The London cabbie who put me to career shame

The London cabbie who put me to career shame

This is a true story. Every word.

It was my last night in London after two weeks of hard work (OK, and a bit of RWC). A few beers, and into a cab.

It was there, in that taxi, that I met one of the most extraordinary people I have ever encountered.

The cabbie and I exchanged pleasantries. Traffic, weather, rugby.

I remarked on what sounded like a Welsh accent (Not common in a London cabbie). He confirmed it, and I asked how he came to be driving cab, in London, and for how long.

At this point I had not really looked at the driver, whose name turned out to be Merv. I had a vague image of a middle-aged, fit looking man, so when he said 19 years as a cabbie, I felt confident to remark, “ah, most of your working life then.

Not at all”, he grinned. “This is my third career so far, and the shortest one at that.”

And so it unfolded.

Merv is 80 years old!

I kid you not. Very upset he was that he had to have a medical every year, unlike the other cabbies who only need one every three years.

His brief CV;

Born 80 years ago to a coal mining family in South Wales (“Still go hiking in the Brecon Beacons every chance I get boyo!”)
• Worked in the coal pits from 14 to 40 (“12 hours physical work every day boyo and people died down there all the time”)
• Worked as a scaffolder from age 40 to 60 (“Its a tough job boyo, lifting climbing, carrying, and falling too, if not careful!”)
Cabbie from 60 to 80 (“The hardest part was ‘the knowledge’ boyo, the rest is just fun”)

And did he have stories to go with that CV! The deprivation of life in a coal-mining town. Scaffolding work that took him all over Europe and Africa. (By the way, his considered opinion is that Latvian woman are the worlds’ most gorgeous. “But they are all gorgeous aren’t they boyo”, he reminded me.)

He has been married three times.

His first wife, the love of his life, died of a stroke at 50.

His second, ‘she who must be obeyed’, died of bowel cancer when he was 65.

Then there were a few lonely years. Very lonely.

He is currently married to wife number 3, who is “also a very good woman

I asked when he intended to stop driving a cab. “Next year” came the prompt reply.

Foolishly, naively, blindly, I remarked, “At last time to retire hey Merv

His response was a mixture of a scoff, choke and a laugh.

Not on your life boyo. It will take me till then to set up my new business, which will be ready to launch in 6 months’.

I was astounded. New business?

Turns out Merv has a developed a few theories over the years. The effects of aging could be held at bay – by exercise. Specifically weight-bearing, muscle-building exercise. He put his longevity, and mental alertness, down to physical fitness, mostly because of the physical work he had done for so much of his life.

Indeed, he feels both his now deceased wives would have lived longer if they had been ‘stronger’. And dementia, Alzheimer’s, all can be held back, by strength-building exercise, according to Merv.

And he had done his research. He quoted Harvard studies and longitudinal research, which proved his point.

And he, Merv, had designed a piece of exercise equipment, based around the muscles used in coal-mining and scaffolding, that he is poised to unleash on the market this year. This is where I go a bit hazy, but I think he called the machine, the ‘Hercules Jones’, but I may well be wrong on that. But what is certain is that that he has the prototype, he has the patent, and he has the manufacturer ready to start production. He knows his target market, he has a business plan, has a marketing plan, he is about to hire staff.

He is an 80 year old taxi driver!

Merv gave me his phone number and said, call me in six months, I will give you an update. Australia would be a good market too, he opined, and I suspected he was eyeing me as one of his international sales agents.

Stupidly, again, I succumbed to a stereotype and asked, “Don’t you ever get tired Merv. You know, feel like you have earned a rest?”

“You must be joking boyo” he puffed, “I just wish there were more hours in every day. So much to get done”.

And so I took the lift to my hotel room, astounded at the energy of this guy who had been working for 66 years, and appeared to have more energy and career drive than me, who had been feeling sorry for myself after a hard couple of weeks on the road.

I can’t speak for Merv, but clearly, age was nothing to him. He had plans, he had energy, and he was going to make them happen.

So I resolved to stop being so easily satisfied with myself. Smug about what little I have achieved at work, and see my own lengthy career as just a stepping stone to my ‘next big thing‘.

In fact, thank you Merv! I have now decided that whatever I have done in the past is just a beginning.

For me, I reckon, my best work is in front of me!

And what a great feeling it is to view your life like that. The best part of my career is yet to come, even after 35 years, in my case.

How about you?

Can you “out-enthuse” Merv?


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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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27 Responses to The London cabbie who put me to career shame

  1. April Young January 12, 2016 at 10:25 am #

    Cheers and happy new years to you! I love your post and wish you and Merv the best year ever.

  2. Leigh Johnson January 12, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    A great story with an excellent message. Thanks.

    In 2015 I withdrew from the day-to-day duties at The Johnson Group to focus on the recover of my mental health. Fortunately it’s working and my role as a director keeps me in touch with the business.

    Current projects involve using my experience to help others deal with burnout, anxiety and depression. ( The social marketing skills I grew in recruitment are being developed to the next level through my online enterprises.

    Yes, it’s never too late to start another career and recruiters need to know this so that they can help candidates realise this too.

  3. Matthew Templar January 12, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    I bet that he still won’t go South of the river at this time of night though.

