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Monday 3rd October 2022 – I WAS RIGHT …

lake matapedia québec Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022… about this journey on the train taking for ever.

As dawn broke and the sun began to lighten up the sky we on board the train are slowly climbing up past Lake Matapedia.

According to the times of this and the previous photograph that I took as we were leaving Montreal in the dusk, we’ve been travelling for just over 11 hours and have covered a distance of about 620 kilometres.

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

Had I been travelling on a long-distance train covering this distance in Mainland Europe, it would have taken about 2.5 hours. It just goes to show how primitive rail travel is over here in North America.

Despite being very uncomfortable last night curled up in my chair, I did manage actually to go to sleep for at least part of the night. That much is evidenced by the stuff that’s on the dictaphone. I can’t remember very much about this first bit but there were some people who were moving house. We entered a lift, a group of us, and they came in behind with a lorry. While the lift was going up they wee busy cleaning a pile of dust out of the filters of this lorry and choking all of us at the back with the dust. I shouted at them to stop only to find that I didn’t have a voice. My voice had gone and I couldn’t make myself heard at all so I approached a little closer but still couldn’t make myself heard. My voice had gone and there was no possibility of expressing myself while we were being choked by this dust that was being cleared out of this filter

And later on I was with Nerina. We were remodelling the kitchen at the Place d’Armes. She decided that instead of the lino she wanted a different kind of floor so she was measuring. It meant moving out the furniture. One of the cupboards was absolutely disgusting. It hadn’t been cleaned for years. It was awful and I said that we would probably need a new cupboard to replace it. She said “let’s not worry about that for now. Let’s do this floor”. She was measuring it and making a list of what she wanted. In the meantime we’d made some vegan hamburgers on bread but they hadn’t turned out very well at all because the hamburger press that we had was not very good. One of Nerina’s friends was there with her husband. He had the idea of needing the hamburger press to put the hamburger press on its bun and then hitting the hamburger press with a hammer. He said that a mallet was what was needed but he couldn’t find one just then but hitting it with a hammer seemed to cut the teeth of the hamburger press through the bread as well as through the hamburger meat and was making these nice hamburgers. They thought that that was really impressive to hit it with a hammer

lake matapedia québec Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022As we climbed into the Matapedia Valley the day gradually lightened and I took several photos of the landscape.

Many of them didn’t come out very well, what with the poor light. This was one of the better ones

The movement of the train didn’t help. It wasn’t very steady and we were swaying about considerably. And having seen at various times in the past the miserable state of the track, that’s not a surprise. It’ll probably explain the depressing speed of the train as well.

The state of the locomotives and carriages leaves a lot to be desired as well. Canada’s lack of commitment to an efficient, reliable, comfortable and rapid public transport system is quite an embarrassment for a developed country

matapedia valley québec Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022It’s slowly becoming lighter and lighter as we push on alongside the Matapedia River. The sun is rising slowly up above the horizon.

Our train is now slowly heading down the river valley that cleaves through the Appalachian Mountains and towards the Baie des Chaleurs and the border with New Brunswick.

Even though we’ll soon be in New Brunswick we still have a long way to go before we arrive in Moncton, and I have a long way to go after that before I arrive at my final destination

The Matapedia River valley was an old route de portage used by the courreurs de bois travelling between Nouvelle France and Acadie, and a long time before that by the mi’kmaq people.

freight raft matapedia québec Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022There are plenty of settlements alongside the shores of the river and the river would have been an important freight artery before the arrival of the railway and the road.

This here at the side of the road in the town of Matapedia looks as if it might have once been some kind of barge. However it was probably built much-more recently than those days.

It doesn’t look as if it will ever go back into the water though, even if it might once have come out of it.

gare de matapedia railway station québec Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022The town, such as it is, of Matapedia is also listed as being one of the stops on the railway line between Montreal and Halifax.

There is actually a railway station here but we didn’t stop long enough to alight to take a photograph. Never mind though, because I’ve photographed it when I’ve driven through here in the past and one day I’ll sort out my photos.

Ln the old days when passenger trains ran down the Gaspé Peninsula, this was the junction for the line. But those days are of course a long time ago. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that on ONE OF OUR PREVIOUS VISITS TO GASPE we even found a complete train, locomotives, carriages and all, stranded at Gaspé station after they had cut the line in front of it.

Pulling out of the railway station we crossed over the Restigouche River, into which the Matapedia River has joined, into New Brunswick

matapedia bridge restigouche river québec new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022A little further on we catch a glimpse of the Matapedia Bridge, over which we have travelled by car along New Brunswick Highway 11 on many occasions in the past.

The bridge was built in 1974 and is 419 metres long. The border between the provinces is in the middle.

Talk about bridging the river around here seems to have begun in 1847 when a report was made on the state of the roads in the area, and there was certainly a bridge across here in the 1940s.

There are photos and postcards of that bridge and I’ve seen some of them, but I’ve not been able to find out much information about that one.

J. C. Van Horne Bridge Campbellton new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022In late morning we finally grind into the railway station at Campbellton where the train comes to a halt.

From the train there’s a beautiful view of the Van Horne Bridge across the Restigouche River to the Gaspé Peninsula and the province of Québec.

It’s another bridge over which we’ve travelled on many occasions in the past.

Named for the New Brunswick Member of Parliament Joseph van Horne, it was built between 1958 and 1961 and is 805 metres long. Finance was provided by the Provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec and the Federal Government.

Previously there was a ferry across here as well as another ferry further downriver at Dalhousie, the remains of which WE HAVE VISITED IN THE PAST but by the 1950s they were totally inadequate to handle the volume of traffic that wanted to cross.

sugarloaf mountain Campbellton new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022We’re told that we’ll be stopped here for half an hour, presumably for a crew change and a refuelling, so we’re allowed to leave the train and go for a wander.

Outside the station there’s a good view of Sugarloaf Mountain. We’ve seen this before on a couple of occasions when we’ve come this way by road in the past.

It’s actually a volcano, so I’m told, and is 922 feet high.

According to tradition, it’s actually a fossilised beaver. Glooscap, a legendary figure among the Mi’kmaq people, discovered a beaver blocking a river and so depriving the area’s inhabitants of their food supply so Glooscap plucked him out of the water and threw him onto land, and Sugarloaf Mountain is the beaver fossilised remains.

There are several interesting legends about Glooscap but there is one that especially intrigues me.

The native Americans recount a story about how Glooscap witnessed a group of people, strangers to the area, who were washed ashore with their damaged canoe somewhere on the coast of Nova Scotia.

The strangers then planted trees inside their canoe and then departed.

And if there’s a better description anywhere by native peoples of strangers repairing a damaged ship and erecting masts so that they can sail away, I’d love to see what it would be.
viarail carriage Campbellton railway station new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022While I’m here I’ll go to have a look at my train.

It’s just as well that I’m photographing it for posterity because it might not be here much longer. The frequency of trains is reducing year by year and it won’t be long, I reckon, before ViaRail cancels it completely.

Viarail complains that ridership is falling off and that it’s no longer economical to run it, but I do have to say that this is absolutely no surprise to me.

viarail carriage Campbellton railway station new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022Quite frankly, this rail service is an embarrassment to a Developed Country such as Canada.

By my reckoning, we’ve travelled roughly 750 kilometres. The photo that I took on leaving Montreal was timed at 06:10 and on pulling into Campbellton it was 19:02. That’s roughly 13 hours.

In other words, the average speed to date is 57.5 kilometres per hour, or 36mph. And that is just a total disgrace.

In Europe we have probably 100 long-distance trains travelling at 300 kilometres per hour several times per day and on one occasion, when a driver was encouraged to give a train her head just to see what she could do, it was clocked at 574.4 kilometres per hour.

What’s happening in Canada is one of the oldest tricks in the book and those of us who live in Europe have seen it all a dozen times before.

The oil lobby buys up the politicians, the politicians refuse to invest in the railway network, the railway system falls apart, the passengers walk away. And then the oil lobby goes “there you are – we told you that no-one wants a railway network”.

This shambolic, primitive, embarrassing railway system that disgraces a nation is bleeding customers, but the high-speed trains in Europe are regularly sold out

baie des chaleurs Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022So abandoning another good rant for now, our train eventually pulls out of the station.

The next hour or so will see us running along the shores of the Baie des Chaleurs towards the Northunmberland strait that separates the mainland from Prince Edward Island

The bay was the scene of one of the most famous – or infamous (depending on whose side you are on) – sea battles that took place in 1760

baie des chaleurs Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022Despite what you might have learnt at school, Wolfe’s successful attack on Québec did not signify the end of French rule in North America.

Montreal as well as much of the coast of Acadie, including the Baie des Chaleurs were still in French hands. In fact a French relief force sent to recapture the city of Québec had overwhelmed the British at the Battle of Sainte-Foy and pinned them down within the city walls.

The race was then on. Would the British fleet reach the city first, bringing relief to the besieged forces, or would the French fleet arrive first, bringing supplies and reinforcements to the besiegers?

In fact, it was the British fleet that arrived first. The captain of the French fleet decided to put into the Baie des Chaleurs in order to plan his next move and while he was there, to feed and arm the Acadian settlers.

In the meantime a British naval force had left LOUISBOURG in Nova Scotia on the train of the French ships and found them in the Bay.

Battle commenced on 27th July 1760 and over the next few days the British slowly pushed the French upriver and eventually, realising that there was no escape, the French scuttled two of their three ships and retreated to the shore.

The heavily-armed Acadians prevented the British from landing but the French maritime threat was ended. On 8th September 1760 Montreal surrendered and the Acadians surrendered on 28th October.

Since then, there have been several reported sightings of what is said to be a burning ghost ship, believed by many to be a phantom figure of one of the French ships and by others to relate to several other maritime incidents that took place in the bay back in the days of sail.

baie des chaleurs Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022The Baie des Chaleurs is also the border between Québec and New Brunswick. To the north is Québec and we are in New Brunswick.

Nevertheless, the predominant language around here is French. As I hinted earlier on, we’re actually in what would have been known as “Acadie” in the 17th and 18th Centuries, named for the famous Arcadia of Greek legend and the et in Arcadia ego of the mysterious LEGEND OF RENNES-LE CHATEAU

What is today the province of New Brunswick was settled by the French but a whole series of wars with firstly the Dutch and secondly with the British (and in the past we’ve swarmed over the sites of several battles) resulted in the province being taken permanently by the British.

Much is made of the “expulsion of the Acadians” as hostilities finally drew to a close but accounts quite often omit the reason for the expulsion – namely that those expelled had refused to take an unconditional oath of loyalty to the British crown – and the situation is really no different than any other occupation of any other territory in the World by anyone else.

Don’t forget that 30 million Germans were forcibly expelled from their homes as recently as the period 1945-1948 without even being given the opportunity to take an oath of allegiance to the new Power occupying their lands.

baie des chaleurs Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022But returning to Acadie, the western part of New Brunswick is English-speaking, due in part (but not exclusively) to its occupation by “Empire Loyalists” who were expelled from their homes over across the border in the USA following the American War of Independence.

In 1784 the British colony of New Brunswick was created, distinct from that of Nova Scotia and in 1867 it became part of the Canadian Confederation, a decision regretted by many who feel much more empathy with the people of Maine and Vermont “over across” the border..

driftwood baie des chaleurs Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022You’ll read a great many stories about how New Brunswick was the poorest of the Canadian Provinces until recently, and while it is true in the literal sense, it’s rather misleading.

The North-West Territories and Nunavut are territories, not Provinces and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador was only admitted to the Confederation as recently as 1949.

If those areas were taken into account we’d see a completely different picture. Those areas are far poorer than New Brunswick

While we’ve been discussing the situation about New Brunswick we’ve been drifting down along the shore of Northumberland Strait and we’ve come into the town of Miramichi.

northwest miramichi river new brunswick new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022After leaving the railway station we have to cross over the Miramichi River on the way south.

Here just inland from the town the river branches into two arms. We are at the moment crossing over the northwest branch of the river.

It’s a shame that we can’t actually see the bridge because it’s a magnificent steel girder structure that was constructed in the early 1870s and was the first bridge to cross the Miramichi River

southwest miramichi river new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022After a brief rattle across a small strip of land we pass over the bridge that spans the southwest arm of the river.

Each of the two bridges consists of 3 spans, and the total combined length of the crossing is 2400 feet, a length that made it the second longest river crossing at the time, surpassed only by the Victoria Bridge across the St Lawrence at Montreal..

