Camilla in Blackpool & Preston: sharing stories with elderly callers & Emmaus Megastore

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has visited the Blackpool offices of charity The Silver Line today, where she took a call with elderly people who live alone, before going shopping at a homeless charity’s Megastore in nearby Preston.

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In Blackpool, the Duchess was greeted by The Silver Line’s founder, Dame Esther Rantzen, who founded the charity in 2013. Following the death of her husband, Esther wrote a newspaper article describing the loneliness she felt for the first time in her life when she became a widow at the age of 71; she received numerous responses from other people who felt just as she did.

The broadcaster’s experience from the other charity she founded – ChildLine – prompted her into action to find a way of creating a network of communication and friendship for those who live alone and are aged over 55.

Camilla’s sister-in-law, The Countess of Wessex, met the Dame earlier this week at a carol concert for ChildLine; Sophie gave a reading as patron of the NSPCC.

the duchess of cornwall took a call today at the silver line, chatting about childhood books; the charity was founded by dame esther rantzen to help with loneliness in old age (clarence house)

The subject of today’s call that the Royal took was the books read as children – a matter of great interest to Camilla, who holds a number of literary patronages. The Duchess of Cornwall revealed that her favourite book was ‘Black Beauty’, but that it always reduced her to tears as a girl.

She told caller Betty: “When I was young I really liked horses very much. If I wanted a real cry I would read Black Beauty. I could never finish it. I would read up until when Ginger died (one of the horse characters and a friend of Black Beauty) and cried so much I had to give up.”

This isn’t the first time this week that Camilla has taken to the phones: on Wednesday, she headed to ICAP’s offices and traded stocks on the phone for their annual charity day, whereby they donate the day’s profits to various charities. This year, Medical Detection Dogs – one of the future Queen’s charities – was a beneficiary.

Another participant who spoke with the Royal told of how he used to enjoy Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ books and read them secretly under the duvet with a torch.

duchess camilla chats to volunteers and staff of the silver line during her visit to blackpool (clarence house)

The group were also treated to a piano recital by another participant.

Dame Esther showed Camilla around the Blackpool offices where 10,000 calls a week are handled by 200 staff and 1.6 million calls have been taken since the charity began.

“Some of our callers do not speak to anyone else throughout the week. Particularly at Christmas people can feel isolated,” Esther said. “I usually try to talk to about 30 people myself at this time of year, quite often they don’t believe its me, they think its a hoax call! I spoke to one man at Christmas and then phoned again at New Year and he said I was the only person he had spoken to all that time.”

The Duchess praised the team for the work they do and thanked them for the tour before she moved on to visit charity Emmaus in Preston.

Emmaus is a charity that helps provide homes to people who have been homeless or socially excluded; this is another of the Royal’s patronages. Everyone who lives in the Emmaus community makes a contribution by volunteering full time in their social enterprises.

Camilla visited the charity’s Megastore in Preston where they sell furniture, white goods, household items, clothes and unique finds. The venture not only helps raise much needed funds, but also provides work for for the charity’s community.

Browsing the shop’s wares, the Duchess purchased a handmade wooden reindeer for her husband, Prince Charles, and a blue jug. It seems, as for most of us, she was in need of Christmas presents! If you still need some inspiration, try our Christmas list for royal fans.

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