Archive Article: 2000/01/28

28 January 2000




Betty – local womens group stalwart

BETTY has been a member of her local womens group for longer than she can remember and her memory isnt her best asset these days.

She arrives at the village hall for a talk on embroidery only to find a disco in full swing and the embroidery bash, apparently, having happened the day before.

To make things worse, one of the youngsters makes a rude remark about her hair. Shed complain – only she spotted her grandson by the bar, looking slightly the worse for wear. You should have heard the noise, she says to Mildred the day after. I remember when it was all fields, Mildred answers. Half past two, Betty tells her.

Bettys got a lot of friends in the group. A lot of good friends. Theyve known each other for years and get together to talk about Terry Wogan over coffee. Not that shes got much time to sit around drinking coffee – living testimony, as she is, to the saying that if you want something done ask a busy person.

Shes up religiously at 5.30am every day, runs her youngest 14 grandchildren to school, cooks breakfast for the "menfolk", does the paperwork and has even been known, skirt hitched up over her wellies, to grab a fork and lend a hand mucking out.

"My mother was still working 16-hour days at 70," she says proudly, pointing to a black-and-white picture on the wall. When the picture was taken Bettys mother – like Betty – wasnt as slim as she used to be. And she – like Betty – looks as if she wouldnt have stood for any nonsense.

Betty drinks strong tea, bakes cakes by the dozen and, at the last count, had 242 different recipes for lamb. Shes on the church cleaning rota, is a volunteer for meals on wheels (even though the people she visits are younger than her) and can rustle up a hot meal in less than 60 seconds. A hot, sustaining meal. "Proper food" as she calls it. "Where you can see what youre eating. Not this muck you get nowadays."

When her fellow members visit, they immediately descend into fits of laughter, stopping only occasionally to say something like: "Many hands make light work" or "Be sure, your sins will find you out".

The menfolk in Bettys house, meanwhile, scarper – complaining about the place having degenerated into a henhouse. "I remember you when you were in short trousers," they chorus at her middle-aged son as he heads for the door.

Which is amazing, really, considering their memories – like Bettys – arent their best asset these days.


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