Monday, May 20, 2013


Yes, it's been inactive for a couple of months, but that's because I've been in Brussels for a considerable amount of time dealing with a personal matter that has, sadly, now come to its inevitable conclusion, so I'll be on my way home in a day or so.

But I've not been idle.

I've been trying for a year or so to bring my blog "in-house" and at last my web hosting company is now able to offer an embedded blog service for my own website. Consequently I've migrated to there, taking all of the records from this site with me.

To follow the next round of adventures, whatever and wherever they might be, you need to go to the new blog. Thank you for having followed this blog, and thanks also to Blogspot for having hosted it for the last three or four years or so.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I forgot to mention ...

... yesterday that there are two clinics on this particular site. One is the Clinique de St Pierre, and the other one is the Clinique Jules Bordet. I went to  the Clinique de St Pierre and when I explained why I had come, the receptionist told me that it wasn't there, but at the other Clinique. And as true as I sit here, I will swear that she said  "you want the Clinique Bordel", "bordel" being the word for a brothel, or slang for a total mess.

But anyway, enough of that. Today started with a total disaster. In fact after crashing out at some silly time like 22:30 (I had walked back from the city again), I was wide awake at 04:30 and I couldn't go back to sleep again. At least, that's what I thought, but I was well gone when the alarm went off so I had clearly managed to doze off again.

Added to that, yesterday I had written 500 words about the St Gervais plant fair for our radio programmes, only to find out that this year they have advanced the date of the fair to before the date of the programme, and so all of that went into the bin. I've ended up with 500 words on sharing your lettuce, and we aren't talking about the Bamber Gascoigne farce either, something that made him quite famous long ever before he became the presenter of University Challenge.

But with having a day effectively without any interruptions, I've done another set of additional notes for the April series of recordings, which is what I really wanted to do. When I'm back at home I'll try to remember to bring back here with me all of my magazines so I can write a few more main texts too. I'm going to be here for a while, so it seems, and I need to do as much as I can. 

I also made a trip to the shop to buy supplies to load into Caliburn for the trip home. And to my dismay, someone has knocked the wing mirror and broken all the glass. That's something else I've had to lash out on now. Strangely, Ford's here want something like £20 for the glass. ON the internet, even with express postage, it comes to 12.50. I'll just have to wait a couple of days until it arrives

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I had to go to the Polyclinic ...

... at lunchtime.

Long-term readers of this rubbish will know that there is a very large colony of parrots living here in the wild in Brussels (a zoo was bombed during the war and the birds escaped, and settled in the nearby woods) and some of you have even seen them, but the medical care that is apparently offered to them puts our vets to shame.

They don't have aspirins in a Polyclinic either. I'm told that the Paracetemol.

But there I was being all dressed up in surgical gown, scrubbing my hands and arms and all  that kind of thing. And then they said that I was ready. 
"Don't I need a mask?" I enquired
"Whyever would you want one of those?"
"Well, I understood that in a sterile environment you needed to wear a mask"
"Not at all. That's just media nonsense"
"So why do doctors and surgeons have to wear them?"
"That's not for health reasons"
"So why is it then?" I enquired
"That's because if one doctor or surgeon makes a mistake in an operation, none of the others would be able to identify which one it was, and so the patients couldn't sue"

I walked back here again afterwardsand after lunch I blitzed through the apartment to have a go at tidying it up ready for my open night. I had three visitors, one of whom seemed to be very interested. So we'll have to see. There's an Open Day on Saturday too.

So if I'm lucky, I might get a full day working here tomorrow. On the other hand, I'm sure that something else will crop up to spoil my day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It's been snowing ...

... here in Brussels today. Yes, who said the other day that Spring has arrived?

Mind you, it didn't stick around very long but nevertheless it's freezing outside. A real winter's day again and it's driving me nuts, this incessant winter. Who said "global warming"?

So after a morning on the internet and another lap around the shops, I was halfway through this never-ending list of phone calls that is growing quicker than I can ring them, when I had another phone call. Consequently it was "down tools and off for the tram and back to the Porte de Halle", where I spent until 19:30 sitting on a chair reading Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, the most famous, but not necessarily the best, of the "Leatherstocking Tales" before coming back home. It's probably the first time in ages that I've really had such an amount of time to sit and read a book.

