This Life: I believe there is always a way

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CITY WORKER: Neil Taggart, 62, was a Leeds City councilLor for more than 30 years. He lives in Garforth with his wife Sylvia . JAYNE DAWSON reports.

Neil Taggart was elected to Leeds City Council in 1980 and served until this year. He has a passion for music and trains.

My first job was as a church organist, I was 16 and had just passed my Grade 8 on piano.

I practised an hour a day, seven days a week - my mum made sure of that. There was a shortage of organists so I used to play in several churches, I did a lot of funerals.

The fees were so good I saved up enough money to travel round Europe looking at steam trains.

The best piece of advice I ever received is that life is not a dress rehearsal. Perhaps it was just said at the right time, but it made an impression on me.

My guilty pleasure is music. It was music that brought me to Leeds when I came here to study it at Leeds University and I have a passion for it. I have just listened to every single Beatles album in the order they were released.

My pet hate? People on public transport with poor headphones so that their music pollutes the air around them. I would also pay money for Paul McCartney to stop singing now.

The person I would most like to meet is Karl Marx. I would have a discussion with him about where it all went wrong.

His hopes for the future of humanity were so revolutionary but communism actually became one of the greatest tyrannies the world has seen.

My favourite weekend would be spent pottering about on a preserved railway line.

I really enjoy my eight grandchildren. As an aspiring politician I was absent from my own four children a lot and I have regrets about that.

I am very lucky that all my children, and my sister, live locally. I have lots of family around me.

I would tell my teenage self to concentrate on my studies because there would be plenty of time for politics later. I was president of the student union. In reality I was very shy but my mother taught me that if you thought something was wrong you spoke against it, and it didn’t matter if people didn’t agree.

I enjoy facebook and twitter. I put three new pictures on facebook every day and I like to put music recommendations on there. I enjoy a good discussion on twitter.

My philosophy of life is that everything is possible so don’t ever give up. I have always been an optimist. There is always hope and there is always a way.

I couldn’t live without music, I have to listen to it every day.

My most embarrassing moment? I was working in London and after a long day I went back to my hotel. I spread out exhausted on the bed, but then I felt some clothing next to me, spotted a suitcase full of a woman’s clothes and heard a noise from the shower. I put my shoes back on and tiptoed out. I had been given the wrong key, but I dread to think of the explanations I might have had to make.

I intend to donate my body to medical science. It will go to Leeds Medical School. I once shared a house with medical students and they were always short of bodies to practise on.

Here is my joke: William Shakespeare walks into a bar and asks for a pint. The barman says: “Sorry, you’re Bard.”

The closest I have come to death was probably at the age of three when I was electrocuted. I stuck my fingers in a socket and only survived because I was wearing rubber-soled shoes.

I also had an operation for cancer in July 2013 and I was told that if I hadn’t had it I would have been dead within days. I had been ill for about 18 months and had a tumour in my bowel, but it was an unusual type and hadn’t been spotted. Now I will see what the future holds.

My childhood was good but I was born in Birmingham and was ill a lot as a child with lung and chest problems. In the end my parents were told to move out of the inner city and my health immediately improved, so air pollution is something that has always concerned me. I was a serious little boy with a big voice.

I used to have a very strong Brummie accent, but people don’t like that accent, it makes you sound stupid. I lapse back into it when I go back there.

My first kiss was with Elizabeth when I was ten. She kissed me on the lips three times, and I said thank you each time.

The first record I ever bought was Sibelius Symphony No 5. I was about eleven

I have lived in Leeds for 44 years now and I have found it to be a tolerant, multi-cultural, multi-racial city on the whole.

It has great open spaces and a superb cultural life - and you can also talk to people at bus stops.

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