OV Pen Pals - Even more letters

OV Pen Pals have been exchanging letters, stories and poems inspired by Giving Tuesday and The Old Vic’s production of A Christmas Carol.

After a rather isolating year, we invite people to connect through our Pen Pal scheme, which matches primary school children with people aged 60+. If you are aged 60+ or know someone who is eligible, sign up to our OV Pen Pal scheme today and we will match you with a primary school child to connect and share stories, both personal and creative.

Pen pals are set creative challenges every two weeks to complete alongside one another, and the next creative challenge will be set in the new year.

Over Christmas we set Pen Pals the challenge to write a story about giving. Take a look below at some of the stories that were shared.


Christmas Giving Story

Written by one of our community member Pen Pals

Many years ago in the UK rich people with big houses had servants worked very hard, often with only a half day off every two weeks. They weren’t paid very well but had their room and board (meaning they were housed and fed). There would be a Butler and a Housekeeper, who were the ones in charge, a cook, a kitchen maid (to help the cook) and two or three maids who had different jobs in the household. There might also be a footman for the carriage, a lady’s maid for the mistress of the house and a valet to look after the master.

The Butler and Housekeeper would have rooms or even small apartments in the basement of the property. The other servants usually lived in small rooms at the top of the house and they would get up before the family and go to bed after the family, so had a long working day. This doesn’t mean they were treated badly and many servants were regarded almost as part of the family and even looked after when they retired.

It was traditional for the servants to be given the whole day off after Christmas so they could visit their families. In some households if the servants didn’t go away, the masters would serve them for the day.

Part of the tradition was for the family to give the servants gifts, not on Christmas Day but the day after. Presents were put in boxes for the servants to open and presents were also boxed up to be given to the poor. So 26th December became known as ‘Boxing’ Day.

In the UK Boxing Day is now a national holiday so we have two days off at Christmas and I always think it’s a nice way to remember the day that was given to hard-working people and the masters who gave them gifts.


Christmas Story – Part One

Written by a student from Jubilee Primary School

Years and years ago, there was a man named Arthur. He absolutely hated Christmas. Since he was a child, he had been bossy. His father was a rich businessman and so was his father before him. Arthur’s father was a nice man, apart from when it came to business. Sometimes he didn’t pay his workers properly. Arthur’s mother didn’t have a job. She used to have one but she got tired of it and retired. She too, was a nice woman.

Arthur lived in a very rich town – Anamoia – and had no friends. He either hated someone or they hated him. Arthur always thought he was the best because he was rich. He bossed people around everyday and cared for no-one but himself. You might be wondering why did he hate Christmas? Well, you’ll find out soon.

Arthur was an only child until he was 6. When he heard he was going to get a brother, he was furious. Arthur knew his parents would love the child so much and thought they would forget about him completely. When his brother was born, he’d do anything to make his life torture. His brother’s name was Noah. Arthur was right. His parents did start to forget about him. That was when his life turned around.


Letter to a Pen Pal

Written by a student from Noel Park Primary

Dear Pen Pal,

Hope you are well.

Today, I am going to share with you a story about giving. I read about the cat man in Aleppo on the BBC. The cat man in Aleppo is called Mohammed Aljaleel. Many people fled the war in Syria and left their pets behind. The cat man has helped hundreds of cats and other animals (some dogs, a chicken, a fox and a horse). He feeds these animals and gets them medical help. I feel sad for the animals and the people in Aleppo, but I am also very happy that he gives these animals a sanctuary even though he lives in a dangerous place himself.

I look forward to reading your story soon!

Best regards


Giving Story

Written by a student from Allen Edwards Primary School

In March a sudden pandemic landed in Britain. Boris and his team weren’t very aware of this global crisis. Faith and her mum started a doorstep bake, with all sorts of goodies. They then went out with their protection (masks) and delivered the lovely goodies. With a little note to reassure them a note with and if they needed anything.


A Spell of Christmas Story

Written by one of our community member Pen Pals

I put my velvety red coat on and wrap myself up in my white scarf, bobble hat and my white woollen mittens. It‘s cold outside in The Garden of England where I live. The air is crisp and smells of snow. I leave the house and the suburban train is on time and brings me straight into the heart of London. Little frozen over lakes, meadows and wintery grass, trees with barely any leaves rushing past real fast. Closer to the Big City I get a glimpse of all the beautifully dressed Christmas trees in people’s homes.

I get off at Waterloo East. Down two flights of stairs and outside a one horse open sleigh is waiting for me. London in snow! I throw a snowball into the air and it lands on my face. I can taste the snow on my tongue. The horse takes me to a building with a big façade looking like on oversized white aniseed biscuit with chiselled ornaments.

At the side a yellow glass bauble lamp with ice on top has written Stage Door on it.

Then the blizzard stops. I can see it clearly now: it‘s The Old Vic!

An old man with golden shoulder tassels opens the main entrance door. A massive Christmas tree dominates the foyer. The fairy gives me a nod. A young woman in Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer gear takes my coat and things. I enter the theatre after a bell had rung.

Ah. All the velvety red seats. A variety of golden ornaments. Off the shimmering chandelier an elf is swinging above me – or is it?

The curtains fling open. Two old ladies come out dancing in music hall style, singing a cheeky cockney song. ‘Let ‘s all go down The Cut eh Strand, ‘ave a banana’. One little and round, the other tall and oblong, both swinging their legs rather high in perfect harmony. It ‘s a kind of magic. I clap and shout: ‘Bravo! Encore, encore! Dacapo!’

‘Mum, Mum! Wake up. It’s time!’

I hear my youngest daughter say.

‘The show is starting soon. Laetitia is already on Zoom.’

Now I remember. My oldest bought virtual tickets for A Christmas Carol for us from The Old Vic. We were to watch it together, face timing and I had promised to make mulled wine for us two here at home.

‘Mum, Glühwein!’

‘O gosh. Yes. Hello my darling over in Crystal Palace. You look lovely on screen with your antlers on.’

I quickly go to the bathroom to wash my face with cold water. Brrr. That woke me up. I must have fallen asleep what with the fire crackling and the chestnuts roasting.

Thankfully I have a bottle of ready made mulled wine so I just heat it up. Hmmm. I inhale the hot drinks’ fumes in a mug.

Nothing spells Christmas like the scent of cinnamon, cloves and star anise, don‘t you think?

‘I am ready!’

I shout from the kitchen.

‘Has everybody got their mince pies?’


I hear my daughters shout in unison, one on screen, one on the settee in the lounge.

‘Are you coming? A Christmas Carol is about to start.’

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