Archway’s Storytelling Project

Archway has been running a storytelling project to collect stories from people who have been supported by us during the pandemic.

We wanted to hear from people, in their own words, what the experience of Archway has been like during this difficult time.

We gathered stories that, anonymised and with people’s consent, we can now share and use to support funding applications, Volunteer recruitment, training and the general promotion of Archway’s work.

Here are a few extracts from the stories….

‘It Has Been A Lifeline’ – An Archway Story

‘I’ve been going to Archway fourteen years, a long time.  Now they phone once a fortnight or once a week to see if everything’s all right.  Judith used to phone and now Barbara phones.  Brenda (senior staff member) phoned the other week because they couldn’t get hold of me and they thought there might be something wrong.  She said ‘they have been trying to contact you and they haven’t had no response so they passed it back over to me to see if you are all right.’  I said, ‘I’m fine.’  She said, ‘as long as you are all right they don’t mind but they were getting quite worried’ she said, which is fair enough, and then I said to her, ‘we got an uncle that’s in the Churchill with cancer, that’s what the problem is.’  She said, ‘I’m ever so sorry, as long as you and your brother are all right.’ ‘He’s fine’, I said ‘and I’m fine’ and I said ‘thank you for phoning’.  She said, ‘no, that’s our job to phone you.’

It’s like in May, I lost my mum in May.  I got in touch with Archway because I went a bit funny about it and said, ‘how am I going to manage now without my mum and dad?’ and they said, ‘You will still manage with your brother who’s there with you’ and I said, ‘yes.’  She said, ‘if you’ve got any difficulties or anything get in touch with Archway and they’ll contact you’ and Judith phoned the next day.  They’ve been really good Archway, they phone and see if I’m all right and have I got enough food and things.

It’s been a long time this (lockdown), I haven’t been out for a long time.  I’m getting really fed up with it now.  I’m used to going out, that’s what the problem is.  I just can’t go out cos I’m vulnerable at the moment the doctor said, in case I have a fall or anything.  I’ve already had a fall about a month ago in here so I’ve got to be really careful but I just told Brenda, it will be nice when I can go back to Archway (social group) and see all my friends.  She said, ‘we understand and we’d love to see you when you can come back, but I can understand what you mean, it is a long time.’

The calls have been reassuring.  They’ve been really nice, they’ve rung each week and they’ve really talked to me.  It’s like Barbara rung last week and she was on the phone for about forty minutes I should think, or even longer than that.  She said, ‘I don’t mind spending the time speaking to you.’  I said, ‘they’ve all been nice at Archway’ and she said, ‘You’re a nice person at the end of the day.’

They send all leaflets through once a month about whatever they’re doing, and if it’s anybody’s birthday they wish them ‘Happy Birthday.’  And then they rung me in September and wishes me a happy birthday.  But it’s not the same as really meeting the friends like at Archway.  I used to go to Archway each week on a Monday.  They used to pick me up in the car and take me there and bring me back and I used to think it was ever so nice.  It’s all stopped at the moment because of the virus.  I used to be able to go and visit my friends but now I can’t so it’s all come hard really.

I only see my brother at the moment cos he lives with me cos he’s my carer.  Archway calls have made a lot of difference because you just can’t go out and mix with people.  You can’t go to the shops and have a cup of tea, can you, or a piece of cake or a biscuit or sandwiches or can’t go to town, can you, or Cowley centre or Headington.’

‘I used to love going out. The first time you thought it wouldn’t go on so long (lockdown), now they’ve sent a second lot so it’s come harder now because you can’t go anywhere.  If Archway hadn’t been in touch, it wouldn’t have been very good at all cos I wouldn’t have been in touch with nobody.  You’ve got nobody else. My family has been in touch and asked me if I’m all right and things but it’s not the same as speaking to my friends.

I made a nice friend at Archway.  He lives completely on his own.  He rings me a couple of times a day because he lives on his own.  I used to go to his flat and have a cup of tea with him.  Now, I can’t go to his flat.

I’ve enjoyed people phoning from Archway.  I’ve enjoyed it each week.  It’s helped me with the rest of the week cos it’s somebody different to talk to.  Not being funny towards my brother but you don’t know what to keep saying to him do you?  If it’s somebody different, you know what to say to them.    It has been a lifeline.  It’s made a lot of difference really because I don’t have nobody else to talk to only my ordinary friends.  I don’t really know anybody else, only the people really from Archway. 

If you can’t get out it’s more hard.  I tell people I’m in prison.  Well, it’s not like prison really, it’s just a house.  It’s just not mixing.  It’s just mixing with people like people from Archway and going out really that I miss.’

‘Something To Look Forward To’ – An Archway Story

‘During the Covid-19 pandemic, Archway has been very supporting to me by a weekly phone call from one of their many volunteers, ensuring that I stay well.  The weekly conversations generally last up to three-quarters of an hour and I always look forward to these calls. I also receive The Bright Side newssheet, which keeps me in touch with the folk at Archway.  The newssheet arrives by post once a fortnight with a word search, quizzes etc. to pass the time and always has useful phone numbers in case I need help.  Until present I have not needed to use the numbers but it’s nice to know that there is help out there for me.  I often think of the many folk I have met at the weekly social evenings before Covid-19 and hope to meet with everyone in the near future.  The support which Archway provides is second to none.  There’s always a welcome at Archway.

