From black cabs to blackouts
Londoner and former black cab driver Ian Starkey refuses to be beaten by a stroke which left him with reduced mobility and epilepsy. He's written a touching account of his life in a book called From Black Cabbing to Blackouts. This is his story...
In 2003 at the age of 40 my life came crashing down around me when a severe stroke left me with epilepsy and a weakness to the left side of my body. My 15 year career as a London cabbie was over and I realised that my life would never be the same again. However, I'm not one to sit around moping, glass half full that's me. Yes there are things I can't or shouldn't do anymore, but having the stroke has also enabled me to fulfil ambitions that may not otherwise have happened.
Writing a book
One of my greatest achievements has been writing a book. Like many people I always felt I had a book in me, the main difference is that I've stopped talking about and have committed words to paper or rather thoughts to the computer. The result is From Black Cabbing to Blackouts which pretty much sums up everything about me and about my life.
Touching on the lows, but concentrating on the highs, I was determined to document all aspects of my pre- and post- stroke life. From the dangers, tumbling off a busy commuter station platform onto a railway line during a seizure, to my pre stroke joys, travelling around the world on my motorbike and watching my beloved football team Chelsea wherever and whenever they play. Of course I'm still an avid fan and still follow the team wherever the play, however the train is my preferred mode of transport now.
Me and Freddie Mercury
There's never a dull moment in the life of a London cabbie, and yes I've had my share of well known MPs, public figures, professional sportsmen, actors and actresses in the back of my taxi, including Joan Collins and Dame Judi Dench. However the biggest surprise was when the legendary Freddie Mercury booked my cab - it doesn't get much more famous than that.
It's not all glamorous though. I had to do a pick up once from Snaresbrook Crown Court. Two stern looking female guards, handcuffed to a young tired looking waif of a girl, emerged from security doors at the back of the building. There was no need to guess where we were headed. 'Holloway Prison please driver, quickest route possible, no hanging about.' I wouldn't have wanted to strike up a conversation with their prisoner. I sensed she hadn't been on trial for nicking CDs from Woolworths.
It's true that I do miss elements of my former life and it's been a struggle to get back on top of things, but I've worked hard at my physio and concentrated on the positives. Last year was a milestone for me - the tenth anniversary of my stroke. I realise how extremely lucky I've been and finally accept that I'll probably always have slight left-sided mobility issues.
As far as epilepsy is concerned I'm determined to continue to fight the stigma which still surrounds this condition. I've learnt that alcohol is not my friend, I can't overdo things and I need to be careful with my medication to give myself the best chance of keeping my seizures under control.
My life so far has been one hell of a ride, I say onwards and upwards, let's see what's next.
From Black Cabbing to Blackouts by Ian Starkey is available from Amazon.