London Marathon 2019 (the journey so far…)

It’s over 30 years since I managed to run the Cardiff 10K in just under 40 minutes. Back then, in my late 20s, I was planning to run a marathon. I hadn’t been training for long at the time, but I have always had a natural ability to build up stamina. This was the last serious run that I would undertake until the summer of 2018, at the age of 58, after being hounded by knee injuries that made it impossible to run even as much as a mile without having to stop due to serious pain.

Just over six months ago, it was suggested to me that there may be a problem with my running technique. It transpired that I was a “heel striker”, landing with all my weight on my heels with each stride. I was told that by leaning forwards a little and landing with more weight on my forefoot I would be able to redistribute the effects of ground impact and take more strain away from my knees. I decided to try it out.

Beginning with a very short, slow jog on the 24th June 2018 which left me completely exhausted, I managed to complete a half marathon distance (13.1 miles) on the 12th of December. This was spurred on by my securing a place in the London Marathon in April 2019 as a part of The Brain and Spine Foundation’s London Marathon team just seven weeks previously. April 2019 will be a remarkable milestone in my life as, ten years earlier to the month (8th April 2009), I suffered a brain haemorrhage. Only just about scraping through after being in a coma for three days, the thought of being able to manage a marathon was something that most people would have thought unlikely at that time. Even after a more-or-less full recovery, it still hasn’t been easy, as I have continued to suffer a number of injuries since changing my running style. I now have four months to complete my marathon preparations.

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Shortly after awaking from a coma in 2009 (inset – marathon training)

 

So here is how it all unfolded in 2018, with selected dates:

24th June – First run. Two slow laps of football pitch at a local park. Astonished at my level of exhaustion, but pleased not to have any injuries.

4th July – After two further short runs, I managed to jog 16 laps of the same football pitch (a distance of more than 2.5 miles).

7th July – First ever ParkRun (5 km). Not pushing myself hard, I completed the course in exactly 36 minutes, delighted to have run so far with no hint of any injuries.

9th July – I bought my first proper pair of Brooks Ghost running shoes, costing me £140. I was beginning to take this seriously.

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My Brooks running shoes

 

15th July – First set back. 10 km run aborted due to bad knees. I managed 7.93 km in a time of 1:02:05. Clearly, this was going to take some work.

17th July – 5 km on a local route that I call The River Run in 31:04.

19th July – Short, fast run (fast by my standards, of course). 2 km in 10:44.

28th July – ParkRun in 28:43 (more than six minutes faster than my first one three weeks previously).

30th July – 9 km run in 1:07:02.

3rd August – Five laps around the perimeter of Wembley Stadium in 29C temperature, during a weekend break in London. About an hour after this run, I called The Brain and Spine Foundation to ask them if I could take part in The London Marathon as a part of their team. They liked my story and told me that they would announce their selections in October. Game on.

5th August – I ran 16 km (just under 10 miles) in 2:05:27, exactly seven weeks after my very first jog around the football pitch.

Now, at this point, it had become clear to me that, as far as stamina is concerned, running a marathon is well within my grasp. However, this last run proved to be a serious setback, because it caused a hip injury that would make me unable to run seriously for two months. I had become over-zealous. My confidence and my ability to build up stamina had proved too much for my joints – a schoolboy error. I was told (a little too late by now) that I should have built things up more gradually.

I had to make some kind of decision regarding another area of my life. One of my interests is lindy hop dancing (swing dancing). Doing this about twice a week, any running injuries I’d pick up would be exacerbated by the physical stresses and strains of the dancing, hindering the healing process. I now began to question whether or not I should continue dancing. For the time being, I decided to continue with it, but taking it very easy.

Unable to run, as a means of keeping my fitness up I joined my local Bannatyne’s Health Club. Here, I have access to a fully equipped gym, swimming pool and spa facilities. I focused on weight training to build up the strength in my legs without the impact of running, and I used exercise bikes, rowing machines and swimming to keep my stamina up. This kind of cross-training is often essential to avoid/repair injuries.

