Sunday, 31 January 2016

Straight outta Chemo with Eat the Evidence.

Friday night, Straight Outta Chemo with a bandage on my hand and a hospital bracelet on my wrist.

Well at least I did take my temperature before we went out and I was feeling OK........really I was.

Robyn and me, the last time we saw this band was over a year ago at the last night of The Hob in Staines. We'd promised ourselves we'd catch them again but I was either ill or they were too far away.

And these day's they've long since shaken off the dust of Staines for the bright lights of London.

This time they were back in Harrow at The Trinity Bar:

This was a fairly riotous party - most of the band originally came from round here - the upstairs bar was full of their skateboard punk rocker friends.

Now I was a punk and a skateboarder but that was about a hundred years ago.

This is from another time;

Eat the Evidence are huge fun, mixing high energy Ska, Reggae and a hint of Punk played on a series of increasingly inappropriate instruments.

Oh and they offer some insightful and helpful legal advice too.

They are Jack Lattimer, Tom Lattimer, Ric Lygo, Joe Bartlett, Michael Saminaden.

This is a ukele - not my favourite instrument at all;

Luckily they didn't let us miss a note;

And the mighty accordion. of course;

I'm dreading that they take up the trombone, my least favourite instrument of all time.

Where else would you go to hear philosophical questions;

"This is the question that's worrying the human race
Which came first, the drum or the bass?"

Of course the real highlight was singing along to that great hit of yesteryear "Tories go to Waitrose", which now has a new section entirely devoted to "Lloyd Grossman".

I was very pleased that 'Eat The Evidence' were on the line up at the festival organised by the Labour Movement in Manchester to protest against the Tory conference last autumn.

And we were presented with the band's 'difficult second album' titled "The sequel to a CD you never had".

Which is true.

Robyn and me have been arguing about the title and lyrics of 'The Van Song' for over a year now. Robyn insists that it's really called 'The Band Song'.

"I really like your van, it reminds me of the van I used to be in when I used to be in bands.
I really like your van, it's the kind of van I'm going to buy when I stop being in bands"

Thanks to the CD, I now realise that it's actually called 'Delusions of Grunger' and now we've got nothing left to talk about any more.


And of course you also get a new version of "You only say you love me when you're high".

This is a funny, witty, exciting band that writes all it's own material and mixes politics with great dancehall music.

Who else would ever play a song about 'Colonialism?

Who knows, we may have to venture out on the Underground one night to catch them up in the big, big city.

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

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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Chemotherapy Day One.

Well, I feel a bit of a fraud. By the time I got to Chemo I was so pumped up with steroids I was having the first pain free period for 15 months.

It's like when you take an ill old dog to the vet and they say there's not much wrong but they'll give it an injection. You get home and the old dog's running around like a puppy; 

I know it's not going to last; I consulted Dr Robyn and we both agreed that this is going to be cumulative - by the time I've had the next few cycles I'll be singing a different tune.

In the mean time, I feel OK. I was fascinated by one of my fellow patients who had an infusion that was coloured bright blue.

Mine was much more boring;

Just a lot of hanging around;

And a brand new passport, with something about not drinking?!

This is Robyn's portrait of me - I still have eyebrows here but I don't think that's going to last very long;

So we got home and I had a clear choice - do I stay in for a quiet night with a warming milk drink and an early night or should I take advantage of this crazy steroid buzz I'm enjoying?

Tell you tomorrow.

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

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Friday, 29 January 2016

Last meal.

Last night we decided to have a meal from our favourite Chinese takeaway;

We had the full works - Shrimp Chow Mein, Savoury Tofu, Egg fried Rice, Stir Fried Mangetout (that's 'Snow Peas' if you're American) and Prawn Crackers.

A riot of tastes and textures.

Today I start Chemotherapy and one of the things I'll lose will be my sense of taste and while we'll go on having the occasional Chinese it probably won't mean a lot to me.

Last night I started my course of steroids - a massive dose to cope with chemo.

I'm not at all optimistic about this but we've got the treatment timed so that if it works, we'll have a summer, which would make up for last year when it never happened for us.

What's cool is that for a short while I lose pain - for well over a year I've had some massive aches and pains. 

A break, even if it's only for half an hour or so is very nice.

And I've now had enough steroids I may be able to qualify for the british Olympic team for Rio in the summer.

Now I've just got to negotiate the journey to and from Charing Cross Hospital; drive, walk, tube, walk, collapse and back again. I'm not sure how well that's going to go this time.

I'll let you know.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Thursday, 28 January 2016

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

61000 Thanx!

I've had a busy time over the last week and didn't realise that the Blog had passed 61000 views - thank you.

Today is my last day of 'normal' life - we did the shopping.

