A GREAT grandmother who once proved you are never too old to try something new has celebrated her 100th birthday.

Billie Rusbridge, of Colenzo Drive, welcomed family and friends for afternoon tea last Wednesday, ahead of a second party at the weekend.

Former civil servant Billie has lived in Andover for more than 60 years, moving to the town with her husband and three children.

Her husband Ted died in 1995, and after a long period of mourning, she took the plunge and embarked on the journey of a lifetime.

“After my husband died, for five years I didn’t do anything,” she said.

“It was the millennium and I woke up and thought, ‘what am I doing?’ I was wasting my life, more or less waiting to die. So, I decided to do something.”

Billie had always wanted to visit the Orkneys, in Scotland. So she and a new friend, Roy, who had also recently lost his partner, paid a visit to the islands before an even more adventurous trip presented itself.

“His wife died about the same time and I think he was feeling the same as I was, going nowhere, and so we just went off [to the Orkneys] and that was the start of a very pleasant time. And then my daughter came in one day and said, ‘we’re going to Australia and you are coming with us!’”

Billie had never flown on a plane before the trip and the visit to Australia, where her father was born, provided another life first when she tagged along with her daughter and son-in-law on a scuba diving trip.

“They asked if I wanted to dive and I said, ‘no, I’m too old!’ But they persuaded me to do it and I scuba dived off the Great Barrier Reef.

“I was 81.

“It was so exciting. And I went to so many other places that my father spoke of when we were growing up.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t find any living relatives. But nonetheless it was a wonderful experience.”

In her earlier days, Billie had been a keen dancer.

In 2001, just months before the scuba diving trip, she won a gold medal for ballroom dancing, some 63 years after taking up the hobby.

It was through dancing that she had met her husband, after he sought her expertise.

“He asked me to teach him to dance properly.

“We used to push the table back in my mother’s kitchen and I would show him a step and then we would go to the dance and try it out.

“He had so much rhythm and he was so easy to dance with.”

Along with her dancing, Billie credits “good genes and being well looked after” as her secret to living a long and healthy life.

She added: “I have had a very happy life. My children are all very close.

“My grandchildren are lovely and they come down from Stafford, Birmingham and Northampton, and they take me for a meal. I think I am a very, very lucky person.

“And I have lovely friends here which I think is worth its weight in gold.

“My daughter is absolutely fabulous, she does everything for me. She takes the hard work out of life.

“I am just a very lucky person.”