28th August – I turned up to run The Severn Bridge 10K. I had already booked my place in this, and I thought that maybe my hip was sufficiently healed to give it a go. However, after turning up and collecting my number, a light jog indicated that I should abort it as the pain in my hip was still significant. I didn’t run.

23rd September – I managed my first 5 km River Run after my injury.

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Part of my 5 km River Run in Newport

 

7th October – Another 5 km run, but clearly still nursing injuries. Dancing not helping.

24th October – I secured my place in The London Marathon 2019 with The Brain and Spine Foundation Team. This was now time to give up dancing completely until after the marathon.

3rd November – I completed a slow 6.6 miles in 1:23:56 (a quarter of a marathon) with no injuries, using a walk/run strategy to minimise impact.

10th November – I completed a ParkRun in 28:01.

23rd November – I completed 8.8 miles walk/run in 1:34:22 (a third of a marathon). Yes, I’m definitely better without dancing.

29th November – Serious hill-training. For this purpose, I’m very fortunate to live on the top of a very steep hill.

12th December – I completed 13.1 miles walk/run in 2:45:17 (half a marathon).

20th December – I completed a 5 km River Run in 27:41. A personal best, and getting faster all the time.

Initially, I was hoping to aim for a London Marathon time of around 4 hours. However, injuries have meant that my body can’t take the training necessary to achieve this in the time available. So I then began to settle for course completion, irrespective of how much time it takes. After all, with sponsorships behind me, this is no longer about me, but about representing The Brain and Spine Foundation Team and raising as much money as I can for them. Now, with the achievements since I have given up dancing, I believe that completing the marathon using a walk/run strategy in around five hours is a realistic target. I plan to work as hard as possible over the next three months and then spend the three weeks immediately before the marathon resting and allowing any injuries to heal. I need to complete the London Marathon course in eight hours to get my medal. Only a serious injury or an illness should prevent me from being able to do this.

It is a part of the terms of The Brain and Spine Foundation Team that I raise a minimum of £1,800. As of today, 30th December, I have raised 30% of this target. I plan to start my funding campaign in earnest after the New Year.

Please get behind me and support my cause to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my brain haemorrhage. The Brain and Spine Foundation do great work for people who have been less fortunate than me.

 

Here is the link to my JustGiving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/markdpritchard

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First Half-Marathon (a bit harder than I thought)

Six months ago, I was unable to even run a mile due to a knee problem that had been recurrent for over 30 years. For no particular reason, other than fitness, I went for a short run at a local park. Just two laps of a football pitch almost killed me. My lungs couldn’t have taken any more, even at a slow pace. I’ve never had any stamina problems throughout my whole life, and at 58 years-old, I decided I needed to do something about this before my fitness declined even further.

Now, six months on, I have altered my running technique to minimise impact on my joints and invested in my second pair of top quality running shoes. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I managed an unofficial half-marathon. The roughly four and a half laps of a circuit in Newport that I call The River Run, 13.1 miles (approx 21km) in total, was an enlightening experience. At first, I was just hoping that I would manage to complete it. This kind of distance, for me, is uncharted territory.

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My favourite Brooks running shoes.

 

Only seven weeks after that very first lung-crushing experience six months ago, I managed a 10-mile run – my ability to build up stamina shone through and didn’t let me down. But my enthusiasm became my downfall as my body had other ideas. This 10-mile run caused a significant injury to my right hip. It would be another two months before I’d be able to run seriously again. Even when I did manage it, I had to keep a check on my knee problem, as well as my hip.

I’ve discovered, through experimentation, that just turning my right foot inwards slightly while running has relieved the pain in my knee. Nonetheless, my joints still aren’t able to take the pounding of a “full-on” hard run just yet, so for yesterday’s half-marathon I adopted a walk/run strategy. I’ve had troubles with both hips, but they are much stronger now. I do much of my training in the gym at Bannatyne’s Health Club. I can work on my stamina on the rowing machines or exercise bikes without any joint-damaging impact. I shift weights to strengthen my body. All this cross-training is almost as good as actually running in terms of the end result. During my hip injury, for two months I trained in the gym using non-impact equipment. I came out the other side fitter and stronger.