Back here through the ice and frost, I made myself a nice meal and sat down to plan the next day's work. I need to give the place a thorough cleaning as I'm having an "open day" here tomorrow evening from 17:00 until 20:00 and the place is looking like a battleground even though I've only been here a few days. I also have to nip back up the road to be there for 13;00 in between all of this so I need to put my skates on

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I've been shopping today again.

and for ladies' underwear too (and "no", Rhys, before you ask). Actually, I rather felt like John Steed when he went to buy a new bra for Honor Blackman.
"What size would you like, sir?" asked the assistant
"Size 17 please" replied John Steed
"Size 17, sir?" asked the incredulous assistant. "Are you sure?"
"Absolutely" replied John Steed
"But how did you work that out?" she asked
"Well, you see my bowler hat? That's size eight and a half ..."

Anyway, so ladies' underwear having been bought and a new key cut for the cellar also, I also found some time to go to a new shop that has just opened and selling electronic accessories. As dear as I don't know what, but one thing that they did sell was, for just €6:38, a charger for AA and AAA batteries, but with four different plugs (for Europe, the UK, North America and Asia) and a car cigarette lighter lead. Obviously, that's the kind of thing that's going to live in Caliburn, with all its accessories, and follow me around on all my travels.

I've also been working on the radio programmes today and almost completed the additional notes for one series of programmes. When that's done, I want to do another one too for the following series, and get well ahead while I have the chance. I'd be writing the main text too but I haven't brought any notes with me to do that. It's a struggle to do the gardening stuff without any notes as it is.

I came back from the Porte de Halle tonight on public transport and from the Place Louise I had a charming companion - a young student from the University who had lost her way. We had quite a chat on the tram and then I directed her from the tram stop to where it was that she was going.

And I also managed to fire up the oven. It heated quite nicely and so I made myself a pizza for tea. This really is progress. But tomorrow I have my work cut out. Apart from the usual shopping expedition, I have 19 phone calls to make.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I walked back ...

... from  the Porte de Halle tonight for a change. It's only 5kms and the exercise will do me good. But halfway along the road and feeling thirsty I came across a Carrefour mini-supermarket where I could buy something, but the manager was busy putting away all of the stuff that was on the pavement (and presumably attracting a tax charge)
"Am I too late?" I enquired, a little out of breath;
He looked at his watch
"Well, as a matter of fact you are, but so what?" and he stood aside to let me, and a couple of other passers-by, into the shop.

As you might have guessed, the shop manager was not a Belgian but a North African, of which there are more than just a few in Brussels. Many people complain that they are "taking over" all of the small businesses in the city. And all I can say is "good luck to them" With an attitude like that, they deserve to.

Walking back from the city did however give me an opportunity to take some night photos around the Porte de Louise, something that I've been wanting to do for quite a few years. I was at one time working on a folder of photos of the city - in the days after I left work when I would spend days just aimlessly wandering around the city with nothing better to do, and the old Fuji Finepix and a bottle of water in an old rucksack. Ohh happy days. I really need to recover that spirit that I had (in case you are wondering, older readers of this rubbish will have worked out by now that I'm listening to Part II of Marillion's Thieving Magpie (La Gazza Ladra) - a magnificent album that will always be on my top-10 playlist but the second part always makes me so depressed, especially with everything that's going on these days)

And apart from that, this morning I did a load of shopping and spent a huge amount of time going through Marianne's correspondence on her behalf, and then this afternoon I did another series of rock music programmes. I'm now a few months ahead on those, which is good news. Now I need to concentrate on the other radio programmes, especially as we will be in the studio recoding next Monday. I have to get a wiggle on.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

There's a sign up just outside here ...

... So-and-so has applied for a licence to erect a scaffolding on the pavement outside his house for a month. The licence has been granted subject to the payment of the licence fee, VAT and other associated taxes. Underneath is another notice "Commune of Ixelles - tax on the occupation of tha pavement, so many Euros. This is in addition to any other charge or tax levied by the city".

Yes, I'm back in Belgium again aren't I? Where everything is taxed to the hilt and where they even invent taxes in order to nail the inhabitants. Stopping off at the big "Carrefour" at Waterloo, my shopping bill for a week came to €32:00, quite a far cry from my usual €18:00 or so. Paying €2:49 for four tomatoes is killing me when I can buy them for €0:99 per kilo. It's frightening.

At least the drive up here was good. With almost nothing in my way I made a steady 79kph all-inclusive (including a diesel stop at Auxerre) through the night as far as a little layby that I know underneath the wind turbines near the 6-way roundabout (Liz and Terry know where this is) and there I crashed out. Feet in the sleeves of the fleece again worked wonders and the quilt that I recovered from a batch of clothing heading to the dechetterie is superb. Here next morning and I even found a parking place straight off. That's not something that happens every day either.

