NEW YORK, AUG. 6 -- Former British schoolmarm Charlotte Hughes smokes cigarettes, drinks brandy, takes real cream in her tea -- and is celebrating her 110th birthday this week at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
"She's a real kick," said one hotel employe.
"I'm having a fine time," Hughes said today as she held court in the hotel's elegant Royal Suite.
The suite, which has accommodated both Queen Elizabeth and Jordan's King Hussein, costs $3,000 a night, but for Hughes it was on the house, according to the hotel staff.
"I read a lot about the Waldorf ... I wanted to taste some of the luxuries of the rich, which I now have," she explained.
Her hearing is failing and her vision has grown dim, but her energy seldom seems to flag. This week, she has seen the Statue of Liberty and New York's skyscrapers, appeared on television and mingled with diplomats at a reception.
"I met important people and all the ladies were so pretty," said Hughes.
Hughes was born in 1877, when Benjamin Disraeli was prime minister of Britain. If she had been a man, she would have been too old for military service in World War I.
She taught elementary school in northern England for 47 years and married Noel Hughes, who was 17 years her junior, after her retirement.
"I married an officer from the First World War, 1914 to 1918, commissioned at the Battle of the Somme," said Hughes, who was widowed a few years ago.
Accompanying her is Richard Holt, who represents her district in Parliament and who has been a benefactor to her.
The two met in 1983. Beginning the next year, Holt has helped to grant her a series of ever more exotic birthday wishes.
First, it was a train ride to London on the fast "125."
The next year, "I arranged for her to go to Number 10," he said, referring to the prime minister's residence on Downing Street. "Mrs. Thatcher met her and invited her to tea."
For 109, it was a trip on the Concorde. She sipped champagne as it flew over the Bay of Biscay.For 110, she asked for a trip on the Concorde and a stay at the Waldorf-Astoria.
For her 111th birthday, she said, "I would love to go to Rome. And meet the pope."