Age concern? Not likely!
At 94 my very good friend and neighbour Irene Long is leaving Pembrokeshire.
She has decided that things are getting a bit difficult (what with walking the dogs twice a day, splitting logs and cleaning the gutters out etc.) and so, ever-independent Irene is leaving her beautiful garden and home in Hook to move near her son in Stratford. But before she goes, I want you to be aware of a few remarkable facts...
I never fail to shoehorn into any talk I’m giving (irrespective of the subject matter) the remarkable fact that Irene’s father was born in 1856.
That’s just three years after the railway arrived in Haverfordwest, the Crimea War was still being fought and the Rebecca Riots had only been over for a decade.
Irene’s mother had been Lawrence Binyon’s cook, the poet who was responsible for the verse recited every year on November 11th which begins: ‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old’.
And as if that wasn’t enough, she then found a job as cook for the Reverend Baring Gould when he relocated to Haverfordwest, becoming one of the town’s most popular priests. It was this Baring Gould’s brother who wrote ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’.
At the age of 16, in 1935, Irene secured an interview with a department store named Gorringe’s on Buckingham Palace Road in London, a favourite of royalty and gentry.
Nervously facing the director, a man named Owen Williams, Irene answered the first question as to where she was from: “Haverfordwest,” she said, then added helpfully, “It’s in west Wales.”
“Yes I know,” answered Mr Williams. “It’s where I’m from.”
Irene suggests that she was somewhat spoilt after that. She remembers serving Queen Mary.
She also muses that Horse Guards Parade was opposite the store: “Lots of young soldiers in there.”
When the war started, Irene returned to Haverfordwest and was taken on by the GPO to be trained as an engineer for the duration of the war. Her first responsibility was to maintain the machines that some of you may remember which delivered stamps.
Irene says that it doesn’t feel like 94 years.
Unsurprisingly, she says she’s been too busy to notice!
Irene Long in 2013