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.