He’s gullible – contemplates oil in the Pennines!, Grimy – fumbling with his backside, nobby stiles and the very small change in his pockets, Mean – “I am not mean!”, sticks the remains of soap bars together, Lugubrious – cynical about today’s society, Lonely – even at Christmas, sending himself cards!, Lecherous – peering down clothing and rubbing his hands, Worried – the dread of radiation and the melting of the ice cap, and, incredibly sexually frustrated – try as he might, and there’s no one more trying than Rigsby, he never gets much chance to use ‘it’.
Introducing Rupert Rigsby. Though he dropped the Rupert in later life. Well, you can’t blame him, he was a little woolly bear with chequered trousers wasn’t he! Rigsby got his image to think about, can’t have that sort of name. You wouldn’t believe it but he wasn’t very good looking as a baby, yes! and look what the ugly duckling grew up to be…”An ugly duck!”, according to Philip. As for his upbringing, well, his grandfather was a bastard, “What, you mean he was cruel to you?” replies Alan. No, no in the correct definition of the term, according to Rigsby, his Grandfather may well have spawned from an extremely high-class establishment, “Suffice to say, I’m related to one of the most powerful families in the land.” Besides how do you think his Grandfather had a horse and cart…”H-u-shm-o-ney.” Sadly, he died after a week spent in Skegness, the break did him the world of good!
That’s how Rigsby came to possess his middle class features, can’t you see the breeding? And dare anyone show a dislike to his features, “Who dislikes me I’ll punch their ‘eads in!” He was Raised in the country from a very poor family. His brother, Ron, whom he’s fallen out with since a dispute one Christmas where Rigsby attacked him with a drumstick, now lives in – Acrington. A furtive, shifty, criminal-type character who’s always ‘finding’ things since he was 10. Like the Wedding ring he gave Rigsby, a huge cluster of ruby’s and diamonds “…like a bird’s egg!” Once he was found at the back of the Midland bank, halfway up a ladder. He said he was looking for a chiropodist! As a family they never really had much money but they always had their health and strength, as Rigsby confirms, “There’s nothing wrong with my back, mate!”.
They were so poor they couldn’t afford shoes so he just wore Gumboots, even in the height of summer. His environment was always against him y’see. He was always a shift little devil according to his Aunt Maud, the type of kid who used to torture small animals and pull the wings off butterflies. She couldn’t abide him and neither could his mother, even if they did call him ‘sunshine’s His father upheld very high principles. He’d rather get off the bus than sit opposing a woman with bare arms. He died on the very settee that now sits in the unoccupied room adjacent to Miss Jones’, in Rigsby’s attempt to respect his memory. He was sent to school in gumboots, branding him, “Especially round the back of the ankles.”, a stubby pencil and bread and drippin’. He had problem with his 11+ and went on to pass his scholarship, but he never went of course! He’d attended the interview but was rejected and his place was given to a kid named Porter.
He nevertheless enjoyed reading about Oxford and the public schooled middle classes. As a young man he enjoyed acting in the school productions believing he had poise, experience and held a strange power over the audience. He was picked for the Nativity every year, though, not surprisingly he did play Herod. He cherished the smear of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd and continued in the Army where he used to do a striking Long John Silver and a marvellous Hunchback of Notre Dame “No make-up, just a cushion up me back.”
Rupert Rigsby was married to Veronica, “I was a beautiful girl before HE got hold of me.”, she notes, a true cockney, snared by Rigsby after a wartime romance on VJ night. Rigsby enthuses that the Japanese weren’t the only ones to surrender that night! Purely for security reasons, not that her father had any money, though he did have a shotgun! Married to a woman whom he compared to have looked more like Walter Pidgeon than Greer Garcon, the woman he was meant to marry. A tough old boot with a robust sense of humour who talked and smoked simultaneously with a heavy bronchial cough “Always on high-tar.” producing a laugh like a pneumatic drill and someone shooting Crows. He recalls her quite bluntly, “Ooh she was a big lump…. Horrible! that’s the word.” He couldn’t carry her over the threshold without banging her head on the door post. When he tried to put his arms around her it was, “…like tryin’ to grab hold of a Barrage Balloon.”
