Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Belleville, Paris.


What normally happens to me in Paris is that I end up having a series of arguments with waiters who don’t want to serve me and then I don’t get to eat. Given that I don’t have much French this is impressive and often quite creative. I’m not an attractive prospect to a Bistro – single, old and looking a little careworn/frayed at the edges and they usually make this clear to me. In turn I know how to return an insult.

This time it was all going to be different.

I took my aches and my blistered feet to Belleville in the 20th Arrondissement.

If you think of any of the French revolutions – they all started here. If you think of any of the revolutions that failed – Belleville is where the French army went to execute the revolutionaries.

Belleville is where the Communards made their last heroic stand at the Barricades of 1871 and Pére Lachaise at the bottom of the hill was where the firing squads were. There are good ghosts here; my kind of people.

Belleville is where the workers live and it’s where Édith Piaf was born under a lamp post on the Rue de Belleville. The way she sang – the hard nasal throaty sound; that’s the old accent of the Bellevillois, the equivalent of London’s cockneys. Little Édith Gassion at 4 ft. 8inches tall was given the nickname of ‘sparrow’ which is where the Piaf comes from.

The nature of the district has changed over the years – fewer French and more immigrants but the spirit is the same. There is always rebellion in the air.

Come out of the Metro and it all hits you straight away; poverty and trouble, the prostitutes, the pimps (Oh how I hate a pimp), and in the background shadows are lurking the gangsters that the pimps have to pay off.

And never to be seen in Belleville? Le Flic; the hated police who take a tax from everyone.

The police are so hated in Paris that it is accepted that when someone is in distress or suicidal no one calls the police – the fire brigade come out and they deal with many more social problems than fires as a result.

The fuel that keeps this economy going? Drugs and it would be so easy to just close down this whole sordid thing if anyone wanted to.

So, when I’ve negotiated all that I take a look at the new Chinatown and then walk up the hill along the Rue de Belleville. Right at the top is a park with a beautiful view over Paris but not for me today, I’ve been up enough hills.

What I really came to see was the art that is all around, because after the Algerians and the other North Africans, the Chinese and Vietnamese settlers, now there is another wave of immigrants; the street artists and they cover everything they can with the most amazing graffiti and sometimes real live artworks. I only scratched the surface….

Here’s a lorry that got a respray overnight;
These amazing pictures come from an alley way off the Rue de Belleville;


You'll want to click on that one to get the fine detail - you get a slideshow (spot the Piaf reference). 



Do you see the little homages to Piaf? They are everywhere. These are only some of the pictures I took. I’ve been sending them out to friends since I got back and I’ll look for excuses to post them here in the next few weeks.

By now I’m really tired, need to eat and have the little matter of an injection to sort out. Hey, this is the heroin capital of the city – it can’t be a problem.

I headed down the hill, on a hunt. What I was looking for was where all the Algerians go to drink tea – and here it is, ‘Le Myanis’ in Ménilmontant;

This was when I left but when I arrived there was a whole community of tea drinkers passing the afternoon away.

Here’s my meal;


It’s Couscous, the staple of North Africa. I’ve never had it before but it was delicious, filling, cheap and the staff were very patient at my ignorance and lack of French. Then again if you are from Algeria or Tunisia French is the language of the colonisers and not so popular.

I had a great meal and finished it off with a tiny coffee (arab style) but with none of the gravel at the bottom of the cup that I associate with the lebanese version.

So, full of new life, I headed down the hill to Pére Lachaise, always shut whenever I get there and then back up to turn down the Oberkamp – this is the street where Gangster meets Gangsta – it’s where all the music is.

Unfortunately I was far too early – so no music reviews today but this is where the affordable clubs and bars are and where the ‘BOBOS’ hang out. They are the ‘Bohemian Bourgeoisie’, similar to our ‘Yuppies’ but more interesting and more adventurous. They follow the artists and the music.


These two are great….


…. the artist was repairing them but ran away when I started taking pictures….

They aren’t graffiti they are paper collages, stuck on the wall.

In the end I gave up and overcome with nostalgia headed back to the tourist trap of Montmartre for my last hour. This time I had to admit defeat and pay for a ride up the funicular – what a wuss. This is just for tourists but it looks the part.

I was there for something you can’t take a picture of after dark (not with my pawn shop camera) when the Eiffel Tower is lit up and its giant searchlight turns achingly slowly like a lighthouse, round and round over Paris. Everyone is drawn to it – hypnotised as every part of the city watches it turn and turn again.

I have a Stella Artois.

Merdes! Oh, Merdes!!

