Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year!

Every New Year's Eve since 2010 I've said to myself "Well that was the worst year of my life....and I wouldn't have missed it for anything!"

This last year was just the same - a terrible, painful frustrating......and wonderful year all at the same time.


Don't even want to think about it except to wish everybody a truly, really Happy New Year from Robyn and Neil.

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

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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A poem for 2016.

                                  Unbeing dead
                                  isn't being alive.


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

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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

37 years ago.

                                  Posted by Francois Bitzi on 'Rock and Photo passion'

I'm very grateful to Francois Bitzi for his photo of The Clash, playing at 'The Lyceum' in London in 1978 and also to all the other people who have posted memorabilia about the same concert.

It seems hard to believe but 37 years ago on 28th December 1978, at home from university for Christmas and feeling bored, I took the train up to town to see The Clash play The Lyceum.

I'd thought fairly hard about it because The Lyceum was a fairly big venue (about 2000 capacity although they weren't using the upstairs then, so maybe a thousand or so) and I was used to seeing the likes of The Jam and The Clash in very small venues; close up and personal

A fan posted a picture of his ticket for the night - which reminded me that it cost £3-50p to get in and that was a lot of money for a poor student at the time (no loans back then) and I had to pay for the train fare as well.

Then again, I was able to make a last minute decision - I just turned up and bought a ticket on the door. That was normal for Punk, it wasn't that popular back then.

I popped into a pub on the Strand and met a friend by accident and then we went and joined the queue to get in.

I remember thinking that everyone I had ever bumped into at Punk gigs must have all turned out that night to fill the hall.

I chose a spot near the front and in the middle - right next to where Don Letts (the Rastafarian DJ from The Roxy Club) had set up what looked like it was the biggest movie camera in the world.

It was painfully obvious that he had begged, borrowed or even possibly stolen this monster and didn't really know what he was doing with it.

There's a bootleg of the concert which may have come from his recording and years later a film did emerge which is called 'Rude Boy', with lots of shaking and jarring - so he really was learning how to use it.

I remember thinking how great The Clash were and at one point me and Don Letts looking at each other as if to say - "wow they got good and I didn't realise it".

And they were good - my memory may be playing tricks but I think that was probably the biggest venue they had played so far by that time.

I remember coming home with my ears ringing and my mind swirling.

I also thought about going straight back the next night (they played the 28th, 29th and 3rd January) but I couldn't really afford it so I didn't go.

Besides I was always going to be able to see them in a small venue whenever I wanted to wasn't I?

April 1978 they did the Rock against Racism Carnival and after that they never looked back - it wasn't long before they were in the big stadiums in The States and it had all started to go very wrong.

But Christmas 1978?

That was as good as it got.

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

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Monday, 28 December 2015

The Ankle Rankle.

I had an unexpected present this Christmas - my solicitor Anna Brothers sent me a copy of my medical file, which was very nice of her.

I hadn't applied for it myself because I didn't trust the Hospital - they'd already 'lost' the recording of my meeting with the head of Accident and Emergency.

I waited for the hospital to release the records to my lawyers.

So it's been a long time.

Here's my latest selfie;

As you can see, the bone on the left is broken and also twisted, which is a dislocation.

When I went back to hospital a week later I didn't believe the consultant who told me it was broken - I was told it was a sprain.

To shut me up he just showed me this X-ray, it was that obvious.

Now the question is whether the A and E consultant hadn't spotted this very obvious break or whether he did and just didn't want to put together the team needed to do the operation on a bank holiday.

I think he just couldn't be bothered - he thought I'd get an appointment the next day and the operation would happen then.

That didn't happen because there wasn't an appointment slot free for a week.

Now my problem with all this was that he had been employed as a highly paid 'consultant' for 9 months and if he couldn't spot a broken ankle by then he was never going to spot one.

Worse, the hospital hid what happened from me - it was only three months later that I was told the doctor had been a consultant.

A year later, after some detective work, I found out that he'd been allowed to go on practising for another three months until his contract ran out.

Then, they didn't renew it.

What else didn't he spot in that time?

Just for old times sake,  I can't resist reprinting the poem I wrote to explain what happened;

The Ankle Rankle.

I’ve got a problem

and it’s really starting to rankle.

You see, I hurt my leg

in fact, I broke my ankle.


The problem was my mistake

Oh what would that be?

The ambulance took my break

to St. Peter’s A and E.


