Jess interviews: Jim


In which we discuss Him above, Thora Hird, art and a life well lived.

I remember the day I met with Jim. It was a glorious summer during the height of a different time. A time when Mondays were silent like Sundays, when people cycled and walked and the magpies sang and fought for our entertainment. There was only so much digital telly one could stomach during those long, hot, blue days of lockdown.

Jim met me at the door to his spotless bungalow. Outside a green, quiet lawn beckoned invitingly. Jim himself still had the same blue twinkle in his eyes. When asked how he was coping with the social restrictions he confessed it wasn’t easy, but that he found taking the initiative in phoning people really helped.

This ability to reach out to others and in so doing, find companionship, is a character trait of a man who has, throughout his life, been there for others. His childhood sweetheart Phyllis became a much loved wife. And right up to the end, he cared for her. She didn’t want to go to a care home. No, she wanted to stop awhile with Jim.

As the interview progressed, I realised that I was discovering more and more about the people Jim loved, and in doing so, I realised this was Jim. Everyone wanted to stop with him; from the people on his beat as a Special Constable for Westbury Police, through to the residents at the local care home. Memory after memory came spilling out, as bright as the paints scattered like jewels over his worktable, of the dear people in his life. The escaped prisoner caught with no ticket for the train… he was told no ticket, no ride and locked up for telling lies until safely returned to the big smoke. The patient who ordered a full English cooked by Jim himself as a last request, the forty dears Jim took upon his shoulders to care for in their dotage… these people shone out of Jim’s eyes as he recollected their very real presence in his life.

And Him above? He is a constant in Jim’s life. And the mainstay of Jim’s sanity during pandemic. Jim served as a deacon at Westbury Leigh and Stormore Baptist Church. Jim remembered the time West Country TV reporters arrived at the opening of The Grand Flush. The ladies were dressed up in pinafores and bobble hats. All to celebrate the building of a lavy on the church premises. We enjoyed a chuckle and I decided I too enjoyed stopping with Jim.

And Thora Hird of Last of the Summer Wine? Well, it was afternoon tea, she was wearing netted gloves and a minder sat in attendance. Jim had the opportunity to serve the grand lady, and also happened to meet her later and was given a special gift. An autobiography. Jim said she was very pleasant. I’m sure she enjoyed stopping a while with Jim as he poured her tea from the silver pot into her dainty tea cup. Who could resist those ol’ blue eyes and engaging chat.

I take photographs of Jim’s pictures. Amongst the art, I spy a framed black and white film of two beautiful people in a train, smiling and enjoying a five star meal. Modestly, Jim explains Phyllis and he had enjoyed that holiday on the Orient Express. The picture drew my gaze as a different time, a different era flashed by as fast as the train tracks in the picture. But I shake myself out of my reverie. We’re all human no matter what our era. I wonder at the heartache and hearthappy times Jim experienced during his youth. He has definitely reached out to others throughout. Maybe that’s why we all want to stop with Jim. It must be Him above. He must have stopped with Jim.  

Jessica Thinks

Jess is a member of West End Baptist Church and her interview with Jim took place during her stint as a Health Care Worker at the height of the pandemic, hence the late publication of the article.