Friday, 21 July 2017

Enough Bite!

I finished my dose of chemo;

It's 14 days on and 14 days off.

I have mixed feelings about it. It gives me a lot of pain, I feel sick and stopped eating.

But it gave me five months more and it pulled things back a bit - if too little and too slowly.

I should be more grateful - the first three chemo's didn't work too well and I always grumbled that the doses were too low.

Not enough bite!

This one has plenty of bite. It's so poisonous that if I was sick it's too poisonous for Robyn to clear it up without wearing rubber gloves.

It's a 'cytotoxin' and that's not good.

Anyway I'm starting on my two weeks recovery although these days I still feel sick.

And it still hurts.

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

Thursday, 20 July 2017


If you read my blog yesterday you will know that Sydney the Grumpy Cat has discovered the forbidden joys of Valerian Root, which to some cats acts like a drug.

Sydney loves it.....she can't get enough of it.

The only problem is that there are various social problems that come along with it too.

Sydney used to sleep for 23 and a half hours a day, just getting up to eat. Now she has taken to prowling around the house at all hours of the day and night, growling aggressively;

"I need Valerian now..... get me some 'V'!"

In fact she's started to let herself go - she's very untidy.

She's stopped eating. She doesn't groom herself anymore.

All she ever wants is 'V'.

She stands at the front door trying to sell her all her mouse toys to any passing cat in return for 'V'.

She's taken over the toilet and pulls up all the house plants so that she can soak the roots.......for 'V'.

She's taken to wearing a sinister 'Pork Pie Hat' and brews up something called 'Blue V' which she tries to sell to all the alley cats around here.

Occasionally I hear her doing a very bad Amy Winehouse impersonation, singing Mark Ronson's version of 'Valerian'.


Well sometimes I go out by myself
And I look across the water
And I think of all the things, what you're doing
And in my head I paint a picture

Since I've come on home,
Well my body's been a mess
And I've missed your ginger hair
And the way you like to dress
Won't you come on over
Stop making a fool out of me
Why don't you come on over, Valerian?


Did you have to go to jail,
Put your house on up for sale, did you get a good lawyer?
I hope you didn't catch a tan,
I hope you find the right man who'll fix it for ya
Are you shopping anywhere,
Changed the color of your hair, are you busy?
And did you have to pay that fine
That you were dodging all the time, are you still dizzy?

Since I've come on home,
Well my body's been a mess
And I've missed your ginger hair
And the way you like to dress
Won't you come on over?
Stop making a fool out of me
Why don't you come on over, Valerian?


Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Sydney the Cat is a drug addict - official.

Robyn and me have been laughing ourselves silly tonight.

Robyn read about the effect that Valerian root has on cats and she tried it out on Sydney the Cat.

I should say that many people give their cats Catnip, which they go crazy about. Unfortunately for Sydney the cat she is immune to catnip - it's all about her genetics. Sometimes, where catnip doesn't work, Valerian has a similar effect.

Anyway, Robyn had a jar of valerian pills, took the pills out and let Sydney sniff the empty jar.

She went crazy!

She lay on he back squirming, trying to get her nose right up into the jar. With wide open eyes, Sydney was wallowing around in ecstasy.

It's over now and in fact she has a slight case of the munchies. She is also just ever so slightly embarrassed, I think.

Now we have to look at getting hold of a supply of valerian root for cats!

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Things are gonna get worse, Nurse!

The last month has been grim - the last week even grimmer.

None of that was helped when I saw Dr Feelgood a fortnight ago and although my bloods had improved a bit they hadn't improved enough.

You could see the disappointment on Dr Feelgoods face.

Not good.

Today I got an unexpected e-mail from Dr Feelgood. My bloods from a fortnight ago came in and they improved again.

I'm not celebrating (they are still horrendous - truly horrific) but I'm Ok for another month.

I'm still in the ring, still fighting.

I thought I'd celebrate with a poem from one of my favourite poets; John Cooper Clarke.

