George Christmas might be one of the most youthfully-spirited centenarians you will ever meet.
George, who hit the big 100 on January 10, celebrated with friends, cake and a glass of wine at his favourite weekly social gathering, the Portchester Bridge Club.
‘It’s all about not taking any chances,’ reveals George, when asked about his secret to reaching a century.
‘It’s a very pleasant surprise to have all of this put on for me by the bridge club. I do look forward to coming here every week, they’re all very nice people.’
George grew up in Alfriston, an East Sussex village with a population of only 600 at the time.
The younger of three siblings – brother James, and half-sisters Rose and Emily – George was prolific in the neighbourhood as a member of the church choir, altar boy and newspaper delivery boy.
After doing admin work on the Southern railway as a teenager, George met his future wife, Frances, in 1939 when he was 22.
Unfortunately, it was in the same year that he was called up to serve in the army.
‘The army service was not too pleasant’, admits George, who has lived at Widley since the 1960s.
‘It’s just something I had to do, and I was very lucky to come out of it alive.’
George was demobbed in 1945, before he married Frances in December 1946. The couple went on to have two daughters, Stephanie and Eileen.
‘He’s a very patient and generous person, and he’s got a great sense of humour’, says Eileen, 68. ‘He’s always got a sort of twinkle in his eye!
‘We as his children were his pride and joy and we had a very happy upbringing with him.’
Following his army service, George spent nearly 25 years working for the Inland Revenue as a tax inspector.
His hobbies for many years included golf and bowls, but it was his wife’s love of cards that led the couple to take up bridge as a shared pastime, and they played the game regularly together until Frances’ death in 2013.
‘It’s great fun playing with George, he’s a great player’, says Brian Diffey, who has been George’s bridge partner for the past three years.
‘Bridge is all about using your brain, but George never kicks me under the table when I don’t use mine’, laughs Brian, who is from Gosport.
‘We just have a great time together, I couldn’t ask for a better partner.’
‘George is a very jovial person, but quietly so’, adds Pat Wheeler, the club’s treasurer. ‘I don’t get to play with him very often, but when I do you have to be at the top of your game – he’s hard to beat!’