Sunday, 31 August 2014

Everlasting Sweet Peas.

This wouldn't mean anything to anybody except me.
For two nights last week I was able to go over to Robyn's and stay until I had to leave very early the next morning.
I'm a carer, it's a rare thing.
We watched DVD's, ate ice cream. Did the things normal people take for granted.
And we drank this bottle of wine.
I bought it in 1988 in Italy, in the Co-Operative store. It was my last 'proper' holiday; a coach trip to Tuscany.
We stayed in a tiny village up in the hills, in a little hotel in a time before people built holiday homes or opened designer hotels.
I found a video on YouTube of another part of Italy I stayed in back then - a kind German Biker had driven around the place filming where he went from a camera on his helmet - everything had changed and developed.
I'm sure Tuscany has changed in the same way.
Each night we went to the villagers Co-Operative café to drink wine and coffee on the little square.
There was portrait of Lenin on the wall and Antonio Gramsci too.
All around us were the old Partizans.
There were plaques on the buildings to commemorate where comrades had fallen and in the little square the buildings were riddled with bullet holes.

Each year the villagers had a communal grape harvest and then when the wine had fermented in great barrels, they came to the Co-Op café with their own bottles and bought their wine.

It was as though the failed land reforms of 1946 had really worked in this little corner.

I brought back a couple of big bottles - a beautiful Chianti, mild and fine. An echo of the Tuscan hills, of yellow Ochre soils.

I drank everything I brought back (and I don't like wine)except for this one which I bought in the Co-Operative store in the nearby town.

I have no idea why I kept it - I'd always assumed I'd go back but never could.

Ordinary wine doesn't keep - it's pasteurised, it has a shelf life. The stuff people keep is already expensive and in cellars quite a lot goes wrong. But the people with cellars can afford that!

I never meant to keep it but as the years went on I put it off and as my last holiday got further away it got harder to drink it.

It was fantastic!

I have never drunk anything like it.

A September in Tuscany, fossilised in a bottle.

Saturday night, me and Robyn went picking Everlasting Sweet Pea seeds - these are wonderful plants from the Sweet Pea family which flower all summer if you keep cutting the flowers.

They are still semi-wild and self seeding.

They come up year after year whether you like it or not. And sometimes they don't come up or they wait a few years; they've got minds of their own.

Anyway when they are ready I'll offer them to you - as a thank you for reading this Blog.

There will be limited numbers and you'll have to e-mail me your address.

You can sow them in your garden or somewhere wild where you walk.

This will be nice - something to remember me (us) by. And I'm hoping some of you who've followed the blog from the beginning will mail me for some.

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


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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Jimmy Hastings night at The Red Lion.

Jimmy Hastings down at The Red Lion is not something to miss; it's the sound of 1970's jazz played well.

Not my kind of thing at all, not a decade when I was really into Jazz at all, which is why it's such good playing...the sounds of Chick Corea weren't my thing.

If anything says it all its the sound of a jazz flute - the sound of that era and Jimmy's got it just right.
But I like Wayne Shorter and Gerry Mulligan who both got an airing as well as the very great Jimmy Giuffre who does not get played often enough.
And it was just a quartet which I really prefer; Trevor Tomkins on Drums, John Horler on keyboards and Tim Wells playing a very fine bass.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Friday, 29 August 2014

New hairstyles.

My friends the Punk horses have new hairstyles; they've been eating blackberries and getting thistles in their hair.

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


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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Goofing about with Robyn and Lucy.

Tuesday night we took in a movie and as it's bargain night in Feltham, we just walked in and took a chance.

Choosing wasn't so simple but we knew we didn't want to see a film where the star was either a fox with a machine gun or a storm.

We ended up watching 'Lucy' because we drew lots but it was only when the credits came up that I realised it was by the stylish Luc Besson; epic Hollywood but with strong French values too. I like his work.

Lucy is tricked into delivering a suitcase; the violent gangsters who kidnap her implant a bag of drugs in her stomach - the bag bursts and the overdose allows her to use the parts of her brain that we never normally utilise.

Massive and impressive computer generated graphics, violent battles, stunning car chases and a bit of French pseudo intellectual posturing.

What more could any one want?

I'm being unfair; it's a thriller that makes you think even if I found it difficult to fully suspend my disbelief.

Goofing about?

As usual we made exhibitions of ourselves.

We ended up joking with teenagers, laughing hysterically in the car park, being watched by strange men, eating ice cream and debating which superpowers we would have, if only we'd found ourselves in different circumstances.

