Monday, 31 October 2016

Halloween History and Misconceptions..

Happy Halloween! That's me on the right, looking a little under the weather a couple of years ago;

Robyn has been kind enough to write a guest article about this spooky time.

                   Halloween history and misconceptions

                                  By Robyn G. May.

I love the fall and to me the pinnacle of fall is Halloween. Every year the weeks leading up to October 31st I watch scary movies (which I love anyway). I love decorating for it, getting treats for the trick or treaters and dressing up. I don’t get to dress up here but I have a real pair of custom fitted fangs at home. I just love Halloween! I have been watching documentaries on the origin of Halloween for years and learn more every year so I thought I’d let you all know about my history of Halloween and the actual history of the spooky holiday itself.

Halloween was so much fun growing up. My uncle made most of my Halloween costumes, he liked sewing and thought it was fun to do. I had the best costumes ever; a Witch, a Bride, Snow White and Cleopatra. The first Halloween I can remember we went to the Philadelphia zoo on Halloween night and got apple cider. The zoo put on a party for kids but I think we got there too late to enjoy the festivities. Another year (or a few it seemed like) I went to a party thrown by (or for rather) my oldest friend at our local branch of the library. We played games, ate treats and watched Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. A few years later I started going to Halloween parties thrown by my church. My mother always took me to parties because I wasn’t allowed to go trick or treating. From what I can remember it was because there were cases of children being killed or injured by poisoned candy or tainted fruit they were given on Halloween. So to be on the safe side my mom’s friends threw parties instead of taking us out trick or treating.

The funny thing that never really happened. There were a few cases of children being poisoned supposedly by Halloween candy but it turned out the children were poisoned by their own parents or parents of their friends. Other cases where parents reported their children died after eating Halloween candy it was found the children actually died from other causes including one boy who found a family member’s heroine stash and took it and one girl who died from a staphylococcus infection. And the only confirmed incidents of razor blades in apples took place after the reports came out on the news.

I still love Halloween. Of course I don’t run in circles with people that have Halloween parties for adults, although I’d love to go to one. I don’t remember the last time I really wore a costume for Halloween before the party Neil and I went to two years ago. And funny enough all the friends that I grew up going to Halloween parties with have decided that they don’t want to celebrate Halloween anymore because they think it’s the devil’s holiday. Even churches when I was young threw Halloween parties but now they all throw harvest festivals if they do anything at all. No one wants to mention Halloween anymore.

Halloween has nothing to do with the devil. Halloween comes from a Celtic holiday called Samhain [sah-win]. Samhain which means summer’s end, was celebrated from sunset on October 31st to sunset on November 1st. The Celts believed (and still do) that the boundary between our world and the other is at its thinnest, allowing spirits and the dead could cross over and walk the earth on that night. As a way of appeasing them (and keeping them away from their homes) they left offerings of food and drink out for them on the outskirts of their villages. People also dressed up in costumes to hide from them, and went door to door sometimes reciting stories in return for food. Sound familiar? But this was not satanic, yes Celts do not worship the God or Gods that we know now but their Gods and Goddesses are not Satan or Satanic. The deities they worship have more to do with natural things like; water, lightening, trees, and wells. And just as the end of summer is harvest time now, it was then, and Samhain was a harvest festival where they thanked their deities for life and their harvest.
But what about the name, where did we get Halloween from? When Christianity moved throughout the British Isles they could not win over Celts or as they called them Pagans, so they adopted some of their holidays in order to win people over. They did the same with Christmas. The Catholic Church made November 1st All Saints or Hallows Day and October 31st became All Hallows Evening (or Eve) and eventually Halloween.

For the past few years Neil and I have been making Jack-O’-Lanterns. I guess I’m a bit homesick and I in some way I want to feel as though I’m home. When I grew up I only remember making a Jack-O’-Lantern once. We take a pumpkin hollow it out and carve a face into it. It can be a scary face or a silly face. People even carve shapes and characters associated with Halloween (bats, ghosts, witches, etc) into the pumpkins. Once it’s carved and hallowed you put a candle in the middle and you have the ultimate scary face.

