Category Archives: Comment

Being Fooled by the Signs

Over the weekend I made a brief trip to the South East corner of the country to meet my Mum at Heathrow airport and bring a car load of our belongings back with me. I set off from Ladan’s room at just after 6am and enjoyed the wide empty roads before me as the crisp light of dawn arose around me.

When I was about a third of the way down the country a sign above the almost deserted motorway informed me that there was a queue ahead and that I should slow down to 40mph. Sceptically, I started slowing down only to find that the next overhead sign, just around a bend from the first, said “End” meaning that I had passed the congestion.

I wondered, for a moment, what had prompted the sign to flash such an unlikely warning at me, before forgetting about it and pondering more interesting and important facts such as when and where I would get my breakfast. However, it was not to be the only overhead sign to flash nonsense warnings at me during my 14 hours of driving that weekend, I was warned numerous times of imminent danger by overhead signs on the A1(M), the M1 and the M25 and on every single occasion the warning was false.

Motorway Warning Sign

There were a couple of occasions on the M25 where it is possible the traffic conditions had been different a few minutes earlier, but for the most part the warning signs were not just wrong they were verging on the impossible. The last instance of this that I experienced was on my way back where a sign warned of congestion ahead and suggested I slow down to 50mph, doubtful I ignored it and decided that I would only take notice if the next sign repeated the warning and recommended a drop to 40mph… actually the next sign did repeat the warning and suggested 30mph. The road was flowing so well that with all my experience of false signs I merely ensured I wasn’t above the speed limit, then the next sign was blank. Either it wasn’t playing along with the previous signs or it knew that nobody was taking any notice and took a “What’s the point?” attitude to giving any kind of warning. Of course, there were no delays and the next sign said “End”.

I am reminded of the parable of the boy who cried wolf. During my journey I saw a few accidents and delays on the opposite carriageway. One man I saw sent a cloud of smoke across the road as he burned his tyres coming to a sudden stop from over 70mph… had he seen a warning sign about queues ahead or were they only telling lies this weekend, or had he indeed seen so many false warnings that he had decided not to take any notice anymore.

I have no idea why the overhead warning signs were so outrageously wrong this weekend, but it is dangerous for them to be so. The overhead signs are a means of communicating important information to drivers but if the drivers lose their trust in the communications they are receiving then the communication becomes useless and it can no longer be used to improve safety on the road.



I had intended to get back to the old flat, pack our remaining things and give it a good tidy before collecting my Mum from Heathrow airport. I had forgotten how much stuff was still there and so I didn’t even finish the packing part, though I did pack as much as I would be able to bring back the following day. My Mum is in the country for a few weeks and should be coming up to Newcastle to visit me here soon. On Sunday morning I had the pleasure of seeing my brother Robert, his partner Anne and my nephew Finlay for the first time in over a year. It was a relatively short time before I felt the need to get back on the road but it was really great to see them all. Finlay is so very cute and cheerful.

Unfortunately I will need to make another visit to the flat to get the rest of our things from there, I had hoped this trip (my second quick visit) would be the last so that next time I go south I might just spend my time visiting friends or family rather than packing and loading. Hopefully the next trip will be the last.

googlewhack pericarditis

Pericarditis is the inflammation of the pericardium, which is the membranous sac that surrounds the heart. Pericarditis can cause chest pain which can become more severe with breathing or movement. I was diagnosed as having pericarditis once, though the doctors were unsure if it might be pleurisy, so at the time it was recorded as pleuropericatditis.

A “Googlewhack” is a two word search in Google which returns only one result. At the time of writing “Googlewhack pericarditis” is an example of a googlewhack, but it won’t remain that way for long, especially since I’ve gone and blogged it.

googlewhack pericarditis – Google Search

007 Confusion

The film’s an error, a continuity error.

I’ve always enjoyed the Bond series of movies but when Pierce Brosnan was swapped for Daniel Craig I started having my doubts over whether or not I wanted to see the next movie.

