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CHAPTER 6


DEAD DRUMMERS DON’T LIE


“These are my principles. 

If you don’t like them, I have others.”

Groucho Marx


Question: What do the following bands have in common?


  • The Who
  • Elton John band
  • The Band
  • Led Zeppelin
  • The Beach Boys
  • Fairport Convention
  • The Carpenters
  • The New York Dolls
  • The Pink Fairies
  • The Velvet Underground
  • Hanoi Rocks
  • The Ventures
  • Echo & the Bunnymen
  • Steely Dan
  • Procol Harum
  • Nazareth
  • Rainbow
  • Emerson, Lake & Powell
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Devo
  • Iron Maiden
  • Lordi
  • Rush
  • Kiss
  • Toto


Answer: In each of these, the drummer died first. In the cases of Rainbow and The New York Dolls, they had two drummers die! This may be of only passing interest to the average person, but when you’re a drummer in a rock band, as I was for 15 years, it gets your attention. Even in the spoof film, This is Spinal Tap, the band went through a succession of drummers, one of whom spontaneously explodes. A simple internet search for dead drummers will reveal that the average life expectancy of a rock drummer is about 35 years, the most common causes of death being car crashes, overdoses and hanging. I decided early on that the traditional rock lifestyle combined with a likely early death was not for me. It was time for a change. Not a small change, such as moving from a punk band to a heavy metal band. Rather a profound leap with both feet into an entirely new field. Dr. Terry had been growing in me for 30 years and was about to wrest control from Mr Chimes. This was going to be a challenging but interesting journey. Before that, however… 


NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE NUMBER 3 

I was in a band with my brother Bryn called Blood Simple. We were friends with a group of Hell’s Angels who invited us to play at a big festival called The Bulldog Bash. After we played we spent some time watching a couple of other bands from the side of the stage, then left. We had barely left the site when there was a newsflash on the radio. The stage at The Bulldog Bash was burning down. We were certain they were wrong as we’d only just left and everything was fine. We later heard that the guy frying chips near the side of the stage had decided to pour in some more cooking oil. He poured what he thought was a canister of oil, but it contained petrol. Anyone near that fryer was killed instantly. Bryn and I had been standing there for ages. What a shock that would have been for my mother!


IT ONLY FEELS KINKY THE FIRST TIME

Lots of people are terrified by the very thought of change – I see that all the time in patients who are stressed. Personally, I have always found change exhilarating. One of the reasons that change is so scary for some is the idea of being out of your comfort zone. I have found that you never know when you will be pulled out of your comfort zone – it happened to me quite recently. I was asked to be a judge at a dance contest. I have done this many times before and found it no problem. Usually the worst thing that can happen is that you are called upon to make a short speech and award a prize to the winner, which is not difficult if you have done that kind of thing before. This event was a Bollywood dance contest at a summer festival in the park. 

I turned up and did my judging and as I gave out the prizes, along with several other judges, I felt that my job was done. At that moment, the host said, “if anyone would like to get up and try this Bollywood dancing for the first time they can come onto the stage now and try it!” As 30 or so people stepped up onto the stage, she said, to my dismay, “The judges can join in too”. Now, I am not a dancer although, having played drums, I can at least manage to keep in time. They taught us a few Bollywood moves that we all did together. I made sure I stayed near the back. They then picked out three judges from the audience to assess the group on the stage. When they asked the judges for a verdict, they conferred and then pronounced that the winners were, “This eight year old girl and him.” 

You can imagine my horror when I realised that him was me! Everyone else left the stage in preparation for me to compete with the eight-year-old girl for the prize. I know that there was no risk of death in all of this, but nevertheless, to perform a Bollywood dance for the first time, in front of several thousand Indians, most of whom know how it should be done, was just a little beyond my usual comfort zone. I went through the whole routine with the eight year old whereupon the judges were asked to award the first prize. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the judges were unable to agree on the winner and asked us to perform one more time. All I could think was, “She is a child, for God’s sake, give her the prize and get me out of here!” Finally they gave the young girl the first prize and I scurried off out of sight. I saw the Mayor on the way out, who was one of the other judges and told him I was going to demand an enquiry as to why I hadn’t won. More seriously, I feel strongly that those who never dare to get out of their comfort zone are severely limited in life.

My change of career from being a rock musician to a chiropractor may seem like a large jump. It is perhaps the question I am most frequently asked when people meet me – how do you go from being one to the other? I include this story here, so that in future when people ask me that question, I can simply say, “It’s all in the book.”

