With a glass of bubbly in hand, the sun shining and a glint in his eye, Jack Barstow is happy with his lot.
The 99-year-old, who turns 100 on October 31, was in a reflective mood at his early birthday celebrations at The Mansion in Roundhay Park, having survived two world wars and seen mankind reach the moon among a century of milestones.
Family, friends and even a surgeon that saved his life from cancer a decade ago came from as far as Austria and France to celebrate Jack’s birthday at the venue in Leeds, where his mother worked as a waitress more than 90 years ago.
Still driving up until his car packed in recently, the sprightly Burley-born pensioner still lives alone and regularly paints, repairs clocks and plays snooker and bowls.
Jack, who lives in Oakwood, said: “I design a day and set myself up for it and then at the end of the day I thank the lord that I have been able to do all the things I have done that day.
“The lord answers all my prayers – I think I have had more than my nine lives.”
Jack, surrounded by around 80 of his friends and family, enjoyed a buffet and display of mementos from his life at The Mansion yesterday.
On the day of his birthday he will have a family meal at the Flying Pizza in Roundhay.
Active Jack hit the headlines for organising and competing in an over-90s bowls tournament at the North Leeds Bowling Club this year, while he also plays snooker at the Parochial and Home Guard Snooker Club in Oakwood.
He said: “I was thinking about doing an over 100s for bowls and I also started the highest break of the year at my snooker club.
“I can’t see the balls anymore, I guess, but we still enjoy it.”
Born in Burley on October 31 1912, Jack left Burley Road Council School aged 14 and got a job as a paperboy.
At 16 he started at Gilchrist Brothers, a Leeds printers, where he worked until the Second World War broke out.
He was drafted into the 51st Highland Division and served in Egypt, Italy and Greece, before returning to his home city, where he married his wife Joan and had two children.
Still an active member of the community, he recently gave talks at two schools about his experiences of the war for Armistice Day.
He said: “The children have written letters to me saying what a lovely day it was and that if I hadn’t been in the war they wouldn’t be here. The letters were out of this world.”
Jack, who still lives at his home of 70 years that he shared with his late wife, is known as ‘Jack the Clock’ for the instrument repair skills that he learned in the army.
He said: “I was about to think about retiring from repairing clocks and only yesterday a chap rang me.”
From thinking of giving it up, Jack is now set to attempt to repair a church clock – the largest he’s ever worked on.
Jack, who is also considering getting back on the roads driving again, added: “I enjoy life a day at a time, I never give in, that’s my motto.”
And when asked about his future, he said: “It’s in the lap of the gods.”