I should say that his 'Evidently Chicken Town', is a strong candidate to be played at my funeral. You can check it out on YouTube but I warn you it's a leetle bit sweary and it's hard to find a version where Cooper Clarke speaks the words properly.

And they are very important!

It says it all for me.

But this is for today - 'Things are Gonna get Worse, Nurse!'

Which sums up how I react to blood tests these days.

What me worry? I should care,
Shit for brains, wire for hair,
I’ve seen the future and I ain’t there,
Things are gonna get worse.

Velcro slippers and a spandex wasteband,
Washed up on Planet Wasteland,
Zipped up like a nylon spaceman,
Things are gonna get worse.

Things are gonna get worse, nurse,
Things are gonna get rotten.
Make that hearse reverse, nurse,
I’m trying to remember everything that I’ve forgotten.

Things are gonna get worse nurse,
things are gonna get crappy,
colour me perverse nurse,
bad news always makes me happy.

Things are gonna get worse nurse,
things are gonna get dismal,
smite me with a curse nurse,
make it something real abysmal

Things are gonna get worse nurse
I ain’t optimistic
I’ve got a mouth like a purse nurse
and a bungalow smelling of piss and biscuits

things are gonna get worse nurse,
murder by statistics,
take me back to the first verse,
the last ones just too pessimistic

Euthanasia – that sounds good,
An Alpine neutral neighbourhood,
Then back to Britain, all dressed in wood,
Things are gonna get worse.

By John Cooper Clarke.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Monday, 17 July 2017

Painful day.

Another grinding day - I took my painkillers and went to bed but while they worked I couldn't get to sleep which meant that I was still awake when they stopped working. So I didn't get a lot of sleep - maybe half an hour.

I got up at six am and staggered off to my armchair and slept till breakfast.

The day hurt and I had to go out in the afternoon which was a real grind. In fact I could have gone at any time but spent most of the day putting it off.

I got home and fell asleep for the rest of the afternoon and then spent the evening squirming in pain again.

I am becoming less and less fun to be with.

Well, maybe not all the time. Here's a classic Peter Kay joke;

A sandwich walks into a bar. The barman says "Sorry we don't serve food in here"

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Tolpuddle memories.

The Blog is increasingly about things I haven't done - it's the same today. I would like to have been at The Tolpuddle Martyrs March but really, there was no way I could have done it.

Tolpuddle is quiet little village in the middle of rural Dorset. It's a backwater today - in 1834 it was even quieter. This was a time of revolt and revolutions and amid all that six farm labourers met under the sycamore tree in the middle of the village to form a farmworkers union to protect their rights and raise their wages. There was an informer in the village and the authorities were tipped off - the six men were arrested and convicted for 'administering an illegal oath'. A trumped up charge.

Despite nationwide protests, the six were transported to Australia for 7 years hard labour. The protests continued both here and in Australia and in the end the men were pardoned and brought home in triumph. The Trades Union Movement was born.

These days there are commemorative alms houses and a museum in quiet little Tolpuddle but once a year Trades Unionists from all over the South and West meet up for a rally and a festival every year. In the 1980's I have happy memories of singing there with The Workers Music Association.

The march through the village used to be led by the tiny banner of the Tolpuddle branch of the Agricultural Workers union;

I remember it well and although these days they have merged into my union; Unite!. they still lead the march.

I dragged Robyn to Tolpuddle a couple of years ago, as you can see;

I'm standing under the sycamore where the six men met to found their union.

But there was no way I could have made it today and the festival is now too big and crowded for me to cope with anyway.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Spaghetti wars.

It's got out of hand - Robyn and me have major philosophical differences about how to eat spaghetti.

It came to a head tonight when Robyn was kind enough to make me a bowl.

Robyn eats spaghetti with a fork. I use a fork and a spoon. She could cope with that, just about.

Except that I use the fork to twist the spaghetti into a ball in the spoon and then I use the spoon to pick up sauce so that it's just right and then I eat the spaghetti from the spoon. It works for me but that seems to be unacceptable to Robyn.

