Jim Custard

March 29, 2012

For several reasons I’m not too keen on the name ‘Bob’.

As a child, I hated it because several famous characters, real and fictional, had the same name or a close derivative. There was Black Bob, the wonder sheep dog, Fat Bob, one of Oor Wullie’s friends, of Sunday Post fame, Greyfriar’s Bobby, and others, who after sixty years, don’t come to mind so easily. Even today, many of the nobs in animated comics or jokes are called Bob. So, in my mind, Bob is the generic name for all those sad losers who give the rest of the world a laugh at our expense.

As a boy, I longed to be called Jim. In fact, once, when I was going home from school, I stopped to talk with an old man sitting on a park bench. (There was no risk in this in my day). He asked my name and I lied like a Boogie Street, one-jewel, Tarzan Junglemaster watch by saying my name was Jim.

After a few minutes of chatting a few of my school friends chanced by, calling out, “Hello, Bobby” as they passed. The old fellow looked at me in askance and said,
” Ah thought you said yer name wiz Jim?”
In sheer embarrassment, I grabbed my books and took off.

I shared this moment of mortification with my wife many years later, hoping that in the telling, my sense of chagrin would be exorcised. Instead, it was to become stronger.
We were guests at a party where we did not know everyone present. Someone held out his hand to shake mine and said,” And you are?” I answered that my name was Bob, just a fraction of a second before my wife added,
“But, he spells it J-I-M”


Some years ago, the food in British Army Dining Halls was described as overall ‘less’ – tasteless, flavourless, colourless, and shapeless.. Potatoes would be soggy and awash with water as they were served up, cabbage would be boiled to the point that it could be consumed through a straw and the stringiness of each piece of the meat presented caused us to doubt that Chelsea Pensioners were actually being buried when they faded away. Having said that, as an active, fit young soldier I ate everything that landed on my plate, regardless of taste, quality or degree of cooking.

The cooks naturally were not our favourite people and were the subject of ridicule or mockery. I remember however, that we didn’t have it all our own way. On one occasion, just after the Army had adopted the metal meal trays previously in use by the U.S. Army, I got my comeuppance.

At mealtimes, the majority of the cooks would leave the kitchen and stand behind the hot plate, serving out portions, mainly minute, to a line of soldiers on the other side. The Cook Sgt would stand at the end of his line of staff, serving out the pudding. We moved slowly forward with our metal, segmented trays, which duly received a portion of every item in each compartment.
When I reached the end of the line and was in front of the Sergeant, I couldn’t resist and said,
“Bonjour Jacques. Quel est la specialité de la maison, au’jourdhui?”
He looked up, from under beetle brows, said not a word but poured a ladle full of hot runny custard all over my mashed potatoes, meatloaf, cabbage and half way up my arm to my elbow, then bellowed, “Next!”.

Yes, I know, it’s sad to relate, but I remember eating everything on that tray and being miffed that I had only half of the custard I would have had if I had kept my smart mouth shut.

2 Responses to “Jim Custard”

  1. I can certainly understand your less-than-appreciative view of “Bob”. Born Richard, I think you can understand my own disaffection for the diminutive version of my name which has lots of other connotations, especially with size adjectives placed in front… I was much shorter than my tall uncle of the same moniker.

    Thanks for the continuing tales!

  2. Robert Davidson Says:

    Richard, not only do I appreciate your taking the time to read my effort I like the way you frame your comments and have had some wry smiles, sympathetic of course, and a bunch of chuckles. Thank you again.

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