It was never my intention to spend my whole life as a musician. The life of an artist can be tough, and if you are going to do it, it is best done when you are young. Life as a rock musician consists of a never-ending cycle of travelling from town to town, and going to parties every night. When you are 19 years old, this is fine, but the appeal wears off over the years. Conversely, most people don't like to see a very young doctor, on the basis that they are too young to know anything yet. My father had been a musician but did not pursue a professional music career since the demands of a young family required stable employment. For that reason I feel he was very gratified to see all three of his sons go on to become professional musicians. However, even as a small child, I felt a strong pull towards medicine. As a teenager I was still interested in medicine, but by then I had discovered girls…

It seemed to me that there were two ways to get the girls. One was to be a football player; the other was to be a rock musician. Since I was useless at sport, there was really only one choice open to me. I thoroughly enjoyed my fifteen years as a professional musician, and I would not have wanted it any other way. However, the urge to treat my ailing fellow human beings was steadily growing stronger. Since I was already into my thirties, I decided that such a big change should happen sooner rather than later, as the large amount of studying involved was likely to be harder as I got older. In the circumstances, it wasn't possible for me to effect the change gradually. It was necessary to jump in with both feet. If you spend years working your way up in any profession and have reached a certain level of respect from your peers, as well as a satisfactory income, it can be very difficult to start again at the bottom in another field. I dismissed this concern early on, as I reasoned that I would only be at the bottom for a relatively short time, and this was a career for the rest of my life so it would be well worth the initial sacrifices. Also, since I had never been to university, I was excited by the prospect of learning and broadening my mind on a full-time basis. I have always thought that further education is a great privilege and sometimes not appreciated by the very young. I relished the prospect of spending years delving into books, experimenting in the laboratory and engaging with learned people on the very topics that had always fascinated me. 

The question I am very often asked is “How could you give up stardom for treating sick people?” I will try to explain this as best I can so you can see what makes healing is so irresistible.

When we played the Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles there were 100,000 people in the audience. I remember thinking before going onstage that I had to enjoy this experience, because I might not play to such a large audience ever again. If you had told me at the age of sixteen that I would be on TV, have number one hits and play to such large audiences, I would have been absolutely ecstatic. The truth is that when I did all that, while I was generally happy, I was not ecstatic, and the expected euphoria just wasn't there. I am not saying that I didn't enjoy my music career, and I most certainly would do it all over again, but years later I found myself standing in front of a 12-year-old boy who had, throughout his life, woken up every morning soaked in his own urine. After three weeks of treatment, he reported to me that for the last five mornings he had woken up completely dry. The boy was quite nonchalant about this, but his mother was unable to hold back the tears. The problem that had blighted his entire life was now solved. There were not 100,000 people in that room, only the boy and his mother. The feeling I got from having changed that boy's life was the euphoric feeling that I had been searching for all these years. 

Making such a difference to the lives of others has given me a much more profound happiness than I ever managed on the stage. It is a case of doing what you love and loving what you do. My clinics have so far seen 44,000 patients; so it’s just possible that I will ultimately reach 100,000 people, but one at a time. How many people out there are just one step away from profound happiness but are just too scared to get out of their comfort zone by taking that step outside it? In my practice I’ve seen too many people who are so scared of change that they stay for years in a place they’d rather not be. Just one proviso; you can change your politics, your religion, your appearance, and even your sex! But you must never change the football team you support. Up the Hammers!


*


Around the time I decided to enrol on a course in medical sciences I found the ideal course run by an osteopath called Joe Goodman. The fee for the first year of that course was £1,000. The mortgage interest rate had just gone through the roof (to around 15%) leaving me broke, albeit with a nice house. I didn’t have £1,000 but I enrolled anyway, thinking I would find it from somewhere. A week before the payment was due we had a family dinner at which my father stood up unexpectedly and made a little speech. It seemed my parents had been putting away a little money each month into a savings scheme and it had just borne fruit. My father told us how proud he was of all of us, not so much because of what we had achieved, but because of how we had all turned out. He then gave each of us a cheque for £1,000. My parents had no idea at that time that I needed that very sum. I don’t know what my two brothers did with theirs but for me it was an unbelievable coincidence that the exact amount of money came at exactly the right time. This was a further indication to me that there was a guiding hand exerting a benevolent influence over my life, more noticeable at times like these. 