Tomorrow I'm back at hospital for a big, big dose of steroids then the next day I'm back for my first dose of chemotherapy. I'll be doing that every three weeks for the next 3 months.

I'm afraid this isn't going to 'work'.

But if it 'works' I'll get some more time and that would be nice. 

It isn't going to be fun but I have no intention of going quietly so you might as well stick around - I will.

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

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A jazzy Monday at The Red Lion, Isleworth.

I'm obviously ill - I wouldn't be waiting for Chemo otherwise but we are trying to cram some things in before it starts at the end of this week.

It's not helping that it's cold and wet.

Monday night saw us back with friends at The Red Lion, Isleworth for our jazz club.

As ever Trevor Tomkins was on drums accompanied this time by Robin Aspland on keyboards, Dave Green on bass, Nigel price on guitar and Vasilis Thenopoulos on Sax;

It was a really fine evening of jazz with not much space to move.

It's 'upstairs at Ronnie Scott's' but 'Downstairs at Isleworth'.

Vasilis was playing good;

The jazz guitar of Nigel Price is a particular pleasure - not intrusive, not imposing but there.

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

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Monday, 25 January 2016

A very special announcement.

Mr Neil A. Harris and Ms Robyn G. May would like to announce the occasion of their engagement to be married.

Last week after my hospital appointment, we rushed off on the Tube to;

The home of jewellery in London. It brought back many memories - I used to work at the nearby meat market and occasionally we drank with some of the jewellery people.

It's a little closed world of three or four little streets lined with jewellery shops, workshops, pawnshops, an assay office and a bizarre collection of people all connected to the sparkly world of gems.

We hadn't been able to find what we wanted on the high street, so this was where we had to come.

We spent the afternoon looking at every shop in the area, only avoiding some of little markets where jewellers can only afford a stand or a table.

In the end, we came back to a shop we liked, with people we trusted and tried on some rings.

We didn't get what we'd set out to find - Robyn fell in love with a particular ring and there wasn't anything I could do to get her  to look at anything else.

This is the moment!

It was very emotional, the end of a long and very hard day.

We had a wait for the ring to come back from a workshop up the street to be sized (that's how it works) and they even gave us a cup of coffee while we waited!

When we left it was dark and the shop had shut for the day;

Would Robyn say yes?
Where was I going to ask her?
In the end I drove her up to London on Sunday, when I thought the traffic would be quiet. Instead it was frantic - road works everywhere, traffic jams, no parking - a nightmare ride through south London. 
I headed for London Bridge and the Shard by way of several river crossings and closed off streets.
We were aiming for City Hall and the little park next to it with a view of Tower bridge.
This is Robyn's favourite view in London, it's a place she dreamed of visiting all her life and where she spent a day when she first came here on holiday;
Really perfect;
A perfect place to go down on a rather creaky bended knee to ask if Robyn would marry me.
She said yes, and the ring is growing on me;
I am very lucky that anyone would take me on.
We walked along the river, holding hands and being very silly.
Marvelling at a skyline that seems to change every day;
We looked at shops;
And watched the sun come down over London Town;
The City of London;

And two very happy people in love;
I've now got dates for Chemotherapy, so we have a tough old time ahead, a wedding to organise and adventures still to be had.
It's official;
We are engaged!
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Sunday, 24 January 2016

No Lip at The Five Bells, Stanwell.

That was a good night and it very nearly didn't happen. I'd been looking forward to seeing No Lip, the only Punk band worth seeing, play Baroosh in Staines for a very long time.

Then the venue closed down.

Luckily, the band found a replacement venue at the Five Bells in Stanwell; 

Punk rock at it's best;

These days I'm not so good at standing up for a whole evening but it was worth it even if I'm paying for it now;

The Clash, The Ruts, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols played fast and furious as it was meant to be played, in a small venue up close and personal.

There was Pogoing (not by me), beer went flying, speakers went flying! Someone tried to steal my hat, twice.

It was a good, good night.

1977 all over again, even if my joints are a bit creaky these days;

Staines finest punk band are getting a reputation a lot further away these days, you can catch them at festivals as well as all the major local venues - they are even on Facebook too.

Check them out.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Saturday, 23 January 2016

Microwave economics or Macroeconomics.

Everything is falling apart here, now our microwave died. I was particularly annoyed because I bought it exactly 4 years ago so that it would see me out. I even threw out the old one when it was still working.

Well, don't buy Sharp because it never ventilated properly and rusted because it got so wet.

Then last week the light went.

Then, the next day it gave a few sparks, fizzed and died.

I didn't feel like driving over to the council recycling centre because it's a long way, I'm not so well and we had lots of things to do. I decided to carry out an experiment - I put the old Microwave out on the grass verge;

Around here there are lots of people who make a good living driving around picking up scrap metal that no one wants and then selling it on to a scrapyard for recycling.

