You must put your family first
Peter 81. Married. Semi retired business owner from East Lancashire. 2 children, 4 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren.
How are you?
I’m very well for someone my age. I still work at least half a day everyday. I run my own business - a small chain of laundrettes. I’ve done it most of my life. It’s very satisfying but physical work. It’s all me - I don’t have to supervise people and it’s never the same day twice. There’s always something different. I like to keep involved. If you don’t you become old and useless, your senses go, your memory goes.
My wife doesn't like me to work too many days so I keep it to half days these days. If you give up altogether you can go backwards very quickly. There’s never been a day I haven’t wanted to go to work since I started my own business, that was in 1970.
I’m mechanically minded. In my line of work you have to learn to do everything yourself. It’s important to be able to mend the machinery myself. Imagine having to pay for all the breakdown and repairs I’d be out of business pretty quickly. I went back to college in my late 50s to get myself trained as gas safe engineer. I enjoy it.
I was bought up in a family where working 7 days a week was the norm. So it was normal for me when I started my first job as a mechanic to work 12 hours a day. As time went on and I got married and had a young family I found there was no time for family life. I’d come home grumpy. It was very very bad. My wife nearly left me. That was back in 1972. I got to the stage when I didn’t want to go to work - and that’s not good. I’m not saying it’s right but you need family time too. I decided I needed to get out of the garage. I never saw the kids.
I started another job in my spare time. I knew I had to change the way I did things. I bought a laundrette and every spare minute I had I’d work on getting it up and running. We made a lot of mistakes but 5 months later I opened my first laundrette. Gradually I started a chain of them. It took me 8 years and 3 laundrettes before I knew I could leave my job as a mechanic.
We now have 9 laundrettes. I get to know all my customers and the home/work life balance has been much better. The garage depressed me but the laundrettes make me laugh.
How do you see yourself?
Getting old but I don't want to admit it. Luckily I’ve only had one incident and that was 7 years ago - I got prostate cancer. Thankfully it was caught early and completely cured. I feel I am a very lucky person.
How do you feel about marriage?
I’ve been married 56 years. My Mum and Dad didn’t approve at first because she was Catholic.
The main objective in my life is keeping my wife happy. At the beginning I wasn’t giving my marriage 100% and she nearly left me. It gave me a right kicking. Since then I’ve always wanted to be a nice person and I think I am. Whatever she wants she’s gets. We still don’t do enough together.
The man has to be the earner - I didn’t expect my wife to earn. If you’re an earner and a miserable bugger then that’s no good. You’re dammed if you work too hard and dammed if you don’t work hard enough.
Remember the occasions, birthdays and anniversaries. Strike up a balance. You have to be patient - be kind and helpful to each other. I listen to her. Listen to each other and do your best for each other.
I think I should have done more to help with the kids. It’s all a matter of consideration for other people. I always tell the lads around me - you must put your family first.
Where does all your energy go?
I’ve played the piano most my life. I don’t get as much pleasure from it as I used to. My old friend, a fella I’ve known since we were kids died recently. We used to spend time every week playing and talking about music - it’s just not the same. I don’t have a musical pal now. I still sit and play for half an hour a day, if I don’t my fingers will go. It’s enthusiasm that builds up your confidence. You need someone to enthuse about what our doing. If you haven’t got an audience what the hell do you play for? I have a gift - it’s called busking, you can whistle me a tune and I can play it straight away.
What makes you tick?
I enjoy a challenge. I look forward to doing something challenging like putting in a new boiler in one of the laundrettes.
My mind is quite structured and focused. I’ve never been a smoker, drinker or gambler, I think that helps a lot. I think you can wreck your life by getting into all that.
There’s an old thing my dad used to say - ‘the devil finds work for idle hands’. If people were busy with a job to go to - it’s important to have something to do, a programme for the day. I just have get out and do something.
Take an interest, keep yourself mobile and interested. Me and the wife do a crossword everyday, that exercises the brain. There’s aways some project on. I’ve always been very satisfied with life.
Who or what inspires you?
A brilliant pianist. I can just sit and listen. Andre Previn and Oscar Peterson - two opposites. Anyone who can play the piano brilliantly inspires me.
How do you feel about Death?
I would like to die on the same day as my wife. I don’t want to leave her alone. She needs looking after. I’d like to think we could go on the same day. I don’t want to go before her and I don’t want to go after her.
I want to be cremated. I’m not frightened of death. I’ve had a good life. It will come when it comes. My dad used to say - you can live too long.
How do you best express myself?
As you know I have very strong opinions on certain subjects. I get very worked up about crime. There are policeman who daren’t go out because they might get stabbed. In other countries the police have guns. If there’s a stabbing, the person is shot - that’s it. It’s not the knife that’s faulty. What is the solution to knife crime - well in my day it was the death penalty - you need deterrents. A murder in my day was a big event - there’s at leaste one a day these days. There’s a lack of law and order.
Last year they were throwing acid in peoples faces, the powers that be decided to find out who was selling the acid - it’s not the acid that’s the problem! To throw acid in someones face is attempted murder in my day they’d string them up - they’d think twice about stabbing someone or throwing acid in their faces if there was the death penalty. People like that aren’t fit to live in a civilised society. There should be protection for people and there isn’t. There’s no discipline in schools.
I haven’t got a weapon to fight anyone back. I haven’t even got a baseball bat - I’m gonna get one.