The problem I first had was that the new bond did not have the same cool, collected yet highly aware persona of the previous Bonds, but that concern was soon lessened by the revelation that Daniel Craig is playing in a prequel (Casino Royale) to the other James Bond films and therefore he can have a much rougher character.

Ofcourse, this makes Casino Royale a different kind of 007 movie from all the others, because we are watching a man still learning the ropes as a 00 agent, rather than Britain’s top ranking secret agent that James Bond has become for the rest of the movies.

I have watched the trailers get better at, trying to convince myself that it could be a good film, perhaps a film that shows the mental torment that built Bond to be what he became, but watching the trailer has left me unconvinced and I have suffered having to see Daniel Craig come out of the sea in his swimming trunks several times (apparantly he’s already winning a gay following for the next Bond film).

But what most bothers me about the new bond film is that they haven’t made it easy to accept Daniel Craig as the new Bond because the decision to have a prequel – that might have justified having a different kind of Bond – throws up continuity errors before the film has even started. The most obvious of which is the role of Judi Dench as M, a character who was introduced as a new M in Goldeneye.

I hate spending good money on a film where the plot doesn’t hold up to scrutiny or a twist is made far too obvious early on, at least we’ve been pre-warned that this film is not going to have the same stunning visual effects and funny one-liners, and we know it doesn’t fit in properly with the series it is supposed to prequel… so can it possibly offer anything that should pull existing fans of the James Bond series into the cinemas?

If you can answer yes, please tell me why.

My family and physical assault

Over the last ten days I have been blessed with two family visits, one from my two aunts and another from my Dad, I have also stood as witness in a magisrates court against the man who was arrested for assaulting me in Peterlee back in February.

The visit from my aunts was a short, pleasant and unexpected surprise, they came up for an afternoon, spent some time with Ladan and I and took me for a very delicious meal at the Cafe Royal in Newcastle. My father’s visit was timed to coincide with the court case in Peterlee. Something that these visits reminds me of, for which I consider Ladan and I to be very lucky, is that my whole family and some of Ladan’s are very supportive of my own continuing love and support for Ladan.

Our trip to Peterlee was an interesting experience, it was my first time inside a court and the actual process of giving evidence and being cross-examined was significantly less intimidating than I had imagined, I was surprised to find that when the solicitor for the defence put a question to me I was allowed to give a full and elaborate answer which would have been more useful for the prosecution than the defence, rather than the “yes or no answer, please Mr Herbert” that you often see on television and which could have given a stronger impression of holes in the case. The main argument against the prosecution was that I could not be certain who had assaulted me as he had hit me from behind and broken my glasses so that my vision after the assault was impaired. Because the attacker had been both unpredictable and threatening on the night and because he seemed to have several friends and/or family members there I did not want to hang around to the end of the case to see what the results were, due to computer problems the witness service have been unable to tell me what happened yet, I should know by early next week.

Here, for anybody who doesn’t know what I am talking about but is interested, is the report of the incident that I wrote previously in my main blog…

“I had just got myself some cheap comfort food in the form of a chicken burger and chips and was walking back when a youth started walking the same way, I didn’t think much of it at the time, in fact he had some features in common with a friend of mine which reassured me that I shouldn’t think of him as being dodgy. Anyway, as we got out of the centre of the town I was initially about 20 metres ahead of him a a less well-lit area with nobody else around and I noticed his shadow rapidly getting closer, then he hit me in the side of the head knocking me into the road, he ran off into some trees opposite the road. I got up and picked up what I could find of my broken glasses and shouted after the guy asking why he had done it, he didn’t reply. As I continued along the path he came out from the trees so I stepped in to a driveway and knocked on a door, he went back into the trees and shouted something like “don’t call the police”, a couple of ladies then came along and asked what was going on, they walked with me down to the entrance to the hospital car park, at that point the youth came out again running after me and I ran into the hospital – this is a hospital next to the rehab centre Ladan is in – there was some bleeding around my eye and so I asked them to take a look at it, the security guard described somebody acting suspiciously outside the entrance and called the police with my consent, the police came and took the guy away for questioning, I spent much of the rest of the night giving statements and getting my eye checked in the A&E department of another hospital as the one in Peterlee was too small, it is okay mind, my glasses damaged the surface layers of my eye so I needed to take some antibiotics for a while, and I still have some scarring and tenderness around that eye.”

