Since I ‘suffered’ my loss/ misfortune on June 14th I have, as I’ve written often, had the most incredible tide of support, love, visits, tributes, compliments and general influx of goodwill channelled in my direction.
It’s very hard to single out one person that’s been extra special, as so many have been there for me.
But I’m going to.
I first met Dan White in 1991. I’d lived in London for 2 yrs , and belonged to The Hogarth Club most of that time.
It was principally a squash and tennis club, very posh for a spit and sawdust Welsh Valleys Boy like me. I initially felt like a fish out of water there, most members seeming so au fait with the ‘niceness’ of the luxury of the clubs’ amenities.
I was basically a big, ugly rugby player whose main aim was to lift as heavy weights as I could as many times as possible. I can safely say that I was back then extremely strong and I suppose the fact that I could handle more weights than anyone else got me noticed.
In no time at all I, along with Dani, became established members of the club, contributing let’s say, very enthusiastically, to the social scene that was very integral to the club’s ‘ thing ‘.
I’d been a member there for a good year before I met the owner ,Colin White’s son, Dan. I should say here that Colin has been a wonderful friend of the family now for many years, and there are a whole load of separate stories involving Mr White Senior!
I recall seeing this wiry, hard looking bloke striding purposefully across the car park and, as was my way in those days, sort of weighing him up physically.
We said hello to eachother, and I think that was it.
I was introduced personally at some point soon after by Pia, his then wife, and before long, they, Dani and I became close friends. We drank a lot together , partied hard, and spent a lot of ski trips together at their chalet in Chamonix.
I couldn’t really believe that I’d met someone well off enough to own a luxury ski chalet and what’s more, I kept getting invited to go there!
Dan, at that time, was in the army, then in the elite TA regiment, spending a lot of time away on exercise, and when home spent his time ( as a builder by trade ) looking after the infrastructure of their 2 health clubs.
Dan’s brother, Patrick, was a lot more interested in the running of the clubs, leaving Dan to pursue his own physical and construction interests. Each brother, I think it fair to say, was satisfied with his lot..
Tragically, Patrick died on a family beach holiday in 2001, leaving a wife and 3 small children bereft of a great husband and Daddy.
This tragedy left Dan with the obligation of stepping into Patrick’s Managing Director shoes, footwear that Dan wasn’t necessarily that keen to fill…. too much of a ‘proper desk job’ for Dan really, but one that inevitably he’s made his own, supported by his senior team, most of whom I’ve known for years ( as no one ever leaves the Hogarth Group ! )
(As an aside, if you’re looking to join a health club in West London, please make it one of Dan’s! The Hogarth is in Chiswick, and The Park Club is in Acton
They’re quite different clubs, but visit both and join the one you like best).
Over the years Dan got me diversifying into various athletic pursuits, including running marathons, taking up a mental sport called Adventure Racing, and endurance kayaking.
We’ve suffered the elements through thick and thin, one occasion being quite memorable. We were training for the 125 mile Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race. As relative novices we decided to paddle the 25 miles from Staines to Chiswick. It was February and f’ing freezing. The Thames was flowing very fast and as we approached Richmond bridge we fell out. We were swept in the fast current towards barges straining at their moorings on the Twickenham side of the river. The boat and paddles were speeding away from us. Neither of us are really strong swimmers so found ourselves very suddenly in a potentially drowning situation….
Instinctively I swam after the upturned boat and paddles, reaching them ( after the boat had been sucked under a barge and popped out the other side ) and somehow then got hold of, I think, a bit of overhanging tree. In the meantime Dan had managed to get himself out of the swirling water and came to my aid.
We pulled the boat out and, shivering, walked the boat, in the dark, over Richmond Town bridge.
The bright lights of The White Hart pub drew us in, dripping in freezing water.
We left the boat and paddles on the path and went into the bar. As we had no money or phones, we cadged a small beer each and we were also allowed a free phone call ( it was a bit like being arrested ).
Dan called his brother, who said he’d come and pick us up.
If you’re cold cos you’re soaked, the easiest way to get warm is to take off your soaked clothes.
Dan and I therefore made our way to the gents.
The look on the face, a few minutes later, of the fella who came into the toilet to have a pee, in a civilised pub in Richmond upon Thames, to be confronted by 2 totally naked muscley unshaven blokes, is one that’ll stick with me forever…I don’t think he stayed to have that pee.
Dan remarried 2 yrs ago, to Saskia. I was truly honoured to be asked to be his Best Man. Obviously I seized on the opportunity to recount as many hilarious stories about our times together as I could. And believe me, there are far worse ones than the near drowning naked toilet escapade.
Two years on and I find myself paralysed.
Dan flew to Toulon the day after my accident. Since I was unconscious , I have only other people’s accounts of his attentiveness, communication, organisational and morale boosting influence in the weeks that followed.
My brothers are completely in awe of him and he has touched all that met him during that period with his absolute dedication to me.
Now that I’m awake and reasonably myself again I am grateful every day for the unrelenting acts of kindness that Dan shows me. I think, if I’m honest, that my accident has brought out into the public arena the amazing abilities and touch that only those who are close to him realised that he is capable of.
For example I’ve come home this weekend in his car, slept in a bed that he’s assembled, been wheeled up steps in my house that he’s built ramps for.
I could go on for some time yet in this vein, but I know that Dan is an uncomfortable receiver of compliments, always erring on the side of modesty, and downplaying his contributions and achievements.
Despite that, I really, really want to make public that his friendship and character over the last 3 months has been incredible.
Dan, I love you.