In my case I decided that I would have chosen the power of flight, except that being scared of heights I would probably be the only super hero unable to use his super power.


Neil Harris

(a don't stop till you drop production)


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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Viva a Vida.

I took this photo last week, sailing into east Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

The last month has been really, really hard - for legal and tactical reasons I can't go into what happened to me - but I will!

I don't believe in letting people who do bad things get away with it.

And I've been ill. Whatever.

Woke up it was a Chelsea morning
and the first thing that I heard

Was a song outside my window, and the traffic wrote the words

It came a-reeling up like Christmas bells, and rapping up like pipes and drums


Oh, won't you stay

We'll put on the day

And we'll wear it 'till the night comes


Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I saw

Was the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall

Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you, crimson crystal beads to beckon
Joni Mitchell - Chelsea Morning.

'Live Life' - that's the secret.

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


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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Fields of Gold.

"Fields Of Gold"


You'll remember me when the west wind moves

 Upon the fields of barley

 You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky

 As we walk in fields of gold


 So she took her love

 For to gaze awhile

 Upon the fields of barley

 In his arms she fell as her hair came down

 Among the fields of gold


 Will you stay with me, will you be my love

 Among the fields of barley

 We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky

 As we lie in fields of gold


 See the west wind move like a lover so

 Upon the fields of barley

 Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth

 Among the fields of gold

 I never made promises lightly

 And there have been some that I've broken

 But I swear in the days still left

 We'll walk in fields of gold

 We'll walk in fields of gold


 Many years have passed since those summer days

 Among the fields of barley

 See the children run as the sun goes down

 Among the fields of gold

 You'll remember me when the west wind moves

 Upon the fields of barley

 You can tell the sun in his jealous sky

 When we walked in fields of gold

 When we walked in fields of gold

 When we walked in fields of gold 


This isn’t Barley but Wheat growing not far from Heathrow Airport in a field that has only just survived development.

It should have been harvested some time ago, it was bone dry.

I took this photo last week but the farmer’s don’t employ anyone any more – they are waiting for a contractor to get round to doing it for them.

This week it’s raining and if they are unlucky the crop could be spoilt by the damp.

In 2010 I had four days holiday on the North York Moors and was thinking of Sting’s song as I walked the coast path from Port Mulgan to Staithes. On my right the North Sea, ahead of me the ancient fisherman’s harbour where a young Captain Cook worked in a grocers shop, dreaming of Whitby and the sea.


Ahead as the path swooped downhill, fields of barley painted golden by the sun, waved in the wind.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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A kind of 'Victory'.

This is a kind of ‘victory’; a recognition that car park charges at hospitals are a tax on staff, patients and their visitors. The only fair system is rationing spaces on need and using revenues from car parking to help those using public transport get to hospital.


BBC News 23 August 2014

Hospital car parking guidance to reduce some charges

Hospitals in England have been told to cut the cost of parking for certain groups under new government guidelines.

Ministers said relatives of people who were seriously ill or had to stay in hospital for a long time should be given free parking or reduced charges.

Concessions should also be offered to people with disabilities and NHS staff whose shift patterns meant they could not use public transport, they said.

Labour accused the coalition of dropping plans to scrap the charges.

Hospital parking policies are set by individual NHS trusts.

The Department of Health guidance made it clear trusts were responsible for the actions of private car parking contractors running facilities on their behalf.

'Rip-off' costs


The guidelines also recommended hospitals should use "pay-on-exit" schemes so motorists pay only for the time they use in a hospital car park.

And they say trusts should waive fines if a visitor or patient overstays through no fault of their own, for example because treatment took longer than planned, or when staff have to work beyond their scheduled shift.


“Hospital parking has become a stealth tax on the vulnerable”

Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow


Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Patients and families shouldn't have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges.

"These clear ground rules set out our expectations, and will help the public hold the NHS to account for unfair charges or practices."

Mr Hunt had come under pressure from Conservative backbenchers to put an end to "rip-off" costs.

As part of that campaign, Harlow MP Robert Halfon sent Freedom of Information requests to almost 400 hospitals in England. The data he collected shows big differences in average costs across the country.

London had the highest charges, with an average of £20 a day and more than £130 a week.

The lowest charges were in the East Midlands, where parking costs were £3.50 per day and £11 per week.

