The Last Post
As I’m sure you are aware Neil passed away Saturday March 3rd. It was sudden and a complete shock to both he and I. I had been noticing little things that were becoming harder for him to do but I had no idea he was leaving so soon. One of the things that really upsets me is that he didn’t finish his big article that he’d wanted to write for decades, he’d done so much research preparing for it but he hadn’t worked on it in over a week.
In the years he had been writing the blog he shared a lot; poems both original and by famous poets, he shared experiences and told stories of events that receive little to no recognition. Since this may be the last post I want to take the time to tell you about the man himself.
He was the younger of two children and grew up in a small quiet village not far from Windsor. He was very intelligent! After finishing school he attended London School of Economics. Once he graduated he had a hard time obtaining a decent job; he worked for the Co-Op as a poultry salesman but was unhappy, he then went to work at Our Price Record store in Hounslow. Finding it hard to start a career with his degree and background he went back to school to become a Solicitor with the logic that no one could stop him from doing that. He scored in the top ten in the entire country on the law exam when he was finished. He wanted to study family law but had a hard time getting a placement so he took up criminal law instead and worked for over twenty years as a duty solicitor serving mostly Brentford, Hounslow and Feltham.
Neil was a kind, caring and sensitive person. He fought for fairness and justice for all people. He protested for fair tuition fees for international students while at university. He volunteered as security for the Pride parade in the 80’s. He was active in the Rock against Racism campaign. He was very active in the fight against apartheid. He supported the miners during their strike. Even in the last few years he would support striking workers, joining their pickets. I have to admit it was quite fun supporting the junior doctors.
Neil was very politically active and even ran for a local council seat in 1981. As I’m sure you can figure out from reading the blog Neil was a “left wing trouble maker”. He wanted to empower working class people and he supported movements that did just that. He hated to see vulnerable people taken advantage of and being trampled over by the rich and large corporations. That was why he was proud to serve as a duty (legal aid) solicitor. He wanted to help the people who couldn’t afford help and often extended his serves to them outside of the courtroom and police station. He would encourage his clients to better themselves by looking for opportunities for them to change their lives.
Even though Neil loved being in the middle of the action, he was extremely shy. He felt invisible in a crowd or maybe he felt safe in large numbers. He didn’t have many close friends but he seems to have made a big impact on a lot of people both in person and through the blog.
I am very glad that Neil decided to start this blog. I think it gave him a new zest for life not just because it gave him something constructive to do with his time, but it allowed him to get back to things he loved to do; writing and photography. It also gave him the chance to explore local art galleries, zoos, sporting venues and pubs. It allowed him to discover up and coming poets, artists and bands. He had a reason to travel and find new things to do like Fire Spinning.
If it weren’t for this blog we wouldn’t have met. Neil told me that many times. For one thing he probably would not have ventured out to the Jazz Club and once we met I got in touch with him through the blog. It was a pleasure sharing the adventures with Neil and you all. Neil was the best man I ever met and wish you all could have gotten to know him personally. But I hope that in reading the blog for the past six years you have learned things you never knew and seen things you never would have seen. Neil’s purpose for this blog was to increase staff at his local hospital. Although he may not have done that, he did introduce us to a lot of people, places and things we wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
So if you have enjoyed the blog please carry on Neil’s legacy by going out and discovering something in your own back yard. Try a new pub or bar, listen to a new local band and, support your local art gallery. Venture out to attractions that are near you that you haven’t been to or never knew about. There is so much out there to see and experience. Don’t let your life pass you by; have fun and live life to the fullest. You can sleep on the bus, train or car ride home. Or in the waiting room at the hospital. When you look back at your life make sure there is nothing you wanted to do that you didn’t get to try.
NEIL ANDREW HARRIS
NOVEMBER 4, 1958 - MARCH 3, 2018