  4. Scott January 12, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    What a story. Thanks for the pump up, Greg!

    Happy New Year!


  5. Teri Moxham January 12, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    LOVE this article !!! Thanks Greg !!!! What an inspiration Merv is ! Will pass this on to my staff and colleagues ! Cheers and all the best for a Fantastic 2016 ahead for us all ! T

  6. shirley January 12, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    When and where can I purchase a “Hercules Jones”?

  7. Gaynor Lowndes January 12, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

    I am so looking forward to being able to say at 80….I’m just about to start something new!
    I try and reinvent every 10 years or so, most recently returning to mainstream recruitment to see “if I still have it!” Great story Greg

    • Mark Pearce January 13, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

      You still have it, Gaynor! I don’t think you ever lose it…

  8. Julian Lambert January 12, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    Greg, you’ve got to get this guy to do a TED talk. A great read.

  9. David January 12, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    Ok. I give. What is “boyo”?

    • Greg Savage January 12, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

      Its how he spoke. Common Welsh word for “lad” or ‘mate’ I believe

      • Mark January 12, 2016 at 11:24 pm #

        OK, Greg, I’m Welsh and not once have I ever said Boyo… Lmao!

        • Kevin dee January 16, 2016 at 4:24 am #

          I lived in North Wales for 4 years and must have heard “boyo” at least once a day. Maybe they were putting it on for me because I was a scouser (Translation: someone from Liverpool).

  10. Alan Allebone January 12, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    Well I have reached 71 and still going strong! A bit behind Merv though.
    I have only been working 57 years and the last 40 years here in recruitment!
    Just can not seem to stop or want to!
    I can match the 3 wives bit and 2 of mine passed away and that has given me the strength and encouragement to carry on. Wife number 3 is a God send!
    How lucky we are to be still working and having fresh ideas to keep us going.
    keep up the good work YOUNG Greg!

    Kind regards


  11. Mark Pearce January 12, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

    A brilliant story and one that brings things home. To me personally too. It just goes to show you’re never too old to do anything.

    As my wife keeps telling me, I’ll be too old to start my own business by the time I reach 45…I’ll be sitting down later and reading this to her. Every word.

    Cheers Greg.

    • Alan Allebone January 13, 2016 at 6:20 am #

      Hi Mark,
      If you get the opportunity to do something for yourself then DO IT. Do not put it off by saying tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow. Because Tomorrow NEVER COMES and then it is too late.

      That was my BIG MISTAKE putting it off now I really regret it at my old age of 71.

      You are still very young and have a huge potential career path ahead of you.

      JUST DO IT!

      Rearads Alan

      • Mark Pearce January 13, 2016 at 10:44 am #

        Thanks for your kind advice and thoughts Alan. It’s very much a work in progress. Best wishes, Mark.

  12. Laurie Williams January 12, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this story Greg! Lately I’ve been looking at some new challenges and getting a bit of predictable “ageism” coming my way… Compared to Merv I’m but a pup!! Best wishes for 2016.

  13. Alex January 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    Best blog yet, Greg. Merv seems to be wringing every ounce out of the life he has been allocated. GOOD ON HIM.

  14. Anita January 13, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

    Exactly what I needed to read today. I have been really morbid over the last few weeks…..bemoaning the fact that I am almost 60 but still need to do this same old same old every day until the day I die! Even playing the lotto! Anything to end this drudgery….but reading Merv’s story I realise that I am still young enough to regain the enthusiasm and passion I had for life and for what I do. I need to just suck it up…I aint going to win the lottery…but I CAN make placements…and that will get the ball rolling again.

    • Greg Savage January 13, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

      I am delighted this piece of writing has given you a lift Anita..hope it kick-starts your career again, regards Greg

  15. Simon S January 13, 2016 at 6:43 pm #

    Thanks Greg – great article!!

    Truly inspiring!

  16. John January 14, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    I understand the London Cabbie course is as difficult as a Law degree. The London Cabbies talk a lot more sense than most Lawyers. Why don’t you get Merv to join you on the Acumen Series? What an inspiration for 2016 and certainly your best blog – by far !

  17. Kevin dee January 16, 2016 at 4:28 am #

    What a small world we live in! I must have been in that guy’s cab about a year ago on one of my regular visits “back to the old country”. If memory serves me right Merv’s (I didn’t get his name) wife #3 is about 35 years younger than him and a personal trainer. I also think he met her online. At that time he was contemplating opening a gym with her as his next career.
    We can only hope we have that kind of energy into the future.
    Great post, as always!\Cheers

    • Greg Savage January 16, 2016 at 8:06 am #

      Excellent stuff Kevin. yes, I knew the current wife was much younger, but the other info did not emerge in our chat. Merv obviously canvassed a number of business ideas before moving forward!

  18. Kim January 17, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    Fabulous story

  19. Justin Gayner February 12, 2017 at 3:53 am #

    I’m so pleased I found this post as I rode in his cab last night and was so gobsmacked by his persona that I had to Google Hercules Jones.

    A year on, he is still convinced that he’s going to make a billion quid in six months time. He reads 5 newspapers, the Thesaurus and Dylan Thomas DAILY to improve his vocabulary. He pitches his fitness machine with the numerical and verbal dexterity of a seasoned entrepreneur.

    A true legend.

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