I was 18 then. Hard to believe. But then, sometimes it’s hard to believe a day has passed.

When you’re young you spend your birthdays looking forward. Now I tend to look back. I turn 81 this week – 81, 18 -that’s a lot of life to remember, or even forget, and to be grateful for.

I remember being expelled from school when I was 15.

And going to Korea and Japan with the army. I arrived as the war was ending. Decent timing.

I remember the Blitz, though I wouldn’t mind forgetting.

I remember working in textiles for 11 years in England. Learning what a good suit was, and how to wear one, and much else. Hardly a glamorous job, but then that turned out not to matter a bit.

I’ve visited so many parts of the world, and met so many people. They all stay with you, one way or another. And yet, to finish up here, to be able to work with the kids here in the village, to share the sport I love best with them –soccer—that’s something special.

I’m so full of gratitude I can’t find the words for it.

It’s Spring. Everything gets to be new again. Even me.

A lot of things get better as you get older. Though not necessarily easier. You let go of so much. You learn to live with pain, but you get to live with so much else as well. And you want to share it all in a way.

I am lucky to live in such a nice place and to be surrounded by a community of people who actually care for each other. We all are. The truth of it is clear and there is no point in belaboring it.

And so I want to say – to all my special friends in this very special place – thank you. Thank you for being who and what you are. And thank you for making an old man feel a bit livelier, a bit younger, and very, very blessed.

By Walland Holland Snr.