Monday, 27 January 2014

JAMES FRANK MIDDLETON (1940-2014)

'That's Life!'

At Midday on Monday, 27th January, all available seats were taken at the beautiful old church of St Mary in Melton Mowbray as around 150 people gathered to pay their final respects to and to lament the unfortunate passing of popular resident Jim Middleton.

The Grim Reaper continues to silently plough his lonely furrow and Jim is just yet another of the town's characters to move on to pastures new, but the size of the congregation on a bitter-cold day was a warm hearted testament to the popularity of a proud man, loved, respected and admired by those who knew him.

My earliest connection with Jim a few years back was purely peripheral, someone who warranted a once-in-a-while nodding of heads across a busy Market Place on a Saturday morning, but that was until quite recent times.  About three or four years ago I encountered Jim on the upstairs deck of a converted Leicester Corporation double-decker bus which was then being utilised by the NHS as a mobile unit to provide 'man matters clinics' around the County.  In the moments in which we needed to wait for our next checks we would sit together in the seat at the back, opposite to where, in our schoolboy days, the conductor would swing round the chrome pole at the top of the stairs in order to catch the fare-dodgers, or those boys from the rough parts of town who would spit through the windows at passing pedestrians below.  As we sat and we waited our turn, we reminisced about the buses and conversed in general; we chuckled a little at the procedures we were undertaking but I was also to learn on a more serious note that Jim was beginning to suffer serious problems with his breathing and general respiration and that further and most importantly, he was not confident of a hopeful prognosis.  In turn, I was to confide in him that my problem was connected with my peeing ability and that my prognosis was an 'alleged' cancerous tumour flourishing within my bladder.

What I do remember of that offbeat little meeting of two local minds was the fact that we did spend an awful lot of the time discussing the joys of nature, birds nests, worm casts, mice in winter, how the ants all fly up at the same time on a hot summers day, etc. etc.  With no suggestion of ennui, we were both in our element and I was aware of some kindred connection that I had tapped from him. As a direct result of this clandestine interchange, our meetings would henceforth go beyond the statutory nod in the Market Place and embark upon a lively little chat.  During the service, I was reminded of this melancholy encounter on the old Leicester bus and Jim's love of nature when we all stood to sing that all-time favourite hymn written by Cecil F. Alexander in 1848 - 'All Things Bright and Beautiful'

Refrain:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
          All things wise and wonderful:

          The Lord God made them all.
Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.
The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.
The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.
(Cecil F. Alexander, 1848)  

Jim was born just two months after me in war-torn 1940 and as we were assured today at the service, his life was full of happiness and pleasure.  I knew his wife Ros probably better than Jim, lively, lovely and the perfect foil for him, she was sadly taken far too early in her life.  So its a fond farewell to Jim and a hope for all of the descendant family for prolonged good health and prosperity.

St. Mary's, Melton Mowbray

As a final footnote from me in reference to Jim's earnest request for people to be 'happy' on the day, I will share with you a quotation currently hanging in readiness on a wall at home which, when the Grim Reaper decides that it is my turn, should need no explanation!  I have my 'tunes to play' written on the reverse.

Rest in Peace Jim

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