Wednesday, 30 September 2015

In a hole - 53000 thanks!

I'm full of holes - well four - but it's enough.

Here's how I got them;

I had to go up to Charing Cross hospital for an infusion for my spine at 1130 am so we were aiming to be there for 9-00am for my blood samples to be taken so that they could do the tests in time.

We drove to Hounslow West, found a parking space and made the long walk to the Tube....except that when we got there the station was closed and the whole Bath Road into Hounslow was shut - it was chaos everywhere. All the roads were blocked, the busses were lost. 

Chaos in every direction.

I was furious - there was no way of getting to the hospital in time and I was told by a police officer the tube would be shut all day.

At the time it was obvious there had been a fight - if it was a suicide the road wouldn't have been shut.

It was just as obvious that it had happened at night because people don't get into that kind of argument at 8 am.

So, if there were forensic tests to be done there was time to isolate those areas and leave the road open.

Back at home I discovered that they opened the tube up at 10 00am anyway.


So, because I didn't know that I started roaming the back streets and alleys of West London trying to find somewhere to park near another tube station, which was impossible, of course.

We ended up driving all the way to Brentford and catching a bus instead. Except I had negative money on my oyster card because I was going to fill it up at the tube station.

We got to the hospital an hour and a half late, tired out and annoyed. I would have even thought about getting a cab - except I'd run out of cash - I was going to get some on the way home.

Hole 1.

So I struggled into hospital and took up my place in the huge queue for phlebotomy.

There was nearly a riot.

We used to have two phlebotomists and two spare chairs which meant that when it was busy the receptionists could help out by taking blood samples to cut the queue.

Except that the hospital has just spent a lot of money remodelling the clinic (why?) and now there are only two chairs instead of four and they privatised phlebotomy.

It takes even longer than it did before, the phlebotomists get paid less with less benefits, it costs the hospital more and everybody is unhappy except for the private healthcare providers who are mugging us all.

Holes 2 and 3

So when I sorted out the blood test we got lunch and struggled back to wait at Chemotherapy, where they were so overwhelmed with people they needed extra chairs.

I had my canula put in by a very nice nurse called Paul who was practising, so it took two goes to sort it out.

We got out at about 2-30 which was a bit of a miracle, I got some money on Hammersmith Broadway and then we caught a bus back in the middle of school kids rush hour.

Then we drove to West Middlesex hospital because Robyn needed to see a friend there who is seriously ill.

I dropped her off and searched for a space so I could park for free and then when I got back I couldn't remember his name so I couldn't find them. I spent some time accidently wandering around all the places I connect with the time when my cancer was really raging.

I ended up sitting in the little garden by the side of West Mid's front entrance.

I don't know why I did that because I knew it was going to annoy me.

In the olden days, farm labourers would be laid off work in the winter and a system of 'Poor Relief' developed so that they could survive till spring when there was work.

In 1834 that all changed - our great rulers decided that the poor were having it too easy. No more payments, now if you couldn't manage you were sent to 'The Workhouse' in Oliver Twist.

Once in you never got out. Families were separated, partners were too. So husbands and wives could only see each other on Sunday afternoons for an hour. Everyone was given pretend 'work' to do, like in prison.

This horror lasted from 1834 until 1947 when our present system of Social security and the NHS was established.

Except that the old buildings were retained and used for the new National Health Service.

So were the terrible attitudes too.

West Middlesex Hospital was previously the 'Parish Union' for the whole of Middlesex. In other words, because The Poor Law Commissioners' felt that the parishes were being too generous they were merged into giant Workhouses like West Mid.

These were hated institutions and rightly so. Their abolition by the 1945 Labour Government was hugely popular.

So as West Mid has been selling off its precious land for development what has it been doing?

Saving the foundation stones from the hated Workhouse buildings.

Here's a couple;

Me, I would have destroyed them in a ceremony and then had an artwork made from the fragments.

Alternatively, there would need to be some historic explanation and a little memorial to the victims of a system that was designed to punish the poor......for being poor.

Anyway, after all that ranting,  thank you for taking the Blog to 53000, it is very much appreciated on a really lousy day.

Hole 4?
I needed my injection when I got home.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Jimmy Hastings at the Red Lion.

We made it back to our jazz club at The Red Lion, Isleworth.

Earlier in the year, the regulars saved the pub from development but currently it looks as much under threat as it ever did. These days people only buy pubs to close them down an redevelop. That's the way it looks now!

Anyway, we came to enjoy the music of Jimmy Hastings who plays a soft, dreamy kind of jazz.

It's very much of the 1970's and although it's not my style of jazz it's always a pleasure.

He also plays the jazz flute;

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


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Monday, 28 September 2015

Runnymede Eco Village; Call Security!

Dismaland closed today with this on the park website;

                                               Coming soon… Dismaland Calais.
All the timber and fixtures from Dismaland are being sent to the ‘jungle’ refugee camp near Calais to build shelters. No online tickets will be available.

I was struck by the similarity between this picture and what I saw this morning - I went for a walk in the woods along Cooper's Hill lane in Egham.