Average patient and visitor parking charges in England

      Per hour Per day Per week

      Source: Freedom of Information requests compiled by Robert Halfon MP

      East of England  £2  £8.50  £25

      East Midlands    £1  £3.50  £11

      London                £2  £20     £131.50

      North East          £1  £3.50  £20.50

      North West        £2  £5.50  £19

      South East          £2  £9.50  £29

      West Midlands  £2  £6.50  £22.50

      Yorkshire            £1  £4.50  £29


Mr Halfon described the announcement as a "massive step forward" but said he wanted to see charges scrapped altogether, at a cost of £200m.

"Hospital parking has become a stealth tax on the vulnerable," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The stories that we've had of people not being able to use the machines so they haven't been able to see their dying relatives is quite horrific and we have to make a change."




Ben Ruth, who received two parking tickets as he visited his dying father in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, said the experience left him feeling "sickened".

"The second one was stuck on the windscreen when I left the hospital ward just after my father passed away," he said.

"I've rarely felt such rage as I felt right then. After the exceptional kindness of the medical staff in my father's ward, I felt grievously assaulted."

Macmillan Cancer Support said some patients were paying "extortionate" charges "in order to access treatment for a life-threatening illness".

Welcoming Mr Hunt's announcement, Duleep Allirajah - head of policy at the charity - urged hospitals not to ignore the guidance.

"Hospitals must... commit to implementing the guidelines as a matter of urgency so that cancer patients do not continue to pay unfair hospital parking charges," he said.


Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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Monday, 25 August 2014

Pimp My Jazz at The Three Steps, Cowley.

Once in a while, the only thing to do is relax.

I got an e-mail last week; 'Pimp my Jazz' were in town unexpectedly on Saturday and that's where we headed.

Last time I saw them was back in June; Jazz on a summer's day in Harmondsworth.

This time we were at The Three Steps in Cowley, my first time at this charming pub. Built in the 1960's, with all the hope and optimism of that decade, its a pub like no other - three octagons (we counted the sides) all of which made for a great venue for a band.

Friendly atmosphere, nice regulars and a soundtrack of Jazz standards, we got a little look into the 'great American Songbook' and some originals from Kay Shelley.

It's a six piece band - Drums and Bass, Saxophone, Guitar and Keyboards and that's a fine backing to the impressive vocals of Esta Daley;

It's not the modern jazz I love, it's not cutting edge, it's easy listening but there's a place for that.
Things are tough and this was a chance for us to dance and there was smooching too; not bad for Cowley on a Saturday night.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Chicken Bone Beach.

I’ve been lucky enough to persuade Journalist and Broadcaster Robyn G. May from West Philadelphia to write a guest page on my Blog – this resulted from a serious conversation we had on the beach;

While we were walking along the beach yesterday in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight a thought crossed my mind.

The beach was sectioned off by several walls and the section we were leaving was very rocky while the one we were going to was much less rocky and I thought to myself;  ‘this must be the white only section’.

It’s sad to think of a segregated beach but unfortunately not so long ago that was the case.

Atlantic City is a resort town in New Jersey where families have flocked for over one hundred years.

Besides the beach it provided great entertainment for families including rides on the pier. Later casinos opened providing adult entertainment; gambling, shows, and concerts. The board game monopoly is based on the streets of Atlantic City. And until just a few years ago Atlantic City was the home of the Miss America pageant.

Now there are outlet stores to draw the shoppers, the Steel pier is still there but there are only a few rides left, an arcade and carnival games. The casinos are still open today although many are struggling. A fabulous multi-million dollar casino that opened just two years ago will be closing on September 5th.

New Jersey’s coast is lined with small town beaches that provide family friendly activities so not so many go to AC anymore. The shore towns range from quiet and quaint to loud and bustling. Most turn to Wildwood, which is the town with several piers of rides and even a water park.

I grew up going to Wildwood during the summer; AC was always a place for adults. In America you have to be 21 to gamble and drink alcohol. Guess where I went for my 21st birthday?
That’s right AC!

But AC is only an hour from Philly and a little over an hour from New York City so it still gets quite a draw, although not like in the past. Mostly people go for day trips and bus trips are a popular pastime for senior citizens. A few companies offer deals like pay $15 and get $10 back to play in the casino.

Atlantic City is full of history, including Chicken Bone Beach. I was in college when I found out about this historic part of the beach.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania there weren’t many remnants of segregation. People in the North are much more civilized openly when it comes to race relations, although behind closed doors things are just as bad if not worse than they are in the South. However, segregation as in “White Only” and “Colored Only” didn’t really exist.

Chicken Bone Beach was a section of Atlantic City’s beach which was “Black Only”.

[Sammy Davis Junior and his friends, forced to party on the “Black Only” beach.       