Rarely for the time, the bridges were built of iron instead of wood, which was much more usual back in those days. The Victoria Bridge, incidentally, was a metal bridge too.

VIARAIL F40PH-2 6407 gare de moncton railway station new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022At long last our train finally staggers into Moncton Station where I’m going to be catching my bus northwards.

One of the two locomotives that is pulling the train is 6407, one of 52 EMD F40PH-2 locomotives currently operated by the company. I imagine that the one in front is a similar locomotive but because of the refuelling taking place, I wasn’t allowed any further forward than this so I couldn’t see which it is

As for 6407, it was involved in a fatal accident on 4th May 2010 when it hit a pick-up on a level crossing in Alberta and killed the 3 passengers of the vehicle.

These locomotives were introduced into service with effect from 1987 and that tells you everything you need to know about the shambolic state of affairs of this national embarrassment.

Even more embarrassing is that we left Montreal at about 06:00 (Central European Time) and pulled into Moncton at about 01:30 CET (time taken from photographs that I took.

That’s 19.5 hours on the train to travel a rough distance of 1095 kilometres, an average speed of 56 kilometres per hour or 35 mph, and despite the fact that there are about 1,030,000 words in the English language, that isn’t enough to express my thoughts on the issue.

For someone who is used to travelling on long-distance trains travelling at speeds of 300 kilometres per hour all that I can realistically say is that the Canadian Government and Viarail need to take a long, hard look at themselves in a mirror sometime.

Viarail complains about passengers deserting its network in droves, but this shambolic and embarrassing service with antediluvian equipment is a national humiliation that speaks for itself

But we’ve seen all of this before on many occasions and we know the reason for it too.

If you want to wash your hands of something, you refuse to invest in it, run it into the ground, it all goes pear-shaped, the passengers desert the sinking ship and then you can say ‘there you are – we said that no-one wants it” and you can close it down with a clear conscience.

As I’ve said, we’ve seen all this before.

Actually the train journey was more comfortable than I had imagined. There was plenty of legroom and reclining seats made it much more comfortable than an aeroplane and I ended up not regretting my choice, apart of course from the time that it took. Having said that, I wouldn’t have liked to be have been screwed up in a budget aeroplane seat for half the amount of time that this journey took.

As for the railway food, I didn’t get to sample any of it. I had my jammy bagels and also a packet of my usual crackers.

There was a tea trolley that came round at regular intervals and the coffee was not as bad as it might have been. And surprisingly, seeing as we were talking about Ukrainians, there was a Ukrainian refugee and her small children on the train just in front of them so I offered them drinks. I bet she was surprised to hear someone talking Pidgin Russian on board the train. I really must improve my Russian.

prevost 2327 gare de moncton railway station new brunswick  Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022We’re actually late arriving in Moncton, which is apparently no surprise to anyone. In fact they considered that to be something of an achievement of which they felt proud. I wasn’t all that bothered because it meant less time to stand around at the terminal for my bus.

That means that my bus is already in and the driver is on his break. I can load my suitcase into the boot and then loiter around at my ease while I wait for things to happen.

The coach itself is a Prevost H3-45 built by a subsidiary of Volvo North America, one of 50 buses delivered this year to Maritime Bus for their operations, and they are quite comfortable.

This one is only 10 weeks old, and already with 50,000km on the clock. They like to work them hard.

prevost 2327 gare de moncton railway station new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022In the past I’ve travelled on many of these coaches but usually in the opposite direction.

Before the Pandemic, I’d catch an “Orleans Express” coach from Montreal to Gaspé and alight at Rivière du Loup.

After a wait of about 90 minutes the Maritime Bus from Moncton would pull in and turn round, and I’d board it for its return trip and alight at Florenceville

When inter-provincial transport was cancelled at the start of the Pandemic, the Maritime Bus turned round at Edmundston, 120 kilometres away from Riviere du Loup across the border in New Brunswick and for reasons that only Maritime Bus will understand, the service across the border hasn’t been reinstated

There’s no passenger transport connection so what used to be a 7-hour coach trip has now turned into in an unbelievable 26-hour marathon that I wish that I didn’t have to do

There was time to discuss the situation about the buses with the driver. He seems to think that the issues with going north into Québec from Edmundston arise with Orleans Express who revised the schedule during the Covid lockdown when fewer people were travelling and now can’t – or won’t – reinstate it. And so the there’s an appropriate connection.

However there’s some good news. It appears that it’s a licensed service, the timing of the run from Québec City to Rivière-du-Loup that corresponds with the bus from Moncton to Rivière-du-Loup. It’s due for renewal in January and if it’s not actually operating, then the licence is forfeit. Coach Atlantic is well-aware of the potential here and the company will lodge a demand to take over the service if Orleans Express lets it fall by the wayside.

One bus all the way to Québec City opens up all kinds of new horizons, as long as the stop is actually at the main-line railway station and not at the outlying coach station at Sainte-Foy.

saint john river jemseg new brunswick Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022So on the bus, I’m sitting comfortably and we set off north-west.

We join the Trans Canada Highway at the big truckstop at Salisbury and a short while later, in between Jemseg and Corytown, we cross over the St John River.

We’ll be in Fredericton in a short while, so I reckon that we only have a couple of hours of my journey to go before I can find myself deep in the bosom of my family. And I can’t say that I’ll be sorry to stretch myself out I don’t think that I’ve ever been so uncomfortable in my whole life, what with one thing and another.

And once you find the first thing, you’d be surprised how many other things there are.

Our bus ended up being 25 minutes late arriving in Florenceville. There was an unscheduled stop at the airport as well as 2 coffee breaks that were a lot longer than the 10 minutes that he had announced.

My niece was waiting for me and it was lovely to see her after 3 years. Back here she made some food for me while we had a very long chat, and then I went to bed, totally wasted after my day of excitement.

Tomorrow I have to be up at … gulp … 05:45 for a Welsh lesson that starts at 06:00. I must be out of my mind.

Sunday 2nd October 2022 – AS I TYPE …

… these notes I’m sitting in a train that’s rocketing eastwards along the south bank of the St Lawrence River.

For reasons that only they will know and, if the rest of us were to know them, we still wouldn’t understand them, CoachAtlantic has taken off the service that runs between Moncton and Rivière du Loup.

Back in the old days, I would catch the “Orleans Express” bus from Montreal to Gaspé, alight at Rivière du Loup and await 90 minutes for a bus to come in from Moncton and turn round. But that’s no longer possible.

What I’m having to do now is to catch a train that goes to Halifax, alight at Moncton and wait three hours for a bus to take me back north-west. It’s like travelling 270° of a circle and what started off as a journey of about 9 or 10 hours has now become a journey of 26 hours.

Any British person who is complaining about the effects of Dr Beeching on the British railway network would have apoplexy if ever he were to examine the Canadian railway network. There is only one passenger train east of Québec in the whole country and I’m on it. There is absolutely nothing else. And although I paid for four nights in my hotel I only ended up staying for three because this train only runs a couple of days per week.

And that’s the Canadian National Railway. The whole of the Canadian Pacific network east of Québec, freight as well as passengers, has been ruthlessly hacked off, every inch of it. There’s a railway station right at the back of Rachel and Darren’s mill but that hasn’t seen a train since 1982.

And that’s why you’ll see a lot of “misinformation” about “The First Transcontinental Train” going from Montreal to Vancouver. In its embarrassment, Canadian Pacific is trying its best to shove under the carpet the fact that it had at one time a huge network in the Maritime Provinces.

And if anyone is wondering why I’m not flying, I’m refusing flat-out to pay … gulp … $1335 for me and my baggage.

If you don’t have a car in Canada, you are really in some extreme kind of difficulty and for that reason I’m seriously thinking of selling Strider and going back to hiring a vehicle at the airport. I can’t do this kind of journey again under any circumstances.

But retournons à nos moutons as they say around here, I was wide-awake, and in total agony by the way, at 06:30 and I went off to have my medication.

And having dealt with that I could get on with what I had to do. And while I was doing it, I was sitting with my right foot in a bucket of ice-cold water. I have to do something to try to improve my foot.

There was some stuff on the dictaphone from last night. I was going away with a girl but first of all I had to go back to the office to pick up my car, the beige MkIV that we had. When I arrived there, parked outside was the chocolate brown one with Nerina sitting in it. I had to basically chivvy her up out of the car so that I could get in and take it away with me as I had a ferry arranged for later that night. She said that I couldn’t go yet as there was a problem with a couple of the cars. The beige one had just quite suddenly cut out. She did say what was up with the second. The way that she described it, it was simply a wire off the beige one that I could fix in a matter of seconds. Then she said that one of the drivers had all the wages. I asked “which driver?” so she gave me a name but I didn’t recognise that driver. I asked about the rest and she said that it was in our lock-up. I thought that I’d better go and collect that. She said “you’ll need to go quickly before they go and fetch it”. I set off but I had to go back and ask where the lock-up was. She told me then I had to go back to ask which lock-up it was. I could see this lasting for hours, not finding the money, not fixing the car, not going away.

Later on, Mrs Ukraine was asking me why I was so interested in the fate of refugees in France. I explained briefly to her the story of my mother as a child being evacuated with 10 minutes notice to go to live with strangers. I told her all that story. Then I was on patrol with the Ukrainian Army but in France. They had found the coast and were making more of it. A helicopter then flew in. The first thing that it did was to winch out my brother. I imagined that I’d be next but it looked as if someone else was preparing to go, a woman. In the meantime my brother and two people were standing on a cloud playing football. As other people started to be winched in one of the guys came up to me to say that he needed a cannon. They had to make certain what it was that he actually wanted. It turned out to be a self-propelled armoured vehicle with something bigger than an 0.762mm machine gun. I said that I’d try to see what I could find for them and started thinking in my head about people I knew who might actually have that kind of equipment and I’d go along and negotiate it out of them.

As for the story about my mother, regular readers of this rubbish in a previous version will recall having seen a photo of where my mother lived as a child. It’s a small terraced house at the side of the road in Birchington in Kent, about 200 yards away from the end of the runway of Manston Airfield which was a major RAF base. At the fall of France and the first stick of Luftwaffe bombs dropping on the airfield, all of the children in the vicinity, my mother and her younger sister included, were rounded up with 10 minutes notice, put on a train and evacuated. My mother and my aunt ended up living in Somerset with people whom they didn’t know and had never met, with just one small suitcase each. Listening to my mother’s stories, what happened to them must have been an appalling nightmare for little kids like them and as a result I have a great deal of empathy for anyone else fleeing from their homes under a stick of bombs, no matter who they are and where they are.

Another thing that I did was to have a shower and to clean myself up ready to leave, and then to tidy up my room. And in many senses I’m sorry to leave this place. It’s much smaller than the place where I stay in Leuven but it’s much more modern and better-equipped. Had I been more mobile this place would have been pretty high up on my list of places to stay but the stairs killed me off.

My foot had gone down somewhat and it was easier to walk about. Putting on my elastic stocking made it go down a little more and although it was still difficult to put on my shoe, I was able to move around a little better than I did yesterday and that was a relief.

On my way to the station I stopped for a quick snack before getting on the Metro. It’s as well to have some food before leaving because I’m not sure what the arrangements for food will be on the train. There is a restaurant car on board but whether there will be anything that I can eat, or whether I can actually afford it anyway if there is, are interesting questions.

At the station I had to check in my suitcase witn STRAWBERRY MOOSE on board and then wait for boarding. I declared myself as in need of assistance so someone accompanied me down the escalator – It’s a long, steep drop to the bottom if I fall.

interior viarail train Montreal central station Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022We’ve SEEN VIARAIL TRAINS BEFORE when we were in Halifax and they seemed to be are absolutely ancient and in poor state of repair.

These days, nothing much seems to have changed. And that’s not all. The interiors are like something out of the 1960s, all leather and chrome, but it looks to be supremely comfortable.

Having had assistance to board, I was one of the first to find a seat. The train ended up to be crowded although I was one of the lucky few who didn’t have a neighbour. Mind you, someone is sitting right behind me with a couple of toddlers by which time it was too late to change seats. It’s going to be a long, noisy night.

Montreal by night Canada Eric Hall photo October 2022After what seemed like for ever, our train pulled out slowly from the railway station and we eventually found ourselves out in the open air.

