Kate Middleton has secretly been volunteering to help combat loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic and has been chatting to an 85-year-old full-time carer.
Today Kate and William finally met Len Gardner, in Batley, Yorkshire, for an evening he said would ‘stay with him forever’. Len is at home recovering from an operation for bladder cancer while he cares for his wife Shirley, who has Alzheimer’s.
His calls with Kate started in May while the Cambridges and their children were in lockdown at their country estate in Anmer Hall, Norfolk.
Len said: ‘The first question I asked was, “How do I address you?”. She said, “Call me Catherine”. After the first two sentences I didn’t feel like I was talking to someone so important.’
He went on: ‘For 30 minutes, Len and Catherine had a wonderful conversation. She told me Prince George and Princess Charlotte were playing in the garden and she was keeping an eye on them through the window.’
The former textile-industry worker said he told the Duchess how much he loved Italian food and how he didn’t make his own pasta because he didn’t have a machine or the right flour.
He continued: ‘About three days after our conversation, a brand new pasta machine arrived from the Duchess. Two days later I got two kilos of ‘00’ (the Italian grading system) flour from Buckingham Palace.
‘I can tell you, this lady you see on television that goes into the crowds and talks to people — what you see is what you get. She is a very, very nice person.’
Len wrote a letter thanking the Duchess, and framed her response on his wall above a letter he received from the Queen for his 60th anniversary with his wife in 2018.
About a month later Kate called Len again and told him she took Princess Charlotte and Prince George to the sheds in Sandringham to see how wool is made from sheep without killing the animals.
He said: ‘The Duke and Duchess are a brilliant couple for doing this kind of thing. They really seem to want to reach out to people. I think the Duchess felt she wanted to speak to other people outside the Palace and in the north.’
Len said he would treasure his conversations with Kate ‘for the rest of his life’ and said they gave him something to look forward to.
Kate and Len were put in touch by the Royal Voluntary Service which recruited more than 500,000 volunteers over lockdown.
The CEO of the Royal Voluntary Service Catherine Johnstone said: ‘We are incredibly grateful to The Duchess of Cambridge for kindly supporting the NHS Volunteer Responders programme.
‘Her ‘check-in-and-chat’ call to Len has meant the world to him. It’s so important to highlight the power of conversation… you really can make someone’s day.’
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