This week, Kate and Prince William embarked on a tour of the UK ahead of Christmas to pay tribute to the work of individuals and organisations that have gone above and beyond amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, the royals made a special stop in Batley, West Yorkshire, to meet full-time carer Len Gardner, 85, and his wife Shirley, 84.
Accompanied by a brass band, Kate and William walked to Mr Gardner's house, where he helped his wife, who has dementia, to come outside. The two couples stood chatting and even had a dance as the band played.
The duchess and Mr Gardner first started speaking over the phone in May while the Cambridges and their children were in lockdown at their country estate in Anmer Hall, Norfolk.
During an interview with The Sun, Mr Gardner, who is recovering from an operation for bladder cancer, said the first question he asked Kate was how to address her, to which she replied: “Call me Catherine.”
“After the first two sentences I didn’t feel like I was talking to someone so important,” Mr Gardner said. “She told me Prince George and Princess Charlotte were playing in the garden and she was keeping an eye on them through the window.”
The former textile-industry worker said he spoke to the duchess for 30 minutes and told her how much he loved Italian food but couldn’t make his own pasta because he didn’t have a machine or the right flour.
“About three days after our conversation, a brand new pasta machine arrived from the duchess. Two days later I got two kilos of ‘00’ (the Italian grading system) flour from Buckingham Palace,” Mr Gardner said.
“I can tell you, this lady you see on television that goes into the crowds and talks to people — what you see is what you get. She is a very, very nice person.”
The pensioner wrote a letter thanking the duchess, and framed her response on his wall above a letter he received from the Queen for his 60th anniversary with his wife in 2018.
A month later, Kate called Mr Gardner again and told him she took Princess Charlotte and Prince George to the sheds in Sandringham to see how wool is made from sheep. He said his conversations with the royal helped him cope through the quarantine and are something he would treasure “for the rest of his life”.
“Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be talking on the phone to the future Queen of England,” Mr Gardner said.
“I will treasure our conversations for the rest of my life. Those calls helped me because they gave me something to look forward to.”
The duo were put in touch by the Royal Voluntary Service, which recruited more than 500,000 volunteers over lockdown.
Catherine Johnstone, CEO of the Royal Voluntary Service, said: “We are incredibly grateful to The Duchess of Cambridge for kindly supporting the NHS Volunteer Responders programme.
“Her ‘check-in-and-chat’ call to Len has meant the world to him. It’s so important to highlight the power of conversation… you really can make someone’s day.”
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