George Atkinson, 100, shares his secret to a long and happy life

Ask George Atkinson for a racing tip and you might be disappointed, but ask him the secret to a long and happy life and it's odds on he'll have the right answer.

Mr Atkinson celebrated his 100th birthday surrounded by family and friends at his local bookmakers yesterday when he revealed the trick was never to take life too seriously.

He visits the William Hill bookmakers in Swaffham every day for a flutter, although he's not known for his winning streak.

'I just put down a couple of bob here and there. Life is so short, you have got to enjoy yourself. I have had more seconds than you will ever know, but it doesn't make much difference to me, there's no point crying over spilt milk.'

Mr Atkinson's grandfather was a bookmaker and his father was a tic-tac man, who used a traditional method of hand signals to communicate odds.

Despite a few medical problems, he remains active and independent with a positive outlook on life.

'I don't worry over anything and laugh all the time,' he said. 'Worry kills you and laughter is the greatest tonic in the world. I never take any tablets, it's just mind over matter.

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'I do all my own shopping and walk everywhere, even if I'm in pain, and I never give in. People say they can't believe I'm 100 - they'll have to shoot me to get rid of me!'

Mr Atkinson, who was widowed eight years ago, was born in London and remembers the Zeppelin air raids during the first world war.

His first job was painting the Royal Albert Hall and he continued to work as a painter and foreman for many years. He married his wife Peggy in 1936 and couple had three daughters and three sons.

His brother, Charlie, lived until four months after his 100th birthday and Mr Atkinson told him he would do his best to beat the record.

Mr Atkinson's son, Bob, travelled from his home in California for the big day and said a big party was also planned for the weekend.

Despite his background, Mr Atkinson said he had never been interested in gambling and certainly never followed any of his father's tips.

'I know what the Atkinson luck is like!' he laughed.

More than 150 relatives are expected to attend the party in Hertfordshire on Saturday, including dozens of Mr Atkinson's children and great grandchildren, and its guests will span five generations.

The bookies, in the Market Place, organised a buffet and live music from local saxophonist Cyril Grant, who appeared on ITV1's X Factor.

Manager Yvonne Dobinson said: 'George is always friendly and jolly. He is just a lovely man.'