Most Tuesdays, at 11am, I attend North London Cares’ Men’s Cooking social club in Kilburn. Along with my friends Chris, Paul, Victor, Kevin, Moses, Norman and the gang – and Jeremy, our volunteer master chef – we make some delicious meals.
In the last year, we’ve tried it all: lamb, chicken and fish; pies; different cuisines from around the world; traditional old dishes – often healthy and sometimes indulgent. I’ve learned so much from my friends, and not just little cooking tips. I’ve heard stories about the war from Paul, movie reviews from Chris – and so much in the way of resilience, patience and humour from everyone in the group.
Many of these older gents – my friends – live alone. Some are in difficult circumstances – caring for loved ones, for instance, or still mourning a loss. For them, the cooking group is a place to find respite, and also a place to find fun. And it’s exactly the same for me.
While I have made the Men’s Cooking group my weekly routine, North London Cares runs so many other activities too, especially during evenings and weekends when young people can have free time, and when older neighbours can feel most isolated.
And as volunteer, North London Cares make it easy for me – I don’t have to be in the same place at the same time, week after week (although I normally choose to be!). They communicate brilliantly and that makes it so simple to be involved, and to feel part of the community. I’ve never felt closer to my neighbours before. For me, that really matters.
London is a busy place, and it can be quite a tough place. But through my friendships gained as part of North London Cares I’ve taken the time to appreciate the experiences people all around me have, and my life has improved as a result of those friendships.
I've always wanted to spend time with an older person in the community as I'm so aware of the unnecessary isolation they can feel which is purely through circumstance.
There are so many older individuals who have so much to offer, are fun to spend time with and who you can learn a lot from.
If I can help offer some company and help in any way, I want to do that.
I love visiting Audrey every week. Audrey and I have struck up a great, easy-going friendship. Just because there's an age gap doesn't mean we don't have lots in common. For example, we both love the theatre, reading, ginger biscuits and car boot sales. We also listen to each other's problems (Audrey always has great advice) and most importantly we make each other laugh.