RALPH Tarrant can’t understand the fuss.
He feels “smashing” for his age, which he largely puts down to his active lifestyle.
Yet that age is 109 - and Ralph is entitled to feel a little special after becoming Britain’s oldest man.
He takes the place of Reg Dean, the former church minister from Wirksworth in Derbyshire, who died last Saturday aged 110 and 63 days.
Ralph, who lives in Broomhill, says: “I don’t understand the fuss about getting old. I’m old and it isn’t that hard – I still live independently, I do my own shopping, I enjoy cooking and get out walking when I can. What’s the big deal?”
With a lifelong love of swimming and cycling, he adds: “I’ve been active all my life and I’d tell anyone that it’s the best way to be. I feel smashing for my age. My health is good and, though I’ve just recently started using the aid of a walking stick, I can still go like the clappers.”
In fact, he is more than halfway towards his 110th birthday.
He was born in Nottingham and moved to Sheffield with his family when he was seven, leaving school at 13 for a job as an office boy at George Turton Platt steelworks.
He moved around departments, taking on roles as an estimator, a steel inspector and was a corporal in the RAF during the war, before eventually selling insurance with Refuge Assurance until his retirement in 1968.
He met his wife, Phyllis, in 1922 and they married in Crookes in 1933, the day after Ralph’s 30th birthday.
They were believed to be Britain’s oldest married couple after celebrating their 79th wedding anniversary in July 2011. Phyllis died on New Year’s Day 2012, aged 102.
“I sometimes feel like my wife and I didn’t really start living until we retired in our 60s and went off travelling the world.”
The couple visited the USA eight times, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Hitler’s hideaway in Austria and even danced under the stars on a cruise around the Greek Islands.
“We did more in our later years than we ever had the opportunity to do when we were young. Capri was my absolute favourite. That was where we ended up swimming with Gracie Fields - what a gorgeous time we had.”
Ralph has two daughters, Brenda and Christine, seven grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
“The key to a long and happy marriage is to give each other hell every chance you get! That’s certainly what we did and it kept us young, we were great friends.”
He also says there is no need to live too carefully, having smoked socially until he was 70 and still enjoying a drink.
“I have a sweet tooth too and my favourite meal is cottage pie, which I make myself.”
And his secret to long life? “That’s easy. Stay active and stay interested.”