Thursday, 31 March 2016

Claiming Date: 7th June!

Last weekend we had a visit to Windsor in the drizzle but we weren't there as tourists, we were there to check out our wedding plans!

As we got into town, the police shut the road on us.

We'd bumped into The Changing of the Guard!

A full scale military band and guard;

Not really my thing but quite a sight all the same.

We were actually there to check out the registry office and very grand it is indeed.

Our wedding is now set for 1-45pm on 7th June and we are claiming the date.

We'd welcome anyone who wants to come along to get in touch - it's a big venue and there's likely to be room for everyone.

The reception may well be just for family......not least because we haven't actually booked anything yet or even agreed on what we are going to do.


Time is short and we're still deciding things, so it's going to be very hectic and last minute.

Whatever we do, it will be lots of fun and (I hope) there'll be a few surprises too.

Well, I'm not going to miss it.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Buying time.

Over the weekend we started a herb garden - it seemed a nice thing to do and everybody needs herbs. The bought ones are limp and dried herbs aren't the same.

I'm not an active gardener any more but we went to the garden centre to buy some things I could grow outside the front door - where I can get to them easily.

When I was well I used to mainly buy seeds because they were cheaper and, of course, I had all the time in the world to watch them grow. These days I need to buy ready made plants because time is short - so we spent £3-99 on a big Rosemary plant because Robyn likes it and it looked healthy.

I was a bit meaner with the Oregano and got a smaller plant for £1-99 as I figured it would grow fast.

The price difference is because what you're actually paying for is the time of the person who grew the plant; the bigger it is the more it costs.

As you can see, I potted them up and after a couple of days they look quite good;

I didn't get anything else because the plants didn't look so healthy. I want to get some Mint so that we can have mint tea like we did at Le Miyanis in Paris.

And some Thyme would be nice.

Then I had an idea - we bought a bunch of Thyme at Christmas and then I put it in some water to keep it going.

It's been a bit neglected since then;

So, I thought I'd take a chance and have a look because the way to propagate Thyme is to pull off a strand and put it in water.

I was lucky, two strands had taken root;

I potted them up and if we are lucky we got some Thyme for nothing.

I've put them into intensive care.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Art Themen at The Red Lion.

This week I had a big treat at The Red Lion, Isleworth - the great Art Themen came to play;

Covering a variety of saxophones, one of the last great exponents of British Bebop is not to be missed;

Trevor Tomkins was on drums, Robin Aspland on keyboards and Tim Wells on bass.

For me the evening was tinged with sadness as the last issue of 'Jazz in London' magazine was handed out. I'll do a special article here to commemorate its passing but it has been a vital part of the London jazz scene for 43 years and will be missed enormously.

All the same, it was a great night of music - the finest modern jazz in town tonight.

Neil Harris
(a don[t stop till you drop production)
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Monday, 28 March 2016

Happy Easter.

I hope you had a nice Easter - when I was working the holiday always ended far too soon.

We'd planned a weekend of music but I ran out of energy after Friday night and couldn't go out anymore.

We did have Hot cross Buns!

And we drove towards Staines and walked (dangerously) alongside the busy Staines By-pass to catch a look at some of the lambs;

The shepherds rent the land around one of the reservoirs - it really is urban farming!

They were very camera shy!

We had an Easter basket too;

I would have liked to do a lot more interesting stuff because it's been a real struggle to make it to spring but we did have a job to do on Saturday morning!

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Sunday, 27 March 2016

UKID and Tree House Fire at The Wheatsheaf and Pigeon, Staines.

Friday was a special night for us although I was out for the count for a couple of days afterwards.

For one night, 'The Hobgoblin' lived again when 'The Wheatsheaf and Pigeon' was taken over for a night of live music in Staines.

Apart from a huge crowd, there was a very special line up too;

This is UKID from Glastonbury - one of my favourite Hob regulars. Mixing D.J culture, rapping and heavy metal they are always a blast although now they've added a female vocalist they have mellowed a little. for me

I mainly like their full-on, high energy, political stuff but they were still good and Robyn likes them too. 

There was a definite culture clash - one of the bar staff had her face frozen in a look of jaw-dropping disbelief for most of the evening while the next door neighbours were probably unimpressed as well.

There were some mighty fine bass notes vibrating out from the speakers all night.

Mind you when they total up the nights takings at the bar it may change attitudes.

We are running out of venues very quickly and some of us in the audience begin to suspect the hand of the Police and the local authorities are behind this. It seems to be country wide too.

The second act were 'Tree House Fire' playing their usual blend of white reggae but with wider vocals and a more prominent keyboards this time;

Always fun, they were a great end to a fabulous evening.

There's a huge amount of talent locally and a mobile audience trying to find somewhere to go for a Friday night - it seems strange that every venue that plays live music is closing be replaced by a chain restaurant.

