Saturday, 30 April 2016

Skanking with The Reggulaters at The Horns.

After a really bad day there was no alternative; we had to get out of the house;

And see 'The Reggulaters' and there have been some changes.

Best of all, we had a chat with Carl Gaywood who used to play drums with 'The Skasouls' and now is with 'The Reggulaters' - these days they really are the dream team.

I can't think of a better way of forgetting our troubles than having a night of authentic Trojan Ska; 

The band were on great form and although I kept telling myself I needed to stay sat down I did have a couple of dances, especially to Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder they come".

This seems very appropriate at the moment;

The Harder They come.
Well, they tell me of a pie up in the sky
Waiting for me when I die
But between the day you're born and when you die
They never seem to hear even your cry

So as sure as the sun will shine
I'm gonna get my share now, what's mine
And then the harder they come
The harder they fall, one and all
Ooh, the harder they come
The harder they fall, one and all

Well, the oppressors are trying to keep me down
Trying to drive me underground
And they think that they have got the battle won
I say forgive them Lord, they know not what they've done

'Cause, as sure as the sun will shine
I'm gonna get my share now, what's mine
And then the harder they come
The harder they fall, one and all
Ooh, the harder they come
Harder they fall, one and all

And I keep on fighting for the things I want
Though I know that when you're dead you can't
But I'd rather be a free man in my grave
Than living as a puppet or a slave

So as sure as the sun will shine
I'm gonna get my share now, what's mine
And then the harder they come
The harder they fall, one and all
Ooh, the harder they come
Harder they fall, one and all
Hey, the harder they come
Harder they fall, one and all
What I say now
What I Say now

What I say now
What I say, one time
The harder they come, the harder they fall, one and all
The harder they come, the harder they fall, one and all.
That's a fighting song from Jimmy Cliff!

And then I got given a present which I'm looking forward to listening to;

It was a really great night, nice to be driving home at midnight.

The Reggulaters are playing a lot of gigs these days - catch them if you can!

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

We've cancelled our Wedding.

We ended up back at The Registry Office - this must be a record.

It wasn't a happy morning.

A week ago we got notice from The Home Office that we had to give 70 days notice instead of the usual 28 so that they can "Investigate whether our relationship is genuine".

That meant our wedding can't go ahead now.

So it wasn't a very happy selfie this time.

I should say that we'd assumed it would be the 70 days in the first place but the Registry Office took a fortnight to give us an appointment, then told us we didn't need 70 days and that 28 days would do.

We booked our wedding, paid the bills, made the plans, told people from the USA to book their tickets........

We also picked June 7th because it would quiet and so that I'd have finished my Chemotherapy in time and I would be fit for the day.

And now we've cancelled it all.

I should also say that we fought our case at a tribunal back in December and won a ruling from the Right Honourable Judge that we did indeed have a genuine relationship.

We now face interviews and investigations by The Home Office and even the possibility that they could try to 'ban' us from marrying. So far, they've stopped us getting married for 18 months.

This time, I may have to get all legal with them, I've had enough.

Well, we've paid out money, cancelled and rebooked but we'll announce the new date in a few days time when we've got confirmation.

And if they ban us?

We may have to marry ourselves.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Thursday, 28 April 2016

Still going out.

Monday night and we were down at The Red Lion enjoying Vasilis Xenopolis on saxophone;

And Nigel Price on guitar. You can just make out Andrew Cleyndert on bass although John Donaldson is out of sight on keyboards.

This is the last night when I have the advantage of checking the line up in 'Jazz in London', which does not come out this month after 43 years.

There is a rare view of Trevor Tomkins on drums here;

And I suppose there's been a process of venues closing, prices rising and a loss of opportunities just as there has been in every other area of grassroots music.

I'm puzzled why people don't seem to want to go out any more - given the rubbish on TV.

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

The Junior Doctors Strike - All out this time!

We've been down to St. Peter's Hospital, Chertsey again, eating donuts and standing on the picket line.

Well, although I did eat donuts I wasn't too well and spent the time sat down.

It's getting really serious - this time it's two days of an all out strike including no emergency cover. The stakes are very high.

It has to be said that cover is being provided by consultants - no one is going to die as a result of this.