Just recently, I managed to secure a place in the London Marathon on 28th April 2019, representing The Brain and Spine Foundation team. It will be ten years to the month that I’d suffered a brain haemorrhage. What a way to celebrate it! I don’t care how long it takes me. I just want to complete it. If I weren’t plagued with injuries I’d be looking to complete in four hours. But I have to be realistic and accept that this is no longer feasible. However, managing a half marathon before we even reach Christmas has set me up well in my preparations. Most people haven’t even started training yet. I have time to sit back and let my aches and pains heal before getting back in the gym to strengthen further and then get out and increase my running distance and speed. Six months ago, I would have considered all of this impossible.

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Me in April 2009 shortly after waking from a coma. Inset: Training for London Marathon April 2019.

 

Yesterday’s 13.1 mile journey was harder than I’d expected. I battled with cramp, a blister on my foot,  and almost had to stop just before the end as the muscles in my legs seemed to almost completely knot up. My stamina held up very well though, and I completed it in 2 hours and 45 minutes. Yesterday was an endurance that made me realise that I still have work to do, but that it is all very much within my grasp. Yesterday (12th December) was also the first anniversary of my mother passing away. Maybe she helped me along. Maybe she’ll be there for me on the big day in April.

By running in the London Marathon 2019, I aim to raise a hefty sum of money for The Brain and Spine Foundation. They do great work for people who have been less fortunate than me. If you’d like to sponsor me, please visit my JustGiving page here:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/markdpritchard

THE RIVER RUN

Having a natural inbuilt stamina has worked both in my favour and to my detriment. During the summer, I had a seed of a thought that I should run a marathon in 2019 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my brain haemorrhage which struck on the 8th April 2009. I was, at this point, unaware that I would later secure a place in the London Marathon with The Brain and Spine Foundation charity team. I decided to get training to see just what I was capable of at the age of 58, having not run seriously for over 30 years. It took me just seven weeks of training to be able to run 10 miles in 2 hours and 2 minutes. “Game on,” I thought.

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April 2009 a few days after waking from a coma and training for the London Marathon recently.

However, my body had other plans. My stamina capabilities were a bit of a shock to my joints. A hip injury acquired during this 10 mile run set me back by about two months of running. During that time, I have spent hours and hours working in the gym, both on my aerobic capacity on the rowing machine, and using weights to build up my muscle strength to take the strain off my joints. I have since brought my 5K Parkrun down from exactly 36 minutes to 28:01 minutes. My initial target was to complete a marathon inside four hours. Because of my joint issues (I also have a niggling knee problem that occurs from time to time), I may have to adopt a walk/run strategy in order to complete this 26-mile journey through the centre of London. I’ll be happy with five hours.

But this is no longer about my own personal goals. As a representative of #TeamBrainAndSpine my responsibility is to just complete the course because I will have had (I hope) a large amount of sponsorship money. Now, completion is my main target. Anything else will be a bonus. I have a regular training route in the centre of Newport that I call “The River Run”, which goes across one bridge over the River Usk, up the river for a bit, across another bridge and back down along the river to the starting point. I change my clothes in Bannatyne’s Health Club which is on a part of the route, warm up in the gym and then set out. Just nine laps of the river run is roughly equivalent to the 26.2 miles that I’ll need to run. Last night I did an easy three laps (8.75 miles) using the walk/run method in about 1 hour and 55 minutes. My hip (the other one!) was a little sore afterwards, but I could have maintained this almost indefinitely as I barely broke into a sweat.

I have five and a half months left to complete my preparations. I think it’s time to buy a new pair of running shoes to minimise ground impact. I believe my current ones are beginning to lose a bit of cushion. The condition of my joints is dependent upon this.

Please visit my JustGiving page on the link below to read my story:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/markdpritchard

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?”

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.