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CHAPTER 9


NOW HOW SHALL WE LIVE?


“He that is kind is free, though he is a slave; 

he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king.”

Saint Augustine 



Upon my return from the French monastery, Taizé, I was greeted with the news that The Clash were to be inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. I spoke to Trisha (Paul’s wife), who was now managing the band’s affairs, about the arrangements. I was curious as to what Joe would make of this. She said that Joe was delighted and looking forward to it. That surprised me a bit, although it was always hard to predict how Joe would react to such things. 

Didier’s death came just before Christmas 2002. I had the honour of making a speech at his funeral in Brussels. The day after Didier’s funeral I was at work as usual with a hefty line of eager patients wanting treatment before going to work. I always keep my mobile phone on vibrate and that morning it just wouldn’t stop vibrating. I sneaked out for a moment to listen to one of the many messages. It said, “So sorry to hear the news, will call you later.” I listened to one more and it was much the same. I popped out to ask my two receptionists if there was any news, but they both looked blank. At last a patient came in who knew what it was – Joe Strummer had just died unexpectedly. I was shocked for two reasons. Firstly, he had been the healthy one – always jogging and taking vitamins. Secondly, I had always seen, in my mind’s eye, the two of us in our eighties sitting on a park bench like those two old men in the Muppet Show, with him moaning about me leaving the band and me saying, “Isn’t it about time you got over it?” I have seen a lot of unexpected deaths but you never get used to it.

At Joe’s funeral there were lots of speeches. The one I remember was from Paul, the bass player. He recounted a time when they first knew each other, well before they had made any money. They were walking past a shop window when they saw some mirrored sunglasses, only recently invented. They agreed that they were really cool but quite expensive. Joe went in and came out wearing a pair. Paul told him they looked great. Joe produced another pair from his pocket and said “I bought you a pair too.” Paul was pleased by the gift but was also aware that Joe would now not be able to eat for the rest of the week. This was the way Paul remembered Joe, a man with a kind heart. I hadn’t remembered the sunglasses but I instantly recognised Joe in that deed, he had given me many things also. To me, and possibly many others, the public acclaim, fame, record sales and awards were far less important than the man’s heart.

We still went to the Hall of Fame induction. There was perhaps the feeling within The Clash ranks that it was a sort of tribute to Joe. It’s usual to play a couple of songs at the event. Apparently, Bruce Springsteen offered to sing for us if we wanted to perform but in the end it seemed that a video presentation would be more appropriate. Bernard decided not to come but Kosmo was there, helping everybody as usual. Johnny Green, long-term road manager came along to look after everyone. Topper decided at the last minute not to attend. Perhaps the shock of Joe’s sudden departure, closely followed by a big party, had been a bit much. The ceremony is simple enough. Various people get up and tell the world how wonderful you are while you have dinner. Then after that they all shake your hand and say congratulations. That’s about the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I was pleased to see Black Sabbath recently receive the same honour.

However much I change, I still love to catch up with people from my past. About seven years ago Julien Temple, the filmmaker who’s been around from the first days of punk, made a film about Joe Strummer entitled, The Future is Unwritten. The plan was to have a campfire, something Joe had been fond of, and invite those who knew him to take turns talking about him to the camera. I agreed to take part and I was told it was starting at 11 pm and ending at 4 am. I explained to the organisers that I would have to do my bit soon after 11 pm as I get up at 6.30 am. They assured me that I would be finished by 11.30. On the day I managed to finish at around midnight. I was walking back to my car when I bumped into Rocco Macauly our old photographer. It was great to see him and we walked back to the party together to catch up on the last 30 years. Finally, at one o’clock I left, only to meet Alex Michon who used to make the clash clothes. You guessed it – we went in to find out what we’d each been up to. Staggering away at two o’clock, I’d just escaped through the gates when I saw Keith Levene, who said to me, “Don’t tell me your not coming in for a drink?” I can’t remember the name of the person to whom I’d insisted on going first, but I saw him towards the end. He laughed, saying, “It’s a good thing we got you in first, isn’t it?”

Talking of my old life, a question I’m frequently asked is, “Do you miss playing music?” The answer is yes and no. I don’t normally have time to think about it, but if I watch a band playing, I do get the urge to jump up onto the stage, push the drummer aside and take over! I have recently decided to learn to play the piano, which is more of a solo instrument than the drums. This puts some music back into my life and should also help keep my brain alive a bit longer (the principle of use it or lose it). However, regarding my drumming, I’ve always said, “never say never!” I will certainly always be a music fanatic.

In 2012, two Swedish writers who were compiling a book about various English rock musicians contacted me. I agreed to meet them as the project sounded interesting. The book was called Keep Yourself Alive – a reference, I suppose, to the fact that rock musicians tend to die early. They invited me to Stockholm for the launch which was to be a big party during which various people in the book could take to the stage and play a couple of songs. I thought it sounded like fun so I agreed to attend the party. Before I left England they asked me if I’d mind playing a few songs. I said I was happy to do that. “When did you last play the drums? “ they asked. 

“20 years ago! “ 

 “Can you still do it?” 

“Yes, it’s like riding a bike.” 

