On 6 February 2018, my paternal grandfather, Owen David Jolly celebrated his 100th birthday. He had a wonderful day, culminating in a birthday party for 106 family members and friends at The Balmoral in Edinburgh, the city where he now lives. Grandad grew up in Enfield, Middlesex and lived in London for most of his life. He grew up with two older brothers, Alec and Gordon, a half-Scottish father (also Alec) and a London Welsh mother (Annie). He was brought up to appreciate and embrace all parts of his Anglo-Scottish-Welsh heritage. Grandad married my late grandmother, Doris, in 1940 and they had three children. Grandad continues to lead a full life with his second wife, many friends, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In honour of this significant milestone, I asked Grandad to share some of the secrets of his long and happy life.
- What is the secret to your good health and longevity?
Successful open-heart surgery in 2000. Enjoying life to the full but taking into account my physical capabilities. When needing medical attention, following instructions meticulously. Thinking young.
- What would you say are the major values or principles that you live by?
Being straightforward with others. Making light of life’s difficulties, e.g. failing sight.
- Have you ever smoked?
- Do you drink alcohol?
Yes in moderation – occasionally let my hair down.
- What do you consider the most important invention of your lifetime?
- What is your typical day?
Rise early, take orange juice and tea to my wife in bed. Walk for newspapers and read at leisure. Go for a walk.
- What is the most amazing thing you have seen in your lifetime?
Film of the launch of a V2 Rocket. It was quite awe-inspiring. Nowadays, of course, rocket science is pretty commonplace.
- What do you eat for breakfast?
Porridge, toast, and coffee.
- Do you have (or have you had) a pet?
Yes – a cat 40 years ago. I also looked after my son Barry’s golden retriever when he was at university.
- You share your birthday with Ronald Reagan, Bob Marley, Francois Truffaut, Fred Trueman, Babe Ruth, Queen Anne, and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Do you think you share characteristics with any of them?
No, but you left one off the list and I might have said yes had he been included. His name is Edward Jolly.
- Are you religious?
Yes, but I don’t let it take over my life.
- Do you sleep well?
- Do you play a musical instrument?
In past tense yes – piano, piano accordion, and cornet.
- What’s your favourite piece of music?
‘Lara’s Theme’ (‘Somewhere My Love’) from the film, Dr Zhivago. The question also takes me back a long way to an earlier favourite – Barcarolle from the opera, Tales of Hoffmann (Jacques Offenbach’s ‘‘Belle nuit, o nuit d’amour’)
- Is there anything you wanted to do that you never got around to?
In retrospect, going to university when I had the opportunity.
- What is your earliest memory?
Sitting around the table with my Mum, Dad and two brothers (pictured with baby Owen above), Alec and Gordon. I was certainly aged 4, and might have been younger.
- You were born in Enfield, went to school there, and worked in central London. What are your earliest memories of London?
Seeing the lights at Piccadilly Circus when on the bus to relations at Pimlico. Riding on the new invention – i.e. an escalator – at Liverpool Street Station. Pageantry – e.g. Changing of the Guard.
- Any regrets?
Yes – not seeing my far-flung family as often as I would like.
- What was the best decade for you?
Difficult to answer – too many candidates.
- What do you want for your 100th birthday?
The love and affection of all of my family – not forgetting that of my friends.