I was teaching at Cliff College in Derbyshire, when news reached us, earlier this year, that he’d become officially the oldest man in the world. We’d already grown accustomed, back in his hometown of Alton, Hampshire, to the fact that he was the oldest man in Britain.
But to us he was still just dear Bob, who must always have been an exceptional man even in his 30s, 40s, 50s – kind, prayerful, widely read and with an impressive command of modern languages – let alone once he’d turned 100, then 110, and rising.
One of my favourite ploys when speaking to groups about ministry among older people, was to show a picture of Bob and ask the audience to guess his approximate age. ’78?’ someone might venture? ’80?… 85 then?… 90?… Not 95?…100?!’
‘Any advance on 100?’ I’d say in my best auctioneer’s patter. No one could ever believe by his looks that he was the age he was.