Good News (4) The Positive Impact of Telephone Befriending

This absolute priceless story came from Margaret, a very grateful telephone-befriendee, exemplifying the impact volunteers have on their matched befriendee and why the role is such a special one:

We haven’t met him yet but he’s been ringing since about March, but I hope we will one day…’ 

Margaret and Ron’s outlook is very positive, as she says: ‘we’ve just got to get on with it.’

Ron has got poor mobility due to Parkinson’s and he’s not able to get out now as Margaret can’t push him. She says she feels sorry for Ron but ‘he doesn’t grumble’ – they have their ups and downs but after 66 years of marriage know each other well!

Before lockdown they used to go to Sainsburys once a week and ’make a bit of day of it – have coffee, look round upstairs and then do their food shop.’ Ron used his electric scooter so could get himself about. Margaret relies on Community 360 for transport and can’t speak highly enough of them; it means she can get to the doctor and do her weekly shop at Tesco at Highwoods.

Margaret considers herself ‘very lucky’, she has got family who keep in touch regularly – including 8 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. 

And a response from David, their ‘mystery’ telephone-befriender…

‘First of all I want to say what an absolute pleasure it has been to get to know Ron and Margaret over these past few months. They are a delightful couple, who have remained so incredibly positive during these terribly difficult times – and I truly believe they have been as good for me and my spirits as I hopefully have been for them.

As a journalist with over 40 years’ experience I was fairly confident I could chat and get to know Ron and Margaret, but I also accepted there would be new skills I would have to learn and a different approach to the one that I had honed as a reporter.
But I immediately found them a lovely, warm couple and I spent my initial calls finding out about their lives going back many years, including how Ron had seen Margaret in a street in Preston and gone over to chat her up over six decades ago!

Ron’s work as a French polisher had seen him move around a fair bit and he told me about some of the amazing offices and stores in London where he had worked at the skill – trade does not seem the correct word – over a long career.

We also hit it off as Chelsea fans, though both of us, perhaps much more of the teams of the past, and our mutual love of crime writing.
Margaret and I connected so well because she has a delightful sense of humour – as does Ron – and an amazing positive outlook on life, despite the health problems both have to contend with.

A running joke has been her occasional Sunday afternoon tipple of a Pernod (and coke I believe) and I’ve have enjoyed regularly asking her if she has replenished her bottle following her regular trip to shop at the nearby Tesco (in truth I think Margaret’s ‘indulgence’ is very rare, as is Ron’s imbibing of a vodka and coke).

Both have been happy to tell me about their family and their two children, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren. We have also discussed their health issues regularly but neither has made too much of them, although they have  certainly not had it easy over the last few months.

They have also been sweet enough to ask me about my life and I have been more than happy to tell them about my career as a journalist – which has taken me all over – my two daughters, what I have been  up to and even about my private life.

 Ron was ‘told off’ by Margaret recently for asking about my ‘love life’ (I have been single for just over a year) but I honestly have been more than happy to discuss and even laugh at my experiences of modern dating, which is a far, far cry from Ron charming Margaret on a Preston street all those years ago.

I have always tried to be respectful of my role in their lives and accepted that although I can offer advice I am not, and never will be, immediate family.

Unfortunately, Ron is having trouble with his vision and it has handicapped greatly his ability to read and watch football. I did suggest he might like to borrow some spoken word books – and borrowed one from the library for him – but he was not keen at this present time to do that and I respected that.

I may have overstepped my role but I did, a couple of weeks ago, urge Margaret to contact the hospital to see if Ron was still on the waiting list to have a cataract operation in the light of my friend’s 92-year-old mum having such an op last month. I felt slightly uncomfortable cajoling her as I was not sure if it was my place to do so, but happily Margaret did put in a call and was reassured (although not in the most pleasant way, it seems, by the people at The Oaks) that he had not been forgotten. It is a fine balancing act knowing when to intercede and when to keep quiet but I sincerely hope I have got my approach just about right most of the time.  I passionately believe Ron’s life will be improved beyond words if he can have the op and it would also be wonderful if Margaret, who is seeing a  podiatrist (and we had a big laugh this week about how the word is pronounced!) could sort out her foot problem once and for all.

It will be a lovely day if this horrible virus is defeated and I can meet Ron and Margaret face to face. There is much, much more I could say about them but I wanted this article to come from the heart – and to be written soon after my most recent chat with them.

During the talk Margaret told me the woman I am waiting for will come into my life when I least expect it. If I can find someone who can give me anything near the love the two of them so clearly  for each other I will be a very happy and lucky man indeed.’