It was going dark quite quickly and as the train looped round to the south to cross over the St Lawrence there was a really nice view of the city with all of the buildings illuminated.

We aren’t exactly in a hurry. It’s not what you call high-speed travel. In Europe this kind of pace would be embarrassing. It’s going to be a very long journey, I reckon, but at least I was right about the seats. They are comfortable and I have two to myself so I can spread out.

Something else that I can tell you about Viarail and the Canadian National railway network, such as it is, is that passenger trains have a very low priority. By the time we’d gone an hour out of Montreal, already we’d ground to a halt twice to give precedence to freight trains.

Having now had a coffee, I’m going to settle down while it’s quiet. I’ll probably be awoken a dozen times during the night so I need to take advantage of whatever quiet I can find.

Monday 19th September 2022 – WE ALMOST HAD …

yacht baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022… a new record for the completion of our radio programme this morning. So while you admire several photos of the marine activity out on the water today I’ll tell you all about it.

Actually, I’m not quite sure what happened today but at about 10:10 this morning I was about to start dictating the final speech for the last track, and once that it would be edited, it would be done.

For some reason though, probably an error of mathematics, I ended up with 10 seconds too much of speech. That was quite disappointing because I’d taken great care to make sure that the length of speech was correct. One like of text in my text editor is about 290 characters and that equates to about 17 seconds when it’s edited down so I have a reasonable idea of how long a piece of text takes to dictate.

So finding 10 seconds of speech to “lose” from what I’ve already dictated and merged into the programme so far isn’t as easy as it might be. Sometimes there’s a nice piece of speech that is ripe for editing out but there might be the introduction of the track of music to which it relates that overruns it.

yacht baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Anyway, while it finally saw the light of day at about 10:50, which is still quicker than quite a few that I’ve done just recently.

But almost as soon as I started to listen to it to make sure that it was OK, Rosemary rang me up. I’m convinced that she hid a camera in here when she came to visit a few years ago. Anyway, we had one of our lengthy chats again.

But the good news is that Miss Ukrainian has started school today at the High School in the nearest town to where Rosemary lives. I’m sure that that’s a good idea.

Even if she can’t speak French and follow the lessons, she’ll be mixing with kids of her own age. Where she’s living right now there’s no-one around at all of her age and a young teenager needs to socialise

speedboat baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022But meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … apartment, last night was something of a mess.

It was later than intended that I went to bed, and then I didn’t have much sleep because I must have travelled miles during the night. To start off there was a lady-friend of mine. I don’t know who she was but she started to date someone who was a cross between Boris Johnson and Bill Bailey and only had one leg. he was a famous politician and would sneak away from meetings etc to be with her. On one occasion the two of us had booked somewhere to stay but there was only one double-bed so we thought that we’d just have to make the best of it. Biy he turned up as well so it ended up with three of us in the bed. I went out to go to the bathroom ready to go to bed. He and this woman were in there so I said to them on parting “don’t forget later on in the night that your partner is the one on your right. When I prepared to go to bed his security team was there. They were looking for him so I didn’t say anything. I went back to another room after I’d had a wash in order to leave them to it for a while.

yacht school baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Back in the same dream later I was up and about. Those two were still in bed. Meantime the house was filling up with people. Eventually the woman got up and came in to join us. I asked her if she knew what “discussing Uganda” meant. She replied that she didn’t. I said that if I come out with the phrase, do me a favour of bursting out laughing and I’ll explain it to you later”. She wondered what I meant by that. Eventually he came out of the room. I explained that Zero (who must have put in an appearance somewhere but shame as it is to say it, I can’t remember her being there)’s mother had been to collect her, implying that we had a young child in the house at the time last night etc. After about 10 minutes of embarrassed chatting from their side I said that I’m going off to wash my hair so I’ll leave them alone and they can “discuss Uganda” or something like that. The other people in the house knew exactly what that meant and burst out laughing. I went into the bathroom, used the bathroom and went to wash my hands and found that someone had coupled the shower up to the tap and hadn’t undone it afterwards. As soon as I turned on the tap the water went everywhere and soaked the bathroom. I managed to stop it, opened the bathroom door and hurled a huge volley of abuse about the person who’d had a shower and left the shower attachment attached to the sink and not removed it at the end. Of course you can guess who that probably was but it was an impressive volley of abuse all the same. I started to look for something to clean up the mess.

Back in this dream for a third time. I said that Zero had gone home and the kids who had been on the trampoline were leaving. I gathered that those 2 had gone back to bed again so I made some remarks about “ships that pass in the night” etc while they were there and various other things to give the game away that I knew exactly what had happened although I said them in a manner that implied that I knew nothing.

Moving on from there, there was a big party in the office. The office was absolutely filthy. There was stuff all over the place. There was only one girl and I think that it might have been my elder sister who was attempting to tidy it up. I wasn’t going home as I had something arranged in the town so I stayed behind and helped her as best as I could. I did several huge bowls of washing up. Then it came to be 19:10 so I went to put back everything that I’d done so far. She asked how the room was so I told her that it was still a mess. I told her what I’d done. She said “OK, you’d better wander off now and do what you have to do. I’m going to be late in the morning” she said. “I’m not going to be in at my usual early morning time”. I said “never mind. I’ll try my best to be there myself something early and see what happens”. I was really disappointed that all our colleagues, none of them would stay behind and help and none of them were interested in coming along to open up the office tomorrow either.

When the alarm went off I was in the middle of a meeting with the owners of this building but they were only just setting up the bottles of water for people to drink and I never found out what went on. It was all about some abandoned farmhouse and buildings on the side of a main road that they were talking about demolishing even though it was nice, old Victorian stuff. It would have made a really nice conversion to flats and houses etc rather than being just swept away.

Anyway so when the alarm went off I did manage to leap to my feet quite quickly even though it was early, and after the medication I cracked on with the radio programme, as I mentioned earlier.

There were a couple of interruptions. Firstly for an early morning coffee and secondly to answer the door. The nurse had finally printed out my vaccination certificate from last June. Just one or two things that I need to do now.

Having listened to the radio programme and also the one that I’ll be sending off for this weekend, I went for my lunchtime fruit And then I had the notes on the dictaphone to deal with.

So I stepped back into a dream not just once but twice last night. And a mention of Zero too. What a shame I can’t remember her being about although I know that she must have been there.

hang glider place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022After all of that it was time for me to go out for my afternoon walk around the headland.

And once again, it seems that the Nazguls were waiting for me to step outside the door again. I hadn’t gone more than three feet outside the building when one of them came swooping over the roof of the High School and heading in my direction.

A solo outfit too, but not to worry. There were several others waiting around in the distance, some of which were two-seater Nazguls. So at least there’s still an opportunity to go for a flight around.

And I haven’t forgotten …

paddle board people on beach rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022So dodging the diving Nazguls I wandered over to the wall at the end of the car park to see what was happening down on the beach.

But first, my attention was focused on the events just offshore. yesterday we had a zodiac watching events unfold on the beach. Today, we have a paddle-boarded paddling past.

There were a few people down there as well for him to watch. Probably a dozen or so scattered about all over there.

No-one in the water as far as I could see, but then again the paddle-boarder hasn’t fallen in yet. There’s still plenty of time for that.

cormorants baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Lots of other stuff down there for me to watch as well.

As I made my way along the path amongst the people who were wandering around, I noticed that out there on a rock just offshore was a whole colony of birds.

Cormorants, I reckon, but what do I know? All that I do know is that they aren’t any kind of bird which I would be interested in watching. I should have paid much more attention, because when we were married I had several long lectures from Nerina about bird-watching.

What I could do I suppose is to go on and on about how I don’t particularly like those birds, but it would just be another cormo-rant.

F-GCUM - Robin DR400-180 baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022and so on that note I suppose that I’d better carry on with my walk and see what’s hapening with the aeroplane that has just taken off from the airfield.

It’s one of the aeroplanes that we see quite regularly as we are walking along the cliffs around here. She’s F-GCUM, a Robin DR400-180 that belongs to the local aero club.

My photo is timed at 16:01 (adjusted) which corresponds with a flight that she undertook when she took off at 15:15 and flew northwards. That’s not a usual flightpath for an aeroplane out of the airfield. usually they go out to sea and then down the coast to the south.

F-GCUM - Robin DR400-180 baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022However there was something bizarre about the flight that she was undertaking just now.

As I watched her, she did a U-turn and headed back towards the airfield, almost as if when she had taken off but the pilot had forgotten his sandwiches.

Her actual flight plan though was she went north, as I said just now, and then flew back south, back over the airfield and out to sea but after just a couple of miles she performed a rather dramatic U-turn and flew back towards the airfield.

Once back over the airfield she carried on inland, performed yet another U-turn and back to the airfield where she landed at 16:09.

My route along the top of the cliff and across the car park was pretty much without incident today. Just a few craft out at sea that you have already seen, and no change either in the inner harbour or in the chantier naval.

mercedes tourismo iveco mercedes tourismo coaches boulevard vaufleury Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Now that the heaving masses have headed back home at the end of the holiday season, we have the next generation of visitors.

The town and the cliffs are crawling with the pensioners out of the caravanettes or day-tripping on the fleets of coaches that are now arriving.

The poor little Iveco that waits to take the Homework Club schoolchildren back home at 17:00 is sandwiched between two rather large Mercedes Tourismo coaches, and thanks to Duncan Payne on the “Bus and Coach” group for identifying the bodywork.

It’s a good job that he did too. The driver of the brown one with whom I had a lengthy chat didn’t know and the driver of the green one drove off when he saw me approaching.

Unfortunately I’m out of the loop these days. I was left behind on Van Hool Alizees and Plaxton Premieres. I can’t believe that it’s almost 28 years since I last drove a coach after all the miles that I did in the past.

Back here I had a coffee and then I had a few things to do which took me up to teatime.

My stuffed pepper tonight was a really good one. I have really grasped the principle of those now. Plenty of stuffing left over for a taco roll tomorrow and maybe even some more to add into Wednesday’s curry.

But right now that’s that. Tomorrow I have a Welsh lesson and I hope that there will be more than four of us. But to be on the safe side I shall have to have a good night’s sleep and do some more revision tomorrow.

That is, if I can remember.

Sunday 4th September 2022 – AFTER ALL THAT …

… the blasted, flaming, perishing nurse didn’t show up today.

And after I’d made a special effort to fall out of bed at 08:00 this morning, despite the rather late finish yesterday and the bad time that I had during the night.

speedboat buoy baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022So while you admire a few photos of various kinds of nautical life that I saw this afternoon, I’ll explain.

Last night I intended to be in bed by about 23:00 but it was much closer to about midnight when I finally staggered off to bed.

And there I was tossing and turning for much of the night trying my best but failing miserably to go off to sleep.

Mind you, I must have done at some point because there were a few things on the dictaphone – notes of where I’d been during the night on my travels.

zodiac baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022After the medication I came back in here and when I’d eventually awoken (which wasn’t straight away, I’ll promise you) I had a listen to the dictaphone to find where I’d been.

I’d actually awoken with a really vivid sense of having played in goal for Pionsat’s football team for several matches. I really don’t know why but it was such a real feeling. It was hard to explain. We had some kind of team together somewhere in a dream and were looking for reinforcements. I’d heard about some young boy who played in some kind of cup competition as a goalkeeper. When we were putting the team sheet out for the next game a couple of days before hand this boy’s name was on it. I asked what was happening and they said that they’ve signed him up. he was going to sit on the bench for us. As I had to explain to someone that although he’s a good keeper he’s only young. He’ll have plenty of experience and learn quite a lot from just sitting on our bench in case there happens to be an injury. At 16 he has a lot to learn yet. This was when I started to have this feeling about being in goal for Pionsat.

It was actually such a vivid sensation that it took me a good few minutes to come to my senses (such as they are). I really did think that there was actually something in this when I awoke and it took me completely by surprise.

cabin cruiser baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022The next three voyages were quite interesting because they were all part and parcel of the same dream. I kept on slipping back into it. And it was another extremely realistic voyage or three as well.

I was with Rosemary and we were discussing the Ukrainians.

