During the whirlwind tour of the UK, The Duchess of Cambridge yesterday met the pensioner she spoke to on the phone during lockdown, on a stop in West Yorkshire.
Kate got to see Len Gardner, 86, at Batley Community Centre where she and The Duke of Cambridge met with volunteers who have supported elderly locals throughout the coronavirus outbreak.
Wearing masks for the indoor event, Prince William and Catherine then caught up with the pensioner, who is a full-time carer to his wife Shirley, 84.
The Duchess had previously spoken to the Yorkshireman a number of times on the phone. The Duchess first rang Mr Gardner in May through the NHS Volunteer Responder Check In And Chat scheme, which hoped to make sure elderly people were not lonely. They also wrote letters to each other.
The future King and Queen have been touring the UK on the royal train to thank the heroes of the pandemic – from teachers, to paramedics and community volunteers. They made 10 stops in England, Scotland and Wales along the 1,250-mile trip, ending this evening with something of a family reunion at Windsor Castle.
Mr Gardner said of their phone calls: “We talked about our children and she asked about holidays and I said Italy was my favourite place and I talked about my love of pasta.
“She asked if I owned a pasta machine and I said: ‘No, love’ – I used that real Yorkshire phrase.
It was “just ordinary talk after the first sentence,” he explained, “which was ‘how do I address you?’, because I like to do things right. She said ‘just call me Catherine’.”
“So I did.”
He also revealed that the Duchess had sent him a gift. “Four days later a brand new pasta machine arrived along with two kilos of Italian flour. We’ve eaten it, of course.
“Every time we have pasta now it’s called royal pasta. It tastes different somehow.”
Len met the couple back at his home in the village of Batley, a few miles south of Leeds, and brought wife Shirley outside to meet them – the Royals walking down their street with a brass band!
Gardner said the couple seemed “very interested in people and that’s a very good thing, especially with the virus at the moment”.
“To come out to a place like this and talk to people like us, it’s wonderful.”
A first meeting in person for The Duchess of Cambridge and Len Gardner, who The Duchess has spoken to previously as part of the NHS Volunteer Responder ‘Check-in and Chat’ scheme.
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) December 7, 2020
The pair swapped gifts from a safe distance outside the Gardners’ home.
Len made sure to try to keep in touch. He commented: “They are such busy people but I just said ‘would it be alright if I write to you again, if I drop you a line every now and again?’ and she said ‘I’d be thrilled to bits because I’m delighted to read your letters’.”