Charles ‘Joe’ Cook has lived on the same Knowle West street since the 1930s – yet few people have had adventures to top his. And most might prefer to keep it that way.
There have been plenty of complaints about the chilly spring this year. But Mr Cook, 89, is one of a dwindling group of heroes who braved truly biting temperatures on the Arctic convoys of the Second World War – and are now being honoured with their own medal, the Arctic Star.
“There were a lot of [local] people going to war,” recalls Mr Cook, who’s been known as Joe since early childhood. “I was worried the war would be over by Christmas, and I was going to miss it… a few years later I was still in the navy!”
“I’ve seen boiling water touch the deck and freeze,” says Mr Cook of the harsh on-ship conditions, when ‘sailors often had to hack icicles off the guns’.
It’s the lighter memories he cherishes though, such as the time he terrified shipmates by accidentally blowing up a can of beans – left in an oven while he went to take watch.
“My mates heard a loud boom,” he chuckles. “The lights went out and they expected water to come in at any minute.”
Seven decades on, Mr Cook – who survives his wife of 55 years – jokes that he’s still “causing trouble”. If so, it’s the kind of trouble many of us would be glad to be capable of in our eighties – he still works out at the gym every Monday.