Barbara, 95, has lived in Camberwell for the last thirty years, but before that she’d travelled and lived all over the world – including in Zambia for many years. Naomi, 30, is originally from north London, but really enjoyed living in south London while studying at Goldsmiths. She's stayed in the area ever since. Naomi loves hearing Barbara's stories, particularly tales from her long and successful career (she was a journalist and has an MBE for services to the newspaper industry – retiring at 87).
Here they tell us about their extraordinary friendship and experience on the Love Your Neighbour programme.
Barbara (95 years old)
I found out about the Love Your Neighbour programme from an actual neighbour! I wanted to have some company. You see all my sons [Barbara has five sons] live around the world, except for one in North Kensington. I don’t see them all as much as I’d like to, although of course I’m very proud of them.
My visits with Naomi have certainly made an impact. I always say that the difference with the Love Your Neighbour programme was that they research the people so that they match you with a volunteer who you have things in common with – our link was journalism. My husband and I were journalists and Naomi’s mother works in journalism.
We always have lots to talk about and I always look forward to our visits. Although I’m so much on my own now, I think I talk too much!
The house can sometimes feel like a bit of a prison so I try to go outside for a walk when I can. I like talking about the area and history. It helps me feel more connected.
It’s lovely to spend time with someone from a younger generation. When we talk, it reminds me of my youth and the things I did. Having someone to talk to, it makes such a difference.
I found out about South London Cares a couple of years ago. I felt like I wanted to run a half marathon and I was looking for a charity to fundraise for. I’m passionate about communities joining together so South London Cares seemed like the right choice. I signed up and they invited me to an information session and I really loved the idea of the Love Your Neighbour programme. I love chatting to people and was very happy when I was paired with Barbara.
We chat, drink wine and talk about what’s going on in the world. I usually come after Barbara has watched the news so we have a mutual groan! We often talk about things and we find out that we have lots of things in common or there are funny coincidences. Turns out both of our mothers were expelled from convent schools!
I remember on my second visit Barbara gave me a tour of her house and artwork, it was amazing and everything has a story. Barbara is full of life with a wealth of incredible stories – I’ve been paired with someone very special.
One of my favourite stories of Barbara’s is when she got her first bike when she was eight years old. It was called Hercules and she was so proud! She saved up a pound for it over a year.
I tell all my friends at work about Barbara and they’re always asking me how she is. Our friendship has definitely had an impact on my life. I don’t really have anyone else like Barbara in my life. We get on so well and I always look forward to our hang outs.
Barbara and Naomi are one of sixty three Love Your Neighbour matches – south Londoners who wouldn't usually have met, but who can gain a lot from knowing one another. Find out more about Love Your Neighbour here.
Posted by Jasmin White on Monday 12th February 2018
Jasmin is the Programme Coordinator for Love Your Neighbour, connecting younger and older neighbours one-to-one for weekly visits and longterm friendship. Previously Jasmin worked for Headstart supporting young people to volunteer in their local community.