Sometimes I meet people who can teach me so much in such a short space of time. For them, I might just be passing through… For me, these people can have a massive impact on what happens next in my life, and I never forget them. Terry is one of these people and I would like to share his story with you.
So, I was in Richmond on Sunday, running late for something, and in a fabulous mood. My day had started well, the sun was shining, and all was well with the world. Even TfL‘s weekend engineering works messing up my travel plans couldn’t get me down.
Having arrived at Richmond station, needing to be in Gunnersbury about half an hour before, I started out for the relevant bus stop, but something made me change my mind and opt instead for the luxury of a black cab for this short journey. I’m so glad I did, because had I got on the bus, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting Terry.
As I leaned into the cab to ask about the length and fare for my journey, I was struck by an effervesence not dissimilar to what I had already been feeling that morning, and somehow even lighter, like this was someone for whom life really was a breeze.
Terry and I had a chat about life and love, and although he came out with a lot of cliches, ‘Life’s too short,’ ‘There’s always someone worse off,’ ‘This isn’t a dress rehearsal,’ ‘You only get once shot at this,’ somehow, they didn’t seem like cliches coming from Terry, he really meant them, and really lived them. He told me about how he had lost both his brother and sister at a young age, and, rather than let the grief defeat him, it completely changed his outlook on life, made him want to grab it with both hands. He told me about how, after years of working for someone else, he had finally realised his dream of being his own boss, working when he wanted. He now works really hard when he feels like it, so that he can indulge his passion, taking himself off on holiday for at least two months of every year, thus making his work fit around his life, rather than the other way around.
I asked Terry if it had been difficult, learning The Knowledge. He really had to think about it, and as he did so, I noticed he kept chuckling to himself. ‘Yeah,’ he said, shrugging and shaking his head at the same time ‘I suppose it was… I used to get up at the crack of dawn and drive around all day…’ he trailed off and laughed. When I mentioned the research which shows that London’s Black Taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus after studying The Knowledge, his face lit up and he agreed, then told me about how it changed the way he accesses information. ‘I never forget a face,’ he said – then told me about a woman he had picked up once, and as soon as he saw her he remembered where she lived. This woman was shocked, as she hadn’t taken a taxi for several months ‘But once I’ve taken someone somewhere,’ explained Terry, ‘I never forget,’ thus demonstrating that his memory of faces has become closely linked with the map of London he has in his mind. Amazing.
The last words Terry and I exchanged were about his philosophy on life, which he said his father taught him:
‘As long as the rent is paid, and there’s food on the table, all that’s left to do it have fun!’
What great words to live by. The journey went all too quickly, and Terry’s laughter was still ringing in my ears well into the afternoon. I can almost hear it now.
I did ask Terry if he minded whether I wrote about him, and, if anything, he was just a little curious and said he didn’t mind at all.
Terry – if you happen to be reading this, thanks for keeping my energy high yesterday, and for reminding me what life should be all about. Mate, it’s clear to see, that not only do you truly love life, you really do LIVE every minute of it.