It was a marriage of long spells of boredom followed by short bursts of violence. They used to spend their anniversaries with a slap-up dinner, Champagne, the lot!…… separate hotels though, “My God!…It was a military blunder on the scale of Anzio.” Although rumours have it he was actually jilted on his wedding day and sits with the remains of the cake alone downstairs, with only his cat Vienna for company. Veronica now lives in Cleethorpes and is only to be seen again when the late George Rigsby passed away. Turning up to try and gain a share of the residue. So, now he’s free again to try and impress the genteel Miss Jones after his ultimatum to her, “Why should we live alone?”. He’s finally posted off the petition to be a free agent again and the bait for the warm and vibrant, distressed gentlewoman, Miss Jones. In his flailing, button-less cardigan, sagging trousers and slippers, how could she resist? He informs Miss Jones, “…a close personal friend of mine but I’m not rushing it. Alright with you?”, that the type of companion she is looking for is someone with a sense of humour, someone who has knocked about the world a bit and interesting. Not a t’penny’ ‘a’ penny gentleman, “I went through the desert to Italy, that’s interesting!” She is, in his mind, a woman of refinement “…she still wears harvest festivals…. all is safely gathered in….. try and cast any expiations at ‘er mate, and I’ve a good mind to fill you in!” It’s all well and good Rigsby looking for an educated, civilised, refined and culturally minded partner but at the end of the day what he really prefers is his women to have “That, and a decent pair of knockers.” and underneath a real raver with come-to-bed eyes. He likes them with a bit of this, a bit of that, and plenty of the other.
When his decree absolute (divorce papers) comes through he proposes to Ruth, the object of his endless admiration – “She knows I fancy ‘er.”, over a tantalizing curry. Phil doesn’t want Rigsby to get hurt again and even the neighbours are putting the mockers on their relationship but guess what, she accepts! “Eh Vienna I think we’ve cracked it at last.” Ron’s the best man and Miss Jones mother’s here as well, whom Rupert can’t stand, and she’s going to be living with them after the marriage. The marriage is planned for St Lukes, that is if they can find it! And the honeymoons is planned for a week on the south coast, luxury. After a few drinks to calm Rigsby’s nerves “I am not nervous!” Ron drives to the wrong church where a funeral service is in place “I should ‘ave realised we were at the wrong church when they started wheelin’ the coffin down the aisle.” Rigsby remarks. Well, it turns out that Rigsby wasn’t the only one late, Ruth has let him down as well, she just couldn’t go through with it. So that’s that, poor old Rigsby, “I don’t understand it. I’ve tried everything with that woman.”…. a catalogue of failed attempts to woo Miss Jones. Let’s recap, the little green pills from Alan, “He’s as foul as a box of frogs.”, to calm him down and tone him up “Eh, ‘aven’t got any hormones in ‘em ‘ave they?” but they only proceeded to knock him out and turned his water bright green! He’s burned the wood of the ‘Love Tree’ “I’ll start a fire alright, Miss Jones!”, though it was taken from his very own wardrobe, as Rigsby soon discovers, “He’s got me burnin’ me own furniture!”, he’s learnt a few French phrases, “Voulez vous promenade avec moi ce soir Miss Jones?” to blowing in Miss Jones’s ear, aiming to stimulate her erogenous zones, but more her annoyance! Once he’d found out where they were on the map of course, “Somewhere near the equator.” Where’s he gone wrong? “Oh…I dunno what it is.” He resigns. Alan deems he’s a shortage of charisma but Rigsby’s out of that too, “I’m not sprayin’ meself with that stuff mate!”
As a creditable member of the community “Oh yes!” he believes himself to be in perfect condition, in his prime, ready for anything and still retains the so-called classic profile and feline grace, like Vienna?, “Nature has showered her blessings on me.” He thinks he carries his age well, an interesting face with character, lived in. “Looks like it’s been slept in!” replies Phil. A result, surprisingly, of his alleged success as a boxer (With his short fuse temper he supposedly very nearly killed a bloke once!), a footballer (another Tommy Lawton?) and a rugby player “I was known as the wraith of the touch-line.” He could send a whole pack the wrong way with just a flick of an eyebrow. Oh! and he was a lover of tennis, the sound of ball against gut. He never left the court until his strings broke, “Good? I was brilliant!”. This all being made possible from his enthusiasm for clean living and a balanced diet i.e., a bath once a week, every Friday, “Whether I need it or not.” and a nutritious diet of fish fingers and suet pudding and, on those special occasions, some fish and chips from a high-quality establishment… of course.
