Wednesday, 31 August 2016


Yesterday we had to get out - the sun was shining for once and we were tired of being stuck inside. What's worse is that I want to go to places I've never been to and I'm not really fit enough to do that.

For no obvious reason we ended up at Godalming, slightly confused and in my case a bit irritated.

Although, to be fair, I've never been there before. Robyn liked it; a quiet, old Surrey town.

I did see this print celebrating the Tour de France in a gallery window; 

......which I rather liked. I would have loved to have seen the race for one last time this year.

I was feeling a bit ill most of the time until we went into the towns very small museum and when I came out I felt better!

I don't think there's any connection but I'm not complaining.

Neil Harris
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Tuesday, 30 August 2016


I'm getting everyone down at the moment - yesterday we went out for a coffee and sat on Egham high street watching the summer end on a lazy bank holiday Monday afternoon.

I can't say I'm very happy and I'm getting told off for it. Robyn keeps telling me that things could be worse, which is certainly true.

I can't help it, I fought very hard to get through a miserable winter for a summer that just didn't happen for me. 

Funnily enough I put this picture up a year ago;

Which is about right.

Neil Harris
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Monday, 29 August 2016

Slightly dampened spirits at The Walled Garden, Lower Sunbury.

We've had some nice times at the Walled Garden in Sunbury, enjoying the flowers, listening to good music and just basking in the summer sun.

The events are put on by Spelthorne Council but we haven't been for a while now and we realised that the season (like summer) is coming to an end. So we got our chairs together and headed off to Lower Sunbury.

It didn't quite go so well this time;

It rained on us - the umbrellas were out!

And the normally excellent Jake Fryer Trio weren't exactly firing on all four cylinders either. It may not have helped that they were moved from the stage into what seemed like a bus shelter, with acoustics to match.

And every so often the mood was broken by a rather grumpy park keeper throwing chairs onto a trolley.

And the café shut early so we couldn't get anything to eat or drink.

And every so often there was a rather strange sound that Robyn noticed....rather like someone throwing pebbles on the ground.

It came nearer and nearer.....

It turned out that the automated sprinkler system hadn't been turned off for the concert and it activated itself and drenched about a quarter of the audience.

Elderly people, the disabled, their belongings, all scattered by the water. Which was odd, because it was raining and the water really wasn't needed.

We did get an occasional glimpse of the band through the umbrellas;

But generally it felt like we'd outstayed our welcome.

Hopefully the concerts will be back next year.

Neil Harris.
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Sunday, 28 August 2016

80,000 Thanx!

It's been a day of anniversaries - it's two months since we got married.

So I used the beads from our wedding tables to celebrate hitting 80,000 views, which is a very big deal.

Thank you!

It's also exactly 4 years today since I broke my ankle, attended the Accident and Emergency department of St. Peter's Hospital, Chertsey.....and they sent me home telling me I'd just sprained it.

Which, after they lied to me and covered up what happened, resulted in me starting this Blog.

It's been a long, long struggle and unfortunately it also coincided with my losing battle against cancer.

A slightly depressing day.

Neil Harris
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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Path to Sennan.

This picture is 'Path to Sennan' by Richard Tuff and it's on one of the walls of my Chemotherapy unit - I was back there yesterday for yet another dose.

It went well - I now have an array of pre-meds to stop me going into anaphylactic shock and they work. Also the dose has been slowed right down and that helps too.

Unfortunately, we drove up (public transport is a struggle these days) and I went over the time limit for my disabled parking badge by about 45 minutes.

Lucky me - no ticket this time! 

Sennan Cove is in Cornwall, a couple of miles from Lands End, at the magical, mysterious and still Cornish end of the county. The next parish, as they used to say, was in America.

I was there just over 5 years ago on my last ever holiday, camping at Botallock just a few miles away.

I was sleeping in my £11-99p Lidls tent and every night I swore I was going home in the morning as I mopped up the water that was driving in horizontally.

Then each was wonderful and I stayed on.

Glad I did now, I never realised I wouldn't get another chance.

On the last morning my mobile phone rang at about 7am and then completely died forever. I thought it was probably work but I couldn't be sure it wasn't my Mum, who I should not have left alone as she wasn't able to look after herself properly even back then.

