Friday, 31 July 2015

The 'Whatever' roadtrip!

Well, we aren't going to make it to Cornwall but it's my late Mum's birthday - the first after she died.

It's very depressing and so we're off on a road trip so that I can forget about it all.

I'm not sure how far we'll get or whether things will work out because I haven't been so well recently.


Neil Harris

(a don't stop till you drop production)

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Thursday, 30 July 2015

What a Waste!

This is what I saw on 'The Causeway' from Egham to Staines;

It used to be an office complex - a typical anonymous, boring office where people worked.

Not any more;

It wasn't beautiful and it certainly didn't have any architectural  merit, so I don't suppose anyone would have objected to it's destruction.

This was what it looked like a few days ago;

And this is today.......if you want to catch it you'd better hurry.

Nearly gone;

It's not so easy to date but in the ruins you can see relatively modern cabling, air-conditioning and it had a very silly name; 'Tamesis'. I would guess that puts it in the 1995 to 2005 bracket.

No one will miss it.

The background story is that a major technology company rented the building from a property company and wanted to move to a prestige office headquarters.

The owners didn't want to lose a good tenant and so they agreed to pull down a perfectly good building and build a newer bigger and better one on the site.

That's a problem because there's no reason to do it, except that when I looked up the property market in the Thames Valley I learnt that commercial property is getting hard to let after a few good years.

The property company didn't want to lose a good tenant and get stuck with an empty building.

When we drove through Slough, I spotted one demolished office and another in the process of coming down, all on one road opposite the Police Station.

These are buildings that replaced previous offices that were built in the 1970's and were never let out at all; they were knocked down because they were out of date before they could find tenants.

Apart from being crazynomics, this is very wasteful. Even if the steel and copper is recycled, the concrete, bricks and all the rest is most likely to end up in a hole in the ground.

Unfortunately, the concrete, clay, gypsum and rocks that went into the building in the first place came out of some different and very ugly holes in the ground, smack in the middle of the countryside.

It also took a lot of oil to process, transport and manufacture all the products that go into a building.

Think of it as a great big bonfire, burning up our grandchildren's planet.

Or to put it another way, here is part of Ian Dury's 'What a Waste';

I could be a lawyer with stratagems and ruses
I could be a doctor with poultices and bruises
I could be a writer with a growing reputation
I could be the ticket-man at Fulham Broadway station

What a waste! What a waste!
What a waste! What a waste!

I could be the catalyst that sparks the revolution
I could be an inmate in a long-term institution
I could lead to wide extremes, I could do or die
I could yawn and be withdrawn and watch them gullify

What a waste! What a waste!
What a waste! What a waste!

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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Wednesday, 29 July 2015


In the afternoon, I had to go to the post office and after, we went for a walk. As we crossed over the village green, I stopped to have a look at the cricket square and then, rather thoughtfully, suggested to Robyn; "You know, we could go to see 'Ant-man' tonight?"

Robyn started to have convulsions, laughing. I caught it too - so bad I had to stagger over to a tree stump to hold myself up.

We were almost paralysed, and I know a thing or two about that.

How ridiculous.

By the time evening came tumbleweed was blowing through our heads. 

There was nothing on the TV and it was supersaver Tuesday, after all.

We set off for The Empire Cinema, Slough. Perhaps Ant-Man wouldn't be so bad after all? 

We made it, even after I got the urge to park way up at the top of the multi-storey car park and then I forgot my ticket and had to go all the way back.

Terminator Genesys?

It wasn't that great last week - convoluted, unbelievable story and a silly misuse of CGI.

"Hey, the focus groups don't think much of the movie....boost up the CGI!".

Ant-Man was so different. Unlike Jurassic World they took time to build up the characters so you actually gave a $%?@ what happened to them.

There was a good cast - actually really good. Even Michael Douglas (who I can't stand) was used well.

There was a story. No, really.

And it was funny. By which I mean it made us laugh in a witty way.

It was a lot of fun and over far too quickly.

So unless you are a complete Arnie fan or have a real need for dinosaurs, I would head on down to see Ant-Man instead.

