This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
I have all my faculties. They’re in a drawer upstairs. I think.
I am not in my dotage. Just thought I’d mention that. But I’m now a couple of years into retirement and in that window of life where I still work physically (after a fashion) but am not really employable or willing to be so. However, I’ve decided I might still be useful.
Now approaching 67, I think my time for parachuting into war zones, rescuing injured mountain climbers from the Cairngorms or being Jeremy Clarkson’s fundraiser are over.
Very carefully I’ve been approaching the possibility of volunteering. Yes, that’s working for nothing. Well not quite.
It appears helping others has its benefits. I’m sure you know this but I had no idea until I dipped my toe in the water recently with the Canal and River Trust.
During 2022 and my recovery from a left hip replacement, my partner and I have been regular strollers along a part of the Leeds and Liverpool canal near Apperley Bridge in West Yorkshire. At Dobson Lock the Trust have an office and there I enquired about helping.
This led to my first job seed planting with a dozen other agreeable types and a happy few hours getting to know them as we filled small pots. This means in the Spring and Summer, wildflowers will sprout and bloom along the canal path.
It appears I could then take a qualification to become a lock-keeper. Who knew?
Encouraged by this, I then approached the Landmark Trust who are busy renovating Calverley Old Hall after receiving a £1.6m grant to do so. I’ve watched this rare Jacobean building slowly crumbling for decades. I can now report its restoration is within a year of being complete. The villagers are happy.
What could I do to help? It’s been a while since I’ve been interviewed but I was invited along to discuss the possibility of me becoming an administrative volunteer for them.
Now, having had more interviews than Michael Parkinson I am savvy in this regard so you’ll be unsurprised to learn I got the job. The fact I wasn’t being paid anything had nothing to do with it. I wanted it, I was qualified for it – and I looked the part. How you put your look together is as important to a man as it is for a woman if you want to impress.
I walked onto this building site and stood a little incongruously in my black jacket, carefully pressed white shirt and polished shoes in the mud.
The site manager was summoned and shook my hand. The head man took me to the lady I was to see whilst discussing the work his people were doing. I say people, as I was very pleased to also talk to a young woman in a hard hat getting mucky in a very male dominated situation. Being a working woman on a building site cannot be easy. I would have doffed my hard hat to her if I had had one.
I sat down with Hannah who is their engagement manager for the Calverley restoration. She explained her job is a challenge as it’s one of the biggest projects her organisation has ever undertaken. But she’s up for it – and now so am I.
The eventual plan is to allow people to book and stay in this amazing place. As you can at many other Landmark Trust properties across Britain – including the unique Lundy Island.
Volunteering job two ticked. There is one other in my crosshairs.
Some years ago I was given a backstage tour of the National Media Museum in Bradford. Buried deep in its archives are the articles, photographs and editions of a long dead British newspaper, The Daily Sketch.
Although some of it is digitised and available online, the vast majority of this national newspaper which began in 1893 and lasted until 1958 remains ignored and forgotten – but it still exists. I got to flick through it – and it is amazing.
The lady showing me round said this was such a shame. I made a mental note.
This year, the National Media Museum will be closing its doors to the public for a year from June 2023. It will be “creating new galleries, increasing accessibility and its relevance to new audiences”. What better opportunity is there for me to start work bringing back to life The Daily Sketch.
So volunteering gives you the opportunity to use the skills you have to make things better for others. I know Grace doesn’t shout about it but does this each Friday in her local charity shop.
I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted here at A&G. Lots of you will. I’d love to hear what readers do to help others.
In case you don’t, I’d recommend it. Even without my faculties. I’m sure they’re here somewhere.
You can read more articles by Northern Male here