I spent a very unhappy few hours racing from one broken phone box to another, to pubs where the public phone had just been removed to the point where I realised I'd have to leave early and get home as quick as I could.

It was work, of course and the end result was I missed a precious last day. Who knows, I might have stopped off at Sennan Cove for a walk and a pasty.

Neil Harris
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Friday, 26 August 2016

Too close to call.

I went up to hospital and saw Dr Feelgood, got my results and I'm none the wiser, really.

I've been working my way through chemotherapy since the end of January and the first two failed.

I'm now on the third and last and got the test result from three weeks ago - the first indication.

It hasn't got better but the rate it's got worse has got a lot slower. I suppose I should be grateful but I'm not really. It's been a huge struggle and not much to show for it.

And now? I've got three weeks to wait for the result of yesterday's test and then I'll know if there's any point in going on with it.

I'm not holding my breath but at the moment it's too close to call.

Neil Harris
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Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Long Walk.

So, tomorrow I'm back up at hospital to get the results of the first dose of this last batch of chemotherapy, which I started 6 weeks ago. It's quite possibly going to be more bad news, so today we went to Windsor Great Park to do a bit of The Long Walk.

As we walked from the car park, we got a first glimpse of the castle through the trees;

And I couldn't resist taking some shots of the deer; the males have got their horns but they aren't yet fighting each other,

They've been here as long as time but these days they are so used to people that they let me get close enough to take their pictures.

Then we got to the copper horse;

But this was why we came - Robyn wanted to do 10km and I'd told her it was 3 miles each way.

We weren't planning to do the whole walk today, just a try out.

Me, I just wanted to stick two fingers up at cancer.

We set off on a really, really hot day;

We actually made it to the white gate in the distance but even so there's still a good way to go to the castle;

It was still a lot further than we'd intended. Here's the view back to where we came from;

By the time we got back I was absolutely exhausted, I even needed to sit down on a wall before I could get back to the car.

Robyn had a look on the map and we think we made it about two thirds of the way. As it's around 2.65 miles each way all the way to the castle, we may have done about 2 miles each way, which together with the journey to and from the car park is quite long.

I reckon we did about 4 miles altogether- mind you I have no idea whether I'll be back to do the whole 10 Km!

Anyway, it's a good two fingers worth!

Neil Harris
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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Burnham Beeches.

We finally got some summer - a hot couple of days.

We ended up spending an hour or so at Burnham beeches, sitting by one of the ponds as the sun dappled.

We had lots of company - a Muntjac deer delicately nibbling water lillies;

But just a bit too timid to go into the water, even though it's not very deep.

The lilies were very thick and all around dragonflies scooted around;

This duck brought her six ducklings along and had to stand on a log to call them after they had disappeared among the plants;

And this one came over to have a look at us;

Neil Harris
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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Bizzarro world.

On Sunday we went for a walk, we both needed to get out. I was desperate to go somewhere I'd never been before but couldn't think of anywhere and I wasn't up to driving a long way.

In the end we walked along from Staines bridge but on the opposite bank of the river.

It was really weird - in all the years I've been here I'd never seen the places I knew from the other bank.

They looked completely different, smaller. And now I could see all the buildings close up that I'd only seen from across the water.

It was strange going through the bridges where we went fire the day time.

It didn't help that everything was back to front.

Just before Bell Weir we passed the boatyard near Runnymede and I couldn't help taking a picture of a narrow boat, out of the water.

Then we walked passed an expensive hotel (I'm not giving them an advertisement here) and lots of people lazing away a Sunday afternoon.

They had deckchairs;

And you could hire a 'Tub Tug', a hot tub that was a boat;

I didn't fancy that one little bit - and it's a £120 an hour, so that isn't happening.

We made it all the way to the recreation ground at Runnymede - passing lots of buildings I see from the road but never saw nearby.

But by now I was tired and hurting. We had a sit by the river, enjoying the sun but where I'd parked we were limited to 2 hours and we had to get back.

I was hurting big time when we were back at the car but we walked about 3.7 miles which wasn't too bad.

Mind you, today I'm really paying for it.


Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production.
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Monday, 22 August 2016

To see a world in a grain of sand.

Auguries of Innocence    

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour

Neil Harris
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Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Road not Taken.

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,       
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.       
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

                             Robert Frost

Neil Harris
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Saturday, 20 August 2016

Coombe Hill.

