You may be wondering why I chose to write about Health & Disability. Well, in a nutshell, I live with a disability and other health issues and I want to do all I can to help others like me and to keep everyone informed about developments.
Before we go any further, let me introduce myself. My name is Ian Franks and I was born on November 8, 1952. I have enjoyed a career in journalism and public relations, really two sides of the same coin. I am married to Lisa, who was born and brought up in New York City. We married in 2011, after we both gained divorces from our previous partners, and moved to live in Spain in November 2015. The main picture shows the area in which we now live.
I was born in England in the village of Chelsfield, in what was then Kent, but from the age of four my parents had moved our family to the nearby town of Orpington. From 1964 to 1970, I attended Cray Valley Technical High School, in Sidcup, leaving at the end of the Lower VI to start my very first job as a trainee reporter at a local newspaper in Woolwich, south east London.
During my newspaper career, I have undertaken so many general news and specialist roles that they are just too many to list here. However, they culminated in being both a sub-editor and Rural Affairs Editor of a weekly regional newspaper group in North Wales, of which the lead newspaper was the Caernarfon Herald. The ultimate accolade for me was being named Wales Farming Journalist of the Year in 1999. Nowadays, apart from writing and runnng this site, I am Chief Patient Columnist with MultipleSclerosisNewsToday.com – something I can do from the comfort of my own armchair.
As a volunteer, I spent more than 10 years as an adult leader in the Scout movement, including seven as a District Commissioner, before joining St John Ambulance and being appointed Regional Public Relations Officer for North West Wales. For the last two years, I have been Secretary of MS Synergy Independent Support Group Charity.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. As I said earlier, I live with a disability – and that is multiple sclerosis. Owing to MS, my mobility is impaired and have to use a wheelchair to travel more than a few yards. But please don’t pigeon-hole me as an ‘MS sufferer’ or a ‘disabled writer’ because I am not. I am a writer who lives with a disability and who likes to concentrate on his abilities. Please look at my ‘CAN do attitude’ page for more about that.
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18 thoughts on “About”
Sad to hear of the illness delighted to read about your attitude ….. well do you remember this:
green (he left before we got to 15 went to Glynn Grammar School)
(mills left year 2)
shepherd (he came late & was added on the end)
Keep that determined positive attitude & get in the water a lot its very healing no matter what, thats how Ive kept going all these years despite the rugby injuries
Hi thanks for your comment
I remembered most of the form register and how we sat in class, I sat right behind you in alphabetical order. I knew I was missing one on row 3 (Green) and row 4 (Mills) and am delighted to once again know the full list. Not many of the old class on the website, do you know anything about any of the others? I broke my ankle in 1968 and had to attend school with my leg in plaster and on crutches. During those 6 weeks, I was allowed to use the main staircase and I was accompanied and my case was carried by my friend Andy Pell. I often wonder what happened to him in later years.
I just found your site. It caught my eye because I am also a “retired” journalist working for Gannett Publishing starting as the receptionist and retiring as Assistant City Editor. I also have MS but on a good day can still write a column or two. I am enjoying reading yours and just wanted to say keep it up!
Hello Marti, thanks so much for contributing – and for your kind comments about my writing. They are much appreciated. Although MS caused me to retire early, just before my 54th birthday, I have now reached retirement age of 65 but I cannot stop writing, it is a pleasure and a form of therapy. Do you
write for your own site? If not, you might like to contribute a guest column on my site. Think about it!
Well I have read your blog and it seems a fine way to communicate; so here goes. I have not spent a life in journalism, so my thoughts will not be as erudite or as grammatical as yours but I was taught by Mr Mayo so all is not hopeless, and the spell checker will help with what he referred to as my diabolical spelling!!
I left CVTS with what I have always reasoned were a good set of values and an interest in most things. I got an OK degree in Chemistry from the University of Leicester and after a year teaching went to work for the British Government at the Tropical Products Institute in the Essential Oils section. TPI was a key part of the Government aid programme and the advert for the job contained the enticing (for me) phrase: may be expected to spend short or long periods overseas. I did not take it too seriously but decided to give it a try. Imagine my surprise when after a mere 6 weeks I found myself doing applied research distilling nutmeg and lime oil in Grenada in the West Indies!! I worked hard in this paradise and played harder and while on the assignment married my Wife of (now) 45 years in less than 3 months!
