I am writing this article based on a suggestion by my dear friend and confidant, James Lucas. Or, as I affectionately know him, Jumbo Jim. He’s not a fat man. Just, like most people, slightly overweight. Now, thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure what exactly I am referring to when I proclaim his Jumbo-ness. Perhaps I should stop. Jimmy it will be from here on.
We were discussing exercise machines of all things the other day. Having invested in an elliptical trainer last month, he was interested to see if I was still using it or whether it was now a large clothes horse. I am now in a place in my life where exercise machines are “investments” and not “wastes of money”, so I was happy to report that I was still using it. Maybe not as much as I should. Mainly because of the reason that when I start off on my 5 meter hike, my drying clothes tend to fall off it.
He has been on a number of diets with me over the years. Sometimes, I am very aware that the “diets” that he instigated and we subsequently embarked on, were more of a support to try and help me lose my weight. But, there were times, especially after Christmas festivities, that it would have no doubt been beneficial for him to lose a few “mince pie” pounds too.
We met in 1991, when I moved in with him and his long term girlfriend. It wasn’t long before she moved out. It wasn’t long after that, that I moved out. It wasn’t long after that, that she and I moved in together in the flat above his and subsequently got married. It all sounds horrible and incestuous thinking about it - but he ended up being my best man at the wedding - which made it all so much better!
My father passed away soon after our move in upstairs from Jimmy. His heart had all but given up toward the end of his 49th year, which he spent living with my mum and her second husband (we are incredibly friendly people in this part of the world!). Jimmy was known by everyone as having what one would term as “Foot in Mouth” syndrome. If something wasn’t to be said, it was said by Jimmy. What made it so acutely funny, was watching his face as he uttered misplaced words to people. Being a brash and to-the-point kind of guy, he is incredibly aware of how word can have the power to offend and he is, in his own particular way, very sensitive. I remember one day, soon after my dad’s death, I was helping Jimmy down stairs with a refrigerator. Obviously being “on the larger side”, it wasn’t as easy for me as it was for him and he recognised this. He looked at the sweat breaking out on my forehead and demanded “Come on Benna, let’s stop, you’re about to have a heart a….”. What always makes me laugh about that particular moment was the immediate terror that wrapped his face and he stopped in his verbal tracks staring at me silently mouth wide and prepped for the remaining letters of “attack” to emerge. They never did. The fear he had of having offended me by jibing at heart attacks made me nearly wet myself with laughter. He stood like a scared rabbit in his own headlights for what seemed like an age. I am smiling now just thinking about it - and a wealth of other more classic faux pas he has graced us with over the years. Faux pas on the whole that are not so faux, but are backed up by his amazing reactions of disbelief toward himself afterward.
Jimmy has always been aware of my weight and has valiantly tried to help me avoid the potential “hearta” that I was heading for. He even joined me in a sponsored weight loss that was subsequently picked up by a UK national paper, pointing our website as being one of the top ten websites in cyberspace. This list made it to the offices of the Discovery Health Channel and they broadcast (repeatedly) a 15 minute documentary of what we were doing. Now, being an actor and self-publicist, I adored the attention. However, Jimmy is far removed from the desire for public attention. Son of a farmer, who has castrated many a poor animal in his time, he hates being in the public eye. But, despite this, he was willing to be interviewed for the programme in, what I now recognise as, an effort to help me lose my ample lipid appeal.
After having rambled about my life with Jimmy, I seem to have bypassed the original suggestion he had for this article. But I have done so intentionally to give some background on this wonderful character.
His suggestion was to write a piece based on the effect that my lap band is having on people around me.
Going back to our discussion on exercise machines - he advised me that he was bidding on eBay for a rowing machine. How odd, I thought. He hardly ever exercises! My brother also purchased a cross trainer three weeks ago. Hang on a sec - what is happening to the world? My brother usually sits in his dark flat watching films. Why is he exercising now?!
As Jimmy pointed out, the people around me are starting to become very aware that the man they once knew as one of their fattest friends (and perhaps their excuse for over indulging sometimes), was rapidly heading to becoming a normal weight. Suddenly they realised that I may soon be thinner than them!
I am experiencing a number of people around me suddenly becoming very conscious about their own love handles. My gastric band is actually helping THEM to lose weight.
Whether they will keep off the few pounds that they may lose over the coming months remains to be seen. Whether I soon make my suggestion that Jimmy slows down his working days in case HE is the one that actually suffers a “hearta” also remains on the back burner. All I can say is that a health regime has been kick started in and around Winchester due to one small prosthesis that I have had installed inside me. Let’s hope they don’t know anyone heading in for a sex change - I fear the consequences!
So, what started out as an essay on a remarkable ripple effect that is happening around here has ended up a biography on one of my best friends. Here’s to friends! Here’s to Mr Jimmy!