Happy 90th Birthday, everyone!

A blog post by Belle Frances Timlin


This week I was really lucky to be involved with a party for 25 people in Southwark who were over 90.  It was like all volunteering – you start off thinking you are doing a good thing for other people, when really it is the person doing the helping that gets the most from it.

The ladies and gentlemen all had their stories of derring-do from Word War 2 – love, hope and disappointment were all there and tales of lives spent in service to others. The Southwark News ran an article about it in their culture section and Borough Belles Sarah and Ruth’s cakes got a mention in the first paragraph!

At the meeting on Wednesday I spoke about a 93-year-old lady who I had a dance with who remembered winning 10 bob at a jive competition in 1942. But afterwards I felt my favourite conversation was with Gertie (why isn’t that name still popular?). I was in the garden waiting with Celia and Betty for a cab to take them home. Gertie had nipped out for a quick ciggie. I was astonished that someone aged 93 was a smoker. She said she didn’t start until she was 85. For years her husband had encouraged her to have a relaxing smoke after dinner but she had always said no.  Then at 85, she had decided to start.  She was aware she wasn’t even doing it properly, like a 12-year-old boy at the bus stop not inhaling but trying to look tough. What was marvellous about this encounter was the ability to be silly and to admit you’re being silly at any age. Perhaps one of the great things about getting older is recognising being a bit foolish is what makes us human and loveable. Older people are great and we only need to keep breathing in and out to get there. Keeping breathing and making mistakes, everyone.