How to live until you are 102 – the wisdom of Granny Margot in ten quotes

The most popular posts I ever put on Instagram are Stories from visits with my Granny – Margot Neill. You will not find Margot on Google (she is very pre-Google) so here is a snapshot of her life. She was born in London in 1917 and is alive and well in Surrey today. At the time of writing, she is 102 years and 4 months old. Born during WWI, she served with the Women’s Air Force (“I liked the colour of the uniform”) in WWII. While she was stationed at Fighter Command in Belfast she met my Grandad and moved to Northern Ireland. There, she worked in the family business before moving into public life. She established the Equal Opportunities Commission* for Northern Ireland in the 1970s. She represented the UK at the United Nation’s first World Conference for Women in 1980, and was awarded the OBE (“for going above and beyond”) a few years later. Margot is an original gangster, a force of nature, an alpha female, a feminist icon. And usually right. She is one of the greatest influences in my life.

It’s a matter of regret that I didn’t start recording Margot’s life and words sooner. I will write more, but for now, here are a few quotes from our conversations in the past year or so. Each one sums up her spirit and philosophy.

“Never look back, always look forward”

This is one of her favourite sayings – and central to the Margot philosophy. You can’t reach 102 without experiencing personal tragedy, but she has always moved through those times with amazing force and resilience.

“The one thing you can be sure of in life is that things will change – don’t get stuck”

She has an incredible ability to keep current and has never viewed change as something to be afraid of. I always think of how she embraced email – instinctively understanding that it was a casual – that there was no need to get hung up on punctuation, dears or with-loves-from.

“Once you stop learning, you start dying”Albert Einstein. Is embracing change the key to a long and happy life?

“I’m like jelly – I settle anywhere”

Perhaps her generation had less time for sentimentality? Margot always had a beautiful home, but made it wherever she found it – saying “there is such a thing as staying in one place for too long”.

“When you start feeling sorry for yourself you are in deep trouble”

Woe is never she. Always look forward.

“Old age is not an illness – it is a condition”

Margot’s only complaint about reaching such an extraordinary age is that she is often overcome with tiredness. She gives up each aspect of her independence very, very reluctantly.

Why, Margot, do you think that women outlive men?

“Because we are so valuable to society”

Yes, who else would do the work of caring? My friends Jules says that we hang on so we can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet and please ourselves at the end of life. I like that theory too.

“Money is not for spending”

Granny totally confounds the 21st-century economic model that spending-makes-the-world-go-round. She will not part with a penny more than she absolutely has to. As a result, she has funded her retirement – living off an income from her savings – for more than 40 years.

“It’s a funny old world. Your generation asks so many questions about how to live. We just got on with it”.

And yet here I am Granny, looking for you to answers as to how I should live.

On what it was like to live through World War 2 –

“There was no emphasis on whether we were happy, but we were happy doing our work. We had a sense of usefulness. Having nothing to do is a terrible thing”.

And finally, possibly my favourite Margot quote ever. On a recent visit, we were discussing how she is still so mobile, walking without a frame – unlike many much younger than her…

“You see, people are afraid they are going to fall. I don’t think I am going to fall. That is how I look at life.”

I wrote about a conversation Margot and I had a year or so ago, her advice for a long and stylish life click here to read it.

*The Wedgewood suffragette in the top image was given to Granny for her work with Equal Opportunities in Northern Ireland. She has passed her to me and I call her Margot.

Thank you so much for stopping by.

What's your View?

17 comments on “How to live until you are 102 – the wisdom of Granny Margot in ten quotes

  1. Kate W on

    My favourite post yet. I am such a Granny Margot fan Helen. Thank you for sharing a little of this amazing lady, her life and wisdom with us. Xx

  2. Helen on

    Hello Kate – lovely to see you’ve been reading. I’m so happy that people welcome hearing from Margot, she has so much simple straight-talking wisdom to share. Much love x

  3. Ashley Cramp on

    I love reading about Granny Margot, you really do need to delve deeper if possible and record it for us all?
    You are her legacy….
    Remarkable woman and I too live by never looking back always upwards and onwards!
    Tell her she has many fans !

    So the film about the women in the 70’s who went on strike ‘made in Dagenham ‘ Margot would know lots about that? Fascinating

    Ashley xxxx

  4. Helen on

    I would love to Ashley – I think I feel a little nervous about doing it justice. She is good at the art of living and could teach us all a thing or two. Thank you so much for stopping by for a read. Hx

  5. Liz Godfrey on

    So much inspiration and good advice. Thank you so much for sharing Margot with us – she is absolutely wonderful and I always look forward to these posts.

  6. Helen on

    Ah hello Liz! Lovely to see that you’ve popped by. I’m really delighted that others enjoy hearing from her as much as I do. It’s a bit of a responsibility to share her thoughts accurately – but she’s such an expert at the art of living that I want to try x

  7. Karen Andrews on

    I’ve been thinking a lot about career fulfilment lately and Margot has comfirmed one of my theories – that one of the pillars of fulfilment is purposeful work! She’s had such an incredible life x

  8. Sarah Leach on

    You absolutely should write a book of Granny Margot quotes. She’s quite some lady. This too is my favourite post so far, Helen. Some very wise words to live your life by. How amazing for you to have such a woman in your life…as she is to have you! Sxx

  9. Helen on

    Karen I think about that sentiment a lot too. We all do need to feel that we are engaged in something purposeful – otherwise we are in deep trouble (to borrow another of her phrases). It’s huge food for thought as the world becomes ever more automated…
    Thank you so much for reading, Hx

  10. Helen on

    Thank you Sarah! She never ceases to offer food for thought. Her judgements and observations are incredible. Lovely to see that you’ve popped by, Hx

  11. Louise Kasozi on

    I’ve just re-read this after seeing your Story on your recent visit to Margot.
    What an absolute Legend she is!
    Love this post.
    Margot is my new Hero!
    What a fantastic outlook to Life she has.
    And I totally agree, we could all be abit more Margot 😊
    Thanks for sharing Helen ❤️

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