In celebration of this year’s Intergenerational week our UK Social Franchise Manager, John, reflects on his own Homeshare experience back in 1991, which led to a lifelong friendship.

I am now a middle-aged man of 50, but during the Summer of 1991 I had my first experience of what we now call “Homeshare”.

At the time, I was at Newcastle University studying for my degree. During the Summer break I decided to remain in the UK and get a Summer job (my parents now lived abroad). I worked at a Chemical plant on the outskirts of Hartlepool – a job I barely even remember, and I certainly never understood!

A family friend’s Mum (Joy) lived in a town called Billingham – around 6 miles from Hartlepool. I don’t think I had ever met her properly, but I knew that she had recently lost her husband and was living alone. I also needed somewhere to stay and it is around this time in 1991 that I decided to spend 4 months living with Joy.

It was a wonderful and life-enriching experience, for both of us. She told all her friends about me, and would describe me as her “toy-boy” – before we would both break down into fits of giggles. I got home from “work” each evening at around 6pm, and she would have my tea ready – there was always “Arctic Roll” for pudding (I loved that, because my Mum never did pudding!), and then we would sit and watch soap operas on the TV together whilst chatting. She loved it when I had friends round, and always made a wonderful fuss of them.

I remember taking Joy to a football match (in Middlesbrough) – I can’t remember the game, but I know that she was asking me lots of questions throughout the game.

I moved back to Newcastle in October 1991 – but that wasn’t the end of the story at all. We kept in touch, often. Joy came to my 21st birthday party and then my 30th birthday party 9 years later, and we often met for lunch and tea. Around 10 years ago, she moved back to the North West to be closer to her daughter again, and I saw her more often, until sadly she passed away in January this year, aged 96. Her funeral was an opportunity to reflect on how much she always meant to me.

I was her housemate for 4 months – but we had been friends for 31 years thereafter. Maybe not her “Toy-Boy”, but we were the firmest of friends. I loved Joy dearly, and living with her and forming that friendship was an absolutely wonderful experience, for both of us. I hope she enjoyed the company and the laughter as much as I did. And whenever I see Arctic Roll, I always think of Joy!