I still can't upload pictures onto my computer - or download windows updates. It seems like Windows has declared war on me because I managed to download different software as an experiment.

Anyway, Robyn downloaded these pictures from last Wednesday and then emailed them to me so that I could use them.

We had another trip to the edge of The Chiltern Hills, stopping of at the little town of Wendover;

But we were headed for Coombe Hill - I guess a lifetime of being forced to live at the bottom of The Thames Valley has left me wanting to find the high ground.

We sat eating our sandwiches and disturbing everyone else by laughing a lot.

Robyn misheard me and thought there was a monument to a 'Bowl of Warts'.....I spent a while thinking out loud about the planning application meeting to discuss the project. Actually there is a monument to the many dead of The Boer War; an unjust and imperialist war.

More frighteningly, if you Google 'Bowl of Warts' you do actually get a result.


There are magnificent views - we ate lunch sitting in the shade of a tree, looking out over Ayelsbury and the plain beyond before we moved on;

There are some great views - I think this is 'Pulpit Hill' but I could be wrong;

Out beyond was Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire;

On the way up we passed a farm shop;

And as we sat at the top of Coombe Hill we watched plumes of dust as farmers harvested their wheat on a hot, sunny day;

Neil Harris
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Friday, 19 August 2016

Fire and Ice by Robert Frost.

Some say the world will end in fire,Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Oh darn it.

We've been having quite a tough time at the moment - among the less serious troubles -  I've been having problems with my ancient computer.

To start with it's refusing to recognise my card reader any more - so I can't post photos, which is a bore.

So first I took the (new) reader back to the shop to get a replacement.

That didn't work either.

I've tried various remedies from the internet (I'm not alone, it seems to be a common Windows problem) and then I took Windows own advice to upload all their recent updates.

Tried that and wasted a day I couldn't afford to waste either.

My Windows 7 updates now take forever (like for never) to upload.

I checked that out on the internet and found that I'm not alone with that problem either.

I think Windows just wants us to pay them loads more money and they are trying to force us to do that by stopping everything from working.

The problem is to do that I probably need a new computer.

So, my apologies. Hopefully I can get something sorted soon.

Which is more than I can say for all the other problems.

Neil Harris
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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Mr Keuner in the Age of Lawlessness.

Here's one of the stories from "Anecdotes of Mr Keuner", by Berthold Brecht.  

And Mr Keuner told this story:

One day during the Age of Lawlessness an official came to the house of Mr Egge, a man who knew how to say no, and showed his ID card for State authority which said that he owned any house he set foot in, could have any meal he desired and any person he met must serve him. The official sat down on a chair, demanded food, had a wash, lay down and just before he went to sleep with his face to the wall he said;  “ You’re my servant, OK?”
Mr Egge put a blanket over him, fanned the flies away, watched over him while he slept and went on serving him in just the same way for seven years. But whatever he did he made sure that he never said a word. When the seven years had ended the official had become obese after so much eating, sleeping and giving orders, and he died. At that point Mr Egge wrapped him up in the now decrepit blanket, dragged him out of the house, washed the room down, painted the walls, let out a deep
breath and said, “No”.

Neil Harris
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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Barry Gunner; Another inquest hearing into a death at The Abraham Cowley Unit, Chertsey.

It's taken me a while to find this report on yet another inquest into a tragic death at The Abraham Cowley Unit which shares the St. Peter's Hospital site at Chertsey.

I'm concerned about this; very simply Mr Gunner was seriously ill with a history of self harm and suicidal thoughts.

In the run up to his suicide, he told staff repeatedly how he felt and yet he was able to access shoelaces from his property?

I have two problems with this;

Firstly, to anyone used to dealing with a 'place of safety', it should be automatic that things like belts and shoelaces are kept firmly locked away.

Secondly, this 'secure' psychiatric unit has a history of allowing suicidal patients access to things that put them in danger or the chance to leave the hospital.

I assume the jury and the coroner were unaware of these previous incidents;

'Talented artist' from Godalming took his own life while in hospital, inquest jury concludes

Rebecca Shepherd
Get Surrey.

Barry Gunner, 43, killed himself using a ligature, which had been 'readily available' while being detained under the Mental Health Act

A "talented artist" from Godalming, who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, took his own life while detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act, an inquest jury has concluded.

