Friday, 30 September 2016

Wokingham; here today and gone tomorrow.

We went to Wokingham twice but I'm not sure why we went there in the first place.

Anyway Robyn liked it and while we were there we saw some fantastic street art - which I like a lot.

We wandered around, looked at shops and had a coffee.

These pillars have been painted to brighten up a 1970's shopping development and some of them are quite good;

I liked this;

Anyway, we couldn't find the amazing street art on the way back - it's a town which has been carved up by a railway running through it and a series of one way streets that seem always blocked with traffic. We just couldn't find it and in the end I got tired.

When we came back we saw this door way to a community centre and shop;

This sign in the shop window was nice;

But, strangely, we always seemed to just miss out in Wokingham.

The community shop had just shut when we got there.

We saw some nice wood in a skip and we were going to pick it up on the way back to the car.......only to find the skip had gone in those few moments.


And the art work? In a matter of days that had all been covered up and new graffiti went up in its place. We couldn't believe it but that is the nature of street art - whether it's some kids tagging or it's Banksy......wait too long and it's gone.

I'll show you what was in it's place tomorrow.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Builders Boat.

It's been a bit dull recently - I've been ill and the weather was lousy but last week we sat by the river at Sunbury for an hour in the sun, watching ducks and geese on the river and people messing about on boats on one of the last sunny days of the summer.

And I loved this builders boat with its very own hut from a tropical island;

Neil Harris
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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Strange Tales.

I dug out one of my old comics - who can resist an advertisement for 'X - Ray Spexs';

You have no idea how I longed for this 'Polaris Nuclear Sub' and it was only $6-95!

But even I knew it was too good to be true and anyway, they wouldn't deliver it all the way to England.

Marvel and DC comics would sometimes lurk in a corner of a newsagents - where they had been persuaded to take a bundle on trial. You could never get them in sequence so you never had a full story but what a world!

My Mum bought me these comics when I was very young - it was something my Dad didn't approve of and he put a stop to it.

But I still have a small and very tattered pile of Marvel and DC comics.....and even though I haven't looked at them for ages I can still remember all the stories.

They were electrifying - nothing like our tame and boring comics here - this was another world, an alternative universe.

This surge of nostalgia came about because Hollywood is working its way through all the characters from the old comics and it has now reached "Dr Strange", perhaps the weirdest of them all.

Bizarrely, I had a single copy of 'Strange Tales' when I was a kid and here it is;

At the beginning, Marvel put a variety of stories in the comic, later 'Dr Strange' had it all to himself.

'Dr Strange (Master of the Mystic Arts)' was comic art taken to the ultimate level;

He moved from our world by day to fighting battles against evil in another dimension by night.

At the age of 8 or 9, this was amazing stuff - it opened the doors of my perception.

The pages are faded now and I'm really glad that the great Stan Lee's long forgotten character will have a new CGI life in the movies.

Looking forward to seeing it!

I couldn't resist posting part of this ad from the back pages - models of sportsmen to assemble in the comfort of your own bedroom;


Neil Harris
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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Concerns about the James Phelan Inquest.

This much delayed inquest has been delayed again - it relates to an incident at St. Peter's Accident and Emergency in August 2014.

Part of the reason for the delay is that witness statements hadn't been taken - presumably the hospital didn't realise there was a problem.

Not taking statements mean the honest people forget what happened and dishonest people have a chance to get their stories straight.

To put it simple, Mr Phelan went to A and E suffering from alcohol withdrawal - it's very dangerous and often life threatening.

He was seen (probably after a long wait) and triaged. That means his problem was evaluated and he was admitted, then left to wait.

At some point he left before he was treated - and not found for a week! By which time his body was discovered on the dual carriageway outside the hospital.

Here's the report from 'Get Surrey';

Family of missing man found dead near St Peter's Hospital suggest 'systemic failings' at A&E

   Charlotte Tobitt

James Phelan was found dead near the hospital seven days after seeing a doctor in A&E when suffering from acute alcohol withdrawal

The family of a Walton man who was found dead seven days after going missing from St Peter’s Hospital has suggested there are "systemic failings" in how patients are assessed when they first attend A&E.

James Phelan was suffering acute alcohol withdrawal when he visited A&E at the Chertsey hospital on Friday August 8 2014.

After being taken to hospital by ambulance, Mr Phelan had been seen by a triage nurse and was waiting to be seen by a doctor before deciding to discharge himself. He was found dead nearby seven days later.

A pre-inquest review was held at Woking Coroner’s Court on Monday (September 19) where Rachael Marcus, representing Mr Phelan’s family, insisted the inquest into his death should investigate systemic failings into the triage system at St Peter’s Hospital.