Because instead of trying

to fix it there and then.

Some idiot, what was he was doing?

Sent me home again.


You can mess up a finger

You can bugger up a wrist

but only a consultant at St. Peter’s
would think a break was a twist

I couldn't let a whole year go past without printing that again now could I?

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

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Sunday, 27 December 2015

59,000 Thanx!

Many thanks for taking the Blog to 59,000 hits it was another Christmas present.

We are under attack from my Christmas curse; I mentioned the mice before?

Just before Christmas I got out the leaflet the local council gives us every year and checked out when we had to put the rubbish out very carefully.

The next day they came and our rubbish wasn't out - some time last year I threw out this years leaflet and kept the last one instead.


I can only say it was a very hard year.

In the autumn our TV died - a big old heavyweight enormous TV that no one can lift. So at the moment we're watching a little old portable TV and the dead one is behind it in the corner - we can't get rid of it.

Boxing day?

Nice quiet Boxing day....I don't think so. the washing machine died on us.

I hurt my back getting the washing out. We had to go into town on Boxing day which I didn't want to do and I bought another machine - they're coming on New Year's Eve to put it in.

The problem is that I got it from the same well known high street retailer who sold us the last one and then wouldn't install it so we had to pay a fortune to get someone in to do it for us.

This time I described the problem in great detail, but who knows?

Back then I vowed to do it myself - that's not looking so clever now with a broken back.

I'm hoping that's the end of our troubles but I'm not so sure.

The problem is that all these things only needed to last a short while longer - we don't know where we'll be and what we'll be doing in a couple of months time. So I really didn't want to be doing all this now.

I'm trying to hold onto the Christmas spirit.

Last night Robyn made me a fabulous Gin and Tonic.......that helped.


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

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Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas day.

Well, I hope you had a nice Christmas - we did although it started off with everything going wrong.

The drain blocked, so on Christmas eve I had to go out in the wet to unblock it. Eeoo!

We are overrun with mice - it happens every so often. Around us it was all once fields although now it's houses. The field mice come in when it gets cold, looking for food.

I hate killing living things (except for one or two former employers - I could make an exception for them) so I use humane mousetraps. They catch the mice without killing them and you release them some way away. We caught loads but it turned out they were the stupid ones. The clever ones bred.

So now all our food is in an old breadbin, in cooking pots with lids and even in the microwave. Anywhere the mice can't get at it.

And (I hate this) I had to put poison down. So far they are still winning.

I boiled my ham;

My vegetarianism is suspended for this Christmas but to pay me back I got a smaller and more expensive ham than I usually get and it didn't turn out so well.

We tried to see the International Space Station which was overhead each day like last year when we saw it on Christmas eve.

Not this time; it was always cloudy or the papers got the times wrong and NASA's site was crashing.

I could go on and on but despite everything Christmas was wonderful.

We had a lovely turkey;

And a light Christmas lunch - this was before the stuffing;

The odd glass of Asti;

And Christmas spent with the most wonderful person in the world;

A Christmas pudding aflame with brandy (or about to be);

It was sad too; Robyn gave me a book made up of some of the photos we took during the last 18 months of adventures.

And she gave me a camera - I never bought a good camera for a number of reasons - I didn't think I'd have time to make use of it for one.

Also I bought second hand cameras in charity shops or pawn shops because whenever there was music I'd be in the front row, where all the action was. There was always a risk that the camera would go flying when I did.

These days I can't take that risk anymore (can't go on breaking vertebrae) so I can use a good camera.

Worst of all whenever a picture didn't come out I could blame the camera - can't do that any more.

And it's really head hurts.

I hope you had the Christmas of your dreams, we did.

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

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Friday, 25 December 2015

Happy Christmas. War is over (If you want it).

Happy Christmas everyone - here are some photographs from 1969;

They are from John Lennon's advertising campaign;

opposing the Viet-Nam war and which ended with the release of their single "War is Over (If you want it) in 1971, written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono and sung by them with The Harlem Community Choir.

They appeared in cities around the world although the single was only released in Britain the following year.

Christmas greetings to all my readers wherever you may be;

If you want the billboard in a different language you can go to the official site at;

Currently they have over 100 languages and welcome new translations;

Happy Christmas from Robyn and Neil!

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

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Thursday, 24 December 2015

Getting ready for Christmas.

It's Christmas Eve and I haven't done much yet - been a bit ill but also Robyn and I have very different ideas about decorations.

