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Don’t spend Christmas alone – call in for a hug | UK | News UK News

Around two million pensioners say they wish they had someone to share December 25 with.

And there are a further million people who cannot get home to loved ones for work reasons.

But for those near Twickenham, South-West London, the kindness of strangers means they need not be alone.

Shashi and Pallu Patel’s decision to sacrifice their only day off means the Meet And Deep Newsagents will be somewhere the lonely know they are assured a warm welcome.

And no purchase is required.

Shashi, 64, who has owned the newsagents for 40 years, said: “One Christmas Day, around 20 years ago, someone knocked on our shutters. He was crying and was desperate to call his mother who lived abroad, but had no phone card. So of course we let him in.”

It was Pallu who realised what needed to be done. “She said there are too many people watching
the telly alone on Christmas Day,” Shashi said. “She suggested we open to welcome them for a chat.”

Hundreds now gather at the small shop, added son Deepen.

“As soon as they come in we offer them mince pies and a hug – and that’s when people realise they are not alone,” the 26-year-old added.

“The only obligation is a hug. We know how a hug can be powerful. It transcends language.”

And it isn’t just pensioners who avail themselves of this bit of Christmas cheer.

“There are a lot of younger people who find themselves on their own over Christmas,” said Deepen.

“Maybe they work in London but their families live far away and they didn’t manage to get back because they’re nurses or carers.”

And wealth is certainly no barrier to loneliness.

Deepen added: “One guy told us, ‘I have everything. I have an eight-bedroom mansion and all the food I could want, but I don’t have anyone to talk to’. He stayed with us for most of the day.”

As well as mince pies, a Patel family favourite is on the menu.

“We have Christmas samosas and masala chai tea made with our great-grandmother’s recipe, and it goes down very well,” Deepen said. “Last year we got through 300 samosas.”

The Patels have started a nightly phone session between 6-8pm for those who just want to chat.

“There are some people who call us every day, asking if we have something or other in store,” Deepen added.

“But really they just want to have a bit of a chat.”

Kate Jopling, of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “There are many people who don’t get that ‘picture perfect’ Christmas, and who just want a bit of connection on a difficult day.

“Businesses have a critical role to play every day in making communities places to belong, but on Christmas Day it’s even more special to see initiatives like these.”

Contact Meet and Deep via email at

Or call 020 8894 7673

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This notice was published: 2023-12-16 19:01:00

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