A Good Home

What to Send My 84 Year-Old Uncle?

Even the funny birthday song I normally inflict on loved ones didn’t seem to cheer my uncle when I called him in London, England last week.  He usually laughs loudly as I croak and warble my way through it in a fake British accent.

Because of the COVID lockdown, Uncle G. was spending his 84th birthday entirely alone this year.  His two beloved brothers could not visit and he couldn’t leave his flat.

Loneliness and sorrow sounded in his voice.

I screwed up my courage to ask something I’d hesitated about.

“Uncle G,” I said. “I wanted to send you flowers but wasn’t sure you’d want that.”

“Good thing you didn’t,” he replied promptly. “I’m not one for bouquets.”

“Or maybe money.  Or… a hamper of food and goodies!” I ended, sounding slightly desperate.

“The hamper,” he said immediately, his voice brightening up. “I’d like the hamper.”

“Anything special you’d like?”

“Let me see… I like Canadian cheese. Aged cheddar.”

Success! I thought. I had finally asked the question and received an answer!

2 years ago, my British cousins had sent our family a huge Christmas wicker hamper filled with fine foods from Fortnum & Mason, the British company famous for their food hampers since the 1700’s.  That’s what gave me the idea. So I searched first for Canadian companies who deliver gift hampers overseas, but their stock had been depleted by the Christmas holidays and pandemic lockdowns.

Hmmm. What do to?

Back to Fortnum & Mason.  Their hampers didn’t include Canadian cheese, but there were some good aged cheddars.

The Winter Feast Hamper

It would have to do.

Once I got going, selecting a hamper for my beloved uncle became an adventure.  There were so many to choose from, and no single (affordable) package included all the items I wanted.  

The Anniversary Hamper

On F & M’s chat line, I met “Stephanie”, who guided me through the process with ease.  Turns out I could send the basket I selected and additional items. 

The bill was adding up, though – and that was before converting the hefty British pound to Canadian dollars. (1 pound = $1.73 Canadian.) 

The phone rang – my sister checking in. “How are you?”

“I’m putting together a birthday gift hamper for Uncle G,” I said. “Can’t believe how much fun I’m having.”

“What a great idea,” she replied. “I’ve been wanting to send him something. Okay if I contribute?” she asked.

“Of course,” I replied.

“Maybe the other siblings will want to contribute too. Just let us know how much.”

“Okay!” I said, feeling even happier. This was going to be a birthday gift from not just my branch of the family, but the others as well.  Together, we could afford a hamper with aged cheddar, wine, a small ham, smoked salmon, crackers, biscuits, tea and preserves of various kinds and a few condiments too.

The Fortnum's Foodhall Hamper

Two boxes arrived at my uncle’s flat in London, just 5 days after I made the order – fast delivery during a pandemic lockdown.

“Thank you very much,” he said on the phone. “Please tell everyone I said ‘Thanks and God bless’.”

“I will, Uncle G,” I replied. “I took a few chances. Wasn’t sure if you eat ham or smoked salmon…” 

“I like both ham and smoked salmon very much,” he quickly replied. “I put them in the fridge right away.”

“I’m sorry we couldn’t send Canadian cheese,” I apologized.

“Everything you sent will be eaten and enjoyed,” he assured me. “There’s nothing you sent that I don’t eat – or drink.” 

Best of all? The excitement in my uncle’s voice. It filled my heart with joy. And when I passed on his message to my siblings, they were happy too.

61 thoughts on “What to Send My 84 Year-Old Uncle?”

      1. Of course. We Canadians were too. Yesterday, despite lingering threats in your country, was an emphatic turning of the page. Looking back, the past 4 years and even Jan 6 seem incredible.

  1. Great idea! I can just imagine his thrill to have those parcels to open and the surprises coming out of them. Over the years we have used hampers for both very special and just occasionally for very sad occasions. When a dear friend became clinically depressed we felt that a ‘Happy’ birthday card would feel cruel, but a small hamper made at least an unexpected event. I am sure you will have given your uncle a big lift and a sense of being surrounded by family, not to mention something in the fridge that was new and different and that he did not have to order online.

    1. And he does not order things online so he wouldn’t even have done that, Hilary. You’re right: it gave him a thrill and if he’s at all like me, he will get a thrill whenever he rummages through the other goodies in that hamper.
      What a good thing you did for your dear friend. Sending a hamper is really a good idea.