Through the week though, we've been recording radio programmes and the like, I've built a kind of internal hallway at Cécile's where one passes from the house into the workshop - there was no door there and we were frezzing but now that I've finished, there's a difference of 11°C either side of the wall and the house now is starting to feel warmer.

I've even managed to start to fit the plasterboard on the xall of my bathroom, as well as spending several hours in what is rapidly changing from my residential accommodation into my man-cave.

I'm here for a week or so this time, but who knows what the future might hold?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"I can't get my file to open"

Cécile's been working on a newspaper article about methanisation and the deadline was today. So she had a late night on it last night and went to carry on this morning. But ...

So here I was, at 07:00 on a flaming Sunday morning, with a 1000-word Open Office text document opened in Note Tab as a binary file and removing all of the formatting. It's not my lucky day.

Mind you, last night we were celebrating to some degree. Pionsat were playing Ceyrat in a crunch match near the foot of the table, and a win for Pionsat was vital. With the score 2-1 in their favour but heavily under the cosh I made the remark that the next goal would be crucial. And indeed it was , because it went in Pionsat's favour. Although Ceyrat scored a goal a short while later, Pionsat hit six unanswered goals in the second half to run out winners by a cricket score. Biggest victory I've ever seen them win.

Today, though, the 2nd XI weren't so lucky and playing once more like phantoms, they lost 2-1 to a team that they should have hammered out of sight. I dunno what's up with them right now.

I also spent a couple of hours back in my man-cave at Pooh Corner this evening. Plenty of things to do and it's not getting done just by thinking about it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

I'm back ...

... in France again - arriving in the small hours of the morning after a healthy 9-hour (700kms) drive from Brussels - including stopping for fuel etc. There's a lot to be said for travelling on good fast roads through the night.

In Brussels I did manage to accomplish quite a lot even though there are several things that it takes a while becoming used to again, including the amount of sand in the air that settled on Caliburn. The city is built on a large seam of running sand and it pervades absolutely everywhere. I'd completely forgotten about it. Public transport is another thing too and there were one or two occasions when I forgot how it was that I was suposed to be travelling to wherever it was that I was going.

Back here, after a sleep, it was off to record the radio programmes and to pick up some sliding doors at Chamalières - Cécile`s been shopping on leboncoin again.

Now I need to settle back into life here - but not for long though. I'll be going back for Brussels part II in early course. It's all go.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I'm on my own ...

... for the next day or two, and so what i'll be doing is to try to catch up with my sleep. At just 200m from the University and with a tram line just around the corner it's really noisy here and last night, with the neighbours arguing until 03:00 there was no chance of any real sleep, especially as the trams start up at 06:00.

I solved the baguette problem by the way. There's a mini-Carrefour supermarket just a few hundred metres away and they have baguettes at 95 cents. Only twice as much as in a Carrefour in France but it's a step in the right direction. I did my week's shopping in there too, and regular readers will recall that in France, that comes to round about €20:00. Here (admittedly with a light bulb included) it came to €38 and something. Highlight has to be the tomatoes, 99 cents per kilo in the Auchan, that cost €2:59 for 800 grams here. No wonder I left the country when I retired.

Most of the time I've spent here, I've been doing odd jobs around the apartment but I managed to get out and about. Primarily to go to the bank to arrange a transfer or some money to France. However of course, as you might expect, the bank chose today of all days to be closed for repainting and decorating. Nevertheless I did manage to visit a few other shops for a few other things, including a tack of my 12-volt LED warning lights.

On the way back here I stopped off at the Palace to see how the King was getting on, and I noticed a group of Japanese tourists talking to everyone else in the crowd. My curiosity having been aroused, I sneaked up behind then and listened to what they had to say. It was really quite illuminating -  a question of "who's that up there on the balcony of the Palace - you know - the guy standing next to Eric Hall?"

So this evening I'm on my own with Strawberry Moose. We've had a pizza and we've watched the footy and now I'm having an early night while he's off to the Bois de la Cambre to look for a few ladyfriends

Thursday, February 28, 2013

In the Boulangerie today ...

"May I have a baguette, please?"
"€1:30? For a baguette?"
"If you don't want it you can always go somewhere else"

Yes, I'm back in Belgium, aren't I? The land of pig-ignorant and rude shop assistants. However I managed to live for 14 years amongst such offensive people is something that I don't quite understand.

