The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were left in stitches today during a face-to-face meeting with care home residents they had entertained as virtual bingo callers during lockdown.
Prince William and Kate, both 38, were visiting Shire Hall Care Home in Cardiff three months after speaking to staff and residents via video link and calling out the numbers for their weekly bingo session.
READ: Prince William and Kate Middleton surprise locals on Barry Island in first joint engagement after lockdown
WATCH: William and Kate visit Shire Hall Care Home
Introduced to Joan Drew-Smith, 87, who made headlines in May when she said the royal bingo game "wasn't as good as it should have been", the Duke said: "Hello Joan, do you remember we did the bingo with you? You said we weren't very good!"
“Yes,” she replied. "You did a bloody s****y job."
The royal couple, briefly taken aback by her blunt assessment, roared with laughter. But they got a kinder response from fellow resident Margaret Stocks, 95, winner of the virtual game. "I did enjoy it," she told them. "I hadn't played it before."
"Neither had we!" replied the Duchess. "That's why we were so bad!"
"We enjoyed it just as much as you did," William said. "It was a new experience for us."
William and Kate played virtual bingo with the residents in May
William and Kate both sported Amaia masks during the visit to the care home's garden, making it tricky to make themselves heard at times. The Duke, wearing a blue fabric face covering, told Joan: "We have to wear masks because of the virus, but it’s difficult to hear sometimes when you can't see someone’s mouth."
"Is that your assistant?" Joan asked him, pointing at Kate.
"Well I am your assistant," laughed Kate, putting a hand on her husband's shoulder. "I have been for a long time!"
The meeting took place in a marquee set up for afternoon team just as the heavens opened. "We timed it right!” said the Duke, who later told staff: "I love Joan, she's brilliant. If only everyone was as honest as her."
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William and Kate got to meet the residents in person
Earlier William and Kate met Pamela Davies, 82, and her daughter Sally at the outdoor bar area, where they heard how they had stayed in touch while unable to see each other in person at the start of lockdown.
Sally told them: "We just had to adapt and do it all by phone or video calls." Mother and daughter also used the Rels App, an app specially developed for Hallmark Care Homes which allows residents and relatives to send each other pictures, videos, music and memories, helping to bring families together when they were unable to visit the home.
"How are the children?" Pamela asked. "They are very well, thank you," said Kate. "They were very upset not to have been here with us."
"We went to an arcade in Barry Island," said William. "The children would have enjoyed that."
Kate and William had fun in Barry Island's iconic amusement arcade
Pamela told the royal visitors about Shire Hall, saying: “It’s very homely, the people who live here are very nice. The food is good!"
"Is there a reason we are meeting at the bar?" asked the Duke.
"Mum does like a little tipple on special occasions," Sally told him and he laughed on hearing that her drink of choice is John Smiths bitter. At one point the breeze set off wind chimes nearby and Pamela told them she couldn't hear.
"The masks don't help," said William. "I always get told off for mumbling anyway," laughed Kate. "And now with masks on you can't see anyone’s mouth."
As they moved on to meet more residents, they wished Pamela a happy birthday for 18 August and the Duchess added: "Sorry for our poor bingo skills!"
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The couple admired the home's garden during their visit
The couple also chatted to Arthur Hobbs, 86, and his wife Brenda, 79, who is a resident at the home. Husband and wife were unable to see each other in person for nearly four months, but can now meet in the garden for 30 minutes at a time at least once a week. "It must have been so hard during lockdown not having that face-to-face contact," the Duchess sympathised.
Told they had been to Barry Island, Arthur asked: "Did you have a paddle in the sea?"
"No, we didn’t bring our bathers!" replied the Duke. "Next time!"
William and Kate were impressed by Shire Hall’s pretty garden, which features a bug hotel, hedgehog house, rabbit pen and a pond with Koi carp. They were shown a small memorial garden area, planted with flowers and trees from relatives of former residents and a painted Tree of Life on a wall before stopping to admire the vegetable patch.
"I love all the fruit and veg!" the Duchess told Sheila Charles, Lifestyles Lead at the home. Told residents take part in the gardening, she said: "We are huge advocates for the outdoors – for all our lives and all generations." Admiring the strawberry plants, the Duke said: "We have had loads this year, the raspberries are just coming too."
William and Kate had visited Barry Island earlier in the day
The royal couple also met senior care assistant Harriet Boobyer, Shire Hall’s dementia care coordinator and chef Carys Davies, who they had previously spoken to on the video call in May. "I'm sure you weren't expecting to see us again quite so soon!" said William. "We were in the area so we thought we would pop in."
"How is everybody doing?" asked Kate. "Has it made a big difference having a new visiting area?"
“It’s really helped the residents and their families. Now they can see people face to face it's really brightened them up."
"How are you guys all feeling?" asked William. "Exhausted? A bit frazzled?"
"It has been a blessing really, being able to come to work every day,” replied Harriet. “We are all like a big family here and we support each other."
Before leaving the couple were presented with a box of cakes to take home and gifts including a traditional carved wooden lovespoon, a rugby ball, a soft toy dragon and a cuddly sheep. General Manager Karen Grapes said afterwards: "It was amazing, you can imagine. I was nervous enough before the Zoom meeting but they were just so lovely. William said he could do with a Joan in his life. It has been such a hard couple of months, it has been great for them to boost our morale."
She said residents were told about the royal visit at 7.30am, adding: "It has had a sort of street party effect – they have the flags and bunting out."
Shire Hall provides residential, nursing and dementia care and is part of Hallmark Care Homes, a family-run care provider with 20 care homes across England and Wales.
Ram Goyal, managing director of Hallmark Care Homes, said: "People have gone through a lot over the past few months so it’s been lovely for them to come here. It's really lifted the whole home."
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