Come On, Eileen
By Rachael Abbey, chief friend-maker of The Roaring Girls (and Co-Artistic Director but that's less important.)
When the world started to collapse back in March, I reached out more than I ever had. I told everyone if they needed food delivered to their door - to give me a call, if they needed medicine or post dropping off – to give me a call, if they were lonely - to give me a call. I talked to people I haven’t talked to in years, old friends, extended family. I love talking to people, and I hate being alone. It messes with my head – I honestly don’t know how people have made it through the initial lock down living alone. Despite having a very active social life, I often feel lonely, and during these uncertain times I wanted to feel like I was being useful.
This is where Eileen comes in.
Eileen was my Nanna’s best friend. They talked daily, often about Strictly Come Dancing and cricket. They were always on the phone to each other. That was until my Nan passed away in January 2016. The phone stopped ringing. A few years later, Eileen moved to a flat a 5 minute walk from my Nan’s house – which is now my parent’s house – and we all said that my Nan would have been round in a taxi every day for a natter. Eileen has always been in my life and was always a bit of an inspiration - an academic, single older lady, with no kids, lives on her own, and goes on lavish cruises whenever she wants– who doesn’t want that life?!
In the second week of lockdown, I called her to check in and see how she was doing. I had never called her before, but she had given me her number when I last visited her at some point in 2018. I told her she was the most popular woman in Bradford and had probably already had 100 invitations of help, but that my parents were nearby if she needed anything. She said it was kind of me to call. We’ve been phoning each other every week for 6 months now, checking in on each other, making sure we were OK, and sharing daft stories. Eileen tells me I have a scandalous life because I went drinking till 5am, I give her a laugh. She says its nice to hear from someone younger than her, that she has another young woman who she’s known all her life as well, and she calls too. I’ve had phone calls from her after half a bottle of wine in the summer sun (slightly tipsy), I've had calls asking for advice, and I’ve called her just to be told she’s actually on the house phone at the moment and she’ll call me back. When I got the chance to visit my parents briefly in September, I made sure that I went to visit her.
She feels a bit like a surrogate Nanna. Both of mine have passed on now, but it feels somewhat comforting to have an older lady in my life that I talk to. I wouldn’t have the relationship with her now if I hadn’t just given her a call back in March. I honestly would recommend it, just check in on someone – especially if you know they live alone. I still feel lonely, really, very lonely, it hasn’t changed that at all. However, It made me feel a little more useful, and a whole lot more connected, in a weird and unknown world.