Good old Marvel comics.

Can't wait for the 'Fantastic Four' a couple of weeks.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Simon Spillet and Roger Beaujolais at The Red Lion.

This is the fabulous line up at The Red Lion, Isleworth Jazz club; it's Simon Spillet looking very cool on Saxophone and Roger Beaujolais sounding pretty cool on the Vibraphone.

I love Jazz Vibraphone and it's been a while since I've heard them; especially on Milt Jackson's ' Heartstrings'.....made for the vibes, obviously.

Simon Spillet is a very fine Sax player - I really enjoyed Wayne Shorter's 'Tom Thumb' at the end of the first set. 

I also liked Joabim's 'Favela', a sound of Brazil on a cold night.

Trevor Tomkins was great on drums as usual, and Robin Aspland covered keyboards, Simon Thorpe on bass.

It was one of those evenings that just flew away, it was that good.

Simon Spillet also had with him his new book; The Long Shadow of the Little Giant';


It's his biography of the legendary Tubby Hayes, one of a handful of brilliant, British Bebop pioneers - he played with everybody - both sides of the Atlantic.

Simon Spillett is not only an accomplished saxophonist, he is also an expert exponent of the music of Tubby Hayes, so it's natural that he should write a biography of him.

It's a real labour of love, I think it took him 12 years to write it.

I haven't seen a copy yet but if you are interested, the reviews are good.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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Monday, 27 July 2015

The Ali Maas Band at The Cavern, Raynes Park.

Saturday night and after enjoying 'The Desert Divas' we headed at high speed (my car is really very slow indeed) to south London to catch Ali Maas and her Blues Band.

They are well worth seeing and it was a kind of anniversary for us too - a year ago we saw them at the same place on a hot steamy July night and then I got lost on the way home and we ended up having a chat with some striking Firemen in Wimbledon.

That was a good night in a special summer.

This time round we had the rude landlord of The Cavern, Raynes Park to contend with. He actually came up to us and told us that we had to buy a drink to listen to the music.

I'm not sure who he thought we were but it didn't go down very well and it's very unlikely we'll take the trouble to head out to Raynes Park again.

And we ended up buying the least you can get away with to pay him back in his own coin, as it were.

Now I've calmed down.......Ali Maas is an accomplished Blues singer and her band has just got better and better in the years since we last saw them.

Here's Ali singing 'The Emotional Powder Keg Blues' (It's another Robyn G. May photo;

And this is Alan Glen, who plays a mean guitar as well as an occasional blues harp;

You can also see Pete Miles on drums, Glynn Evens on bass and the spectacular Rob Millis on organ. It really should have been a Hammond; I have no idea what a "NORD C2D" but he certainly made it sound good!

I also enjoyed 'When you're looking for somebody', a fine Peter Green number.

Anyway, if you get a chance to see them you should, maybe not at The Cavern, Raynes Park.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Desert Divas.

Saturday night and we were due to go and see Ali Maas and her Blues Band but then we realised we were also due to go to Windsor to see our friend Sharon and her sister doing some Middle East dancing or as some people call it 'Belly Dancing'.

We couldn't miss out on that so we managed to fit both in.

I didn't think it would be my kind of thing but it was really good - exquisite costumes, great music and some nice dancing;

Here's Sharon on the left;

They raised over £100 for the Thames Valley Hospice and I must admit, I was very impressed.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Saturday, 25 July 2015


This is where we stopped off for lunch; it's a tiny park next to the River Arun and overlooking Arundel castle;

The ruin in the foreground is the old Priory which dates from the year 1000 . We were very suspicious that the castle (which is supposed to be the same age) looked in such good repair. It looked a bit 'Hollywood' to us.

The last time I'd passed through Arundel was about 25 years ago when it was a sleepy little town by the side of the castle.

It was easy to park and an attractive place to visit.

Not this time and in the end we didn't go in; I was fairly annoyed with the outrageous car park and since then I did a little research on the castle and the town.