Recently she stopped giving me a spoon at all.

Tonight she gave me a teaspoon.

It only took me three hours to eat the bowl of spaghetti.

Very funny.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Friday, 14 July 2017

Because I could not stop for death.

I've had another 'lost day', fairly painful and fairly immobile.

In the evening I watched the second half of the first night of 'The Proms'.

I must admit that although I tried hard to like classical music I failed. Rather like religion it never worked for me.

But The Proms are one of the worlds greatest music festivals and I was a regular at the 'Late Night' Proms which I could get to after work and which featured Jazz, World Music and some very experimental music indeed.

These days it's all too much for me - no more queuing for £5 standing tickets (they used to be only £3 once!) or rushing to get to the front and braving the mad people who never miss a concert.

Anyway tonight I was privileged to hear a full orchestra and a choir of 470 people performing John Adam's 'Harmonium', which featured among other things Emily Dickinson's poem;

Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labour and my leisure too,
For His Civility

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess in the Ring
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain
We passed the Setting Sun

Or rather He passed Us
The Dews drew quivering and Chill 
For only Gossamer, my Gown 
My Tippet  only Tulle

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground
The Roof was scarcely visible
The Cornice in the Ground.

Since then 'tis Centuries, and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity.
 I do like a bit of Modernist Minimalism and it wasn't all gloomy either, it was also a celebration of life too.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Thursday, 13 July 2017

Home improvements.

We've been getting worried about Sydney the Grumpy Cat; she's taken to hiding behind a pile of junk and a chair in the hall, where we can't reach her. She's become increasingly withdrawn from us, except at mealtimes!

So Robyn made yet another 'Sydney Nest', even though the house is full of them.

Sydney grew up on the streets of Philadelphia and it's possible she was even born on the streets, growing up as a near feral cat. Sometimes she acts like it, like a cat that has had no contact with people. Sometimes she can be a bit of a softy. But not for long.

So Robyn took a cardboard box, sealed up the top, cut a small hole in the front and put a pillow in the bottom.

Sydney took one look at it and left. Even with treats and toys hidden inside she was unimpressed.

This morning we went shopping and before we left, Robyn took the pillow away. When we got back she was happily hiding in her box. Who knew?

Tonight she hid in the box and we pretended not to know she was in there. Every so often we heard her scratching at the cardboard - home improvements.

Neil Harris
(A don't stop till you drop production)
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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Pampered Neil.

I've been having a difficult week, so today Robyn gave me a full pedicure.

I've had problems with my feet and legs for a long time - they are very swollen from spending two months sleeping in an armchair because my back was so painful I couldn't lie down without getting muscle spasms. Of course there are other possible causes but we aren't going to worry about that for the moment.

Since I've been back in bed at night, there have been some slight improvements but there is a way to go yet.

Any way I got my feet soaked and washed, and a full foot and leg massage.

Then Robyn had a go at my toenails.

Back in January 2016 I started the first chemotherapy. It was supposed to last three months, then I'd have a break of about six months and then I'd have another three months chemo and then another good break. If it had worked, everything would have been fine for our wedding and I would have had a dream holiday in Italy.

It didn't work out like that, apart from sending me into anaphylactic shock every time I took it, it didn't work at all and they pulled it before I finished the first course.

So no holiday.

It did give me a lasting memory - it infected all my nails with a pernicious fungus, which I still have 18 months later. When it started it was in all my fingernails - they went all brown and dead and there unbelievable bubbles of gunk that moved around underneath the nails as you watched them.

My toenails were even worse - no really!

They all went brown and died but the big toes were full of pus and became loose and flappy; I had to hold them down with sticking plasters because I didn't want them to get pulled off.

I've been on medication for it ever since and while it cleared up my fingernails within about six months, the toenails are still a problem. When you're on chemo they just don't grow out.

