Still volunteering at 80
I was reminded this week of how important enduring friendships can be and how they show us what hidden depths people have. These friendships connect us to our past whilst at the same time being part of the present. No matter that we aren’t able to meet in person very often, we can immediately pick up where we left off when we do get in touch. One such friend is Janet who I met when her family were evacuated from London during the second world war and opened up a small hardware shop in the main street of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire where I lived. We became great friends and spent many hours together after school. We had a signalling system whereby we stood outside our respective front doors and waived an umbrella to indicate whose house we would go to.
After the war Janet returned to London with her parents but we have always kept in touch, meeting when possible and of course writing.
Since retiring Janet has dedicated her time and energy to looking after small children in need of care as well as helping with her own grandchildren when they were young. I was amazed 18 months ago when she told me of the terrible shortage in London of foster carers for babies and although she was mindful that she might not be accepted was going to apply. Well, can you believe it, she was accepted, and has been taking babies in ever since. I received a letter from her yesterday and this is some of what she wrote:
“I look after another baby now he was eight months when I started 6 months ago. He is so lovely, just could not resist him, and his name is Teddy. He is the mother’s third son and has a brother who is only 14 months older and one of 7 years. I am as busy as ever as you might guess”.
What a wonderful woman taking on such a responsibility. She will be 80 in two months time. With her letter she included a card with a picture of my old home. The house is sixteenth century and reportedly had a monk buried beneath the front parlour. Originally it was near to a medieval hospital for Lepers and a health-giving spring. Many years ago the house became a cafe with accommodation.