HSCT, sunshine, MS and other musings

gwen higgsbernie sandersHCdavid cameron_edited Gwen Higgs, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and David Cameron

Gwen’s story, warts and all

HSCT, stem cell therapy, and its use to treat multiple sclerosis patients has been on television, in publications and even this blog during the second half of January. In just a couple of days, or so, I shall be bringing you the story of Gwen Higgs from diagnoses, through her battle against both MS and her neurologist, her treatment in Russia, and how she is today.

It is an honest story that does not gloss over her struggles or her embarrassment. Be sure not to miss out.

So this is winter?

Weather here in the south of Spain continues to be most pleasant. In the last two days, Lisa and I have enjoyed lunch outdoors on the terrace while we soaked up the sun;  so good for my Vitamin D.

Forecasts for Thursday and Friday don’t look as good with highs of only 12° and 14°C/ 54° and 57°F respectively – but warmer weather should return on Saturday.

I am still not really acclimatised yet but certainly enjoying the sunshine in which it is hot enough to sunbathe. It just seems ridiculous to be able to do that in the so-called winter months of January and February.

Back to Malaga

Our car was collected today and taken back to the automatic gearbox specialist in Malaga but, this time, they brought us a courtesy car. So there is no need now to rely on neighbours’ goodwill to take us shopping and what not.

Six coin tosses decide Iowa Democratic winner

So six of the Iowa State Democratic party delegates as elected by the caucus were decided by coin tosses as both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders achieved equal votes in six of the areas being counted.

Now if six dead heats aren’t coincidental enough, the fact that Hillary won all six coin tosses is just too much for me. Don’t worry, I am sure conspiracy theories will soon arise.

In Iowa, Sanders won 21 of the delegates without a coin toss; Hillary gained 22 INCLUDING all six dead heats decided by the flip of a coin. Now tell me that Hillary won in Iowa. If just one toss had gone to Sanders, then he would have won 22-21. Enough said.

UK Euro battle lines were drawn early

On the eastern side of the Atlantic, UK Prime Minister David Cameron is hailing the outcome of his negotiations with Europe as successful. Whether they are, or aren’t, is another matter.

What everybody needs to realise, however, is that the ‘stay’ and ‘leave’ campaigns for the UK’s promised referendum on membership of the European Union were already decided before the results of the renegotiation were known.

Those determined to stay, and those determined to leave, had declared their positions and would be campaigning for victory in the referendum. In reality, the renegotiations did not matter at all.


Ups and Downs of one of ‘those’ days

kate3_edited IMG_0786_edited  UP: Kate who posted the video that went viral. DOWN: My car’s gearbox goes wrong – again.

Have you ever had one of ‘those’ days? Well, yesterday was certainly one of those for me.

It started before Lisa and I went to bed. Just after midnight, I posted a new entry on my blog site and the viewing figures started piling up like nothing I’d ever seen before.

It was no surprise that the post was popular as it was about Kate, a 30-year-old Welsh woman with MS who had videoed herself having an attack so she could show it to her neurologist. Then she published it on her own Facebook page and people started to take notice.

My blog got attention too and the viewers kept coming, both reading the story and watching the video. By the time 24 hours had passed and midnight came around last night, yesterday’s post had proved to be my blog’s best day ever – and by some considerable way. If you missed yesterday’s post that includes Kate’s video, you can find it here: https://50shadesofsun.com/?p=1429

One of ‘those’ days could not be all good however – and so it turned out when our car went wrong again. Regular readers of this blog will know that our car was previously out of action from Christmas Eve when the automatic gearbox gave up the ghost. The car was collected by an automatic gearbox specialist some 300km/190miles away in Malaga.

They sorted it out and delivered it back on Tuesday, four days ago. It stayed in our drive on Wednesday and we used it for the first time on Thursday; we only drove about 20km/13miles and everything was fine.

Yesterday we did the same trip but as we approached the area in which we live, it was obvious that all was not well and so, instead of turning off the main road towards home, I turned into the nearby mechanic’s workshop. He quickly confirmed my thoughts; it is the same thing, the gearbox, he said.

Lisa and I left the car there and he took us home, later delivering my electric wheelchair which had been in our car. So, now we were back to square one – at home but without a car.

No time like the present, I telephoned the gearbox specialist in Malaga. His pleasant “How are you?” was met by me saying “I am fine but the car isn’t”. I explained what had happened and what the local mechanic had said.

