Lonely Sutton pensioner overwhelmed after getting Christmas cards from across the world
A pensioner who has spent Christmas alone for years has been inundated by cards after his story captured the hearts of people all over the world.
Sutton man James Gray, 85, said he can not remember the last time the spent Christmas in company but is preparing to spend the big day with new friends after his pleas tugged on the heartstrings of thousands of people.
Retired butler Mr Gray, originally from Cork in Ireland, has spent Christmas and his birthday alone for the last nine years.
Last Christmas he said he had prawns and smoked salmon for Christmas dinner at the kitchen table before turning to his television and a newspaper for company.
But this year he decided to put an end to his loneliness and took out an advert in the Irish Post, a newspaper for the Irish community in England.
In the advert he asked for people to get in touch to spend Christmas day together at the Holiday Inn in Sutton but he only got one reply and that person ended up cancelling on him.
However, word of Mr Gray's plight spread and he has been featured in newspapers and television shows all over the world.
As a result he has already received more than 300 Christmas cards from as far afield as Copenhagen, Vienna and Geneva and will be spending Christmas day in Sutton with three other people.
He told the Sutton Guardian: "I just wanted to find someone to have Christmas dinner with.
"I cannot remember the last time I sat down to Christmas dinner with someone. I have just had to put up with that.
"This time of year is so hard if you are old and alone because it feels like everybody else around you is enjoying themselves.
"This response is overwhelming. When I took out my advert, I thought I might get a couple of quick calls.
"But now I can see that all these people have gone to the trouble of writing and I never expected anything like that.
"I wish I had done this years ago, but it is never too late I suppose.
"I’m just so grateful that people went to the effort of writing to me. Opening these cards will keep me busy until the New Year."
Many older people find themselves alone at Christmas and organisations including Sutton Council and Age UK are appealing for people to make sure they are safe and warm.
Marion Harper of Age UK Sutton said: "We want people to keep warm and well this winter in their own homes and not in hospital. Year long, we should think of our elderly neighbours. Why not pop in and see them and check they're ok?"
To find out more about what you can do for Age UK in Sutton call 020 8770 6959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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