The tradition of Jack-O’-lanterns comes from Ireland and Scotland. When Irish and Scottish immigrants came to the US they brought the tradition with them. Originally it was turnips that were hallowed out and carved. Once the Irish and Scots saw pumpkins they moved the tradition to pumpkins instead of turnips.

 Supposedly there really was a Jack-O’-Lantern. According to legend Stingy Jack was made a deal with the devil after playing several tricks on him. When Jack died the devil would not let him into hell, he sent Jack out into the darkness of night with nothing but a burning coal to light his way. Jack carved out a turnip and has roamed the Earth ever since. In Ireland and Scotland people used to carve a turnip or potato with a scary face and place it in windows or near door to keep Jack and other evil spirits away.

Although Halloween is all about being scared the night before Halloween was very scary when I was young. The night of October 30th was known as Mischief Night. For several years of my childhood mischief night was no fun at all. I remember one year I had choir rehearsal and my mother couldn’t stay so she asked two teenage friends of mine (who were a few years older than me) to walk me to my aunt’s house, which was only down the street. They walked me down the street and a few doors away from the house they told me to run into the house. There was a group of teenagers chasing us, my friends got egged. For years there was terror in the streets. Windows broken, properties damaged by eggs and toilet paper but the biggest problem by far was arson. For two or three years running there were warehouses, homes and other buildings burnt down on Mischief night so the city of Philadelphia (and Camden where it was even worse) put curfews in place. A few years later the arson attacks stopped. We were no longer afraid to go out the night before Halloween.

In America Mischief night started in the early 1900’s with young and adolescent boys playing harmless tricks like smashing pumpkins, but it soon turned into big trouble like arson. It escalated during the great depression with 1933 being the worst, so it is considered by some to be a reflection of the dismal times. The night is known by several names across the country; mischief night is popular in Mid-Atlantic States, but other parts of the country call it devil’s night, cabbage night and gate night. Although it slowed down and in some places stopped altogether, by the 1990s it had made a comeback. Mischief Night 1990 was bad but Mischief night 1991 set the record. Camden had 160 reports of fires to buildings, houses and grass/trash. After that year Philly and Camden put curfews in place and had police patrolling neighborhoods; the vandalism and arson slowed down.

Some other acts committed on mischief night include; covering houses and trees in toilet paper, flour bombing and egging cars, people and homes, breaking windows, leaving animal excrement on doorsteps, removing the gates from farm pen letting the animals loose, moving the steps from in from of homes (people would fall and get hurt when they left in the morning), putting farm equipment and buggies on rooftops and on hay stacks, putting bars of soap in trolley tracks resulting in trolleys being derailed. After 1933 towns, schools and police departments started throwing parties to occupy children’s time around Halloween to keep them out of trouble. This is also when commercial costumes and decorations became widely available.

I hope you enjoyed the history and my history of Halloween. From what I hear Halloween isn’t as popular here as it is at home, but hopefully more people will embrace it and begin to celebrate it. Halloween is a lot of fun for everyone. Hopefully we’ll get some trick or treaters today otherwise we’ll have to eat the candy ourselves!

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Happy Halloween!

It's that time of the year again and we took advantage of Tesco's "Buy one get one free offer";

It's pumpkin time!

Which involved scraping out a lot of goo;

And some artistic work too;

There was a whole lot of Goo! - enough for soup and pumpkin seeds too.

But very much worth it, in the end;

Mines on the right and it definitely looks a bit sour and down in the mouth!

Happy Halloween!

Neil Harris
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Saturday, 29 October 2016

Sour day.

I'm having a really sour day (Robyn called me a 'Glumpkin' on Facebook and she's right) I've already had to scrub two attempts at the Blog today because they were just too depressing.

We should have gone by coach to Bruges for the day but it's the day after Chemo so I couldn't risk it. These chances don't come along very often and I'm not happy about it.

