Life lessons from a 99 year old Bletchley Park veteran

bereavement investing women and finance work life balance working mums Jul 27, 2022

This week saw our final farewell to my Nana.  Sad, yes of course, but so much that I have taken from the long long time that she was with us.

99 years of life to celebrate and learn from.

99 years worth of a legacy to leave and live life by.

So, reflection has been natural!

Nana was part of the phenomenal code-breaking team at Bletchley Park during WW2 - an interceptor, taking down the morse code messages as they came across the seas from the Germans.  I was lucky enough to know a great deal about this part of her life, despite the decades of forced secrecy as, when the Official Secrets Act was lifted for them, I was able to share her stories, along with many of the others first hand at BP Veterans' reunions.

Going through Nana's papers to prepare the Eulogy has also brought forward some other amazing realisations:

The first was this:

Nana began an OU degree in 1967.  Long before the days of just catching up on a lecture or workshop online. She would have to watch on the BBC or listen to the radio late into the night after "entertainment" programmes had finished.

She started her degree in 1967 and completed it in 1987.  20 years later!

4 children, a career, a significant involvement in the Church and sitting on 101 committees in the community, and she STILL made sure she completed her degree.  No matter how long it took.

Most of us would have given up.

Nana didn't.

The second was the discovery of a receipt amongst the papers I now hold, for a payment she made of 30 guineas in 1953 to cover the cost of training as a specialist surgical appliance fitter.

30 guineas in 1953 is worth a little over £3000 today.

Nowadays, we see many courses and programmes available for that level of investment.  Whether "interest based" or to further our career, we may not think too much about paying this amount.

But in 1953, with a baby and a toddler in tow, a husband working on the London Buses, and with food rationing still in place in the UK, 30 guineas was not easy to find.  There was no chance to just "pop it on a credit card" or borrow from family as we might do now.

Nana finding 30 guineas to pay for training for a new career was significant.  A career she was to stay in for 20 years before moving from London to Norfolk and taking a whole new direction.

She believed in herself.  She put trust in herself and her desire to improve the life she could provide for her growing family (she had 2 young children at the time, and 2 more were to come).

Nana always encouraged me to do the best I could do, and always had belief in what I wanted to achieve.

I now understand why. I wish I'd been fully aware of this before, so I could ask her more about it, but I am so pleased to have found these bits amongst her papers now so that I can continue to know that it's perfectly ok to want to do better.

To have more.  To be more.  To earn more.

If it was good enough for Nana. it is certainly good enough for me!

If you're ever struggling to decide whether investing in self improvement is worth it, take a leaf out of my Nana's book and have trust in yourself.  The possibilities are endless if you choose to make change and commit, however long it may take!

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