The secret to a happy, fulfilled life

Ladies in glittering ball gowns  with canapés and caviar. Handsome waiters creating a stir with cocktails: Eastern Standard, Moscow Mule, Classic Daqueri. And amongst a sea of black evening suits I spot a man wearing a purple sash, silver cravat and a bowler hat with tea bags Sellotaped to the rim. This is Edmund Fry.  I'm in the Chart Room on board the world famous Queen Mary 2. The thing about crossing the Atlantic on a liner like this is that you never know who you're going to meet. As Edmund closes his multicoloured umbrella with balloons added "just for fun", he tells me he's British, runs a famous tea shop in California and is the founder of a charitable foundation working in Africa.

He's one of those people with an infectious energy. At 72, he's living proof that age is just a number. With a twinkle in his eye he places a bottle of champagne on the table and tells me he's just won the competition for best hat at the Ascot party.

We order drinks from those smart waiters and eventually Edmund shares something remarkable. "Fifteen years ago the doctors told me I had cancer and my chances of survival were remote. Obviously I made it and I can honestly say that having cancer was the best thing that could have happened to me."

I've heard every cloud has a silver lining, but cancer? That's a very dark cloud.

For Edmund it was a reminder of how precious life is and to make the most of every moment.Yeah, yeah, cliché - but how quickly we forget.

I ask him to share the secret of a happy life. "Ask how much can we give of ourselves," he says, "We should spend the rest of our lives helping other people and making other people happy, regardless of whatever we're going through. Get out of yourself. Turn the TV off, get rid of the radio and start thinking about other people."

We all know he's right but the trick is to start living it before it's too late.

In The Shortness of Life, Seneca tells us it's not how long we live, it's what we do with it that counts. For Edmund it's clear the most meaningful life is one of giving.

Just a couple of days before winning the best hat competition, Edmund was taken ill. For a moment it was touch and go. His faith and defiant spirit saw him through and remains as vibrant as ever.

As we said goodbye he left me with this, "Think of how you can make every moment of your life a positive moment."

Great advice from one a man who takes nothing for granted.

Click on the player to listen to my chat with Edmund Fry. Edmund Fry

Click here to read more about Edmund's foundation Bloom Where Planted. Click here to read more about Edmund and Mary's famous English tea house in California.