The court heard Mr Phelan had been triaged as an unwell adult rather than under a mental health category, despite acute alcohol withdrawal being a crossover mental and physical complaint.

Ms Marcus told the court acute alcohol withdrawal is a "widespread issue" but that the Manchester triage system employed by the hospital is inadequate in these cases.
“The triage system in place at this trust was not adequate to deal with the situation in which Mr Phelan found himself,” Ms Marcus added.

“There is a potential for a systems issue in place, whether at this particular trust or whether it is a nationwide problem.”

The court heard St Peter’s Hospital has now produced a draft policy for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal and alcohol dependency which was not in place at the time of Mr Phelan’s admittance.

Ms Marcus questioned whether Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was "behind in its thinking according to what was accepted thinking in 2014

However coroner Darren Stewart said: “We may not be in a place of systemic failings.”

He added: “He [Mr Phelan] may just not have been triaged properly as opposed to the triage system itself being a problem.”

Mr Stewart also said it was a busy night for the hospital and Mr Phelan may not have been seen any quicker even if he was triaged differently.

Ms Marcus had also appealed to Mr Stewart for the process to be treated as an "article two inquest", which is given in circumstances where the state or "its agents" have "failed to protect the deceased against a human threat or other risk".
But Mr Stewart said on Monday: “This court is not a place to engage in an exercise seeking to improve the National Health Service.”

He added that if the court found systemic failings had contributed to Mr Phelan’s death, the inquiry could then be expanded and he would keep open the possibility of engaging article two.

A full inquest into Mr Phelan’s death is due to be heard later this year.

I can't say I'm happy about the attitude of the Coroner - I'll probably have more to say about that when we have the final report of the inquest.

In particular I'm very concerned about his statement that; “We may not be in a place of systemic failings".

I actually think there are systematic problems about how vulnerable people are treated, because on May 16th this year Jack Barker (a patient at St. Peter's) also disappeared from the same hospital and was only found 2 weeks later on May 31st.

Luckily he was still alive.

And to say;  “This court is not a place to engage in an exercise seeking to improve the National Health Service.”
is very worrying because when someone dies as a result of problems at an NHS Hospital there is no other way of holding the hospital trust to account.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Monday, 26 September 2016

The Tesco Robin.

We were at Tesco's and Robyn spotted this;

It's the Tesco's Robin - we've seen him before but I wasn't able to get a picture of him. This time he was building up quite a group of fans;

He comes in hoping for food and because it's safe there.

There are warm places in the winter and cool ones for the summer.

I fear that when the shop realises that he's there he will be trouble but for the moment he's OK.

Neil Harris
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Sunday, 25 September 2016

My Tailor has closed!.

That's not good;

The Age UK charity shop in Egham closed.

One day it was there, the next it was gone;

All gone;

I bought a lot of my clothes there - most notably a pair of genuine Levi 501's for £5.

We bought music and DVD's there - Robyn picked up blank wedding invitations there.

In 2013 I bought my first digital camera there for £11-99, to brighten up this blog and because I didn't think people would believe what I did unless there were pictures!

We always popped in and had a chat with the people who worked there - so we didn't get a chance to say goodbye.

Here's a picture from happier times;

It will be very much missed, even if I'm not likely to need any more clothes these days......

Neil Harris
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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Congratulations Jeremy Corbyn.

This picture is from the centre of Liverpool a few weeks ago, one of over thirty rallies Jeremy Corbyn held up and down the country in the Labour Leadership campaign.

They happened everywhere from major cities to rural areas like Cornwall and they represent a new movement which has taken membership of the Labour Party to 540,000 not included affiliated members of Trades Unions.

I did eventually get a vote as a Trades Unionist myself but it was a real struggle.

Many people didn't - there are also lots of stories of people being denied a vote, then contacting the party to say that they were disappointed as they would have 'voted for Smith', as a result of which they magically got sent their ballot paper......and then voted for Corbyn.

Then there's 130,000 people who were denied a vote from the outset.

For the record Jeremy Corbyn won 313, 209 votes compared to 121, 751 a year ago and he pulled in 61-8% of the vote compared to 59-61% last year. 

So that's sorted out now.

End of.

Neil Harris
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Friday, 23 September 2016

My walking stick.

This is my walking stick - or rather it's the stick I started using in 2014 when I broke my back.

It's metal - I couldn't go on using my wooden one because in an emergency it really needed to support my whole weight.

It was unfortunate that no one spotted what had happened to me for 5 months, by which time it had all gone a bit too far.

