“I’ll marry you on ONE condition…” she said.

Only a few weeks after I’d returned home from hospital following my brain haemorrhage, I composed a piece of music on my classical guitar. Sarah loved it so much that she would ask me to play it over and over again. “I’m going to do some ironing,” she’d say. “Could you play that piece again, please?” A year later, I proposed to her. She told me that she’d only marry me on one condition – that she could walk down the aisle to that very piece of music. One of Sarah’s relatives was a sound engineer at Rockfield Recording Studios, the one where Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded. He helped me record it on his home studio.

Our untitled wedding music

When we married in 2011, she did just that. The music has no title – I felt that it was better that way. It represents a part of our lives that could never be represented by words. You can read about this, and so much more, in my book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…).

Please visit our website at http://www.markdpritchard.co.uk for information on reviews and how to purchase the book which is available as an e-book for only £1.99 and as a paperback for £7.99.

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SUPERWASP!

As I was about to drive away from home this morning to go shopping, I noticed a wasp bathing in the sun on my windscreen. I figured that he wouldn’t enjoy the six-mile journey in to Abergavenny on national speed limit roads, so my initial idea was to briefly put the windscreen wipers on to prevent him from being traumatised by the high speeds. I then had another idea. He probably wouldn’t enjoy being hit over the head with a rubber blade either, so instead I just drove away on my journey, fully expecting wind resistance to blow him away to safety.

superwasp

Wasps have strong legs, you know. I once discovered this when one of them landed on my arm and I allowed it to walk around for a bit. The pressure from the grip of its legs against my skin was impressive from such a small creature. Now, on my windscreen, I had turned a corner and reached speeds of about 20mph in the semi-residential area close to my home, over speed humps and then onto the main A4042 into Abergavenny. As my speed increased to 30 and then 40mph, he barely budged. For a while, I reached, and maintained, 50mph for about a minute or so. His legs barely wavered. I was beginning to think that I’d encountered Superwasp. Once I reached 60mph, I noticed his spindly legs begin to buckle and cave in, swaying from side to side. After 30 seconds or so at this speed, I looked across and he was still there. I looked back down the road and then looked back at him again. He was gone.

He lasted much longer than I’d expected, it has to be said. I didn’t even think he’d get out of the cul-de-sac, let alone out of the village and onto the main road. I wonder what he’s doing now.

Let’s hear it for SUPERWASP!!!

 

Visit our website at www.markdpritchard.co.uk to read about our own amazing story of survival.

The Unmissable Calpe Swing Fiesta

 

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Sarah and I have booked our place on next year’s Swing Fiesta in Calpe, Spain. While I write this, we haven’t yet returned from this year’s Swing Fiesta, but it has been such an enjoyable, well organised weekend that we have wasted no time in getting our names on the list. Bic and Simone, the organisers of the event, are already selling early-bird places at a discounted rate for 2017, and our deposit has been taken, securing our place for another unmissable experience in twelve months’ time.

When I say “weekend”, it was a weekend for us, as we have had to curtail our stay due to work commitments. It is late Sunday evening as we head north through the night skies back to Bristol airport, but we were actually the first of the 200 or so dancers to leave for home. As I write this, they are still throwing fantastic shapes on the dance floor at the luxury Diamanté Beach Hotel, situated just a frog-jump away from Calpe’s Mediterranean beach. Their party will continue until next weekend, although the intensity of the dancing workshops of this weekend (we had the option of four lessons per day before the late-night dancing) will fade into a more relaxing, “do-as-you-please-with-your-day” feel, with the option of one lesson per day before the, er… well, more dancing in the evening. That is, of course, if you feel like it. There is an easy atmosphere throughout the whole event, and it is the prerogative of each individual to take as much or as little from it as he or she pleases.

If each day results in us being able to add two or three moves to our repertoire for the evening’s dancing, that is perfect for us. The lessons were pitched at three levels – beginners, intermediate and advanced. After consulting Simone, we opted for the intermediate classes. They had exactly the right mix of being within our capabilities, yet still challenging us sufficiently to make us go back to our room and work a little to “perfect” (oh I wish!) the moves and hone our skills a little bit more. It’s a case of one small step at a time for us, but we’re coming on nicely. Being surrounded by so many very, very good dancers (they really are a treat to watch – and they’re just the students) inspires us to continue and gives us things to aim for. That is before we even look at the teachers – real accomplished swing dancers who light up the floor with dazzling displays of the seemingly impossible.

When we entered the world of swing dance and Lindy Hop two years ago almost to the day, we had this daunting notion that teachers were untouchable, barely approachable gods and goddesses. The thought of dancing with them would surely just end in humiliation. Nothing could be further from the truth. They all go out of their way to muck in with the beginners at dances, helping them out, having a laugh with them at the inevitable mistakes (it really doesn’t matter and it’s all a bit of fun), and generally helping to create a feel-good atmosphere. I first danced with Simone at the Dance Blast weekend in Worcester about six months ago – another fantastic event organised by our dance teachers at Ross Jive and Swing in Gloucestershire. She crept up on me as I was sinking my teeth into a Bakewell tart, tapped me on the shoulder and invited me onto the dance floor. Although I felt uneasy for the above-mentioned reasons, she turned out to be the easiest person I’d ever danced with. It was a turning point for me in my world of dancing, making me realise that I really can dance and that there is no need to be intimidated by accomplished dancers. I have since regularly declared amongst my fellow classmates that Bakewell tarts have magical powers.

 

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Some of the our dancers at the top of Penon de Ifach overlooking Calpe

 

As a resort, Calpe is a beautiful place, although we didn’t get too much time to explore due to the brevity of our stay. We’d certainly like to go back there even if there were no dancing. The four star hotel was perfect in every way – and deserving five stars on Trip Advisor. It has a luxury feel, great food (you really won’t complain about that) with full board included in the price of the event, a spa and swimming pool, pleasant views etc. It boasts a number of halls to accommodate all the dance classes and a main hall for the evening. Each day there would be dancing at the poolside where our group would take over an area and do our stuff. Some of the residents thought we were cabaret! Amongst our group were some talented singers who actually did provide some excellent cabaret.

We thoroughly enjoyed every lesson we had from the wonderful teachers and learnt a lot. We are better dancers as a result of the whole experience. The package cost us £200 each (including accommodation, food, lessons, and evening dances). Bic and Simone have done a fabulous job. It is their first Calpe Swing Fiesta and has the potential to become a massive event. Sarah and I expected it to be a fabulous weekend, but it was better that. It has been organised with attention to very fine detail – even transfers for everyone to and from the airport.

If you are a swing dancer, it is a “must do” event. If you are not, then that would put you in the “beginner” category if you fancied giving it a try. Just the hotel and location alone are worth the money for a holiday. You would only go to whatever workshops you choose to participate in. Swing dance communities exist all over the country and all over the world. They comprise of some of the best people I have ever met. They are inclusive, welcoming anyone of any ability or age (we have teenagers through to octogenarians) who are just looking to have some fun.

Although I started writing this on the flight home, I’m finishing it a couple of weeks later. On social media, we received posts from everyone else who stayed longer than us. It continued to be a fantastic week – were told it actually got better and better as it went along. Next year we hope to be able to go for the whole week. Not going at all is not an option. Bic and Simone have done a terrific job at hosting this event and it deserves its very own five stars all round.

If you’d like to know at little about our own remarkable story, please visit our website: http://www.markdpritchard.co.uk