I’ve spent so much of my life knowing Terry that it’s very hard to take in that I shall no longer be able to put an arm around him or ask him which of the twenty-seven beers he’s just sampled I should drink, or thank him for the most amazing dish he’s created or watch his indignation when I mention one of the many buzzwords which unfailingly caused him to ignite. “Democracy’ was one. “America” another.
It’s not easy to define what it’s like just being with someone. Memories drift in and out. In the Oxford Revue at the 1964 Edinburgh Festival we performed a version of the Manfred Mann hit ‘5-4-3-2-1’, which we re-christened ‘R-S-P-C-A’. It required the cast to line up on stage in a blackout. The only access was a flight of very steep stairs. Terry was halfway up the stairs when out of the darkness came a loud discordant ear-splitting crash, a moment’s silence, followed by a plaintive high-pitched cry. ‘Oh no! I’ve broke my sodding guitar’.
It wasn’t Johnny Cash, but it was a wonderfully endearing moment.
What else do I remember? Giving blood together – Terry enthusing, “They give you a cup of tea!”. Being asked to be the first to use the newly opened public toilets in Lambeth Walk. Terry and I, bladders at a standstill, as the band played outside, and reporters gathered for our verdict. Queuing up to buy the Sergeant Pepper album and spending the entire working day, when we should have been writing jokes for David Frost, playing it over and over again with forensic delight. The night I had to drive Terry to the local hospital after he’d slashed his finger while shucking oysters. The sight of two Pythons walking in, one with his hand up in the air, so raised the spirits in A and E that the doctors asked if we could come in more regularly.
Terry was a quiet thoughtful man, but once he’d taken refreshment he could become dangerously relaxed. His unscheduled striptease on stage at the Oktoberfest Beer Festival in Munich was later described by Eric, who witnessed it, as one of the most potentially suicidal performances he’d ever seen.
Tunisia 1978. Terry directing The Life Of Brian and playing the hermit at the same time. Discussing camera angles whilst stark naked save for a long grey beard (attached to his genitals by gaffer tape I believe)
After the Meaning Of Life our working lives went off in different directions but we continued to meet up for a beer, or a game of squash, or a meal and we’d chat about our different projects. Terry was unfailingly supportive, but honestly critical too. He had a way of nailing down what was not working and suggesting a way round it. He treated me as if we were still writing together.
Terry was warm, generous and sociable. Always interested in meeting new people and sharing his enthusiasm with them. I’ve made many good friends through Terry and their messages and memories, coming in over the last few days, all conjure up a vision of a good man.
And that’s really it. Terry was a good man.