A LONG-distance love affair that often keeps a couple more than 1,000 miles apart had a special celebration on Monday.

Ken Pilgrim departed from a strict rule for his 100th birthday - he drank slightly more than his daily half glass of wine.

Ken, who still lives independently in Wellington Road, Taunton, toasted his century with a flute of champagne.

And raising a glass with him was his long-term partner, Trudi Henkle, 93, who had flown over from Vienna, in Austria, to mark the occasion.

Widower Ken fell for Trudi during a visit to Vienna 27 years ago with his late son Rodney, the former Conservative party agent in the Taunton area.

They couple met up again the following year in England, and love blossomed from there.

Over the ensuing years, they would spend a month together in Vienna, a month in England and then a month apart every three months.

Although Ken is no longer able to travel abroad, Trudi flies over to see him as often as she can.

She said: "I love coming to Taunton to see Ken and the people are so polite here. I get frustrated when I have to go back to Vienna.

"I think we keep each other young."

Ken had lunch with his remaining family and friends on Sunday followed by a party at the New Mill, Bathpool, on Monday, when he celebrated with a drop of champagne.

He is still sprightly for his age, still drives and gets up early every morning for a daily shop in Tesco.

He puts his youthfulness down to his daily tipple of wine and his relationship with Trudi.

Ken was born in Northampton during the last days of the First World War and had two sisters, one of whom lived to "99 - and three-quarters", said Ken, who added: "I've just beaten her."

He worked for 38 years as a designer on the electrical equipment with the Ford Motor Company here and in Cologne, Germany.

He married in 1943 and had two sons, although both they and his wife have died.

Ken moved to Taunton several years ago to be closer to his nephew, retired police officer Nic Gardner, one of his few remaining relatives.