The Undiscovered Brain

There have been two encouraging items in the press recently about patients diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), a condition where it is believed the brain has no awareness of the world around it but is able to support basic life functions such as breathing.

In Cambridge a group of scientists used a special scanning technique (called fMRI) to discover that a 23 year old woman could hear and that her brain responded to requests to imagine activities in exactly the same way as the brains of healthy volunteers did. On Tuesday this week The Guardian printed a detailed article updating a story they first told in May this year about the effects a sleeping drug called Zolpidem has been having on patients in the same persistent vegetative state, as well as on other patients with brain related problems. Beyond these recently reported findings there are also interesting results to be found from people using a drug called Levodopa which is commonly used by people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and there are the interesting scans and testimonies of people who have come out of long term states of reduced consciousness which add to the weight of information which has serious implications over what assumptions can be made for the “unconscious” brain.

As the husband of a woman in a state of impaired consciousness I have a first hand perspective of the assumptions that are made about people in this kind of condition and why these discoveries are important.

There are two main areas of interest that these discoveries have an impact upon, they are the understood level of awareness of the unconscious brain and implications for continuing care and treatment.

There are several classifications that are often given to people in a reduced state of consciousness, in addition to the persistent vegetative state there is also the minimally conscious state (MCS) where there is some identifiable awareness of the environment around and the Locked-In state where the individual is thought to have all their cognitive functioning in place but is unable to move or communicate but for, possibly, the blink of an eye. These are basic summaries rather than scientific descriptions.

In reality even people who are diagnosed as being in PVS will often have relatives and/or carers who are sure that they see regular signs of awareness. What the research in Cambridge has shown is that in at least one of these cases there was some awareness which would have remained undetected using standard methods of testing.

To understand the importance of this discovery you have to know what happens to patients who are in any form of unconscious state where awareness is difficult to detect, and to their relatives. Here I can use Ladan as an example, though I have also come into contact with a few more patients and their families over the last couple of years.

When Ladan was unconscious after her first haemorrhage in November 2004 she quickly recovered to a point where she was able to obey simple commands and track with her eyes, though sometimes she would be more asleep than at other times. A Registrar Neurologist spoke to me and other members of Ladan’s family while Ladan was in this state and on a bed in front of us. He told us that Ladan was not aware of anything, she could not hear anything, she could not tell that her family was around her and that it was unlikely that she ever would have such awareness again. He told us that it is common for family members to imagine such awareness exists when it does not and that we should accept that we were just seeing what we would like to see. Stood there, in front of Ladan, he asked us to confirm that we understood what he was telling us. A couple of days later that same registrar’s face was a beacon of happiness as he himself witnessed Ladan following everything he asked her to do with her eyes and face. He had seen much less evidence than we had seen, but until he had seen it for himself he was convinced that we were imagining it.

Now imagine if, at that earlier moment, Ladan not only heard everything that the registrar had told us but that it was followed by us saying “well, I guess that’s it then”, and leaving her to be by herself for the most part of her life from that moment on. Thankfully I knew myself to be of sound enough mind to be sure that what I had been seeing was real and I immediately leaned over and said several reassuring words in Ladan’s ear as soon as he left her side to assure her that I knew she was aware, could hear, and would not be left alone.

This is just the first stage at which this assumption, that an outward lack of signs of awareness is evidence that a patient cannot really see, hear or have awareness of their environment, might have a serious impact on their future care and support.