I’ve also wrote the odd poem and they published it in The Bright Side for the rest of the lonely people to read and I quite appreciate that.  I’ve become a poet thanks to the Co-ordinator at Abingdon.  It was her that got me to write my first poem.  I’ve carried on writing a few poems but I’m mainly a storyteller.

I write short stories a lot.  When I go back to Archway, to meet people again, they shall be entertained by some of my short stories.  They are stories that start off and get people interested, but I always end up where it makes people laugh.

Keeping in touch keeps me up to date.  I’m up to date with what’s going on.  It’s nice that Archway can take the trouble to contact all of their members.  If there wasn’t Archway I’d probably be making more visits to see me doctor, because of the loneliness.  I mean I can always pick up one of their quizzes or the word search and pass the time on one of those, cos I don’t always do them you see because I tend to watch a lot of television lately.

I think they’ve done enormous, they’ve been enormous for help.  They give help to other members, lonely people, they give help to those as well.  It’s not just me.  And it’s the way they do it.  It’s a nice approach, it’s a very good approach. 

Also, Sally rings me up once a week on a Wednesday.  We have very interesting conversations, talking about things in general and that.

It’s nice that they can spare the time to phone me.  I mean because the person who speaks to me, she does work, she does go out to work… and it’s nice, you know, that she can find the time to speak to me over the phone cos it generally lasts three-quarters of an hour.  It’s the conversation with people that makes the difference.  I’m one of those that likes to meet people to have a chat with.  I mean when I go into town for shopping or for a walk out, I generally see people and have a chat with them, but with the lockdown, whenever I go into town there’s not many people about and I am one that likes company.

Phone calls and The Bright Side are something to look forward to and looking forward to things, it’s like when I’ve booked a holiday.  The best part of the holiday is the build up to looking forward to a good holiday.’

‘We Have Not Been Neglected At All’ – An Archway Story

‘I was thinking back and I think I’ve been going to Wednesday Welcome (Archway social group) sometime 2017, perhaps earlier. It’s such a caring and supportive place to go, that’s why it’s so wonderful to go there and be part of the group. Obviously, with the Covid, sadly the group was unable to continue. I am so much missing it as I live on my own. I feel loneliness all the time and I’m sure I’m not alone with other Archway members experiencing the same.  Because it was really the only thing I had in my life, which might sound a bit…. Well I have a very close friend but she suffers with bipolar so she’s never very well normally and of course we can’t meet anyway.  And family wise, I just have a twin sister really who’s very… she can be caring but sometimes she can’t.  She can be very, er, bossy (laughs).

In the now, I have been very suicidal and I have to rely on the Samaritans to keep me alive basically.  And so it’s been awful actually. I’m waiting for a hip replacement and I have degenerative sclerosis of the spine which means having an operation and as they can’t guarantee any success rate I won’t have it done.  I don’t want to risk being in a wheelchair sooner than I have to be and I did have some good news because there is another operation I’m waiting for and I just had a phone call from the JR (hospital) to say they have a cancellation and they have an appointment for me. 

My hip means that I’ve constantly got pain. I struggle doing things around the flat.  I’ve always kept the flat nice and clean and tidy but it’s a tip and I find that hard to cope with, but no, it’s quite restrictive it really is and I can get quite upset about it when I see people just walking or running or just doing things that I was always able to do.  No more running for a bus, not unless I put my stick out and try and wave it down.

The house I live in is divided into two flats and a young family lives above me.  It’s constant noise until they go to bed at night and I find that very stressful.  I don’t find there is any peace, I don’t have any peace.

Archway is such a wonderful place, it really is and I think me being in the situation I’m in at the moment physically and mentally, it’s a great loss to me not being able to go.

Lisa does ring me and so does Janet [staff members].  The Samaritans are really lovely.  They are a listening ear and they don’t, you know, condemn or say anything, make judgements and they’re an incredible organisation, they really are.  It’s nice when Janet phones.  It’s just nice to be able to talk about how you feel.  You wouldn’t believe the Samaritans, and Archway in particular, because I’m not always low, I have my ups and downs.  I think just going to Archway (to a pre-pandemic social group), even if you just sit there.  I mean you don’t just sit there because people talk to you and that’s what’s so lovely about it.  You are never left sitting on your own, it’s marvellous, it really is.’

‘I have to say Archway, despite all that’s going on with the virus and everything, they are doing their utmost to keep in contact with members.  The staff and volunteers are still working hard, and we have not been neglected at all despite all what’s going on and I appreciate it so much.’

And to receive the fortnightly newsletter, The Bright Side, makes you feel good.  I always look forward to receiving it.  Although we can’t actually meet up, it’s just the weekly phone call is another thing.  I mean I feel so privileged to have that and I mean I can’t find the right words to express.  It’s the only place, organisation or whatever you want to call it, that I’ve gone to and – usually if I haven’t been somewhere, say for two or three weeks, and because I suffer with depression and anxiety, I probably wouldn’t go back – but I never get that feeling at Archway because they are always so pleased to see you again and they are so caring.  I’ve never known anything like it before.’

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