When a “flirty” great grandmother was served up a glass of bubbly on her 106th birthday by a naked butler her eyes rested not on his bare buttocks but on his “impressive” hairless chest.
Toasting staff at the East Midlands care home where she has been a resident since last year, Norah Shaw, who has lived through two world wars, two global pandemics, and 20 Prime Ministers admitted it was the first time she had ever seen a butler in the buff.
And Norah, of Tennyson Wharf Care Home in Lincoln was all smiles thanks to the superb service she received from Eddy Betteridge, 32, who wore nothing but an apron and a bowtie, saying: “I have had an absolutely wonderful day, it’s been marvellous all the way through.”
She added: “It was spontaneous, to say the least.
“Eddy was tall, had nice eyes and was very attractive. He had no hair on his chest at all, which impressed me. I had never seen anything like it.
“It’s been a grown-up birthday. It’s been a very special birthday. It’s not every day you turn 21 – and a little bit.”
Eddy, who works for the Butlers in the Buff agency, provided Norah with sandwiches, scones and fizz on Saturday August 6, as a 106th birthday present from her daughter Gill Shaw, 67, a retired parish clerk and solicitor, after she joked to care home staff that she wanted a “hunky man” on her big day.
A former full-time mum Norah, who was born in Manchester and lived independently until she moved to the East Midlands when she was 105, was joined by family members and fellow residents for the adult rated afternoon tea.
A mum-of-three, with seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren, she said of the scantily clad butler: “I was very shocked when he turned around, because he had no underwear on. It was quite amusing.”
She added: “I had to keep checking, so I asked him to get some sandwiches.
“But it’s been the loveliest day and I hope everyone enjoyed my birthday as much as I did.”
Norah was so excited about her birthday that she woke at 5.30am, hours ahead of her fabulous feast for which the home’s chef had even made cupcakes in the shape of 106 and a chocolate birthday cake for Norah, who received more than 200 cards from people across the UK.
Reflecting on her long life, she said: “I can’t reveal the secret of how I lived so long or it won’t be a secret!”
Born in Manchester on Aug 6, 1916, Norah’s parents owned a laundry and she often told her daughter Gill how she would wrap freshly laundered items in brown paper and string and take them to customers using a horse cart.
She was “bright, clever and independent” according to Gill, and got her first job aged 15 working for a textile department store.
Gill said: “She’s a walking and talking history book. She has seen and been through everything.
“Cars can drive themselves now and no one had cars when she was born.
“So much has changed in her life and she has taken it all in her stride.”
Norah met her late husband Harry Shaw, a bookkeeper, at a dance hall in Manchester in 1939, just before the Second World War broke out, and they were married.
They had three children, Kenneth Shaw in 1943, Pamela Ingleby in 1952, and Gill in 1955 but, sadly, he passed away from a melanoma, or skin cancer, in 1994, aged 84.
Gill added: “My mum never remarried as she said she didn’t want to wash anyone else’s socks!”
She added: “Growing up, she was very busy looking after us. Once we grew up, she enjoyed bridge and bowls.
“She loved knitting. She just loved being around people. And even today, she’s a bit fun and flirty.
“She’s a little bit cheeky, she’s got a twinkle in her eye and she’s always game for a laugh. ”
But Norah remained fiercely independent even after Harry passed away, and while she lived alone she followed Gill around the UK – moving to Scotland, Hertfordshire, Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and finally to Lincoln – so they could remain close.
Fearing they would not be able to share many more birthdays, Gill began to pull out all of the stops after Norah’s 85th birthday, when she hired a yellow Rolls Royce and took her on a day out in the Cotswolds.
For Norah’s 90th birthday, the inseparable mother and daughter travelled to London for afternoon tea at posh Claridge’s.
And for her 98th, they travelled to the Ritz in London in a stretch limo to enjoy tea and biscuits.
Gill said: “I’m so proud of her. When she was 85, I thought we were not going to have many more birthdays, so I started doing special things for her.
“Here we are 21 years later, still celebrating.
“She’s been so supportive of me during my life and I think this is the least I can do for her.
“Our lives are very intertwined and I couldn’t live without her.”
Gill is inspired by her mum’s resilience each day as, despite her great age she has remained remarkably healthy and even has “incredible,” skin which she envies.
Norah had “never been in hospital” until she was 95, when she had surgery at Warwick Hospital after being diagnosed with bowel cancer to remove her tumours – going on to make a full recovery.
Even after she caught Covid earlier this year, she only had a “cough for a day.”
Gill said: “She is amazing and unique.
“She only uses soap and water but her skin has remained incredible – even at 106.
“My mum had never been in hospital until she was 95 when she had bowel cancer, and the only reason they said they would operate was because she walked herself to hospital.”
She added: “This year she has had Covid and had a cough for a day – that was it.
“All she’s on is water tablets, no other medication. She’s amazing. She’s healthier than me.
“She was the eldest of four and she outlived all her siblings by many, many years.”
Now Norah is living life to the full, thanks to the staff at her care home.
Gill said: “They have on such a wonderful day for her. I can’t express enough how grateful I am. She really lights up when she’s happy.
“She loved it and was bemused by the sheer amount of cards she received.”
Zoe Sheridon, activities coordinator, Christine Harding, activities assistant, and Sonia Fairhurst, General Manager at the care home, enlisted the help of Butlers in the Buff, who offered their services for free on the day to make Norah’s wishes come true.
They said: “We want people here to enjoy their lives.
“We want them to have the best time they can.”
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