25th June 2021

It’s great fun learning the back stories of new acquaintances. They may now be elderly and rather frail but they can tell of amazing experiences and achievements. One lady I met recently had lived in Brussels for 22 years, working for NATO. We could recall various places we had in common.

A short, slightly built gentleman, now rather lame, had joined the RAF in 1941 on a whim and served in Bomber Command as a flight engineer, eventually being shot down and ending up in Stalag Luft III. Now 96, he had celebrated his 90th birthday by walking the coast-to-coast path across Yorkshire and Cumbria with his son.

Most impressive, perhaps, a very forthright lady who had been the orthopaedic surgeon in charge of a hospital in Northern Nigeria, a government appointment, addressed as ‘White Madam’ and well-respected by her Muslim colleagues. She said she was mainly treating not fractures but TB in bones and joints. Back in UK she headed the orthopaedic department in a London hospital and in retirement in Gloucester is delighted to have black and brown neighbours all around her while she reads the Daily Telegraph every day.

In contrast to media caricatures of old people, there are rich and dignified lives here which we may be privileged to dip into if we are bold and humble enough to ask.

Lesley Fuller