So many people locally have said to me, “Do you know, George, you are the oldest man in this street?” Well, I was born in Bridgewater, living with my father in two rooms. My father died when I was 12 years of age, and then I had to go into a home. I was fostered by a lady by the name of Mrs. Bellington, and she looked after me until I got married.
I went to work on the railway, and I was there during the war. I was a local boarded fireman. I didn’t mind firing. Sometimes, you know, it was quite hard if the fires weren’t behaving themselves. One night when I was working, alarm was raised. It happened suddenly.
The Blitz started on Swansea. All the firemen got together, and they drove their vehicle to Swansea to fight the fire. There was a lot of shooting and bombs dropping. About two days after, I visited Swansea, and I couldn’t realize where anything was. It was such a mess. The local council helped by building a shelter where people could go if there was any bombing.
But in most cases, we went under the stairs. We didn’t go to the shelter. I had a friend that was living close to where I was living . He got killed, and, you know, I lost him, and then another person that I was quite friendly with, he was in the navy, and he lost his life as well.
Rationing restricted you to certain amounts of food, you know? Butter, cheese, little bit of meat. But if you could grow your vegetables, at least they were good nutriments , and you could fill yourself up with some vegetables. It was quite hard, and of course, the children at the time, they’d never seen a banana. I’ve always kept active.
I used to go to the swimming bars most nights, and then once I did an hour there of swimming, I’d go straight down to Harbour Island Beach and swim in the sea. I remember seeing Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan, and I thought, “Well, he’s a good swimmer.”
So I thought, “I wonder if I can practice and perhaps I’ll be able to swim like him.” When I was 14, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I learn to dance?” It’s good exercise for the legs and for the stature, keeping yourself upright, and that’s where I did meet my future wife.
I’ve been dancing for 70-odd years. My wife has died, now three years ago. I haven’t been obviously dancing with her. I still do a little jig on my own sometimes in the house. I still drive. I do all my own cooking. I look after myself. I do all my cleaning in the house.
I do the gardening. And there’s nothing really that I really can’t do physically. I count my calories. I try not to reach the 2000. I don’t eat butter, and from 1964, I have never used sugar since, and I don’t eat salt, and of course I’ve never smoked. I’m a short person.
I’m 5-foot-2, so I’m trying not to put on any weight. Otherwise I’d be like a round football. I was 92, and the lady next door but one, she said to me, “I know you’re active, George,” she said, “but why don’t you come to CrossFit?” I can remember when he first came.
It was already open and he was just standing over there talking, and I didn’t know he was going to come, and he came in and he said, “My neighbor said I should come up and join.” I went over to CrossFit, and I saw Sophie. Sophie: And he said, “I’m 92.” And I was like, “Well, OK.”
But he’d—he was up and about and chatting and talking to people, and he showed me he could touch his toes, and he said he’d driven here, so clearly he wasn’t an average 92-year-old. Sophie’s been great. And she likes to laugh. She’s been a great instructor.
We do have a great relationship. I don’t see him as a member. I do see him as more like a friend. We have fun. We talk. He tells me about his life. He shows me photos. He brings me chocolate. She couldn’t believe my limbs weren’t creaking, as they say, you know.
She was—she couldn’t get over it, and she thought, “Good god, this man’s 92.” We went through just some basic squatting drills, just onto a box, him holding my hands and just sitting down, and he was looking at me like I was stupid because he didn’t know why he had to hold on to me.
Until you see him in action, when I came here and met him for the first time, it only then resonates what this guy is capable of at that age. I always start off—every time I go over there is with the rowing. I do 300 there on the rowing, and then I do some weightlifting, whatever Sophie says I should do.
Sophie: He surprises me every time he comes in here with what he can do. I put him on the rower and he had a go at that, and he was just fine. He enjoyed the heavy breathing. He enjoyed that feeling. His character is bigger than all our, sort of, doubts and fears.
He just took over. When he’s in here, it’s the George show. George: It’s essential that as men get older, that they do certain exercises, simple exercises. They don’t have to be strong, heavy. You can do small exercises, but at least it helps you throughout.
Sophie: When we were chatting about stuff that he’s done in the past like, has he ever been to a gym, or what’s he done that’s made him sort of healthy at this age, and he says he’s danced all his life. And I said, “I have no idea. I wouldn’t have a clue where to start.” So he said he’d teach me, so I was like, “OK,” but just taking it with a pinch of salt, and then he came up here with this record player and vinyls and said, “Come on then. I’ll teach you.”
So we had a go, and I am just the worst dancer ever. Obviously his dancing background, as well as all the physical labor he’s probably done over the years, has helped with his coordination. He’s full of personality. My next-door neighbor—I was talking to him and I said,
“Why don’t you come along with me and do some exercises?” “Oh,” he says, “I can’t. I’m too old.” And I said, “No, you’re not too old. Why don’t you come along and witness myself if you like? You’ll be looked after. You’ll only have exercises that suit you.” I think when people get over a certain age, they think, “Oh, I shouldn’t really do that because I’m too old.”
But you’re never too old, and it’s never too late to start. I feel that if I only spare a couple hours a week, it’s something, and I think it’s bound to do good. Sophie: He comes Monday, Wednesday, Friday. He’s outside 45 minutes early for the class because he likes to come up and read the paper. But I’m immensely proud, and he should be extremely proud of himself as well.
There’s nothing that’s too much for him. He’s a physical specimen at 94 years of age. I don’t know if it’s the way I’m living, the food I’m eating or what, but I like the exercise. After I’ve done the exercise, I don’t complain of any pains, you know?
It just goes to show what is possible if you do the right things. The way that he’s lived his life shows that. George is the real thing, and he’s a true story. If you sit here whinging about your day it doesn’t have to be butchering.
If you come in and bring some luggage in and say, “The day’s not been great, and I’ve done this,” you take one look at him and just feel weak for everything you say. So he’s great in bolstering everything. George: Because at the age of 12 I was left an orphan, I feel, and I said to myself, “I must look after myself.”
Because there was no one else, really, that could do that for me. I hope that though I’m 94, I hope I can continue now until I’m perhaps 100. Who knows? We never know.