We had the elderly in-laws over yesterday. Both in their mid-80s – they arrived in the car with our son and his girlfriend – all masked up.
We sat them at the edge of our dining table, well away from the rest of us. taking special care with social distancing and adhering to the rule of six.
It came up in conversation that the oldest person in Britain, Joan Hocquard, had died the day before at the age of 112.
Jokingly I said: “Imagine that, you could still have 26 years ahead of you”. A look of horror appeared on their faces at the thought they could have nearly a quarter of life could still lie ahead.
It brought to mind the comments of the much-quoted Barnsley pensioner, who when asked for her opinion on the South Yorkshire tier 3 lockdown said:
“I think it’s all ridiculous, we should never have been in lockdown. All the people who were vulnerable should have been helped and kept home safe.
“And all the rest of us, I’m 83, I don’t give a sod. I look at it this way, I’ve not got all that many years left of me and I’m not going to be fastened in a house when the government have got it all wrong.”
The previous week we’d spent some time with other family members who’s daughter was going through that adolescent ‘worried about dying’ phase.
I’m sure my niece will eventually get through this troubling phase in the months to come as we all do. At first we learn to push aside scary thoughts of mortality then as we get older we start to face up to the inevitability of life.
It’s reassuring really that older people often reach a point of acceptance and even welcome the end of life though always, I guess, at some distant point in the future.
Anyway back to Joan Hocquard who died at her home in Poole, Dorset, on Saturday. Her nephew, Paul Reynolds, 74, said she had always sought to live life to the full and that she “loved eating butter and cream and didn’t believe in dieting”, which is good news!
She was born on 29 March 1908, under the reign of Edward VII, the same day as the world’s former oldest man, Bob Weighton who died in Hampshire in May – great to hear he was British.
Their final birthday celebrations (pictured) were held behind closed doors because of the national coronavirus lockdown. The pair also shared a birthday with Alf Smith from St Madoes in Perthshire, who shared the title of Britain’s oldest man with Weighton until his death in 2019 at the age of 111.
Reynolds described Hocquard as an independent spirit who had refused a card from the Queen on her 100th birthday because “she did not want people to know how old she was”.
Born in Holland Park, west London, Hocquard spent much of her childhood in Kenya, where her father was a colonial officer in charge of shipping on the Great Lakes in east Africa. She later worked as a cook in a French hotel near Geneva in Switzerland, and met her husband, Gilbert, through their shared love of sailing.
During the second world war, she drove ambulances in London before she and Gilbert moved to the south coast of England.
The couple travelled across Europe in a camper van – which is also good to hear – and went on yachting holidays until his death in 1981.
She lived “an extraordinary innings and died peacefully in her own home, which is all you could wish for”, said Reynolds. “She was a strong-willed character and loved telling stories about how naughty she was as a schoolgirl.”
The oldest living Briton is now Lilian Priest from Swanage in Dorset, who is 111.