When I was interviewed for a place at chiropractic school in Bournemouth, I was struck by the difference between that interview and my previous interviews at medical school. They asked me why I wanted to be a chiropractor and told me that before being allowed on the course I would have to pass a further interview by the Chiropractic Association. This interview would be by a practitioner in the field who was going to make sure I was the right type of person to join the profession. I was interviewed by a Dr Starkey (curiously reminding me of Ringo’s real name). He was a very pleasant man who spent a good deal of time with me in an effort to discover if I was an appropriate person to join his profession. Looking back, this seemed like a really good idea because in my twenty years of healing people I have met quite a few doctors and therapists who really should be doing something else. I jumped that hurdle and signed up to spend the next four years of my life in full-time study.

When I was leaving home to go and study in Bournemouth, an old friend called Angie Arnold commented that the people I would meet the next day would be the people I would be very close to for the duration of the course and some of them would probably become life-long friends. I turned up at Bournemouth with that thought in mind. I was going to study full time for four years and would have virtually no concerns other than filling my head with lots of useful knowledge. Some 18 year olds might well take this for granted but it seemed like a big privilege to me. 

I arrived late and sat down next to a very gentlemanly chap who was about 12 years older than me – his name was Paul Brindley. I asked him if I had missed anything important in the last couple of hours. He reassured me in a very convincing way that I had missed nothing of any importance. I spent the next four years sitting next to Paul during which time he gave me numerous such assurances. When I first arrived at College, I didn’t tell people about my musical past. I had finally taken up my calling to the healing arts. I was here to learn and didn’t want the distraction of others making a fuss of my past. However, keeping my past a secret turned out to be futile. I had been at the college for about a year when they used the song, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ in a Levi’s jeans commercial, Joe Strummer and I having long ago agreed that Levi’s were the best jeans. The song immediately went to number one in the charts and stayed there for several weeks. The video was played endlessly on TV at that time and the striking resemblance between the guy in the video and myself was impossible to miss. People thought it even weirder that I hadn’t said anything so I might as well have told them in the first place. Not for the first time in my life, I discovered that honesty really is the best policy. 

I had a great time being a student. It was a bit like being in a band but with less money. By that, I mean that the rest of the world was out there working whilst you had jumped off the merry-go-round to do something else for a while. 

During the first year at chiropractic school it was obvious to me that studying in groups was more effective for several reasons. I teamed up with a fellow mature student called Sean Moruzzi. Various people joined and left the study group over the years but Sean and I were always there. He would turn up with six textbooks and four folders of notes whereas I would have everything summarised on a small piece of paper. He would say it made him nervous not to have every piece of information possible whereas I would be nervous if I couldn’t fit the whole topic onto a scrap of paper. Sean and I made a pact; we would make sure that neither of us failed a single exam. Happily, we succeeded.

Some people are really not cut out for anything medical and will pass out at the mere mention of blood, never mind the sight of it. Such people are appalled by the idea of dissecting the human body and find it particularly odd that someone like me, as a vegetarian, could stand such a thing. I have often pointed out that I am only dissecting, not eating these bodies. Actually, you are so busy figuring out which muscles and nerves are which, you don’t have time to worry about who they are. You are very grateful that they have donated their body but you’re too busy trying to pass exams to think much further than that. Furthermore, these things are essential to gain your qualifications but you are never going to have to do them again after graduating.

Even as a full-time student my entrepreneurial spirit was still alive and kicking. Every term the professors would give us a list of books that we had to buy. Some of these were very expensive because they were so specialised. I opened accounts with all of the major book publishers and bought enough copies of each of the required books for about half of the class. As I had no overheads, I was able to sell the books at a discounted price and make a good profit, and I always sold every copy. Being a full time student gets expensive and this helped me pay my way. 

I had always suffered from hay fever but not badly enough to bother with medication. In the summer of my first year at chiropractic school I went home and cut my hedge, which was about 150 feet long. The hedge was in flower and, as a result, I got hay fever from hell. I could hardly see because my eyes were itching like crazy, I had a pounding headache, my nose was running like a tap and, worst of all, my palate was so itchy I could have happily scrubbed it with a wire brush. Anyone who has suffered hay fever will recognise this pattern. As luck would have it my wife, Maxine, had just recently finished a course in acupuncture and seized upon the opportunity to use her new skills. I was suffering so badly I would have agreed to anything. She inserted about half a dozen needles. I was hoping for a slight reduction in my symptoms but within 20 minutes my headache had gone, my nose had not only stopped running but also completely dried up like a desert and all the itchiness in my eyes and palate had vanished. I decided right there and then that if acupuncture could control the nervous system in this way then I just had to learn it. 

