Pen-pals to keep isolated Grammy company

Tiffanie Turnbull

An international network of pen-pals, co-ordinated from Sydney, has banded together to make sure a UK grandmother doesn't get lonely in isolation - proving not everyone is busy brawling over loo rolls.

Avril Heatlie, known better as "Grammy", usually thrives by having a kitchen full of relatives drinking tea, chatting with the milkman, visiting her local butcher or going to church.

But self-isolation to stop the spread of COVID-19 means all that has ceased and the 88-year-old won't be leaving her Lincolnshire home for months.

Writers from around the world are now penning letters to make sure she finds a little bit of happiness in her letterbox each morning.

Her Sydney-based grand-daughter, Beck Tidswell, couldn't bear the thought of her grandmother becoming lonely so put a call out on Facebook for people to write to her "old school" Grammy.

The lawyer expected one or two people to agree but instead has convinced colleagues, old friends, other elderly people locked down in Spain and even strangers to pick up a pen.

"I just thought maybe a couple of close friends would be like, 'Oh yeah, we'll send something', and then when I got so many responses I was just absolutely shocked," Ms Tidswell told AAP on Friday.

"Grammy's pretty excited. I don't think she understands the scale of it yet - she's probably just expecting one or two letters."

The display of kindness from strangers should be a lifeline for her scared and stressed Grammy, Ms Tidswell said.

When she normally visits England for Christmas her grandma's house is full of relatives in the morning at tea time.

"The fact that she hasn't got that going on now is really stressful for her," Ms Tidswell said.

As one of the children evacuated to the English countryside during World War II, Grammy is no stranger to having to "bunker down".

"But it doesn't make it any less distressing because she just feels like the one thing that is a constant in her life at the moment is family and not being able to spend time with them makes it really tough," Ms Tidswell said.

The huge response to her Facebook post has shocked Ms Tidswell, who believes her Grammy's situation has resonated with people around the world.

Grammy Heatlie has never left the UK but will find souvenirs from across the globe in her letterbox within days.

"She is a typical old grandma so she's quite nosy and she loves finding out new things and hearing about different places," Ms Tidswell said.

"The postman popping something through the letterbox is going to be a nice thing for her each day."

People wanting to write to Avril Heatlie can email postcardstogrammy@gmail.com.