A wise old Yorkshireman on Brexit and hanging on…

ONE year today, 12 months to go – until Britain’s oldest man celebrates his 111th birthday.

Yorkshireman Bob Weighton was interviewed in the Observer last Sunday in a lovely piece by Harriet Sherwood. He lives in a care complex in Alton, Hampshire and you wouldn’t put it past him making it to that double-B Day: his birthday and Brexit day.

Weighton shares the oldest man title with Alf Smith, from the Carse of Gowrie, in Scotland, but Alf – who lives with his 80-year-old daughter – was only mentioned, not interviewed.

But never mind, because Weighton has plenty to say.

He is “not interested in birthdays anymore” and dismisses the idea that his great age is an achievement – “an achievement is something that wouldn’t happen without effort. And all I’ve got to do is sit in a chair”.

If age grants wisdom, as they say, then Weighton sits on a solid pile; and if age makes you more likely to be a supporter of Brexit, then this 110-year-old should be a dyed-in-the-Union-Flag supporter of getting his country back, and all that nonsense.

Refreshingly, Weighton is not a fan of Brexit. “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 have absolutely no idea why I’ve lived so long. I just haven’t died yet, that’s all”

He has never been a member of any political party but remains interested and informed about politics. He is irked that Article 50 was triggered on his 109th birthday and that Britain will leave the EU when, God willing, he turns 111.

Away from Brexit – and wouldn’t we all love to be away from that – Weighton watches the world with a wary but engaged eye, reading the Economist and listening to BBC Radio 4.

He thinks Putin is a danger to the world – “all the authoritarianism of communism but coming from the right wing”. And he worries about the “recrudescence of tribalism, seen in Brexit, Trump and Putin”.

I hope I can still use words like ‘recrudescence’ when I am 110. To be honest, I wish I could use words like ‘recrudescence’ now without having to look them up. It means “a sudden new appearance and growth, especially of something dangerous and unpleasant”.

What a sobering corker of a word. Thanks, Bob – I do like a new word. And meeting you through the inky sheets of the printed Observer was a treat.

Asked how he has managed to stay alive for so long, Bob Weighton has no secret formula to offer. “I have absolutely no idea why I’ve lived so long,” he says. “I just haven’t died yet, that’s all.”

I’d rather listen to this 110-year-old wise man of Yorkshire than to Theresa May any day. But she is the prime minister and today’s serving of waffle takes the form of a pledge to keep the country “strong and united” after Britain leaves the EU. Hope that works out better than all that “strong and stable” malarkey.

Mrs Maybe promises “a strong and united country that works for everyone, no matter whether you voted Leave or Remain”.

Well, we shall just have to see ten years or so down the line. And by then we probably won’t be able to call on the wisdom of Bob Weighton.

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