HEY PAULO! WHAT CAN YOU MAKE UP FOR US?

On a recent business trip to Newtown, Mid-Wales, I met up with my sister, Karen. I call her my vegan guru. She has been vegan for some years now, while I am just a four-month-old vegan beginner. I’m really enjoying my steps into the vegan world, but my experience at La Terrazza Italian Restaurant in Newtown, was by far my best vegan experience to date.

Karen arranged the evening. It was my birthday on that day, so it was her treat for me. She phoned in advance and asked if they serve vegan food. Paulo, the owner, met her request with great enthusiasm, telling her that he could make vegan versions of many of the items on the menu. Neither of us had been there before, but Paulo’s keenness over the phone sold the deal.

When we arrived, he greeted us almost with open arms. After being seated, he told us that he would get the menu if we wanted to see it, but he would like to offer an alternative. “How about you trust me to make something up just for you? If you don’t like, you don’t pay!” Again, his whole approach was irresistible, and there was just no other option but to go along with his suggestion.

He concocted a starter and a main course for us both which amounted to no less than a feast. So many things too numerous to mention, expertly cooked to perfection. We were served by his cousin, a delightful young Italian girl who had only been in our country for a few weeks and was here to learn English. I taught her the word “exquisite”. That was the word that best summed up our experience at La Terrazza Italian Restaurant, Newtown.

 

If you’re around the area, GO THERE! And when you see him, say, “Hey Paulo! What can you make up for us?”

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Back down to the writing then…

29th April 2018

 

Today is my mum’s birthday. She would have been 87-years-old today. I sang Happy Birthday to her as I walked along a road in Magor, South Wales. I did so with a smile on my face. I’d like to think that she heard me. I don’t know, and I’m not convinced about such things, but I hold an open mind. It’s the first birthday of hers (since I was born, of course) when I have not been able to celebrate with her in person, as she passed away on the 12th December last year. But I’m not reaching out for help. She passed away beautifully and in style, surrounded by love – a death that she deserved, as she was a beautiful person. Had she not died when she did, her quality of life would have taken a cruel downturn for the worse. I bear no scars over her death. She died at the right time.

Nothing, for anyone, could be better.

For me, it has been a cruel winter. Only two days after Mum’s death, I left my wife. Yes – you read that correctly… I left my wife. I slept in a flat (my home before we married that we had, until recently, been renting out), on a borrowed airbed, in a sleeping bag and wearing a woolly hat, in temperatures of around zero Celsius while the central heating wasn’t working. These are the circumstances in which I was effectively forced to live, just two days after losing Mum. I’m not going to go into details of why I was forced to do this, but let’s just say that my position was untenable.

I had no option.

There was talk about my mental health:

He’s grieving over his mother…

He’s had a brain haemorrhage so there must be some issues…

He’s walked out on her before…

He’s been on anti-depressants, you know…

But they’re such a lovely, inspirational couple…

He must be ill…

 

 

My mum’s first birthday since she passed away so peacefully during the first snowfall of 2017.

What a wonderful occasion to begin writing my next book…

 

My tortuous winter is over now. The blossoming trees have brought with them a new optimism and have rekindled my innate sense of adventure. There never were mental health issues, but not many people know the real reasons for my departure, and therefore people draw their own conclusions based on whatever other information they have been given, and by whom. I’ve had to distance myself from those who have, with the best of intentions, encouraged me to go back. Despite their kindness and well intentions, I regard people who encourage me to go back as a threat to my wellbeing. But if they knew the real facts, they wouldn’t be doing this.  The mental health rumours are a wicked and devious smokescreen to hide the facts. The truth of the matter is that my anxiety levels are now at an all-time low. I don’t ever remember feeling so calm. I have many plans and goals. I’m so eager to touch them, but I know that there is a lot of work to do in order for me to be able to reach them. I’m now taking my first steps. Every journey begins with just one step.

Two months into my vegan venture and some of the things I’ve learned so far.