During a fascinating career I worked in some 30+ countries and made friends all over the world. The highlights were 5 years in Paraguay, Two years in the Coca growing hinterland of Bolivia, and shorter spells in Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania. I didn’t make much money but we are richer than most, in experiences and happiness!!
I took early retirement when Mrs T turned the aid programme into a business, and did freelance consultancies for the UN, DFID and the World Bank. This culminated in 2 years working in the Amazon after which I hung up my boots as it were. Well as the saying goes ‘follow that’ and I decided i could not easily find a more wonderful place to do my last paid work.
We have two boys who for some reason, unlike their parents, have the innate ability to draw, Leo Warmsley would have been pleased with them, and who now make a more than reasonable living that way. We lived for most of the described period in an old grade II listed building in Biddenden, Kent. But, once the boys left to bring up families in Wimbledon and Melbourne, we decided to go to live in Spain. We have always been fascinated by the poetry and culture in Spain especially Andalucia and the laid-back but respectful way of life is just what we craved. You know the sort of thing, when people meet on the street they greet each other with a cheery Buenos Dias. and enquire after their well being, even when they have never met before. So we have bought a cave house in the delightful village of Galera, in the spectacular high plains area known enigmatically as the “Altiplano Los Bad Lands”. The village has a population of about 750, accept for the months of July and August when the children and grandchildren come back to visit their families and enjoy our cultural festival. During that time there are programmes of music, theatre, sport, poetry and fun for the children along with much drinking, traditional foods and time to just ‘hang out’ with friends.
My wife has a beautiful voice and I can just about hold my own (thanks Mr Woodward) so we have joined the choir and we have great fun singing in all manner of events from concerts of Spanish traditional songs, villancicos (carols) to singing in the church mass once a month and an old peoples home on occasions. No, I am not a Catholic or particularly religious but I enjoy it immensely!
I mentioned to you the importance of learning Spanish. Of course each to his own and I in no way wish to lecture. But the vast majority of the British community in our village have not made much of an effort, which restricts their social life to mostly the British community. And, many have, unlike us, actually sold up in the UK and moved here lock stock and barrel. To not make the most of the friendship and camaraderie of ones Spanish neighbours seems daft to me. And, do not believe a word of what you might read in books like A Year in Provence or Driving Over Lemons, about never being accepted in the village. It makes good copy but in our experience just isn’t the case. I will illustrate this by a little anecdote. The 6th January here is looked forward to by the kids even more so than Christmas. Known as ‘Reyes’ (Kings) it is the day when children young and old receive their presents. So in villages all through the land three locals dress up as the Kings and after a parade through the streets, usually accompanied by music and singing and the frenzied throwing and catching of sweets, the Kings hand out presents in the main square to dumbstruck, delighted children. Last year I was asked to be Melchior and spent the evening in heavy disguise in the prescribed manner. One little boy I gave a present to, was my best friend in the village, Jesus’s grandson. Little Pablo did not recognise me but was very pleased to get his gift. Later my mate Jesus e-mailed me to say that as far as his grandson was concerned I will always be a King. I’ll admit to a few tears and the certain feeling of acceptance!! Well I have just reread the last section and it sounds terribly cloying and self congratulatory but I will leave it in so that you will know what a ‘big girls blouse’ I am.
OK Ian I will close now and hope that you have not already poured petrol over yourself and struck a match. Do enjoy your new home, Vino del Pais, (which paradoxically means local plonk rather than revved up Rioja) and Flamenco; they both invite you deep into the Andaluz soul.
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Thanks for your comment. It was certainly an interesting story and one well worth telling on the school blog site. I am sure Colin would be pleased to receive it.
Lisa and I chose our new home to be able to enjoy the companionship and the way of life of the Spanish people, not just Brits, and have serious intentions of becoming more than comfortable in ‘espanol’.
It is interesting that you have a cave house as there are a few around our new home but, being close to Cuevas del Almanzoro, that is hardly surprising. There is also a superb cave restaurant.
I have no idea about local geography yet, so I am not sure how far it would be to drive, but if it is possible we’d love to meet up.