But Jeremy Hunt is threatening the very existence of the NHS and he has to be stopped.

Make no mistake, if this generation of Doctors goes off to Australia or the USA, the NHS will never recover.

I may have been sat down but we made plenty of noise;

Even if our banner is getting a bit tattered these days.

We urge everyone to support the Junior Doctors - join a picket line for a short while, hoot your support, hand over some donuts!

Their struggle is for the survival of the NHS.

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

Silchester's Roman secrets.

Last week I was getting fairly depressed and Robyn forced me to go out - it was the day before I was due at Hospital and I knew it wasn't going to go well. We have other problems too only we can't write about them yet.

We looked at the map and we ended up going to Silchester - a tiny village near Aldermaston.

I would be the first to admit that it isn't exactly Rome but I'm never going to make it there now.

What's interesting about Silchester is that after the Romans left it just died out where every other Roman town carried on (London, Chester, Bath, York) as a British settlement. The stones may have been stolen, but life carried on a bit differently.

These days at Silchester, there's just a farm, a church and a little hamlet. Nothing like a town for thousands of people.

What there is is a big open area where a Roman town used to be; Calleva Atrebatum;

That raised mound in the far middle of the field is what's left of the 'Basilica', the centre of the town. All around the edges are the remains of the town walls, just by the treeline.

When you get close up to the walls you can see how formidable they would have been......once;

All the earth from the outside was thrown over the wall to make the ramparts on the inside;

When you look at the wall close up you can see how it's eroded from the outside in.

But the Roman cement was very impressive;

This is just speculation by me but the town was named after the 'Atrebates' a tribe who came from Northern France/Belgium.

There are records of them fighting the Romans in France but then they seem to have come to Britain with Julius Caesar when he invaded Britain.

Calleva Atrebatum was obviously a garrison town and an important one - they minted their own coins. All around were four British tribes who were probably hostile.

This is the North gate and as you can see it was a formidable barrier;

Big wood gates held up by solid stone ramparts.

My take is that the Atrebatum were Roman 'trusty's' and were there to enforce Roman rule and take in the taxes that were due on the invader's behalf.

When the Romans left, the town would have been raised to the ground and any Atrebatum would have been killed off.

Which I think is why there's nothing much left.

The best thing is just outside the Town walls - The Amphitheatre;

And very impressive it is too. Giant terraces that would have held most of the people of the town; for Gladiators and the slaughter of wild animals.

The Romans created a trade in wild animals like Lions, Tigers, Bears, Elephants and they imported so many that they had a serious effect on the ecology of Africa and Asia - by effectively exterminating the big predators

There were two semi circular bays which look to me like that's where the sand or the sawdust was kept to cover up the blood in the arena.

I'm afraid the Romans were not very nice people.

I climbed up to the top of the terrace to get the view from the cheap seats;

We were struck by how good the acoustics were from the centre of the arena.

As you can see, the farm cottages were encroaching on the ruins;

It's very eerie, a lost town.......with nasty secrets.

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

68000 Thanx with Stanley Dee at The Oddfellows.

The blog just blasted through 68 000, so it's a big thank you for that and then we celebrated with a long trip to see Stanley Dee at The Oddfellows pub in Apsley.

Stanley Dee play the subversive, elegant music of Steely Dan, a mixture of Jazz and rock I fell in love with in the mid 1970's.

There are 11 of them, so it's always a bit of a challenge to get them into a photo, actually it can be quite hard to get them onto a stage.

Here's half of them;

They are seriously good musicians with a full brass section, an array of guitars if they need them, and a full vocal group.

Stanley Dee are;
  • Don Ellis – Drums
  • Mark McCormack – Bass
  • Keith Jones – Keyboards
  • Derek Walker – Saxophone
  • Steve Joy – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Acoustic Guitar
  • Darren Spicer – Guitar
  • Katie Ayres – Vocals
  • Jen Good – Vocals
  • Amelia Rendell – Vocals
  • Cavan Daly – Lead Vocals
  • Paul Davey – Saxophone

And like the large audience, most of us probably got entranced by the weird world of outsiders portrayed by Steely Dan quite a time ago.

You can catch them again on June 19th in Watford.