It’s been about two months since I woke up one morning and spontaneously began my journey into veganism. I wouldn’t say I picked up the ball and ran with it – well not immediately, anyway. I’d say I picked up the ball, looked at it, walked tentatively with it for a while,  gradually built up speed and THEN ran with it. Here I am, still running. And do you know what? It’s easy. REALLY easy. I’ve enjoyed my diet so much I’ve actually put on weight. Now THAT certainly wasn’t a part of the plan. I was hoping to lower my cholesterol a little and stay off the damned statins, but I haven’t had that checked yet. 

I don’t miss meat and I don’t miss milk. There are so many alternatives to meat, and the “meaty satisfaction” experience isn’t amiss from well prepared vegan food. That isn’t to say that you have to spend much time preparing (I’d say the opposite is the case), but you have to make sure you don’t just eat lettuce leaves and tomatoes. 

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I’ve also recently started making delicious chocolate truffles with ground nuts, dates and peanut butter and coated with dark chocolate. I’ve given some to numerous people who have gratefully received them and genuinely insisted that they “won’t be sharing them with anyone else!”

I’ve found vegan restaurants, vegan options in non-vegan restaurants, a substantial range of vegan products in supermarkets and created lots of vegan meals myself just by chucking the ingredients in. 

To put things into perspective in terms of hardship, I’d guess that it’s easier to eat vegan in this modern world in the UK than it would’ve been to actually EAT in the UK a hundred years ago. It is well within the capacity of most people.

I’m also loving my fruit smoothies mixed with oat milk in the blender. I use oat milk a lot. It’s a tasty drink on its own, but it also goes nicely in coffee – I’ve not tried it in tea yet. I also use it in porridge. Cow’s milk is simply not necessary and I have no reason to ever drink the stuff again. 

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If you were to embark on a vegan diet, remember that you don’t have to be too strict on yourself. I’ve spoken to a number of people in vegan circles who admit to being maybe 80% vegan or 90% vegan. It’s not a religion and it’s not a competition. During the last 8 weeks or so, I’d say I have been 99% vegan. There have been a couple of times when I’ve had butter (the only thing I miss is real butter) on toast, and if I buy wine or beer I don’t check the label (apparently there can be something in the finings that is of animal origin). 

Here are some things that I’ve learned so far about a vegan diet:

  1. It’s very, very easy.
  2. It’s not expensive.
  3. You have to check labels on virtually everything. Things such as vegetable stocks and potato crisps often contain milk.
  4. Quorn is not vegan as it contains egg, unless you search out the vegan quorn which is sold in Tesco and Asda (and, I’m sure, many other places).
  5. Not all beers and wine are strictly vegan because of animal content in the finings. 
  6. Some people will judge you immediately you tell them you are vegan, as a natural defence against their preconceived notion that YOU are judging THEM.
  7. Clancys vegetarian stall at Cardiff Market do the best pies ever – vegan or not.
  8. It’s great fun chucking stuff into pans on the cooker and seeing how it all turns out.
  9. I’ve not been constipated since I’ve been on a vegan diet!
  10. Vegans tend to be very nice people who like to talk about their food and are generally not judgemental at all.  

So there you have it in a nutshell (which is vegan but generally not good for your teeth). As I’m finishing writing this, I’m in the process of making some samosas. I don’t have a clue how they’ll turn out – it’s all part of the fun!

 

 

My Re-incarnated Yellow Dumper Truck

It’s more than 50 years since I last saw my bright yellow dumper truck. It used to be kept on top of the coal bunker, along with other toys and miscellaneous items, not necessarily belonging to me, in a room that we referred to as the outhouse. The word “outhouse” is a bit misleading, as it was part of the actual house on the council estate in Newport, South Wales, where I was brought up. It was not a separate building, but that’s what we used to call it. I knew no different.

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At about four years old, I could only just about reach the items on top of the coal bunker, as long as they were near the edge, just being able to peer over the top on my tip-toes and stretch my tiny arms into the jumble of items which are now long forgotten to me – apart, that is, from my yellow dumper truck. That is something that I’d NEVER forget.

