Without thinking about it I'd become a lonely old man. And I didn't like it. So when the opportunity of South London Cares came , I thought 'Year, this is good.' You've sussed the priority in your structure because you might think 'old people with old people' but that is not a formula for success.
The formula for success is when you have much younger people. It works because you really feel you're being carried forward. You're not being left behind.
Three years ago I was in a very bad place but now with my health improving I am beginning to see the light and I am enjoying life.
I am in a very good place at the moment: I have great friends and Amita is wonderful and that is all down to your organisation. I really look forward to each event I attend.
Until recently I would certainly spend too much time alone. It’s not nice but I’d get used to it in the end. But when South London Cares phoned me up, I thought it would be good to get to know some new people. They introduced me to Emily, a young girl who works around the corner in Vauxhall.
Emily’s such a lovely girl, she’s always smiling. I’ve become so attached to her. She comes around and visits me, she tells me about her week and we have a good chat. Sometimes she’ll bring me little things – but I don’t see her as a helper: really we’re just good friends. I love her weekly visits, and all the things she talks about. I love hearing about her flat mates, the weddings she goes to, and her work.
I think she enjoys hearing about what I was doing when I was her age. Things have changed so much, the way we worked and the way we lived. I’ve lived in south London all my life – my patch in Vauxhall in particular is like a different place altogether these days. I don’t get out much now, which is a shame. But having these new friends brings so much fun and helps me a lot.
At the end of last year, Emily did something so special for me. She came around with her sister, who I’d heard so much about and had wanted to meet for a while – and together with the two of them and two of Emily’s other friends we had a proper Christmas party, five of us girls. We had a right laugh. Can you believe they didn’t go home till gone ten o’clock? I slept well after that, I have to say!
We have quite a laugh together, and although she’s much younger than me, we’ve got laughing in common. We’re like a couple of kids when we get together. She keeps me going, and gives me something to look forward to every week. I adore her company.
I did the groundwork on building sites, and all sorts of stuff like that all over south London. I lived in Clapham and Brixton – first of all on Acre Lane, back in the late 60s. I’ve lived in Brixton for about 50 years, I came here to be nearer to my family to joint the fun. I wasn’t going to stay, I was going to go back to Ireland but then I got to like it. It was easy to get around – you had the tubes, the buses, everything at your fingertips. There were no tubes in Ireland – just walking!
I feel happy to be a Londoner, I know my way around everywhere by now! But I had to learn it when I first arrived like everyone, and I found it hard. People keep themselves to themselves now, and I like to chat to people.
I spend a lot of time by myself, and you can get depressed sitting here by myself. It’s good to talk to someone really friendly like [volunteer] Jenny. We talk about all sorts.
What I talk about with Emma...it can be anything! We're very different in race, age group, and experience. We were born in different times but we share a lot too. There’s an understanding between us, and she's always good in conversation and in listening.
I’ve experienced so many changes over the early 20th century when I was born. London is a different place and our priorities as people now have changed. You'd know your neighbours and keep your doors open to them, and you can't do that now. There’s not as much respect for older people as there used to be. But there are still lots of honourable, pleasant and respectful young people too!