The story behind the song “Down by the Pool” at the Calpe Swing Fiesta.

It was some time after Gary Boon started playing my song Sugar Push Blues at some of his dances that our dancing friends Geoff and Helen suggested that I should write a song for Calpe. In October 2016, Bic and Simone Graham staged the first ever Calpe Swing Fiesta on the Costa del Sol, Spain. The weeklong event attracted swing dance teachers from all over the world. Sarah and I were only able to attend for the first three days because of working commitments. However, our stay at the Diamanté Beach Hotel where the whole spectacle took place was such a blast that to miss out on the whole week in October 2017 was simply not an option.

Without undermining any of the teachers – we learnt so much from them all – the star attraction (apart from Bic and Simone) was teacher and possibly the coolest lindy hop and swing dancer around, Ryan Francois. Sarah never lets me forget that she had the privilege of dancing with him once; she even has a photo of them both in action on the dance floor hung up on the wall in our home. My own dance teacher calls him God. Professional teacher, dancer and recent choreographer for BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, Ryan Francois’ teaching style and personality had us all flocking to his lessons. He and his partner Genia, who he refers to as G (I stole a lovely dance from her on the last night), were a perfect double act and we were all able to take so much from their classes.

At the end of one of their classes, he said to us all:

“Bic and Simone have put on a great event that deserves to go on and on, and it brings nice people.”

I made a note of that, and asked him later if I could quote him. He said, “Yes, of course. I said it and I meant it.” The words, “…brings nice people,” reflect the essence of our whole dancing community. Some people don’t like the word “nice”. They say it makes people sound boring. However, I like it and I’m not afraid to use it to describe people, as people can be nice while also possessing a whole lot of other interesting and fascinating talents and attributes.

The holiday brought lindy hop dancers from beginners right the way through to experts together for one almighty party. Lessons, dances, great food, excursions, new friendships, rekindled old ones, sun, sea, sand, music, Buck’s Fizz at breakfast, poolside parties, a hilarious water polo competition, blow-up flamingos and a little sleep from time to time – with the option, of course, to opt out for a little more sleep if necessary. One of our friends said that it was the best holiday he’d ever had. Despite a few hitches such as a speaker blowing up, cancelled inward flights due to industrial action from French air traffic control and Bic’s brief spell of hospitalisation, Bic and Simone kept the show going seamlessly and without any obvious fuss.

Only a few weeks before the holiday, I managed to complete the task of composing and recording the song that Geoff and Helen put me up to, calling it Down by the Pool, for The Calpe Swing Fiesta 2017. I needed some reassurance that it was ok. Sarah, Geoff and Helen all loved it and suggested that I should send it to Bic and Simone. Simone suggested that before I put it out on YouTube and social media etc., we should “debut” it at a poolside dance.

Debut of my song Down by the Pool, filmed with dancers at the poolside

Having had the thrill of seeing everyone dance to it (even Ryan!), it’s now time for me to get it out there for other people to hear. It was received much better than I could have dreamt of, if I’m honest. To add to the fun, some of us created new lyrics to reflect the events of this superb holiday, the unmissable Calpe Swing Fiesta. Bic and Simone gave me the opportunity to perform it live – it’s such a long time since I’ve done anything like that. It was a real thrill for me. They are such fantastic people and great sports. They are brilliant teachers and dancers. They are superb organisers. They are the perfect ambassadors for our incredible, inclusive dancing community. They’re nice too!

My live performance of Down by the Pool, with altered lyrics and a sneaky little dance with Simone. Bic comes in later

Sarah and I put our deposit down for next year’s Calpe Swing Fiesta before we left, as did many others. As Ryan says – It deserves to go on and on.

Thank you Bic, Simone and all the amazing teachers (Sarah was mesmerised by Hector’s bottom!). Thank you to the Diamanté Hotel for providing a perfect setting. Thank you to our friends old and new from our wonderful dancing community.

We’ll be back.

If you’re not a dancer, go onto YouTube to find out more about Bic and Simone, Ryan Francois, lindy hop and swing dance. If you like what you see, why not look out for lessons in your area?

