Wensum: Daily tipple is secret to Fakenham centenarian Betty’s long life

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As a regular visitor to the Maltings Care Home I was delighted to spend some time with Betty Johnson just after she had reached a cherished milestone.

I suppose these days it’s not quite so remarkable for someone to celebrate their 100th birthday but I, for one, still find it a terrific achievement.

Born at Thornage, near Holt, Betty was a joy to talk to, constantly reminiscing and always chuckling as she recalled significant incidents in her long life. For instance how she first met her husband-to-be Herbert on a night out.

“All of a sudden this young man asked me if I wanted to dance,” she said. “And then at the end of the evening he asked me if he could see me again. I said I don’t see why not and so we did and from then on we stayed together.”

I thought about how things might have been for Betty when she came into the world just a few months after the start of the First World War.

Life must have been tough. She went to the local all-age school at Brinton but there was never any chance of ‘further education’.

At 14 she left and found a position in a nearby farmhouse to look after a little boy. I guess this was what used to be known as being ‘in service’. When Betty met and later married Herbert the Second World War was on the immediate horizon. They had a son, Patrick, in 1942 – a time when defeating the Germans was very much in the balance – and after a period in Cambridgeshire came back to live in Norfolk, finding a home together in Briston.

There they were together for many years until Herbert suffered a stroke and died a year later.

This prompted Betty to move to Fakenham to be near her son and his family who had a house on North Park. To be close to two grandchildren and a great grandchild was a joy.

Unable to continue living independently about six years ago, Betty was moved into The Maltings on Norwich Road and has never regretted the decision.

Cheerful by nature she finds the carers there very good company. Lack of mobility is a trial but with a lively and active mind she finds stimulation in all sorts of ways and particularly enjoys playing Scrabble.

Her recipe for a long life did include a daily tipple so I’m factoring this in to my New Year resolutions. Well, you never know.....

What contrasts in our river scenery during the last month of 2014. Earlier it was dry and mild, the water levels low and slow moving.

At some points an athlete might just have cleared the distance between the two banks this side of three brick arches bridge.

More recently heavy rains brought about a big transformation. All of a sudden a quiet stream had become a torrent, clearing away some of the accumulated debris and rising right up to the neighbouring footpath.

A section improved earlier this year by the Environment Agency absorbed much of the overflow. But for about a hundred yards the path was under water and I could find no way through.

To round things off we had a succession of freezing nights to create a winter wonderland of frost and ice.

It’s fair to say there’s rarely a dull moment when criss-crossing the network of tracks which follow the two railway lines which used to pass this way and also hug the north side of the Wensum in a delightful meander. I can recommend it.