Fortunately, the gearbox is under a 12-month guarantee so they are sending a recovery vehicle to collect it on Tuesday and they will be bringing a courtesy car for us to use until our car returns again.

Without a doubt, yesterday was one of ‘those’ days.

Our car is coming back – today!

car house

It was an early start today, we were picked up by Peter, one of our neighbours at 8.15am and were in our bank when it opened at 8.30.  Knowing I have MS, Peter loaded and unloaded my wheelchair and even pushed me from his car to the bank and back. He was really helpful.

The early start was because today is the day that Lisa and I have been so looking forward to arriving. At long last our car is on its way back from the repair shop where it has been for more than two weeks.

Mind you, we have been without our own transport for more than a month altogether as the Christmas, New Year and Epiphany public holidays delayed our car being collected by the specialist repairers.

It was all going fine until Christmas Eve when we drove into the nearby town of Vera. After we turned off the main road and motored up the hill, we heard a strange higher-pitch sound. We went over a roundabout and saw somewhere to stop. At that point, I realised the problem. It was just as though the clutch had worn out in a manual car. With an automatic car, it meant gearbox trouble.

I made a couple of phone calls from the car, hoping that I could avoid the cost of a recovery vehicle. That’s when I discovered that in Spain it is illegal to tow a car. Even recovery vehicles have to carry stricken cars; they cannot tow them.

A short while later, once the gearbox had cooled a bit, I was able to restart the car and drive it slowly back to Cuevas del Almanzora. There we were lucky to be picked up by a recovery vehicle in just 15 minutes and were soon on our way back home. The usual wait time here is closer to two hours, I have since been told.

Obviously, living in a place that is a bit out of the way, we have not been out and about as much as usual in the last month but we have been doubly fortunate. First of all, we live in such a wonderful rural area, we have no problems staying at home and, despite it being January (and supposedly winter, even here) we have been able to enjoy lunch outside on the terrace most days. I have even been shirtless in the sunshine.

Our second piece of good fortune is having some wonderful and caring neighbours. One came by, having noticed our car was not outside, to ask if we were ok. Once assured that we were fine but the car wasn’t, they offered to take us shopping and anywhere else we needed to go. Although we don’t like to intrude, we have taken them up on their kind offer more than once. Now, we’ll be sure to offer help to others in a similar way. Sort of ‘paying it forward’.

Anyway, now our car is fully repaired, with new disc brakes on all four wheels as well, left Malaga for its four-hour journey on the back of a truck and is due to arrive here today, Tuesday, at around 1pm.

The very good news is that the repair company has also completed a thorough inspection of our car and declared it to be in good condition and, despite the gearbox problem, was well worth the money we paid for it.

Washing machine, doctor, car and cats

pooka prissy

Right on time, just before 6pm, the doorbell rang. It was the man delivering and installing our new washing machine that we bought only the previous night.

I told him exactly where it needed to be installed and left him to carry out his work. He made a couple of trips back to his van but he worked quickly and it was not long before I could hear water both entering then draining from the machine as the installer tested it. He arrived at the door and handed over the various booklets, saying the user manual was only in Spanish and Portuguese, not English. However, he explained the operating procedures to Lisa.

We were advised that it would be a complete waste of money to purchase a tumble drier because clothes that have been washed and spun soon dry in the sun. We took that advice and did not buy a tumble drier and so earlier yesterday we bought a folding clothes airer. Other advice came from a neighbour who warned us that we are living in a hard water area that leads to lime scale build up, so it is back to the shops tomorrow for some water softening/limes scale reducing tablets.

I remember writing previously about Lisa’s bad leg and today, at last, it was seen by a doctor at the local health centre. He immediately sent her to see a nurse to have it redressed. Tomorrow she has to go there at 11am when, we hope, she will be given an antibiotic as well as having it dressed again.

The health service here is one of the best in the world and always seems keen to treat any problems straight away. It certainly steps, if not giant strides, ahead of the UK’s NHS.

Our new car is a joy to drive, with plenty of space inside. It is surprising just how quickly and easily I have adapted to driving left hand drive cars on the right hand side of the road. I find that I am just as relaxed driving in that way as I used to be when driving on the left in the UK. And that is something I had been doing for 45 years. The next item we need to buy for the car is a folding ramp to enable my electric power wheelchair to be loaded and unloaded easily. That will mean Lisa can relax a little and my independence will be enhanced.

Our cat flap is now in full use, particularly by Prissy. She absolutely loves going in and out of the house and it is great to see her stretching and rolling in the sun before leaving our garden to explore her new domain.

