Sunday, 12 January 2014

Once upon a time in London.

Tonight, I’ve just come back from a very serious evening,
so I'm afraid this has to be a serious posting.
It was never going to be a fun evening anyway; I was heading off for a memorial meeting up in London for my old friend and comrade Dolly Schaer. She died of cancer last summer and I have blogged about her before. I miss her - lots

Dolly was a feisty fighter against injustice, a teacher and a campaigner against racism and fascism. If you were in trouble, you needed Dolly on your side. If you were pompous or privileged she was your worst enemy. I counted her as a dear friend.

I was planning to smoke a small cigar in her memory but as I’d forgotten them at home I needed to buy some.

As I turned into the side road to park (I’m keeping the location vague as it’s going to end in court), I had to stop my car to let two aggressive drunks go past – they weren’t in any mood to let me through and they were clearly undecided about whether to attack my car or not.

After I parked I went into one shop but as I didn’t find what I needed I came out and went into what we call ‘the Turkish shop’, although in fact they are actually Kurds.

As I got in I saw the two drunks were already in the shop. While I was choosing, they started to shout and then they attacked the people in the shop. It quickly developed into a fight and that spilled out onto the pavement. The two broke bottles on the ground and started attacking the people from the shop again.

I saw a lot of punches flying but it was only later that I realised that one of the Kurdish lads had been struck in the face with a broken bottle. There was blood on their faces and on the floor and the counter.

I took up position at the doorway – to calm things down and to stop the two coming in back into the shop.

They came back again and attacked the Kurds once again – this happened two or three times. Each time they got the worst of the fight and left but they were very aggressive and came back. Luckily I didn’t have to get involved in the fight – I’ve got a thrombosis, a pinned up ankle and a little problem with cancer. Apart from that I’m an old man with an Ian Dury walking stick. But I stood my ground and as I have often found, giving a little solidarity always helps.

To be frank if they had come after me I was in a mood to mix it with them, luckily I didn’t have too.

At one point I left the shop to take a photograph, and it was then that the police arrived.   

Here’s my picture;

You can see the two at the door to the shop, confronting the Kurds. One of the them has taken his shirt off in fury. Even my camera flash didn't stop them.

At that point I could see that it was all going wrong. The Kurdish lads didn’t have good English, the drunks had come off badly in the fight – they had injuries. I left my details in the shop and headed for the meeting.

I just had time to hear Dolly’s daughter reading out a message from Ken, Dolly’s partner. It was very moving, a life well lived. A life of struggle for justice.

At that point I missed the rest of the meeting because I got a call from the Police and had to spend some time giving them a statement.

Quite clearly, the Kurdish lads were in trouble, unable to explain properly what happened. The two drunks looked like they had the most serious injuries. I went back because they needed someone to give evidence, before the police made a mistake about who was responsible.

Everyone gets scared in life and I am no different but I was never short of courage. Since I got cancer I have shed many of the fears I did have and like tonight it has given me a new determination to see that right is done. And there is a small drop of blood on my jeans to remind me how bad this was.

I’ve also had a great gift – hugely expensive medication paid for by The Cancer Drug Fund. This is available for medicine that is not officially approved because it doesn’t win patients enough extra time to make the cost worthwhile.

Over my lifetime I paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in tax and pension payments to the state and as I won’t get any of that back I don’t feel any guilt for getting this money.

But, I do feel guilt that there might be people who will not get help because of the payments I have had.

Tonight, my evidence made sure that innocent people were not accused and the aggressors were arrested. Tonight I did good. I made a difference.

Tonight I justified all that money being spent on keeping me alive.

I can see Dolly now, always the teacher; telling me off for being away when all the serious speeches were being made at her memorial. But in her eye there would have been a great big twinkle from someone who would have been standing with me in the doorway of that shop if only she could have been.


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



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