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This is the UK website for Peter and Maureen Scargill. We live in the Northeast of England and also on occasion in Andalucia in Spain.

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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Life and Illness

I am currently “recovering” from a life threatening illness, only shortly after “retiring”. I use quotes for a reason here. I hope this story is interesting.

On 15th of December last year, I had, out of the blue (I guess it is always that way) an ischaemic stroke which affected my left side ((right brain?) initially quite badly. Though to this date I have no knowledge of the actual stroke, I was in my home office at the time working on the computer as usual and not unusual for late at night I must’ve dozed off, when all of a sudden I found myself on the floor, completely unable to get up. I don’t recall much more but it seems my wife and grand-daughter, discovering my state, rapidly got me to hospital where I had clot-busting medicine (thank science for 21st century medicine without which I wouldn’t be writing this in May 2018) within hours of having the stroke.

I stayed in Wansbeck (Northumberland, UK) hospital for days followed by a month in Hexham hospital and weeks in Alnwick hospital, all of which would have been eye opening but for the most part I was too ill to take anything in. While in hospital I received endless test along with therapy with the best of intentions and caring staff, but in reality, between Christmas, holidays, sickness and other “reasons” I had far fewer than an ideal volume of therapy sessions. My advice to anyone in this situation is to try to be more assertive than me (or try to have a friend or relative do so on your behalf). Later is NO GOOD, get ALL the help you can as soon as possible as the longer you wait the harder it gets. Weeks of inactivity then contributed to embolisms in the lungs which slowed things down.

No complaints about individuals or 21st century chemistry but the NHS setup is far from ideal. Go to hospital and get more illnesses than you came in with, Victorian “wards” where you sleep in the same room as complete strangers – Hexham was not like this, I had my own room and had no idea it could be any other way until I was moved (at our request, to make travel easier for my wife) to Alnwick. Speech therapy was (to say the least) minimal. Thankfully the latter proved not to be an issue for me.

The material out there is confusing and relates to “re-training the brain” and “making new connections” all of which means nothing to the victim. What I really needed to know was that massive practice every day is needed to get movement back and to expand that to normal ranges or as near to normal as possible.  Repetition is hard work and often painful but essential.

I came out of hospital mid-February, receiving minimal (once a week on average, maybe 45 minutes max) arm and leg therapy at home.

Sadly, no-one mentioned that the stroke weakens for example (in my case) shoulder muscles to the point that the arm can start to drop out of the shoulder socket. I found this out the hard way and lost a valuable week of repetition while the arm recovered. I then asked the community therapist about this and she sent me off to Wansbeck hospital where I sat in a queue in A&E for hours, during which I read about “shoulder subluxation” in an American commercial leaflet I’d pulled off the web.

Despite the now slightly reduced pain in my arm, my wife and I were all set to leave in disgust at the intolerable wait (a promise of 7 hours wait) when a helpful doctor popped out and had me x-rayed and tested in short order, “only” 3+ hours into the wait. the X-Ray was good and I now went back to the local therapist who NOW wanted me to have and use a “theraband” to help strengthen the arm. Better late than never but so much better had this been instigated BEFORE my shoulder dropped out.

Fortunately I am highly motivated and from the first few weeks in hospital in, did everything I could to stand up rather than accepting a wheelchair for bathroom visits etc. Accordingly, my left foot and leg were the first to start recovering to the point where, today there is almost no remaining walking problem.

Working on the arm has proven to be a full time job, that and my back are fully functional but the back is weak and the arm sometimes feels like a ton weight. For over a month now I’ve taken it upon myself to spend hours typing every day in the hope of gaining back more and more left hand functionality.  The left hand (my writing hand) can grip, manipulate objects a little, write slowly, type with effort and the swelling is now minimal. Everything LOOKS normal now and I no longer LOOK like any kind of victim.

My mental functioning is almost back to 100%, left eye feels dry with reduced varifocal lens range flexibility but improving. Bad advice from a stroke association leaflet meant I had an eye test 12 weeks after the stroke and bought new glasses. They are in the bin. Specsavers of course happily conducted the test and would also happily provide expensive glasses without questioning the timescale. I can see just fine with my original specs (I’m a perfectionist and so another test and new glasses are on the horizon, but I plan to wait a while.

I’m blogging and will soon resume producing videos. The latter has been hampered not so much by the stroke as much as the selfishness and intransigence of people who rent our property in Wark on Tyne. This will soon be resolved.

