Russell Stoddart The Weekly News

YOUNG-AT-HEART Dorothy Gartell decided to try something new when she reached 84 years of age – so she took up bricklaying.

At an age when most people put their feet up and wind right down, Dorothy is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie in constant pursuit of new challenges.

The courses she has taken up include everything from creative writing to woodwork, composing poetry to Tai Chi.

So when she heard about a charity that teaches homeowners bricklaying skills, she couldn’t resist putting her name down.

She got in touch with Manchester Care and Repair, a non-profit voluntary organisation that trains people to do property makeovers for community projects.
So along with other trainees, Dorothy helped renovate meeting rooms at an old aviary in Gorton, Manchester.

She donned her hard hat and armed with a bucket and trowel of cement, the Manchester widow put her new skills to the test by bricking up a doorway and a window.

“The course involves bricklaying, plastering and tiling,” explained Dorothy, who joked that she was probably entitled to more activity badges now than when she was in the Brownies. “It is all about learning a bit of home maintenance and helping others at the same time.

“There were a few retired men on the course, some young married people and a few ladies, but I suppose at my age I stuck out a bit. However, I did my bit for 84-year-old female brickies!

“I was told by the tutor Jim Lewis that I’d make a good brickie, but a rubbish plasterer. While the brickwork was fine, the plaster fell off the wall.

“It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, especially for people my age, but there is no way that I’m going to spend all my time sitting at home watching a box in the corner of the living room.

“I am very enthusiastic about life and always keen to try new things. Some other people on the courses I attend sit and chat and have long rests, but I’d rather be doing something.”

Other activities she has taken up include Spanish, swimming, visual arts and dressmaking.

She added, “I am a volunteer at a day centre and a local radio station spent the day with us. By the end of it, I was interviewing people and even working the turntable. You can add disc jockey to my list of pursuits.”

Dorothy has never been afraid of hard work and started out during the Second World War making Rolls Royce Merlin engines for Lancaster bombers.

“I was called up and had the option of being a nurse, but preferred working on aircraft instead. It was a very rewarding experience,” added Dorothy, who is now 85 years old.

“I have never been afraid to get my hands dirty, and so after my husband died and I wanted to keep myself active I was open to just about anything.

“One of the courses I went on was car maintenance and at the end of it we were all given an engine that had something wrong with it and we had to identify the problem. I worked out that mine had washers missing.

“The home maintenance course has already come in useful because after someone kicked a bolt out of my backyard door, I was able to fix it.

“There are still plenty of new things I’d like to do next and one of them is Polish because there are a lot of Poles near where I live. I would love to take up singing, but I’ve been warned off that and told I’m tone deaf.”

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