I recognised the voice and thought it was someone pulling my leg but it really was Esther Rantzen...and I nearly fell off my chair
Widow tells of surprise after broadcaster calls out of the blue
When the phone rang at Margaret Laverick’s sheltered housing cottage, the voice on the linesounded familiar.
The housebound 87-year-old widow had joined Esther Rantzen’s charity The Silver Line but hardly expected one of Britain’s best-known broadcasters to call in person.
But Margaret answered the call at her home in the Borders to find the former That’s Life star on the line.
The candid conversation she shared with the campaigning broadcaster was followed by others and has sparked a firm friendship. And now the pair plan to meet face to face for the first time in the New Year.
Melrose-based Margaret – who is helping The Silver Line mark its fifth birthday with a fundraising appeal, said: “When I got the call from Dame Esther Rantzen I nearly fell off my chair. I thought someone was pulling my leg, but as she continued to speak I realised it was really her. I couldn’t get over it. I thought why would she bother with me?”
The reason is clear to Dame Esther. Margaret – who suffers from agoraphobia and is afraid to leave her home – had for six years devotedly nursed her dementia sufferer husband Bill. When he tragically died in September, Margaret was left to face her first Christmas without the man she married 64 years ago.
Her family live far from her. She does not want to worry them and she does not complain. But the weekly phone calls she enjoys with her Silver
Line “friends” are her lifeline.
Bubbly Margaret said: “I’ve been getting calls through The Silver Line for about four years. We speak twice a week, each time for an hour and we really support each other. We understand what we each have been going through. We put the world to rights but we don’t grumble and complain. Nothing keeps me from my calls. They’re my lifeline.”
Dame Esther said she phoned the pensioner after receiving an eloquent letter of thanks from her.
The broadcaster explained: “Margaret wrote to The Silver Line saying what a difference it was making to her life.
“In her letter she wrote: ‘We oldies do still have lots to offer. At this stage in life it can be lonely. At times we seem to be regarded as second rate, a bit of a nuisance.’
“I thought that so summed-up how older people feel about being discarded by society.”
Dame Esther added: “I asked her what her dream was when she was young and she said to be a ballet dancer. And then I asked her what her dream was now and she said ‘To go to bed and die peacefully in my sleep.’
“It’s horrific that somebody who has been so stalwart and looked after her husband for six years should have nothing in her life to look forward to.
“I find her determination, her stoicism and courage an inspiration. I wish I could live up to her example. Margaret proves that The Silver Line transforms lives. It just makes me all the more determined to try to make sure it is there for good.”
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‘ Margaret’s stoicism and courage is a real inspiration
Margaret Laverick, at home in the Borders last week, left, and on her wedding day with late husband Bill