And that's a problem because the NHS has told the doctors that you can't be on these meds for more than three months and I've been on it for 18 months now. So there's a big argument every time I need some more. And if you stop the meds, you go back to square one.

Well Robyn cut my toenails today and there's an improvement. The little toes have largely grown out - about four are still a little infected but the rest are mainly clear.

The big toes are bizarre, really distorted, one isn't growing at all but the other has started to grow out. Really, this is only the second time they've been cut in 18 months.

I must admit, I would like to sort this out now - I've had the side effect six times longer than the chemo worked.

Any way I've now been thoroughly pampered, which was nice in a bad week.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

If I could tell You.

Time will say nothing but I told you so Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reason why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

WH Auden

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Monday, 10 July 2017


I actually went somewhere today - just a chore but it's really the first time I've done anything since we went up to London on Sunday eight days ago.

I've been in lots of pain and even increased the painkillers I've been taking, which is not like me.

Even worse, I've been researching the chemo I'm on. Not a great idea, it's often better not to know.

It's horrific, lots of side effects which I've probably got. It's not even as though it's for my cancer. it was designed in the 1950's so it's crude and modern drugs are more effective.

It's so bad it's even carcinogenic itself!

At the moment I still can't work out if the cancer is getting worse, if it's side effects from the chemo or it's the osteoporosis caused by the drugs I've been taking up till now.

That being said, this afternoon when we went out It was slightly easier getting in and out of the car and I managed to walk along the high street for a while, if not all the way.

And the painkillers helped a bit which may mean it's improving.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Sunday, 9 July 2017

So funny.

I had the funniest time last night - tears running down my face with laughter.

To start with I watched a late night movie; Stanley Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey. I only intended to watch the first half because I wanted to see one particular special effect that I love and I haven't seen it for years.

It's so dramatic and so simple....a masterpiece.

The film itself I'm not so impressed by, especially its religious theme which I don't go along with.

Anyway, I fell asleep for about 2 minutes - just enough time to miss the scene which was the only reason why I was watching the darned film in the first place.

I was a bit groggy when I woke up and suddenly I smelt this terrible smell filling the room. There was only one explanation; I've become completely incontinent - I've pooed myself.

All kinds of thoughts went through my head for five minutes.

This is the absolute end. Haven't I got enough to put up with already?

How much worse can it get? For goodness sake, I'll have to wear nappies.

How can I face Robyn?

Then after a while I realised that in fact I hadn't pooed myself and it dawned on me that Sydney the Grumpy Cat had used her litter tray and filled the whole house with a truly appalling stink.

I sighed a big sigh of relief.

I was still groggy and put my hand in my dressing gown pocket. Suddenly my fingers were covered in warm, sticky goo.

Oh No....I'm bleeding! I'm literally soaked with blood. What on earth is happening to me? I'm haemorrhaging at random now.

Where's the mobile - can I  reach it. Do I ring for an ambulance or ring for Robyn to come and help? How long have I got left?

I looked at my soggy hand and realised that (because I couldn't carry it with two walking sticks) I'd fetched myself an overripe apricot and put it in my pocket. I then forgot about it until I put my hand in and it disintegrated all over me.

As I said it was so funny.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Saturday, 8 July 2017

Sydney the Cat's motives.

I think I've made a breakthrough understanding Sydney the Grumpy Cat.

To recap, my relationship with Sydney the Cat has not been a success which upsets me, because I used to think I was good with animals. In fact she wants no contact with me at all.

When she first came she was very loving, we had lots of contact. I used to give her treats and she came up to me and sniffed my  hand or my forehead.

But as time went on she wanted less and less to do with me. Now she doesn't even want to be in the same room - if Robyn leaves Sydney runs out with her.

Since the time she was ill, Robyn made her a high level nest - a blanket on top of the pile of boxes of Christmas decorations, to make her feel better. So what I started doing was going in to see her when I got up and when I went to bed. I used to stroke her. Nowadays, she is still on her nest all day but when I get up or go to bed she crouches on the corridor floor where she knows I can't reach her.

