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Happy Birthday, you old rogue. Wilfred De'Ath toasts his 300th appearance in the Oldie

Features | Summer 2017


Oldie columnist Wilfred De'Ath is loved and loathed in equal measure. To mark his 80th birthday, William Cook talked to him about his fall from fame as the blond Melvyn Bragg and his life on the road

Where will Wilfred De’Ath be celebrating his eightieth birthday on 28th July? In a posh hotel, a seedy night shelter or at Her Majesty’s Pleasure? Don’t bother asking him. He hasn’t got a clue. When I met him in Bournemouth, to toast his 300th appearance in The Oldie in this month’s issue, he’d checked out of his hotel and had no idea where he was headed.  ‘The secret of old age is to live in the present,’ he told me.  I asked him if he’d ever been tempted to lead a normal life.  ‘What’s a normal life?’ he replied. ‘I don’t want to live a normal life.’ As anyone who reads his column knows, Wilfred’s daily life is defiantly abnormal. When he’s not out on the street or sleeping in French foyers, he has a habit of staying in smart hotels and leaving without paying – a trick that’s landed...

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