The 'Medieval' castle was in fact continuously rebuilt and remodelled from the 18th century onwards with the works only finishing in 1900 - it looks like it too.

The Howard family (that's the Duke of Norfolk) live there and they turned the castle into a family trust; outrageously it's a 'charity' which means the wealthy parasites don't pay any taxes on their home or on the family business.

The car park belongs to them and they've made sure that there's nowhere in the town where you can park for longer than an hour.

The car park? That costs £5 (unless you only want to stay for a couple of hours and that wouldn't be enough).

What got me really angry was that after all that you had to pay to use the toilets - as if they don't make enough money out of us already.

Don't believe me?

The normal entry to the castle ranges from £9 to £18 but you don't get a lot for £9!

If we'd gone in when we were there it would have been £23 because they had 'Jousting' displays......and none of the cheaper options were available.

The greedy Howard family have a cheek; they would have got £51 out of us, with the parking.

 But that wouldn't have been enough for them.

The government gives 'charities' the right to claim the tax back on donations made to them, it's called 'gift aid' and it's meant to boost income to hard pressed charities.

The Duke of Norfolk is very keen on 'Gift Aid' and would have liked us to choose that option when we were paying; if we had it would have cost us £25-30 each.

That's £55-60p with the parking.

Take a look at 'Tripadvisor', it's not just me that thinks the Duke is having us over.

There was a quiet little 'English' revolution going on.

The toilet users were holding the doors open for others as they left so as to deprive the nasty Duke and his extravagant family of their toilet money.

In the end, when we'd finished our lunch we went to Littlehampton, a quiet little seaside town.

This is the picture Robyn took from her phone;

I couldn't believe it; the last time I'd been there was about 25 years ago and it was a depressed, dead, miserable dead end.

It was magical - we were lucky that the Sun was shining and there was a delightful breeze.

There was seaweed and sand!

There was a brand new waterfront and a little pier and for once all the new building worked; charming waterside flats and houses in pastel shades and a mix of designs that really worked for an old harbour;

There were lots of people crabbing in the sunshine;

I was really puzzled why anyone would fish for Harbour crabs, I didn't think you could eat them and they were never much use for bait - in fact later we saw them being released back into the water.

Robyn had a paddle and I went looking for 'seaglass' but King Neptune was hanging on to his jewels this time.

It was a glorious, deep breath taking, head clearing, joy-making afternoon.

There were some great clouds;

There were also some really strong currents - the working boats were using the rising tide to shoot up the river to the harbour.

When we were driving down from Amberley I was foolish enough to argue with Robyn about whether the Arun was tidal; just look at the force of that water; it is!

I liked 'Hubris House', which was a little eccentric; the windows were covered up with a strange collection of prints and pictures.

And yes, that is a nude lady in the top window and a Dalmation and her puppy on the window sill.

Well why not?

We had a choice of Fish and Chip shops; we chose 'Fred's' and I can only say that it's entered my all time top three (that may be a future Blog) chip shops;

Is it possible for fish to be too fresh?
The chips were the best I have ever had - they use proper vegetable oil and local potatoes.
Then we had ice cream!
And I used the Amusement Arcade toilets to do my injection.
Pretty much the end to a perfect day.
Just don't put money into the pockets of the Howard family!
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Friday, 24 July 2015


We had a roadtrip!

I'd had a few bad days and then I felt a bit we went out for the day. We went to the seaside a day before heavy rain was due to fall.

Except first, we had to go to Amberley in West Sussex - years ago when Robyn was at school she saw a silly travel show about this little village and fell in love with it.

I was dreading it! Not least because it has the world's most (almost) expensive hotel;

It's a Norman castle built in the year 1100. It has a view of the South Downs and even has it's very own Peacocks. Not really the kind of place where I feel at home.

After we took a look at the hotel, we headed down to the village which is full of thatched cottages and oak beams;

The gate into the churchyard was decorated with flowers - there must have been a wedding recently;

We also checked out the church which was started in 1100 too;

Inside they'd uncovered wall paintings that had been plastered over in the protestant reformation. Until then, as you can see, churches had been brightly painted and were full of secular music.