Because people in a reduced state of consciousness are able to live with minimal assistance (such as being fed and cleaned) they are generally kept in a care environment where there is a strong likelihood that they will pick up serious infections or develop other complications, sometimes related to how well they are looked after, which will require identification and treatment. Relatives are often asked if they would like their loved one to be treated in the event of serious infection or left to deteriorate, and this decision is often made on the basis of an assessment that the patient has no awareness of their environment, no ability to tell that loved ones are there, no ability to see or hear, no perception whatsoever. Even if one close relative, most likely the one who spends most time with the patient, is certain that they are seeing real signs of awareness there, it is still likely that other relatives will hear what the doctor is saying and attempt to convince the closest relative that they are imagining everything and should focus on their own life more instead of holding out hope for somebody who, they are told, is all but dead. So although an assumption of zero awareness does not affect whether somebody lives or dies in the earliest stages of their continuing care, this belief can have a major impact on how long the patient will continue to live once they start picking up infections from the hospital or care home environment.

The recent study in Cambridge should ideally sound as a trumpet blast to doctors who boldly state that patients cannot hear and have no awareness, and make neuro-specialists much more careful in the way they describe a patient’s condition. Ladan’s two neuro-specialist consultants have always been very open minded in their words and actions.

There are a number of patients who recover from long or short term loss of consciousness with at least some memories of their time when they were theoretically unaware of anything around them, but these memories are often vague or inaccurate and are therefore probably dismissed too easily. Although the study in Cambridge may not seem to prove very much it does remind everyone that any current diagnosis of PVS is an assumption based on tests which, it is known, cannot give a full picture of what the brain may or may not be doing.

There may be a lot more loving and optimistic care and support for patients if these assumptions were stated as the assumptions that they really are and not presented to families as scientific facts, and with more support, and more to live for, more people who were thought to lack awareness might even find the strength to improve to at least some greater degree.

Beyond the implications on how infections are dealt with and how a patient would be communicated with and supported with a more open-minded assessment being given to relatives, the discoveries that are being made with Zolpidem and from newer scanning techniques with recently improved patients may have important implications for the way that patients with reduced levels of consciousness are looked after and treated.

There are now several reported cases of people who have had severe brain damage showing areas of brain as ‘dead’ on a scan and then, after some unexpected future improvement, had a scan which shows activity in those locations. This has always been considered impossible as the brain is thought to be an organ that cannot regenerate to repair itself. The trials of the drug Zolpidem in South Africa have uncovered scan results of this nature and have raised the suggestion that brain tissue might be able to hibernate rather than die. Such a suggestion raises questions over what potential exists for recovery following brain damage.

Zolpidem and Levodopa are two drugs that have had very unexpected results on patients with reduced levels of consciousness. Zolpidem is a sleeping pill which was discovered to have amazing results when a brain damaged patient who could not communicate was agitated and given the sleeping pill to calm him down, shortly after administration of the drug the patient turned to the nurse and seemed to focus on her, the nurse asked the man if he could hear her and he replied “yes”. It is not yet known for sure why the drugs have positive effects on a large number of people but there is a theory that the traumatized brain develops an increased sensitivity to a neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA, GABA inhibits responsiveness and is thought to be part of the brains mechanism for dealing with pain, the theory is that Zolpidem is stopping this oversensitivity to GABA and so allowing the brain to become more responsive. This theory falls nicely in line with the observations that Levodopa has an impact on people in reduced states of consciousness. Levodopa increases a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the brain, which is important for movement and cognitive function, dopamine neurons are known to be suppressed by GABA. Beyond the obvious hope that success stories relating to these drugs brings to the table it also may raise some questions over the fairly common use in PVS and similar patients of a drug called Gabapentin which is designed to imitate GABA neurons in the brain and is used to reduce a patient’s responses to pain or agitation, it may even be prescribed for use instead of handling the patient in a comfortable fashion. If there is truth to the theory that reducing sensitivity to GABA is the key to Zolpidem’s success, and it is seen that continued use of Zolpidem has a cumulative positive effect on patients, then it might be that using drugs like Gabapentin is having a negative long term impact on any chance of recovery.

