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Park bench

Why Sue is #AgeProud

"I think it’s just a sense of packing in as much as possible ‘cos the older you get, the more aware you are of mortality at the end of it."

Sue, Leeds, is one of five people that we interviewed for International Day of Older Persons 2019. This is their story.

Sue, posing on her garden steps
Photograph and words by Mark Epstein

I came to university in ’63 from a rural area. My dad took the Daily Mail, he was a rural Tory. His parents had been fairly rural bourgeois farmers but my grandad had gone bankrupt in 1929 so my dad carried ideas of being well-to-do while not being. In fact my father met my mother when he was sent to drive a Caterpillar tractor to bulldoze down trees and farms to create what was then, Ringway Airport. He lodged at my grandparents’ house and married the landlady’s daughter. I grew up with no progressive ideas around. When I came to Leeds it was like being reborn. Of course there was a lot happening. There was Anti-Apartheid, Vietnam, just lots of different ways of looking at things.

I was looking for something else. Summer of ’66, a friend and I were looking for a diversion from swotting for finals, and there was a coach going down to London to support the seaman’s strike. So we went on it. And that was organised by the Socialist Labour League. I was impressed with this new way of looking at things and that was when I first started teaching. Along with getting politicised, I decided I wanted to teach English in inner-city schools to hopefully enable working-class kids to use the language to enrich, improve and empower their lives. That’s what I did for 38 years.

I think it’s just a sense of packing in as much as possible ‘cos the older you get, the more aware you are of mortality at the end of it. I think it’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, there’s a quote ‘The leaves are green but a little while’ and sometimes phrases resonate with you. We’re like a blink in the eye of eternity. And there’s so much needs doing. It really irritates me when I hear people saying “I’m dreading retiring, I’ll be bored”. For f**k’s sake, there’s so much, not just to do for yourself; on one level I’d like to build on my artistic talent which I haven’t used since ‘O’ level, or join a choir or something, but there isn’t time for that. I go to music, I go to films, I go to plays, but there’s so much needs doing in terms of political change and just trying to make things better and stopping things that are wrong....


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