But this stick got me through it.

The stick is adjustable - you can make it longer or shorter by moving it up or down a 'notch'. I use it at different heights depending on what I'm doing. 

Over the last two years I've distorted the 'hole'. You can see it here - the most used holes are now oval shaped instead of round;

You can see it better from the side - this show how the metal has been distorted;

There's a whole lot of pain in that walking stick.

Neil Harris
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Thursday, 22 September 2016

Survivor Poem by Roger McGough.

Survivor Poem.

Everyday,I think about dying.
About disease, starvation,
violence, terrorism, war,
the end of the world.

It helps
keep my mind off things.

It's probably because I'm a bit sour today - yesterday I went to collect a prescription and then we did the shopping a day early so we could do something today.

And now? It's grey and miserable (like me) while yesterday was quite nice.


Neil Harris
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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

'Old Isleworth'

On Sunday morning I was waiting to meet Robyn and for part of the time I had a walk around 'Old Isleworth'.

It's not looking so well these days;

Isleworth is a working class community and I was privileged to represent some of the people there, over the years. Since the 1980's of Margaret Thatcher, 'Old Isleworth' has been trying to drive out the poorer people - it's been getting much more of a problem recently.

This used to be 'Isleworth Coaches', a big employer;

It wasn't old and it wasn't particularly beautiful but it was a big employer and part of driving people away is getting rid of their jobs.

These perfectly good buildings had years of life left in them, as did the people who worked there but the problem is they were down by the riverbank and that makes them prime real estate.

As I was taking pictures three groups of people came up to me and asked if I'd worked there. The site plainly meant a lot to local people and the arrival of flats for rich people isn't at all welcome.

These days the cement and steel is recycled, which is more than you can say for the people.

Brentford and Isleworth were once river communities - effectively ports and docks with boat services too.

Nearly all of that has gone now - there are a few boatyards hanging on at Brentford. While at Isleworth there are a few working boats left;

But it won't be long before they are gone too - just like the Thames Lightermen (Cargo) and Watermen (passengers) I once knew.

The river bank still keeps a few secrets to tell you this was once a working river.....from the days before building materials were recycled;

And not far from the new luxury flats there's a big flow of water into the river - it's from Mogden, West London's major sewage works.

Here's the 'river' just before it joins The Thames;

I walked on to 'The London Apprentice', it's a pub near the nicest part of the river and still unspoilt. I wandered about on the bank but I wasn't feeling so well and started off back to my car.

At least the birds were getting fed;

Neil Harris
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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Boot sale!

We decided to make our fortunes.....only it didn't quite go according to plan;

We hired a table at the local poultry groups 'Indoor car boot sale'.

It looked like a really good idea - everybody who paid to get in or had a stall got a free burger and a drink.

There was face painting and a balloon man for the kids;

I liked this penguin;

I decided to get rid of a collection of pottery I'd built up for no good reason, some 'beer glasses of the world', a selection of shot glasses, my 'glass fish' and I also took along a load of marmalade.

I have to say that I am a veteran of doing sales like these for left wing causes - done them all my life, so I know what I'm doing.

Robyn took a selection of her hand made jewellery.

We had a nice time but we didn't do very well and neither did anyone else. I think the problem was that the organisers didn't realise that the people who buy this kind of stuff can't really afford to pay a pound to get in.

Also, they thought that all they had to do was to advertise it on 'Facebook'.

Actually, social media doesn't always work as well as people think it does. usually you need to do some old fashioned publicity to get people along. 

Any way there weren't many customers.

That being said we had fun - most of all I was very disciplined and managed to not buy a load of rubbish I don't need which is what I usually do at these sales.

We got our free burger and a Becks and then got given a couple more vouchers too.

So we got a nice lunch and I had a trip down memory lane.....but we didn't get to make our fortune!

Neil Harris
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Monday, 19 September 2016

Goodbye summer hat.

We had a couple of days of sun last week and a day out but it was obviously the end of 'the summer that never was'.

Then it was back to hospital and back to being ill.

So I burnt my summer hat.

I should say that it started to fall apart on Labor day, so it wasn't much of a statement.

And Robyn never liked it at all - she said it made me look 'Amish'.

And as I never actually needed help to build a wooden barn, it seemed like a good idea to set fire to this years summer hat.

Mind you, Robyn thinks there are a few other hats I need to get rid of as well as this one.

That's not good.

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

Sydney the cat.

We've had a cat now for two weeks and I just don't get it.

Dogs I understand; they are part of the family. If you go out and leave your dog behind it's upset - devastated. When you come back your dog is beside itself with joy.

