Monday, 29 February 2016


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

My weekend.

Robyn's been trying to cheer me up and she told me this joke;

Little Johnnie's teacher asked him how his weekend was?

"Horrible, a car hit my dog in the ass," he said.

The teacher corrected him; "Johnnie, we don't say A**, we say 'rectum'."

Little Johnnie replied "Rectum?

Damn near killed him!"

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

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Saturday, 27 February 2016

My penknife.

Well I'm still ill and in a foul mood too.

So I messed about with my penknife which I've owned for so long I can't remember how I got it.

I could have bought it from a jumble sale or I may have inherited it from my dad. In which case it's the only thing he ever left me!

I think it could have been his because he had a habit of snapping off the point on knives and this one had lost it's point that way.

I've sharpened it over the years and gradually worked the blunt end back into a point. I suppose I could have filed it down quickly but I never bothered. I got there in the end anyway.

As you can see, it's shortened the knife considerably in the process;

Then I thought I'd take a closer look;

Which looks quite tidy but if you look in another light;

You can see that a sharp blade is actually a ridge of teeth.

I cheated with these photos, taking the pictures as close up as I could manage and then enlarging them as far as I could.

Under a microscope the blade would look like a mountain range.

I was marginally better yesterday, I'm hoping to be doing something again soon.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Friday, 26 February 2016

Jurassic mud.

As you know, I've been having a fairly grim time recently, so today after the shopping I decided to go back in time;

This is the eerie landscape of The Isle of Sheppey, which Robyn and I visited on our all too brief period of respite in 2014.

The cliffs are made up of muds and 'London Clay' laid down in the Eocene period about 50 million years ago.

Personally would rather call it 'Jurassic Mud' keeps me happy. 

It can be quite formidable, someone lost their wellington boots here and only just got away with it;

Anyway, Robyn picked up some seashells and kept some of the mud which was inside one so that I could try to find some microfossils.

It's only 18 months late but today I got out some equipment and had a go.

The brown paper is a coffee filter;

Here's the sample Robyn kept;

Looks promising;

Here the water is breaking up the mud;

Waste water;

Next time, I wouldn't bother to filter it. I'd just 'pan' it in the tray like a gold prospector;

I picked out a couple of early 'possibles'.

On the right is a fragment of modern day seashell. On the left is a piece of stone that has a pattern that looks distinctly organic to me. They are both resting on the filter paper;

Now to filter the rest. Cut the top off a plastic bottle and put it upside down into the base of the bottle and put the filter paper inside;

Here's my 'organic looking stone' on my finger;

Those are my fingerprints and on the left a scar - I have a few of those!

I still think it's possibly a sponge or something similar.

I didn't find any obvious fossils - I was hoping for some fish bones at the very least. 

I did find some grains of sand and lots of shell fragments. I guess we picked up the shell from the wrong part of the beach.

The round grains are quartz;

Still, at least I don't need to build an exhibit cabinet.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Thursday, 25 February 2016

Give Peas a chance.

This is one of my favourite (and historic) pieces of graffiti from the M25 near where it meets the M40. On that road the same artist had painted 'You're all lemmings' for the benefit of the commuters - unfortunately other artists have covered it up in recent years.

Robyn took the picture on her phone last summer.

I've been fairly sick recently and dealing with bad news too.

Hopefully things will get better.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Bad case of the Blues.

By Monday night I was definitely feeling below average although I didn't want to miss Richard Rossi on guitar, John Horler on keys, Tim Wells on bass, Trevor Tomkins on drums and Paul Booth on saxes;

As the evening went on I was flagging and getting more blue by each number!

Or worse;

It was a fine night at The Red Lion, just maybe a bit too much for me.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Monday, 22 February 2016

Wedding madness.

Sunday was just 'Wedding madness'.

We went to three wedding fairs in four hours;

It would be fair to say that I probably peaked too soon.

I think I finally lost it when I found myself talking to someone in a red jacket who wanted us to pay him to be 'Master of Ceremonies'.

There were lots of cakes;

And flowers;

But how two very different people who want two very different weddings are going to put together something we can both enjoy is going to be really difficult.

We also seem to have started preparing a year too late.

And, it would make a lot more sense to do this abroad where all our relatives are. The only problem with that is that Dr Feelgood seems to think I may have left it a bit too late to travel.


And time is short too.

