Saturday, 17 August 2013

Blood, sweat but no tears at The Airman, Feltham.

Day four of my “fill your pockets and run like F@#k tour”, its Friday night and I’m on my way to ‘The Airman’ pub in Feltham. And I’m up for it.

It’s a ‘home game’ for me, it means a lot to be going back – I haven’t been there since I got ill.


Feltham is rough, tough and also a very lovable place – lots of problems, lots of disadvantaged people, lots of good hearts too.  I had the privilege of defending the people of Feltham (and a few other places) for 25 years, so I know.

At the top end of the high street is a medieval church tower, without a church. It was brought, stone by stone in the 1930’s, from the East End of London and rebuilt in Feltham. No one has any idea why.

It was the same with the people – an early slum clearance scheme ripped East End communities apart and dropped them over onto the opposite side of London in the middle of nowhere, to provide cheap labour for the market gardens and farms that supplied London with food in those days.

And that’s why you can still eat East End Nosh like ‘Pie, Mash, Peas and liqour’ or ‘jellied eels’ in Hanworth  and why the town is as tough as it is.

So it was a sad and thoughtful journey in, past where I worked, years ago, for a really unpleasant employer, those offices are now nicely converted to residential houses now. Past places where I did my stuff for many years and where my clients lived. In those 25 years the town has changed a lot – more tolerant and more multi-racial, happier with itself.

In the Airman, The SkaSouls did their usual set but it was a wary crowd. There was all the air of menace I expected – they don’t dress tough or act tough in Feltham, they just are.
                                  'Nightboat to Cairo'

By the end of the evening there was broken glass on the carpet and halfway through someone crashed into the band scattering equipment and people everywhere. The trumpeter ended up covered in blood with a possible broken nose.

In the unplanned interval I was waiting for it all to ‘go off’ but this time it didn’t.  At least it hadn’t at midnight when the show ended and I walked off, with a certain swagger in my stride.

It was very special to go back for one last time. I saw a couple of familiar faces who didn’t recognise me in civilian clothes and The Mod Squad were definitely in town. I danced the moonstomp till midnight– ‘One way Ticket to the Moon’, ‘546 That’s my number’, ‘Guns of Navarone’.

‘Gangsters’ had a certain unintended meaning and not just for me.

As I left (luckily the trumpeter was looking OK again) I tipped my hat to some places and people I once knew very well.

This summer I’ve been very privileged to relive some of my past, dance to some great music and meet some very fine people.

I had some really tough times, had some hard decisions to take and made the decent choices, did some things I’m proud of.

And now my tour is almost over.

One last Saturday night to go.


Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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