KEEP moving, have faith and drink lots of Carnation condensed milk – about eight tins a week.
This is Albert Ball’s advice for a long and healthy life.
He thinks for a second. “And keep breathing,” he says. “That’s an important one.”
His are words worth heeding. For at 98-years-old this retired Methodist minister is not just still living healthily and independently by himself; he’s not just still burning the candle at both ends (“I rarely go to bed before midnight,” he says, “I like the night”); and he’s not just continuing to paint stunning watercolours every day – a hobby he’s had for precisely 95 years and which saw him exhibit at the Great Sheffield Art Show just 18 months ago.
This one time newspaper short-story writer has also just had published a delightful compendium of thoughts, musings and advice picked up during ten decades on planet Earth.
“Why have I done it?” ponders the great grandfather, of Endcliffe. “That’s a good question.
“I feel I have a lot to share with people. I was a Methodist minister for 37 years, and that meant writing a sermon once a week. I learned a lot doing that which I want to pass on.”
The book itself, called A Spark Of Time, is a pocket-sized hardback which includes an article per page on specific subject such as ‘fear’, ‘smoking’ and ‘happiness’, and quotes everyone from Plato to Baron von Hugel.
“Be a doer, not a wisher. All wishing and hoping are a waste of time,” it reads on procrastination.
“I agree with Disraeli: ‘Life is too short to be little’,” it states about making the most of life.
And the book’s most important advice, The Diary wonders?
“Be yourself,” says Albert who was born in Stoke-on-Trent but has lived mostly in Sheffield since being appointed as minister here in 1942. “If you look for approval from other people, you can never be happy. Take charge of yourself. I have spent nearly 100 years being myself and I wholly recommend it.”
To say those 100 years have been eventful is an understatement.
Albert spent his young life as a tile draughtsman before becoming a Methodist minister, something he had dreamed of since childhood. That job saw him live across the UK – from Tenby in South Wales to Bury in Lancashire – and then get moved to Malaysia in 1945 to serve with British troops there.
“I was among thousands of conscripted men,” he says. “I came across all walks of life. It gave me great insight.”
He married his actress wife, Dorothy, who passed away seven years ago, in 1947, and ended up permanently in Sheffield during the 1960s when he became minister for the Endcliffe, Carver Street and Ecclesall circuits.
He had a novel, The Closing Of The Gate, published in the 1970s but A Spark Of Life is his first book since.
Now his routine includes reading, watching DVDs and exercising before setting down in the afternoon for several hours of writing or painting.
“I will usually carry that on late into the night,” he says. “Although one thing is rigid – I will always have some Carnation milk, before I go to bed.”
A Spark Of Life, published by Grosvenor House, is available at amazon.com now, priced £12.99.