Andrew, aged 62, works as a gardener and volunteers at Banbury United FC. He enjoys being busy and the social contact that comes with his roles.
When Andrew finished school at the age of 15, he left on a Friday and was at work in a factory by the following Monday. He has been working hard ever since.
Andrew worked in a tools factory for 14 years and then a chocolate factory for nine years. When he was made redundant, at the age of 39, he had to find a new job quickly, but he also saw it as a chance to try something new. After more than two decades of spending his working hours indoors, he knew he wanted something different.
“I was probably looking for a career change, to work outside, because [I knew] I enjoyed that,” says Andrew, who had always loved playing cricket and football. His father was also a groundsman at a local cricket club.
Andrew went to work for a landscape gardening company and then decided to become a self-employed gardener in 2002. Alongside this, he volunteers as the head groundsman at Banbury United Football Club. He also does some voluntary groundsman work at the cricket club where his father worked, partly in memory of his dad who passed away in the late 1990s.
At the age of 62, Andrew still has some days where he’s out from 8am until 7.30pm. He enjoys being busy and he finds it hard to imagine being retired. “I think I’ll always need something to get up for,” he says.
In 2015, Banbury United FC was looking for a part-time volunteer to be their head groundsman. The role primarily involves maintaining the pitch to a good standard.
Andrew took on the role as a way to give something back to his community – the pitch was in poor shape at that time and needed improvement. When he looks out at the grounds today, he takes pride in seeing them in good condition. “You look at it with a degree of satisfaction [and think]: ‘Yes, I’ve made a difference here,’ ” he says.
The club’s groundsmen are needed almost all year round, although the football season is, of course, especially busy. Andrew spends 15-20 hours per week at the club and his team has up to three other volunteer groundsmen, depending on the time of year.
Everyone in the groundsmen team is over 50. They sometimes take on tasks such as painting and cleaning work in the stadium, on top of their work maintaining the pitch. “Two or three [of our volunteers] live on their own and are retired. This is a good community [and] social thing for them,” Andrew says.
Andrew says his attitude to his work hasn’t changed much since turning 50 – or even since turning 60. He still enjoys working and the social contact it brings, whether it’s a chat with the person whose garden he’s mowing, or a chat with the other volunteers at the football club. His wife still works full time too.
“Sometimes… I might be up a ladder [and I’ll think]: ‘How much longer do I really want to be doing this sort of thing?’” he says with a laugh. “But I wouldn’t say [my attitude] has changed dramatically.”
Photo credit: Julie Hawkins