It's beautiful;

But I wasn't just there for the view, nice as it was. I was there to record what happened at The Runnymede Eco Village after the Bailiffs had trashed the place; 

When you walk around the perimeter fence, you pass from one destroyed home to another;

A scene of utter devastation;

Wherever you look there are items of furniture; chairs, beds;

While I was there, I was working up the dogs - they were running around barking at me;

And quite soon I got into a confrontation with a camera shy security guard;

They wanted me off and I don't respond very well to threats. As you can see, I don't do what I'm told either.

I'm afraid I've never been very good at multitasking so I don't have any shots of our confrontation!

The guards seem to be from eastern Europe and spent part of their time at least, picking through the wreckage of the village.

This is who they work for; 'GallowGlass security';

Formed in 1999, this is a fairly secretive organisation which is probably what you would expect. They specialise in two areas - 'Bailiff Support' which is what this is and also in 'Event Management'.

Amongst other things they were hired to build the fence around the Glastonbury Festival in 2013 and for all I know they may still be doing it.

Now I'm no hippy so you won't find me down at Glastonbury but I would have thought that these are not the kind of people you want running your security.

This is what they are best at;

The villagers had no time to gather their belongings - apart from children there were animals too;

And clothes;

The Peace Flag is still flying;

Anyway, it occurred to me after I had my little argument with security (didn't stop me did it?) - it must be costing the developers more than a few hundred pounds a day guarding the site.

Just suppose people came along every so often, just to wake up the dogs and keep the guards moving about.

It's a very pleasant walk;

Quite beautiful really;

Apart from the development site, Coopers Hill is full of public footpaths or paths that are permitted use by The National trust.

We should make more use of them because the longer the guards are there the more it costs the developers.

By the way, a 'GallowGlas' is a Scots/Norse mercenary. Not very nice people at all.
I would probably call them 'Housecarls' myself - more AngloSaxon and a better description of these thugs.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Perfect day.

We'd meant to do it since last September and it never worked out for us for one reason or another.

This time we got it right - we took a boat trip from Richmond to Kingston.

We parked up in my secret place, walked along the river bank in glorious sunshine and then our boat arrived.

Here it is, turning round;

It's just the most amazing feeling when things work out....when they usually don't.

This is the terrace at Richmond which we were leaving behind us;

It's so strange being used to views of places you've known all your life and suddenly you're looking at them from different angles.

We made good speed;

Here we're leaving Eel Pie Island at Twickenham behind us;

When we got to Kingston we walked along the river side until we found somewhere to eat our sandwiches.

It's the kind of town where young people come over for the nightlife, get drunk, fall in the river and drown. So this big block of water was a clever idea;

We went to the old guildhall where one of the Thames tributaries joins the river at the ancient 'Clattern bridge'. Just before that you can catch a glimpse of some very fine fish. I don't know what these are but they were at least a foot long;

I'm not exaggerating, really!

We had a look at 'The Coronation Stone' - it's where the ancient Kings of England were crowned, at least they were for about a hundred years starting in 900 AD.

I'm sure this is a 'Sarcen Stone' just like the ones we saw at Stonehenge or the one in Lambton Park in Hounslow.

I bet it was considered sacred a long time before 900.

Doesn't it remind you of 'The Stone' in the legend of King Arthour? The one King Arthur pulls the sword out of in the legend?

It's also how Kingston got it's name; 'Kings Town'.

We wandered around looking at the shops, we had a coffee and all too soon it was time to catch the boat to Richmond.

There were fishermen, elegant Cormorants, the weir and lock at Teddington and then suddenly we were back where we started at the end of a perfect day.

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

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Saturday, 26 September 2015

Aldeborough; a conversation with the sea.

Our road trip to East Anglia was running out of time - it gets dark so early now.

We headed off to Aldeburgh by way of Leiston and Thorpeness, dodging the nuclear power station.

Leiston has always had a radical tradition, even if it was a minority in the town as a whole - this came from the agricultural labourers, the nuclear power station and the teachers at 'Summerhill' a progressive school.

However in the 1980's, to everyone's amazement, the people elected a clean slate of communist candidates to the town council.

What had happened was that the Tories election agent arrived a day after the time limit for candidates to put in their papers and the whole lot were disqualified.

I have no idea what this could be at the side of the road and I can only think it's a product of too much radiation;

At the quiet seaside village of Thorpeness I saw this sign - I fear it's possible that I may be a 'Nosebagtripper';

If I say so myself I think I'm looking rather jaunty with a sprig of heather in my button hole;

 Aldeburgh is charming; it combines an old working fishing town with a Victorian resort and's got really wealthy too.

It's best known as the lifetime home of the composer Benjamin Britten, probably the most innovative British composer of the 20th century.

This is the monument to him;

The quote "I hear those voices that will not be drowned" is from Britten's dramatic opera 'Peter Grimes'.

