Friday, September 29, 2006

How much can you pack into a life?

I ask the question because Mrs W's grandfather sadly died recently, aged 99. He was desperately close to making his century, which seems rather cruel. But no one could say that Syd didn't have a full life.

As well as having a number of tough and dangerous jobs - working in the North-Eastern shipyards, repairing bomb-damaged properties during the war and so on - Syd also found a fair bit of unusual employment. Stage wrestling, for instance, in the days when it was done for real. A spell playing for Charlton Athletic on a weekly wage of £3. (Not sure how Darren Bent would respond to that kind of contract.) But the highlight is surely his time treading the boards with "Gaston and Andree".

Andree was a young lady who apparently posed naked in a cabinet at the start of a theatre show. She was then thrown about the stage by Syd, who was a little stronger than your average fella. So strong, in fact, that he'd broken the British weightlifting record in 1933, with an overhead lift of 300lb.

I only met Syd once, when he was already well into his nineties. He had a mini-gym and weights in his bungalow in Sunderland and worked out every day. He'd recently taken up painting and was pursuing courses in computer studies and English.

And according to Mrs W, he was lively right until the end. A couple of weeks before he passed away, he asked to be taken for a walk on the seafront. His eyesight was still good enough to comment on the fine features of young lady passing down the promenade.

A lesson to all of us who feel over the hill in our late thirties.

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