The “curse” of 2016, George Michael and the New Year

I don’t buy into this 2016 celebrity curse and I’m not one for social media tributes to the recently passed on. The ever-expanding pool of ageing/not-so-ageing celebrities and household names points to 2016 being the tip of a very large iceberg of celebrity exits for the coming years – if not forever. That’s the harsh reality that we will all have to get used to. It’s a mathematical fact. Nonetheless, I saw this on TV last night and I was mesmerised by the way George Michael sang it, so I’m writing this short blog about it.

I hope you all have a great 2017. Plan to do something awesome for yourself or for others, then make it happen – just like George Michael did.

I wonder who’ll be next? Any suggestions?

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The Reebok Song, Turtle and Team GB

This has to be one of my favourite musical creations, if only for the “fun” value. Many years ago, while holidaying in Gran Canaria, I was singing the tune to La Bamba in the shower. I was thinking about a good friend of mine who regularly runs marathons and owns dozens of pairs of running shoes, all for different running conditions. His name is Martin, but for as long as I have known him (about 46 years) he has always been known as Turtle. It’s a nickname that was given to him as a small child. The combination of the tune, Turtle’s running shoes and being on Spanish soil led me to create this song in a matter of a few minutes. I have since played it at family gatherings (he’s as good as family) and performed it publicly at various music venues. Everybody joins in as the chorus is easy and lends itself to harmonies for those who are inclined to add a bit of colour to it.

I’d love to share it (and for other people to share it) as it is probably the most popular song I have ever performed. No – it IS the most popular song I’ve ever performed. I’ll leave it for you to judge. Please give it at least 30 seconds as it takes this long to understand the plot – you’ll see what I mean. Turtle, by the way, at the age of 57, now represents Team GB in the duathlon in veteran category. His best marathon time is 2 hours and 36 minutes (back in the early 1980s when the world record was 2 hours and 10 minutes). He also regularly does the Iron Man event and is a general all round hero. He was best man at our wedding nearly six years ago.

 

I’d also love you to visit our website www.markdpritchard.co.uk and check out my book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…) which tells the story of how my wife (Sarah) and I have survived breast cancer and a brain haemorrhage respectively. We don’t do things by halves round here!

#TeamPritchardUK

In our relatively new world of Lindy Hop dancing, we have become known as Team Pritchard amongst friends. Although we don’t dance competitively, and we don’t only dance with each other, we have to work as a team at home to practise moves and routines to be able to take with us to our dance evenings. In reality, the whole Lindy Hop community works as one enormous team, with everyone helping others along to make progress, but we still have to have our own little sub-teams to make things really work. So, over the last couple of years, the title Team Pritchard has evolved. So much so that, for Christmas, Team Hill bought us towels bearing our new name, especially for our dance evenings (it can get a little hot and sweaty, you see).

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                                Our new Team Pritchard towels

 

I’m always looking for ways to promote our book and to share our incredible story of survival, so I figured that introducing our own personal hashtag, #TeamPritchard, may help the cause. The idea of Sarah and I being a team goes back a long way. She nursed me through my brain haemorrhage and brain surgery, while I nursed her through breast cancer.  When we go on our US road trip adventures, I drive while she navigates. I do breakfast EVERY morning but Sarah does ALL the ironing. Everything that either of us does for the other is counterbalanced. Not that we count or compare, but we just naturally work like that while each sharing a natural sense of fairness.

I decided to do a little research. Well, I suppose that “research” is a little too strong a word. Let’s just say that I checked out if anyone else had previously used #TeamPritchard. Unfortunately, it is already in use. We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, so we have settled for a unique #TeamPritchardUK.

It may all seem a little vain and self-important. I’m enormously conscious of this. However, I have a duty to us both to promote our book. I also feel that, as it seems that there are so many people who would benefit from, or enjoy, our book (I’m told this time after time), I have a duty towards others to promote it. If I weren’t driven and compelled by the urge to get our story out there and to encourage people to live for today and to check for lumps and all the things we have learned, I’d quite happily close all my social media accounts and live my life in the shadows. I was once told that, in order to get my book “out there”, I have to get people talking about me. So that is exactly what I do. We have SO much to share.

