Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to its oldest of old men, Bob Weighton, 110 years old and unhappy with Brexit

"If there’s anything that characterises the present world, it is the recrudescence of tribalism in Brexit, Trump, Putin."

Bob's Britain on the 29th March 1908 :
Ten days after Bob was born, one hundred and ten years ago today in Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire, a young Winston Churchill entered the Cabinet for the first time as President of the Board of Trade; in June, the first major Suffragette rally took place in Hyde Park and an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people demanded 'Votes for Women'; a loaf of bread cost 2 ½d and a pint of  beer 1 ¾d; across the Atlantic, Henry Ford’s Model-T was introduced, costing $850 and on this side, EM Forster’s 'A Room With A View' and 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame were published in hardback.

If he was dandled on the knee by grandparents in their 80s, they may themselves reflected that they were babies, like him, at the time of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

During he intervening 110 years between his birth and today Bob has lived through two world wars, seen 21 prime ministers, five monarchs, the rise and fall of communism and fascism, the moon landings, the birth of the NHS, and the transformative power of technology.

Bob :

* stayed at school until he was 16 in 1924 after his father paid an extra £3 a term for his education so that he could take up a marine engineering apprenticeship and, after qualifying, moved to Taiwan, to teach at a missionary school, but first had to spend two years in Japan learning the language.

* in 1937, at the age of 29, married Agnes, in Hong Kong then returned to Taiwan, where his son, David was born and en route back to Britain, was diverted to Toronto, Canada, due to the outbreak of the Second World War.

* fathered two more children in Canada before moving to Connecticut in the USA and worked in a factory that made airplanes for Britain to help them fight the war and also worked closely with the American Secret Service broadcasting propaganda to Japan, before moving to Washington and then back to Britain after the war had ended, eventually taking on a teaching position at City University, London.

* saw Agnes, his wife, pass away when he was 87 in 1995 and his son Peter in 2014 and is now grandfather to 10 and great-grandfather to 25.

Bob's Britain on 29th March 2018 :
Twenty-five days before his 110th birthday Gary Oldman gained an Oscar for his portrayal of Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the film 'Darkest Hour' ; two months before a March4Women Rally took place in London with thousands of protesters calling for gender equality; a loaf of bread cost £1 and a pint of beer £3.60; a Ford Fiesta cost £13,470; Amazon sold the DVD of the film version of E.M. Forster's 'A Room with a View' and Peter Hunt's 'The Making of Wind in the Willows' will be published in paperback tomorrow.

This time last year Bob said that he was a "bit irked" to be celebrating his 109th birthday on the same day Brexit was triggered and although he was "not enamoured" with all of the European Union's decisions and spending, he felt quitting was a "mistake." He said he did not regard Theresa May's signing of Article 50, as "a step forward at all" and joked : "She didn't ring me up to see what my reaction would be." 

He described himself as "very internationally-minded," partly because his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are "scattered around Europe" including some in Germany. He said that Britain leaving the EU would be like a divorce : "You can't just walk away and expect it not to have any repercussions. It's not like resigning from a golf club because you don't like the secretary, it's more like a divorce with all of the heartache and recriminations that follow. However, you have to live with the way things are not the way you would like them to be."

He has lived through “times that have been exciting, times when it’s been very scary, times when it’s been the dawn of a new day. At the moment, it’s a total muddle – you’ve got Trump, Putin, and political stalemate in Britain.”

He was not in favour of Brexit, he said. “I have a son who married a Swede, and a daughter who married a German. I flatly refuse to regard my grandchildren as foreigners. I’m an internationalist but I’ve not lost my pride in being a Yorkshireman or British. I’ve lived in a number of countries and I felt I was at one with the people there. You can make as good a friend with a German or an Argentinian or a South African as you can with the man next door.”
Bob took 'A Level' German at the age of 70 and keeps two small flags, German and Swedish, on his mantelpiece – a nod to his international extended family.

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