It came as no surprise to me to learn this week that the current claimant to the title World’s Oldest Woman (WOW) is French. At the last count, there were 25,961 centenarians in France, the great majority of them women.

The latest WOW, Lucile Randon, known as Sister André, was born in the southern town of Ales, not far from Nimes, on 11 February 1904, the day President Theodore Roosevelt declared that the United States was neutral in the war between Russia and Japan that had broken out earlier that week.

Today, at the age of 118 years and 78 days (and counting), Sister André stands an excellent chance of overtaking Japan’s Kane Tanaka, a former noodle-seller, who died this month at the age of 119 years and 107 days.