Rigsby loathes…or more accurately, is jealous of, all students, he thinks they are all lazy, box bedroom rebels, sex mad and fully paid-up members of the permissive society. Though he’s convinced the society doesn’t exist!? He should know he’s looked for it! Whereas when a little frustration creeps in to his relationship with Miss Jones he confides to Alan that “…underneath y’see she’s untapped, there’s a lot of pent up force. One of these days she going to burst like a dam and I’ll be waiting…….anybody tries to come between me and ‘er, ….” He’s always on the prowl around the house trying to catch Phil, Alan and even Miss Jones ‘at it! Or at least a glance of Brenda or Caroline Armitage in a compromising position, or wondering the house in a revealing outfit. He’s frequently painting their doors, purely in hope of seeing or hearing some sexual activity. Claiming the doors are “…groaning for it.” and they’re not the only ones!
Rigsby’s riddled with racial prejudice and, come to think of it, any form of prejudice. He doesn’t even like people with heavy Suntans, “There’s certain disadvantages with your pigmentation…like a dimly lit street and a 10 ton lorry!” he remarks to Philip. He thinks you’ve got to be black to get any sympathy around the house, especially where Miss Jones is concerned but let’s face it, anyone other than Rigsby gets tea and sympathy from her. He is convinced Philip’s lot have, “Never forgiven us for the slave trade.” Well, yes, quite. Though, hypocritically, he attacks all the values and rights he once fought for! A homophobic reactionary, “No I’m not!”, who’s all intent on bringing back hanging…..but in public! and a loner. He’s constantly showing distaste to Philip and Alan’s blatant sexual needs which is rich coming from him, and attempts to put an end to the permissive society which he’s convinced they are the founders of – Alan, really? which left him behind, advising them that it stops at the front door. Besides he doesn’t want Miss Jones tormented by noisy bed springs that echo all around the house, even if the trains are running by! New tenant Philip Smith is, unsurprisingly, black “Course he’s black he’s from Africa.” much to Rigsby’s obvious displeasure. He thought Miss Jones had finally introduced a better class of tenant with the aristocratic Mr Smith but, “Next full moon we’ll all be locking our doors!”. Alan dismisses Rigsby’s outrageous prejudices and tells him to look upon him as a brother, “He’s NOT my brother!” Rigsby’s references to Phil include, Monalulu’, ‘Your lot!”, “are little brown fellows’ and ‘Merlin’ in relation to his alleged supernatural powers, “Cobblers!” He thinks Phil’s never had a pair of shoes on until he came here believing he’s “Got to feel the ground under his toes.” and the only reason he’s got 10 wives is because “They get married whenever there’s a hurricane.”
Rigsby, a past master of social grace, cruises gracefully out in the evening to purvey some high class entertainment in his high class favoured establishments. Well, there’s a night at the Bingo! for starters, the Conservative Club (he’s been canvassing on behalf of Colonel de Vere-Brown. Preaching high principles of balancing the payments, encouraging investment, eradicating unemployment and curing inflation, all jotted down on the back of a packet of fags. He thinks the real reason behind election fever is Russian Gold!), or a trip down his local, “The Blue Ram’ where he had a liaison with the woman behind the bar. They all said to him “… whatever you do don’t give her a lift home…” she supposedly interfered with you whilst driving. So, Rigsby gave her a lift home and what happened? “………… Nothing! She was a wash-out!, kept talking about er feet!”. His favoured eating places include his old bachelor haunt, an Italian Restaurant. He picked up the good taste of the food while fighting in Italy. A confessed expert on Indian cuisine “My particular favourite is the Vindaloo. Although afterwards it’s more of a case of where’s the loo! ahem.” He always insists that a bottle of ‘Daddies Sauce’ always adds to the subtle blend of herbs and spices in the meal. All this coming from a man whose idea of a meal fit for kings is salmon paste sandwiches and stout!