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

The London Stone, Staines.

Once upon a time there was a very fine music venue in Staines; 'The Hobgoblin'.

Sadly, the pub closed it's doors for the last time at the start of 2015; here's a picture from the last night;

That was a very special night.

Since then it's been refurbished and transformed into 'The London Stone', which sells 'craft beers' and has arty chairs.

Anyway, yesterday I walked past 'The London Stone' and saw this notice outside;

Now Robyn often wears a tracksuit and I don't go out without a hat, these days.

So that's both of us excluded for a start.

Now, to make it clear, a licensee can exclude anyone they don't want, just like we don't have to let anyone into our house, if we don't like them.

And 'The London Stone' has security on the door.

But what this sign is saying is "We don't want your sort in here" - and that isn't the same thing at all.

The notice is for benefit of all the 'up themselves' people who don't want to mix with anyone who isn't up themselves in exactly same way they are.

It's intention is to exclude a whole group of people who have just as much right to go to a pub, if they are prepared to pay the outrageous prices charged.

It's the difference between asking someone to leave because they are causing trouble and stereotyping whole groups of people because you are prejudiced against them.

Funnily enough, Robyn and me are probably just the kind of people they would like to attract and after all I'm quite partial to an exotic beer now and then.

But we won't be drinking it down at 'The London Stone'.

And I suggest no one else should while they have this attitude to the people of Staines.

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

Wild deer amongst the Bluebells.

Every year at about this time, we start getting visitors; Reeve's Muntjac deer. They are very small and very, very shy - they live throughout the Thames Valley but you rarely see them.

They only come out when the grass starts growing because then they can hide and use the cover to move along green 'corridors', passing from garden to garden, from field to park and woodland......without being seen.

They come into our garden because it's overgrown and they like foraging.

I've tried to take photo's before but they always got spooked when I got the camera out.

Then today Robyn called me and I got these shots through the kitchen window;

Unfortunately they don't seem to want to eat the grass that's getting out of control - they prefer the bluebells or the leaves on the old willow;

"Now, if only I was a bit taller";

And then I was spotted;

Muntjac are natives of southern China and are rare there. Here they escaped from captivity over a hundred years ago and seemed to like it; further ones have been released over the years and they have thrived.

I love them but they are considered a pest; I hope they continue to get away with wandering through the gardens.

You know we are only a few miles from Heathrow Airport and 15 miles from central London.......and there are wild deer amongst the Bluebells.

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

Farewell Sweet Prince.

So, we're sat on the Tube on my way to chemotherapy and I'm pretty fed up. Yesterday I saw Dr Feelgood and it looks like my chemo drug turned out to be a bit of a wimp when it needed to be a Mike Tyson - it's not going so well.

Then, as we got ready,  we'd listened to the breakfast show and they didn't play a single Prince song.

Prince died yesterday, a real musical genius.

So, to cheer me up Robyn shared her headphones with me and we both listened to 'Lets Go Crazy' on the underground;

"Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here to tell you
There's something else
The after world
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one, Dr. Everything'll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby
'Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You're on your own
And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor
If you don't like the world you're living in
Take a look around you
At least you got friends
You see I called my old lady
For a friendly word
She picked up the phone
Dropped it on the floor
(Ah, ah) is all I heard
Are we gonna let the elevator
Bring us down
Oh, no let's go!
Let's go crazy
Let's get nuts
Let's look for the purple banana
'Til they put us in the truck, let's go!
We're all excited
But we don't know why
Maybe it's 'cause
We're all gonna die
And when we do (When we do)
What's it all for (What's it all for)
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door
Tell me, are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let's go!
Let's go crazy
Let's get nuts
Look for the purple banana
'Til they put us in the truck, let's go!
C'mon baby
Let's get nuts
Let's go crazy
Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let's go!
Go crazy
I said let's go crazy (Go crazy)
Let's go, let's go
Let's go
Dr. Everything'll be alright
Will make everything go wrong
Pills and thrills and daffodils will kill
Hang tough children
He's coming
He's coming
Take me away!

I don't agree with Prince to this extent - I'm not in any hurry to 'Punch a higher floor' and I don't have any faith in an 'afterlife'.

Anyway half the lifts at Charing Cross are broken as is the escalator.