I’m late! I can hardly walk now but the coach leaves at 1030! Somehow I stagger down all those damn steps, down to the metro at Pigalle where it all started for me this morning and onto the platform. On the train and change – I’ve gone wrong. Go back. Made it. That would have been an expensive day trip if I’d missed the coach.

I got back too late for the best part – when the Eiffel Tower goes sparkly at 1000pm. If you’ve never seen it, you should; tingly spine and everything.

And then we got held up – we finally left late at 11 00pm, just as the tower went sparkly again for me.


It didn’t help that I was playing ‘Le Départ’ and ‘Paris Match’ from The Style Council ep ‘Á Paris’ on my MP3.


The very best moment? Well it’s not a very good picture but how do you capture a moment of magic?

 Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

None of this could ever have happened without Gurdeep, Sharon and of course Dr Feelgood of Charing Cross Hospital to whom I am deeply grateful.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Paris; a Tale of Two Cities.



It’s midnight, Friday night in Brentford. It’s a town I love, where I lived and worked for many years, where I knew all the villains and all the good people too…everyone knew my name.

Now, as I walk round some of my old haunts I keep meeting people being sick after a long Friday night. I feel a bit strange - I don't have my usual walking stick with me. This time I have a steel one. I wonder where I might be going where I might need an edge like that?
My night is just starting and I can see Mars bright red and high in the night sky.

The coach is early, waiting for me when I arrive – off to Paris!
To save miles we head through an empty city – Earls Court then the Chelsea Embankment and then along the river, up through Peckham, New Cross, Lewisham and out through the dark countryside to Dover – bright lights and bustle.

There is nothing on earth like a journey that starts at midnight, except perhaps for sailing out of Dover at dawn. Too early for that today, this time its dawn at Calais:

We fight through the Pas de Calais (the North country) dark and depressed, all mines and flooded farms like Belgium. This was where Van Gogh was at his maddest when he came to preach to the miners who didn’t listen but gave him plates of potatoes instead.

On through Picardie and the endless farms and graveyards of the first world war.

We hit Paris, through the suburbs, past the Stade de France and onto the Peripherique - best road in the world.

11-00am here’s the Place de la Concorde:

And I’m straight onto the Metro, to Pigalle for the Carrefour to get a baguette hot from the oven, a lager and some cheeses:

I walk through the Red Light district and into the tourist quartier;

And then make the long struggle up to the Butte and Montmartre;

This is what I’m looking for;

The best view in Paris – the rooftops and the Eiffel Tower.
I didn't have any of these;

Because I had a reservation at the best restaurant in Paris - with good company too:

Then I headed off to this;


The Pompidou centre – as unfortunately the Picasso museum still hasn’t reopened.

I couldn’t get to grips with the Pompidou – queuing for tickets, not allowed in until I put my bag in the cloakroom so queuing again. Queuing for the toilets. Then my Camera batteries go so its back down and queuing for my bag all over again. The contemporary galleries were shut as were some of the others.
The Henri Cartier Bresson exhibition queue was never less than an hour long – not enough time for that. So I got grumpy but I did enjoy the Brancusi workshop in a separate museum on the plaza outside.

From there I walked to Les Halles, having a chat with some campaigning Kurdish exiles outside and then down to the river Seine - I walked across several bridges taking pictures of padlocks and Bateaux Mouches, past Notre Dame and back to the right bank.

By then I was footsore and tired of rich parisiennes and tourists. Where did I go next?   
I said it was a tale of two cities - the other half tomorrow.

Click on any photo for a slideshow and better quality .
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Monday, 28 April 2014

A taste of Paris.

As you can imagine, I'm a little tired. I've got a few aches and some blisters.

Normal service tomorrow. In the meantime here's some street art from the side of a ticket machine in the back streets of Belleville, Paris.

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



The 'Spin' - Ashford and St. Peter's PR machine at work.

Now, a few days ago I Blogged an article from The Daily Telegraph which warned how hospitals appeared to be ‘gaming’ the codes – fixing the coding of deaths in hospitals to make them look as though deaths were due to unavoidable causes like cancer rather than poor treatment.

Dr Foster has been warning about this for some time.

The Telgeraph article showed that Ashford and St. Peter’s has had a dramatic increase in ‘Palliative’ deaths, which reduces the other kind of deaths which make the statistics look bad.

In fact, the Trust had the 9th highest increase in so-called ‘Palliative’ deaths in the country.

You can check out my article here;

Meanwhile this was the Trust’s take on the Dr Foster figures back in December 2013. Things looked so rosy then, didn’t they? This is their own press release;

New hospital report highlights low mortality rates 


 Written by Communications Team     


The Dr Foster Good Hospital Guide 2013, published this weekend, once again confirms low mortality rates at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. And this year the Trust has been named by Dr Foster as being one of the top performing hospitals for having low mortality rates including at the weekends.