Although this poem by John Hegley did cheer me up for a moment.

Photo in St. James Park

a hot spring day by the lake
and a young woman and man
probably tourists
possibly Spanish
who wanted a photo of themselves together
handed their camera to someone
almost definitely English
who certain fellow countrymen
might predictably describe
as a very drunken old dosser
but to them he was just a passer by
he accepted the camera
took a long time focusing
and steadying himself
but managed to take the picture
and received genuine gratitude
from the two
who had seen nothing deviant in his behaviour
and would remember him
as a friendly and helpful
English gentleman
if he hadn't fallen into the lake
with their camera

John Hegley

As I said, it made me chuckle.

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

86400 Thanx!

                      86400 seconds
                      1440 minutes
                      24 hours

Not the best way to spend a couple of days - I wasted today having another dose of Chemotherapy while yesterday I was also up at Hospital - getting the result of my blood test three weeks ago.

It didn't go at all well and may well threaten whether I can go on with the Chemo course.

So it's very nice to hit 86,000 views which cheered me up - I decided to celebrate it at 86400! because we think so little about the passing seconds......which suddenly seem so precious.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Thursday, 27 October 2016

Dr Strange.

I've just had a really lousy week - in agony from Thursday night onwards. I was having difficulty walking and beginning to wonder whether I was ever going to walk anywhere again.


By Tuesday things started to get slowly better - in the afternoon I walked to the post box on my own although it was slow and painful and I was using two sticks.

In the evening I drove into Slough so that we could see 'Dr Strange' - as I wrote before I'd been fascinated with this Marvel Comic character when I was a kid in the 1960's, as you can see here;

I really didn't want to miss this and we even saw it on the big screen.

I should say that I don't like CGI normally, I gripe about it a lot. Dr Strange was always going to be full of computer generated effects, so it was going to have to work hard for me.

Dr Steven Strange is a gifted, arrogant, irritating neurosurgeon; basically a really annoying know-it-all.

He's also not very good at interpersonal skills.

In the end, however, he ends up crashing his super car and wrecking his hands for ever. No more complex surgery for him.

Devastated, he looks for a cure and after the most that advanced medical science can offer has failed, he explores the world of alternative therapies - a journey that takes him to Nepal and a secretive magic sect.

Much more than that I can't really say except that it was a great moment when he was united with his cloak and he ended up saving the world in a very amusing way.

Along the trail there are more than a few laughs and a fine performance by Tilda Swinton as 'The Ancient One'.

Benedict Cumberbatch does OK as the Doctor who has to learn from scratch how to pass through different dimensions and multiple universes to fight evil.

Oh, and there was a funny librarian - that's a first. And for the first time the CGI actually added something to the film.

I must admit that I tried and failed to get a Dr Strange poster from the cinema but I was far too mature and serious to actually buy a Doctor Strange magic drinks glass myself - that would have been very childish indeed.

Although as we were leaving I found one that someone had discarded. It would have been untidy to just leave it lying there outside the cinema.

It's luminous and very mystical.

Look, it's glowing!


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

Fighting Heathrow Expansion.

This picture comes from 2015 when I joined the picket of Uxbridge County Court, to try to save 'Grow Heathrow' from eviction.

It was very nice that the newly appointed Shadow Chancellor and M.P. for Hayes and Harlington John McDonnell was able to join us.

The decision was put off then and Grow Heathrow are still there but now the decision has been announced that the third runway will be built at Heathrow, they are likely to be in the firing line again and soon.

As a result of the decision the villages of Sipson and Harlington will disappear along with large sections of Colnbrook and a big chunk of green belt. The M25 motorway will either be diverted or built over and extended to 14 lanes, while much of the area where I grew up will be blighted by development and blanketed with noise and pollution forever.

I'm aiming to oppose the airport expansion as much as I'm able to, although I suspect my direct action days are probably over now!

Neil Harris
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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

A Riddle.