At some point, my yellow dumper truck vanished. I know not how, or when. I remember looking for it, but it wasn’t there. I’d ask mum, but she didn’t seem to know. I’d go back into the outhouse, jump up to see if I could see it amongst the miscellaneous items – maybe hidden behind something, or underneath something towards the back. As long as I was unable to physically get up there and rummage through the piles of things more thoroughly, there was always hope that it was there somewhere.

It never materialised and I grieved my favourite toy. Mum didn’t come up with any answers. It was only as I grew into an adult that I ever began to talk about this memory. Mum had no recollection of any of this, or of the impact the loss of my yellow dumper truck had on my young heart. It became one of those family jokes where one of us (I have two older sisters) would accuse mum of abusing us as children. I always claim that I have been psychologically scarred by cauliflower, and by the fact that, because of the way she had done my hair when I was very small, someone she was talking to thought I was a girl. “Whose little girl are you?” she asked. I obviously corrected her, “I’m NOT a little girl, I’m a little BOY!” I actually have no memory of this.

The reality is that if anyone had ever been abused by anyone, it was HER who had been abused by US, with the constant teasing she had to endure from us. She was a wonderful mum and we all loved her to bits.

Mum passed away on 12th December last year. She was 86. It was time for her to go. Although she had been reasonably fit up to two days before her death, the operation she suddenly needed, that ultimately her body was unable to cope with, would have resulted in her quality of life nosediving to a very poor quality. She went at the perfect time. And she passed away peacefully with family around her reliving some of the best “mum” memories. Even to the last, she was able to respond in such a way that she knew and appreciated what was going on. I’ll bear no scars from those last moments. They were as perfect as they could be under the circumstances.

We’ve all rallied round to help each other. It’s what, on the whole, families do. In fact, it seems to have brought us all closer together as a family. I see more of my sisters than before, and we try to support Dad as much as we can. Other than the fact that his arthritis is beginning to slow him down, he is a very fit 86-year-old. He doesn’t look his age, and he has all his mental faculties. He drives very competently indeed and is able to live an independent life.

I like to think that Mum’s still with us. As I’m writing this I’m wearing her reading glasses. In my car, I keep a picture of her watching me playing guitar on stage in about 1985. It’s as if she’s still watching over me. I still talk to her, but she never answers, of course. Or does she?

Until a couple of months ago, I was driving quite an old car that had seen better days. It had become time to upgrade to something more modern and more reliable. I went for a Nissan Juke. It’s bright yellow. I can be a bit forgetful after my brain haemorrhage nine years ago, and it is now much easier to find it in a car park!

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I’ve just come back from a two-day break with Dad in West Wales. We talked about Mum a lot. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to a town where he was stationed during his national service nearly 70 years ago. As we were approaching the town, he told me of an old cinema he used to go to with a girl he was courting at the time. He said it’s probably not there now. As we drove through the town, he suddenly spotted it. The whole trip was worth it just to see the look of both ecstasy and astonishment on his face. We stopped and took pictures. I emailed them to him – he’s pretty up on his technology, you know! I doubt that there are too many 86-year-olds who use Facebook, YouTube, e-mails and generally get the best for themselves out of the internet.

As we were returning home, we were talking about how this new car had enabled us to travel more together, in comfort and without any fear of breaking down or becoming stranded. And then it dawned on me…

Maybe my new bright yellow car is a reincarnation of my bright yellow dumper truck, organised by Mum from the spirit world to make up for the trauma of my childhood and to give Dad some happy moments during this difficult period.

I don’t really go for such stuff as a rule, but I would never discount anything about things that we don’t understand – and nobody understands about what happens after death, irrespective of what they claim to know, or think that they know. It’s all a mystery, and there is only one way to really find out.

Having said that, I wonder what Mum would have thought about Dad reminiscing about a previous girlfriend while being driven around in her gift of a reincarnated dumper truck?

I have a website which has nothing to do with dumper trucks or reincarnation: http://www.markdpritchard.com

 

 

Why you should never shoplift at Poundland – or ANYWHERE, for that matter.

