Befriending During Lockdown (part 2)

It’s time for the second of three blog posts highlighting friendships that have been formed through lockdown on the Sherburn Road Friends and Neighbours befriending scheme. TThe befriending scheme was established by the Achor Community in 2014, and supports those experiencing loneliness and social isolation in the Sherburn Road and Gilesgate areas of Durham. During the coronavirus we have also been providing shopping support, food parcels, fortnightly letters and activity packs to everyone we support.

The stories highlighted in the blog have been kindly written up for us by Adrienne Hunter from the Gilesgate Residents Association.

When the lockdown hit, Mary’s prime concern was keeping her shielded husband safe and sorting out shopping – but after a few weeks she had another requirement…

“I was asked what I needed, and I said: ‘I need someone to talk to – I’m going up the wall!” she says.

With a son living abroad and no other family, Mary – a pensioner and a very active person – and her husband were finding the isolation tough.

The answer came in the shape of Sarah, one of King’s trained volunteers – and despite an age difference of almost half a century, the two have become firm friends on the phone.

“Sarah’s a lovely person to talk to,” says Mary. “At first, we wondered what we should talk about – so we started by chatting about what it was like being her age (under 30) and my age (over 70).”

The friendship grew from there.

“I’m very opinionated, so it’s great to have the chance to whinge – and Sarah’s very patient!” laughs Mary.

Sarah, a King’s Church member and former student who decided to stay on in the city, says the regular phone chats are good for her too.

“Sometimes when you’re building a relationship it takes a while to get close, but we hit it off right away,” she says

“I really appreciate talking to Mary and hearing her viewpoints. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and surround yourself by people just like yourself all the time, and it’s good to get to know people of different ages and interests.

“Mary’s really educated in history, and I love that. It’s a different side of life.”

As the lockdown eases a little, both of the new friends are now looking with hope towards the future.

“My hopes are really just to return to how life was before,” says Sarah. And Mary has three wishes.

“1) That they get a vaccine and 2) that it works for me and my close ones,” she says.

“And number 3) – I’d like to live another ten years if I can!”