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That's Life.

The Grim Reaper continues to silently plough his lonely furrow through all of our lives and Jim was just yet another one of the town's characters chosen to move on to pastures new, but the size of the congregation on a bitter-cold day spoke volumes of a warm - hearted testament to the popularity of a very proud man: In his life, James Frank Middleton was loved, respected and much admired by the many who knew him, simply as 'Jim'.

My earliest connection with Jim a few years back was only marginal, someone who warranted a once-in-a-while nodding of heads across a busy Market Place on a Saturday morning or on the occasional encounter in a local inn.  About three or four years ago I came across him Jim on the upstairs deck of a converted Leicester Corporation cream and maroon double-decker bus which was then being utilised by the National Heath Service as a mobile unit to provide free 'man matters' clinics around the County.  In the moments in which we needed to wait for our various checks we would sit together in the seat at the back step, near 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 rougher parts of town who would spit through the open windows at passing pedestrians.  As we sat and we waited our turn, we reminisced about the buses and conversed in general; of course we chuckled a little at the procedures we were undertaking and both I guess, pondering as to which stage of our lives we were reaching but at the same moment I was to realise on a more serious note that Jim was indeed beginning to suffer serious discomfiture with his breathing and general respiration and further,  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 already confirmed as an 'alleged' cancerous tumour which was comfortably thriving within the warmth of my bladder.

What I do remember of that offbeat little meeting of two local minds was the fact that we did spend a lot of the time discussing our shared joy 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 his presence. As a direct result of this almost clandestine interchange, our meetings would henceforth go beyond the statutory nod in the Market Place and embark awhile upon a lively little chat.  During the service at Jim's farewell, I was reminded of that melancholy encounter on the old Leicester omnibus and Jim's great love of nature when we all stood to sing that all-time favourite hymn of our youth written by Cecil F. Alexander in 1848 - All Things Bright and Beautiful.

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

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

Rest in Peace Jim


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