But there are some interesting initiatives coming up - I'll keep you posted.

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

The Pavement Jeweller.

After we left 'The Walkie Talkie' we took the bus to Trafalgar Square to look at the pavement artists outside The National Gallery.

And then we saw this guy making rings on the pavement for donations;

He was doing great business and when Robyn was choosing her rings he made different versions of them to fit her;

The copper ring was made out of old electrical flex, he stripped off the plastic in front of us;

We've been looking forward to Easter as it should be a weekend of music for us, if we're lucky.

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

Up in the mist.

One reason for our day out was that when Robyn came here as a tourist she had a trip on the London Eye and couldn't see was misty.......just like today!

So last summer when there was a rare opening of the old Post Office Tower I tried to get tickets but couldn't because the Home office had seized Robyn's passport and we needed ID.

So then I applied for tickets for 'The Walkie Talkie' ......we needed a passport to get up there too........Grrrrh!

I was really depressed - we couldn't go abroad and we couldn't even go up a building.

Now we both have passports but we can't go anywhere anymore but we did actually book tickets for 'The Walkie Talkie' at 20 Fenchurch Street.

Which seemed fine except that as the day got closer and closer I got more and more apprehensive;


Not that it's stopped me - I'm actually scared of going up ladders but I've been up plenty of them.

I've spent a lot of time climbing up hills and clambering along cliff edges.

I've climbed a few mountains too.

But this?

Oh dear!

That's high!

It didn't help that I've been having more or less permanent nosebleeds for the last month or so too.

Today was no different, so when I was searched at the entrance I had a pocket full of bloody tissues as well as a back brace which did seem to throw them a bit off balance.

It's 35 stories high and the lift takes about 20 seconds to get there.

There's a roof garden and some plush places to eat;

I was not too happy about going out to the terrace but the views were good;

It was very strange to watch helicopters flying only just above us and looking down at familiar buildings. This is City hall where I proposed to Robyn two months ago; 

Looking down at tiny cars and buses;

This is the classic view of Canary Wharf, and the East End where we had a day last summer. You can really see the curves of the river.

And how about looking down at The Shard?

There's always a catch - the Walkie Talkie is ugly and too big for it's boots (OK its too big for it's footprint).

It's design is flawed - two summers ago it melted a line of cars on the street because it's shape concentrated the suns rays into a beam.

It was a condition of getting planning permission that it had to create a 'public space' and most of us would have imagined this would be at street level and accessible to all.

Anyway, until everybody forgets about this condition we have some strictly controlled access to the 'Skygarden';

And it's a very science fiction space, in a 'James Bond Villains Lair' sort of way.

Please, where is 'Dr Evil's office?

Imagine, looking down at 'The Gherkin'?

There are lots of tree ferns and some quite nice temperate planting;

But it is a bit corporate.

By the time we left I was pretty much worn out and we took refuge in a Caffé Nero at street level so that I could have a rest.

The effect of mixing with a lot of City business people was getting me down - interestingly when we first got there we went into the office entrance by mistake instead of the side entry for the tourists.

As I came through the door security descended on me immediately - obviously I didn't have any legitimate business there.

As we settled down on the Bus I reflected on how glad I was that I'd spent my life trying to stay out of 'the system'.

Succeeded there!

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

Our day out in town.

We made it up to London but I'm not going to tell you why straight away.

It's not really fair - Tuesday I was fit and well and it was a beautiful day but I had to get my car serviced.

By Wednesday it was grey and misty and I was ill again but we had a booking and we had to go.

And as we got there too early, I dragged Robyn into The Sir John Soane museum which is an old favourite of mine;

The museum is an 18th Century mansion designed by Soane himself  who was an eclectic traveller, architect, designer and collector.

His main collection ended up as the beginnings of The British Museum, these leftovers are just his everyday household ornaments;

That was the only photo I got to take - there's a strict no photography rule although it's easy to find officially sanctioned photos on the net!

I got told off, as usual.

Soane designed his house like a rabbit warren to house his huge collection of statues, architectural salvage, archaeological treasures as well as things like a bathroom that you have to squeeze through to get around. It's cramped and confusing but every room and corridor is bathed in light from a time when other people lived in gloomy smoky houses.

There are an array of windows and skylights which cast spotlights on the exhibits.

It's a collection gone crazy and it would also be fair to say, that many (if not all) of the pieces are stolen or the taking of them would (today) amount to vandalism.

I've been many times before and the old 'free and easy' attitude of the place has, sadly, gone. You just can't just walk around unsupervised anymore or revel alone in the sheer confusion of the place like you used to.

While some of the old chaos has gone, luckily some remains;

I loved discovering again the extensive collection of ancient statue feet!

Nowadays there's an attendant in every room and some beloved exhibits have been put into storage or are in closed off areas.