So, #TeamPritchardUK it is. We’d love it if others used the hash tag from time to time when tweeting about our book or our story, but I certainly don’t expect it. We have an extraordinary story, and one way or another, I WILL get it out there.

For details of how to purchase our book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…) and many other things including videos, reviews and interviews, please visit our website: www.markdpritchard.co.uk

It currently retails at £7.99 UK for the paperback and £1.99 UK for the e-book. It is available from Amazon in all major currencies.

Technology, books and tweeting from 37,000 ft.

It’s Boxing Day, 2016. After a short sleep for an hour or so while Sarah was surfing the net on her iPad, I wandered off into the kitchen to make us both a cup of tea and a snack. After this, I checked my notifications on Twitter. A message had been sent to me just four minutes earlier, saying this:

Finshed! Thank you and hello from 37,000ft!

I had to search my mind. I remembered someone telling me that she’d just bought a copy of my book and was taking it on holiday with her. She calls herself Em, which I assume is an abbreviation of Emma or Emily. The recent tweets on her profile revealed that she is on her way to India, via Dubai. I scrolled down until I found the initial message to me that read this:

Excited. Got books to read next week. Haven’t read a book in so long! Cc. @markdpritchard yours is first!!

Yes, it was all coming back. We had a brief exchange of messages after this first Tweet, and then I re-immersed myself in the annual preparation for Christmas. So I sent her a private Twitter inbox message, from ground level in Wales. She responded from 37,000 feet above the Middle East (or somewhere close), telling me that she’d left the book on the aeroplane with a message to whoever picked it up to Tweet her, and that she’d let me know if someone replied.

As I’m writing this, I believe she is still on the plane. I couldn’t wait to share this, slightly overwhelmed at the marvels of modern technology. While I was indulging in my festive slumber, she had been reading my book on an aeroplane and was able to send a message for me to read when I awoke. From my point of view, as an author, it is a real thrill to receive this. I’d assume that the reverse would be the case – to be able to read a book on an aeroplane and then immediately contact the author while on the same flight. Technology enables us to reach out and touch people in ways never before possible.

Thank you Em. I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

For information about my book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…), which tells the story of how my wife and I have triumphed over serious illnesses, please visit my website: www.markdpritchard.co.uk

How to get the wife out of bed in the morning!

Having already risen first, warmed up the shower AND made Sarah a cup of tea, the morning conversation goes something like this –

Me: Come on darling, time to get up and have your shower.

Sarah: No. It’s too cold.

Me: Come on, we have things to do.

Sarah: No. I like it here.

Me: If you don’t get up and have your shower, I’m going to jump back into bed and make love to you.

Sarah: Ok. I’m going in the shower.

It works every time.

Please visit our website http://www.markdpritchard.co.uk for details of our book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…). It tells our extraordinary story of triumph over brain haemorrhage and breast cancer, and is full of our “Pritchard humour”. It’s available as a paperback for £7.99 or as an e-book for only £1.99 (other currencies are available).

Our light-hearted chemotherapy diary.


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“Chemo day 1 approaches. We shall face tomorrow with confidence and defiance. We shall laugh in its face and spit in its eye. We shall fly the flag of determination, hold our heads up high and walk steadfastly through the storm. We are the masters of our destiny and we bow down to nothing and to no one. Now then, where are our Winnie the Pooh and Tigger onesies?”

 

“Day 4

After a short walk around the village, the wife sits on the sofa then claims she’s so tired she can’t remove her shoes herself. What should you do?

  1. Tell her she’s making a fuss and that she should get off her arse and do it herself
  2. Pull them off aggressively because you’re fed up with being taken advantage of
  3. Tell her if she doesn’t take them off herself she’ll have to make her own dinner
  4. Tell her that nothing is a problem and remove them carefully, reassuring her that it’s all going to be worth it in the end

 I need some advice on this.”

Here’s the link to our chemotherapy diary:
The web page can be a little slow to open on mobile devices such as tablets or phones, so be patient and give it some time. It should open immediately on a PC or laptop.

