Loch to Leyton in a century

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Christina Flight will be 100 in December, but our Wellbeing at Home customer is still making new friends.  

Christina Flight was born a few weeks after the end of the Great War. Her father returned from service to their cottage in the Scottish Highlands in December 1918, just in time for the birth of his second daughter.

“I had a wonderful childhood,” insists Chris – one of four sisters who grew up in the village of Kinlochleven, nestled below the spectacular Mamores mountains. They were untroubled years of outdoor play and schooldays in the local church hall.

World War Two, though, took many of Chris’ former classmates off to war, while she joined the other young women working in the village’s aluminium smelter. “The factory made ingots that were used to make Spitfires,” explains Chris, who worked in the metal store.

If the war brought Kinlochleven its share of air raid sirens and shelters, it also brought romance.

Chris met husband Josh while he was on an army training camp in the Highlands. “We used to have a welcome dance for the troops,” Chris recalls. “On this occasion, the soldiers had been celebrating someone’s birthday and Josh was holding up the wall when I first saw him.”

The couple went on to marry and move to Josh’s London home. “When I came here, everything seemed massive,” Chris remembers, her Scottish burr still potent. “We lived in Tottenham. My in-laws were lovely people.”

Chris had a succession of jobs, working part-time after the birth of son John. When John was five – 64 years ago – the family moved into the Leyton flat in East London, where Chris continues to live today.

“I knew all the neighbours and the children played together,” she remembers. “We were a real community. It’s different now. The people living in the flat below change all the time; you don’t get to know anyone. Some days, it can get a bit lonely.”

I’ll still be able to go to the local church for dinner once a week. It has a communal area so I can get to know the other residents.

Chris was referred to our Waltham Forest Wellbeing at Home service by a community matron, concerned about the steep flight of stairs the 99 year-old has to negotiate every time she goes out or answers the door. That’s when our support worker Eulalie Riley came into her life.

“Eulalie has been a good friend and a great support,” she enthuses. “She helps with all my paperwork and takes the worry away; my writing is frightful because of the arthritis in my hands. When my grandson Ben was getting married earlier this year, she even came out with me to choose an outfit for the wedding.”

Eulalie alerted Chris to housing benefit, helping her apply for the payments that are now easing the pressure on her pension. And she took her to visit a local extra care service, where older people are supported to live in their own home. “It’s just down the road,” says Chris, who will be moving in soon. “I’ll still be able to go to the local church for dinner once a week. It has a communal area so I can get to know the other residents.”

With her 100th birthday on December 29, Chris is in excellent health – something she puts down to pushing herself and Scotch broth – and is very mobile. That’s despite having seven metal pins in her leg – after she was knocked down by a drunk driver on her way to church in 1974.

“I feel guilty sometimes that I’ve reached this age,” muses Chris, who has lost Josh, John, two sisters (her oldest sister will be 102 in December) and many good friends, “especially when I hear about young people stabbing each other. It’s such a terrible loss of young life.”

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