And this dream went on and on. We were all in Montreal. I was in the queue for buying something but I can’t remember what now. Their son (whom they don’t have of course) came up to me and asked if I was in a rush to go home. I said “not particularly. Why?”. “How do you fancy a week in Capri?”. I said “I’ll ask you a few questions. One – is it for a nice holiday in the sun?” to which he said “yes”. Then I asked “is your sister going?” to which he said “yes” so I replied “in that case I’m going as well”. We had quite a long chat about that. We all met back up. The father asked where we were but I couldn’t think of the street for a moment. I said “we’re on the south of the Rue St Catherine”. Suddenly I looked around and saw a big hotel and said “yes we’re in Campbell Square”. he picked up the name on an adjoining street and thought that we were in that. I insisted that this was Campbell Square (Place Mark Campbell is actually south of Boulevard Sherbrooke near the eastern end of the island and there’s no hotel there but never mind). I thought “we’d better hurry and organise this trip if we’re going tomorrow. I have to cancel my injection appointment with the nurse. If I cancel that and we decide that we aren’t going”. In the meantime mother and daughter were being rather distant. I couldn’t understand what was happening. When I looked around again the father and the youngest son (which they don’t have) had wandered away for miles. I was trying to find out what was happening here because really we all needed to stick together and book this hotel etc, book this flight and make sure that we were going. It didn’t look as if we were going at the moment and I was confused.

Then back in this dream yet again. A girl and I who had been with the Ukrainians had walked away. They’d gone off somewhere and we were walking past a group of beggars who were trying to entertain someone in the hope of having some money from him. We went past what at first looked like a grassy bank. I had a closer look at it and it was the ruins of a building that had been destroyed in an air raid in the early 1930s. There was a cemetery in the middle of it which I thought must have been the victims but it said something like “a cemetery, late mid-century”. I thought “that can’t be correct”. We carried on walking trying to find out what the Ukrainians were going to do about this idea to go to Italy for a week. We walked into another square and there was this huge magnificent hotel. I said “this is the hotel where we’ll be going to stay before we head off”. She said “there’s been another change of plans now. I heard them talking and it looks as if they’re going to be back home by Saturday so this thing doesn’t look as if it’s going to come off. We have to be careful because we’ll be in the red zone that weekend but if we can return home on Friday i’ve arranged for us to set up the tables presumably for the market stall the following day so this trip isn’t going to happen at all”. I felt extremely disappointed about that.

There’s a large part of this voyage that I’ve left out. Usually, the only things that I leave out are the more gruesome bits and pieces that you really don’t want to read. However today, I’ve left stuff out for another reason completely. If you really want to know the reason why, you’ll have to ask me.

There were a couple of pauses while I was doing that – firstly for breakfast and then for lunch. Yes, I had both today. In fact, going through the fridge yesterday I came across an opened packet of vegan cheese slices about which I had completely forgotten so for breakfast I made myself some cheese on toast.

It was delicious too but I wish that I had remembered to put a few slices of tomato on top.

When I finally finished I spent most of the rest of the afternoon dealing with the photos from Jersey. And once again, more time was spent researching than editing

A few weeks ago Liz and I had chatted about the Rollright Stones – the ancient monument, not the SONG BY “TRAFFIC”. In a Newsgroup that I follow, someone had posted an article about the stones so I sent the link to her and that led to a little chat.

Something else that happened was that I had a little “wobble” and found myself drifting away – the first time for a fortnight. But I think that I won’t count this because after all, it’s Sunday and I did have an early start.

And don’t forget that I did say that I’d go back to bed after the nurse had been. It’s hardly my fault that no-one turned up.

And it goes without saying that I staggered off outside, a little later than usual.

people on beach rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Not that I went far. Not the way my leg is feeling right now. I went as usual across the car park to look over the wall and down onto the beach to see the crowds.

And while it’s probably wrong to say “crowds”, there were certainly quite a few people down there right now. My attention was focused though on the ones who were brave enough to take to the water. Good for them.

No neighbours out there to detain me this afternoon so I didn’t have cause to hang around. After a look around out to sea, where there wasn’t much going on for a Sunday, I tried my knee out, found that it hadn’t improved any, and abandoned my plans for a hobble off around the medieval city walls.

masthead flag shtandart port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Instear, I took myself off to the viewpoint overlooking the port and the fish processing plant on the corner of the Boulevard Vaufleury and the Boulevard des 2E et 202E de Ligne

The first thing that I noticed was that Shtandart is still there. It looks as if the port has become a safe haven for her now. All of those who voted for LePen (and there were many more of them than there ought to be around here) must be exerting their influence.

The second thing though is that she has taken down her Russian flag at the masthead. There’s another banner there right now but I really don’t know to what it refers.

The superimposed images are strange. Top left looks roughly like Asia, bottom left roughly like the Middle East, bottom right like Alaska and the Aleutians, but I’m open to suggestions for the top right image. I wonder if they represent areas that Putin intends to occupy.

le styx spirit of conrad capo di fora charles marie port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022Chausiaise, Victor Hugo and the trawlers are still there out of shot, and the three boats that we saw yesterday, Le Styx, Spirit of Conrad and Capo di Fora are still there too.

And they’ve now been joined by another yacht that must have come into port after I’d gone back inside yesterday. The blue and white yacht Charles Marie has now come into port. Maybe she has finished her summer season now as well.

There are two other boats in that photo too, a trawler in front of le Styx and a yacht, complete with wind turbine, in front of Spirit of Conrad.

However I have no idea who they are and I have no way of finding out because whoever they are, they don’t have their AIS beacons switched on

grass boulevard vaufleury Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022While I was here I had a look at the grass on the top of the cliff.

That rain that we had has clearly done someone some good because while much of the older grass looks as if it’s definitively gone beyond the possibility of recovery (and I’m not even convinced of that) you can see that there’s plenty of new growth springing up.

It’s not going to take too long before we’ll forget that we have had a drought this summer.

This was as far as I went. With no change at the chantier naval today I decided to head off home and not put too much trust in my knee.

As I said yesterday, I don’t have a great deal of confidence in my knee and it’s all rather worrying.

yellow powered hang glider place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022On the way back home I heard an old familiar rattling up in the sky.

And I had to look long and hard to see who it was because it was so high up and lost in the clouds. I only noticed it when it flew into a gap and sure enough, it turned out to be the yellow powered hang-glider.

And while we’re on the subject of ULMs – as the French call “microlight aricraft” … “well, one of us is” – ed … one of them, not one that we know, went down yesterday morning near Falaise in the Calvados and regrettably both persons on board lost their lives .

Before going out I’d mixed up another load of dough and given it a good going-over.

When I came back it had risen quite nicely so I divided it into 3 and put two portions into the freezer. The third one I rolled out and put in the pizza tray for its second proofing.

vegan pizza place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo September 2022It sprung up like a mushroom too so when it was ready I assembled it and put it in the oven.

Following on from what I said last Sunday I remembered to put it one shelf higher than I usually do and it was actually cooked to perfection. Easily the best one that I’ve ever made and one of the tastiest too.

So now that I’ve finished my notes I’m going to relax for a while and then go off to bed. I have an early start tomorrow – 06:00 in fact – and a radio programme to prepare so I need to be at my best.

What are the odds on the nurse coming along to interrupt me at some point?

But what about last night’s adventures? That football one was certainly bizarre and I can’t believe that I actually had to think about what I’d been doing.

When I was at school I used to play in goal but I never had the height and I was never actually selected to represent the school so thinking that I wasn’t any good, I never kept it up. I just turned out in goal for the odd knock-about side after I left school and played outfield down the left side of the field.

It wasn’t until a good few years later that I discovered that the boy who was n°1 choice in goal at school went on to play for Wycombe Wanderers in the Football League and the boy who was n°2 choice played for Northwich Victoria in the UK’s fifth tier so maybe it was a case that I wasn’t that bad after all. The competition was just too good.

Instead, I ended up keeping wicket for a good-quality club cricket size for a few years until I went off on my travels.

But that voyage with the Ukrainians was interesting too. It’s a shame that I can’t tell all of the story.

Saturday 6th August 2022 – AS BARRY HAY ONCE …

… famously said, IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK HOME.

And, shame as it is to admit it, it was good to have Caliburn at the railway station too because the train can be 15 minutes late arriving in Granville, I can go to do a pile of shopping in Lidl, and still be back home before the usual time that I would have been had I walked, and without any of the stress and fatigue.

Just as well too because apart from the fact that it was a scorching afternoon that would have burnt me to a frazzle had I tried to walk, I’d had another bad night. In fact, when the alarm went off at 05:30 I was already up and about tidying the room.

martelarenplein gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Never mind the 06:33 to Oostende, I was well in advance for the 06:09 to Knokke via the airport

For a change, I was out of the building quite rapidly and soon at the Martelarenplein. That’s been under renovation for years too so it’s really nice to see it almost clear of the evidence. Just a portaloo and a little compound to go.

But by the looks of things, Birnam Wood is now on its way to Dunsinane, and presumably intending to travel there by taxi too because it’s just behind where they are that the taxis line up to take away the passengers.

And you can see the time on the station clock just above the trees.

glad road sign martelarenplein Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022It goes without saying that I’m quite happy too. Especially as I’m on my way home.

Seriously … “just for once” – edGlad is Flemish for “slippery”. What this sign is referring to is that there’s a spiral cycle ramp just here and when it rains and the water comes cascading down it’s quite treacherous.

It beats me why someone would want to bring a horse up there, but I was going to go for a closer look but there were no little girls around to come with me, presumably something compulsory, judging by the accompanying sign.

sncb 535 am96 multiple unit gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Bang on time the 06:06 pulled in so I clambered aboard that and headed into Brussels via the airport.

It’s one of the class of AM96 multiple units with the rubber bellows end and the driver’s cab that tilts away when two or more trainsets are coupled together. These are quite comfortable, compared to some of the trains that work this line.

Not much luggage space though which is rather sad for a train that goes back and to via the airport. When the train is full we’re all somewhat overwhelmed with suitcases, although it was quite empty today.

ukrainian refugee centre gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022At Brussels I had a few things to do there so I was glad that I was on the earlier train.

First thing to do was to check the Ukrainian Refugee Centre to make sure that it was still operating. It was all closed up when I went by but that’s presumably due to the early hour. It looks as if it’s still operating in normal times.

Second thing was to draw more cash from the one-armed bandit. I don’t use very much cash at all these days, preferring to pay by card for everything but nevertheless it’s still handy to have some floating about.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that as a result of years of bitter experience, I keep €50 tucked away in my phone case and another €50 tucked away in Caliburn just in case I forget my bank cards when I’m on my travels, and I’ve had to rely on them more than once.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4537 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022There was only a short wait after that because much to my surprise, and everyone else’s too they posted the train to Paris half an hour before the next one so we all swarmed up to the platform.

Today’s train consists of two trainsets, each of 8 carriages. Mine is a “PBA” trainset, one of the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam Reseau 38000 tri-volt units. Quite elderly now but still quite capable of cruising for hours effortlessly non-stop at speeds of over 300kph.

Despite their age, it’s still by far the most comfortable and quickest way to travel to Paris. Many people think that an aeroplane might be quicker but it takes an age to travel from Brussels to the airport at Zaventam and then from Charles de Gaulle to the centre of Paris.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4533 PBA gare du midi brussels Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022The other trainset is also a “PBA” and that’s a surprise. We’re quite used to having hybrid trains consisting of different types of trainsets.

Everyone suged aboard and I could understand why they posted the train earlier too. There were 16 carriages on this train, all of which except the two buffet cars have 108 seats, and there wasn’t an empty seat on the whole train.

Getting that lot on board would take much longer than 15 minutes.

My seat was squashed in a corner out of the way so I passed the time of the journey choosing more music for my radio shows and keeping myself to myself.

Paris was heaving too. I was lucky enough to grab a seat on the Metro and we whizzed through the drains quite rapidly.

At the exit at the Gare Montparnasse Metro station a couple of people offered to carry my suitcase up the stairs for me, which was very nice of them. I didn’t take up their offer as I have to do all that I can to maintain my autonomy.

Nevertheless I am glad that I found that easier walk down the street instead of struggling through the labyrinth.

Gare Montparnasse was heaving with people this morning but then the first Saturday in August, that’s hardly a surprise. And I was lucky to find a seat next to an electric socket that actually worked so I could charge up the phone and listen to a live concert of Steve Harley and Nick Pynn which has one of the best versions of “Riding The Waves” that I’ve ever heard.

84558 gec alstom regiolis gare montparnasse paris france Eric Hall photo August 2022The train back home was as usual a Gec Alstom Regiolis

Once again we were called early to the train which was once more just as well, and for the same reason as before. 2×6-car units and not a spare seat anywhere.