Any way, I've worked it out. There are lots of cases where a cat owner has died and their cat has been trapped in the house without any food. In the end, the cat eats its owner.

I'm convinced that Sydney the Cat has decided to eat me - it explains why she's always looking at me but she doesn't want any contact with me. She's sizing me up for dinner.

It explains everything. 

And as Robyn said, Sydney doesn't like playing with her food.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Friday, 7 July 2017

The Durham Miners Gala and London Pride.

I'm having another sad day - I haven't been too well but mainly it's because there are a couple of events tomorrow I'll be missing.

First of all, tomorrow is The Durham Miners Gala (pronounced 'Gayla'), which I've always wanted to see.

It's a memory from the days when the North East was a major centre for coal mining. These days 'The Big Meeting' celebrates a once proud industry and reaffirms working class support for Trades Unions and The Labour Party.

Some 200,000 people will meet up, starting early in the morning in countless pit villages in the area around Durham.

In each village a carefully preserved Lodge Banner will be set up and with the village brass band at their head, the people will carry their banners to the centre of Durham, stopping to play at the hotel where Labour movement leaders like Jeremy Corbyn watch from the balcony before marching on to the racecourse where there is a fair and celebration.

It's a unique event and one I've always wanted to see but I can't cope with the drive there and back, let alone the endless walking and standing about.

The same applies to 'London Pride', which also happens tomorrow. In the 1970's I was regular on 'Gay Pride' marches, usually responding to a call to 'bodyguard' the march from the far right. I'm very proud that I was associated with the campaign back then when it was a small scale activists march with little support outside the Gay community.

I'm really proud of everything that has been achieved and would have loved to have made it one last time to celebrate.

It's also fair to say that in the 1990's at High School, Robyn was an AIDS Activist and I am very proud of the courageous role that she played there too.

Of course it's very different now; very corporate with lots of sponsorship. It's a carnival now with big Banks and Retailers and it certainly isn't going to be attacked by the right or by the police any more. Indeed The Metropolitan Police Gay and Lesbian Association will be on the procession.

I guess we really did win!

Again, too much travelling and too much standing about for me these days. Too painful.

So I'll be spending a quiet day indoors with some memories instead.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Who knows?

I had another really painful day today, not helped by having to get up early, get washed and dressed and drive up to Hospital to see Dr Feelgood.

It was ridiculously busy and we only got seen about an hour late and then I needed an infusion to knit together my spine. We got out at lunchtime.

My bloods were a tiny bit better but far away from as much as Dr Feelgood wanted to see. I get another month of this chemo and, if I'm lucky, perhaps another month after that.

I'm not hopeful .... because of all the pain which is a bad sign. That being said, I was quite pleased because a month ago when I did the last blood test I was in a lot of pain too and feeling fairly unwell.

So who knows?

Then we struggled back to Tesco's and did the shopping and got back home, by which time I could hardly walk. So it turned out to be a very tough day.

But I've certainly got a summer.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Summer heat.

I had another day when I wasn't able to do anything - laid low by pain. It's not good.

In fact I managed to stay in bed until 7-30 which was really good. I normally have to get up by about 6-00am - the painkillers run out at 0430am.

I even did a few things, early on but then I ran out of steam quite quickly.

Late in the afternoon I forced myself to go out for a slow and painful walk in the full summer sun.

It was beating down, really hot. I loved it. Even if it knocked me out afterwards.

This 2015 poem just says it all;


Everything shines, turns blue, rustles,
The day is searing like a fruit
That the sun cracks and cooks.
Every little leaf is hot
And shimmers in the air where
A fragrance like plum lingers.
The sun like water rains down
On the whole land, yellow and blue
Sizzling and oscillating a little.
An infinite pleasure of living
Rushes forward from the drunken forest
Of pink wheat like copper.

By Monique Palomares 
English translation by Lisa Yannucci

Or something like that.....

Neil Harris

(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Happy 4th July!