The six-day inquest at Surrey Coroner’s Court into Barry Gunner’s death came to an end on Monday (July 25) when a jury gave a verdict of "suicide".

The jury heard from medical clinicians and nursing staff from the Abraham Cowley Unit (ACU) of St Peter’s Hospital, who looked after and treated Mr Gunner during his 16-day stay.

The jury concluded: “Mr Gunner was found at approximately 2pm on March 26, 2015, in an unconscious state.
“He was in the locked bathroom of dormitory three Clare Ward within the ACU where he had been detained from March 10 under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act following an attempt at self-harm at his residence.
“He had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and exhibited symptoms of depression, anxiety, paranoia and psychotic behaviour.
“He had consistently relayed suicidal ideation to medical staff with the last documents occurrence being on the day of his death. The boot laces used as the ligature had been readily available.”

'Very paranoid'

The 43-year-old was transferred to the Chertsey unit on March 10, 2015, after he was admitted to Royal Surrey County Hospital following an overdose where he took a "large amount of medication" at home.

The jury was told Mr Gunner expressed "ongoing suicidal thoughts" to staff at the unit days and hours before he was found lying unconscious in his bathroom dormitory on March 26, 2015.

Despite attempts by staff and emergency services to revive Mr Gunner, he was pronounced dead at the scene at 2.38pm.
The medical cause of death given was "ligature compression of the neck in association with foreign body airway obstruction".
Dr Jolanta Landowska told the court that she conducted three reviews with Mr Gunner before his death and that he had spoken of having "no future" on the day he died.
She described Mr Gunner as "very paranoid", as he believed builders had planted spy cameras in his house and that the people on television knew "what he was wearing".

'Almost unbelievable'

Speaking after the inquest, sister Jane Fitzsimmons said Mr Gunner was the eldest of four children with two younger brothers.

When he was younger, he enjoyed fishing and camping and liked being outdoors and anything to do with nature.

She said Mr Gunner was an "extremely talented artist" and his drawings were of such quality that he could have sold them if he had wanted to.

Mrs Fitzsimmons said she was concerned about "failings" at the ACU.

“As a family, to lose a loved on through suicide is utterly devastating, but to lose a loved one while entrusted into the care of a muti-professional team is almost unbelievable,” she said.

“Words cannot express our shock, sadness and frustration that Barry succeeded in taking his own life whilst a patient within the ACU.”

'Careful balance'

Andy Erskine, director of mental health and social care at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“I offer my heartfelt condolences to Mr Gunner’s family and friends.

“We take any death in our services extremely seriously and have completed an internal investigation into Mr Gunner’s care and treatment to make sure we do everything in our power to prevent anything similar happening again.
“As part of our investigations we met with Mr Gunner’s family to make sure we explored their concerns.

"Our findings have also been reviewed by medical professionals who were not involved in his care and treatment to identify further lessons to be learned.

“We have now implemented the recommendations from our investigation across all of our inpatient services.

"These include making sure we search inpatients’ possessions that are brought onto the ward, but kept in storage, making sure we offer people one-to-one time with nurses every day and that we record the outcome of all discussions about medication, even if no changes are made.
“We have to strike a careful balance between protecting people from self-harm with the need to promote people’s recovery from mental ill-health to enable them to return home.

"The coroner recognised that we have thought carefully about this issue in this instance.

“I am very sad this has happened and I am very sorry for the Gunner family’s loss.”


You can take a look at a selection of previous reports on the unit on the 'Pages' section on the right hand side of this Blog.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Monday, 15 August 2016


Robyn's still trying to cheer me up - she made cake!

Which we are both rather fond of.

I did sieve the flour but that was about it.

And despite our oven not being very good it was nice.

Neil Harris
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Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Lammas.

It was a beautiful day - unusually sunny for this miserable summer. We couldn't actually think of anywhere to go - I always want to do something exciting which I'm no longer up to so in the end we went to The Lammas at Staines and watched the river flowing by.

We watched dads fishing with their sons, watched boats idling by, basked in the sun and fed the ducks;

Neil Harris
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Saturday, 13 August 2016

White Comedy by Benjamin Zephaniah.