Each village had it's own band which played, often quite rowdy, music in the church. That all changed and the bands were banished, the paintings hidden under whitewash and the carved heads were defaced in an outbreak of religious intolerance.
At the rear of the church was a huge wall, a remnant of an older building, filled with nooks which had been taken over by doves.

All around us the flint walls were built in orderly lines which seems to be unique to this part of Sussex.

And the cottages were ablaze with 'Hollyhocks'

And these really are genuine old oak beamed cottages;

We took a look at the village pottery which has taken over a redundant chapel. 

It's all handmade and fired on the premises. Here's the workshop;

They make all kinds of country pottery to order and it's all quite charming.

I caught a glimpse of these dusty figures on the window sill and fell in love with them;

If your interested (and they have an interesting story to tell)you can link to their website here;
I must admit that if I was grumbling when we got into the village (it's really, really expensive nowadays full of luxury cars and second homes) by the time we left I was won over.
Robyn is telling me she has to chose where we go to from now on.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Thursday, 23 July 2015

48,000 Thanx!

It would be nice if there was a target to reach - there isn't.

It's a big thank you for hitting 48000 hits; the point is to keep Ashford and St. Peter's Hospital's failings up there on the internet and your hits do that.

Thank you.

The reason for the blog is set out on the 'pages' column where I've 'saved' a selection of reasons, starting with when they sent me home with a badly broken ankle for a week.

When I started I ran an active local campaign, now that I'm a bit more ill I'm a lot less active.

But for the last year, I have been doing something but I haven't been able to write about it here because anyone can read it. It's been a secret.

That's reaching a solution soon and that then opens up all kinds of possibilities.

I'll let you know as soon as I can....really I will.

Meanwhile, we're getting ready for a road trip!

Well, why not. What could possibly go wrong?

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)


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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A double feature and then a quick screw in the morning.

Wow, that was an experience - we went to the movies!

We used to go every week to Cineworld in Feltham, because it was half price on Tuesdays. Then I broke my back and we couldn't go and then they stopped the discount.

So for a while we didn't go at all - Cineworld Feltham wasn't very good at half price.

Then we discovered the Empire in Slough; £3-75p on Tuesdays!!

So we went to see Arnie in Terminator Genesis - what could possibly go wrong?

We got in early, we got popcorn, we got settled down in our £3-75p seats to enjoy the adverts and the previews.

The excitement mounted - could an elderly Arnie match up to the first couple of classic terminators?

Then there was a preview for 'Jurassic World' that seemed to go on forever......and ever.

Then ever so slowly it dawned on me that we were watching the wrong really was 'Jurassic World'.

I could live with that - there were dinosaurs, a couple of young nephews having the trip of their lives at the brand new Jurassic World Theme park, there was an ambitious corporate aunt to welcome them and a megalomaniac billionaire who wasn't satisfied with plain old dinosaurs; he wanted genetically modified dinosaurs.

None of that was ever going to end well.

I was settling down nicely but, unfortunately, Robyn was beginning to do an impersonation of a small mammal showing signs of extreme distress. The body language was really quite upsetting. Clearly, dinosaurs (even genetically modified dinosaurs) were not going to do it for her.

Eventually she went off and did some detective work and found there was still time to get in to see Arnie.

We only missed a bit of the beginning.

But it wasn't our fault at all. The first screen was right next to the number 'one' and the right door had this on it;

A big sign warning us not to video 'Jurassic World'. Not much chance of that happening.

Anyway, I'd love to do a review of 'Terminator Genesys' but there's no way I can do it without giving the plot away.

If you are a fan it's good and worth seeing.

For me, I enjoyed it fine but there was just a bit to much CGI and a plot that was so complicated I kept losing track.

Mind you I laughed a lot - there was a guy just in front of us who slept through the whole film, disturbing everybody with his loud snoring.

I got a severe fit of the giggles every time he went off and that disturbed everybody around me as well.

Tee Hee!

Then we went home and my back brace fell apart.