The purely rural surroundings are a pure delight for both cats. There is much beauty here. At night from the window of our spare bedroom, the area takes on a magical, almost ‘fairy grotto’ appearance; it is so very pretty.

Sorry that today’s post has been jumping about, from topic to topic, but sometimes that simply cannot be avoided.




New life, new home and new car

car house

Before I say anything else, Lisa and I would like to wish all Americans, especially members of our family, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Well our first full day in our new Spanish home promised to be a busy one and so it was.

The man came about the gas cooker and said that it had been installed incorrectly and that he could fit it properly next week, In the meantime he has done a short-term fix meaning that we can use the cooker. Looks like a fairly expensive fix, about 120€ or about £85. Still it is much better to get it sorted and be safe.

Two other major events happened on Wednesday. Firstly, money I had sent to Spain via Currencies Direct arrived in our new bank account here and we finally collected our car – a lovely dark maroon Chrysler Voyager. This is a seven seater, which might seem surplus to our requirements as there are only the two of us but the middle two seats, by the sliding side doors, can be removed. This means that, with the aid of a ramp, we can easily get my new power wheelchair in and out of the vehicle. Perfect.

To be honest, this was just the type of vehicle that I really wanted. Lisa and I had previously looked at many cars on the internet and this was right up there in my favourites. To find it so relatively close to us was just the icing on the cake.

Actually our trip to the bank and car dealer would not have been possible without the generous help of our neighbour two houses away. Knowing of my disability with MS, Jenny was happy to take us to both places and even stayed with us until we could drive away; she did not want us stranded there if anything went wrong.

Chatting away on the way there, we happened to mention that we needed to buy clothes hangers. This prompted her to say that she had just that morning put some aside for disposal and when we got back, having stopped to fill up with petrol, we found a pile of hangers by our door. We still need to buy some but nowhere near as many as we first thought.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that when I offered to pay for the petrol she had used, Jenny would not hear of it and sweetly refused to accept any such payment. I’ll pay that forward one day by doing someone else a good turn like that.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is another sunny day with a high of 68˚F/20˚C, with similar sunny times for the next four days at least. The good weather Is supposed to continue into the beginning of December; it will be interesting to see how it goes as the month develops.

As far as my health goes, the warmth already seems to be providing me with some benefit. I had a very good start this morning but paid for it in the late afternoon as MS played havoc with my balance. Still, I got through that and tomorrow, as the saying goes, is another day.

Actually, I cannot wait.

How are we doing? Take a look


Just a brief update for those who are following the progress that Lisa and I are making as we settle into our new lifestyle in Spain.

My love has an extremely sore leg at the moment but has visited a pharmacy and obtained lots of cleansing swabs, antibiotic cream, dressings and bandages. It started in America and is very painful, especially if touched, but the swelling is at last starting to come down.

On Friday we took our hire car back but this time there was no need to go all the way to Alicante as we had pre-arranged to drop it off at the nearer airport of Almeria. There, we were met by a driver who took us all the way back home. The whole expedition went so well that we got home about 15 minutes before our planned time.

So we are now without a car temporarily. We have chosen one that we want to buy and paid a deposit but there are a couple of obstacles that we need to overcome before taking possession of it. These we are beginning to surmount on Monday morning with the help of a friendly English guy who has lived here 47 years and, of course, speaks the language.

On Monday morning we will go to the nearest reasonably sized town to see a gestoria (pronounced hestoria). In Spain, gestorías are private agencies which specialise in dealing with legal and administrative work. For a fee they look after the various administrative steps involved in getting passports, NIEs, work permits, car documentation and so on. They can also liaise with the Inland Revenue (Agencia Tributaria), so saving their clients much inconvenience and queueing time.

Then it is off to the town hall to obtain a padron for each of us. A padron means that we have been registered as residents within the council’s area. We also hope to open an account at a local bank.

Finally, if we have enough time to spare, we will drop into the town’s medical centre to register with a doctor. Then we should be all set for the next few months.

As far as our new home itself is concerned, the new air conditioning unit was installed today and the last few jobs that need finishing before we move in seem very small and should all be completed early next week. With a fair wind, we hope to move in on Wednesday or thereabouts.

Returning to the subject of driving for a moment, the price of petrol, locally gasolina, is a revelation here with prices at around one Euro per litre. That is equivalent to around 70p a litre, depending on exchange rates, compared with around £1.10 per litre in the UK.  In other words, petrol prices in Spain are only 64% of the UK’s.