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Thank you for droppingby my fun picture blog!l u have an interesting blog. Wish u the best…
You are wonderful Ian it’s been great meeting you. Does England have Thanksgiving I say I don’t think so. LOL
Good for you, Ian, and think a positive attitude is half the battle won in MS. I see that we have a lot in commmon,apart from MS: we both live in Spain,though I have been in Valencia for nigh on 40 years and was diagnosed here in 1980. I see also that you were a leader in the Scout movement, as was I from 1966 to 1971 – Cubs (with the exception of the year I worked in Germany) and am a just a little older than you and have been married to the same Spaniard since 1971.
Hope to hear from you shortly
Ian, what a guy you are. How neat that you’ve started this blog and that you’re living the dream. Thank you for inspiring me and not accepting the sentence that Multiple Sclerosis can be. It’s been my dream to write as well and I WILL continue to do so, and get my own blog going again (started but kind of trailed off). Blessings Friend.
Hi Elana, so pleased you like my blog and you, too, want to write. If I can be of help or a source of advice, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Have had dx 2002. Have 2 boys I’m 47. Just got on Gilenya. My spine is twisted and need surgery. Very nervous my cognitiv is wrose …all Dr’s seem afraid to treat me w adhd drugs….I would totally think over doing this
Came across your excellent blog whilst googling out Paralympics heros with MS. Thought I’d pop in and say hello as I live, and grew up, in sunny Pratts Bottom and my Mum was a Cray girl and grew up in St Mary’s Cray.
Having spent many years trying to escape orpington, living in London, Moscow and Tokyo following my career as a lawyer, the pull of home was too much and I’ve ended up back where I started (although I still work in the city)
I’m also a recently (June 16) diagnosed MS’er (active RRMS). So far my symptoms have been mercifully mild, and I’m three weeks post my first dose of Lemtrada – so have fingers and toes crossed that is does its magic without the nasty side effects!
Hi Katy, great to hear from you. I remember all those Orpington areas. I was born in Chelsfield, went to Cray Valley Technical High School from 1964 to 70 when I started work as a reporter. At that time I lived at the top of Rushmore Hill in Knockholt, so I drove through Pratts Bottom frequently. Sorry to hear that you have joined the ranks of us with MS, the only thing I can say is ‘never give up’. Thanks for your kind comments about my articles.
Hello, It’s a pleasure, I believe that’s the correct introduction. In my country I would say (It’s nice to meet you.). I have enjoyed reading your blogs. Than you for sharing. I have been seeking out someone with your intellect who could point me in the right direction. I too have MS and my sister suffered from Lupus until her recent passing. I only wish I had educated myself with her disease and possible outcomes much earlier. I have recently read several articles that with umbilical stems can cure several diseases without having to go through chemo. I would like to get things moving so all of us don’t have too suffer anymore. There is a point where this is a cruel,cruel disease, and enough is enough. I was told recently too write from the heart, but have been futile in my attempts to get the ball rolling. Any advice or information you could give me would be profoundly appreciated. I too have not worked since 2006. I did not enjoy being physically,financially,emotionally and spiritually challenged. I’m not ready to roll over. Thank you for your time.
Hello Ramona, thank you for your comments about my articles. I was sorry to read of your sister’s death from lupus. Of course, lupus is a terminal illness while MS, as cruel as it is, is not regarded as fatal.
I am not a doctor, so it would not be proper for me to offer any form of medical advice.
However, I will give you the benefit of my knowledge and opinions, but please remember that these are not substitutes for your own doctor.
There is a widespread misconception that stem cells can do anything; but they cannot. They are not even the most important part of HSCT, chemotherapy is. Personally, I would steer well clear of any stem cell treatment for MS that does not include chemotherapy.
You inspire me! Thanks for sharing your stories and thanks for helping me!
My daughter is 26 year’s old and she’s diganosed with agressive MS with about 2 years . Would you know if she would be suitable for stemcell treatment. She isn’t too bad yet she can walk fast, loves cooking, shopping etc. We are from the Republic of Ireland and I would be very grateful if you could tell me what the cost of the treatment is and could it be paid in stages ie. an amount up front, another amount when she goes over there for the treatment and the rest when she would come home as we would have to fundraise for the treatment.