Monty Python star Terry Jones, who has dementia, still enjoys jokes and long walks, says friend Michael Palin.
Terry, 75, who directed Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life, and co-directed Monty Python And The Holy Grail with Terry Gilliam, is suffering from a form of dementia that affects his ability to communicate.
Terry Jones and Michael were members of the famous comedy troupe, which also included Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Eric Idle and the late Graham Chapman, with Terry Jones writing and directing many of the group’s best-loved works.
Speaking to The Observer, Michael said: ”The thing that struck me was how Terry reacted to his diagnosis. He was very matter of fact about it and would stop people in the street and tell them: ‘I’ve got dementia, you know. My frontal brain lobe has absconded.’
“He knew exactly what was affecting him and he wanted to share that knowledge – because that is the way that Terry is. FTD (Frontotemporal dementia) may cause loss of inhibition, but Terry was never very inhibited in the first place.”
Michael said Terry continues to enjoy aspects of life that he always has, saying: ”Terry still goes on very long walks across Hampstead Heath, often following the most obscure routes, and it is very hard to keep up with him.
“His old pal Barry Cryer, the comedian, came round one day and said he would like to join Terry on a walk on the heath, and nothing would deter him. It was a muddy day and Barry kept slipping while Terry just walked on and on.
“In the end, Barry fell over so many times he gave up. He told me that there he was on his backside in the mud while his friend who had dementia was striding out miles ahead of him across the heath.”
Michael added: “He still enjoys his beer, his wine, his walks, his films and a good joke.”
Reflecting on their current friendship, Michael said: ”We chat – well, I chat. But when the meal is over he makes it clear he has to move. He has to get to the next thing on his agenda and he just puts his head down and goes.
“I have never felt discomfited in his presence, however. There is no embarrassment. He doesn’t shout or show his bottom.”
He added: ”I think that must be the most difficult thing – not to be able to say quite simply how you are feeling on a given occasion. We assume that he is happy, but that assumption could be wrong. We just don’t know.”