I came home and ended up collapsed in front of the T.V. for about 12 didn't help.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Sunday, 21 February 2016

Straight Outta Chemo 2; with the M25 Firespinners.

By the time I'd got out of Chemo and home I was tired out but I wasn't actually ill.....and my temperature was in the end there didn't seem any reason not to go out;

Because it was fire spinning night!

We hadn't been since November, just before I had my kidney operation so I didn't want to miss it.

You can find 'The M25 Firespinners' on Facebook and they meet up on the third Friday every month at Budgens on Egham High Street to start a procession that ends at the bridge over the Thames at The M25.

There are students from the University, some members of The Circus Society and Egham's Underground.......and an old codger from across the river......and Robyn!

I can't think of a better place to watch it;

Fire spinning is difficult, spectacular and thrilling;

And having been away for a few months we could see how people are getting better at it;

Unfortunately the same can't be said for Robyn and me - the last three months have been tough and we never got round to making Poi or Fire sticks so there's been no practising.

But I did get round to buying some steel wool!

I cheated. 

I cut my steel wool into some short lengths and then tied it to the end of some old electrical flex, added a weight, set fire to it and spun it in the tunnel;

Not bad for a first effort!

No skill required and lots of fun!

There's quite a risk of getting burnt or burning other people so you do need to take precautions.

It's dangerous enough that I decided there wasn't much point in having a trial run before I had a go.

Then Robyn took this amazing picture;

Which, I suppose says it all about me and what I'm about.

I've even made it my Facebook cover photo - I never had one before.

By the time I came home I was still buzzing with the Steroid party that was going on in my head and with the thrill of messing about with silly pyrotechnics.

Even better, some of the Fire Spinners have offered to perform at our wedding reception - it was always going to be hard enough to find a venue - now we need one that can cope with fire as well!

It's the most wonderful offer and if we can work everything out that's what we'll do.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Saturday, 20 February 2016

63000 rather groggy thanx!

Friday was all going so well down at Chemotherapy - we were there in good time for my 11-00 am appointment, got in fairly quickly and I even managed to take a silly selfie to say thank you for the Blog reaching 63000!

Unfortunately, about 5 minutes into my second dose of Chemo I went into full scale Anaphylactic shock as my body had a major allergic reaction to the drugs.

I went bright scarlet/orange all over - Robyn tells me it was the colour of her headphones and that's pretty fluorescent I can tell you.
I lost vision and my blood pressure fell through the floor very quickly.

I was certainly aware that everything was going wrong; my last memory is that I was wearing a pair of socks I bought very cheap at Sports Direct but that I didn't want to die with them on because the symbol doesn't reflect my views!

I was going to ask Robyn to take them off but I took one look at her and realised that wasn't going to go down very well with her.

This is our friend Paul, he switched over to this specialism last year when I was having infusions for my back - this was his first Anaphylactic shock too - he's pumping in the oxygen here and trying not to pose too much.

I told him that I get all the side effects - if he sticks with me I'll take him through the whole manual.

Luckily, the injections worked.

Robyn took this one as I'm coming out of it.

Got my hat back on!

We worked out that I must have been unconscious for about 5 minutes.

My 11 00am and free for the rest of the day turned onto getting out at 6 00pm but the ECG was OK and I'm still on Chemo.

Now, when we got home did I;

a) sit down in my armchair with a nice warming milk based drink and put my feet up to some comforting Mantovani on the record player?

b) Go out for the evening and do something incredible?

Find out tomorrow.

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

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Friday, 19 February 2016

Grumpy Neil.

Endless waiting!

Blood tests done at last - I'm due back tomorrow morning for my second dose of Chemotherapy.

Today was exhausting, not so much because we had to struggle up to town to see Dr Feelgood but because I had to get to my GP to collect a separate prescription, then get to Tesco's to get that sorted and do the shopping because I won't be able to do that tomorrow.

We staggered back at 4pm, tired out, just in time for lunch.

Now I'm OD'ing on steroids ready for tomorrow.

Worst of all, yesterday when we could have done something I was ill and it was raining while today when I was OK and it was sunny we were stuck at hospital.

And the chances of getting a holiday somewhere exciting are beginning to look more and more remote.

I am a bit grumpy at the moment.

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

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Thursday, 18 February 2016

Feeding the birds.

We went off to feed the birds;

They're tough guys - Swans and Geese who are used to being fed and don't like to be kept waiting. 

We were lucky this time, we didn't get bitten!