Robyn celebrated 4th July with all the trimmings - devilled eggs, two salads, burgers and hot dogs (all veggie!).

But I must admit I was completely out of action for the second day running - pain all day, feeling ill and sick. I'm still hoping that this is just recovering from Sunday, when I overdid things, but I'm not so sure.

I'm struggling through again.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Monday, 3 July 2017

Le Tour Foret D'Epping.

After being out of the house for about eight hours yesterday, today I was pretty much out of it all day, recovering. Although I didn't actually recover.

And it was quite a sad day for me too; three years ago I was standing by the side of the road at Epping High Street watching Le Tour de France ride by.

The race started this weekend in Dusseldorf and today was winding its way through Luxembourg and making its way back into France.

I wish I was there but standing at the side of the road for hours on end isn't going to happen any more for me.

It's a shame because three years ago I'd perfected my technique; you need to get to where you want to watch the race just as the Police are beginning to close the roads to traffic, so you can drive along the race route the wrong way, picking off where you want to watch from and choosing your parking place too. That way you get your car trapped in the closed off area and get a chance to find the ideal spot to wait at.

I'm a seasoned spectator these days. 2014 was my fourth Tour and probably the best - watched from a sprint finish three quarters of the way from the finish.

Of course I couldn't do it now but the thought of the race flying through France is very tempting. I regret that I never made it to one of the great mountain stages although I saw flat sprints and the final finish on the Champs ElyseĆ© which was unforgettable.


Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Sunday, 2 July 2017

The numbers that don't add up.

On Sunday I actually drove up to London to see some old comrades and friends; a wonderful afternoon of good conversation and memories of many old struggles.

It's a very long drive for me these days, even on a Sunday when the roads are normally quiet. By mid afternoon I was starting to lose it big time, even with the help of a couple of pills.

The drive home was a nightmare - endless traffic jams and constantly stopping and starting, changing gear over and over again. It was agony.

Then we drove past Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill and Robyn took a couple of pictures of Grenfell Tower on her phone.

The burnt out wreck dominates the skyline.

It's a miracle how anyone survived and the questions continue to mount up.

Early on, the singer Lilly Allen stated in a Channel Four interview that the real figure for the people who died in the block was 150 instead of the official 79. She was criticised and had an interview scheduled for the 'News Night' programme on BBC2 shelved.

Since then two independent demographers have separately been interviewing survivors to work out the numbers of people living in the block and how many have survived.

These demographers have produced estimates for fatalities which range from 103 to 150. Not a million miles away from Lilly Allen who came up with her figure after talking to Firemen and Police Officers 'Off the Record' at the scene.

No one is criticising the Fire and Police services for not identifying bodies - that is going to take time and considerable effort.

But refusing to give estimates of the numbers lost sounds like a cover up - they must have a good idea by now after going thorough the building.

We all accept that there are people who will never be identified and others for whom no trace may ever be found.

But we are all adults and we need to know the numbers involved. Clearly these will range from 150 upwards and we need to have those figures now.

Any suspicion that the authorities are hiding the true extent of this tragedy is likely to rebound of them many times over when the full figure is known.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Tragedy of Camber Sands and the price of life.

I may be ill but I haven't lost the capacity to be angry and yesterday I was angry until my blood boiled.

Last August Bank Holiday, an horrific tragedy unfolded at Camber Sands, a popular beach on the south coast. Now, the inquest has reported and the investigation has exposed much more about the Conservative Council, The Coroners Office and its Officers than about the deaths themselves.

The South Coast has many beaches but most are stony - Camber is the only sandy beach within easy reach of London and many people visit on a good day.

Last August a group of five lads came down for a day of sunbathing and swimming;  Kenugen Saththiyanathan, 18, known as Ken, his brother Kobikanthan Saththiyanathan, 22, known as Kobi, both from Erith, south-east London. Their three friends were Nitharsan Ravi, 22, from Plumstead; Inthushan Sriskantharasa, 23, from Grays, Essex, and Gurushanth Srithavarajah, 27, from Welling.