I went back to study at the age of 33 and I was concerned that perhaps my brain wouldn’t be as sharp as it had been at 18. However, having completed the first year of study and passed all the exams, I realised that I had the capacity to take on a bit more. I decided that I wanted to do acupuncture as well as chiropractic but I couldn’t face doing one course and then the other consecutively because I reckoned I’d be 90 years old by the time I finished. I talked to the acupuncture college about doing the acupuncture degree at the same time as the chiropractic degree by working at weekends and evenings. They told me this wasn’t really feasible and that I should make another plan. I insisted that it could be done and that I wanted the opportunity. They eventually allowed me to start the second degree but they reserved the right to terminate that arrangement with the first sign that I wasn’t able to cover the work. 

Acupuncture and chiropractic are both alternatives to drugs and surgery but have very little in common when it comes to the subject matter. So every time we breathed a huge sigh of relief when the chiropractic exams finished, I had to cram for two further weeks for the acupuncture exams. This went on for three more years. 

Because of the large amount of material I had to memorise, I decided to find out if the super power memory books I had seen in bookshops were any good. I bought one and spent a whole weekend trying to improve my memory. This proved to be quite a revelation and taught me that people don’t really have good or bad memories; they either use their memory or don’t. If you learn to use your memory the power is incredible. Just for fun, I learned how to memorise the position of each card in a deck of cards. I would get someone to shuffle the pack and then I’d look at each card in turn, memorising its position from 1 to 52. After doing that the person would ask me either (a) what card is no. 32, to which I would reply the Jack of diamonds, or (b) where is the two of Clubs, and I would say no. 15. Whilst this impressed some of my friends and family at the time, it was a bad mistake. For years after, every time I forgot something they would point their finger at me and laugh, saying, “Memory man has forgotten something!” So while I recommend improving your memory I would resist the temptation to show-off.

Being a student was a bit more expensive than I had anticipated. In fact just about everything that I experience in life is more expensive than anticipated! I needed some more income, as I didn’t really want to borrow money. The obvious thing was to play some music and I found that Germany was the perfect place as they have an insatiable appetite for old English music. I flew over at weekends, which was a pleasant relief from all the studying, and I met various old friends whilst doing it, such as Dave Dee – sadly no longer with us, even though he wasn’t a drummer! 

Around the time that I completely changed my career I also separated from Maxine after eleven years. That might sound like a brief marriage but in the music business it’s a marathon. She kept the home in Northampton and I stayed down in Bournemouth to further my studies. We didn’t actually divorce for a long time, as there was nobody else involved. I am happy to say that Maxine and I have remained friends over the years. She later called me to say that Denis the dog was going crazy and ripping up all the furniture in the house, especially the mattresses. I think he missed me, as I was the one he’d bonded with. I collected him and took him to Bournemouth to live with me. On the first night in his new home he proceeded to rip up the furniture there too. Luckily the people I was sharing the flat with were dog-lovers and very understanding. He settled down after a few days, having cost me a fortune in mattresses.

I also filmed an instructional drum video to help young drummers improve. I got my brother Bryn to help me as he was always fascinated by the film industry. We wrote the script, hired all the equipment and camera crew, and aimed to record the whole thing over one weekend. At that point, I knew very little about project management and I hadn’t planned what we were going to do about editing the video. Video-editing is a time-consuming and costly affair. But for the moment my only concern was to get the filming done. A guy walked in, during the filming and asked us if we would mind him watching for a while. To which we said, “No problem, as long as you don’t make any noise whilst we’re filming.” 

When the tea break finally came, he said to me, “You don’t remember me, do you?” I apologised and admitted that I did not whereupon he explained that several years earlier his girlfriend had wanted to record her first single but didn’t have the money to do it. Bryn, myself and a couple of pals had agreed to play the backing track for her at no cost, just to help her out. We did that on the basis that if it were a hit we would get paid to do the album, and if it were a flop we would have lost nothing. Unfortunately, the record was not a hit, but this man had remembered that we had done him a favour, which he would now like to return. He worked in a video edit suite and told us that when we came to edit the video he would allow us to go in there either at night or at the weekend when it wasn’t busy and let us edit our video for free. We accepted his kind offer and he did a great job with the edit. I have never been one to agree with the expression, “Nice guys finish last.” My experience has usually been the reverse.

