A month-long string of letters to the editor in The Guardian proves homemade preserves are still a popular retirement hobby.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated February 11, 2020
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One of the things I love about living in England is the intermingling of young and old. At my local pub, I’m just as likely to bump into a twenty-something grad student as I am to find myself chatting to a seventy-something retiree. As a result, I’ve come to learn a thing or two about older British people. Here’s a thing: Many of them still read the newspaper every day. And an “or two”: Many like making preserves—often in quantities where they have to gift them to their friends (who, sometimes, are me and my wife).

Apparently, here’s a third thing: Some still like writing letters to editors of those newspapers they read. We know this because, for much of 2020, The Guardian in the U.K. has been publishing a running discussion on homemade marmalade—with most of the letters coming from Brits in their 70s or older.

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The trend appears to have begun on January 13 when Terry Swann of Sheffield (my current city of residence, oddly enough) wrote to alert The Guardian, “My wife has just made 18lb of marmalade. She is 77 and I am 78. Which of the three of us will last the longest?” What this letter was in response to or whether it was simply a random statement of fact directed at the British media is unclear. Regardless, the letter received a response, which was published two days later.

“Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Swann on their optimism in making marmalade at the ages of 77 and 78. I, too, have just made 18lb. I live on my own and shall be 84 next month. Hope triumphant?” wrote David Hitchin of Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire.

Believe it or not, The Guardian has now published over two dozen letters as part of this marmalade chain—the most recent arriving on February 8 from Hazel Harrison in Norwich. “My dear husband, who at 80-plus makes delicious marmalade, has just labelled this year’s batch ‘The Last Hurrah.’ Oh dear,” she wrote.

So what are we to make of all this marmalade talk? Well, The Guardian entitled its article that covered the discussion, “Forget ‘wellness.’ Marmalade is the key to a long, healthy life.”