Here's an extract from Aldeburgh council's website;

Scallop - a celebration of Benjamin Britten

Benjamin BrittenBenjamin Britten - one of the twentieth-century's most important composers - spent much of his life in Aldeburgh and nearby Snape. The inspiration he drew from the area is most notable in the famous 'Four Sea Interludes' from his opera Peter Grimes.
In November 2003, a striking tribute to Britten and his music was unveiled on the beach just north of Aldeburgh. Scallop - a four-metre high steel sculpture - was conceived by Suffolk-born artist Maggi Hambling, and made by Aldeburgh craftsmen Sam and Dennis Pegg.

The phrase "I hear those voices that will not be drowned" (from Peter Grimes) is pierced through the steel, to be read against the sky. Images of wings rising in flight, swimming fish and the ripple of waves are all suggested by the work, whose scallop forms also recall ancient symbols of pilgrimage, Venus and the sea.

Indeed, Maggi Hambling thinks of Scallop as a conversation with the sea. "An important part of my concept is that at the centre of the sculpture, where the sound of the waves and the winds are focused, a visitor may sit and contemplate the mysterious power of the sea," she says.

I like this - it works as a monument to the man and to the sea that was such an inspiration to him.

In fact, it's been repeatedly vandalised - Britten was gay and too unconventional for this conservative town - perhaps he still is. The sculpture is out on the outskirts, as much an outsider as Peter Grimes himself.

I like the fact that there is a mother and child hiding under the scallop shell in my picture;

Aldeburgh is old and very quiet while we were there;

But there are still working fishing boats; 'LT' means this one is registered at Lowestoft, the nearest big port;

You can buy fresh fish from shacks - we didn't get past this one;

We ended up walking along the sea front eating smoked fish.....mmmmmmh delicious!


It didn't stop us eating Fish and Chips as well, sitting at the sea wall and marvelling at the sky and the sea; 

We found Britten's old house - right by the beach but we didn't make it to his last house which is open to the public.

You can understand where his fascination with the sea came from, he grew up on its shoreline.

This is one of the old fisherman's lookout towers;

This summer it's the home of an art installation by Caroline Wiseman;

Lot's of people took part;

And there was at least one interested viewer;

Of course we left a pebble of our own;

Aren't people amazing?

Really funny;

We didn't want to leave, mesmerised by a sky that seemed to go on forever.

Then after dark we had to head home so we went via Snape Maltings home of The Aldeburgh festival and an essential place to visit if you are a fan of Severus Snape and Harry Potter;

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

Friday, 25 September 2015

Southwold and Dunwich.


We knew it was going to be a sunny day and we got up early to enjoy it - we went on a road trip to East Anglia or at least the bottom bit of it.

We had loads of hold ups on the M25 and we even passed a burnt out car transporter on the opposite side of the road with a traffic jam going back for miles. When we got home I heard that people were held up for up to six hours.....we missed it.


I got all the way up to Southwold on half a tank of petrol but I hadn't bargained on this little town not having a petrol station.

Here's the old lighthouse;

There's a long line of Napoleonic war cannons pointing out to sea bravely but they aren't as courageous as they look.

When the First World War broke out the town got so scared that they would be fired on that they hid them!


It was a nice morning - Robyn did 'One Footed Paddling';

You can see the Pier on the skyline.

And what skies - this is The North Sea.

Big, Big Skies and a Northern Light which gives it a special look that just goes on forever;

We looked for Seashells and Seaglass but King Neptune was keeping a tight hold on his treasure.

We went on the Pier;

It has distorting mirrors, a water clock and lots of quirky artwork; 

There were satirical amusements;

Southwold got very fashionable a few years ago and very expensive too. Even the beach huts can reach six figure sums;

Some of them are decorated;

The town has a long seafaring history, there are ships figureheads like this one on a house;

This is 'Idun House', named after a 19th century shipwreck;


When we left I had about a breathful of petrol left in the tank. Just a sigh, really.
I got directions but they didn't get me to a petrol station so I headed for the main road and drove rather slowly.
I crawled - I didn't fancy running out in the middle of nowhere.
We were lucky, after driving forever through empty countryside we found some petrol just as the needle was scraping along the bottom of the tank.
We headed down to Dunwich which was once a prosperous port but some great storms in the 14th century swept the town (built on sand) away.
Now there's a pub, a café and a few fishing huts by the sea;
We walked along the shoreline, beachcombing and messing about.
On the horizon you can just make out Sizewell 'B' nuclear power station. This was the subject of a big public campaign against extension of nuclear power generation in the early 1980's and I am sorry to say that we lost.
The Conservatives and the nuclear industry fought a very dirty fight against us in the long running public enquiry; they fiddled the figures to minimise the costs of building, running and decommissioning nuclear power stations.
Future generations will pay a huge cost for our failure to prevent the building of this money pit.
Ironically, out to sea we saw a giant new wind farm.
 It was heavenly, listening to idle waves breaking in the sun;
We found this - someone got very artistic with the pebbles; 
 On the way back we stopped off for a quick look at Dunwich Heath, a bright purple with flowering Heather;
How many purples can you have? 
Then we headed for Aldeburgh......that's for tomorrow.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)