During my studies, I went to the wedding of my old manager Richard Bishop in Los Angeles. It gave me the chance to hook up with Hanoi Rocks guitarist, Andy McCoy, and his beautiful new wife, Angela. I was only there for a long weekend and I somehow ended up sharing an apartment with two models. I had one day free and the sun was shining. The girls told me they were going roller skating and invited me to come along. I politely refused since I have never been able to roller skate. They told me, “It’s easy – we’ll show you how”. I tried to explain that I really couldn’t do it but they insisted so I gave in and went to the beach with them. When we got the skates on and tried to skate they were genuinely shocked that I really could not skate, even though I had told them several times. They quickly came up with the solution, which was to hold one hand each and take me for a ride. I can distinctly remember the incredulous looks from various men obviously thinking, “What the hell is that guy doing with these gorgeous girls when he can’t even skate?” The next day I went to a wonderful wedding at the Bel Air hotel and then flew back to carry on studying.

I got involved in the Student Union as the PR person. At the end of your year of office you have to make a short speech about what has been achieved. It just so happened that two major PR events occurred during my year. Firstly, the Medical Research Council published an article showing chiropractic to be better for lower back pain than hospital outpatient treatment, and secondly, Lady Diana announced that she was having great results with chiropractic. She became our patron and actually flew into the college by helicopter to make a speech. PR for chiropractic that year increased 1,000%. This had nothing to do with my PR abilities; it was just a happy coincidence. 

Years later, several of us asked around our colleagues to find out who was treating Lady Diana but nobody owned up to it. This of course is quite right according to our ethical code but normally one would expect such information to be shared between a few carefully chosen colleagues. I eventually found out years later that it was a good friend of mine and a great chiropractor called Graham Heale – tragically killed in a motorcycle accident a couple of years ago. 

While I enjoyed being a student, in the final year I couldn’t wait to escape. I had wanted to heal people from the age of 8 and was now on the verge of being unleashed upon the great British public. It’s true that as a final year intern you are treating patients but you are in such a controlled environment that the experience is very frustrating. 

The day eventually arrived for my final exam. This was the one that all students dreaded. We’d all seen students from earlier years trembling at the thought of it or rushing away in tears when they’d finished. It was a viva where three doctors sat there and asked questions. You couldn’t really prepare for it because they could ask you just about anything. I was relatively calm about it for two reasons. Firstly, Sean and I had studied together for four years and we’d never had a failure yet. Secondly, I saw this as a performance and I’d been performing all my life. Still, I was looking forward to getting the other side of it. I went in feeling calm and reasonably confident. 

They started asking me about whiplash injuries, which was fine. They moved on to nutrition – no problem there. They gave me some X-rays to read and I diagnosed the problem correctly. I was getting comfortable now. Then came the crunch – they asked a simple and apparently easy question. “How would smoking affect a back sufferer?” I shot straight back at them all the problems caused by lower oxygen levels and the resultant slower healing. They said, “Anything else?” Then I blasted them with decreased vitamin C absorption with the resulting poor quality of cartilage produced. I explained all the metabolic pathways to back this up then sat back thinking I’d defeated them. Then they said. “Anything else?” I thought to myself, ‘I’ve told them everything – what more could they possibly want?’ I gave in and said no, I couldn’t think of anything else. They took great pleasure in saying, “Do you think a smoker might cough more than the average person?” I’d been so carried away with the details that I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. I did, however, pass the exam.

On the day that my final exam results came in I had already pre-arranged my insurance cover and professional association membership – I simply needed to hear the word that I had attained my degree. When I finally got the word, my first patient was in front of me within two hours. Bizarrely, I was half way through treating him when he asked the question, “How long have you been doing this for?” If I had replied, “You are my first patient” he would no doubt have laughed, thinking I was joking. I took the safer option and told him I had been treating patients for a year, which was true, as I had been treating patients in the student clinic for that time. I found it incredible that my very first patient asked that question. It was probably a year before anyone else asked it again.

My graduation ceremony in 1993 was a nice milestone for several reasons. Firstly, I had finally managed a complete transformation from rock musician to chiropractor – and that felt good. I had gone from the shortest-lived profession to reputedly the longest-lived profession in one jump. More importantly, I had made my parents happy. My mother no doubt frequently had nightmares about my death in a motorcycle accident or some other early rock death scenario. Years earlier, my brother John recounted to me the story of when I first started to ride motorbikes. My mum was horrified and said so to the rest of the family (I was out at the time). They tried to tell her that I would be OK but she was far from convinced. They decided to stop arguing and settle down to watch the evening movie on TV. The movie was Lawrence of Arabia, which begins with Lawrence riding along on a motorbike, crashing and dying. I think she was relieved to hear I had stopped riding motorbikes and thrilled to hear that I was going back to study.