But if I wasn't in so much pain I'd have quite liked to have danced up and down the carriage.

I have two fond memories of the 'Purple one'; I was working in a record shop when 'Purple Rain' came out at a time when I had no knowledge of Minnesota, let alone 'Paisley Park'.

I remember that at a time when an new L.P. from an unknown came out, the buyer would normally send us no more than about 5 copies, even if it was already in the charts.

This time we got about four boxes full - we didn't know where to put them.

He knew something we didn't.

We had a listen and it seemed to come from an alien world - almost like the first time I heard 'Grandmaster Flash'.

Prince had that ability to stun and that's why when he was first signed up he recorded an album and played every instrument on it himself.

And when it bombed they still let him release another one.....and another.

My second memory was commuting back from London in the 1980's one of those old trains where you could sit in a long compartment but no one would know whether there was anyone else there or not.

It was late at night and at the other end of the carriage there was a group of schoolgirls singing Prince songs 'Accapella' all the way home.


What was so great about Prince was his ability to paint a picture in very few words like; "She came in through the out door" in 'Raspberry Beret'.

Farewell sweet Prince.

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

Neil's got a new bier glass.

There's nothing like having an excuse to use this photo again - from my day trip to Amsterdam 2 years ago; 

Because amongst all the bad news (and this morning I'm back at hospital and Friday it's another dose of Chemo) I bought myself another beer glass.

or at least I bought four cans of Amstel and got the glass free - I couldn't resist;

And Amstel brings back so many memories..........

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

Not talking.

We went to see 'Eye in the Sky' last night - Alan Rickman's last film.

It's a film about moral dilemma's but still achieves a lot of suspense. I can't write much about it without giving away the plot too much but it's very much an Alan Rickman film; thoughtful and serious.

I have a few criticisms but, again, I can't really tell you without giving away the plot.

Apart from that we had a really, really bad day yesterday.

You know when you go and see a horror movie and it's that moment when all the teenagers have been horribly murdered except for one?

Covered in blood, dazed but triumphant, the last teenager starts to stagger home and then just before the credits come up the slasher monster comes back............again!

That's what just happened to us.

All our plans just went down the toilet along with a fair bit of money.

For legal reasons I can't write about it here (so you can guess what it's about if you've been following the Blog).

I always used to say to Robyn when anything went wrong; "if it was easy it would be boring".

Not this time.

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


I've been far too sensible for too long.
For the last week I've been cutting through the tree stump at the front of the house, a bit every day.

Actually, I was doing it to get some exercise, because for the last year I've just been sitting down and eating. I'm really out of condition where I was always fit - 'as lean as a butchers dog'.

You can see where some kind person kicked through our fence - something else I need to sort out.

At least you can't see my stomach in this picture;

And then I got to the hardest bit - where it's hanging on a thread and rocking back and forth.

Then one last push and it was over.

Yay, not bad for a broken back;


And quite a neat stump, if I say so myself;

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Monday, 18 April 2016

No cakes in Marlow.

Sunday afternoon saws us heading down to Marlow, on the River Thames.

We wandered along the High Street taking in the shops and then sat in the churchyard until we were driven away by gnats.

There's an impressive suspension bridge;

Which is even more impressive close up - it wobbles with every car and every footstep.......which I think I like;

There's a whole lot of bridge for not much traffic;

We'd planned to have a tea and cakes at the tearoom but each time we went it was full and the cakes started to vanish and in the end we gave up.

Then we tried to take photos of some Llamas on the way back but they refused to have their pictures taken.

But we still had a nice afternoon;

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Serious Chord Squad at The Blue Anchor, Byfleet.

We had a great night out on Saturday - at The Blue Anchor, Byfleet where we saw old friends.........

.......and enjoyed a night out with 'The Serious Chord Squad' one of my favourite bands;

SQS are Darren, Mike, Vere and Andrew and formed when 'The Highs' split up. They've been banging out MOD classics, some Soul, Paul Weller, some Jam and Style Council and a bit of Britpop for about a year now;

They're more raw, there's more energy - just the way I like it - a great night that only ended at midnight.

There were some great, classic Rhythm and Blues;

A real MOD night out!

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