THE Press headline shocked and saddened me. ‘York’s Spurriergate Centre has suddenly closed.’

Memories of February 1994 returned. I had moved to York from Buckinghamshire in January 1994 and remarried.

I knew nowhere and no-one, other than my new husband, who had unexpectedly relocated in the previous October. My daughter had married and moved to Belfast and my son was studying in Kent.

I left 20 years of friendships and an excellent job with Waitrose, a supermarket which didn’t arrive in York for another sixteen years. Due to its absence, my working life changed beyond my imagination.

I allowed myself two weeks to settle in before looking for work. Deciding to find an agency for reception work I looked in Yellow Pages. Turning to 'agencies', the top box advertisement was for York Nannies and Nurses. Bingo! As a trained nursery nurse I begun a busy life caring for children all over the city and environs.

This culminated in life-changing work at The Retreat Psychiatric Hospital, helping a mother with a new baby. Six years

later I qualified as a psychotherapist and opened a practice in York.

But I digress.

In the first few months of 1994, my husband was at work and I had little interaction with other adults. My greatest concern was that in a personal emergency, who could I talk to in York? Who would listen? One day, walking around the city, I found The Spurriergate Centre. Entering, I had a coffee, a delicious piece of cake and sat at a table with a stranger. The jigsaw of my

new life was now complete. I felt at ease, as I had met people who would have time to listen if I needed them. I also went to the library and found out about groups I could join and in time made new friends.

The internet makes such a life change easier these days, but one to one personal contact is important. Hence the new ‘Chat and Natter ‘ initiative in some Costa cafes, for people on their own who need to connect with another person.

A recent letter in The Press from the trustees, says that some of the services at Spurriergate are still available. That is good news.

Rita Leaman is a psychotherapist and writes as Alison R Russell

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