I was the cause of great troubles.

yet, resting amongst leaves.

I did nothing wrong.  

After much waiting I was taken into hand.

passed from one to another.

Broken I moved beyond sharp barriers and was cradled in

wetness, mashed to pulp.

Soon I entered a dark tunnel

where bathed in acids I altered my being.
 But what I entered I also altered,

Bringing light where there had been darkness.

I brought strife where there had been peace,

pain where there had been comfort.

My journey ended in the place of corruption

but by then I had changed the world.

Gerard Benson.

Gerard Benson, apart from being a poet, was jointly responsible for bring poetry onto the Underground - this poem is one of his that also ended up on the trains.

It's also a riddle, fairly easy to work out. If you really have problems get in touch for the solution.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Monday, 24 October 2016

Still angry today.

Yesterday about 1976, punk and about how angry I was.

This is a Daily Mirror special report about admissions to hospital for people suffering from malnutrition and about the increasing poverty which means that people are unable to afford food after they have found the money for rent, transport and other essentials.

It's one of many reasons why I'm still just as angry as I was all those years ago;

 22 Oct 2016
By Nicola Fifield
Daily Mirror

More than 16,000 cases of malnutrition were reported in hospitals in England last year

The number of people so ­malnourished they need hospital treatment has QUADRUPLED in 10 years.

In a shocking indictment of the nation’s food poverty , more than 16,000 cases of malnutrition were reported in hospitals in England last year, an average of 45 every day.

More than 900 of these cases were classed as severe – meaning patients were in danger of starving to death.

But these alarming NHS figures are just the extreme tip of an iceberg of misery and deprivation as GPs treat thousands more poverty-stricken patients for malnutrition.

Campaigners blame spiralling food prices, falling wages and ruthless benefits cuts and sanctions.

Simon Capewell, professor of public health at Liverpool University and vice president of the Faculty of Public Health, said: “It is a national scandal.

Mark Wood's sister says he starved to death after having his benefits cut

“The fifth wealthiest country on the planet is now suffering from Victorian diseases such as malnutrition, rickets, scurvy. These figures are shocking and need to be a real wake up call.
“Severe malnutrition is very serious and can be fatal. And what is really worrying is that for every person admitted to hospital, there will be five times that number getting care in out-patient clinics, and another 50 times that number getting care from their GP.
“These figures are only the absolute tip of the iceberg.
“It is a further burden on an already over-burdened NHS and it is absolutely avoidable and preventable.”

Prof Capewell added: “More and more people in England are living in food poverty.

“Between 2007 and 2014 food prices rose 12 per cent in real terms, while wages fell by seven per cent.
“For people in low paid work and on benefits it is a real struggle to put food on the table.

“Last year more than a million people accessed food banks – it is a heartbreaking sign of the inequality in this country.”

Stuart Vance / Daily Mirror 

Increasing numbers of people are relying on foodbanks

Figures provided to the Sunday Mirror by NHS Digital, a public ­information service, show that last year 16,314 hospital cases were diagnosed with protein energy malnutrition – a condition more usually seen in developing countries.

And in 1,557 of these cases the ­malnutrition was severe enough for them to be admitted to hospital, four times the number from a decade ago.

Labour MP Frank Field, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on hunger, said: “This new data on malnutrition, as well as the data we have uncovered on the numbers of ­children who are underweight and anaemic, paints a grim picture of life at the bottom of the pile.

"The Government has two tasks: help push up family incomes and help local ­communities divert the huge amounts of nutritious, good quality food ‘waste’ to the hungry.”

The UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, provided more than 1.1 million three-day food packages last year, up from just 25,899 seven years ago.
Benefits delays were the No 1 reason for people needing help from the food banks, followed by low income and benefit changes.

Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror 

Frank Field says the data paints a grim picture
Adrian Curtis, the charity’s foodbank network director, said: “Today’s malnutrition numbers are worrying.