While this blog entry may be too specialized for many of you who come here for updates on how Ladan is doing, I hope it will be encouraging for the steps that are being made, however small, toward better understanding the states of reduced consciousness that people fall into. The articles below, particularly the Guardian’s G2 article, make for interesting reading.

Further Reading:
G2 Article on Zolpidem
BBC News – Vegetative Patient Communicates (with video)

Pluto is Dwarfed

I used to be keen on the stars and planets, as a child I spent many a night looking at the craters on the moon in my 40x magnification telescope. I always planned to have my own observatory built into our mansion when I became a multi-millionaire… I would have observed the nine planets of the solar system and taken amazing photos of them through my enormous telescope… well, I guess that just won’t come to pass now as there are only eight real planets in our solar system. Pluto has been voted out by a group of about 2,500 scientists meeting in Prague! They’ve tried to lessen the blow on Pluto a little bit by introducing a new category of “dwarf planet”, of which there are now at least three in our solar-system including Ceres between Mars and Jupiter.

Link: BBC News Story: Pluto loses status as a planet

Broadband Deals

Once you have learnt where the on switch is on a computer everybody asks you for advise on how to do things such as how to make a website that will bring in millions of pounds a day, how to use Microsoft Excel on Windows to print a Document that was written in an Arabic version of Quark Express on the Apple Mac, and how to take remote control of US Satellite Defense Systems. Another among such common questions is the matter of which UK broadband service provider to go with for personal use. I chose one fairly recently so I do have five suggestions here…

Firstly, I don’t believe in less than 4GB usage per month as being worth while, so prices I mention are for packages offering more than that.

1. PlusNET. £14.99/month + BT Line Rental
This service has a 4GB limit during peak hours (4pm-midnight) and no limits outside those hours. You are don’t even have to commit to a year but you have to pay a deferred activation fee when you leave which could be as much as £47. I’m with PlusNET, so if you join them by following this link you will save me a few pennies a month (only pennies).

2. Sky Broadband £20.00/month (£5.00 if you already subscribe to Sky) + BT Line rental
This is a great deal, you get almost unlimited use, you get Sky TV and you pay less than many other companies charge for broadband without the TV service. The actual package is £5.00/month for Sky subscribers and Sky subscription starts at £15.00 for which you can get all the best entertainment and documentary channels. (£20.00 activation fee)

3. NTL/Telewest. £17.99/month
If you don’t have a BT telephone line then cable is the way to go, it’s slower but its unlimited and cheaper than paying for a BT line and broadband on top of that. Cable only covers some of the country, availability is limited. Unfortunately “cable is not available in [my] area”, though it is on the other side of my street!

4. Talk Talk. £19.99/month
It’s almost unlimited and the price includes your BT line rental, you also get great deals on your phone calls. The catch… it’s an 18 month contract and you will be using Talk Talk instead of BT for all your phone related matters.

5. BT Broadband. £22.99/month + BT Line Rental
One of the things about broadband is that when something goes wrong you want it fixed, and the people who are best at getting things fixed when they go wrong, generally speaking, are BT. They are the more expensive option but they are reliable and they are in control of everything you are using, if you use BT and have a problem then it will never be a third party’s fault.

Summer Reaches Newcastle

As the temperature crept close to 20 dregrees centigrade a few weeks ago most northerners could be found taking in the sun in their T-shirts and complaining that it was too hot for work. Coming from the south-east corner of England I was still wearing my (almost trademark) pullover and jacket as the temperature hit the early twenties and the sun shone on these well-watered lands.

Shortly thereafter the residents of Newcastle upon Tyne were found lacking in vocabulary to describe true warm weather, reaching as high as 28 degrees centigrade, feeling especially hot when, for a few days, the breeze from the north sea seemed to die down. I duly removed my jacket and declared that even I found the weather to be summer-like.