Lucky me! I had a lovely travelling companion but she didn’t say much and I carried on choosing music, reading a couple of books and … errr … falling asleep as we all went West.

The car park at the station was heaving too and leaving took quite a while. But I’m glad that I took the opportunity to go to Lidl because I could stock up with stuff for the next few days.

You’ve no idea how glad I was to be back at my apartment. I struggled up the stairs not once but twice with my stuff and ended up having quite a long chat with my neighbour from upstairs and we put the world to rights for a while.

Once I’d installed myself inside I made a nice strong coffee and a couple of rounds of toast – the first stuff that I’d eaten today and it was 15:30.

While I was drinking the coffee (two cups) I backed up the big computer in here and even before I’d finished the coffee I’d fallen asleep again. This time it was a good one and I was gone for about an hour and a half.

Tea was what I should have had last night. Alison coming by yesterday was a surprise so we had eaten out and I brought the stuff back with me today. It’s a shame to waste it.

There was the dictaphone to deal with at some point too. I was cooking some food in the oven. There was some stuff in there that I’d bought and there was a pie in there, something like that. I put the pie in what was really the vegetable container in the fridge but that was in the oven. When I went to turn the pie over to do the other side I noticed what i’d done and had to take it out. I went to pull the vegetable tray out but it was made of glass and really hot. I dropped it on the floor. Luckily it didn’t break and didn’t damage my pie. I had to look around for a pyrex bowl in which to put my pie so it would heat up properly in the oven while everything else in there was cooking

Later I was in charge of a gaol last night in Alabama or Georgia somewhere in the USA. There was turmoil because the State declared itself independent from the USA and everything changed. The townspeople wanted to take control of the gaol because there was an Afro-Caribbean prisoner in there who they wanted to summarily execute. I’d arranged for my men to be in the prison so that there would be no violent takeover. Anyway the people came in. I was standing there with a loaded shotgun. They considered that to be provocation. One man sidled up towards me supposedly out of my vision to try to overpower me but I stepped back and drove the butt of the shotgun into his stomach. I’d sharpened the butt of the shotgun into a point so it was like a spear. It pierced his skin and that took him by surprise. We ended up in a back room where I stabbed him several more times with this shotgun. He ended up unconscious on the floor. I walked back into the room with the shotgun in one hand and an automatic pistol in the other and asked “what happens now?”. That took them completely by surprise that I’d managed to overpower this guy so easily.

Finally Zero’s dad had given me a small red FIAT car that was in really good condition. I’d brought it in through my front door and into the house to give to Nerina, the idea of the house being that he couldn’t claim it back just in case there was a problem because I wasn’t sure about how reliable this gift was going to be. Then I had to go and do some work on the computer so I went upstairs to my office . I’d arranged all the furniture at one time that meant that I couldn’t see the computer screen from where my desk was so I had to rearrange it all back again. While the computer was warming up there was a programme on the internet about some kind of race through these fields by the people of this village. They had become so bogged down in the mud etc that they’d had to bring dogs in to tow them out. One of the competitors had to stay behind because they had a pair of chains to use to attach these dogs to all the teams. Instead of being clear favourites they were way down the field by the end. The judges had to mark their lateness as being compulsory rather than voluntary and that was controversial. The judges had to stay there really late to mark this particular leg so they weren’t happy either. It was all rather chaotic

It’s been an age since Zero has come for a wander with me during the night but every now and again her father pops up uninvited. He’s obviously “The Banquo at my banquet, a cuckoo in my nest”. Why can’t he send Zero instead?

So now I’m off to bed. I’m exhausted and a good sleep will really do me good, I reckon. I’ve been invited out tomorrow but I don’t know if I shall go. I’m not feeling up to it right now so we’ll have to see if I’m feeling any better in the morning.

Wednesday 3rd August 2022 – I’VE DONE SOMETHING …

… today that I vowed that I would never do. But needs must when the devil drives and it’s a sign of how far down the slippery slope I’ve slid just recently.

In fact what I’ve done, while we’re on the subject of driving … “well, one of us is” – ed … is that I drove to the railway station this morning in Caliburn.

It totally beats me why they can lay on a bus service that serves our building, and then send the bus off to places that don’t include the town centre or the railway station or anywhere else that anyone would realistically want to visit

Having spent far too much time hanging around in the past, I set the alarm for 07:00 today and that gave me enough time to prepare myself and to have a whizz around the apartment to clean it a little and take out the rubbish.

84569 gec alstom regiolis gare de Granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo August 2022There were a few parking spaces free just outside the station which was my good luck. I didn’t have too far to walk

As a result I was on the station in plenty of time for the train, which pulled into the station through the fog. The weather was clammy, foggy and not very encouraging this morning.

Our train was, as usual, one of the GEC Alstom Regiolis models, consisting of 2×6-car units. It was quite busy today and by the time that we arrived in Paris it was totally crowded.

Nevertheless I was lucky in that I had no-one sitting next to me so I could spread out and work in comfort.

It didn’t take me long to update the computer and then I read a book all the way to Paris. For a change, it was a novel, “The Man Who Was Thursday” by G K Chesterton.

eiffel tower sacre coeur paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022By the time that we reached Paris the fog had gone and we had a bright blue sky.

My seat was a good one this morning and as we pulled into the city and passed over the petite ceinture, the railway that used to perform a complete circle of the city in the olden days, I had a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower.

In fact you might say that I really had an Eiffel of it.

Over on the right on the skyline is the Sacré Coeur church in Montmartre. Where we stayed a couple of months ago was just round there about 10 minutes away but we didn’t have the time to visit it back then. I haven’t been there since I went with Nerina at some ridiculous time of the morning before the rush-hour traffic hit it some time years ago.

We were about 15 minutes late arriving in Paris but that didn’t matter too much because there was a long wait for my train to Brussels today.

ukrainian refugee centre gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022As usual I walked down the street in the open air to the Metro station instead of going through the labyrinth. It was blistering hot and I melted through the streets to the Metro. The Metro was packed but I managed to find the last remaining seat to Gare du Nord.

At the Gare du Nord I went to check to see if the Ukrainian Refugee post was still operating.

There’s a very active Group of activists in Normandy who are very interested in the lot of the refugees and I have some connection with a couple of them. While I’m on my travels I like to see what’s going on in this respect so I can pass on the information to people who can make use of it.

And then there was the wait for the train. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’m not taking the earlier “Ouigo” train and going via Lille. I’m not up to the walk across town at the moment so I’m paying extre and going on the later “Thalys” direct to Brussels.

The Gare du Nord was packed as well and there was no hope of finding a seat anywhere. I headed off to my usual comfortable secret bolt-hole where I was shouted at by a trolley driver but I took no notice.

Thalys PBKA 4301 gare du nord paris France Eric Hall photo August 2022And then I had to fight my way on board the train to Brussels.

It was one of the PBKA – Paris Brussels Cologne Amsterdam trainsets and it was packed. There wasn’t a single seat free.

There was all kinds of confusion about the seats too, to which I contributed somewhat, with the ticket inspector having flicked over my electronic ticket while checking it so I ended up sitting in my seat for the return journey instead.

And in the confusion I lost my computer mouse. I had a feeling that it wasn’t my lucky day today.

sncb class 18 electric locomotive gare de Leuven railway station Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022As our train pulled in to Brussels, so did a push-me-pull-you for Leuven.

An ancient graffiti-ridden vinyl-upholstered relic of the 1970s as you can see in the photo where they have done a pretty poor job of cleaning it up but it was here and now do I fell aboard and that whipped us off to Leuven.

It was pushed by one of the Class 18 electric locomotives that these days are the mainstay of main-line passenger trains on locomotive-hauled lines. We’ve been on plenty of these in the past.

Having done a little shopping in the supermarket at the back of the station I came on here to encounter a load of confusion about the keys to my room.

And they have put me up two flights of stairs as well and I really don’t need that at all. Not in my state of health right now

pennsylvania volkswagen naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Later on I made it down to Delhaize for the rest of the supplies for my stay here.

And on the way down, this Volkswagen caught my eye, mainly because it’s carrying a number plate from Pennsylvania.

Why I’m interested in this is to find out how the car managed to come over here. There is a vehicle ferry from Europe to North America and back again but it’s for unaccompanied vehicles only and the prices are on another planet.

If I could find a ferry that is at amore reasonable price I’d sell Strider, my Canadian pickup, and take Caliburn over every year to North America.

roadworks Weldadigheidsstraat Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a while back in the Weldadigheidsstraat there was a rather large crane that was doing some kind of work at a house down there.

And so going past today I had a look down the street to see if it was still there, only to be confronted by a pile of paving blocks and building materials.

There’s some kind of process of gentrification taking place in Leuven right now and this street looks as if it’s about to fall victim to the designs of the planners.

What’s regrettable about this is that once the council does this it adds on about €20,000 to the house prices in the area and this makes the properties even less affordable to low-income earners.

Prices in town are already far too high for many people and this kind of thing won’t help any.

In Delhaize I stocked up with stuff and it wasn’t all that expensive. But then again with me being much more restrictive on what I eat these days, I’m not buying as much. And i was lucky enough to find a hard-wired mouse so I’m back in business, and after tea I can write up my notes.

photographer naamsevest Leuven Belgium Eric Hall photo August 2022One thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall is that my pages are full of photographs of people taking photographs.

Here’s someone else whom I caught doing it at the corner of the Naamsevest and the Naamsestraat. I had a good look round but I couldn’t see what had attracted his attention but never mind. I cleared off home.

Tea was a vegan burger with pasta and veg – the vegan burgers that I bring from home because LIDL actually does a good line in cheap vegan burgers

The reason why I do that is because if I have one with me and I’m too tired to go to the shops after I arrive, I can buy a bag of chips from across the road and I still have something like a meal to keep me going until I feel better.

What a state of affairs to be in.

Meanwhile – the dictaphone. We were at school, a whole mob of us, and there was a radio play in which we were performing. It started off with someone falling over a pile of students’ outstretched legs so it was a long stretched-out “AAARRRGGGHHH” sound to open it. This was how this radio play opened. It was one of a series of radio plays that the school was actually doing. There was much more to it than this. I was around with a few of the kids so I was a kid myself. We all had something to do with this, a group of us, and I was involved in this and there was definitely something happening in which we were involved but I can’t remember now what it was. It was just how this radio programme started up.

Later on my car was away at the garage having work done at it. There was something involving British Salt and the garage there but I can’t remember what it was. I needed a car to go to Chester and the wholesale warehouse. My last port of call was at my sister’s to see whether she had something. They were living in a mobile home place. I went there and knocked on the flyscreen but no-one came. A neighbour came round and started talking to me about it, pointing out this old car and saying that this was her old car but she had to have one because some of her kids went to Nantwich High School and some went to the local one. This is what you have to do when your children are spread out like that. I knocked a couple of times but she didn’t come to the door so I wondered what was happening. This was not like her. If she had been there she would have come. There was much more to it than this but that’s all that I remember.

And finally I was running tours around Perth and Scotland. I had a variety of part-time people helping me. One young boy, a friend of TOTGA, had just quit because he misunderstood the situation. He expected something else other than guiding tourists around. We were waiting at Tourist Information for a party that was turning up at 16:00. I’d told a friend to turn up at 14:00 so that I could show him a few things and point out to him so that he’d know about them. Time dragged on and he wasn’t there. It was 14:30,14:45 so I phoned him and he was still at home. He said “well I was out last night”. I said “I need you here to do this”. He said that he’d come down and tried to engage me in conversation over the telephone. I said “we’ll talk about this when you arrive because we’re in something of a rush at the moment. Come here as quick as you can”. The person with me asked me about this boy quitting. What did I think? I said that it was rather silly. I could see that once again I was going to be plagued with unreliable employees. I could see that I was going to be here full-time doing all this on my own as usual. I thought that I’m not going to be able to go home until Sunday after everything finishes. It’s a long way to go in an evening to go home. I said that I’ll be going home on Sunday evening. Someone asked “doing what?” so I replied “going home” “doing what?” going home!”. I suddenly realised that they were asking me “doing what” when I was back home. I replied “going back to work of course”. The friend had been telling me that it had been raining which was why he hadn’t come in but actually where we were it was bright sunshine so I had no idea why he decided why he didn’t want to come in and do this and even less of an idea why he didn’t want to tell me that he didn’t want to come in and do this.