It's frustrating at the moment. I'm grinding my teeth to be doing things but I'm not really up to it and the weather is terrible, as usual.

Tomorrow I'm back at hospital and Friday is day two of Chemotherapy.

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

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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Exclusive Revealing Celebrity Pictures.

We made it!

We hit town and managed to get in to see 'Alvin and the Chipmunks; The Roadchip'.

I couldn't resist stealing a picture off the screen;

Probably not up to their classic work; not as charming as their first movie, not as good a storyline as 'Chipwrecked' but it's fair to say that The Chipmunks hardcore fans were getting fairly hysterical.

By the time the credits came up there seemed to be a fair number of 'Munks'  running up and down the aisles.

Probably too many 'E' numbers at half term.

I missed 'Ian', the best ever baddie and could have done with a few more stunts but Dave's still there, there were some frightening moments and a lot of laughs and who doesn't love The Chipmunks?

The 'Munks' even performed a slightly squeaky version of 'Uptown Funk' just a day after Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars won an Emmy for it as song of the year.

A well spent 'half price Tuesday' in Slough.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Year of the Monkey.

We headed up to town on Sunday and while I would have  preferred to have driven we wouldn't have found anywhere to park; it was Chinese New Year!
Me and Chinatown go back a long, long way - to buying punk records at Soho market and trying to find food cheap enough to eat as a student.
That usually ended up in a slightly ill tempered confrontation somewhere off Gerrard Street.
These days Chinatown is safer and more boring, more corporate. You rarely see a meat cleaver used in anger the old days.
Robyn told me off and said I only wanted chaos around me but actually Chinatown always had an excitement about it, an edge, which isn't there anymore.
As it was, the Tories were out leafleting for their mayorial candidate, which sums up the way things are these days. 
But it did give me an opportunity to be very insulting.....several times over.
For the record, it was only Ken Livingstone who ever did anything for the Chinese community before the banks and the casinos invaded Chinatown.
Anyway, as we spilled out of Leicester Square tube station Robyn skilfully steered me out of the past and straight to where one of the lions was already dancing for cabbages;


Chinatown was heaving with people - this is the band that follows the lion around;

The crashing drums and the cymbals are to ward off demons and evil spirits for the new year to come - The Year of the Monkey.

The day always starts with a ceremony to 'dot the lions eye';

There was also a procession and floats but we were never going to get there in time for that.

Everywhere there were stalls and red and gold ornaments for good luck;

Here's my dragon (I may need a bit of luck) and a pack of Chinese crackers.

You throw them on the ground and the bangs drive out the demons - I have a few of those, so I'm hoping it was a good investment.

The dragon has a pearl in it's mouth for prosperity;

There was lucky bamboo;

And the gates were looking particularly nice;

A really special atmosphere;

Everywhere we went the lions were dancing at the restaurants and the shops;

 When I was young, they danced for strings of cabbages and red envelopes hung out of first floor windows - they needed to be very athletic to get up on each others shoulders to reach for them.
These days it's a bit easier but still very colourful. 
And, as you can see, each lion doesn't only have its own band but also a protective group of 'martial arts enthusiasts'; here the 'Shaolin Fists'.

The floats were on display;

Robyn doesn't like crowds like I do and by this time she was getting a little frazzled.

We headed back towards Gerrard Street, fighting through the crowds again to get to an 'eat as much as you like Chinese Buffet'.

Which is about the best way to get a good meal on a budget in London.

After a queue we collapsed into our table and then negotiated the even bigger queue for food. We weren't in any hurry to leave, which was just as well. 

Because then something wonderful happened.

For a short time they stopped letting anyone else in, then they put up a cabbage in the doorway;

With a red envelope for The year of the Monkey;

A short wait.... then all the staff came up to the front of the restaurant;

And our very own lion turned up!

A really magical moment, a once in a lifetime experience;

After a dance the lion raised itself up to bite the cabbage;

Then, all too quickly, it spat out the cabbage in a fit of rage (keeping the envelope) and was off;

I couldn't believe our luck - most of the people eating didn't seem bothered but for me it was a very special experience; a window into another peoples world.

We wandered down busy streets, closed to traffic for the day, down to Trafalgar Square and took in the big stage.

This is the Chongqin Chuanju Theatre;

I was in quite a lot of pain by this time and Robyn seemed to be suffering a bit too;

A very special day;

Thanks Chinatown, catch you again when it's a bit less busy.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)