Medical Director Dr David Fluck explains more: “Once again, this year’s hospital guide confirms low mortality rates for Ashford and St Peter’s, which is good news for our patients. Mortality rates for hospitals are quite complicated and are measured in several different ways; local people should be reassured by the fact that we have lower than expected rates for each separate measure indicating a good overall picture. But perhaps most reassuring is that we have very low mortality rates for both weekdays and weekends, reflecting the high standards of care and good staffing levels that we provide seven days a week.



Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 16:34 

Now compare it to what Dr Foster actually says.

Not quite the same is it?

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

17000 thanx

That's a rather sour way of celebrating something so special as hitting 17000 page views but at the time I shot it I'd just lost a battle with the hospital and a trip to France fell through at the last minute.
These are used hypodermic needles - there aren't 17000 but since October last year I've used over 160 of them so it's in my thoughts.
Sunday morning and I've just got back from Paris - two nights travelling and 11 hours in The City of Light.
I've got lots to write about but not just now.
17000 hits is a lot - I don't have a support network or loads of contacts. Not many people I know read this Blog. So every hit is a bonus - thank you.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production) 

Friday, 25 April 2014

Ready to go.


Magic Bus!



Its 1000 pm and I’m getting ready to drive into town to catch Impact Tours midnight coach to Paris. Its going to be the ride of a lifetime, I am so excited even if I have done it before.

You need to be a bit Rough and Tough for it because we leave at Midnight to arrive in the Place de la Concorde at about 11 00 am Saturday morning.

Sadly, the bus leaves Paris at 10 00pm getting me back to West London at about 10 00am on Sunday morning.

But hey, I’ve got cancer – that makes me a toughie. Besides I’ve got all my meds with me and I’m up for it.
Its a dream come true. 
Still haven’t worked out a really exciting place to do an injection though.

I won’t be around to Blog on Saturday (did I mention that’s because I’ll be in Paris?) and Sunday morning you may find me a little tired.

I’ll Blog when I can.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)



Being good is a bit boring.

I’m being good because I’m resting. I’m taking it easy in the run up to my midnight Friday trip on the;


Magic Bus!

Inside I’m as excited as an 8 year old waiting for Christmas day.

Everything is arranged, all I have to do is work out what I’m going to do in 10 hours in @#%&*?

Perhaps there’ll be some;

Art Nouveau?

Or perhaps some;

Art Deco?

Where am I going?

It’s the home of




I’ll be travelling on these;


Where is the magic bus taking me?
Could it be Largs in Scotland?

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)




Thursday, 24 April 2014

A song for an April and for a summer.


Magic Bus!

Where is the Magic Bus taking me at Midnight on Friday?


That’s where.

Only three more balloons and one more sleep to go.

Tuesday I night I drove all the way to Watford to see The Sha La La’s – which were once a great R ‘n B and Soul band with an original Hammond organ.

Now?  They sound like ACDC playing covers and lost the organ somewhere along the way. There’s obviously been a major change of band members and what’s left is quite different. I lasted about 20 minutes before I came home only pausing to take photos to compare them with the great line up in December. It ain’t the same.

Ah well, nothing lasts forever.

Feeling wistful I reread a post from last year which (forgive me if you remember it) means a lot to me. I have my own reasons.

I’ve added a couple of pictures from this morning to make up for repeating myself.


                    A song for an April and for a summer.

 ‘The Graduate’ is an amazing film which captures a particular moment in the 1960’swhen everything seemed about to change and then didn’t.

The two main characters are full of hope and promise. We are the unlucky ones because we know what’s going to happen.

Simon and Garfunkel

April Come She Will.


April come she will

When streams are ripe and swelled with rain;

May, she will stay,

Resting in my arms again


June, she´ll change her tune,

In restless walks she´ll prowl the night;

July, she will fly

And give no warning to her flight.


August, die she must,

The autumn winds blow chilly and cold;

September I´ll remember.

A love once new has now grown old.

I got through ‘Fighting February’ and ‘Manic March’, ‘April come she will’ is about right for now.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)
As usual click on any picture for a slideshow.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Why not?

ZFive Alive

On tour: 17-3-14 to 21-4-14

The High-s                                                                                  Scott Freeman

Throat Cut City                                                                          Bright Light City

Girl in the Garden                                                                     BRD

20 Yards behind                                                                        Devil Neck                           

T and the Mugs                                                                         Pete Davies Quartet

Trevor Tomkins Quintet                                                          The SkaSouls                                    

The Reggulaters                                                                        The Reflections

The Jeff Mack Quartet.                                                            Drum ‘n Bass.

