This black pendant was handed down to me by my Granny, Margot, years ago. It is one of my favourite and most worn pieces of jewellery. She has great style, which is just one of many remarkable things about her. Margot recently turned 101. Not only that, she is still fit and sharp and active at 101. Perhaps this makes perfect sense? You need to be in good shape to top a century on this mortal coil.
When I tell people about her they often joke ‘ask her what her secret is’. So I have tried to. These are just some snippets from a recent conversation we had. I could write a book about her, but we’ll start here…
Not a biography, but a bit of history
Margot’s a Londoner and was born in January 1917. After leaving school, she worked at Heals (the legendary interiors store on Tottenham Court Road), and then at John Lewis on Oxford Street. This was her job when World War 2 broke out. She was a manager in the lighting department, which she says was “enormous” and stocked grand chandeliers. But in September 1940s she arrived for work one morning to find that the shop had been bombed and destroyed by fire. Not long after that, she joined the WAAF, the women’s air force. This took her first to Wales, and then to Northern Ireland where she worked in Fighter Command. They sent Spitfires out over the Atlantic to escort boats safely into our waters. While she was there she met my Grandad and settled in Belfast.
Even with a young family, she says that she was always “selfish” and pursued her own interests. She worked in business and then in her 60s chaired the Equal Opportunities Commission in Northern Ireland, trying to implement the first equal pay laws. Her retirement has lasted almost as long as I have been alive, which is mind-blowing.
What’s your secret Margot?
When I told Granny that some friends were keen to hear her advice on how to live a long and healthy life, her off the cuff response is to “pick good ancestors”. Good news for me.
She paused for a moment, before offering a few more ideas.
“I really don’t know, I really don’t. You don’t set out in life to live this long. Well maybe some people do, but I’ve never been a health fanatic if you know what I mean. I’ve got other things to think about”.
“I’ve not abused myself, I’ve never been a big drinker, I had the odd party now and again, but I have never consumed a lot of alcohol which is a good thing”.
She also advises steering clear of milk, but I think that we can put that down to the eccentricities of old age. “I don’t know what they put in milk” was the only explanation. Noted Granny.
A life lived in moderation
Margot’s always been very social and involved in the world around her, but you would not call her a party animal. “I’m not a person where any form of frivolity has ever ruled my life in any way. Some people live for going out, but I wasn’t born in a time where people did that, we just went out for special occasions”.
If I live to be anywhere near 100 years old, I plan to chuck out the rule book and start eating chocolate and kettle chips for breakfast. Granny on the other hand, still watches what she eats, “I’ve been through the years where we had very little food. Wartime, and then after the war. We had food rationing, your generation would not believe what we ate. It informed my eating habits for the rest of my life”.
“We used to walk too. A tremendous amount. All of my life. It’s all exercise”. But she doesn’t believe in running (like her granddaughter).
Self Care pioneer
I have many of my own theories as to why Granny is what she is. For example, she would not have the remotest notion what Self Love or Self Care is but I think she’s always followed its principles. Just in her own pragmatic, utterly non-fluffy way.
She would never apologise for taking time for herself. Back the day, Sunday mornings were always her own. She would disappear into the bathroom and spend time on beauty maintenance. Doing her nails, a face mask, having a soak.
Another great quality she has for keeping herself sane? Never, ever overcommitting. While I run around every single bloody day trying to fit in six tasks too many, Granny would just say no. Perhaps she had an inkling she’d have a hundred years to get everything done?
A century in style
Margot is so chic. She looks impeccable, always. Even nowadays each outfit she wears will be set off by a piece of statement jewellery. I would have loved to get her to talk more about her style secrets, but she wouldn’t be drawn other than to say “I’m a great believer in dressing for the occasion”. Looking messy, she says earnestly, is “not good news”.
Another little tip? She absolutely swears by Boot No7. They should take her on as a brand ambassador.
I hope to bring you more Margot Moments in future. Let me know if there is anything that you would like me to ask her.
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