How a meal and a chat are helping beat Covid loneliness

Image caption,
Andy and Alex met during lockdown and now often

A shared meal or a dinner treat delivered with kindness could be the simplest ways to beat Covid loneliness.

As millions of Scots prepare to enter tight lockdown restrictions and a long difficult winter, volunteers are using the power of food to lighten the mood and keep people connected.

A Highland community using fish teas to beat the lockdown blues and a meal-making service in Glasgow are cooking up ways to bring people together.

'She is my best friend'

Andy Stadalius, 77 from Glasgow says he hit "rock bottom" when he lost his wife more than a year ago.

But an unlikely friendship with 31-year-old Alex Clarke, a volunteer for the Meal Makers service has turned things around.

Meal Makers is a local food-sharing project that connects people who love cooking, and who are happy to share an extra portion of home cooked food, with an older neighbour who would appreciate a freshly prepared meal and a friendly chat.

Image caption,
Andy was still mourning his wife when he met Alex

"I met Alex when I was feeling down after I lost my wife, " said Andy. "She cooks meals for me at least once a week and she gets my messages for me. If I am ill she looks after me.

"I buy her chocolates to say thank you. She is great and she cooks lovely meals. Nothing is too much bother for her.

"She treats me like a father and I treat her like a daughter. She is more than a friend to me she is my best friend. All the money in the world wouldn't compensate that lassie, she's an angel."

Alex joined the scheme because she wanted to volunteer and she loves cooking. But she got more out of it than she thought.

She said: "When I met Andy I assumed it would be dropping off food and maybe a chat. But now we are the best of friends, we have such a good giggle together.

"Lockdown has made us better friends. I was aware he was going to be stuck indoors all the time, so I would phone more often and go down and speak on the doorstep.

"We have really good fun. We have a similar sense of humour and we are both stubborn. We take the mickey out of each other."

With the level four lockdown approaching, they will have to stop their cafe trips, and go back to safe meal drop-offs.

Alex said: "We will be safe but keep up that social interaction. And I get a lot out of it too. It's a lovely friendship. Even for me during lockdown it was a nice break from being indoors, talking to someone, he gives me film tips."

Fish, chips and a smile

Teenager Keegan Campbell has the kind of smile that would lift most people's spirits

The pensioners he is delivering fish suppers and scampi to can't see it under his face mask, but they know it's there, and he puts a smile on the faces of dozens of people every week.

The Go Golspie charity started their chippy runs during the first lockdown when their residents could not come out to their local lunch club.

Media caption,
The fish suppers help 'brighten the day' of pensioners who are missing their lunch club

They've now secured funding to make sure they looked after all through the winter. About 35 elderly people receive the suppers for a bargain £3, delivered every Friday with side of human interaction.

Keegan got involved as a favour to his mum.

"One afternoon we were at the youth centre and my mum was asked to help," he said. "She couldn't make it because she was working so I said I would do it. I just started helping.

"We come straight here after school, get the first round of chips and deliver to the first eight or nine, then come back for the next load."

Keegan, 15, enjoys the banter.

"It's pretty good craic. They have good days and bad days and all we do is try to brighten up their day. We might be the only people they see in a week," he said.

"I worry about their mental health. In lockdown they didn't see their families. They just saw us on a Friday. I'm just helping the community and I hope I can carry it on."

For neighbours Etta Sutherland and Barbara Cumming, it's a nice distraction.

"It's just lovely. You know when they are coming and you are ready for them," said Barbara.

"People really appreciate it. There is quite a few in the village who don't have anyone but they have good neighbours. Everybody is friendly and everybody knows each other. Fridays are great."

Etta said: "It's a lovely service by everybody and we do appreciate it. Nice to get something you don't have to cook yourself.

"Keegan has given up his Friday afternoon which is very good. They are lovely boys. In a little village like this people look after each other."

Peter Allan, a volunteer at Go Golspie, drives the bus. He said the organisation is committed to helping the elderly population.

"Many of the people here don't see anybody from week to week and some of them haven't been out since the start of March. The last two weeks we have started doing tours and its the first time they have been out anywhere since March.

"The more we can do to help people the better. As long as we can keep the funding going we will keep looking after them. The conversation in the mini bus is fun and we spend a bit longer on the doorstep than we should."