Crossfire Hurricane                                                                  44 Fires                                                                                           

The Carnabys                                                                             UKID

Confessions of a Traitor                                                           Treehouse                                                                                            

The Wonder Beers

Official sponsor;


Cancer Drug Fund

Of course it was all very silly but there was a reason for it. Back in March I was given an unexpected 5 weeks I didn’t think I’d have.

5 weeks of walking, of moving, of being.

What a shame it would have been to have wasted it.

What fun it all was – MOD music, Ska, Jazz, Drum ‘n Bass and a whole lot more – alternative rock and even The Mighty Rockgoblin.

An amazing time and won’t I just miss it now it’s gone.

Monday night, knowing that I had a rather sombre appointment looming with the long suffering Dr Feelgood at Charing Cross hospital early on Tuesday morning I decided that the only way of dealing with all that was a late night of Modern Jazz at my club (don't the words 'Jazz Club' sound really great?) with the incomparable Derek Nash playing his many Saxophones.


There were 4 saxes to match every mood and key – I came to the conclusion that he actually had only one sax but it was inflatable, like those ones you can take to football, just blow it up or down to suit any occasion.

The Baritone came out for Gerry Mulligan but there was also Thelonious Monk’s ‘Straight, No Chaser’ and the ultra cool ‘Comin Home’ written by Mel Tormé.

Nothing could follow that. Here’s the sax, deflated.


Click on any picture fopr a slideshow and better quality pictures.
Anyway, Tuesday morning and I was up really early, ready for almost anything.

I can’t believe it – it went well. I’ve got another 4 weeks.

Walking back down the Fulham Palace Road (Sid’s European Cup has been decorated with ribbons in Chelsea’s colours – bit premature there, mate.) you cannot imagine how good that felt.

Poor old Dr Feelgood is stuck with me a bit longer and so are you.

4 weeks? That’s a whole lifetime for me and I’ve got such plans.

May is looking particularly good and then on Friday I catch the;


Magic Bus!

Where am I going at midnight on Friday night?

Here’s where –


Can you guess where I’m going? What’s behind the balloons?

I’m not doing a competition because none of you ever bothers to enter anyway. But it’s somewhere very special and very exciting for me.

There will be a lot of amateurish photos, probably some arguments with waiters and there’s always going to be something completely unexpected happening.

There may be alcohol and I’ll be doing an injection somewhere totally outrageous. That’s outrageous in geographical terms rather than outrageous in…..well never mind about that.

You’ve never been on a coach with me before have you? You really have no idea what’s coming or where I’m going. Stick around for the ride.

My only rule is ‘Why Not?


Magic Bus!

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

UKID at the Hobgoblin Rockgoblin.


Last of all from the 2014 Rockgoblin at The Hob – UKID.

It’s the second time I’ve seen them and it’s the same old problem every time. I take loads of photos and they all turn out rubbish because I can’t keep still while the band is playing. Does that tell you how much I like them?

First time round I had another problem; I don’t like seeing Apple Macs on a stage, they remind me of worn out pub entertainers playing backing tracks to their vocals. I got over it.

That’s not UKID even if they come from quiet old Glastonbury in Somerset, home of old Hippies and Ley Lines. In fact they pump out heavy rock, rap and DJ culture – how did that get all mixed up? But it works.

They are Ben-Jah (Lead Vocals), Glenn (Guitar), KJ (Bass), Joey (Drums) and you can easily find them on Facebook and everywhere else.

No drum tracks here – there are blistering drums from a drummer I can never get into focus.

There are also hard, rocky riffs – with lots of hair flying around.

They are a blast.

Then there is Ben-Jah with his laptop and his mike and some very critical politics of which this isn’t the best example but it made me laugh;

“David Cameron got stung by a jellyfish – some pretty #ing good karma”.

They do serious politics in an age when young people have never been so messed around yet never seem to get angry about it.

What’s the matter with you all – haven’t you seen UKID?

Then again given that Glasto is only a short distance from Bristol (home of the wonderful ‘Massive Attack’/ Wild Bunch, Banksy and a whole lot more) it isn’t really surprising; it’s a rebel city.

You can see some of their videos on YouTube although they don’t begin to capture the sheer excitement of watching them live and having your photo’s go blurry.

They are also currently ‘crowdfunding’ their new CD – trying to raise the money from their fans so that they can bring it out themselves without a record company – something this old punk can understand.

Have a look at their site, listen to some of their stuff and if they are back in the area, check them out – I hope to if I can.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)