  2. A gift that will keep on giving. The hamper will be useful too. Great story. It sometimes take just the right thought to bring untold pleasure to both the sender and the receiver.

    1. It is sad, and after a lifetime taking trains and buses to explore various parts of the UK, he can’t do that anymore, so doubly isolating for him. His brothers visit often, but not now.

      1. Thank you. He is a “coper” so that’s why I knew immediately that he was having a sad birthday and the isolation had gotten to him. But he’s been in a great mood since!

    1. He did, Fran. We had all called on his birthday, especially because he has no children of his own and has been close to us our entire lives. Turns out each of us wanted to do something but didn’t know what to do.

  3. I really e joyed this story
    I think hampers are a great present idea in the lockdown.
    I was born and brought up on the UK and my husband and I had a meal at a Fortnum and Mason. Restaurant. It was very nice.

  4. An excellent achievement. A couple of late friends of ours sent Fortnum and Mason hampers for a number of Christmases. The last has become a toy box for visiting infants. We still have a small unopened bottle of vodka.

    1. I’m glad you got some from dear friends over the years, Derrick. They are such a lovely gift to receive — including the reusable hamper. I still have a jar of horse radish, one of mustard, and one of strawberry preserve still to open, but we finally finished off a few other things over the holidays. So many little things to open and taste.

  5. That is a really good gift idea and luckily you found a place in England that could fill your order. I started sending “disposable” gift to my elderly relatives. I actually sent my children a similar gift this year, as we would not be together nor could they go to any holiday parties. They had a little gourmet celebration while they watched Christmas movies.

    1. Excellent! I hope my uncle will have a few little gourmet celebrations too, even if alone. Now that I’ve sent him a hamper, I’m acting as if I discovered hampers – haha – so it’s so good to hear your and other stories of sending such gifts.

  6. I enjoyed your post , Cynthia . I imagined the pleasure of your uncle to receive this gift composed and sent by his nieces. The photos are speaking . what a delight!
    A very positive post!
    Love ❤
    Michel

  7. I loved reading this and it lifted my heart as I did. The lack of companionship while we try to beat back this horrible virus is the thing most of us miss. I’m so fortunate that my daughter lives with me and works from home. Books and a plethora of hobbies keeps my mind sharp and the television off more than on. A daily walk up and down my streets here allow a bit of conversation with other walkers on the other side of the road. I love the hamper idea but the are really expensive. I have often sent an aunt in Australia flowers for special days and order them through her local florist online. You have given me another idea now. I’ll check with my cousin and see what I might send her in the food way. She will be 90 in August. Thanks so much for sharing your sweet story.

    1. You are welcome. It really helped me to share the expense with my relatives. But I think food – whether a big hamper or just a box of foodstuff – is always appreciated.

  8. I don’t think you can go wrong with a good food basket, for any age, Cynthia. We live a few miles form Harry and Davids home operation. You can bet a number of our relatives get packages from there. We take visitors on tours of their plant. Always interesting. Yesterday I was at there company store resupplying my dark chocolate truffles. Mmmm, are they good. I allow myself one per night. Glad to hear you made your uncle happy. No flowers. Send food— and alcohol. 🙂 –Curt

  9. Oh, I love this story! I am sure he felt the love and continues to as he munches his way through that hamper. You’re a blessing once again, Cynthia:). No surprise.

    1. Thanks, K. He’s a blessing to us younger ones, and though we haven’t seen him in many years, we are in close touch. A good man, brilliant writer of essays, etc. and a loving uncle.

  10. I love Fortnum’s (I am completely addicted to their lemon curd, and always order two more jars as soon as I open my last one to make sure I never run out, especially now that I can’t just pop up to Piccadilly when I need some), and I’m sure your lovely gift was very much appreciated! In fact, I sent my family a hamper this Christmas too, since I couldn’t be there with them this year, but I left it a bit late, not realising that Fortnum’s had discontinued their custom hamper service until after Christmas, so I had to order chocolates and preserves and things from Fortnum’s and the basket from somewhere else and assemble it all myself before shipping, since my family are too picky to have wanted any of the selections Fortnum’s puts together. Bit more of a faff than being able to order directly from Fortnum’s and let them deal with the packaging and shipping, but it was well-received in the end, just like your gift!

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