A few years ago I was asked to mentor a graduate trainee account man, who went by the name of Tim Boxall. I wanted our first session together to be a memorable one. So I got my PA, Cath Allen, to tell him to be in the agency at 11pm the following Monday.
This alone concerned him, as he kept asking her what was going to happen and didn’t she really mean 11 o’ clock in the morning?
Anyway the next Monday he dutifully turned up on time and waited patiently in an empty reception area, apart from the security guard, who I had briefed to hand him a letter at exactly 11.10pm. Inside was the message: Dear Tim, outside is a car waiting to take you to a secret destination. When you get there, ring this number (I then put my mobile number down).
He went out and nervously got into the car, asking the driver where he was going. Of course the driver had also been briefed not to tell him anything, which just made Tim even more nervous. Around 11.50pm the car arrived at the north side of the Millenium Bridge which spans the river Thames, dropped him off and drove away.
He called my number…… “Hi Tim” I said, “don’t move” and hung up.
I remember it being the most beautiful summers night, the stars where out and there was a tranquility in the air. The river twinkled with the reflected lights of St.Pauls cathedral. Exactly on the stroke of midnight Big Ben struck 12.
As the sound of the ‘Bongs’ floated down the Thames, I made my call.………Bong….“Tim” ……Bong….. “start crossing the bridge”….Bong…..
Unbeknown to him, I was on the opposite side of the bridge by the Tate Modern gallery which dominated the skyline above me. As I walked across to meet him I could just make out his nervous shadowy outline. Another thing Tim didn’t know was that around my right arm was a 5 foot Python.
As he got nearer I put out my hand to shake his. Tim did a double–take, stopped dead in his tracks, and then very gingerly shook my hand. As he did so, the snake which had been positioned on my arm by a snake handler (dressed in black, 10 metres behind me), proceeded to slither up his arm.
When it had transferred itself from my arm to his, I pulled a poem out from my pocket called Risk and read it out loud. I still remember today the look on his face as he tried to take it all in. The Python now firmly wrapped around his arms and neck. It was at that point I walked away. Here is the poem.
by William Arthur Ward
To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out to another is to risk involvement,
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure.
But the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing. He who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.