When they picked me up from the airport they again asked, “Are you sure you can do this?” I assured them it would be no problem. When we arrived at the venue, I sat at the drums to play through a couple of songs and then I felt obliged to ask myself the question, “Can I still do this?” 

When we started playing I found everything was exactly as it had been all those years ago and I played in exactly the same way, except that my arms were aching after a couple of minutes. I thought, ‘Thank God all those punk songs are extremely short!’ The party was fabulous; I met a lot of interesting people and spent the whole weekend in the company of other rock musicians who were featured in the book. We all got on so well that we decided we had the makings of a band. We have Dave Tregunna from Sham69 on bass (I’d worked with him in the Cherrybomz), Mick Geggus from the Cockney Rejects on guitar and Sulo from Diamond Dogs on guitar and lead vocals. 

The four of us were sitting in a café in Stockholm and I asked Sulo if he knew what became of Susanne Blomqvist, who was married to Johnny Thunders. He said she lives here in Stockholm. “Good”, I said, “perhaps we can say hello.” Sulo replied, “Her hairdressing salon is nextdoor to this café.” I couldn’t believe it so I got up and popped next door and, sure enough, there she was! A bit surprised to see me, she left the poor client sitting there with half-cut wet hair to catch up with me.

The band met together in London and recorded a few songs and we seemed to be made for each other. I was reminded of the first time that the three members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience played together in a rehearsal room. All three of them said it just sounded right. It was the same way with us so we set about making an album. We call ourselves The Crunch, and the first album is due for release at the same time as this book!


*


This is the last chapter and I’d like to thank you for journeying with me this far. I’ve been asked many times about what I have learned in my life. If my experiences have taught me anything at all, it is this: Thomas Aquinas said in his great work, Summa Theologica, that men seek happiness in created things rather than divine things. Father Robert E. Barron cleverly summarised this into four: wealth, power, honour and pleasure. In my life so far I’ve had a little power, which I certainly don’t want any more of. I’ve had more than my fair share of money and pleasure, neither of which bring lasting happiness. I’ve also had honour (this I translate in the modern western world to fame). What do these four (power, wealth, pleasure and honour) have in common? They are all forms of pride – they are all about ‘me, me, me.’ Spending one’s life trying to acquire more money, power, pleasure and honour in order to be happy is like the alcoholic trying to get enough vodka to give him lasting happiness. Contrast that with trying to make others happy with love, kindness, mercy and charity. Then it’s all about, ‘You, you, you.’ That is the path to happiness.

The little things we do and say in our lives can be much more important than we give credit for. The early years of childhood are filled with moments of truth – interactions with others – that can shape our future. Think back to your early childhood years and see what you can remember. You will probably find it’s mostly a mixture of horrible moments and acts of loving kindness. Most of the rest gets forgotten. The point is that these little things are really the big things. I usually find that material things bring some good feelings but helping someone you love gives you a much deeper feeling, one more worthy of the name happiness. Furthermore, it lasts much longer. When you have practiced on those you love you may be curious to see if it feels as good when you help strangers. In my experience it does.


“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Dalai Lama


The idea of contributing – giving something back - was something I pondered long and hard. There are lots of charities out there (I became well aware of that during my time in music) but you can’t serve all of them at once. I wanted to use my experience and what gifts I felt I had to help those who were most in need. I also liked the idea of working for a Christian organisation. I met a lady called Clare Shinner who, at the time, was acting chief executive of the YMCA in East London. She told me that the aim of the organisation was to help young people develop in mind, body and spirit. That’s why you always see a red triangle on the YMCA logo: the three corners of the triangle represent mind/body/spirit. That sounded perfect for a spiritual, chiropractic health fanatic like me!

I was asked to attend a Board Meeting of the East London YMCA with a view to possibly joining. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get involved but I went along just to see. There were 22 people on the Board (way too many people for one committee) and the average age was 72 – quite old for a youth organisation! I like a challenge so I decided to join and do what I could. Soon after, the Chairman retired and moved abroad and I stepped into his role, even though it may have been a bit soon for me. One of the challenges was that more money was going out than coming in, which is always a bit scary. The other problem was that the Board, having been there so long, was quite resistant to change. Various people assured me that it was impossible for this organisation to make a profit. My answer to that was, “Are there any other YMCAs making a profit?” The answer came back “ Yes, there are, but they are totally different.” I was not convinced. I managed to get the number of board members down to nine. We started a round of redundancies whereby we lost those who were not pulling their weight and encouraged those who were working hard. A year later we were seeing a profit of half a million pounds, which we were able to spend on improvements in the structure of the building and facilities. 

As Chairman, I always tried to give a good impression in the local press of the work we do but we all know that bad news travels faster than good. Sometimes the news is unfair. A gang was chasing a young man down the road and he ran up the steps of the YMCA in order to try and escape. He was stabbed there on the steps and later died. The headlines all declared that a young man had been stabbed and killed at the YMCA. Whilst technically correct it seemed unfair that this was someone we never knew and were unable to protect. Had he managed to get through the door we may have been able to help him. Being a chairman can be a tough job as the buck always stops with you. After eight years as Chairman, I moved on, leaving the place in a better shape, I hope, than when I found it.