During my school days, while playing football, I went in for a tackle and the ball went into touch for a throw-in. The referee looked at us to see who the ball had come off. I told him that it was their throw-in, as the ball had come off my leg. Immediately, one of my classmates, who shall remain nameless, pounced with, “The trouble with you, Pritchard, is that you’re TOO FUCKING HONEST!!!” Those words, uttered over 40 years ago, have stayed with me all my life. This classmate went on to become a successful professional and international footballer, but he shall remain nameless for reasons that I’ll explain later. Similar words have been said to me by other angry people.

Today, in Poundland, I had a surreal experience. I was stopped (mistakenly, I hasten to add), on the suspicion of shoplifting. It all began with an oversight on my part. I saw a box of green tea for (as you would expect) a pound. I picked it up with another item and proceeded to the check out. As the cashier was putting it through the till, he told me that the green tea was actually “two for a pound”.

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I said, “Would you like to just put it through the till so you can serve the next customer, I’ll leave my bag here and come back for it when I’ve picked up the other box?”

The cashier said, “No, I trust you. Just go and pick it up, then go out.”

On my way back to the tea aisle, I passed two burly store detectives. I tried to catch their eyes and I considered explaining to them what I was doing. They were deep in conversation, so I decided against it. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I picked up the box of tea directly in front of them, and as I walked past them I again tried to catch their eyes. They were still deep in conversation, seemingly (and cunningly, I suspect) unaware of my presence. As I walked towards the exit, I tried to catch the eye of the man who had served me at the check out, to show him I’d picked up the extra box. He was busy. I now felt uncomfortable, even though I was well within my rights to be walking out as I put the extra box of green tea in my bag.

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I had barely exited the premises when… well, do I really need to say? Yep, the two store detectives came running in my direction. In the blur of the ensuing chaos, I think there may have been a third man, but I’m not sure. I hurriedly tried to explain what I’d done, which is not easy when this kind of thing is happening to you.

I looked up and beyond them towards the exit of the store, and thankfully an angel appeared in the shape of the man who had served me at the check out. All was explained, and the store detectives apologised unreservedly. I told them not to worry, that they were only doing their job, and I congratulated them on doing it so well (I’m too fucking honest, see!).

I then wandered around the shop next door, in a daze, breaking out into a bath of sweat – I really don’t sweat much as a rule, but on this occasion…

I’ve never shoplifted, and never will. But I found out exactly what it must feel like to be caught, other than the fact I knew that all could be explained – hopefully, in time before some busy-body of a  passer-by had filmed it all and posted it on social media. Hmmm… now there’s a thought. It’s probably all over Facebook and Twitter as I write this.

So what of my old classmate who accused me of being too honest before becoming a big (ish) name in British football?

He’s currently serving a six year jail sentence for fraud. Seriously, crime doesn’t pay, you know. Its much better to be honest.

And next time you go back into a store to pick up the other half of your “two-for-one” offer, tell the store detective before your exit. That’ll learn me!

I need a cup of tea now.

http://www.markdpritchard.com

 

Call yourself a vegan?!!

I’m now on day six of my vegan venture. It’s been no hardship. Over 90% (not an official figure, but a guess of mine) of food available in the world contains no animal products, therefore why would it be difficult? My meals, so far, have been quite repetitive. I’m not a foodie and I don’t need constant culinary stimulation. My main meals have been mostly vegetable stir-fry with nuts and potatoes (very tasty as it happens). My breakfast is usually toast with houmous and some fruit. I’ve been drinking mostly green tea. Oh, and alcohol, as it happens. I’ve had a little too much of that, but I’ll sort that. It’s just a glitch right now. Then, for supper, I normally pop to the nearest McDonalds for a Big Mac and fries – just kidding!

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One of my very basic vegan meals.

“So why the vegan diet?” you may ask. Well, it’s like this… as I said to someone recently, “One day I was eating food, then the next day I woke up and started eating vegetables!” I hadn’t planned it. It was a spontaneous act. I didn’t know I’d even last a week. Here are some reasons.

