If wisdom comes with age, he could be the wisest person in the world, Fredie Blom jokes.
Believed to be the oldest man alive, the oupa from Delft on the Cape Flats celebrated his 115th birthday on election day on Wednesday. “But I look 44,” Blom quips.
Born in Adelaide in the Eastern Cape on May 8, 1904, a young Blom moved to Cape Town in search of work.
But finding employment turned out to be difficult.
For months, Blom lived on the streets, sleeping rough with other job seekers who had hoped to find a better life in the city.
“Eventually I found work on a vegetable farm in Philippi. I picked everything from carrots to potatoes and spinach. I earned two shillings a day. I had nothing before, so to me I was rich,” he recalls.
Blom met his wife Jeanette, now 86, at a dance many decades ago, where his impressive jive caught her eye. “Oh, but that man could move,” she says, winking at Blom.
Rubbing his knees, Blom replies: “Yes, I was like a professional hey. But now these legs don’t want to work anymore.”
He was later employed by a neighbouring chicken farm where he earned a better wage. “There, I worked until they told me I could work no more. I gave my best years and was very happy there — I fed the chickens and counted the eggs.
“I worked until I was in my 80s and the farmer said it was time for me to retire. I was sad when I left because it meant there was no salary left for me to earn. No provision was made for my retirement. I thought that family would take care of me — I had worked for three generations, from the oupa to the grandson.”
Blom had refused to collect his government pension, Jeanette says. “He wanted to work and earn his money, but I pestered him until he gave in. He still doesn’t want to accept that he is old, let alone the oldest man in the world.”
Blom has no children, but calls Jeanette’s two from a previous marriage his own. “I live for their little ones, my grandchildren. They keep me young,” he says, flashing a proud smile. As far as Blom is concerned, he is “fighting fit and healthy”. He doesn’t wear spectacles and walks without support.
But Jeanette tells a different story. “Ask him when last he was at the doctor. He refuses to go.”
Blom argues that he hates having his finger pricked when having his blood sugar level tested.
Blom says he has no secrets for longevity. “It’s the boss upstairs who decided that my time isn’t up yet. I smoke my tobacco. I don’t go to the doctor. All I drink is an Eno and a Disprin tablet every day. And I am fine.” — Sapa