‘The party couldn’t have been better,’ starts Gladys Grimstead. ‘I had three actually!’
On first meeting, one would never guess that Gladys, who lives at Coshami, had just turned 100.
Physically and spiritually youthful, she likes to keep herself occupied as a member of the Drayton Friendship Club and the Wheels For All cycling project in Eastney.
Celebrating at her home in Lendorber Avenue, Cosham, with Wheels For All in Bransbury Park, and with a party thrown by the friendship club, Gladys was surprised by nephew Ken, niece Cath and Ken’s wife Dot, who travelled all the way from Australia.
She chuckles: ‘It was a lovely surprise when I opened the door and there they were!’
Born Gladys Ellul on September 10, 1917, in Portsmouth, Gladys’ father came from Malta and worked in Portsmouth dockyard, while her mother was a housewife and ‘had too many children to have time to do anything else’.
She is now one of just two living children, with her sister Kay living in Wales, but Gladys originally had eight siblings.
‘I always went out with my brothers,’ Gladys recalls fondly. ‘With six brothers you never needed anyone else.’
While all of her brothers went into military service, Gladys got her first job as a cashier when she was 14, and during the Second World War worked at the Airspeed factory near the old Portsmouth Airport site.
She met her husband, John Grimstead while he was serving in the Royal Navy, and married him in 1944 when he was working as a methods engineer.
Gladys says: ‘He was really very nice, and a wonderful watchmaker.’ The couple were married for 30 years, until John died suddenly from a heart attack while at work in 1974.
Gladys and John had five children – Nigel, Maureen and Gillian, as well as now-deceased sons Jeffrey and Terrence
She may not have remarried – ‘I’m not that daft’ is her retort to the notion – but Gladys has found plenty of new companions through her multiple pastimes.
‘I’ve been here now for more than 30 years,’ says Gladys at last week’s meeting of the Drayton Friendship Club. ‘I love a natter here, and I think I may be one of the last originals.’
‘Gladys is such a lovely lady, she’s so generous and so quick-witted,’ smiles Amy Sloggett, head of the friendship club. ‘She does so much, and her family are brilliant too.’
As well as always making the time to deliver a big bag of sweets to her four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, Gladys also makes sure to keep fit by attending weekly tai chi classes.
She says: ‘The hospital said that I had to go for exercise, but I found it wonderful and I’ve been going to that for 10 years now.’
She is also quite the adventurous type having travelled extensively – her favourite destinations include Germany and Sri Lanka – and riding motorbikes which she rode well into her sixties.
The centenarian explains: ‘When my husband died, I hadn’t learnt to drive, but I bought myself the moped and I would visit my son when he was at college in London.’
‘I don’t really know what my secret is,’ Gladys admits. ‘I do what I like, when I like, and how I like. I’m never bored!’
Drayton Friendship Club meets every Thursday at Drayton United Church Hall. For more information, call (023) 9238 9529.