I moved back to my parents’ house in London and went to work in a nearby clinic housed in a very elegant, high-class building. No expense had been spared in the setting up. The clinic had recently opened and accommodated many different therapists. I arrived there with a clear idea of what I wanted, which was lots of patients. On my first day I walked into the quietist building in the world. I made some noise and a nice lady called Chris appeared, looking somewhat surprised. I told her I was the new chiropractor and the surprise left her. Chris was destined to be my head receptionist for the next 17 years. I was shocked to find that, despite the luxurious surroundings, there were hardly any patients. There were plenty of therapists, all sitting around doing nothing. My self-image as the busiest chiropractor in London was not matching the reality. One of these had to change, and I was damn sure which one it was going to be. 

I needed to immediately find a way of generating patients for myself. I printed thousands of leaflets offering a free check-up. I had lots of young kids running around the local streets, putting the leaflets through doors. Like clockwork, the next day the phone would ring and lots of new patients would book in with me. I quickly built a large practice in this way but, of the 14 therapists at the clinic, I was the only one who was busy. Then my inner voice told me to find another building for my practice. I ignored this at first because there seemed to be no need, and it would have been disloyal to David, the man who had given me my first chance. 

The voice became more and more insistent and was eventually impossible to ignore. Just to appease the voice and without any real intention of moving, I checked to see if there were any properties to rent. There was one right around the corner. It was in an ideal location and just the right size. I thought it couldn’t hurt to look, so I went in. The owners occupied the upper floor and wanted to rent the ground floor. They were very friendly and helpful and loved the idea of a clinic downstairs. A bank that no longer needed it had leased the ground floor but had three years remaining on the lease, so they wanted to sublet it. I hit on a great idea to silence the voice. I would offer an insulting 50% of the rent and, just to make sure it was refused, I also insisted on the first six months rent-free. I phoned my insulting offer through to the agent and went back to work feeling nice and calm. To my horror, they called back within the hour and accepted my offer! Then the battle between my heart and my head really started raging. The inner voice by now was shouting so loud that I just had to trust it and obey, so I instructed a lawyer, but told him to take plenty of time over it. I figured that lawyers take ages when you are rushing them so this was going to take forever. Anyway, if I signed the lease, I could always sublet to someone else.

A few weeks later, David came to me and told me he was shutting down, as he was making a loss. We had two weeks to get out. The inner voice had been right all along. I called the lawyer and said, “You know I told you to take your time?” “Yes,” he replied. “Well now I need you to pull out all the stops and get me in there by the weekend!” That was just enough time to decorate part of the new building, divert the phone, re-install the X-ray machine, write to all the current patients, and about 10,000 other tasks. Two weeks later, I was in my own clinic, which is still there and is one of the busiest chiropractic clinics in Europe. Had I started to look for a place after David told me, it would have meant at least 6 weeks with nowhere to practice. The inner voice will seldom let you down, but sometimes it is necessary to trust it even when it doesn’t seem to make any sense. 

I then settled happily into a routine of working hard and getting people well. I got up early one very cold December morning. It had snowed the night before so I had to defrost the car before I drove off. I had a very quiet V12 Jaguar and I remember hearing the sound of those huge tyres crushing the virgin snow. It was such a beautiful morning and I had that ‘great to be alive’ feeling. Then I felt a hand rest on my shoulder. To say I was not expecting that is a major understatement. In the half second or so it took me to look around I replayed a dozen horror films featuring a mad axe-man in the back of the car. When I turned around it was not a mad axe-man. In fact, it was not even a human being. A cat had crept into the car while I was de-icing the screen and had decided to jump onto my shoulder. I stopped the car and opened the door. The cat ran out, looking back at me with an expression that implied, “I’ve had enough of you!” “I've had enough of you too!” I thought.


*


CHANGING MY WAYS

In 1998 I decided to throw a party. I put together a list of friends and called or e-mailed them, asking them to respond yes, no or maybe. In due course I checked their replies to see how many were coming so I could get in the right amount of food and drink. There were about 80 people who said yes, but I knew from previous experience that not all of them would show up. As I looked down the list of names, I began asking myself how reliable each person was. I came across the names of a couple called Gary and Laura. I have known these two for many years, and in all that time I have never been let down by them, not even once. As I looked at their names, I found myself smiling and thinking how nice it was that they were so reliable. I really liked the fact that they respected me so much that they never went back on their word to me. Not only that, I also knew that they would be on time. Why? Because they always were. They respected me enough not to waste my time. I just sat there and reflected on how nice it is to have friends whom you can rely on. I also reflected on how odd it was that I had never paid much attention to this in the past. Then I looked further down the list at some more names, many of whom I knew to be very unreliable. So if they said yes, I am definitely coming, I estimated perhaps a 50% likelihood of them actually showing up. When I had finished, I managed to make a fairly accurate guess as to the actual number of people I needed to cater for. What happened next was something I shall never forget.