That's not good - it's holding my back together.

The screws just fell out and when I put it back together I found that one was missing.

That's a serious problem - I haven't got an appointment at my hospital for a while and they didn't issue it to me anyway.

There's no way I wanted to go back to Wexham Park Hospital in Slough - I've had too much heartache there.

So I spent far too long hunting around for a screw before I went to bed and then in the morning I spent an hour or so wearing myself out hunting everywhere for a screw I could 'steal' from something else.

I tried every pot of nails, screws, nuts and bolts I had hidden away. I undid my crutches and a walker, I undid a couple of bits of old plumbing I had - I took apart a plug.

Nothing fitted.

Nothing ever fitted, I just got exhausted and my back hurt.

Then Robyn found a screw in her flatpack dressing table - it fitted!


I screwed myself back together just like a Terminator.
What are the chances of that happening?
Then we went shopping and as I got in the car I had a quick look around before I got in, just in case.
No luck.
Then on the way back I had another quick look......and I found the original screw on the floor!
How cool is that?
Two feature films for the price of one and a screw in the morning.
I'll be back.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Sarsen Stones of Stonehenge and Hounslow.

Last month Robyn and me, we spent the night at Stonehenge, waiting to see the sun rise between the magical stones at the summer solstice.

It was quite an experience and the stones really are magical.

Here's the moment of sunrise;

Some of them, the 'Bluestones', are believed to have been brought from Wales which is a very long way for Stone age people.

The majority of the stones are known as 'Sarsen' stones  which is a corruption of an old English word 'Saracen' which once meant 'foreign'. They came from about 20 miles away on the 'Marlborough Plain' and they were considered foreign because they didn't seem to fit in.

So, I thought I'd go to Lampton park in Hounslow to uncover where those stones came from.

That's because boring old Lampton park has its very own 'Sarsen' stone and here it is;

Not so boring, is it? The weird patterns are caused by erosion and are very similar to patterns you can see in the Sarsen stones at Stonehenge;

And actually, Lampton Park isn't so boring either - it features in the movie 'Bend it like Beckham'.

Here's the sign;

It doesn't look as though the stones got here via alien spacemen or left behind by glaciers. This one was found in a gravel quarry in Heston and brought here. We saw similar stones when we were looking for fossils in the London Clay at Sheppey, last September.
Sarcens seem to be formed as a layer between sands and gravels and clays, when sand layers are subjected to pressure and turn into quartzite. There must be something else going on too, because it's reasonably rare.
Erosion then wears away all the other layers and breaks up the quartzite layer, removing most of it so that just odd stones (which happened to be harder than the rest) remain.
The 'Plain of Marlborough' must have seemed like a mystical place to Stone age man; littered with strange, giant stones amongst the chalk.
They would have been ideal for building. Because they were formed from a layer which was then broken up means they were naturally rectangular.
What interested me about the Hounslow Sarsen is that the quarrymen must have been sufficiently entranced by the stone they found that they brought it over to Hounslow for display - the old magic of the stones was still working!
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Monday, 20 July 2015

Olivier Grossetete; The Cardboard Tower of Hounslow.

It's quite an impressive sight - we saw this as we drove through Hounslow, I dropped Robyn off and then came back to do some shopping. Robyn thought it was standing when we drove past, I'm not so sure.

Either way, this is what I thought of as I approached it;


            I met a traveller from an antique land
            Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
            Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
            Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
            And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
           Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
           Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
           The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
           And on the pedestal these words appear:
           'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
           Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
           Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
           Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
           The lone and level sands stretch far away

                      Percy Bysshe Shelley.

A lot of work went into that and quite a lot of sellotape too;

It was actually a work of art by Olivier Grossetete who is a kind of performance artist; he builds castles, fantasy buildings or monuments out of cardboard. They last for about a day and then they are demolished.
It was a replica of the top of the tower at Kew Bridge Steam museum which was a 19th century water pumping station.
It was due to be destroyed at 2 pm so it's rather sad that people didn't get to enjoy it on Sunday.
It was still quite an achievement.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)