If you have a dog and something happens to you the poor animal pines away.

A dog loves you, completely and unconditionally.

Sydney (Robyn's cat) just shrugs her shoulders when we go out. She might get mildly concerned when she's hungry but otherwise......we are just an irritation.

To be fair she's no bother. She doesn't need a walk, she's housetrained, she's neat and tidy.

But it's as though we have an anonymous lodger in the house.

As I said, I don't get it.

Neil Harris
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Saturday, 17 September 2016

Necker Island.

I was back at Charing Cross Hospital this week and it didn't go so well; aside from waiting nearly two hours after we were due to be seen and watching people with later appointments than me going in first.....hurrrumphf.....the third and (as far as I know) last chemo isn't working.

We were both fed up - apart from anything else the weather was lovely. We both felt we might as well have just done the blood test, skipped the doctors appointment  and then gone out for the day.

It's just rain from now on!

The chemo has slowed things down but it didn't come up with the goods. I had another dose on Friday and (all going well) the last dose in three weeks time but I've been working my way through the chemo options for a solid 9 months now.

Each time when I should have got a result and a break I had to start the next one straight away. It's been tough, especially as I could have got about 18 months out of all this. 

Unfortunately, it didn't work out like that.

I did enjoy a new display of art at the front entrance; an art show for staff of the hospital organised by The Imperial College Art Charity.

There were lots of different works on show but I particularly liked this artists work;

He's W. James White from Charing Cross Trauma and Orthopaedics and I'm guessing he's a consultant because each of his pictures is from somewhere very exotic.

There's 'Storm Coming - Antigua', 'Ngorogoro crater' - Tanzania, and  Necker Island.

I'm very envious of those trips but I like his abstraction and he quotes some of the modern art influences I've enjoyed too.

Neil Harris
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Friday, 16 September 2016

A glorious Moonlight.

So, the day before I had to go back to hospital we were determined to have a day out. We knew it was going to be sunny.

The problem was, in the morning I wasn't so well, so in the end we only left at lunchtime.

This is where we ate our sandwiches - it was idyllic;

But we hadn't just come to sit in the countryside - we came to take a look at 'The Wilmington Long Man';

The 'Long man' is the subject of a lot of argument - scientific analysis dates the movement of the soil as late 16th to early 17th century.

But as this extract written by the people who now care for the figure shows, there are still plenty of theories going around;

Until the 19th century the Long Man was only visible in certain light conditions and after a light fall of snow, but in 1874 it was marked out in yellow bricks. It is claimed that during this restoration the feet were incorrectly positioned but, despite popular local legend, there is no evidence, historical or archaeological, to suggest that prudish Victorians robbed the Giant of his manhood!

In 1925, the site of the Long Man was given to the Sussex Archaeological Trust (now the Sussex Archaeological Society) by the Duke of Devonshire. During World War II, the figure was painted green to prevent enemy aviators using it as a landmark. In 1969, further restoration took place and the bricks were replaced with pre-cast concrete blocks that are now regularly painted to keep the Long Man visible from many miles away. The terracettes, horizontal ripples in the turf, change constantly as the soil is rolled downhill by weathering and animal activity.

The lack of firm historical evidence still leaves many theories abounding about his history. Many Sussex people are convinced that he is prehistoric, other believe that he is the work of an artistic monk from the nearby Priory between the 11th and 15th centuries. Roman coins bearing a similar figure suggest that he belonged to the 4th century AD and there may be plausible parallels with a helmeted figure found on Anglo-Saxon ornaments.

Fertility symbol? Ancient Warrior? Early 18th century folly? We may never know. Until such time as new evidence is unearthed, we shall have to content ourselves with the words of the Rev A A Evans who said, “The Giant keeps his secret and from his hillside flings out a perpetual challenge.”

For me this is still a really powerful image and one that is likely to be older than the tests indicate.

We headed on down to the coast - to Pevensey Bay for an old fashioned seaside afternoon;

We looked for seashells and just revelled in a late, last bit of the summer that never was;

The old sea defences have been worn away by the sea.......

......into the most incredible patterns;

There was something of the desert about the convoluted shapes.

It's just the nicest place - not too busy.

I wonder who wrote this - but thanks for the 81000 hits!

We lay on the shingle together basking in the sun and watching fishing boats and becalmed yachts bobbing on the sea.

Until the lazy sun set and the bright moon rose - 

We lay together watching the moon rise up in the sky until.......

.....we walked to the little high street to get some fish and chips which we took back to the beach to eat under the glorious, beautiful moonlight.

Neil Harris
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