I put the list to one side and then I started to wonder how reliable I was myself. As I thought back over many years, I realised that I had been far from reliable. I could remember many occasions when I had said, “Yes, I’ll be there” and then didn’t show up, usually because I didn’t feel like it. In other words, my reasons were basically selfish. I also suspected that for each one that I remembered, there were many others long forgotten. People don’t usually call the next day and ask, “Where the hell were you?” No, they just let it go. I had never before asked the question, “Am I reliable?” Now I was asking it for the first time and I was dismayed at the answer: an emphatic no. I then played out in my head possible conversations between my friends and associates, going something like this. “Terry Chimes said he’s coming tonight”, then the answer, “Yeah, but you know what he’s like, he only turns up if he feels in the mood, you could wait all night for him”. This would be followed by general nods in agreement. What a horrible thought! The good part was that now I was finally paying attention to this, I realised that this was no bad dream; this sort of conversation (or worse) would definitely have taken place on many occasions. There was only one thing to do. I was going to have to change. 

I started to imagine what it would be like to be utterly reliable, to know that when you said the words, “I will be there,” the other person would be happy to know that you meant it. I was well aware that you could not acquire a reputation for being dependable overnight; that, of course, would take a long time. What I did know was that I could start being dependable right now, this moment. I enjoyed that powerful feeling of taking control of my life and making a change for the better. The trouble was that before I could really enjoy it, I started to think about another problem. I had not only been unreliable but I was often late as well. This was a separate, but not unrelated, problem. Both have a lot to do with how much respect you give to other people. Try as I might, I could not take any pleasure in being the new reliable me until I had fixed this second problem. 

At first, I started to make excuses such as bad traffic and unreliable trains. Then I realised that I usually allowed just enough time for the journey, with no allowance for delays. Since there usually were delays, I was usually late. It was as simple as that. I made up my mind that I would aim to leave half an hour early (more on a very long journey) and always bring a book to read so as never to waste any of my time. Also, being early would ensure that I would not waste anybody else’s time. I started feeling much better now, because even though I hadn’t actually arrived early anywhere yet, I had made a life-changing decision, and that was sufficient for me to gently bathe in the pleasant warm afterglow of pride that was spreading through the new me. Unfortunately, there was still a nagging doubt within me.

With growing concern that I had just created a monster that was never going to allow me to sleep again, I turned my attention to the next problem. I was in the habit of saying, “I will call you”, “I will lend you that book” or “give you that website address.” I would make these promises without any real commitment to carrying them out. It wasn’t that I had no intention of delivering on these promises; I just had a tendency to not get around to it unless I received one or more reminders. This smacked of the same old problem yet again: not giving other people enough respect. I was really in the flow of making life-changing decisions now, so it was comparatively easy to make one more. Plus, I was desperate to get some sleep. I resolved that in the future, if Terry Chimes promises something to anyone, then he will do his utmost to deliver on that promise no matter what the cost in terms of time, money, energy or anything else. I did not intend to make fewer promises, just deliver on the ones that I did make. Finally, I felt the tension leave me so that the new Terry could feel the harmony returning and fall asleep, dreaming about this wonderful person he was going to become. The next day, I wrote down my promises to myself and started to act on them.

It was quite soon after the night of the birth of the new Terry that I had a chance to make good on a promise. My friend Sam Jacobs had phoned a month earlier to ask if I would like to join him and four other friends at a concert. I had said, “Yes please, get me a ticket”. When the day arrived, as is so often the case, I was really not in the mood. I was very tired after a previous late night, but I had promised and this was an opportunity to show the world what the new me was like. So I not only showed up, but – you guessed it – I was half an hour early. When I arrived, I saw Sam approaching several people outside the theatre. He explained to me that three of the four others had called that afternoon to cancel, so he was trying, without success, to sell the tickets. Furthermore, the fourth person didn’t show up either. As we walked in, Sam said to me, “I’m glad you showed up or I would be on my own.” I was quite unable to resist the temptation to declare to Sam, “If I promise to do something, I always make every effort not to let that person down.” Sam looked at me with a somewhat surprised expression and said, “I really appreciate that.” I felt good that I had not let him down and that it was appreciated, and right then I decided that the new me was here to stay.