Unreliable employees was the bane of my life wasn’t it?

Having already crashed out once earlier, I’m off to bed now. I have no fewer than four appointments at the hospital tomorrow so I can’t afford to hang about. I need a good night’s sleep.

Friday 24th June 2022 – CALIBURN, STRAWBERRY MOOSE AND I …

col de la sibérie jullié rhone France Eric Hall photo June 2022… travel miles on our trips out.

As you can see, at one point we were driving over the Col de la Sibérie, the Siberian Pass”.

Not much chance of a snowstorm or a white-out here in this weather but it’s the thought that counts.

Yes, we don’t ‘arf get about a bit.

We got about quite a bit during the night too. I started off somewhere in Scotland on top of one of these Peel Tower things looking at a couple of lorries parked on the side of the road caught in a swirling fog. That’s all that I really remember about this now

Then we were playing a game with these toy soldiers, busy setting ourselves up in position. All of a sudden the Russian army attacked . We were still trying to find the cannon that were in this collection and other artillery and position them on the board but never mind – the Russians were still attacking and we were beginning to panic. All of a sudden I had a marvellous idea. I pressed “rewind” and sent the game back to the very beginning with the idea that we’d hurry and set up the guns now, make sure that we found the correct ones etc before we hit “play” and started the game again. There was something involving Ingrid in this as well, to do with her animals but I can’t remember what it was about now.

I had some students from school and I had them come to complete a survey asking them questions about first aid, emergency services and a pile of all kinds of different stuff that I can’t remember now. They had to sit there with their piece of paper and write out the answers to some questions that I was asking, which I did. When I was about 2/3 the way through my brother came in and asked for someone, that she had to go. I thought that I’d quickly ask the third question because it was probably the most important but he was there urging us on and trying to make this girl leave. It all became quite tense. I wished that I’d started this survey a little earlier or done it a little quicker but he was there and just wouldn’t leave without the idea of this girl packing up in mid-survey and walking off to wherever it was that she had to go.

Having had their way all stopped from doing something a group of us went off to look for them and record their antics and behaviour but that was all that I remember of this unfortunately.

In the previous dream I remember that I was driving a coach, trying to get this coach ready to go on tour with a full load of people. We had to do all kinds of organising, sorting out the food and cleaning up, entering the used food in the bin etc. At one point someone in a car came along and parked nearby and went into the house. Whoever I was with said something like “that person is going to ignore us” so I made a very pointed point of shouting “hello” to him and embarrassed him into coming over and talking to us, making sure that he did. I said to the person with “oh yes he’ll remember us next time he comes”. We were preparing to leave when someone came over to say that two brothers had been released from prison which I thought was good. On the coach were these 2 young girls serving and we were preparing to leave.

Finally I was in London at the block of flats where my Aunt Mary was living. I saw what I thought was her and Michael – I saw them a couple of times so I decided that I would in fact go along and say hello. When I caught them in the corridor I started to have a little chat. When I was ready to leave I borrowed the ladders off the roof rack of another vehicle to take with me to do something. I got in my van and the fuel was very low so I thought that i’d coast to the petrol station down at the bottom of the hill. Somehow the van ran away without me and went off down this hill. It smashed into a few more vehicles. In the end I ended up with another van and exactly the same thing happened again. While I was trying to push it to start it it ran away and fired up without me and ran off down this hill. I could see it from where I was standing all the way down this hill and pile through a row of bollards at the bottom by a traffic light onto the pavement making quite a mess of everything. There were all these people crowding around it trying to find out what had happened. Of course I was a long way away at the top of this hill and I couldn’t do anything at all to stop it.

After all of that it’s no surprise that I was totally wasted this morning.

A tea in bed again did a little to revive me and a shower also helped but I wasn’t really in any mood to say goodbye.

hanging cloud river sioule vichier pouzol France Eric Hall photo June 2022There was all of my stuff, such as it was, to put into the back of Caliburn.

And those regular readers of this rubbish will recall, if they have been regular readers of this rubbish for years, is that the Gorges of the Sioule are phenomenally famous for the hanging clouds that loiter around down there early in the morning and even from miles away you can follow the trace of the river by looking at where the hanging cloud is.

Anyway, say goodbye I did to Rosemary and Mr and Mrs Ukrainian. Miss Ukrainian was still asleep so I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to her and to my surprise I found that I was quite disappointed by that.

The drive through the Auvergnat and the Burgundian countryside was interesting. Once I arrived in Vichy the Lady Who Lives In The SatNav brought me a different way that didn’t include the expressway. We spent our time driving over the hills of Burgundy and through a variety of mountain passes.

On the way over I stopped a couple of times for shopping and for lunch and I would even have had a little siesta but somehow a fly was trapped inside Caliburn and made such a racket when it wasn’t trying to land on me, and irritated me when it did so I gave it up as a bad job.

One of the passes over which I drove was the Col de Siberié, the “Siberian Pass” as you have seen in a previous photo.

monument col de la sibérie jullié rhone France Eric Hall photo June 2022This is actually rather a sad place. It was the site of an old Hotel, the Hotel de la Sibérie, long-since demolished, where three refugees from the German forced labour progamme had fled here to take shelter.

Of course, it goes without saying that the Vichy Milice turned up in force and attempted to take away the escapees.

Despite spending a while trying to find out, I’ve yet to come across a verified account of what actually happened at the Hotel de la Sibérie but the three men involved, Jean Fournier, Marcel Honnet and Florent Andlauer, were taken away horizontally in wooden boxes.

It’s said that torture was involved, the three victims ended up being shot, and the milice set the building alight.

The monument that you see here was erected on 26th May 1946

There is said to be a document giving details of the events but it’s in the archives départementales but I didn’t have time to go there. I’ve asked them for a copy but I imagine that it will be a long wait.

It was about 15:30 when I arrived at Jean-Marc’s. It was his family whom I stayed on a school exchange when I was 16 and we found each other via the internet subsequently.

We’ve seen each other a few times and so we had a good chat about our latest news and about old times too although as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, my “old times” are in a book that is well and truly closed and filed away in a locked cupboard.

Occasionally some of my memories crop up in my dreams and that’s the best place for them, if they are going to have to surface at all.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … vinyard I invited him and his wife out for a meal in exchange for a bed for the night. The meal at the Ambroisie was certainly different and the staff was excellent. I’ve been to this restaurant before and I’ll go back again.

Back at Jean-Marc’s later, I bought an oven. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that my table-top oven is not very reliable and nothing in it cooks as it did. One of Jacqueline’s daughters bought an oven, a fitted oven, but it’s far too big for her small studio so she was selling it at a more-than-reasonable price. The kind of price where if it won’t work than I won’t lose very much.

By pure coincidence I have a friend who lives near Munich about half a mile from one of the largest IKEAs in Europe so if I make it as far as his place I’ll go and buy a kitchen unit into which I can fit it.

But that’s not for now. Right now I’m off to bed. I’m going round to see Jean-Marc’s mum tomorrow morning. She’s a lovely lady and I like her very much

Thursday 23rd June 2022 – THAT WAS A …

… nice evening tonight.

Rosemary and I along with Rosemary’s Ukrainian refugee family drove all the way out to the camp site at Les Ancizes where we met Ingrid and Clotilde. We had a good evening meal and a good chat and the owner of the establishment even treated the Ukrainians to a round of drinks.

Miss Ukraine didn’t finish her burger so I teased her by saying that she wasn’t going home until she finished it but she put on such a sad face that not only did I relent, I let her have an ice-cream too. After all, every kid has the right to an ice-cream.

And there were no issues about being full up when the ice-cream arrived. She scraped the glass so hard to collect the last bits that Rosemary and I were convinced that if she carried on she would be through the glass and out the other side.

Mind you we were lucky that we could go. At 15:00 there was such a torrential rainstorm that I thought that the end of the world had come and the gale that accompanied it brought down a thick tree trunk in next door’s garden.

And it was another night full of celestial artillery too. Even though I went to bed early I was awoken at 0:40 by a clap of thunder that would have awoken the dead. And I was still awake a few hours later when the binmen came round.

After tea in bed I had a shower and then did some clothes washing. And while Rosemary ran Mr Ukraine into town to buy some stuff I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. Something had happened to a young person. All of his stuff had been damaged and waterlogged etc. In the end it had come to me so I’d sorted it out, dried it out, had it cleaned and everything. I rang up his parents about it. They were extremely unhappy to the point of violence about someone having been through all their son’s affairs. I thought that this would have been what someone would have wanted someone else to do instead of being given a huge mass of soggy wet and miserable paper and clothing etc but these people were really on the point of violence about all of this. I really couldn’t understand what was going through their heads.

Later on I’d written a letter and gone to have it printed but the printer had been going offset on my printer and it did it again so I had to go to find a public printer. I’d been working in the middle of the street in Crewe so I had to leave my things there and hope that no-one would pinch them while I went off to find a printer. Just as I was leaving there were these people in what looked like a Bond Bug but an enormous vehicle. There were probably 12 people, piles of kids as well as adults in this. They pulled out of a parking place, did a U-turn and hit my bag and drove off. I thought that the police would be interested in this. As I arrived at where I thought that I knew where there was a printer there were loads of these elderly motorcycles from 100 years ago and a few orchestras playing a song that I can’t remember now what it was. It looked like some rally of vintage motorbikes. I was really depressed that I hadn’t brought my camera with me for once. I arrived at this place and first of all I had to weigh my package but weighing t on this set of scales by this printer was so complicated and there were so many formulas even depending on the age of the person you were sending the parcel to, I was just hopelessly confused and couldn’t work out exactly what I was supposed to do and how much I was supposed to pay for posting it off. .

When they came back we were invited for coffee with the Ukrainians and then after lunch we had a major rainstorm and also a visitor.

That took us up to time to go for our meal. We crowded into Rosemary’s car and set off, going the pretty way past Chateau Rocher and Chateaneuf les Bains.

It was good to meet up with everyone again and chat and we all had a good time. I was definitely sorry when they all decided that it was time to go home.

Stopping in St Gervais to put fuel in Rosemary’s car we then came back the quick way vial Teilhet and Menat. After all, it was too dark to see anything

And so I’m off to bed. Having done my washing this morning I’m ready to hit the road again. I have to push onwards if I’m ever to get anywhere. I can’t hang around here for ever.

Wednesday 22nd June 2022 – WELCOME HOME

les guis virlet France Eric Hall photo June 2022This morning I went round to my house in Virlet. And I’m not going to say too much about it because it was so depressing.

You’ll be able to see what I mean by looking at this photograph. There was no way of getting even close to the house because of all the weeds and brambles.

The last time that I was there two years ago I was able to fight my way into the place with the aid of a heavy-duty brush-cutter but I’m in no fit condition to even attempt that these days.

And in any case I don’t have a brush-cutter. So that ruled that out. But it was such a disappointment.

And for a change, until I saw my house I was feeling fighting-fit. I’d eventually gone off to sleep despite all of the celestial artillery and wasn’t that a real racket? It was the loudest storm that I’ve lived through for quite a while.

As far as I knew I slept right the way through until about 06:45 and stayed in bed until 07:30. The morning cup of tea was rather later than usual.

After breakfast we set off. The house of a friend of Rosemary had been badly bashed about in a hailstorm and some temporary repairs had been effected. The insurance company needed to know that it was properly tarpaulined and as the owner is away right now, Rosemary was charged with the task of going and taking some photos.

It was after that that we went to inspect my pile.

Back here we had a coffee and I had another session with Miss Ukraine and her animal encyclopedia. Considering that she doesn’t speak English or French and I don’t speak Ukrainian (just a dozen or so words of Russian) we had an extremely dynamic chat that went on for ages and she guessed my favourite animal – turning straight away to the page with Polar Bears on it.

Yes, I seem to be flavour of the month right now and I’m not sure why. Rosemary seems to think that I’m the only person who ever listens to kids properly when they talk and that’s the nicest compliment someone has paid me for quite a while.

As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … I think that kids get a pretty raw deal out of life. No-one ever seems to take any time with them or have any interest in them and what they have to say.

