, start as you mean to go on. I was asleep when the alarm went off this morning but I struggled to my feet fairly quickly. I went and had my medication, drinking the wrong drink this morning (yes, it definitely wasn’t my day) and then listened to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been.

I was in my Welsh class at first and told my tutor that I’d have to leave at 12:00 to go to the Re-education Clinic. She pulled a face which was a surprise. So i went outside and there was some old World War II equipment lying around outside. I could see various types of scenery relating to different arrangements. For example, Year 1 was a hat and a haversack, Year 2 was a grip bag and something else. I had to put them on the passenger seat in my car in the correct kind of order before I set off. It took some juggling to do. I thought that when I arrive where I’m going I’ll have to leave this stuff in the car while I attend my re-education lesson.

And then I was in hospital and had to go for an operation. They gathered me up but I couldn’t find my head and couldn’t find my thoughts and couldn’t find anything physical either that I needed to take with me. It was just my body that they put on the trolley. They began to discuss a few things. The story of putting things on the seat of the car – Army soldiers’ possessions – reared its ugly head too. That made me wonder because I imagined myself having a car that was comfortably and luxurious up to the operation. I didn’t count on having anything uncomfortable and rustic like a Land Rover.

We were then working in the shed last night, my brother and I. I’d spent hours going through all my tools tidying them up and sorting them out but he’d come along and borrowed them and they were in all kinds of mess and confusion. I couldn’t find half the stuff I wanted. he was building a framework in the shed to put one of his power tools on using big, thick beams of wood that he’d drilled through and nailed using a big sledgehammer to fasten these nails in. Where he was doing this, he was stopping me reaching my benchtop angle grinder, a machine that I used all the time. I could see straight away that we were going to be heading for an enormous row about how things were unfolding because my patience was drifting away considerably at a rapid rate of knots.

Finally we were all back home again and I couldn’t work out what time it was on my watch. In the end I finally managed to send a message to a group on my social network. They all came back that it was 08:11 and I should have been up at 07:00. I staggered to my feet and began to rush to make myself ready. Everyone else left their beds and as usual in the morning when everyone was up and about it was total chaos. My brother was getting in the way as usual as I was trying to dress. I had this lovely white suit that I’d found somewhere and was trying to find some clothes that matched with it. I was trying to make myself look really smart (it must obviously have been a dream) but it wasn’t actually working (nothing new there, then). There was some kind of exchange between the two of us about some money that I’d had on top of my dressing table. In the end he ran off to tell mother what I’d said so I hurled some abuse at him. I went in for my breakfast, hours late, but no-one said anything. It was all just complete chaos from start to finish. I think that I had my tie on outside my shirt rather than under the collar etc.

Next step was to send off my order to LeClerc. And as usual, several items that I would buy were out of stock, even if they were shown as available on the website. That’s actually quite depressing because much of it is important.

Even worse, the grated vegan cheese isn’t even offered, and if I’m not careful I’ll be running out.

Having done that I had a couple of e-mails to send off and then I could finally sit down and revise for my Welsh class. That was interrupted because the shopping arrived and the frozen food had to be put in the freezer.

Back in here at the computer, and having realised that there was no class today, I went back into the kitchen, washed, peeled diced and blanched the carrots that had come with the shopping.

While all of that was going on I put away the rest of the shopping, had a really good wash and then made myself ready to go out.

The car that came to pick me up was early so I had to rush around but in the end we reached the Centre de Re-Education. I was led a merry dance around the building trying to find out where I had to go but in the end was directed to the reception.

There, I was registered as “in” and had to fill in a pile of forms. I was then sent off to see a nurse who filled in some more forms and asked me a pile of questions.

Eventually, I was taken to see the doctor, a young girl, who asked me a load more questions, gave me a good examination (and I felt sorry for her having to run her hands over my feet) and we had a good chat.

Apparently, my sessions of treatment aren’t starting until next week. Today was just the induction and to give them an opportunity to have a think about what to do with me. At the moment it seems that sessions of physiotherapy and sessions of ergotherapy are how they intend to start.

The doctor thinks that I ought to do better with a walkframe than crutches so I asked her if, bearing in mind my generation and my passions, whether anyone had launched the Sony Walkframe for people like me, but the comment went right over her head.

She also talked to me about hand-controlled cars but that’s a job for these APA people, whenever they might get around to it.

Back here, I struggled up the stairs . I can’t raise my left leg high enough now to climb the stairs and that’s the most depressing thing that can happen. If that continues, I’ll be a prisoner here in my apartment.

Armed with a mug of hot chocolate I came back in here where, regrettably, I crashed out for a while. I ended up doing nothing at all for quite a while, but to finish off the evening I’ve been editing and cropping a few very large sound files, just to say that I’ve done something today.

Tea tonight was a taco roll with some of the stuffing left over from last night. There’s still some left so I’ll be making a leftover curry tomorrow. I’d forgotten about the naan bread but when I was organising the freezer earlier I came across all of the naan dough that I made a while ago.

Tomorrow morning I have an important letter to write and then while the cleaner is here I’ll finish off the radio notes. And I might even be brave and start another programme.

While there’s nothing much going in, I may as well push on with some work and see how far I can get. But it’s not quite as easy as that.

