I HAVE had many hobbies and passions during my life – gardening and sailing to name just a couple over my 67 years!
They have come and gone but during the past year I have discovered something extraordinary which has come about as a result of delivering freshly-cooked hot meals from Haslewey Community Centre to the lovely residents of our community and which I never realised meant so much to me.
During this very difficult year, I have started meeting a new group of people every week who have become very special.
Every week I don my mask and gloves, collect my insulated boxes from Haslewey and set off to deliver meals to this lovely group in my community.
At first, they were just names on my clipboard. Maureen, Esther, Joyce and George, to name but a few, but after a few weeks their lives began to intrigue me and I started to engage each one in conversation wherever possible to build up a picture of their lives.
I found myself telling family and friends about various conversations and happenings and, surprisingly, they began to become like a family to me.
As I am handing out the meals, I imagine something about each one and think about the courage and bravery it must take in many cases to sit day after day unable to walk and be at the mercy of carers for their every need, and yet still be cheerful and thankful to be alive.
Some bound to the door, joyful to see another human being and relish the meals to come.
Some sit pale and quiet and you hope your presence has helped a bit, however small. I often wish I had more time to spend with each person and find out a little more about their lives and families.
They come in all shapes and sizes – John is dapper and smart and always polite and courteous.
Maureen is housebound with a very loud telly, a wonderful Geordie accent and a handsome carer!
George, on the other hand, is obviously a keen gardener and has a wonderful display of daffodils to brighten my day as I step down his driveway.
Esther is sad and always seems to be struggling with life, but manages a friendly wave as I pop my head round the door.
Ralph can hardly string two words together when I pass over his midday meal, but his neighbour Esther is a sparkling jewel sinking into dementia.
Outside her first-floor flat is a beautiful painting of daffodils and one day, after an extraordinary wait for her to answer the door, I got her talking about the painting, which it turned out was her work.
She seemed a little confused at first but then told me she also wrote poetry and had published a book.
She promised to get it out and show it to me on my next visit. The following week, after a bit of prompting, she read poems from her book and talked extensively about her writing and creative talents as well as her life.
She’d had a marvellous, interesting life and came from an area of Wales that my family came from, and so in some ways she reminded me of my roots and my Welsh grandmother, who I idolised and loved deeply as a child.
She had obviously written about her life’s loves and losses – what else is poetry about? – and one particular verse about losing her father to war and writing about his uniform disappearing from the coat hooks in the hall struck a chord with me.
Over the next few weeks we had wonderful discussions, during which time I realised her memory was becoming challenged. But whenever we talked about her poems it became crystal clear and she was talking about her passions with such joy and pleasure.
As I left one day, she asked if I had written poetry. I mumbled something about having a go a few years ago.
She looked me straight in the eye and said I had the face for it and that I should definitely start up again. She said it in such a way I felt moved almost to tears, as if she had seen right into my soul – maybe one’s passions can be hidden and it takes a word from another to light the touch paper.
Perhaps in some curious way she was passing on her passion to me and I realised what an extraordinary moment I had witnessed – communicating with her was so pure and simple and so rewarding to us both – and that making a difference to people’s lives, however small, was something that meant a great deal to me.
It lifted my spirits tremendously during the dark days of the pandemic. And I have started writing poetry!
By Lindsey Lunn