Gert finds using Skype is “just like magic” as she celebrates her 106th birthday

Gertrude Patten, far right, celebrating her 106th birthday. She is pictured, from left to right, wit

Gertrude Patten, far right, celebrating her 106th birthday. She is pictured, from left to right, with her sister Marjorie Stamp, 96, and great, great nieces Rheanna Starr, 9, and Ellecia Starr, 16. - Credit: Archant

Most of us would today think nothing of using Skype or FaceTime to communicate with friends and relatives across the world.

However for Gertrude Patten, logging online to chat to her relatives in Australia through an Internet video link is 'just like magic' - because when she was born, the main method of communicating was writing by hand.

Double heart attack survivor Miss Patten, of Pakefield Road, Lowestoft, has just celebrated her 106th birthday and often marvels at the remarkable difference between the world she grew up in and the one she lives in today.

'When we used GPS for the first time, she couldn't believe you could use something like that,' said her nephew Peter Stamp.

And whereas today the mobile phone, text messaging and video conferencing are second nature to many of us, people were only just getting used to a new device called the telephone when Miss Patten was born in 1908.

Although it was becoming more widely used by that time, people had to make do with the traditional 'candlestick' design - where the mouthpiece and the earpiece were entirely separate.

Yet despite all the changes and living through two world wars, Dr Stamp said his aunt had 'quietly got on with life'.

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Although he said she does not talk much about the First or the Second World War, Miss Patten - who grew up in East London - has recounted a raid by a German airship in West Ham in 1915.

After leaving school when she was about 14, she went to work as a secretary at the Oxo factory by the River Thames before eventually going on to work for the government food office.

She progressed to running the food office in Hackney, where she was responsible for distributing essential goods such as dried milk and orange juice to those who needed them most, particularly the young. The role was particularly important during and after the Second World War, when rationing was in place to help cope with national shortages.

She retired when she was 64, meaning she has nearly been retired as many years as she worked.

Miss Patten, known to her friends as Gert, has never married and has no children - something Dr Stamp says is probably the secret to her long life, along with never smoking or drinking alcohol.

She has however, survived two heart attacks - one 16 years ago, and another seven years ago.

Dr Stamp said she had recovered from both heart attacks 'remarkably well'. He added: 'She is very determined and the only thing that would've bothered her is how quickly she could get out of the hospital. She is the most easygoing person you're likely to come across. She is very generous and she'll never criticise anyone.'

She celebrated her 106th birthday on Sunday, December 7 by joining Waveney and Great Yarmouth Heartcare Cardiac Support Group's annual Christmas lunch at the Victoria Hotel in Lowestoft.

Miss Patten - who lives with her sister Marjorie, 96 - has received support from the group and attends its social evenings, held on the second Tuesday of every month at Lowestoft Community Church, in Haddenham Road.

After lunch, the group was entertained by a section of the Wrentham Brass band, which played a selection of Christmas music and carols.

'Gertrude said what a wonderful day she had had and said how much she always enjoys attending Heartcare social evenings,' said Dr Stamp. Although she does not have any children, Miss Patten has a great, great nephew and great, great niece in Australia.

Her great, great nieces Ellecia Starr, 16, and Rheanna Starr, 9, who both live in the UK, joined her for the celebration.

Do you know someone who is about to celebrate a special anniversary? Tell The Journal by calling 01502 525825 or email

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