1. I have a milk intolerance, so cutting out milk is very easy for me. I’ve never liked the stuff and too much of it makes me drowsy.
2. Regarding milk, I have long considered it to be a bizarre thing to consume. It’s not actually designed for humans, and I’m not aware of any animal that drinks the milk of another animal, except when given to them by… well… humans.
3. Cholesterol. Since my brain haemorrhage in 2009, when it was noticed that my cholesterol was high, I have been taking statins to keep it down. When I tried to come off them and control it by diet, it wasn’t an effective solution. Statins are the only regular medication that I take. I wish to make my body completely drug-free – apart from the alcohol, of course! I would like to see if a vegan diet would naturally help me to achieve this. Time will tell.
4. I have family and friends who rely on a vegan diet to learn from. One of these, at the age of 57, ran the London Marathon in 3 hours and 9 SECONDS. He now represents TeamGB in the duathlon (veteran category). What an achievement! Some of these people around me have introduced me to some delicious vegan meals and treats.
5. It’s easy. Supermarkets are well stocked these days with vegan food and alternatives (aside from the obvious fruit and veg sections).
6. I’m not an animal rights activist or campaigner, but I hate to see cruelty of any kind. There is much animal abuse in the meat and dairy industry, so I’m pleased to be doing something to help reduce some of the animal cruelty that exists.
7. Oh I don’t know… I expect that there are many more things I could add, and you’re probably getting bored by now.

So, what if a colleague comes into work with some cakes that contain animal fat? Well, although I may not choose to buy it myself, I’ll still probably have some. It’s not a religion, and having a vegan diet doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to take a moral stance every time you see something that has some animal product in it.

Someone may then turn to me and say, “Ha! And you call yourself a VEGAN!” Well, actually I don’t, and I won’t. Choosing to eat in a certain way doesn’t mean that you have to give yourself a label, or that you have to stick rigidly to it. It’s as ridiculous as seeing me step out of my Nissan and into a Ford (I’m not a Ford fan), and someone saying, “Ha! Call yourself a Nissan driver? I just saw you driving a Ford!” Unfortunately, one sad, common trait of the human species is a desire to point accusing fingers at as many other people as possible. It generally says more about the accuser than the accusee. I’ve never seen an animal behave like that, come to think of it.

I shall be blogging my new dietary venture. I shall tell of some interesting recipes that I find. I will be up-front about any vegan-lapses such as a packet of pork scratchings with my beer if I ever choose to do so. I’ll try to make it interesting and fun. One thing I WILL NOT do is preach.

Here’s my website, which currently has nothing to do with food or diet: http://www.markdpritchard.com

 

My winter of discontent, and a new direction.

It’s been almost four months since I last posted a blog. It may seem as if I’ve lost interest. The truth is that I’ve had a very bad winter. I’m not going to go into much detail. I don’t like to use social media as a heart-on-sleeve means of winning sympathy, or a self-indulgent, outward display of grief that serves no purpose other than to receive attention and sympathetic comments from others.

Nonetheless, it’s been a very bad winter. My last blog post was on the 7th December, 2017. On 12th December, I lost a very close family member. This, I could have coped with. But only two days later, for reasons that I don’t wish to talk about on social media, my life was turned upside down and ripped apart. Some may have noticed an absence of tweets on my Twitter page for a while, or maybe the odd, vague, cryptic post. I don’t remember too much about it as I was against the ropes.

I’m now back on my feet. But the resultant effects are that the content of my Twitter page will no longer be the same as it was. Please don’t ask questions or offer support. I’m fine, and I don’t believe that social media is the correct forum for such personal matters.

Over the last three years, I have amassed a lot of Twitter followers. I’ve tried to make my page useful, entertaining and informative. I will try to continue to maintain this. However, I may no longer tweet about the things I used to tweet about.

I have plans to compose and record more music. I will continue to make silly jokes and random comments about whatever springs into my mind. I will continue to support our fantastic NHS, without whom I, and many more of us, would not be here now. I will continue to avoid politics and religion because my employers (the UK government) would not approve.

