From me to you -A story of fortunate coincidences from Cross Gates


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By David Smith, Cross Gates Good Neighbours

In these unusual times, if you don’t have the internet and telephoning isn’t for you, how can you keep in touch? Not so long ago, the answer would have been obvious: write a letter. But David Smith and Wilfred Walker needed a series of coincidences to get there.
David is a volunteer at Cross Gates Good Neighbours He had begun to visit Wilfred, who is largely housebound. Everything was set up through the “Living La Vida Local” befriending scheme at Cross Gates, which is supported by the National Lottery Community Fund and is one of their Jo Cox inspired projects.
The two men soon found they shared various things in common. For example, they had both been members of the Royal Society of Chemistry. However, David couldn’t match Wilfred’s 50 years, which are commemorated by a wonderful framed certificate bearing the RSC coat of arms.


David Smith with his ukulele


Wilfred Walker

They also love music. Wilfred has a particular fascination with great violinists such as Kreisler and Campoli, and he owns a fine old instrument himself. On a less exalted level, David is a member of the George Formby Society and a ukulele enthusiast and collector.
David made several weekly visits to Wilfred’s home for chats. Topics included Wilfred’s National Service with the RAF in the early 1950s; Rugby League at Headingley in the era of Barry Seabourne, whom Wilfred once taught building science; the musical Scotch snap and schottische dance tunes; and so on.
Wilfred said, “I really enjoy our little chats and we have discovered so many shared interests from Chemistry, Music and Sport.”
Then the virus crisis called a halt to all this.
Meanwhile, David was taking part in a pen pal scheme at Leeds University called “Writing Back”, which was originated by Dr. Georgina Binnie. The scheme pairs overseas students with older people in Leeds to exchange handwritten letters via the University.

They can share their cultures and help each other to overcome any loneliness, because you can become lonely whatever your age and wherever you are.
David’s pen pal this year comes from Malaysia. By coincidence, Wilfred’s time in the RAF was spent in Singapore and Malaya (as it was called at that time) so he had memories of places that he’d visited then. David could share these with his Malaysian pen pal. But then the virus closed down the pen pal scheme too ...

In a time of lockdown, Wilfred must now self-isolate and David can no longer visit him. But the internet or telephone aren’t options for Wilfred.

And so, remembering his pen pal experiences, David began to write letters to Wilfred. Fortunately the Royal Mail is still working for everyone. In this way, the two can stay in touch and try to keep up with some amusement and entertainment.

David’s first letter mentioned songs with “ukulele” in the title. He had found the music for a Max
Bygraves hit record from the 1950s called “I Love to Play My Ukulele”. David says, "I think I do remember this song from when it first came out. The words seem a bit old fashioned now, but I’m going to learn this one.” Wilfred is similar enthusiastic. “I am looking forward to sharing some old Leeds United and Leeds Rugby League Match Programmes from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s when David is next allowed to visit,” he says. “In the meantime David’s letters and the attached music that he has sent have been very welcome and help ease the boredom of lockdown. And the great thing with a letter over a phone call is that I can keep re-reading it too.


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