By Bejay Browne
A GROUP of singles in Paphos is extending the hand of friendship to people in the district who may be feeling lonely after being widowed, separated or divorced.
Initiated by British expat, Brian Hobbs, 72, following the unexpected death of his much loved wife, Jean, three and a half years ago, the group of ten or so friends meet on a weekly basis for meals and outings.
Hobbs has lived in Tala in Paphos for the past six and a half years and said he felt isolated and lonely following his wife’s death.
“My wife Jean passed away unexpectedly and we had friends here, but they were comparatively new,” said the ex sales manager and director. “I considered going back to the UK, but my family are scattered all over the place, I don’t own a home there and I questioned what would I be going back to.”
Finding his feelings of loneliness overwhelming, the Tala resident was spurred to write a letter to a local Paphos newspaper, expressing his feelings and asking people in similar situations to get in touch.
“I spent a great deal of time on my own, so I sent in a letter, I got over 40 phone calls from people all over the Paphos region following its publication. We decided to meet up and talk about what we wanted to do.”
Although most of Hobbs’ new group of friends are widowed, a number are divorced and they provide each other with invaluable support and companionship.
“When you are in a relationship, you tend to go out as a couple with other couples, or in a group,” he said. “When you are left on your own, initially people are sympathetic and you get invited out, but you feel a bit like a spare part. Then the invites dry up.”
Hobbs says that people invariably need someone to talk to following a death of a partner, or a relationship ending, adding that most people in this situation in Paphos are of ‘a certain age’ and most don’t have family members living in Cyprus.
“There is no one to unburden yourself to, such as your children. It’s easier to talk to someone who has been through or is experiencing what you went going through .There is different stages of emotions involved when you lose someone either through death or divorce, not least anger.”
The widower said that the support and understanding of the women in the group has been particularly helpful, as they are by nature, more empathetic than men.
“Generally, men don’t seem to know what to say when you’ve lost a partner, as they get embarrassed. If you mention their name, they tend to change the subject,” he said.
“But I want to talk about my wife. She was the biggest part of my life. I have been in situations before, when you feel out of place, as if you shouldn’t be there.”
But he says that has all changed since he has found his new friends.
He explained there were about ten of them who meet up on a regular basis and go out for walks and meals. The friends are eager for more people to join.
Hobbs stressed that the initiative is not a dating or singles club, saying that it is solely for people who want companionship and to make friends. The group is made up of both sexes and from a variety of backgrounds.
“People who didn’t know each other a few months ago are firm friends. We look out for each other and give each other support.”
The group is informal; there is no joining fee or subscription as it is not a club, association or dating agency.
Since last October the friends have met up each Saturday to go out in Paphos for a meal. “We are trying to build up a list of our favourite restaurants and we like to try new ones. It’s also a very good way of getting to know the area.”
The group has also enjoyed a long weekend at Cape Greko, a boat trip, ten pin bowling and mini golf.
“We just need enough people to make it worthwhile.”
Hobbs pointed out that during this time of year many British ex pats disappear back to the UK to escape the heat and so numbers have dwindled to a handful.
“Our group of friends vary in age from their 50s and upwards. We would like a few more people to join us as we will be able to do more. For example, you get more favourable deals on hotel bookings, if there are more of you.”
Hobbs explained that though he was married for fifty years, he was still unprepared for his wife’s death.
“The first year was really bad. You have to become accustomed to living on your own, I found that very difficult at first, but it gets easier.”
He said he had found being single during the winter months the hardest as in the summer there is more to do, and the evenings are warm and light.
“In the winter, being on your own is more isolating as you are inside by 4.30pm.The evenings are long and drawn out.”
He said people cope in different ways with death and divorce. Some have counselling, but he never felt that was for him.
Instead, in addition to his group activities, he visits Ayios Neofytos monastery in Tala twice a week to light a candle for his wife.
“This helps me a lot,” he said.
Brian Hobbs 96625337