So, at the moment we don't have much!

Robyn decorated the tree;

Our mistletoe looks nice;

Last night I crept out and 'found' some nice holly. Now I've just got to put it up and then late last night I wrapped the presents.

All sorted really.

I hope your Christmas eve goes well and not too hectic.

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

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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas Jazz.

This week we went to our Jazz club for the last time before Christmas. Christmas cards were handed out and we gave two special friends some home made ginger beer to sya thank you.

It was a lovely night with a Christmas tree in the corner of the pub and everyone in a happy mood.

We had a tight four piece - this is Mike Coates on Sax;

Jim Mullen was in fine form on Jazz Guitar - he's a big name on a number of scenes - he's a session musician has played with some big Funk bands and has a jazz pedigree too.

My friends make fun of me - he has a habit of inserting little segments of other songs into what he's playing.

Musicians respect the cleverness of it, everyone in the room thinks it's neat; it drives me mad.

Just to pull my leg, Robyn kept a tally; Jim put 30 'quotes' into songs during the evening.

Normally I'd be irritated but tonight I was just mellow.

There was 'The Christmas Song' and 'White Christmas.

Ross Stanley exchanged his normal keyboards for an electric organ - he just hit those notes so well. Trevor Tomkins was just fine on drums.

As I said, it was a good night.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

I went to church by accident and then we gathered Mistletoe.

Sunday was deeply embarrassing - for some unknown reason I agreed to meet Robyn at her church in the evening for their carol concert.

I have no idea why I did it - I'm not at all religious and after having religion pushed down my throat from an early age I don't want any more.

But it meant a lot to Robyn and her vicar had supported her last it seemed polite to go.

It was charming - the church was lit only by candles and was beautiful. The music was good. I got to talking to a nice lady who knew Robyn. Everyone was very friendly.

Unfortunately I got there far too early and there was more than enough time for it to dawn on me how foolish I'd been. Robyn arrived just as the service was about to start.

I was there for a very short prayer and the first line of 'Oh little town of Bethlehem' when I realised I'd made a terrible mistake and had to get out.

Somehow I was able to blunder my way out without actually barging past little old ladies and escaped alone into the night with a sigh of relief.


I was reminded of the line in 'Withnail and I' and amended it to my situation;

"I've come to church by accident".

Monday morning was a bit miserable - I wasn't feeling well and we'd planned to go to Stonehenge for the midwinter solstice on Tuesday morning like we went there for the summer one.

The forecast was for heavy rain and we didn't feel like going so it was a bit sad.

So we went out to celebrate the shortest day of the year by gathering Mistletoe.

Unfortunately, I hadn't felt like struggling around trying to locate the kind of tools that would have been useful - I improvised; (these are all Robyn G. May's photo's)

Not too successfully;

In the end we were lucky - I didn't have to go back home to get my tools, we found some that other people had left behind;

There were berries and it was the right size.

This picture shows the Mistletoe high up in the trees;

That's more like it;

The day had already been ruined because I needed to go to the Doctor and couldn't get an appointment until the afternoon - so we couldn't get anything else done.

But spending time on the Solstice gathering Mistletoe, it doesn't get much better than that.

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

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Monday, 21 December 2015

Happy Christmas.

I love this poster although it's fair to say that I don't drink 7- up and we don't get much snow either.

It's still nice and seasonal.

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

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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Steel Pulse at the BBC Maida Vale studios.

After a long day spent in London, we headed out to Maida Vale to The BBC Studios;

This is the radio home of BBC classical music, drama and of the studios where bands ranging from The Beatles to Nirvana have played.

One of the smaller studios was where John Peel recorded sessions with up and coming young bands for some 30 years - recording everybody you've ever heard of.


They have proper equipment and everything;

This was a big deal for me - we had tickets to see 'Steel Pulse' being interviewed and playing cut down acoustic versions of tracks from their debut album 'Handsworth Revolution' which is now 38 years old.

The programme comes out on Radio 4 on 4th and 5th January 2016 and on the 'Mastertapes' website where it can be downloaded.

In fact I was getting worked up in the queue because we'd been asked to submit questions and mine wasn't selected.

Worst of all, the producer even sent out a second e-mail giving a list of suggested 'questions' we should send in.

It doesn't bring out the best in me.

Then it started and the band played most of the album - including 'Ku Klux Klan', 'prodigal', 'soundcheck' and 'Handsworth Revolution'.