Chemotherapy, Art Garfunkel and The Celtic Manor Resort

As Sarah and I were about to exit the M4 at Newport this morning, Art Garfunkel sounded through the car radio speakers singing I Only Have Eyes for You. I’ve always liked this version of the song with Garfunkel’s dream-like voice taking me into some other dimension. However, in recent years, this song has taken on a new meaning for me. As I drove down the exit slip road, my eyes began to fill with tears. This didn’t help, as I was just about to enter what is known as The Coldra Roundabout at junction 24. It’s one of those busy intersections with six roundabout exits, three lanes and numerous sets of traffic lights. Those who are vaguely familiar with the area in South Wales would know it as the junction at the Celtic Manor Resort, a world-renowned hotel and golf complex which has hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup and the world leaders at the 2014 NATO summit. I could tell you many things about this place, as I spent my childhood living in Ringland, the council estate situated barely more than a golf swing away from it on the opposite side of the motorway, when it was Lydia Beynon Maternity Hospital. But that’s my mind going off at a tangent – it does that a lot.

My task was now to keep my eyes clear as I negotiated the busy roundabout to take the fourth exit. It is only just over three years since Sarah’s first of six chemotherapy doses, administered at Nevill Hall Hospital at Abergavenny, 20 miles away. As we entered the ward where the deed was to be done, we saw about a dozen people dotted around, sitting in armchairs, seemingly motionless and in some kind of trance as they were all hooked up to intravenous drips. To add to the surreal atmosphere, the background music was the very same Art Garfunkel song that we were listening to on the car radio as we were driving along these roads. If you know the song, just pause for a moment and try to envisage the scene I described in the hospital and add the music to the picture.

I felt as if I were taking Sarah to some kind of awful fate, a little like the Stepford Wives from the film where the men from the town turned their wives into almost robotic, submissive servants. I certainly knew that we were, in reality, on the precipice of some very radical changes, and about to be thrust into the unknown for about six months. Around this time, Sarah had been put in touch with a private Facebook group of women called The Stars. There were 38 of them in total, all having been diagnosed with breast cancer at roughly the same time. They all gave each other invaluable support and formed a unique bond of girl-power that helped them through the tough times. Until yesterday, 33 of them had survived their cancer ordeal (pretty good odds, I suppose, when you look at the big picture), but yesterday, one of Sarah’s closest Stars, Barbara, ultimately lost her battle. All the feelings of fear, uncertainty and helplessness that Art Garfunkel evoked in my mind were accentuated by the reminder of what could have been with Barbara’s sad passing.

We have been lucky, of course, as Sarah has made a more or less complete recovery and we now live full and active lives. During the course of her chemotherapy, I posted a regular blog on Facebook. Our friends joined in with support and banter as we fumbled, staggered and even laughed our way through the experience. I compiled the posts and made them into a page on my website, which has been shared around the world, giving cancer sufferers a little light relief (or so I’m told). It’s one of our missions to try to encourage people to check for lumps and get things checked out at the earliest possible opportunity if they have any fears. It is this that has enabled Sarah to be with us right now. For us, everything has been a worthwhile journey in the end, but if we can prevent others from going through the same then that will have made it even MORE worthwhile.

Here is the link to our Chemo Diary:

http://www.markdpritchard.co.uk/chemo-diary

Here’s a small sample of the blog just to give you an idea of what it’s about:

“Day 4

After a short walk around the village, the wife sits on the sofa then claims she’s so tired she can’t remove her shoes herself. What should you do?

  1. Tell her she’s making a fuss and that she should get off her arse and do it herself
  2. Pull them off aggressively because you’re fed up with being taken advantage of
  3. Tell her if she doesn’t take them off herself she’ll have to make her own dinner
  4. Tell her that nothing is a problem and remove them carefully, reassuring her that it’s all going to be worth it in the end

 I need some advice on this.”

The web page can be a little slow to open on mobile devices such as tablets or phones, so be patient and give it some time. It should open immediately on a PC or laptop.