Now comes the struggle to put the DVLA together with a stroke doctor, meanwhile I’ve started precautionary sessions with a driving instructor to ensure I’m not overestimating my mental abilities for driving. I did this as the stroke association suggested the DVLA would not be interested as long as the medical people were happy. Not quite how it works, it would seem. No rush from the NHS/DVLA side but then they aren’t the ones who live in areas with hopeless public transport. I am relying on my wife to drive, meanwhile. Others may not be so fortunate.

Throughout all of this, my wife and most relatives have been absolutely wonderful. Friends here, in Spain and virtual friends on the web have proven invaluable. My definition of friends has, however, with a few marked exceptions, now been adjusted to exclude many so called colleagues from my past business life, only a few of which have proven they really are friends and have attempted (and in some cases succeeded) to get in touch throughout this time. You live and learn. A million thanks to those who HAVE made the effort. My dad always said “there are no friends in business”. I’m happy to say he over-generalised but the idea is sound enough.


In the early hours of the morning, I’m usually asleep. This morning however was different, I had two completely unrelated things on my mind. One was technical and is documented elsewhere and the other involved the origin of life. Yes, some of us do have deep thoughts from time to time and occasionally, they’re not rubbish. This may or may not be one of those times.

So firstly, a disclaimer, I’m not a doctor, scientist – or anything really – just someone who was brought up learning how things work and watching Attenborough, Star Trek and just about every other sci-fi movie and TV series of note, reading Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins and challenging just about everything. Still, at age 63, what you are about to read may or may not be complete bollocks but hopefully entertaining bollocks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas 2013

Bioshock HazardAnother year draws toward it’s conclusion. We had a nice day today overall, got up late, in my case because I was up until 2.30am last night playing the excellent “Bioshock Ultimate” game on the PC – which I have to say is superb by any standards, action, imagination, imagery. We had some “home made” croissants, that is out of a tin and into the oven– which you’d think would be marginally better that bought in a shop – but no, actually. Still – a nice change.

This afternoon we took some flowers to Joe’s graveside which was a little un-nerving but I guess the right thing to do. We then headed off to Whitley Bay to see my daughter Elizabeth and family – she’s in cloud 9 right now having just passed her driving test. Not sure how long that will last as the crushing costs of running a car become apparent – still – it’s always worked for me (I’m not the world’s greatest lover of public transport) so I wish her well.

As I was sitting, surrounded by Christmas wrapping paper I started twiddling with the mobile phone, testing out a new backup and sync app which I installed last night – and in the process wiped out just under 80GB of data – a process I’m now sitting here near midnight repairing (thank heavens for NAS drive backups). I’m feeling a lot more relaxed now, though the Baileys might have something to do with that. Maureen gave up for the night but I note she’s back up researching summer trips to Spain.

After a somewhat noisy dinner with the grandkids we headed off home and settled down to a little TV. I virtually NEVER watch live TV so when we noticed that Channel 5 were playing the EXCELLENT “Time Machine” 2002 version with Jeremy Irons we put it on record and started part way in to watch so as to excape the ads. This will tell you how long it’s been since I took notice – are you aware you’re looking at 6 minutes of adverts.. we only used to get sessions that long on the hour.  I can’t see TV advertising surviving this generation unless in some radically different form. The only effect ads have on my these days is to bring on homicidal tendencies when I see the leeches that call themselves legal companies offering no-win-no-fee for accidents or the loan sharks who offer interest rates the mafia would be proud of. No, give me recorded on demand video any day.

And so here I am writing this blog, thankful my home office is nice and warm and watching the excellent Windows Security Essentials restore my backups while conveniently cleaning out virii I didn’t even know I had from old files.

Thankfully I’ve a few days break from work and I plan to build another heating controller for the cottage, finish off some work I’ve been doing on lighting and give my office a bit of a winter clean up – meanwhile the cottage has clients arriving at the weekend who’ve returned for their 5th or so break – which is really great so we’ll be giving the place an extra once-over tomorrow to make sure they have a great time. I also plan to grab Crysis 3 while it’s on special offer just in case I end up with any Billy-no-mates evenings in January – I’ve at least one trip to Brussels planned – first time I’ve been there at this time of the year – I hope it’s warmer there than it is here.

Got my pal Jonathan and his wife coming to stay in the gap between new year and work recommencing which is nice.

If you’re reading this before the new year – have a HAPPY NEW YEAR.