ABOUT 100 elderly people got into the Christmas spirit by enjoying a free lunch courtesy of a village pub.
Staff at the White Hart pub, in Denmead, laid on a festive banquet for pensioners who might otherwise be alone over the Christmas period.
The group were treated to a free buffet meal, wine and festive songs on Monday.
Among those enjoying lunch was Rosemary Crichton, from Denmead.
The 67-year-old said: ‘It is a lovely day, it’s been wonderful.
‘It’s good to get together with so many people.
Elsie Burtenshaw, 89, from Denmead, added: ‘When I am at home I am on my own most of the time, so I thought I would come along.
‘I could never have dreamt that I would be coming to something like this.’
Many of those at the event were collected and taken home for free in minibuses, with drivers giving up their time to help.
Entertainment included live music and a raffle, with each guest handed a ticket as they arrived.
Eighty-seven-year-old Mollie Gould, a nursing home resident, said: ‘It’s a good idea. We were all told we would get a lunch and music, and there would be Christmas carols later.’
For Steve and Julie Burridge, landlords of the Hambledon Road pub, Monday was the first time they had held a free lunch for such a large group.
Steve said: ‘It’s about getting the elderly people, who might be on their own over Christmas, to meet people they might not know and chat to them.
‘A lot of these people have family but they can still meet people here, that was the idea.
‘It has been as successful as we thought it would be.’
Julie added: ‘We had one lady ring up on Sunday night and say her friend was ill and couldn’t come, and she said she wasn’t sure if she would be here.
‘But we said you wouldn’t be sitting on your own, and luckily she came.’
Many of those who attended were referred by churches in the Waterlooville area, by GPs and nursing homes.
Others were invited to ring the pub and reserve one of the 100 places available, letting staff know if they required transport to and from the pub.
The food included turkey with all the trimmings, a full range of festive vegetables and a Christmas pudding for dessert.
Staff were also on hand to serve wine for guests as they chatted and listened to the live music.