"Every day we meet families who are struggling to put enough food on the table and hear from parents who go hungry so their children have enough to eat.
“Skipping meals for days at a time is dangerous, and could lead to malnutrition.

"This is why we’re working to engage the public, other charities and politicians from all parties to find solutions to the ­underlying causes of food poverty.”

The average age of patients admitted to hospital last year was 64, suggesting pensioners are hit hardest by food poverty. But 284 of the cases treated in hospital were children under-18.

Patients with severe protein energy malnutrition (PEM), the result of inadequate calorie or protein intake, have usually lost more than 20 per cent of their body weight.

It can lead to the swollen abdomens and loss of skin pigment more usually seen in famine victims.

Lesley Wood, Age UK’s malnutrition expert, said: “When an elderly person is malnourished they will be very frail and much more likely to fall and end up on a roundabout of constant hospital readmissions because their malnourishment is not always flagged up as a risk in their discharge notes. It is a huge problem.”

Increasing numbers of people are relying on food banks

Just this week Tesco’s UK chief executive Matt Davies warned that spiralling food prices, triggered by the plunge in the value of the pound, will be “lethal” for already struggling families.

A report by the Food Foundation think tank published earlier this year found an estimated four million people in Britain regularly go a whole day without eating.

The research, based on UN data, showed one in 10 adults suffered moderate levels of hunger in 2014, placing the UK in the bottom half of European countries below Hungary, Estonia, Slovakia and Malta.

A Department for Work and Pension spokeswoman said: “Work is the best route out of poverty.

"There are record numbers in employment and 557,000 fewer children in workless households than in 2010.

“We’re determined to move to a higher wage society, introducing the new National Living Wage and spending £90billion on working age benefits to ensure a strong safety net for those who need it most.”

Benefits cuts killed my brotherAsperger’s sufferer Mark Wood died of starvation five months after having his benefits cut.

He had wasted away to just five-and-a-half stone.

Food banks have multiplied, but many are still struggling to feed themselves Mark, 44, had a number of disabilities and mental health conditions, but was still assessed as being fit to work by staff from Government contractor Atos.

His housing benefit and employment and support allowance were all stopped and he was unable to survive on the £40-a-week disability allowance that remained.

His sister Cathie Wood said: “Mark’s BMI when he died was just 11.

The pathologist said it was incompatible with life. He had starved to death. He was a victim of the Government’s benefits cuts.”

Mark, from Bampton, Oxfordshire, was fiercely independent and was reluctant to seek help from his family, who were unaware of his plight until just before he died in August 2013.

Cathie said: “When he lost his benefits he didn’t really understand. "He had £40 a week to live off and there was no money left for food once he’d paid other bills – and he couldn’t even pay them.

"The benefits were stopped in March, and by April/May time he had run out of money completely.”

The Department for Work and Pensions admitted the decision to axe Mark’s benefits was wrong and ordered a review.

But Cathie, 50, from Oxford, said rising hospital cases of malnutrition was proof nothing has changed.

She said: “It is beating up the vulnerable when they are down.”

“People like my brother are seen as indispensable and that’s going to happen more and more as the government makes more savings.”
A doctor has told how he has resorted to prescribing nutritional drinks to patients who can’t afford to eat.

Plymouth GP Dr Richard Ayres took the drastic measure after seeing more patients suffering from malnutrition.

He said the high-calorie drinks– typically given to people who need building up post-surgery – were a lifeline.

“Over the past two to three years there has been a definite increase in the number of patients suffering from malnutrition,” he told a local newspaper.

“I am noticing patients who come in and are underweight say it’s because they simply can’t afford to eat. That’s where the nutrition drinks come in.

“They’re around 400 calories and they have all the vitamins a person needs.

“It’s not going to solve the underlying problems of food poverty but it’s one of the few things I can do to help.”

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

40 years on and still angry!

I'm still not well enough to go out, which is a shame as I missed a great night out watching my favourite Punk band, 'No Lip', last night.