Here's a poem by Benjamin Zephaniah to challenge prejudice;

I waz whitemailed
By a white witch,
Wid white magic
An white lies,
Branded by a white sheep
I slaved as a whitesmith
Near a white spot
Where I suffered whitewater fever.
Whitelisted as a whiteleg
I waz in de white book
As a master of white art,
It waz like white death.

People called me white jack
Some hailed me as a white wog,
So I joined de white watch
Trained as a white guard
Lived off the white economy.
Caught and beaten by de whiteshirts
I waz condemned to a white mass,
Don't worry,
I shall be writing to de Black House.

Neil Harris
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Friday, 12 August 2016

The Perseids.

There were lots of things we could have done last night - I wanted to go to a late night Prom at The Albert Hall with Jamie Cullum.

It would have been quite a night.

Unfortunately, Robyn put her foot down and wouldn't let me go. She was quite right, I'm not up to it any more.

There were some local bands playing too but for whatever reason neither of us felt like going out to see them.

But we did stay up to see The Perseids, the meteorite storm that comes every August and was at its peak last night.

It wasn't easy because there was a bright moon blocking the sky for most of the evening and lots of clouds.

By midnight the moon had set and there were some breaks in the clouds. If I'd known we would have gone somewhere dramatic but in the end we stood on the front path craning our necks.

We saw a few - including a couple of low ones. I felt it wasn't such a great show, Robyn thought we were very lucky.

I should be more grateful, last year we didn't see a thing.

It was quiet and strange - all around us the shuffling noises of little animals and birds moving. In the distance a fox screaming. Every so often we set of the security lights on the houses opposite.

And once in the while a shooting star high over head.


There may be some stragglers over the next few nights although the peak has passed and there are other nights including an autumn one which is worth looking out for.

But nothing could compare with 2014 when we went down to Ankerwycke with a couple of chairs and some lager and spent the evening holding hands and watching shooting stars long into the night.

Neil Harris
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Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Museum of Nothing in Particular: part 7.

I have started throwing things out and came across my collection of "Baggies".

I've picked these up on my travels over the last couple of years. There were a few more but they were duplicates.

They are the little bags dealers use to supply cannabis in.

I make no judgement about that - I was just interested in the growth of branding.

The bigger bags with cannabis leaves are generic - it's the kind of thing you can buy in street markets, so are the ones with pound and dollar signs. They are probably sold in assortments and it's even possible that the pound signs are an attempt to make it seem like there is a legitimate use for possessing 'Baggies'.

In fact, possession of enough baggies alone can be enough to get you arrested.

The two smaller bags are more interesting - Bob Marley and the Uzi which definitely seem like the start of branding.

You would be surprised where I found them and there were lots more to find but with a broken back I often didn't feel like picking things up from the pavement.

Neil Harris
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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Silly Poem.

It's been one of those weeks when everything has been urgggggggh!

But this cheered me up just a little;

Silly Poem

Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
I'll draw a sketch of thee,
What kind of pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B?                         

Spike Milligan.

Neil Harris
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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

79000 Thanx!

I've been fairly ill for the last two days - yesterday I was completely out for the count all day. I did spend some time sitting in the August sun by the front door which was nice.
Luckily I took this photo when we were in Worthing, a week or so back.

Hopefully I'm coming out of it now - so thanks for sticking with me.

Which is just as well because the night of the 11th August is the best night to see The Perseid meteor shower and there are some other good things coming up.

Neil Harris
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Monday, 8 August 2016

Anger management with Sue Shorter.

I didn't have the best of Sundays - I wasn't so well, it was hot and we got stuck in a traffic jam that I could have avoided.

We were on our way to see our friend Sue Shorter play at the church on Kew Green.

Except that after I'd driven around the green about 6 times looking for somewhere to park I'd just about had it.

Sue plays a range of percussion and wind instruments and her speciality is recreating the sounds of the rainforest after she has passed around a collection of instruments to the audience.

There are maracas of all shapes and sizes, rain sticks (I donated one I didn't need), birds that sing and wooden frogs that you scrape with a stick. 

I told Robyn it was like attending an 'Anger Management session' and she told me that was just what I needed.

Sue is an expert on the Congas;

So afterwards, we went to see her and have a chat and I had a go......

.......which showed me just how hard they are to play.

Neil Harris
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