A pensioner who was left feeling lonely after his wife died now eats his lunch with pupils at a nearby local school.
Cyril Aggett, 86, had been struggling with the lack of company since the loss of his wife Shirley six years ago, something employees at Coombe Dean Secondary School in Plymouth noticed after not seeing him around for a while.
So they decided to call him up to make sure he was okay, a phone call ultimately leading staff members to invite Cyril to eat lunch in the school canteen with them to combat his loneliness.
The granddad, who lives near the school’s gates, took them up on the offer and now Cyril is a regular face in the canteen. Four times a week, he enjoys a school dinner and the company of the schoolchildren.
He mingles and chats with staff members and pupils alike, and says it has been a lifeline for him – particularly since he couldn’t face the pain of being by himself ever since Shirley’s funeral.
Cyril explained how he even gets a cup of tea with his lunch, stating: ‘Everybody talks to me, the office staff are brilliant.’ He described the experience as ‘mayhem’, but said he’d be ‘lost’ if he didn’t go down to the school throughout the week.
Cyril explained how he was ‘down in the dumps’ when he first started attending the lunches, but it was a massive improvement from how he was beforehand.
For a month after Shirley’s death, he couldn’t bring himself to leave the house. However, the school soon called to check whether he was okay and he hasn’t looked back since.
It can be very lonely [living alone], once you go inside that door. I come down here and see the children, a lot of them talk to me, there’s one young man that comes up and makes sure he talks to me.
I love the company and the noise. Once I go indoors and I close those doors down, there’s nothing.
Cyril, a retired bespoke shoemaker, said he had another spell of not wanting to get out of bed recently. However, visiting the school has helped him get his love for life back.
A couple of months ago, I wasn’t really getting up until about 2pm in the afternoon, it was lovely weather and I couldn’t be bothered.
I think Shirley must have said ‘pull your socks up’ you know. Coming down here has brought me out of my shell again.
The school will soon take two weeks off for their Christmas break, but Cyril need not worry because the Coombe Dean lunch ladies make him extra batches of sausage rolls, pasties and apple crumble for him to eat during the school holidays.
He’s then able to freeze them at his home before returning to the school when it reopens in January.
‘I don’t think they should go on holiday actually,’ Cyril joked.
What a lovely story, and one Cyril shared as part of Plymouth Live’s Be A Friend campaign.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).