It's been a very strange day for me because 40 years ago (22nd October 1976) the first Punk single came out - 'New Rose' by 'The Damned'. I wasn't the greatest 'Damned' fan in the world and it was just by luck that they got a single out first, really.

But hey!, it still sounds good all these years later, see for yourself here;

I spent some time watching clips and reading stuff about 1976, full of memories. I remember the summer of 1976, on holiday in Devon and hanging around a music venue as the band (it could  have been anything, I wasn't going to hear them) was setting up. I was actually killing time watching the roadies and noticed one wearing a razor blade necklace and thinking to myself:

"What is that - I have to check that out".

Actually, I lived about as far away from anywhere where anything was happening as you could and didn't have the money to get there anyway.

So another memory is looking at The Damned's new single at 'Our Price Records' in Slough, not having the money to buy it and not having a record player to play it on anyway.

The radio wasn't helping either - this was before John Peel discovered Punk.

So it's fair to say it took a while before I could do anything much about the new music that was making such a noise.

The next memory is watching Janet Street-Porter interviewing 'The Sex Pistols' on LWT - before (I think) the more infamous Bill Grundy interview, which I also watched in December that year.

By which time, 'Anarchy in the UK' had been released.

Life was never going to be the same again!

40 years on and everything turned out much worse than we ever imagined it would - the bad guys won and got rich at our expense.

We really were right to be angry at what was happening to us and I for one still am.

All these years later there are fewer and fewer people still alive who remember that things can and should be different.  

But they can be - it's up to us.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Saturday, 22 October 2016

Soup day.

I'm having a 'not going anywhere' few days at the moment - having some pain problems. Although that does seem to have meant going somewhere everyday - today I was well enough to spend the morning at the Doctors.

It's freezing cold and miserable at the moment which isn't helping - so we made soup.

Which meant a lot of peeling and chopping onions, carrots, celery and leeks.

We were going to get a tray of turnips, parsnips etc until we found that you can buy exactly the same stuff ready chopped and peeled in the freezer section....same price too!

So that's what we did!

It's a proper vegetarian, vegetable soup;

In go the leeks;

Vegetable stock;

And several hours later, the end result;

We're still having disagreements about flavouring but it was pretty good.

Cheered me up anyway.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Friday, 21 October 2016

Remembering Aberfan.

I don't often repeat myself on this Blog but in the summer of 2015 we had a roadtrip to South Wales and almost by accident ended up at Aberfan, a small village which was once the site of a terrible disaster.

Today, 21st October is the 50th anniversary of that day and it seems very appropriate to post a link to what I wrote last year.

Take a look for yourself;

Neil Harris
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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Slough's enchanted forest.

We were in Slough last night and so we stopped off near the station to take some pictures of the graffiti.

I have to apologise for the quality of the photos - we had to go at night because it's really hard to park nearby in the day time - but I think you can get an idea what it was like.

The developers of 'The Porter Building, Landid Property and Brockton capital, hired 'Global Street Art' to put some decoration on the hoardings. The brief was to create an 'Enchanted Forest' in Slough.

I think they did quite well, really;

The artists who did the work are; Astek, Zadok, Busk, Oliver, Switch, Hicks, Spore, SkyHigh and Trafik.

I'm biased, I really like the work of 'SkyHigh';

You can find them on the net as 'weareskyhigh'.

I liked this tag too;

I think I prefer the tags to the forest, but that's just me. It's pretty good;

There was a white rabbit which didn't do so well when I took a picture of it and this fairy;

I liked this a lot;

You can catch the pictures on the hoardings opposite Slough Railway Station and they'll be there as long as the building work takes or until someone else writes over it.

You know (and you'll hate me for saying this) I think I prefer it when street art is actually illegal - there's more edge, more risk.

But that's just me!

Of course, it's great when anyone actually supports this stuff.

Neil Harris
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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Another one from Simon Armitage.

This Simon Armitage poem is kind of how I'm feeling at the moment. 

