67-year-old Geoff Stanford loves both the freedom and the social side of his work. The flexibility of the role also allowed him to care for his wife, June, when she had cancer.
Geoff Stanford, who’s now 67, and lives on the south coast, worked full time for British Rail for 35 years and was initially happy when he was offered voluntary severance when he was coming up to 50. ‘I was happy to see an end to commuting day in, day out. I’d have more time at home, see more sport and I could get a local job.
‘Then, unexpectedly, they asked me back to work on a project three to four days a week instead of full time, and a light went on. This was a better way to live - and you got paid. I knew I could enjoy carrying on working if it was more flexible.’
Geoff finds himself a flexible job
So when Geoff left the railways after privatisation, he was determined to find work that was flexible. Money was less of an issue as his wife June was still working, and he was able to take most of his pension early. ‘I’d hated paying into that compulsory pension scheme when I was a youngster, but I ended up so glad I had.
‘I got a job locally with the charity Scope, collecting up all the donations from retailers and the street collection boxes, and banking the money. I had my own patch and worked out my own schedule,’ says the former finance manager.
Freedom to care for his wife
This freedom was even more important when June was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had surgery in 2000, as Geoff explains: ‘I could go to appointments with her and be there when she needed me to be. But being able to work was also important to me personally. It gave me space when I was so worried.’
When the job at Scope came to an end, Geoff looked for something that was equally flexible. His wife was in remission, but Geoff still wanted to keep working environment, so he became a driver for a local car company for three days a week.
But, sadly, in September 2002, June’s cancer came back. Geoff picks up the story: ‘The company were good about me swapping shifts with the other drivers so I could take her for treatments. And when she died the following February, I did take time off.
‘At first I just couldn’t work, but I went back quite soon. The house was so empty. I think men need to be wanted, someone to say “Hi” to you each day.’
‘It keeps me in touch with the real world’
‘I’d really miss this job,’ Geoff enthuses. ‘The other drivers include a former estate agent and a civil servant. I enjoy their company, and it keeps me in touch with the real world. And we help each other out covering shifts and holidays. The firm is quite relaxed about it as long as the manager is informed properly.
‘I think they know we older blokes are reliable, turn up on time, put in the hours, don’t complain and care about we’re doing. They trust us. That’s worth a lot on both sides.
Geoff has also met someone new, Barbara, who works for herself as a beauty therapist. And although a fan of working, he can see there’s more to life. Geoff comments: ‘As she nears retirement I’m trying to get her to work a bit less! So we can do things together in our spare time.’