Ralph*, 74, has had four heart operations, depends on a scooter for mobility and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease four years ago. But when he opens up to his Golden Years befriender Rafal, another man and another life is revealed.
A talented guitarist who performed in numerous clubs and venues across Scotland alongside some of the top names in the world of pop and dance music in the 1960s and 70s, Ralph enjoyed a successful double life, playing to packed audiences every night while driving a truck during the day.
Ralph now comes along to our GameChanger lunch held weekly at the Hibs Football club with his befriender, Rafal. As a befriender, Rafal offers companionship and supports Ralph to get out and about in the community, as without someone to take him out he is confined to staying home alone in his sheltered housing in Granton.
“I started playing guitar when I was 14,” says Ralph, “and I joined my first band at 16. I had no idea that you could earn money from playing but we were asked to do a wee spot during the interval at the local bingo hall and after about 20 minutes the manager pulled out a roll of notes and gave us £10 each. I couldn’t believe it as my dad was earning £10 a week at that stage and I was on £2.50 for five and a half days.”
Born and raised in Edinburgh, Ralph was the proud owner of a 1959 Gibson SG guitar which was his trusty instrument in the days he played with stars such as Scottish jazz and blues musician Tam White and the American singer Memphis Slim.
Sadly, Ralph’s marriage broke down in 1986, he lost contact with his two sons, gave up playing and even sold his beloved guitar. Now Ralph occasionally listens to his old CDs and likes to watch BBC4 on Friday nights when bands from the 1960s are featured.
Through support from Rafal to attend social functions like the Gamechanger lunch, Ralph enjoys meeting other people from the community, enjoying a meal and a natter. Cyrenians ethos of “something to eat, and someone to eat it with” is replicated across all 17 of their Community Cook Clubs across Edinburgh and the Lothians offering a free nutritious meal whilst bringing people together to combat loneliness and create new friendships.
After the three course lunch at Hibs, Ralph and his befriender were going shopping for a new leather jacket for Ralph. “The one I have now has fallen to bits,” explained Ralph with a sideways grin. Old habits die hard.
We’re always looking for volunteer befrienders. If you’re interested in helping us support older individuals overcome social isolation please get in touch. Visit cyrenians.scot/goldenyears