This is how I remember Jim.
Driving us home from work in a battered transit van, winding through the Leicestershire countryside after a hot day shovelling stone, when he saw the humpback bridge. Most of us would slow down. Do the sensible thing, gently drive up and over the river, perhaps admire the fish in the water. But Jim accelerated. The engine roared and the wheels raced and the windscreen filled with sky. For a few, precious seconds, we were floating in space. We were astronauts in zero gravity. And I remember Jim, clinging to the steering wheel with his legs above his head. Before the shuttle came crashing down to earth, and that spaceship was actually a van, bouncing off the road and into a ditch.
First we swore at Jim, called him certain names I can’t repeat in a church. But he was laughing too much to listen. And then we were laughing too much to swear.
This is the friend I remember. The friend I met when I was no more than an divvy teenager who’d been kicked out of home. When I lived in a bedsit in Thurmaston and went up Krystals and drank Diamond White.
Jim was the older, cooler kid. Before he’d even been anywhere he was someone different, someone exotic. He introduced me to his friends: Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and James Brown. And when I watched the way Jim listened to music, it was as if I’d never really heard a song before.
He showed me how to love a drumbeat. A bass line and a guitar riff. And, I even confess, not that I should say this too loud in case he hears me, how to dance.
Perhaps only now do I realise what a gift it is to know how to have a good time, and to able to share that with others. And how lucky I am to have known Jim.
It’s no surprise that such a lover of life has inspired my writing. From that van flight above the bridge, to selling double glazing on frozen council estates. And of course the infamous day that half the Leicestershire police force was mobilised because he pointed a water pistol out of a window.
When I first sat down and wrote, and listened to music, loud, and I wanted the muse to weave her magic, I pictured Jim, drumming, lost in his art.
A lot of us who saw him on the ward, who held his hand and spoke to him, believed that he would stand up and walk out of that hospital, as he had done before. He looked too handsome for the show to be over. Surely there was another encore.
He had danced, drummed, joked and worked his way out of this quiet village to see the world. From the family grocers that his mum and dad and sister established, he raced sports cars across the USA, rode motorbikes around India, drove through the Australian Outback, and found home in the arms of his beloved Sarah.
While any of us who knew Jim are still alive, so is he. Still drumming. Still laughing and joking. Still dancing. Still that beloved son, brother, friend.
JAMES THOMAS DISNEY “Jim” 10th July 1973 – 15th May 2014