I have recently, and quite spontaneously, ventured into a new world of veganism. I’m not sure how long I’ll maintain this, but I may blog about my first steps into this new, healthy diet regime. Today, somebody asked me, “So why have you become vegan?” I said, “I don’t know. One day I was eating food, the next day I was eating vegetables and just carried on that way.” I may, or may not, keep it up. Time will tell. But I will try to make this new dietary journey interesting for my Twitter followers.

I will still maintain my website, http://www.markdpritchard.com where you can find, amongst other things, details of how to purchase my book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…), but much of the rest of the content will gradually change over time. I’m not sure exactly how – just watch this space.

All is well and I live to fight another day.

Thank you.

Is Storm Caroline really a supernatural event?

Storm Caroline is threatening to bring the first significant snowfall tomorrow, 8th December, to my home since March 2013. I know almost to the exact date, because it happened exactly a week after Sarah and I moved into our home in the Welsh countryside. It is a matter of coincidence (not divine intervention) that my good friend Caroline passed away after a long battle with cancer seven years ago in 2010 on the 8th December. It was the day before what would have been her 50th birthday. Caroline loved the snow. She more than loved it – it was a matter of extreme excitement each time we had a decent settling of the white stuff. It even snowed during her funeral – perfect timing.

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Our last snowfall viewed from our house in March 2013

It was just a couple of weeks after her passing that we had a heavy snowfall at our previous home in Newport. First thing in the morning, before I’d left the bedroom, I heard a noise outside that sounded like a jingling of bells. I joked to Sarah, “I bet that’s Caroline telling us about the snow!” I then joked even further and said loudly, “Caroline, if that’s you, show us a sign!”

About ten minutes later, as I tried to exit the bedroom, I couldn’t open the door. The handle mechanism had broken. It took twenty minutes before we were able to get out of the room after Sarah’s daughter forced it open from the outside. There are some who would say that it was Caroline doing her thing from “the other side”. I’d love to think that it was. However, I’m also well aware of the fact that it easy to believe what you want to believe when you should be just accepting the inevitability of coincidences occurring. It is a mathematical certainty that coincidences will happen. If there were never any coincidences, that in itself, would be a coincidence of unimaginable proportions.

It was well into Caroline’s four year cancer battle that I suffered my brain haemorrhage. It was an odd turnaround of events for her to be visiting me in hospital. But when she could, she’d do her best to come to see me, taking me for walks around the hospital grounds. It was only a few months after our snowfall in March 2013 that Sarah, herself, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had six doses of chemotherapy, and on each occasion I bought her a “chemo present.” On one occasion, in November 2013, I bought us a joint present – a pair of sledges to use in the nearby fields in our new home for when it next snowed. It didn’t snow that winter. It didn’t matter – we had other things on our minds. It didn’t snow the following year, or the next year, or the next.

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Sarah’s wishful thinking (get that chemo wig!)…

 

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… and the reality at the bottom of the garden

So now, here we are, four years since we bought our, as yet, unused sledges, waiting for Storm Caroline to arrive and bring us the snow that has been forecast in about seven hours’ time. Caroline loved (or loves) the snow. She knows how eager we are to walk over to the fields to use our sledges for the first time. She knows that we’ll know that she is behind the whole weather system making its way down from the Arctic. However, deep down, I know that it’s just a coincidence.

Or is it?

 

We’ve had an incredible roller coaster ride in recent years. I’ve told our story in my book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…). Since our illnesses, we have become USA road trippers and lindy hop dancers. We are now living more full and active lives than we ever had done before. We are very lucky people.

Book promotion video

Paperback available from Amazon (or direct from me if you live in the UK) for £7.99

Ebook available from Amazon for £1.99

Available in all major currencies worldwide. Visit our website http://www.markdpritchard.com for details.

 

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 http://www.markdpritchard.com, 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 http://www.markdpritchard.com

 

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.

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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.

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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 www.markdpritchard.com