Forget knitting: Widow, 85 takes up BRICKLAYING... and she's a dab hand at tiling, painting and joinery too


At the age of 85 Dorothy Gartell has become proficient in bricklaying, joinery and even repairing a burst water pipe

At the age of 85 Dorothy Gartell has become proficient in bricklaying, joinery and even repairing a burst water pipe

There's nothing like learning a new skill to keep your mind active in retirement.

But few pensioners can have put that sensible piece of advice into practice quite as prolifically as Dorothy Gartell.

At the age of 85 she has become proficient in bricklaying, joinery and even repairing a burst water pipe.

She also volunteers as a disc jockey on a local radio station, and as if that wasn't all, she is planning to take Polish lessons.

Today Mrs Gartell - who puts her skill with her hands down to wartime experience in a munitions factory - said she felt she had a future in the building trade.

As part of a makeover of her local park in Gorton, Manchester, she was given the task of bricking up a doorway and window of an old aviary.

'I thought I did okay for a first attempt,' she said afterwards. 'I'd like to build more walls.'

She learned her building skills through Manchester Care and Repair, a Government-funded organisation that uses volunteers aged over 55 to carry out work on local projects.

As its oldest ever participant, her work was praised by her teacher, Jim Lewis - but he revealed her talents were not limitless.

'She was a good brickie but a rubbish plasterer,' he joked, adding: 'Dorothy is a credit to the older generation.

'She has a great aptitude for picking up skills and a passion for learning anything new. She is an inspirational woman.'

Mrs Gartell, whose jazz pianist husband Joe died in 2005 after 50 years of marriage, has learnt a range of building skills, including tiling, painting, decorating and joinery.

She has been hooked on self-improvement classes since she was a teenager when she learned dress-making at night school.

After leaving school at 14 she worked at a munitions factory, working on engine parts for Lancaster bombers, and dreamt of working as an engineer or an artist.

Instead she spent her working life in an office, but since retirement she has more than made up for lost time with evening classes in visual arts, creative writing, poetry, tai chi, swimming, painting, woodwork, car mechanics and Spanish.

She even spins records as a DJ with a local community station, Smile Radio and is designing a new kitchen for a local bowling pavilion.

And her next project is to learn yet another language.

'I want to learn to speak Polish,' she said. 'There are lots of Poles living round here and I want to be able to talk to them.'

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