Actually the presenter did ask my question (as Robyn reminded me later) about the Rock against Racism carnival in 1978.

Back then while 'Punk' gave angry white youth a voice, 'Steel Pulse' represented a British and more militant version of Reggae. The two were always going to come together even if the music was a world apart.

This is Selwyn Brown on keyboards and vocals and on the right David Hinds on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. They are the two survivors of the original band;

They were in good form - describing their early days in Birmingham and the problems black youth had at that time from racism and the Police, how their music represented their political activism and Rastafarian faith.

They talked about their role in 'Rock against Racism' which included playing in front of 150,000 people at the Victoria Park carnival in 1978.....including me.

There was some great music and the band were very willing to play for us - including a rerun which most bands wouldn't have bothered with.

David Hinds talked about the pressures the band had been under from record companies - to go mainstream when political Reggae was replaced by 'dancehall' or 'lovers rock', at a time when white youth was also turning it's back on punk and going over to the 'New Romantics' in the same way.

That was the effect of 'Thatcherism'.

A quick look at their website shows that the band has never lost it's engagement with politics and none of their activism either.

But it must have been tough - there were lean years.

Here's Selwyn Brown talking to fans after the show;

It was a huge pleasure to revisit 1978, a really tempestuous year and a turning point - a time to fight back.

And just as much a pleasure to hear a band still in very good form - unfortunately the BBC's unique lighting system defeated both my camera and Robyn's phone to the extent that we couldn't do justice to the rest of the band.

A very special evening.

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

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Saturday, 19 December 2015

A trip to London.

We had a treat!

Well, it was a grim week, we had to get out.

I'm not going to tell you what we did till tomorrow because I've got to wait for Robyn to send me her pictures but we had to go up to London;

We got off at Piccadilly Circus to walk up Regent Street and look at the Christmas lights and nose into the expensive shops along the way.

People were wearing Christmas pullovers and hats, there were office parties looking slightly embarrassed and lots of happy shoppers.

There was a photo shoot - hey it's London!

And I absolutely had to go to Carnaby Street which always has the best lights;

I wonder who this old MOD is in his Parka?

I was here in the 1960's and it was shabby and full of Hippy tat.

It's more cool these days even if it is a bit corporate;

We couldn't get a picture but there were three shops in a row that just sum me up - Levi's jeans, Ben Sherman shirts and Dr Martens shoes - that's all my shopping sorted out;

It's become a home for us MODS, which I don't think it ever really was in the old days. It certainly wasn't when I was young;

Then we went to Liberty's which has to be just the nicest shop in London, even if it's outrageously expensive.

It's a huge shame that the private venture capital company that now owns it has done away with the bay windows which used to be filled with the most wonderful displays but they still have the florist at the front door;

And a grand display in the atrium;

It's a product of the 19th century 'Arts and Crafts' movement which is not my thing but it's a fairy tale at Christmas.

Also it reminds me of 'The Slaviansky Bazaar' which was a Czarist era restaurant in Moscow which survived in all its glory until the Yeltsin age when it was burnt down in an argument between rival gangsters;

There were lots of decorations wherever we went;

And a quick visit to the most impressive pub in London - 'The Argyll Arms on Argyll street;

It was built as a convenient bar near 'The London Palladium' and it has a truly theatrical interior with private little drinking areas and ornate ceilings and glasswork.

No time for a drink though, we were short of time - we had an urgent appointment.

We still had time to take in Oxford Street, Robyn's bank and a walk through Soho though.

Oh, we also had a Burger King which Robyn really enjoyed;


Then we had to get off we had an appointment........more of that tomorrow.

I had a tough week, feeling fairly ill most of the time but today I was feeling good.

If I tell you that after our busy day and our exciting evening we went Christmas shopping at midnight you'll get an idea.

I think I'm paying for it now!

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

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Friday, 18 December 2015

September wishes.

I took this picture back in September - we'd had a tough Summer and the weather was poor so I couldn't even sit in the sun.

So in September and October whenever there was a good weather forecast we tried to get out.

Sometimes we didn't have anywhere to go. On this day we just drove to Engelfield Green to have a look at the view over the Thames Valley.

There were some late Dandelions and I just managed to grab a picture as Robyn made a wish as she blew away the seeds;

I never got round to using it and then today when I was feeling a bit low after doing the shopping in the drizzle of December I remembered that I had never posted it.
I hope the wish came true!
Neil Harris