Tuesday 17th October 2023 – THIS TRIP TO PARIS …

…is becoming more and more complicated as each day passes.

My cleaner took the paper to the Health Insurance people for stamping. However, because it’s more than a certain amount it needs to be pre-approved by their head office.

"You should have your reply in 15 days" said the clerk to my cleaner.

And I travel on Monday.

But be that as it may, I ended up having another miserable night. What with a raging thirst and the stabbing pains back in the sole of my right foot, I was pretty much fed up of how the night went.

However even though I saw 06:40 come round, I was flat out asleep when the alarm went off at 07:00. And as you might expect, it wasn’t exactly easy to leave my stinking pit.

Anyway, there I was. And after I’d had my medication and checked my mails and messages, I transcribed the dictaphone notes. I’d been to a Remembrance Day parade. There were whole choirs of people including soldiers and civilians singing the Eric Bogle song NO MAN’S LAND two or three or four times consecutively, one after the other. I’ve no idea why because there’s nothing else that I remember

And then Nerina and I had been on holiday and had just come home. We’d slowly started to unpack. I couldn’t find half the things that I’d taken with me, CDs, that kind of thing and I was going round in circles. Nerina decided that she’d go to bed and I suddenly got it in my head that I’d go home. I left our house and began to walk on my crutches down West Street in Crewe. A train pulled up but it pulled up further down the platform than it usually would and a tram came in right behind it. By the time I reached the train to board it, it pulled away and left me standing there. Then I looked at my ticket and found that it was for travelling in the opposite direction, not out towards Nantwich. I stopped for a think and decided that I’d head back into the town centre. It was a wet evening but somehow very nice. I walked into the town centre, which became part of the old Brussels town centre. I couldn’t find a chip shop that was open. There were all these wonderful smells from barbecues, food stands and the brewery was creating quite an odour as it was working. I was aimlessly wandering around taking it all in. Then I wondered why it was that I was thinking that I was heading home because I was actually living with Nerina. My home was there. I thought that I’d set out back and wander back towards home. I noticed that by now I wasn’t using my crutches. I was going slowly but I seemed to be walking much better and didn’t need them. I was totally at a loss as to what was happening. I was going down these stone steps at the back of the town centre etc. Although my right leg was hurting it was still keeping me upright. I remember thinking that it’s a beautiful evening out here in the town centre just wandering around, looking around, taking in all the smells and sights. Maybe the two of us ought to come out and do this kind of thing more often

Later on I was with Nerina again. We were wandering around a shopping street somewhere in a tourist area in a city like Bruges. For some reason we became separated and I was on my own. There was something like a tiny kiddy’s tricycle that you’d sit on and push along with your feet. Someone disabled was using it. I found another, sat on it and began to push myself along the street on it. It was really interesting because there was a whole new perspective of views that you could imagine that a small child would have when it was being hustled along by its parents. I was taking it all in and slowly going down the street. Suddenly I heard her call in the distance, wondering where I’d got to. I thought “never mind. She’s heading in the right direction. She’ll catch me up quite quickly. I just carried on pushing myself along through the crowds on this kiddy’s scooter.

Having done that, I had to fight off a huge wave of sleep and then sit down and prepare for my Welsh lesson.

And to my surprise, the Welsh lesson went really well and I actually enjoyed it. That makes quite a change, the way things have been just recently.

Once the lesson was over, I had to wait for the doctor’s office to open and then I could telephone him. I spoke to his secretary and explained the issue with the Health Insurance. She promised that she would tackle them herself and let me know how things develop.

Next issue was to see about a vehicle to take me. My idea is that if I wait until I have confirmation that the cost is taken in charge, there will probably be no vehicle available. If I book one now and, if the cost won’t be reimbursed, I can always cancel it.

And cancelled it will be, if it’s not reimbursed. I only wanted to borrow the vehicle for half a day, not to buy it.

But there is another plan going through my head about this trip, and it will involve the collection of a mass of paperwork and a phone call to Italy.

More of this anon.

For what remained of the afternoon I chose some more music for the next couple of radio programmes and paired off the music for one of them.

After tea, which was a taco roll with rice and veg, there was football. Y Barri v Pontypridd

This was a typical lower-table derby match – at least, during the first half – with a few moments that could best be described as “warm”.

In the second half the game came to life and there were actually some moments of sublime skill. Y Barri’s opening goal, scored by Harrison Bright, was one of the best that I’ve seen for a while.

In the end Y Barri won 2-0 and if it hadn’t been for Wales under-21 goalkeeper George Ratcliffe in the Ponty goal, they could have had a hatful.

Y Barri’s centre-forward Kayne McLaggon is one of the best attackers that I’ve seen in Wales and he would have been able to take on the best if he ever had had some decent service. He’s been carrying their attack for years – up until this season.

A few years ago I saw a few games in the WPL where a young centre-forward called Ollie Hulbert played on loan for Cardiff Metro from Bristol Rovers and he impressed me very much. Y Barri signed him this summer and I reckon that once he and McLaggon work themselves out, and when they finally have some luck, they’ll be an unstoppable force up front.

So later than usual, I’m off to bed. I have a lot to do tomorrow so I need to be on form. I hope that I have a better night than last night.