Police horses help celebrate woman’s 104th birthday

  • A lifelong horse lover celebrated her 104th birthday with ceremony when she received a surprise visit from mounted police.

    Vera Nobbs was joined by officers from Norfolk Constabulary for her socially distant party at Olive House care home in Newton Flotman.

    Immediate neighbours joined in with the celebrations on 5 June, congregating around the care home to sing “Happy Birthday”. A Frank Sinatra tribute act also gave a special performance in the gardens.

    Olive House manager Adina Marginean said: “We wanted to make Vera’s 104th birthday as special as possible and so arranged a number of surprises.

    “It was really lovely to see Vera’s reaction when Norfolk’s mounted police arrived at the front of the home – she wasn’t expecting horses to arrive for her birthday.”

    Adina added that with social distancing in place, it was “probably one of Vera’s more unusual birthdays” but that she had clearly enjoyed the treats arranged for her.

    Vera was born in 1916 in Norwich and worked in retail.

    Asked what the secret to a long life was, she replied: “My daughter, who is the apple of my eye, a good husband and a quiet, calm life.”

    Special inspector Richard Tallent, who attended with his colleague, special constable Jacko Jackson, said the unit had seen a social media notification from the care home letting them know about the party.

    “We are based very close to the home and had visited before in more peaceful times, when one of the horses stuck his head right through the conservatory door to say hello,” he said.

    “My other half, who came with us on a bicycle, had the idea we should take Vera a bouquet of flowers and some balloons.”

    “Vera told us she loved the horses and we had some pictures taken together,” he added. “We know care homes have been hit particularly hard in recent times and we hope it brightened everyone’s day.”

    Special inspector Tallent was riding 11-year-old, 17.3hh Shire/Cleveland Bay cross Wally, while special constable Jackson was riding 22-year-old, 17.1hh Irish draught/thoroughbred cross Francis.

    The horses are two of five in this mounted unit, which was formed nine years ago primarily to tackle rural crime.

    “We visit all parts of the country and tackle hare coursing, wildlife crime and agricultural crime,” Mr Tallent said.

    “We also do a large amount of public relations and ceremonial duties such as attending funerals and visiting local shows to meet the public.”

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    With major events such as the Royal Norfolk Show and East Anglian game and country fair cancelled this year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the division has been regularly taking to the streets to engage with the public.

    Norfolk police launched an initiative during lockdown where they invited householders to put up pictures of sunflowers in their windows to show their support for frontline services.

    “We have been visiting villages and towns up and down the county of Norfolk and riding around suburbs, particularly in dense residential streets, and where we have seen that someone has put a picture of a sunflower in their window, we have been stopping at that house and giving the children sunflower seeds to grow,” Mr Tallent said.

    “People have come out and chatted and it’s been wonderful, I think for some people in lockdown it was a bit of a breath of fresh air. It has been nice to do some wellbeing visits.”

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