Members of St. Margaret’s Hospice’s carer support groups got together to enjoy a Christmas lunch at Quantock House in Holford, near Bridgwater.

Those reunited at the festive ‘bring and share’ lunch had all completed a cooking course led by Macmillan Quantock House coordinator Barbara Ruff.

The monthly class was an opportunity for both carers and people who are adjusting to living on their own after bereavement to learn new skills in the kitchen. But equally importantly, for many it was a chance to meet people in a similar situation and make new friends.

Derek Slack, from West Porlock, said:

“St. Margaret’s has been a lifeline, not only for me but for many other people.”

Derek’s wife Rita was cared for by community nurse specialist Angie Hayes. Since she passed away in August 2016, Derek said the support he has received from St. Margaret’s has been invaluable.

“They have been there for us 24/7, right from the outset,” he said. “Even now that support is just a phone call away.

“It’s fantastic. It’s a shame they don’t get enough funding from the Government.

“I have done the cooking group and a bereavement course, which was very useful. There were 10 of us on the course, which ran for eight weeks, and we are all still friends. We meet up about once a month.

“We are all in the same boat. These people have all lost husbands, wives or partners. Unless you have experienced something like this, people don’t realise what it’s like. It’s something you put on the backburner and don’t want to talk about.

“I have lost my wife but I have gained so many friends through St. Margaret’s. Words can’t describe what a difference the charity makes. The course has finished but they are still here for people. That’s the lovely part about it.”

Tasty dishes rustled up at the monthly cooking classes included beef stew, fishcakes, cottage pie and cheese scones, which participants were able to take home with them. For carers, the sessions can be a welcome break and a chance to share their experiences with others.

Ivan Sperduti, from Bishops Lydeard, said that as well as learning practical cookery skills, it was good to meet people who all had something in common.

“When I was diagnosed with cancer it was like a bereavement,” he said. “My friends and family didn’t know what to say.

“This group is different because you are talking to people in a similar position. I would definitely recommend it.

“I have just signed up to be a volunteer for St. Margaret’s because I want to give something back.”

For more information about carer support groups, please click here