So having made a trial run on Tuesday back to Pooh Corner to make sure that it was accessible, I went over on Wednesday early afternoon to load up Caliburn ready to hit the road, but a quick message from Marianne to say that her appointment was brought forward to this morning meant that I stayed there for a while and sorted out a pile of stuff before hitting the road in the evening;

The first 75 kms were rather difficult but after that the conditions eased a little and I made good time, fuelling up at Auxerre and then stopping at a little layby that I know near St Florentin. It was freezing in the van but I made two exciting discoveries. Firstly, the zip on my sleeping bag is broken and so I really was open to the elements, but secondly, if I put my feet down the sleeve holes of a fleece, they don't get cold at all. I was woken up through the night by other things, but not cold feet.

I made it here by late morning and since then I've been helping Marianne with a few things here and there, trying to get her organised. I'll be here for a week.

What was nice though was having a pile of sandwiches and a thermos made for me before I set out. That's definitely something of a novel experience for me. Rather a shame though that I forgot the flask, but never mind, hey?

As an aside, my baguettes in France cost 75 cents, with delivery of 6 kms and a smile included in the price.

Monday, February 25, 2013

I finally made it ...

... out today. But not by vehicle. I don't mind shifting 35 mm of snow but having to do it over almost 800 metres of lane is rather too much - no danger of having any snowplough down here of course.

But we had a radio programme to record and as Liz managed to extract her car from the snow, I walked down the lane to the main road where she picked me up, and we went off to Marcillat.

No danger of going to Gerzat for the programmes at Radio Arverne though. We've postponed that until a week on Friday. If we are lucky, the snow might have melted by then.

But, in a surprising development, not only has it stopped snowing but we can see the full moon in all its glory. That means that the clouds have thinned right out. I'm curious to see what tomorrow might bring now. More of the same, if previous experience is anything to go by.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Winter is back again ...

... and if it carries on like this, I'll be spending tomorrow digging myself out of a snowdrift or something.

It's rather a shame as quite recently we've had four or five days of splendid weather, so much so that the temperature in the dump load water heater went off the end of the gauge, which is something quite astonishing  for this time of the year.

But on Thursday the weather turned miserable, which was only to be expected seeing as we were all working outside. Cécile has a huge fir tree that waves about in the wind, and it's right on the boundary of one of her fields against the public highway. It needed to be removed and so on Thursday Terry and I rose to the task. We cut it down in three sections and the noise wasn't half impressive. Cécile filmed it, with the idea, I suppose, of posting it on Youtube if either Terry or I fell out of the tree or in case it fell through the roof of the neighbour but, surprisingly, it all went according to plan and I'll post a few photos on here in due course.

Yesterday we went to Montlucon to buy more stuff for the various projects, and I even gave Caliburn his annual wash, but on the way back the weather broke and we fled to Pooh Corner to sit out the tempest. With no sign of it abating, we braved it back to Ice Station Zebra this afternoon and this is where we'll be staying if the weather doesn't improve.

If I'm snowed in here, at least there's plenty of work to do, and we have a pile of material to do it with too now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

So how's it going then?

Cécile breezed in as forecast on Thursday in the middle of the night (or really, early morning, to be precise) and spent the day recovering - it's always like that after a long drive through the night. But since then, it's been something of a non-stop cycle of work which even included (would you believe?) a Sunday?

Basically, I've decided that in the interests of moving on the work that needs to be done, I ought to work on whatever needs doing at Cécile's in the morning and then work on mine in the afternoon. At the same time, Cécile came to the conclusion that I'm working in some kind of glorious disorder and that much could be gained if more space was made available at my house, either by arranging things more comfortably and tidily or by disposing of things that are in the way and are not likely to be used.

Consequently, this is what we have been doing. And apart from accomplishing more stuff round at my place, a whole van-load or two of surplus material has been moved from my house round to Céciles, with the aim of cleaning it up and selling it on eBay or Leboncoin. Not only will that make more space, it will make some money too, which is always useful. In the meantime of course, the list of jobs that needs doing at Cécile's is diminishing quite rapidly too. Obviously a win-win situation all round.

But it's not been quite as straightforward as that as I've been struck down (yet again) by bronchitis - me who is hardly ever ill, of course. It's really depressing, this last few months where it's been one thing after another.

And it's not likely to continue either, because I've had some really bad news about a friend back in Brussels and once we've finished recording our radio programmes, I'm heading north. And I've no idea for how long either.