Pen pals may be a thing of yesteryear to some, but it is a type of communication that has led to the blossoming of a touching friendship.
Loneliness and isolation has crept in for many during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly the older generation, who often only have contact with their carers as they continue to shield.
And this is what led youngster James Gardner, just four years old, to write a letter to Unique Senior Care in Solihull, with the hope they would share it with one of their clients.
He never expected a response, but to his amazement his picture of a rocket and letter detailing his desire for a pet mammoth was met with an eager reply from 93-year-old Marjorie Burkitt.
It made its way to Marjorie, a Balsall Common resident, through her carer Becky Higgins, who said: “Before it was hard to find positive subjects to talk about whenever I came round, as everything on the news was depressing.
“Now, every time I visit, Marjorie’s face lights up when she tells me she’s received another letter or postcard in the post from James. She often asks about him too.”
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Speaking to CoventryLive, James’ mum Dominique Gardner said: “We’d heard that a lot of the older people had felt quite isolated and James decided to draw a picture of a rocket and his younger brother Zach did too, and we just dropped them through and we got a lovely letter back from Marjorie and James was so excited.
“It carried on from there. Marjorie asked a lot of questions about James and Zach, who is two, and told us a lot about herself. She’s a really interesting lady.”
The pair have since been exchanging gifts, drawings and letters for months, and despite the age difference have a lot in common. From gardening to a love of animals, they have had a lot to talk about.
Dominique added: “James just sees Marjorie as someone that he can talk to and share things with. He is interested in everything.
“We went to Kenilworth Castle recently and he sent her a postcard from there. He’s really keen to let her know how school is and football, and tell her about the vegetables he’s been growing.”
The pair also share a love of animals; Marjorie used to house trainee guide dogs for the blind, while James is fascinated by all species of animal, and recently held his first crab on holiday in Devon.
Dominque used to work at the postal museum in London and is a huge fan of sending anything through the post: “I recognise how special it can be to receive something through your door and get a glimpse into a window of someone else’s day – particularly an inquisitive four-year old.”
Debbie Barnes, manager for Unique Senior Care Solihull, said she was delighted the friendship had taken off.
“At Unique we pride ourselves on going above and beyond to ensure we look after our clients, especially in a crisis like this when the uncertainty is bound to make anyone feel anxious on their own,” she said.
James is starting in reception at school this week in his home town of Knowle and mum Dominique said he is looking forward to seeing his friends in real life, as well as meeting his new teacher.
James and Marjorie plan to continue their pen pal friendship in the future, and now with school starting again, they will have much to talk about.