The beach is huge and the sea rushes in quickly.

Amid all the other people in the water, it may not have been obvious but the lads got into trouble and the emergency services were eventually called.

They found three bodies.

Later after they had gone, a member of the public found two more bodies that had been missed.

All five were dead.

It was an appalling tragedy but it was the official responses that followed which made it far worse. For some reason, the police found it necessary to issue an extraordinary statement denying that the lads were illegal immigrants followed by a second statement that they were wearing "clothing that was appropriate for the beach".

Obviously, if they had been white, there would have been no suggestion that they were doing anything other than having a day out at the seaside.

What makes it worse is that only a month before, two other people drowned on the same beach; Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, 19 from Brazil, got into trouble in the sea and a courageous stranger Mohit Dupar, 36, from Hayes, west London, died trying to save him.

After that tragedy in July, there were calls to have lifeguards on the beach which were turned down by Rother District Council which is run by the Conservatives, on grounds of cost.

Robert Cass is employed by the Council as a 'Coastal Officer', to supervise the beach. He filled out an incident log after last July’s drownings where he stated:

“We are again faced with incidents of non-swimming persons of a certain culture that enter the water in great numbers with deadly results. The combination of a beach as shallow as Camber attracting predominantly non-British visitors has been an increasing issue over the last 10 years and the risks that these people create upon their lack of ability in being ‘tempted in’ to such a shallow bay are becoming unsustainable and unfair for us to deal with or carry the burden of responding to.”

The message is stark - the Council had no responsibility to protect people who came to the beach for the day because it was clearly their own fault if they got into trouble......and that was because they were "Non British".

I should point out that on a busy day, Camber Sands will often attract 25,000 visitors. Most of the Car Parks are run by Conservative Rother District Council and the rate for the day is £12. If you do the maths you will see that this is a lucrative source of income.

Anyway, because of the 'cost' of providing lifeguards, there were none on the beach on the August Bank Holiday and five young men died needlessly.

As if this was not bad enough, the Coroner and his officers made great play of testing the five dead boys for alcohol and drugs because, of course, the deaths were probably their own fault.

For the record ( and I shouldn't have to say any of this) none of the five had drink or drugs in their blood. All were able to swim - they were young men who were fit and well and played football and cricket in their spare time. All were as 'British' as you and I and all deserved to live out their hard working lives in safety and free from prejudice.

And what would the cost of providing lifeguards have been?

Now, after seven needless deaths, Rother District Council will pay out a grand total of £51,000 this year.

At £12 a day that is a mere 4,250 cars parked in the Council's beach Car Parks. Not even one Bank Holiday's worth of parking charges.

There are times when I am deeply ashamed of this country and the people who run things and this is one of them. But the shame should be on Conservative Rother District Council for their criminal negligence and on the Coroner for failing to apportion blame properly.

My condolences to the families and friends of all who died.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Friday, 30 June 2017

Not dead yet!

I've had another couple of gruelling days; on Thursday we went shopping to Tesco's and I had to drag myself there only to find that all the disabled scooters had disappeared. I did the shopping walking round the store and it was OK until I got home when I collapsed for the rest of the day.

Friday morning I was up early to get off to the doctors for an injection - the kind you give to a horse and I'm not talking Ketamine either!

By the time I got home I was out of it until the evening when I went out with Robyn so that she could practise driving the car.

It's been a really tough week, doing things every week and only just recovering.

But I did recover and as I told the Nurse when I saw her; "Not dead yet!".

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Lucky me.

We had a nice first wedding anniversary although I peaked a bit too soon.

In the morning we went to 'The shop that never opens'. I'm being unfair although we did go there yesterday when it was supposed to be open and (of course) it was shut.

I wanted to get Robyn a piece of jewellery but the problem is that most of what we can afford looks like rubbish and the good stuff is just too expensive for us.

