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Good neighbours become good friends in Baswich and Barlaston

By Kerry.Ashdown  |  Posted: May 03, 2014

By Kerry Ashdown

Les Broomfield and Anne Wheeler

Les Broomfield and Anne Wheeler

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LONELY folk in Barlaston and Baswich are being invited to to get in touch with some good neighbours.

Baswich residents like 91-year-old Les Broomfield are already enjoying a cuppa and a friendly chat with volunteers like Anne Wheeler, who visits Les at home on a regular basis.

This month Barlaston residents who feel isolated or struggle with day to day living tasks will also be able to call on the Good Neighbour Scheme.

The village is launching its scheme on May 10 at Barlaston Village Hall and anyone interested in finding out more – whether about getting help or helping others – can pop in for free refreshments from 11am to 1pm.

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Barlaston First School headteacher Mandy Clarey, who will be at the official launch, said: “I think this scheme will be great for Barlaston and will help to make the village a better place with good neighbours helping each other.”

The scheme, which is spearheaded by the Community Council of Staffordshire, puts residents in need with touch with volunteers who can offer friendly chat and help with transport and some practical tasks.

The Berkswich scheme started up last year and is also keen to attract more volunteers and service users.

For Les, who lives alone, it has been a great boost. He gets on “like a house on fire” with Anne, 70, who has found the experience rewarding too.

Les, a former RAF corporal who went on to work in Staffordshire County Council’s wages office, enjoyed a busy social life in his younger days.

He may not get out as much now, but he relishes conversation and is a fascinating person to talk to, sharing stories of the time he ended up on the Newsletter front page in the 1950s for leading a Battle of Britain parade and a delicious sounding recipe for leftovers.

He was happily married to wife Phyllis for 62 years before she passed away four years ago. The couple had no children, but Les does have relatives in the Chester area who come to visit.

He said: “I was vice chairman of the Constitutional Club in Lloyd Street, a champion ballroom dancer, a founder member of the County Officers Club (in Eastgate Street) and involved with a football club. I loved bridge and I was in the Probus Club.

“I used to go three nights a week down The Trumpet, now the Radford Inn. There used to be 10 or 12 people, all sat in a row, but they slowly disappeared. There’s just one man left now; they’re mostly dead.

“It’s hard to explain how you feel, after being busy and active in so many things, then all of a sudden nothing.

“I sit in the kitchen hoping to see someone walking past with a dog. You have no-one to pass a comment to, it’s very difficult.

“But I’m lucky in a way. I’ve met Anne and her compatriots, and two doors away I have a man who has ‘adopted’ me in a way. He comes round four or five nights a week.”

Seeing Les cracking jokes with Anne it’s easy to see why both get so much out of the Good Neighbours scheme. They chat like friends who have known each other for far more than just five months.

Anne visits Les on a fortnightly basis and has also taken him out for a pub lunch, as well as checking his meters.

She said: “I’ve been retired 11 years; I was a podiatrist and I’m used to meeting people and going to their houses. But after about 18 months I got a bit bored and started doing volunteering.

“There was an advert for Good Neighbours in Baswich Church Hall in November 2013. It gives me a sense of getting something out of my retirement.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about Good Neighbours can call 07599 956939 for the Berkswich scheme or 01785 242525 for the Barlaston scheme.

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