It ain't what you do it's what it does to you.

I have not bummed across America
with only a dollar to spare, one pair
of busted Levi's and a bowie knife.
I have lived with thieves in Manchester.

I have not padded through the Taj Mahal,
barefoot, listening to the space between
each footfall picking up and putting down
its print against the marble floor. But I

skimmed flat stones across Black Moss on a day
so still I could hear each set of ripples
as they crossed. I felt each stone's inertia
spend itself against the water; then sink.

I have not toyed with a parachute cord
while perched on the lip of a light-aircraft;
but I held the wobbly head of a boy
at the day centre, and stroked his fat hands.

And I guess that the tightness in the throat
and the tiny cascading sensation
somewhere inside us are both part of that

sense of something else.
That feeling, I mean.                         

By Simon Armitage.

Neil Harris
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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Not going anywhere.

I had an angry day - we'd been planning to have a day trip to Bruges, a medieval town in Belgium, at the end of the month. I hadn't been able to book it because I needed to sort out a new back brace first.

Today, I woke up early and was thinking about things and then I realised - the trip is the day after my next chemotherapy and I can't do it. Apart from feeling terrible it's not the safest time - taking temperatures all the time and still loaded up with the pre meds which stop me going into shock.

So we can't go - I just can't explain what's gone wrong to a doctor in French or Dutch.

The whole plan was that we'd go without health insurance for the day and just chance it - I'd be able to get back to the coach if things went wrong and get myself to hospital when I got back here.

Not now.

It's a bitter thing because in 2014, when I couldn't go abroad
because I was looking after my mum we had planned to do this that autumn along with some of the Christmas markets.

Then I broke my back and that never happened.

After my Mum died I imagined all kinds of holidays would be possible - then Theresa May and The Home office seized Robyn's passport and we couldn't go.

This year the Chemotherapy didn't work out and all my plans collapsed one after the other.

So, even though I didn't particularly want to go back to Bruges, it would have been abroad and it would have been nice for Robyn to see somewhere new.

So instead we went to Woking to have a look at the art gallery.

Except, the only road into town is still shut for water works, some 6 months after they started. I couldn't believe it, I had to drive miles around country to get there and when we arrived I couldn't park.

At which point I lost it completely with Woking and came back home.

But on the way back (the long way because the main road was shut) we stopped at St. Ann's Hill and had a walk.

You wouldn't know that the hill is now surrounded by motorways (M3 and M25) - this is one view;


It was wet and slippy - it's been raining a lot recently but the hill has a bit of magic to it.
The fungi were enjoying themselves;

And I was picking up the few chestnuts the squirrels had left behind.

There was a distant view of the amusement park - these people were just going over the top as I took the picture;

Not for me!

St. Ann's Hill is very ancient - there are the remains of an old hill fort on the top and archaeological finds have been dated there from 10,000 BC to Roman times. There are also the foundations of St. Anne's Chapel which received a royal charter in 1334.

There's not actually a lot to see apart from some impressive trees but this is The Nun's Well which I hadn't come across before;

It's probably a spring rather than a well but either would have been worshiped in Pagan times and this would have carried over into our era.

The well is said to cure eyesight problems but I wouldn't want this water anywhere near my eyes!

It's hard to date the structure - it looks like local bricks but there's a mixture of stones and also the cinders from the brick kiln there too;

It's hard to say but there are two periods when work was done - the hill was gifted to the local authority as a park in 1928 and the brick work could date from then.

Otherwise, the hill and the land around it was owned by Elizabeth Armistead, the mistress and later wife of Charles James Fox. The couple landscaped the hill while they lived there and as Fox died in 1806 this could also be the rough age of the structure.

Fox, the radical opponent of George the Third and tyranny, supporter of the American and French revolutions and one of the fighters against slavery, deserves an entire entry on this Blog, in his own right and one day I ought to do it.

The hill also attracted another rebellious spirit - in the 1960's Keith Moon of The Who was it's most famous resident.

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