A pensioner who lives near a school has been invited in for lunch with pupils every day – to stop him feeling lonely after the death of his wife.
Cyril Aggett, 86, said he has struggled with a lack of company since the loss of his wife Shirley six years ago.
The acute pain of being on his own hit him straight after he closed his front door following her funeral.
The granddad lives near school gates and when realised they had not seen him about as usual and they gave him a call – to see if he was OK.
They invited him to have lunch with them and at Coombe Dean Secondary School in Plymouth in Devon – and he is now a regular face in the canteen.
He now enjoys a warm-cooked dinner amongst the schoolchildren.
Cyril mingles and chats with staff and pupils during lunch-time four times a week and said it has been a lifeline for him.
He has shared his experiences with loneliness as part of Plymouth Live’s Be A Friend campaign.
He said: “When I first came here I was down in the dumps.
“I get a cup of tea, my lunch and good service. Everybody talks to me, the office staff is brilliant.
“My wife was there one minute and then I couldn’t talk to her because she was under sedation all the time.”
For a month after Shirley’s death he could not bring himself to leave the house, but the school called to check he was ok and he started going in for lunch.
Cyril said that in the past year, he had another spell of not wanting to get out of bed, but visiting the school has helped get his love for life back.
He added: “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 Coombe Dean lunch ladies also make Cyril an extra batches of sausage rolls, pasties and apple crumble for during the school holidays, so he can freeze them.
“I don’t think they should go on holiday actually” he joked.
Cyril, a retired bespoke shoe maker, said: “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.
“It’s mayhem really, it’s good. I’d be lost if I didn’t come down here.”
Cyril said he also tries to combat loneliness through music.
He added: “Luckily I’ve got a lot of music and I’ve just bought myself a new music centre, so I can play the records from the 20s up to the 70s.
“If I get fed up, I just put the music on and just sort of enjoy it. It’s the music that I like, not the modern stuff.”