                    I know which beach I’d have wanted to be on (Neil)]

Until 1900 the beach wasn’t segregated but when customers from the south started vacationing in AC a section of the beach was designated to appease them and Chicken Bone Beach was born.

What you have to understand about segregation is that although they always claimed “separate but equal” this was never the case. “Black Only” facilities were always the worst, the facilities were provided to satisfy the law but there was no standard for quality.

Which is why being on that very rocky section of the beach made me think about Chicken Bone Beach.

Robyn G. May

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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Saturday, 23 August 2014

How do you like Shanklin?

                           I don't know, I never shankled.


This is actually Sandown and it's our last view as we got on the coach to leave......which was sad.....but we did a lot before then.
We walked in the sand holding hands, ate chips, sat on the end of a pier, looked in souvenir shops full of rubbish and bought sticks of rock.
That sort of thing.
On the other hand, this is real treasure - emeralds and pearls stolen from King Neptune himself. 


It's 'Seaglass'; pieces of broken bottles, vases, pottery and plates thrown onto the beach and ground down by the slow washing of the sea until the edges are smooth and the surface turns into a beautiful pearlescent mist - jewels of the sea.

Sea glass is old - man made items preserved briefly before they vanish. I collected some from St. Ives that are very old indeed - I'll do a piece on them soon.

These are younger and rougher but full of the romance of the sea all the same.

For romance how about 'N + R xxx' in a heart?

We had some icecream too;

Just before we got on the coach to leave.

How about this for saving time for the busy tourist;

And it doesn't lie - the machine will 'draw' your portrait; "Far less expensive than the price of a masterpiece".

You can't argue with that.

When we were back on the boat we couldn't believe how fast the day had gone and as we watched the island slip away into the distance we watched great sheets of rain falling - where it had been so fine.

Back to all our problems, back to real life.

This photo is copyright Robyn G. May as my poor old camera couldn't cope.

Great rays of sunshine pouring through dark cloud.

A wonderful day and I got to do my injection on a boat - didn't go so well with the waves though.

Tomorrow, I've been lucky enough to persuade Journalist and Broadcaster Robyn G. May to write a special guest page for me.
Hopefully the first of many.
 Click on a picture for better quality.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Friday, 22 August 2014

Summer Holiday.

It's 5 am, I've had 4 hours sleep and I'm panicking - the car in front is driving at about 11 miles an hour and even slow Neil needs to get past now, right now.
The coach leaves at 0615 am and that isn't a problem because I'm early. I'm in a hurry because I can see a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter high in the dawn sky and I'm desperate to get to Robyn's to show it to her before the Sun gets too bright or that big fat cloud gets in the way.
I made it, just in time, and we got to see 5 (or was it 7?) celestial bodies, all in the sky at the same time;
Venus, Jupiter, Sun, Moon and of course the Earth*.
What a great start to the day.
No holiday this year for me and not the last three years either, so this was a big deal for me - a day trip by coach to the Isle of Wight.
First time at the seaside for three years.
It's all packed lunches, fizzy drinks, biscuits and blue sky.
What more could anyone want? 
That's Southampton where we caught the boat and that's a speedy catamaran ferry zooming past us.

Southampton is a busy port city - this ship is bringing in new cars which line the docksides in great big car parks.

This is an area for sailing - mainly big fat expensive yachts even bigger than this one.

Cowes, the little port on the Island is home to a week of sailing for wealthy people every August.

They're starting to get ready, now.

We got a few hours in Sandown and Shanklin, two little 19th century resorts. There's a beach, a promenade and a pier but not too much going on. 

Then again it was sunny and we were like two Pit Ponies taken up out of the mine and released into the Sun for their once a year holiday in the light.

It's been tough recently so really today was just a chance to spend some time with Robyn.

None of it would have happened without some very special people; Manju who sorted out the carers for me; Rosie, Gurdeep and Ruby who did all the work and some very special thanks to Sharon for coming in for the afternoon.

Couldn't have done it without you.

So what did we get up to?

Check it out tomorrow, meanwhile if you click on any photo, you'll get better quality pictures in a slideshow.
* Those seven celestial bodies?
Earth, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Sun, Robyn and Neil.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Crossfire Hurricane at The Hobgoblin.

Friday night we were at The Hobgoblin, Staines and the sooner they become Saturday nights again the better, especially as I won't be heading down to Walton again!

This is 'Crossfire Hurricane';

Local band playing at home - I last saw them in April at The Rockgoblin.

Back then they were more rocky - on Friday they'd moved more towards Heavy Metal.

Still on good form and I'll keep on watching how things go.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)