His other noted restaurant is ‘The Grange’, with a certain gothic ambience, run by Charlie Briggs, an old acquaintance of Rigsby’s. Charlie should have thought in the same battalion as Rigsby during the war but he was hiding in the roof as part of the “49th Deserters!” Rigsby, however, still shows his loyalty to the war years and is a member of the local Legion club with his old companion Mr Baxter, who lives local. Though saying that Rigsby was banned from the Legion for poking a stripper with a piece of celery! and he’s desperate to get into the Country Club for a round of golf but for some reason he getting black-balled?! When Rigsby’s not out and about he enjoys nothing more than being left alone, apart from Vienna, watching the horror movies “They’re very educational.” Having a macabre fascination with horror and all things morbid, he thinks he’ll die from cancer after discovering a growth – his Adam’s Apple!!, he’s already purchased his very own coffin, “What d’you think it was a cocktail cabinet!” from a closing down sale. Solid oak with brass handles, “Careful don’t scrape it or scratch it.”, which he keeps stored away in a basement cupboard. Much delight is gained showing it to the household and Rigsby thrills in suggesting it’s “…worth goin’ just for a ride in one of these.”
A crazed maniac behind the wheel of his numerous transport investments, including a Ford Anglia, Cortina and a red and a white MG sports car, Rigsby gains the upmost pleasure from chasing rabbits down country lanes and scaring to death whoever is unfortunate enough to be riding with him. Miss Jones thinks he should be banned! and who can blame her. He thinks Phil’s jealous of his transportation and ability to win over Miss Jones with a car, “…can’t travel round ‘ere in a Jungle- Creeper!” Besides, Philip’s against transport pollution and Rigsby’s not surprised. He considers blacks to be always breaking down on the M1, “It’s true!”. He feels his calming ability behind the wheel rubs off on the way he handles animals, Charlie – Marilyn’s snake, took to him, “Animals respect me…oh yes!” He feels his calming effect wins them over. Take for example the time he approached an Alsatian attacking Miss Jones joint, just took a few soothing words…”Still bit you though didn’t it?” His Dr Doolittle gift resulted in him belting the dog over the head with a broom handle!
Rigsby can’t get enough of reminiscing about his war years, where tattoos were a sign of personal expression and “Blood, sweat and tears…” were spilt. He’s even kept a few mementos stashed away, like his old Captains 45 pistol and an SS uniform and dagger and he’ll begin to re-enact WW2 all over the house! An old Desert Rat who learnt discipline and had backbone, will power, travelling across numerous borders “I did my bit mate.” One time they went without water for one whole week! They were the only battalion not to eat it’s mascot, always wary of the bloke in the battalion who, on a cold night, would announce they should all cuddle up to keep warm, “Whoops mind yer backs!” it was rational to keep your hand on yer ha’ penny! He’s seen more men bleached by the sun than you’ve had hot dinners. He can see why Alan can’t stand anything gruesome, take Marilyn’s snake for instance “I haven’t seen fear like that when twelve people tried to get in the same life-jacket at Dunkirk.” His war years did offer the chance of some romance in the uniform though. The closest Rigsby’s ever got to IT was with a ‘Lady of the Night’ in France during the war. He was a young man then, no more than a boy really poised on the threshold, “What was it like? Did you er…” queries Alan “No I never no…. The Germans scored a direct hit on the bedroom…..the lights went out the roof fell in. I thought if this is sex they can stuff it!” He never stopped running ’til he reached Dunkirk! Rigsby spent 5 years for King and Country “Tell you tales to make your hair stand on end.”, and were there banners out awaiting his return? No!, his efforts weren’t exactly appreciated “They wished I wasn’t coming.” You see, no respect anymore! Since the war he’s suffered from bad feet, “Trench-Foot’ and other ailments supposedly from his war years, “Feel those feet!” and suffers from painful spasms in his body due to a piece of shrapnel lodged in his chest, leg, arm etc.. “It travels it around.” He hasn’t slept much since his heroic exploits in Anzio still, after Anzio, every day’s a bonus, “I’ve always been fearless since Anzio.”
And there you have it, there’s only one Rigsby. A man who’s suffered with ignorance and jealousy for most of his life. A good man at heart who doesn’t take change well, seeing new ideas and cultures only as a threat, but he still doesn’t understand what it threatens.
“There’s no doubt about it, there’s been a definite decline in my popularity this year……I dunno……I never seem to get any chances these days.”