Now once upon a time we made things here. We dug coal, shovelled up iron ore and limestone. We made steel as well as textiles, cars, ships and everything else.

Then Margaret Thatcher came along and everyone except me decided that it was fine to import everything and waste all our North Sea Oil on paying for it all.

Now everybody is unemployed and our microwaves come from China or some other low wage economy. The shop where you buy it takes at least 50% of what we pay.......that's our's a retail economy.

Of the rest of the money, most goes to whichever non taxpaying multinational company has it's logo on the microwave. A pitifully small amount ends up with the people who made the thing (only pennies), the rest goes to middle men and wholesalers.

What changed all this was the growth of cheap container transport. Nowadays our old microwave goes off to a scrap metal merchant where it's broken down into bits, cleaned up a bit and then shipped off across the sea to China where it gets melted down to make more microwaves.

Then they get shipped back here all over again.

As a result, for the last decade, commodity prices have rocketed; oil was at record levels, the same with iron ore, copper etc.

Recently, China has had a slow down, the worlds stock exchanges have taken fright and fallen and oil prices have fallen to lows not seen for a decade.

I put the old microwave out at 1035am Monday morning - not long ago it would have been picked up within about an hour.

This time?

It took exactly four days - about the longest I can remember.

It's possible this was distorted because early in the week it was freezing cold but generally I would say that commodity prices are falling but there is still some residual demand.

Anyway, at least I got out of dragging the thing to the council dump.

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

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Friday, 22 January 2016

Back at Charing Cross Hospital.

I'm back at Charing Cross Hospital - still waiting for a Chemo appointment but that's looking like next week now.

Today was all about my kidney which is OK but I'm going to have another operation in about 5 months - maintenance work.

Outside the hospital the campaigners were ramping up their campaign to save the hospital.

Currently the governors big plan is to sell off most of the land which means that the hospital would be demolished and replaced with expensive private housing, while a small new hospital would be built somewhere behind the development.

This is part of Imperial College - it's a world famous research centre as well as a hospital that once had an outstanding reputation. It's unbelievable that this 'plan' could even be considered.

This is clearly unacceptable - as you can see the patients were queuing up to sign the petition;

I will of course follow the campaign and support it where I can.

Meanwhile after my appointment we went off somewhere else but I'll tell you all about that tomorrow.

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

Contact me: neilwithpromisestokeep@gmail

Thursday, 21 January 2016

No news yet.

We still haven't heard when I'm due to start Chemotherapy, so we went to see Steve Waterman here on trumpet and Karen Sharp on sax;

As ever Trevor Tomkins was excellent on drums, Tim Wells was on bass and John Horler on keyboards.

I must admit that I was preoccupied throughout the evening and not really part of things.

Apart from anything else it's really, really cold and I've got chilblains.


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

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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Jubilee canal.

I've been wasting time and days recently, it hasn't been the best of times.

Today was still cold but it was sunny and we went out, with no idea where we were going.

We ended up driving though Eton and Eton Wick and over the meadows to Dorney. We parked up by The Jubilee Canal and had a walk.

Maidenhead, Bray and Windsor (where the rich people live) used to flood regularly while we didn't. So, they built a canal which was designed to take the flood waters away them.......and drop them a bit further down stream to us.

That's why we keep getting flooded now.

The canal still looks man-made even though the trees have started to grow up these days. You might even have got a false idea that spring was near;

It isn't!

We watched the water flowing, which meant they opened the canal recently and that's why the Thames was so high, so quickly last week.

We climbed one of the little hills of spoil and got a good view of Slough and it's sewage farm as well as this;

Windsor castle dominating the landscape as it has for over a thousand years.

Nearby Dorney Manor boasted a fine Cedar of Lebanon - I really must research that properly! 

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Osterley and Spring Grove Underground Station.

When I came out of Osterley Park I wandered down to The Osterley Bookshop, now nearly 50 years old and a local institution.

Obviously it's a second hand bookshop but it's also home to an eclectic collection of antiques, greetings cards, comics, postcards, practical jokes and even fresh eggs;

The bookshop inhabits a part of the old Underground station which closed in 1934 when they built The Great West Road and the station relocated further up the line.

You can still see the ghosts of the old platforms; 

The bookshop was always a shop, the archway in the middle was the entrance to the ticket office and led to a bridge down to the platforms. You can just make out the bricked up archway to the left side of the bookshop;

You can still see the old name board on the building to the right, which is now an accountants office.

There are many websites devoted to 'ghost' stations which range from quite boring ones like Osterley to the more exciting ones like 'British Museum' which you can just make out as you fly through the tunnel. It still has antique posters on the walls as it is used every so often by film crews as is 'Aldwych' which is also a film set.

Anyway, here's Osterley in the 1930's before it closed; 

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