*Since I wrote this blog, Sarah has managed to have another dance with Ryan  at a different event. I’m sure she’ll remind from time to time!*


Please also check our website, which gives details of how to purchase my book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…). It tells the story of how I survived a brain haemorrhage in 2009, and how my wife, Sarah, beat breast cancer four years later. It was these illnesses that inspired us to take up Lindy Hop dancing in 2014. The paperback retails at £7.99 on Amazon, while the e-book is only £1.99. It is also available in all major currencies.

Here is my book promotional video:



How to save money when shopping: The “NO” list.

In our marriage, there is no doubt as to which of us is the most organised. It’s a source of amusement amongst our friends and family, especially those in our dancing world where we have so many events lined up. Associated with these events are many other things, such as what outfits we’ll be wearing depending upon the theme of the occasion. Sometimes it’s a yellow theme or a red theme, or then there may be a film star theme. To be honest, I can’t keep up with it all.

“Where are you going on the weekend, Mark – Gloucester or Abergavenny?” they’d often ask.

“You’re asking the wrong person,” I reply. They give me a knowing smile.

My memory isn’t the best, so it’s just as well Sarah keeps on top of these things. Then they’ll come up with, “Did you have a good time on Saturday night?” My eyes turn thoughtfully up to the ceiling as I attempt to roll back the days, trying to remember exactly where it was and who I danced with, and if I even went anywhere and danced with anyone. When I’m pensive, may face sometimes appears to be angry or, at least, disapproving. I can’t help it and it often gives people a false impression. “Was it that bad?” they ask, before I get chance to reply.

“No, no… it’s coming back. Yeah, it was really good. I remember now.” They’re getting used to me now. I can’t help it. It’s just how it is, and it adds to the humour in our social life. I’m not self-conscious about it – it is what it is.

Our book: I’M NEVER ILL Go to


Food wastage

There is one area of our lives, however, where I have had to help Sarah with organisation. When we first met, just under six months before my brain haemorrhage, I noticed how much food wastage there was in her fridge. At the end of the week, before it was time for her next shopping trip, there would be at least £5 worth of food to be thrown away due to it being past the “use by” date. She would buy too much, and often buy things that she already had and didn’t need. I began to think about how many times I’m in a supermarket and have to ask myself whether or not I need, for example, tomatoes. I’m not sure, so I buy some anyway, only to find that when I get home I already have a week’s supply of them left over from last week.

So I devised a plan. It is a really simple idea. It’s so simple that I’m amazed that I’ve never heard of it before. I often mention it to people and they respond with surprise. “That’s a good idea,” they say, “I’d never even thought of doing that.” I know of some people who have now introduced this into their weekly shopping routine. We call it the “NO” List. Aside from a list of things that we need, we compile a list of things that we don’t need. I look in the fridge and see that we have plenty of tomatoes and that they are still firm, so they go on the list. I just noticed that we have enough leeks, parsnips and carrots to last next week, so I’ve put those on the list. The biggest crime is to let an expensive joint of meat go past its “use by” date. I always keep an eye on those. We’ve got ten eggs – that’ll be enough. And so it goes on.


I create my “No” list on my mobile phone

We’ve discussed our shopping methods, and this has now become a part of the system. If we forget to buy something, we can always pick it up another time when one of us is passing a shop. However, if we buy too much, we could be losing out in the long run. We are generally a lot more organised regarding shopping now. Sarah is very much into meal planning for the week, and we buy things specifically for set meals on set days, depending on how much time we are likely to have on each day. If we have a dance lesson night, we need something quicker than on a night where we have no plans. We both like the meals from Joe Wicks (The Body Coach). We have a number of his Lean in 15 cookbooks. It’s great, healthy food.


We use Joe Wicks’ recipe books regularly

Sarah tells me, “I don’t want my cancer to come back, and I watched you nearly die in front of me once before so I’m not going to let that happen again.” Well, we can’t live forever of course, but we are trying to stretch it out for as long as we can. We keep dancing, too. It’s great exercise, great fun and will hopefully help us to live long, active lives. We’re going to a dance tonight, too. I can’t remember where though. Hang on, I’ll just go and ask the wife…

Slideshow put to one of my musical recordings


We love to share our story. My book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…) is available on Amazon as an e-book for £1.99 and as a paperback for £7.99. If you live in the UK, contact me directly and I’ll cover postage costs for the paperback. It has mostly 5* reviews. I don’t have a publisher behind me, so I use blogs like these to market my book.


Please visit my website