Jimmy and Ruby

When my mother and stepfather moved to a village a few miles from Lowestoft, they soon met Jimmy and Ruby. Ruby worked at Southwold Hospital and Jimmy was a retired carpenter. He was a good craftsman, who had started his working life on a local estate – you should know that when someone of his age and background refers to an ‘estate’ he meant the country estate of one of the landed gentry. He was proud of his aristocratic connection.

They became good friends when Ruby had to have a mastectomy and, afterwards, my mother had her to stay for several weeks to recuperate. After that, they were devoted to her and would do anything to help. They were an odd couple and quite mismatched – she was entirely down-to-earth while he liked to talk about music and philosophy.

They live on in this family, for their names are still used.

You know how horrid it is when someone sneaks up behind you and suddenly grabs your waist and tickles you? Ruby did that all the time and has given her name to the action. Indeed, we had the expression ‘Ruby, Ruby, Ruby’ long before it became a most annoying song. She stopped doing it to me eventually when, finally, I cried. Yes, I know – I must have been a bit more nervy in those days, but it was awfully unsettling.

And Jimmy would never just look for something, but always go for a ‘look-see’. “Do you know if the postman has been?” the Sage enquired this morning. “Don’t know, I’ll have a jim*” I answered. And then if someone says something solemnly, which sounds weighty, but isn’t – say, “The sun is shining, but winter is not yet over” then the answer is always “Yes Jane,” intoned with a serious look. And then the first speaker is expected to laugh at himself.

*short for ‘Jimmy-look-see’. Nothing to do with Jimmy Riddle.

10 comments on “Jimmy and Ruby

  1. martina

    My Nana (maternal grandmother) would invite everyone to the dinner table which was beautifully set with the food perfectly placed on the serving dishes. Just as she was taking her apron off she’d say “If you see anything on the table that isn’t there, let me know”. We loved her ability to accidentally do malapropisms aka Nanaisms.

  2. luckyzmom

    We have an extensive secret family language also. Our most famous sentence came about when my husband, myself and our son and daughter went out to a nice restuarant. At some point I asked someone to, “please pass the ashtray”. To which our daughter loudly questioned, “The p*nis is in the ashtray?” Any of us may say it at any time when we don’t understand what one of us is saying. A perpetually memorable moment. Not as cute as your family language.

  3. Z

    There were expressions that my father used that no one else ever did. I’ll write about some of those one day. One is still used by my daughter and me, but she’s adapted it rather usefully.

  4. PI

    I think it’s nice to be remembered.
    The estate thing is funny; I met a lovely boy when I was youth hostelling as a gel and he said he lived on an estate near Whalley and I said I lived on one in Rossendale. You guessed it – his was his families and mine wasn’t:)

  5. hey bartender

    I love it. Our family (my sisters and my parents and I) has it’s own language, and the b.h. and I have a separate one. Makes things so much more interesting. I eagerly await your father’s sayings. Mine has his share, and they are like a foreign language here in the South.

  6. Z

    Jen, over on the West coast, introduced me to ‘wicked pisser’, not to mention ‘a wicked pisser’ from her other half, who’s from the East coast.

    If I get onto East Anglian, that’s another whole ball game.


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