If I'm grumbling it's because some of the charm of the place has gone but I'd still go back if I had a short bit of time to fill.

It's free and to be found on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields where we stopped to have our lunch before heading on to The City of London.

On the way we passed 'The Monument', a tower you can climb up - built on Pudding lane to commemorate the outbreak of The Great Fire of London in a bakers shop 350 years ago this year.

Once the tower dominated the skyline, now it's dwarfed by it's neighbours;

I'm scared of heights so I didn't fancy going up.

No, I don't think I could cope with that at all!

When we were done, we caught a bus back to Trafalgar Square - it's a long ride but the '15' has heritage buses - old Routemaster's for the price of an ordinary fare;

I was pretty much worn out by then, so after a coffee I collapsed on the bus to have a rest before we came home.

What did we do?

I think I'll need a day to recover before I tell you!

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Wednesday, 23 March 2016


This was due to be a really exciting day - and then the weather turned out to be rubbish.

That wasn't what the forecast said!

What's worse is that yesterday I was getting my car sorted out and while we couldn't do anything the weather was marvellous.

Anyway we're going up to town today and it will either go well or Robyn may have to call the emergency services out for me.

Check it out tomorrow to see whether we needed Mountain rescue to come out!

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

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Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Pavement Poet.

Most of the best things in life are a happy accident and when we ended up in Staines by accident we met 'the Pavement Poet' passing through;

Danny Rowland travels the country drawing his poetry on public spaces; he's a mixture of pavement artist and polemicist for peace;

Putting thought provoking poems into the public realm;

For his pains he's been threatened with arrest and has been served with 'Anti Social Behaviour Order  Notices' by local councils - which could actually get him locked up.

It's strange - we are surrounded by advertisements and signs that no one asked for - while the least inoffensive gesture which happens to make people question the world around them can get you locked up?

While we were there he'd drawn a good crowd of the curious and interested;

You can check out his facebook page here;

And if you're lucky he may be heading your way.

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

Blue badge!

It arrived!

At last!

Thanks to Dr Feelgood and Maggies cancer centre at Charing Cross Hospital I'm getting some money from the state (until George Osborne cuts it off) a Freedom Pass for free travel in London and best of all.....I've got a disabled parking badge:

This time last year I was in so much pain I couldn't travel to hospital on the tube - we had to take the bus and I would be screaming every time it braked or turned a corner.

It would take me a week to recover.

Later on I was using the bus for months with a walking frame - I was not popular, I can tell you.

I'm a lot better now but the journeys to Hospital are still gruelling.

I used the pass twice yesterday to celebrate!

It's also sad because you have to be quite ill to get one, unless you lie. Now I get up to all sorts of things (we have plans for this week!) but getting about is really painful so I actually do need one.

So while getting the pass is a big deal it's also a sad moment for me too.

Mind you, Robyn's really celebrating!.

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

"Systematic failings" kill a pregnant woman at St. Peter's Hospital.

Every so often I get the feeling that I should have stopped this Blog long ago and just got over what St. Peter's did to me and got a life.

Then something like this story comes along and I realise that I should have done a lot more than I did.....that I should have fought much harder to get someone to listen to me.

This story is from 'Get Surrey' and it reports the Coroners comments on a totally unnecessary death caused by St. Peter's absolute negligence in dealing with a pregnant women.

If it wasn't enough that she was misdiagnosed from the beginning, they then decided that she wasn't ill and didn't let her see a consultant for 40 hours.

When her mother tried to remove her from St. Peter's Hospital to another hospital their response was to security!!

It's an absolute disgrace - actually it's manslaughter.

See if I'm wrong;


"Systematic and individual failings at St Peter's Hospital led to death of  pregnant woman".

08:00, 19 Mar 2016
By Matt Strudwick
Get Surrey

Rhianne Barton died just two days after doctors wrongfully diagnosed her with gastroenteritis in February last year

Coroner: Lost possibilities to intervene which "could have and should have" changed the course of events
"Systematic and individual failings" in the treatment at St Peter’s Hospital of a heavily pregnant woman who died from complications following surgery have been highlighted by a coroner.

Rhianne Barton, from Ashford, died on February 13 2015 at the Chertsey hospital, when an operation to treat an internal hernia caused fluid to flood her lungs.

This happened two days after doctors had wrongfully diagnosed her with gastroenteritis.

The 27-year-old, who was 35 weeks pregnant with her first child, had been admitted onto the labour ward on February 10 with "excruciating" stomach pains and persistent vomiting, before being transferred to the antenatal ward the next

Woking Coroner’s Court heard on Wednesday (March 16) how doctors showed a lack of consideration of gastric bypass surgery the legal assistant had had at St Mary’s Hospital in December 2013.

Assistant coroner Dr Karen Henderson said the "closed minds" and a mistaken belief by doctors and midwives that she was not significantly unwell led to a "lack of urgency" to consider any other diagnoses.