Alas those two warm weeks are now ended and the rain has returned. Still, it was enough for me to stop missing the sun for a while. When you watch the weather forecasts and see the “maximum temperature” in the shade, you don’t appreciate that in addition to the north being several degrees cooler all the time it is also the case that in the south-east the shade keeps you from feeling the full warmth of the sun and so it feels hotter than the forecasted temperature when you are out, whereas in Newcastle the shade often shelters you from the winds coming in off the north sea’s shore, and it can feel cooler than the forecasted temperature when you are out of the shade.

So, it seems that these tough-as-titanium northerners have had their one true weakness revealed, they cannot stand the heat. But try coming up to Newcastle in the winter and dressing down like they do in the city, virtually naked in the cold and the rain, no south-easterner could possibly survive it. So, if global warming eventually triggers another ice-age then it will be the northerners who will survive most easily.

Free DVD player software

If you have a computer with a DVD drive but no DVD software you may spend ages searching the web for some free DVD codecs without joy, they all cost money, but there is now a free DVD player that does not rely on third party codecs, that is VLC Media Player. I have been trying to set up the Sonic Cineplayer DVD codec pack on a friends computer for the last few days because I have seen that working very well, but even though the product is registered we can’t get it to work because their activation servers are not responding and their backup email solution is rejecting emails, so I downloaded VLC Media Player and gave it a spin, it’s not quite as user friendly as using Media Player with codecs and I found it a little jumpy, but that is on a 400MHZ PC with a lowly 4MB graphics card, I was impressed that it worked as well as it did, so, to clarify, if you want to be able to watch DVD’s on your computer for free and you have a DVD drive attached then VLC Media Player is your solution.

Link: VLC Media Player

Martins Volks Werks Ltd

Martins Volks Werks of North Farm Road, Tunbridge Wells, offer a very polite and friendly service, but their invoices can be almost three times their initial quote without warning or explanation either while they have your car or when you are querying the invoice.

If you are not in the Tunbridge Wells area then this will probably be of much less interest to you, but when my wife, Ladan, wanted a service and MOT for her VW Golf in Tunbridge Wells she initially wished to use the main VW Dealer, but as their quote was well over 200 pounds she was encouraged to hear from an employee at that dealership that other VW specialists may be of similar quality but cheaper, she was even given a couple of names. One of those names was Martin’s Volks Werks Ltd. Ladan called them and got a quote of “about 120 pounds” for a service and MOT on her vehicle. Ladan liked the sound of the man on the phone and chose them over a slightly lower quote elsewhere.

The job was done within one day and Ladan arranged to collect the car, the owner of the garage offered to pick her up half way between home and the garage using her serviced Golf. He was very friendly with her and chatty and said that he had even found a problem with the rear brakes which he had fixed free of charge. Ladan, expecting to pay there and then, asked how much the work had come to and she was told that an invoice would be put in the post and she should not worry because it had not come to much as the car was in very good condition. The car’s driver side wing mirror had been broken while in the garages possession and they replaced it with a smaller one as the specialist did not have the correct size for her car in stock.

I know that the motor trade has had a bad reputation in the past for trying to get extra money out of people, in general this is done by phoning the customer part way through a check-up or service to announce that something serious has been found wrong with the car and that it will cost several hundred pounds to fix. I say “in the past” because I have received excellent service and spot-on quotes from Brake Thru in Tunbridge Wells for many years now, and even Kwik Fit are now proving excellent at carrying out only the work that is needed and giving clear, VAT inclusive quotes, in advance (they later phone you and try to sell car insurance on the back of their good service). I was working from home on the day of Ladan’s service and Ladan had her mobile phone with her, we were relieved to receive no such calls from Martin’s Volks Werks. A few days later an invoice arrived, and ‘not much’ against a quote of “about 120 pounds” turned out to be over 300 pounds.

