Lancashire

Bullseye comic Jim Bowen talks about stroke recovery

Jim Bowen when he appeared in The Afternoon Play : Viva Las Blackpool
Image caption Jim Bowen has returned home from hospital after having two strokes

He made his name putting people at ease on one of television's best-loved quiz shows.

So it is perhaps no surprise that looking back on one of his own darkest moments, Jim Bowen can still make light of it.

The comic and former host of Bullseye is recovering from the devastating blow of suffering two strokes.

He has spent more than eight weeks in a Lancashire hospital and has only recently returned to his Melling home - and his sense of humour remains as keen as ever.

He recalls: "They injected me with some aspirin as I couldn't swallow, it was in your bum, a bullseye."

But the joke does not entirely mask the fact that when he was admitted to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Mr Bowen was worried.

He said: "My arm and leg had gone, I couldn't talk and I thought: 'This is not good'.

"In the ambulance, the blues and twos were on, I felt really important.

"The man in the ambulance said it looked like I'd had a stroke, in the hospital I was lying in this bed and a woman said I'd had another stroke because I'd lost movement in my left arm - it had just gone dead."

'Legs went funny'

Yet earlier on that night in February, he had planned to visit his local pub.

Mr Bowen, 73, said: "It was a Thursday night, I was going down to the pub, I stood up from the chair and skidded on the carpet, like my foot caught in the pile, I thought: 'That's odd'.

"When I came back home, I went to bed but had to get up in the night to go to the bathroom and that was it - my legs just went funny.

"I called Phyllis (his wife) and we called an ambulance."

After initial assessment at the hospital, he was admitted to the stroke ward which he said was an experience.

Image caption Jim Bowen presented the darts-themed quiz show Bullseye for 15 years

"There were people there with all sorts of seriousness, but I thought this isn't going to get the better of me," he said.

Following medication and intensive physiotherapy for speech and movement, he said he was determined to get through it all.

But his determination to recover is typical of a man who carved out a successful career in television comedy - after starting off as a teacher.

He became a Sunday favourite after fronting Bullseye for 15 years from 1981.

His catchphrases - "Super, smashing, great" and "Now look what you could have won" - turned him into a cult figure.

From 1999 to 2003, he worked for BBC Radio Lancashire, presenting the Happy Daft Farm, a live morning magazine programme.

He has appeared at the Edinburgh Festival, been a regular guest on the QEII liner with his jazz band and appeared on other cruise ships with his own show where he told of his life in show business.

As part of his rehabilitation, he has a piece of surgical tape tightly strapped from the left corner of his mouth to his earlobe which he was told would help his face muscles.

"It looks like a better face for radio than TV," he smiled.

He sees his physiotherapy treatment as a way out of his situation and has been working hard at his recuperation. The strokes left him with mobility problems in his left arm and leg.

He uses a stick to help him balance when he walks, which is slowly at the moment. He cannot grip things too well and has occupational therapy to help him adapt at home. At hospital the vinyl floors were easier to walk on than the carpet at home.

'Lumbered with a dollop'

His speech is improving, and the more he chats the more confident he says he feels.

He said there was a moment when he did feel depressed about what had happened to him.

"The only time I really got down was when Phyllis cracked, she cried one time when I called her from hospital. She was upset I wasn't eating enough.

"One of the things that worried me was that it was ruining Phyllis's retirement because she was lumbered with a dollop who couldn't speak to her, so I got my head together then. You have days when things go well and days when they don't."

Asked if he was returning to the spotlight, he said: "I've always thought I've been lucky in life with my marriage, never taken it for granted, you've just got to plod on and be sensible and do the decent thing by everyone.

"I'd like to think I'll get well enough to go on stage, whether I'd remember it all would be interesting, but I'm not that bothered about working again.

"I've always been able to let go of the showbusiness, I've never needed an ego to massage. I've had 73 years, 40 years in the premiership as a comedian, so I've had more than my fair share of the glitterball, so I thought don't be greedy."

He added that before his strokes he had planned to appear on stage in Lancaster - but he was now considering a charity show to raise money for the hospital's stroke unit.

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