After lunch Rosemary had to go for a doctor’s appointment so I stayed behind and listened to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. We were camping, my brother and I. There was a river that was full of rocks. I made a kind of improvised ram out of an old railway carriage bogie and dropped it in the water on top of these rocks with the aim that the water would carry it down, clear some of these rocks and make the water run quicker. It jammed up under a bridge so I had to get there and free it off. That took quite a while. I set it off again and it hadn’t gone more than 20 yards when it became stuck in the bank of the river. This caused a big rock fall into the river and blocked the river. I thought that what I’d been doing so far hadn’t been a very great success. I had to make tea and we were camping. We had a couple of tents and there was a caravan oven there. There was a shop-bought pizza and I had to make another one. The first thing that I nearly did was to fall into the river. My brother came to see what was going on and gave me a few lectures about everything. Then I started to unwrap the shop-bought pizza ready to put in the oven. That could be cooking while I was making mine. But I didn’t have any ingredients to hand so I was debating with myself how I was going to make this pizza when I hadn’t any ingredients and no facilities like a table or anything to make the pizza on.

And later we’d been in a kind of museum or exhibition or something like that and were on our way out. I’d gone and picked up 2 packets of crisps but I couldn’t work out where to pay for them. I was halfway through walking out of the building before I realised that this wasn’t right so I went to put back these 2 packets of crisps and walked out down these steps. There were hundreds of coaches in this car park and thousands of people milling around. Eventually I worked my way round to where I thought our coach was parked but there was a coach there and they were shepherding a load of prisoners of war off it and marching them off. We were told to wait so we waited for a while but no-one came so in the end we set off towards our coach. This guy with a wooden leg came back and asked what we were doing. We replied that we were going to the coach. He told us we should have waited but we answered that we’d waited for long enough. He made us all sit down in the middle of the street and he asked “where’s this opium?”. We asked “what opium?” and he started playing silly games with us. He said that he was going to make us march all the way back again which we refused to do. We were sitting there in the middle of the road and he was becoming quite aggressive but we were having none of it. There was a party of girls sitting close by. One of them was one with whom I’d wandered around this museum. She shouted over to me that she had taken £1100 out of her bank account, given £310 to someone for something but couldn’t remember what this other £800 was for. Did I know? Could I remember? I remembered vaguely something but this wasn’t the time or place to mention it so I told her that I’d see her later. She replied “if there is a later” because this situation was slowly starting to escalate.

This afternoon I’ve had to help Mr Ukrainian dismantle the interior of his car. I the storm last night he had about 3 inches of water in it. We ended up taking out all of the seats and carpets and putting them somewhere to dry, and then using cloths to take out the water

Tea tonight was the leftover vegetable curry from last night and it was just as nice as yesterday.

So that was that. Rosemary and I were on our own for the evening so we didn’t stay out long. Right now I’m finishing my notes and then I’m off to bed. An early night and more pleasant dreams, I hope.

But who was the girl who I’d been with at that museum? I wish I knew. And I’m sure that you do too.

Tuesday 21st June 2022 – THERE ARE STORMS …

… and then there are storms, and then there are more storms.

And right now we are in the middle of a raging beauty and if it keeps up like this nobody will be sleeping tonight, that’s for sure.

On the other hand, I had a good night’s sleep. Out like a light and I don’t remember anything at all until there was a knock on my door at 07:15. Yes, I could learn to like being awakened every morning with a hot drink.

After a shower we had breakfast and as Rosemary had some errands to run, I listened to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. There had been a rail crash near Crewe. It had been something to do with refugees from the Ukraine. People were talking about the refugees who had survived everything that the Russians could throw at them only to be brought down by a railway accident etc and how unfair it seemed to be that they were caught in this railway accident. It seemed to the people that they were the ones who had actually caused this rail accident by careless misuse of a couple of switch points and levers so they were responsible.

There had been four disappearances of different people either individuals or groups of young people. Everyone was going over everything that they had heard or had been said about them and been coming up with some pretty strange comments from various people that they had heard that they hadn’t really thought a lot of at the time because of different circumstances but now meant quite a lot when they came to the question of these people disappearing and what had been said had been told quite a lot to the people who were doing this investigation trying to find these missing young people.

I had a load of mock strawberry jam that I had made and I don’t know why. Then it came round to fitting some windows in our flat. I was trying to get my brother to help but he was far too busy chatting up some girl. I shouted him enough times but he never came so I made a start on my own getting things ready that I needed and in the end I basically bellowed at him and ordered him down. I told him that he can chat up these girls another day. He came down very reluctantly. I went into the barn to find some metal brackets then I could make a metal bracket, something like that, to hold the window in but I couldn’t find any at all. I could manufacture something, I suppose, but I was noting just how unco-operative my brother was being. I felt that if I started something I’d end up either breaking the window or dropping the window out, something like that because I was really not in the right kind of mood to fit a window at the moment they way my brother had been messing around. In the end I reluctantly called him in and told him I’d do it next weekend instead and hoped that I could get hold of the equipment and metalwork and fittings during the week to do it.

The rest of the morning was spent putting the world to rights and then we had lunch. Rosemary made a nice rice salad.

After lunch I had the guided tour of Rosemary’s property and then we had something of a tidying-up session. Rosemary is still recovering from her major operation from two years ago and can’t do much, and I’m no better.

While I was at it, I spoke to Ingrid and made “certain arrangements” and then Rosemary had to take Mr Ukrainian somewhere. I stayed behind to play the guitar but instead ended up giving guitar lessons to Miss Ukrainian. It wasn’t easy because my Russian from 40 years ago is hopeless but she has a good sense of rhythm.

When they came back we were invited to a cup of tea with the Ukrainian family. And that led to quite an interesting chat. Mr Ukrainian and his daughter had learnt how to count to 10 in English and French and showed off their prowess, so I persuaded the young girl to teach Rosemary to count to 10 in Ukrainian.

water pump vichier pouzol France Eric Hall photo June 2022For tea Rosemary made a vegetable curry and then we went off for a little walk around the lanes.

There’s an abandoned garden not too far away from where Rosemary lives, all overgrown, and Rosemary was telling us about how nice it used to be when there was an old guy who was still alive. But what caught my eye was the water pump here – a nice traditional style of pump. I would love to clean it up and have it work again.

Down a track behind the overgrown garden is an orchard. That is tended quite nicely with a dozen or more fruit trees bearing fruit. It’s a shame that whoever is tending the orchard hasn’t tended the garden. That would be lovely with a pile of vegetables growing in it.

Back here, sitting outside we were joined by Mr Ukrainian and his daughter and she fetched her big encyclopaedia of animals and tried to teach us the names of animals in UKrainian while we told them to her in French. I showed her the photo of my bear from 2010 and that delighted her

The storm drove us in after a while and that was that. But it really was a pleasant evening. THis Ukrainian family seems to be really nice and keen to mix with Rosemary and that can only be good.

How long they’ll stay is anyone’s guess but I hope that they’ll be happy here and can forget the horrors of what they’ve been through. I thought that what everyone had suffered between 1939-45 would have been enough for everyone but apparently not.

Monday 20th June 2022 – HERE WE ALL ARE …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow, and not exactly sitting in a Première Classe Hotel in Tours. STRAWBERRY MOOSE and I are actually sitting in Rosemary’s spare bedroom here in the Auvergne.

Last night was another turbulent night with tons of stuff on the dictaphone. There was something going on about Canada and the World Cup. They had qualified for another final and a World Cup final for another sport the previous day. When they qualified for the World Cup people accused them of a little indifference because they didn’t celebrate as much. There was a dispute about one of their goals that should have been given offside. There was also a scandal that they had a camera installed in the changing rooms for one of the matches. People were questioning what was going on about that as well.

There was something happening to do with a guy to pick up an arctic lorry and trailer that had broken down somewhere. He had one of these dock shunter things for pulling it. I thought that that would make a really interesting article for a newspaper, to go with him and write about his recoveries. I went with my father and the first part went OK but waiting for him to come back the second time, we were waiting there hours, not for him but for another person who was coming with us rather. We were waiting hours and in the end we decided that we’d go without this other guy wo I had to go and rescue my cat Tuppence to bring with me. Trying to catch her was another thing, but in the end I managed it but she wouldn’t let me put the antiseptic on her paws. In the meantime she’d been catching fish out of the pond and eating it. We were talking to the neighbours about how good it was to actually have a cat that feeds itself without any help from us.

There was a rich comedian telling us the story of the time that he was at a hotel somewhere doing an entertainment and there were these three girls. He’d managed to get together with the older one but had been told in no uncertain terms what would happen if he started to get together with the two younger ones. He made an attempt on the middle one, put his arm around her etc but she was very uncooperative and wasn’t interested at all. He was telling us how difficult it was to try to be friendly and put your arm around a girl who was not at all interested in any of that. In the end I didn’t want to hear any more about his stories so I went off to have a shower. The shower in my room was pretty miserable and wasn’t up to much so I prepared my stuff ready to go into my friend’s room. On the way there I told them that I was going in for a shower and if they wanted the bathroom for anything they had better hurry up. They said that they thought that they had heard me use the shower so I explained how awful it was. I’d had it running but it hadn’t done anything very much so they asked me to wait for a minute while they organised themselves in their room.

Anyway I was awake early and up and about as soon as the alarm went off.

After a good shower I packed everything and was actually back on the road again by 08:55.

Caliburn required me to stop down the road at LeClerc to fuel up and I found myself right by the hotel that I had tried to find last night – just a cockstride away from where I’d slept.

The drive – as far as Chateauroux anyway – was quite comfortable except that I was flashed by a speed camera that I hadn’t noticed.

But once I hit Chateauroux the sun came out and it burnt me out of the cab. That was hot.

At LeClerc at Montlucon I went in for some groceries and I bumped into two people whom I knew, who high-tailed it out of there the moment they saw me coming. Old habits die hard in Montlucon.

On the way out I found a sheltered shady layby and stopped there to make a butty And then pushed on to see my partner in crime.

It’s been two years since we last saw each other and despite our lengthy telephone conversations we had a lot of catching up to do. I also met her Ukrainian refugee family who seem like really nice people.

They have a young girl, barely a teenager, who is very fond of animals and was showing me photos that she had taken of local animals here. So in exchange I showed her my photos of polar bears, walruses and whales from the Arctic.

She’s ever so cute and it is totally beyond my understanding why anyone would want to be so evil to kids like this.

She has a cat too and insisted on giving it to me to let me cuddle it, even if it wasn’t that keen.

Tomorrow she’s going to have the shock of her life. I’m going to introduce her to STRAWBERRY MOOSE.

But not right now. I’m off to bed. I’ve had a long, tough day, I need my sleep and it’s already late.

Saturday 5th March 2022 – WHILE YOU ADMIRE …

demonstration manifestation ukraine place charles de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022… a few photos of the 120-odd people who turned up spontaneously outside the Mairie in Granville at midday for an impromptu show of support for Ukraine, I’ll tell you about my really miserable night last night.

And when I say “miserable” I really DO mean “miserable” because last night, in a sleep that went on theoretically for just a little over 8 hours, there were no fewer than 14 entries on the dictaphone and that must be something of a record in anyone’s language.

And so it will be no surprise to anyone to learn that when I awoke this morning with the alarm I was thoroughly, completely and absolutely overwhelmed with fatigue.

demonstration manifestation ukraine place charles de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Although it wasn’t until very much later that I transcribed the dicatphone notes, it’s probably a good idea if I insert them here so that we can keep things in order.

Last night I was standing up but suddenly I fell forward and knocked over this tripod that had some kind of equipment on it like camera equipment or dictaphone equipment. Then I realised that I was wearing a soldier’s uniform and I’d been arrested or captured, something like that

And then there was something about a cucumber rolling around in the bed and I’ve no idea at all what that was all about.

demonstration manifestation ukraine place charles de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022And then later on I was out with a friend of mine from Brussels. We’d started off at work – we were working together – and then we decided that we would go for a walk. There’s a bride being married in a couple of days and she was having an exhibition so off we went. We had a lengthy heart-to-heart chat about all kinds of things that had happened between us 20 years ago. It was an extremely intimate discussion. She ended up saying “if only you hadn’t been married, if only you hadn’t been middle-aged” etc. It was a really deep discussion. The bride had settled herself down so we decided that we would go and look. I knew that there was a phrase that you had to use but I couldn’t remember what it was. We walked past this tent and a little head popped out – a little girl. I said “cuckoo, are you getting married?” and she blushed and went back, stuck her head back inside. I could see inside that the bride was asleep in the corner of the tent and there were 3 goats in there as well. I was trying to work out the ritual nature of all of this.

demonstration manifestation ukraine place charles de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022I actually missed out a few things in that story about my friend in Brussels. I can’t remember who I was with at first but we were coming in late for work and we heard people talking about the “Naz” department store. I arrived at work and asked someone what had happened about the department store. They replied that it had fallen down. I asked if it was any relation to the fire a few days ago somewhere. They said “no”. This guy was very interested in telling me so much more about so many different things but I wasn’t interested in hearing them. On my way back to my desk with whoever it was I said that we really need to be in work earlier because we are pushing the boundaries and we need to do better than this and make every effort to arrive at work earlier. When I was walking with my friend we could see in the distance a load of white smoke that might either have been from the collapse of “Naz” or whatever it was called or else the remains of this big fire

demonstration manifestation ukraine place charles de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022. Back at home later I was talking to my mother and one of my sisters. I said where I’d been and that many years ago when my blog was in hiatus I used to read books and I’d underline or highlight phrases in books that actually meant something. When I’d been writing my blog subsequently and re-read one of these books and came to a phrase that I’d noted, I’d mentioned it in relation to her. She’s read my blog and seen these references etc but was still interested in coming out with me for a chat. I thought “well, there’s hope yet, isn’t there?”