Having just got married and had an exotic honeymoon money was in short supply for us. Ladan visited them and asked what had gone wrong, the man she spoke to said that he did not understand why we had not received a call during the day before they proceeded with the extra work that added the extra costs and apologised for the error, but he said the invoice was correct and that they would split it into two invoices and allow her to pay it over a long period of time without any interest if she wished.

I analysed the invoices that we had been sent, beyond a service and an MOT the only additional cost I could see was a single wiper blade. We decided to write and ask them what they believed cost the additional sum over and above the quote, because everything on the invoice, apart from the actual figures, seemed in keeping with their earlier statement that the car was in good condition and had not required much work. As a show of good faith, which I am now unsure was justified, we sent them a cheque for about 200 pounds with this letter.

That letter was sent in August, the reply was received several months later and did not contain any justification for charges being nearly three times the quote other than, in addition to a wiper blade, the changing of a set of spark leads and an emissions test. Their letter also now claimed that, whilee they did acknowledge that they had no authorization to carry out the additional work (an emissions test and spark leads?), they had tried to call before proceeding with it – a claim which I, having sacrificed my lunch-time walk that day, knew to be false. I was slow in replying to this letter, Ladan had fallen into a coma several weeks before this letter came and I was not sure then whether her condition would be improve quickly or not. That said, I still face every day with the optimism that Ladan may make a substantial recovery during the course of it. Another couple of months on, Martins Volks Werks wrote again saying that if Ladan did not pay the remaining amount within 7 days then they would take legal action. I wrote back immediately informing them of Ladan’s condition and stating that while, if they wait for Ladan to recover she might have another opinion, I did not feel their reply had referred to any work that should not have been included in the original quote. I gave them my mobile phone number in case they wished to further try to settle the matter through me. Although I replied immediately it was still two weeks on from the date of their letter because most of my mail is being forwarded from Tunbridge Wells to Newcastle by a neighbour and there is therefore a delay in correspondence reaching me.

Martins Volks Werks did not, however, try to take any legal action, but nor did they try to contact me, instead they forwarded the matter to a debt collection agency called Network Debt Recovery who have persisted in sending threatening letters addressed to Ladan in spite of me contacting them several times and them assuring me that the matter would be put on hold. Included among the threats was a letter, sent after I had informed them of Ladan’s condition and location, threatening that somebody would come to visit Ladan and if she did not pay the requested amount (doubled by fees) before that visit then she would not be dealt with amicably, Network Debt Recovery’s staff were unable to tell me exactly what this threat had meant and the man I apparently needed to speak to in order to understand what this meant, a Mr. D. Steele, has never been available for me. Thankfully this threat was not carried out. I sought legal advise on whether I should pay or not and I was told to send a letter by recorded delivery to Network Debt Recovery explaining the whole situation, my advisors said that any reputable debt collection agency would drop the case but that in any case I should get back to the legal advisors with their reply. Network Debt Recovery ignored my letter and continue to send threatening letters addressed to Ladan, even though they are clearly fully aware that Ladan is in a comatose state and the letters only serve to cause me additional distress. All further attempts to contact Mr. D Steele by email and by phone have also been ignored. I may blog some more about Network Debt Recovery and their methods at a later date, if you have found this article and are receiving threats from them at the current time, especially if it is also over a claim that you have disputed, email me via with “blog” in the subject.

For the record, Martins Volks Werks are fully aware of the kind of actions that Network Debt Recovery are taking on their behalf as they were copied in on my letter to NDR in which everything to that date was summarised. Asking what seemed like a simple question over how an invoice was triple the price they had led us to expect it would be has resulted in Martins Volks Werks taking actions, while aware of Ladan’s inability to act, for which they have added over 200 pounds worth of additioonal fees, this will make the matter difficult to settle even if they finally extend the courtesy of explaining what the original charges were actually for.

If you have any comments to make about Martins Volks Werks of Tunbridge Wells, good or bad, please do add them below.