When a man makes a promise, he creates an island of certainty in a heaving ocean of uncertainty. When you make a promise you have created a small sanctuary of trust within the jungle of unpredictability. 

Lewis Smedes


The next week I tried something new. I had never been one to be late for work, but someone once said to me, “If you are on time, then you are half an hour late.” This resonated with me at a deep level, so I resolved to arrive at my practice at least 30 minutes before the first patient. When I tried it the first time, I was surprised at not being the first in. My two receptionists were both there already. They had got into the habit of arriving early to check a whole list of jobs. Were the rooms warm enough? Did any patient gowns need washing? Was there enough change in the till? Plus a score of other items. They had learned long ago that it’s much less stressful to be early and not get caught out. I then decided that it would be a good idea to briefly read each patient card so that I would familiarise myself with each case and mentally prepare to meet each person, as they all have a different story. This actually took up all of the 30 minutes, but was so useful, and made the work so much more efficient, that I have done it ever since. 

Rock musicians are not known for being punctual. The first live gig I ever played with Black Sabbath, we had all been told to meet in the hotel lobby at 8 pm. At that stage I had been in the rock business for a long time and, in rock and roll language 8pm usually means some time before 9pm I went down there at ten minutes past eight which I thought was quite early and everyone was there waiting. It seems that when some people say 8pm, they actually mean 8pm. There were times with other bands when they would phone your room and say “Please come downstairs, we’re going,” and each of the band members would ask, “Are the others there yet?” 

There was a time when I wanted some publicity for a couple of projects that I was involved with. My friend George was an editor with the Daily Star newspaper. I asked him if I could do an interview to publicise my new projects. George arranged the interview, during which I told the journalist all about the projects. She asked me to talk about all the wild parties during my time in the rock business, and I replied that I didn’t want to go into that territory. She asked me about my declaration that I don’t drink, smoke or take drugs and whether I had ever drunk alcohol. I told her that I used to drink, like any other person, but I gave up in 1982. When the article was published it occupied a full page. There was no mention of any of the projects I wanted to publicise and the headline was ‘Terry’s battle with the booze’. My friends all thought it was hilarious. I called George to complain and he said he had been on holiday that week, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. 


CHINA

After my graduation in 1993, I went to Nanjing, China to spend six weeks working in a hospital doing acupuncture on patients with all sorts of complaints. There are certainly plenty of people there to practice on. On the day I started I was shocked to see how fast they treated patients, but I was soon doing the same thing. We saw a vast range of conditions from morning sickness to migraines and from frozen shoulders to hot flushes. There was always an interpreter available but I soon learned that not being able to chat was not usually an obstacle. They certainly let you know if they were in pain and their smiles told you when they were getting better.

I was particularly impressed by the way the Chinese doctors integrated traditional Chinese medicine with modern western medicine. For instance, if a patient turned up having fallen on his arm, he would be sent to the orthopaedic ward for an X-ray to see if there was a fracture. If there was no fracture he would be referred to the acupuncture department for pain relief. It’s such a shame that we can’t work together more often like that in the west.

Each morning there was a meeting between the head doctor and myself. An interpreter always joined us. One day I found myself sitting opposite the head doctor as usual, but there was no interpreter, who, it seemed, was sick. After waiting a few minutes, the doctor went off to make some inquiries. On her return, she amazed me by speaking in perfectly fluent English. I thought I was dreaming, as she had always spoken to me in Chinese, through the interpreter. When I spoke about this to some Chinese friends, they explained that for the doctor to speak English to me would embarrass the interpreter. Sure enough, as soon as the interpreter returned, she reverted to Chinese and only spoke English to me again when we said goodbye. If only we in the West were that sensitive to each other’s feelings.

It’s possible for acupuncturists to treat themselves although it’s always better for someone else to treat you if possible. I was sitting at home with a sinus infection and there was nobody available to give me any treatment so I decided to treat myself. There are some acupuncture points that are very effective for sinus problems but it means inserting needles into points located on the face. This is nowhere near as painful as it sounds but it can look a bit strange to the uninitiated. I sat with these pins in my face watching TV and quite forgot they were there. There was a knock at the door and I answered, forgetting that these pins were still protruding from my face! To this day, I have no idea who the man was or what he wanted. He simply quickly made his excuses and rushed off! I imagine he still tells the story about the crazy man with pins in his face. 

I’ve treated thousands of people and learned a lot about health and disease. I haven’t the space here to tell you everything but I must take the opportunity to tell you how I got here and share some of my experiences. 

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