She said: “I find as good medical practice this should have been considered and excluded independently of how well she looked.”

The inquest heard how a consultant, present during a ward run on the morning of February 11, was not asked to see Miss Barton as it was not a "done thing".

“It’s not rocket science that if someone is admitted in the previous afternoon they deserve to be seen by a consultant who has the responsibility for care and delivery of that care,” said Dr Henderson.

It was more than 40 hours until Miss Barton was assessed by a consultant, a delay Dr Henderson said was "critical".

Mum had 'every right' to be unhappy; Dorothy Osuji had searched her daughter’s symptoms on Google after "getting no help" from medical staff where she correctly found her condition to be "fatal".

“Mrs Osuji had every right to be deeply unhappy about the care her daughter had,” said Dr Henderson.

“Mrs Osuji did as much as humanly possible to obtain best care for her daughter, but was not believed and active steps were not taken to reassure Rhianne or her mother. They gave, in fact, false assurances that actions were being taken.”

Dr Henderson said the medical team’s response to call security upon hearing Mrs Osuji had arranged to transfer her daughter to St Mary’s Hospital was "absolutely unacceptable".

On February 12 an ultrasound and MRI scan confirmed Miss Barton had a small bowel obstruction. She was rushed into surgery for an emergency caesarean at 6pm to deliver her
daughter, who survived.

But fluid rushed up and flooded Miss Barton’s lungs, blocking her airwaves. Surgeons waited until she was stable to carry out further surgery, but she suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.

The inquest heard there had been a number of lost possibilities to intervene which "could have and should have" changed the course of events.

“This was due to individual and systematic failures in the care Rhianne was given,” said Dr Henderson. “They were in turn directly causative of Rhianne’s death. But for this failure
Rhianne would not have died in the way she did.”

Recording a narrative conclusion, Dr Henderson, visibly emotional, said: “Without doubt it’s a tragedy to the hospital, but a particular tragedy not only to Rhianne’s family who have lost a daughter, but her daughter has lost a mother
and my absolute condolences for that.”

Dr Henderson said she would be writing a Prevention of Further Deaths report to Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust requiring it to respond outlining what action will be taken.

In a statement, the trust’s chief nurse, Heather Caudle, said it fully accepted the coroner’s conclusion.

She said the trust has since changed the way it manages high-risk pregnant women to ensure consultants review their care daily, as well as looking at improving communication between its teams.

“We know many of these things will be of little comfort to Rhianne’s family as they come to terms with their grief and the responsibility of bringing up Rhianne’s beautiful daughter,” she said.

“We are truly sorry for their loss and if and when Rhianne’s family would like, we wish to work closely with them to keep them informed of the improvements and changes we have made.”


Incidently, Robyn tells me that following a Gastric Bypass, American good practise would be for pregnant women to see a specialist Gastro Enterologist at the beginning of pregnancy to chart out how complications like this can be avoided.

Which indicates that a stomach hernia is not unusual in these circumstances.

In the year since this completely unnecessary death - who has been held responsible?

No one.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery, Basingstoke.

I've been ill this last week and it's all been a bit dull - these pictures are from the week before when I found myself killing an hour or so in Basingstoke.

The last time I was there I wandered into the town's Art Gallery and Museum and they were 'between' exhibits. The walls were stripped and painted white, ready for the paintings to arrive and to be hung.

I joked with the attendant that it was a fine display of minimalism.

This time the pictures had arrived and I had a little treat. The exhibition is 'Defining Moments - A journey through British Modern Art' and it has assembled a small collection of paintings the curator feels are representative of all the major movements of British Modern Art over the last century or so.

It would certainly be ideal for a school trip - for me?

Actually, yes it worked.

Rather like if a businessman had paid a dealer to put together "one of each, please".
I really liked this; 'Skewed relief' by Peter Lowe of 'Systems Group'.

And I was knocked out by this little picture by Terry Frost, representing the 'St. Ives Group'. I know Frost is part of St. Ives but he was very much a latecomer.

My interest was because I associate Frost with large scale prints in big blocks of primary colours - this is right from the beginning when he turned up in Cornwall looking for an education after the war.

It's a very simple little abstract, full of the alleys and corners of St. Ives,

I also like Peter Wyndham-Lewis's 'The Vorticist' from 1912;

Both eminently 'stealable' paintings!

I'm a long term fan of Bridget Riley so I enjoyed this print;

Untitled and undated but definitely of the 1970's.

There were some other fine pictures but by this time I was stopped from taking pictures.

The older part of the building is a town museum but the archaeological section was shut.

We wandered around a history of life in Basingstoke which included this representation of a 1950's/1960's kitchen;

Much of which I grew up with and quite a lot of still remains in my Mum's kitchen now!

The art is on at The Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery until 16th April and is free to visit.

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