‘I feel no different to a 21-year-old,’ laughs Dorothy Aslett as she reflects on her 100th birthday.
‘For me, it’s essential to learn something new every day.’
Born on February 3, 1919, Dorothy was born at Jacob’s Street, Portsea, to John and Ada Gigg. As the youngest in her big family, with one brother and six sisters, Dorothy says she had a ‘such a happy childhood’.
‘My sisters and I used to sing, dance and perform. We loved to entertain,’ reminisces Dorothy.
As a young girl, she attended Arundel Street School – and says she ‘would always come top of the class’ – before starting her first job at Twillfit Corset Factory in Old Portsmouth.
‘I was a machiner and worked with a lovely bunch of girls – we all got on really well.’
And it was through one of her work colleagues she met the love of her life, Alfred Aslett.
‘He was my Alfie boy,’ smiles Dorothy, ‘I found true love in him.’
‘I met Alfred through one of his sisters at work. I went to her wedding and we started talking. He sat with me all night and we just didn’t stop chatting.
‘I was 17 years old at the time and he was 20. We just clicked.’
The happy couple tied the knot in April 1939 at St Mary’s Church, Fratton, and were married for 63 years until Alfred died in 2002.
‘The Second World War broke out in the September of that year. Alfred was a carpenter but wasn’t sent away because he had a crooked arm and couldn’t hold a gun properly.
‘Instead, he worked as a shipwright in the dockyard,’ explains Dorothy.
Four years after the war broke out, Dorothy and Alfred had their only son John and the Asletts lived at Cyprus Road, Portsea, which was their home for 40 years.
Sadly, Dorothy lost her son John in a car crash but she tells me her ‘lovely’ family has grown with her two granddaughters, four great-granddaughters and daughter-in-law who is ‘one of her own’.
‘All girls,’ giggles Dorothy, ‘how about that, eh?’
Surrounded by her special girl gang and 60 other family members and friends, Dorothy had a surprise birthday party at Hale Court, Fratton, on February 3.
‘My granddaughters organised a party for me. I didn’t know anything about it but I really enjoyed myself,’ she smiles. I had such a big family when I was younger. When my brothers and sisters died, I kept in touch with all of their children.
‘I have such a beautiful family – they’re all so lovely to me.’
Dorothy’s granddaughter Samantha Lloyd says: ‘Everybody just wanted to talk to her at the party. It was so nice for everyone to get together. She is so wise and full of knowledge. I would always go to her for advice and she’s always got time for people.
‘She’s our rock,’ she smiles.
And just when Dorothy thought the surprise celebrations were over, her friends at Lalys Pharmacy at Kingston Road, Buckland, decided to organise a special treat for her birthday. Lynsey O’Connell, who is a medical assistant at Lalys, says: ‘Dorothy has been a customer with us for nearly 40 years so we decided to surprise her and take her a cake and presents. We were so happy she was chuffed with her presents.
‘She’s just an amazing lady. We asked her what her secret was and she said “always be happy”.
‘She’s unbelievable and my inspiration,’ adds Lola Thomson, a counter assistant at Lalys. Whenever I go round, she always gives me some chocolate – she is like our adopted grandmother. She’s our world.’
And Dorothy says she was ‘overcome’ with Lalys’ thoughtful visit.
‘I have shopped at Lalys for years and know them all personally,’ she explains. I opened my door and they were there with a big cake and flowers – they’re a lovely bunch of people.’
Everyday, Dorothy vows to learn something new and her age will not get in her way of anything.
‘I’m always learning. I do a cryptic crossword puzzle everyday. I like to stay up to date with things that go on in the world,’ she says.
‘You get out of life what you put in it. If you don’t put anything in, you won’t reap the rewards.’
And reflecting on the past week of celebrations, Dorothy describes the events with a huge smile on her face.
‘I’ve had an absolutely great birthday – I couldn’t wish for anything more.’