Len – Age 101

“I don’t think we can tell younger people everything, some of them know more than we do. My advice for younger people is to take an interest, not just in the latest fads, but in other people and in social affairs. Look around and see where you can help.”

I went to school in Brighton, way back in the 1920s and I started working in Brighton in a small store. After a while, I went off to London, where I worked in a large West End store in Regent Street. After that, I did a whole variety of different jobs until His Majesty called me up into the Army, during the war. During the war, I got my training up in Scotland and was then sent off to India, where I was stationed for four years. I did quite a lot of very interesting things there. I actually edited a servicemen’s magazine called The BOR which means The British Oil Rank. Then, we went right over into Burma and Malaya and then the war was over. I came back home and got a wonderful opportunity to train as a teacher.

They had this special training for girls and boys coming out of the services to take on new a career. I had no serious academic qualifications. I left school at 14. In those days, you didn’t unless you were on a scholarship, which I wasn’t. So I decided to have a go – it was all based on interview. Well of course, my salesmanship experience stood me in good stead and they took me on, I’m glad to say. I started a new career as a teacher – that would be 1948 – and I retired in 1980. I went to London and worked there for a time, then I went over to Germany as a lecturer in a university, for 7 years. Then I came back here to Brighton and taught at Dorothy Stringer. That’s my teaching career, something about my background.

I’ve always been interested in social affairs, especially in acting. I did quite a lot of amateur acting and I helped to set up an amateur group in London, which became quite famous, called Unity Theatre. We put on ‘plays of social significance’ – that was a lovely expression. I’ve done quite a lot of acting there. I’ve done acting in various other places and when I came here, we joined the New Venture Theatre. It was in my old school! I came back married – we had one daughter. She went into catering, became a catering manager and then switched to health and safety. She’s now a health and safety officer for Worthing. I’ve got two gorgeous granddaughters and a very, very fine son-in-law, who I’m very fond of.

We’ve been married for 54 years. I’m 101 and 1 month. In my particular case, I have a much younger wife but obviously, I was very, very lucky in my choice. One of the reasons why I am still alive. Also, consideration – no great demands on the other person but an understanding, a proper understanding – because it does help if your general world outlook is similar. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same but similar, so you don’t clash about certain things and remain compatible. That’s all I’d like to say about it, because I don’t think I’m all that wise about successful marriages. I happen to be lucky!

The first thing I must say is that some of my colleagues were dreading retirement. ‘What am I going to do?’, they said. In my case, I really started working. I mean, I work as hard in retirement as I did when I was working! I do hobbies of various kinds, activities of various kinds, take an interest in things interesting things, writing poetry, writing generally. I’ve written my autobiography incidentally – I take an interest, a real interest, in things and people. It’s good to think about other people and not just about yourself. I do cryptic crosswords. I’m very, very passionate about  those. I’m socially active, in various different directions. Of course, I spend times with my family and have some very enjoyable times. I relax by going to the theatre, concerts, the opera. I have a broad cultural life.

To keep fit, I don’t do very much actually. I eat very sensibly, fortunately. It’s very important. I was very physically active for quite some time. Of course, now that I’ve reached this milestone, as I call it, I’m not so physically active so I don’t do a great deal of physical work. I do a bit of walking but I don’t walk very well. I have to stop very frequently but I can walk and I do walk a certain amount.

Firstly, I would like to give some words of wisdom to my own generation – don’t think that you can tell younger people everything, some of them know even more than you do! To younger people,  I would say ‘Take an interest, not just in the latest fads, not just in the latest fashions, not just in the latest gimmicks of various kinds – gizmos as I call them – they’re all very fascinating and some of them are beyond me. Take an interest in other people and certainly take an interest in social affairs. Look around and see where you can help. Don’t just stick to yourself. ‘