We went to my favourite jewellers; Moonstone in Teddington. It's about the size of a cupboard and you need to phone to make sure it's open before you go.

I used to go there when I was working and my job took me across the road. I bought a silver ring - she mainly sells ethnic jewellery from Mexico, India and Afghanistan. It's not too expensive, idiosyncratic and charming.

This time we were lucky and I got Robyn a pendant necklace made of Laboradite which is a kind of iridescent moonstone. When you hold it up to the light it's kind of pink and you can see through it. When the light is straight on it, it looks like a blue opal. We also got a little heart that Robyn liked.

Then we took a walk along the high street and, to my horror, Robyn bought a thing that cuts vegetables into spirals. Just what I didn't want and where are we going to put it?

We came home and Robyn had made up a box full of memories for me, when we were first together and I was well enough to do things, which made me rather sad.

She also gave me another present which cheered me up again but I'll do a Blog piece about that on its own.

In the evening we had a meal where we had our wedding reception last year and we took a photo in the same place where we had our picture taken last year.

By this time I was fading fast - the chair hurt my back and I started suffering. So it was very nice to have a little nose around the place but I needed to get back home.

We had lots of memories - of an amazing day last year as well as all the struggles in the year since.

I'm fighting hard right now. The pain I have is a real struggle but I am doing things I wasn't attempting a month ago, let alone six months ago.

I certainly know that I wouldn't have bothered with this fight at all if I didn't have Robyn's support. I'm like an old boxer, I can handle the pain if it's worth it. It's much harder for Robyn to watch what's happening to me.

So, as I've always said, I am the luckiest man alive.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Our first Wedding Anniversary.

It's been an amazing year - the hardest of years imaginable but an amazing one. Not least because I never imagined I would be around to celebrate our first anniversary.

Thanks to Theresa May and her racist immigration policy, we wasted a whole year fighting the Home Office to stop them deporting her. A year when we couldn't travel or get married because they seized Robyn's passport.

When we won our appeal they put all kinds of obstacles in our way; when we managed to set the date we then had to postpone it for a month for The Home Office to make 'further enquiries'.

All of which meant that we had just five weeks to arrange everything - to book the registry office, the venue, sort out the cake and everything else.

So if you made it there thank you for coming. If you are one of the many people who couldn't make it because of the short notice, you know who to blame - Thesesa May.

And we did everything ourselves; from setting the tables at the venue and clearing up at the end of the night to buying the flowers early in the morning at New Covent Garden Market.

And the night before Robyn made up the bouquets and the button holes in the kitchen;

Here's a rather nervous looking groom waiting at The George  for the bus to come and pick everybody up;

I polished up reasonably well, if I say so myself.

And here's our Routemaster bus and the tickets we made ourselves;

On the steps of Windsor Guildhall;

A dreamy picture of Robyn at the reception;

It was an exhausting day - I couldn't do it now. My only regret is that there was no chance for us to get a holiday afterwards because very soon I got too ill to go away ever again.

But I could have no regrets. I am the luckiest man in the world that Robyn was prepared to marry me. Marrying someone with cancer is no fun.

We have a few plans for today but whether anything works out for us - who knows.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Sydney the Cat's little job on the side.

The weirdness continues....

Last night after Robyn went to bed, I fell asleep in the armchair. Something (almost like a breeze on my face) made me wake up with a start. I opened my eyes to find myself staring straight into Sydney the Cats face - she was on the settee next to my chair, standing on the armrest with her face about three inches away from mine, staring intensely into my eyes.

I'm convinced she was checking whether I was still alive, something which seemed confirmed to me when I went to the bathroom and then came back to find her sat on my chair.

"Darn it, he's still alive.....Grrrrrrh!"

In my mind's eye I saw an irritated Sydney using her mobile phone to cancel the undertakers (run by another six black cats), that was already on its way to pick me up.

In fact I can see Sydney wearing a jet black Top Hat, walking in front of the hearse.

She was very irritated with me.

At least she's back to her normal self.

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