You’ve heard many times the expression, “Giving is better than receiving.” Well the truth is that giving is receiving, in a different and better way. When you give it away to others it is expanded, amplified and multiplied. Jai Namasivayam brought home to me. He is a Sri Lankan doctor who works at the local hospital in London.

Jai is a radiologist and has worked with me on various occasions. Jai was always acutely aware that whilst we in the UK enjoy a high standard of living, those in his country of origin are battling huge problems of war and poverty. Thinking it was time to do something about this, he started working on a scheme to build a hospice there. A hospice provides for terminally ill patients, giving them a combination of tender loving care, dignity and pain relief. The idea of a hospice in Sri Lanka was unknown at that time and people were used to dying at home in extreme pain. But there was interest among the medical community in this idea, as it had not been attempted before in a war-torn area. Having started work in 1993, the project finally became housed in a permanent, brick building in 2004. 

In a strange twist of fate, later the very same year, that area was savaged by the tsunami on Boxing Day, 2004. Of all the places that didn’t need a disaster on that scale, the tsunami had to pick this one. Jai called all his friends and associates asking for donations. Most duly obliged. He went to the region within a few weeks to assess the situation. By April, a decision was made to open an orphanage. This was not an easy choice to make, as once you begin a project like that, you can’t easily walk away. Another difficulty was that as children get older, having boys and girls together causes all sorts of extra problems. Not surprisingly, most orphanages are single sex. However, some of the 25 kids lined up for the orphanage were brothers and sisters who had lost both parents in either the tsunami or the war. It just didn’t seem fair to separate those siblings who had already suffered so much. Like most charities, the project grows in proportion to the need. This year they are taking on 300 more orphans. The commitment is to look after the children until they reach the age of 18.

There has been plenty of work and stress and, of course, Jai has not been paid a penny. I asked him if he has any regrets? He smiled and shook his head, saying, “ It’s the best thing for the soul.” 

People like to reward kindness but, of course, as I have mentioned above, as soon as you give you start receiving anyway. At least that’s the way I understand it. That is why many like to give anonymously. There are those who say, “who am I to be rich, famous, beautiful or successful?’” The answer is, of course, who are you not to be? We also hear “Who am I to do anything about the world’s problems?” If you think that you are not sufficiently important, rich, intelligent or whatever to make a difference then I would ask you to consider the next few pages carefully.

During World War II, London’s East End was bombed, often several times each night. The lack of sleep took its toll on my mother who, at 15 years old, became ill with an infection of her spine. It was necessary for her to be sent away to convalesce for a very long time. Worse still, it meant going to a specialist hospital, which was many hours travel from her home. She was very sick and faced being away from her family and friends for about 2-3 years. She arrived at the hospital feeling frightened and a bit sorry for herself. She saw some awful sights on the ward, images that would stay with her for the rest of her life. 

The next day she received a letter. It was from her sister, Lily, who said that they all missed her and were thinking of her. She also said that if she was worried about anything at all then they were ready to help. That letter brought her a lot of comfort. When the postman arrived the next day my mother didn’t, of course, expect another letter so soon since she’d received one the previous day. But she did receive another letter, again from Lily. My mother received a letter from Lily every day for the first three months and then weekly for the rest of the first year she was away. My Aunt Lily was not a supermodel, a millionairess or a PhD but she managed to make a huge difference in the life of another person. 


“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”  

Betty Reese


*


I feel very lucky to have lived this long and to have had so many wonderful experiences. Writing this book has brought up an amazing flood of memories; it’s mostly the people that you remember, especially those who are no longer with us: young Peter Lydon, Sid Vicious, Didier, my dear uncles, especially Manny, and aunties, especially Lily. Then there’s Stiv Bators, Bill Aucoin, Joe Strummer and Johnny Thunders. Then, of course, my father, to whom this book is dedicated. I feel somehow linked to the millions of people who did me the honour of coming to see me play. Also the thousands who have had the confidence to trust me with their healthcare. I have so many fond memories of those I have coached and also those I have worked with in charity organisations. My life has had its problems and challenges, but I would not swap one minute of it with anyone else. 

My job is very simple and very difficult. My job is to be the best Terry Chimes there could possibly be, just as your job is to be the best you that you can be. With that I wish you all the love, peace, magic and joy that life has to offer in all its splendour. 

As for the future, I don’t know what’s coming up next and I’m quite happy about that. I know only two things; I will be working hard and I’ll be helping other people. My main ideal is to see Dr Terry and Mr Chimes working together, maybe even happily ever after. So look out for more healing, more music and...more books. Finally, my philosophy of life has been expressed perfectly in this prayer by Mother Teresa:


MOTHER TERESA'S PRAYER


People are often unreasonable, 

illogical and self-centered;

Forgive them anyway.


If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.


If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; 

Succeed anyway.


If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; 

Be honest and frank anyway.


What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; 

Build anyway.


If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; 

Be happy anyway.


The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; 

Do good anyway.


Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; 

Give the world the best you've got anyway.


You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; 

It was never between you and them anyway!

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