Happy Birthday, My Five Hundred Year Old Friend
“I’m not sure I ever thought I’d be 90,” my friend said, as she sipped on a cup of tea in the sunshine. “But I’m enjoying it, immensely.”
We were throwing her a small birthday party – nothing too much trouble, she wanted to be sure there’d be no fuss. She’d turned up with brown bread fresh out of the oven. “Hard as a rock,” she warned, “but it’ll taste good.” And three bags of homemade potato crisps for the kids.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever planned on being 90 either,” I said, “But if I could do it like you, it’d be great.”
She is 90 in years. But not old in any way. This is a woman who has lived life on her own terms… and continues to do so. She moved half way around the world in the aftermath of the Second World War. Found work she loved. And has supported herself her whole life. In an era when women did not. She is a true inspiration. Though she would hate me to tell her that. She is not one for mushy words.
Aged 90 she still grows her own veg. And bakes cakes for the “old lady down the road,” who is undoubtedly a decade or more her junior!
A quiet revolutionary who speaks her mind, reads challenging books, makes her own Christmas cards… and chutney, entertains throngs of visitors every summer, and bakes her own brown bread. Everything she does is good quality, handmade, carefully considered and without artifice.
Trained as an early childhood teacher, she has retained a keen passion and fascination in watching as children learn and play. My children adore playing at her house – she equips them with a torch and they explore in her cobwebby cupboard under the stairs, squealing with delight, unearthing hidden treasures. She notices things about them that I have not.
My youngest genuinely thought that she was her grandmother.When in truth she outlived MY grandmother by 40 years. She taught my father when he was primary age. Just after the Second World War.
“How old is she?” my youngest asked one day.
“I’d say she’s at least five hundred years old. And she’ll be around another five hundred. She’ll out-last us all.”
And I really believe it. I really hope so.