So there were pirates who stopped a boat and they put everyone ashore. There was a flag that they were flying that had five rings on it like the Olympic flag. I had no idea to engage in this fight so I didn’t go but they swarmed onto this other boat and started hacking the other defenders about to see whether it was going to take them

demonstration manifestation ukraine place charles de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022And here I am doing it again – dictating a dream when I have no dictaphone with me. I was on a boat somewhere in the Indian or South Pacific Ocean and I was talking about the time that I’d been on a voyage of discovery with my Belgian friend – and fell asleep again in the middle of it – but basically what this was about was something about me being there and maybe taking a boat to Japan and back to the USA. There was a lot more to it than this but unfortunately I can’t remember anything and that’s really disappointing.

And later again I was out on the Pacific on yet another ocean liner with someone else when the subject of this girl in Belgium came up again but I don’t know where it went from here. But how many times last night was it that she put in an appearance?

demonstration manifestation ukraine place charles de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Next time I was in the American cavalry in a dark-blue uniform. There was a person of colour in the troop. We came across this girl and noticed her bounty of seventeen dollars which we thought was quite a lot for her seeing as she was an Indian so we resolved to kill her. She was killed in the struggle but handed her jacket all the same to create an entry to receive this money

And yet again dictating in my sleep but it was one on those things where the ones I was with would go and sort out some enemy checks or something like that so we set off in a car and drove. As we drove around the headland we saw the ruins of a castle across a bay that looked very close. We suddenly realised that we had gone within earshot of these particular people and so we’d better not say any more in case they overheard us.

demonstration manifestation ukraine place charles de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022I was at University last night waiting for morning classes to start and I’d been talking to Rosemary on the ‘phone and I said something like “why don’t you come up?”. When I finished I went back into the classroom and took my seat but suddenly Rosemary turned up. I had to go out to see her and talk to her. I sent her off to the cafeteria because our lecture was about to begin. Back in there the cat was on the windowsill so I went to stroke it. Someone said “that’s my cat” but I said that anyone could stroke it as far as I’m concerned. I found that someone else had taken my seat so I had to look for another empty one. Then I had to go through my timetable to find out what lessons I had for the rest of the week so I could go down when this one finished and talk to Rosemary. There were a couple of conversation lessons I couldn’t miss and one or two other things but there was still a fair amount of time so I had to sit down and think about making a plan that I could take to Rosemary in 40 minutes when this lecture finished.

beach rue ru nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022After the medication and checking my mails and messages (and having a little relax too) I set off to go into town to do a little shopping. I need some mushrooms for the pizza tomorrow and also a baguette for my Saturday treat.

As usual, I went off to have a look at the beach to see what might have been going on down there today. And one look at what is supposed to be the beach will tell you that there wasn’t anything whatever going on down there right now.

And for an obvious reason too. The tide is right in today at probably its fullest extent and that’s put a stop to everything. You can see now how it’s possible for people to be cut off from the steps.

yachts baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022As usual, I was also looking out to sea to see what I could see.

Right out on the horizon in the Baie de Granville are a couple of yachts. At least, one of them is a yacht and I’m not quite sure what the other one is.

As you can see, it’s a beautiful day out there this morning but there’s plenty of haze around farther out and the Channel Islands are obscured which is a shame. I was hoping that we might have had a really good view of St Helier today.

And that reminds me – the ferry service is supposed to be starting up some time soon. I must make further enquiries.

cabin cruiser marker light baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022One thing that regular readers of this rubbish might recall is that a few days ago we say the marker on the rocks just off the headland here right out of the water.

Today of course, it’s a completely different story. You can see that it’s almost submerged and that will give you a really good idea of how high the tide is. As I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … we have some of the highest tides in Europe just here.

Of course, with the tide being as it is, the harbour gates will have been open for quite a while and that will account for the yachts, and also for the cabin cruiser that’s out there. At first I thought that it might be fishing but judging by its wake it’s in rather a hurry and presumably heading out to the Ile de Chausey.

pointe de grouin brittany coast Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022The view out to sea might have been obscured by haze this morning but the view along the coast was one of the best that we have ever had.

Although I had to enhance this photograph quite considerably, it shows a really good view of the lighthouse at the Pointe de Grouin on the headland at the entrance to the bay on the Brittany side.

That’s of course where we spent our first night when we were out and about on the Spirit of Conrad in summer 2020.

It was here that I had a ‘phone call about the Demonstration at lunchtime so I abandoned my shopping trip and headed home for a shower and clean-up and to find some blue and yellow clothes.

demonstration manifestation ukraine place charles de gaulle Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022On leaving the apartment I’m grabbed my ZOOM H8 to record whatever might be happening.

There wasn’t enough time to check the batteries – I use it on the mains here – and so it goes without saying that the batteries were flat. And so were the spare ones too.

But anyway the talk that we were given only lasted for a couple of minutes and that was that. I wandered around taking a few photos until everyone dispersed.

A couple of friends from the radio were here so we all went for a coffee and a chat.

On the way home I popped into Carrefour for the mushrooms and baguette and then crawled slowly (and it was slowly too because I wasn’t feeling too good after my bad night) back home where I had lunch.

This afternoon was pretty slow. Transcribing all of the dictaphone notes took an enormous amount of time and there was also at least an hour and a half when I crashed out completely, absolutely and definitely.

There was football too on the internet – Penybont v Caernarfon. Penybont hit the woodwork twice, had a stonewall penalty appeal turned down, had about 75% of the play and somehow managed to lose 3-0 in a match that they should have won at a canter.

Tea tonight was a couple of those small breaded quorn fillets with potatoes and veg and it was delicious.

This evening, something surprising has happened. Someone from Ottawa has contacted me and asked to be my “friend” on my social network.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I have plenty of family and friends in Ottawa. There are also plenty of people who have been with me on board THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR and of course a certain young lady who has accompanied me on several of my nocturnal voyages in the past.

Consequently I was intrigued to see who it might be and how I might know them.

It turns out that it’s someone who has found me “by accident” and wants me ” to always be open, honest and having free speech about everything, share your worries, your children and everything be that support group for me as I will for you, plan together, play together and treat me like I mean something to you, you don’t have to sugar coat anything, as adults, we can handle things. I expect you to treat me right, be truthful, and honest with me because I do believe in gospel truth and that is what I want. I want to feel true love and happiness with you and share everything with you based on love and understanding.”

She will apparently “climb the highest mountains just to be with the one i love”.

So while you are all reading this, I’ll be waiting for the message when she will ask me to send her the air fare so that she can come to join me.

Wednesday 11th January 2017 – WHAT A BAD NIGHT!

Just as I said, I was in bed early last night, and was soon asleep. But then I awoke at about 00:45 when a noise on the radio awoke me, so I switched off the laptop and went back to sleep.

And then it all happened.

All I can say is that I must have had a nightmare, because I had one of those dreams that was extremely disturbing and which made me sit bolt upright. and it wasn’t just the fact of the dream either but the person who was the central character and all of the people who surrounded her. It was such a graphic, disturbing dream that I couldn’t go back to sleep and ended up typing it up on the laptop to make sure that I didn’t forget it.

But I must have gone back to sleep because the alarm awoke me at 07:00, and for some reason we had a most astonishing cacophony from the church bells and I’m not quite sure why. But never mind anyone else in the building, it probably would have awoken the dead too.

At breakfast I was on my own, and then I came back down here to carry on with my research. I started to read the report of that Finnish expedition to Labrador. And it’s come up with a couple of interesting facts.

  1. There’s a lengthy discussion of the Churchill Falls and the Bowdoin Canyon into which the Falls descends. A huge pile of statistics that will be of great interest when I start to write about my trip out in the Wilderness of Labrador to visit the Falls
  2. Even more interestingly, you need to remember that this is the period 1937-1939, long before the discovery of the Norse remains at L’Anse aux Meadows on Newfoundland. And yet there’s a map in the preface of this expedition’s report where they discuss the Norse settlement of Newfoundland, and as far as the small scale of the map can isolate, the expedition places Vinland in round about the same area that Helge Ingstad discovered the Norse remains (although Ingstad hesitates to identify them as “Vinland” and as you already know, I don’t think that it corresponds at all with the description given in the Norse Sagas). It’s a little-known fact that L’Anse aux Meadows was identified in 1914 as the location of “Vinland” by an insurance agent and amateur historian called William A Munn in his book “Wineland voyages;: Location of Helluland, Markland, and Vinland”, but Munn isn’t listed as a source by the Expedition, and so I’m now more intrigued than ever before about the source of this Expedition’s information about the location

Just before lunch I went out to the supermarket on the corner for a baguette and came back with a black plastic box as well – another one in the waste bin and I now have a dozen of them ready for packing, whenever that might be.
And I also had a major crash-out this afternoon too, but that’s hardly a surprise.

Tea was delicious – potatoes, carrots, broccoli, gravy and a vegan Linda McCartney pie. That was the best meal that I’ve had for quite a while. And my djervushka from the Ukraine was there too. I have to make the most of my time with her because she’s leaving on Friday, having found a studio for herself. I wonder if she needs a flatmate?

And there are more new people here too – but I’ve not had the pleasure of their company as yet.

Tonight I’m looking forward to my bed. As well as having a shower and a shave, I have a clean bedroom and fresh bedding. I’m all set up for a good night’s sleep but whether or not I’ll have one is another thing.

Who – or what – is going to interrupt me tonight then?

Monday 9th January 2017 – I PAID …

… for my exciting, adventurous (and tiring) weekend today.

It was a late night of course, coming back from the football, and so that wasn’t so helpful. And then it was difficult for me to go off to sleep. It only seemed as if I’d been asleep for five minutes when the alarm went off, and it was a real struggle to go for breakfast this morning. And I wasn’t feeling much like it either.

And it went from bad to worse too. When I came downstairs afterwards, if was cold in my room so I snuggled back under the quilt to keep warm. That was at about 07:45, and the next thing that I remembered was that it was 10:10.

Out like a light!

And then it took me a while to heave myself out of my stinking pit too.

A coffee helped to revitalise me and then I continued my research into Labrador.

And I’ve made an exciting discovery too! A group of people went off to the Far North of Labrador in 1927 and they took with them one of the very first snowmobiles – a home-made job converted from a Ford Model T – a Tin Lizzy. It covered about 250 miles before a valve burned out. And the home-made repair lasted half an hour, and so the vehicle was abandoned.

And then, in 2013, a party of archaeologists discovered it and the following year they recovered it, and it’s now undergoing a process of restoration. That’s going to be exciting when it’s finished.

I have two new housemates today. There’s a Polish boy from Krakow who is just here for tonight and, separately, there’s a girl from the Ukraine. She’s here for a week and, believe me, she can come and share my samovar any time she likes.

She has the room above me, and I do wish that we were all on board that millionaire’s yacht that was commandeered by the Navy in World War II. The captain, in his cabin, found a secret button and pressed it. And the dividing wall between the captain’s room and the guest room folded down, the bed in the guest room canted up at an angle, and the captain found the second mate cascaded into bed beside him. That’s what I want for here.

So having had yet another day where I’ve not set foot out of the building, and having had my pizza and garlic bread, I’ll have an early night yet again. Let’s see how I get on tonight with a good night’s sleep.

I hope!