To customers perusing the notice-board in the village post office, the job advertisement must have seemed too good to be true. For £7 an hour, with all expenses paid, a man was required to visit a local pub and drink beer.
The assignment was to be carried out at at least twice a week at the Compass Inn in Winsor, Hampshire, in the company of an elderly gentleman.
The advert is genuine, and the four men who have applied for the position so far are to undergo trial drinking sessions in the coming week, though their potential employer is open to applications from new candidates.
It is an appeal from a desperate man. Until recently, Jack Hammond, 88, would drink four times a week with a neighbour in Barton-on-Sea. Then he moved into a nursing home a few miles away to be closer to his family. Forest Edge Care Home boasts a garden and easy access to shops; what it cannot offer Mr Hammond is a suitable drinking partner. All but one of his fellow residents are women. Which is how the advertisement came to be placed in the nearby village of Cadnam.
For some it is a sign of the times that an elderly gentleman lacks a companion with whom to visit the local pub, although it is increasingly common.
Mr Hammond’s wife died 12 years ago, and the upheaval of moving into a care home has left him feeling isolated. “It was a bit upsetting when I had to leave as I left all my friends back home,” he said.
Chris Perry, director of Hampshire Age Concern, often sees elderly men who lack a companion for their regular pub visits. “It is easy to become socially isolated at this age due to bereavement or from people moving away,” he said. “But this man needs to be commended for using his initiative for putting an advert in the window.”
Mr Hammond’s son, Mike, told The Times: “The other man [in the home] is not really a goer. He was a farmer whereas Dad was an electrical engineer. My Dad grew up in a city; he is a country man. The other man wants to talk about sheep and cows; he wants to talk about golf. They have nothing in common at all.”
A drink with a woman is also out of the question. “He likes women but it would be a little bit awkward, he said, going out to the pub with a lady he didn’t know. So we are really looking for a man.”
Desperate times have called for desperate measures. Mr Hammond’s son, a chef from Brockenhurst, contacted a number of agencies, seeking a volunteer. When none was forthcoming social services suggested that he advertise a paid position.
Mr Hammond said: “It’s a bit difficult at this age to go out to a pub on your own. I don’t want to be a nuisance.” He is hoping for a gentleman who is “not too bombastic and enjoys a nice pint”.
Possible topics of conversation include the Second World War, during which Mr Hammond served as a radar engineer in Bombay and Kuala Lumpur, and the day-to-day trials of running a power station. In his career as an electrical engineer Mr Hammond worked his way up to shift charge engineer at a station near Preston.
His favourite topic is golf – in his prime Mr Hammond played off a handicap of six – as well as the fortunes of Preston North End Football Club, but he is a versatile conversationalist.
“He is a very intelligent man with a physics and maths degree,” his son said. “It’s the company he misses more than anything. He used to go to the pub three or four times a week and have a couple of halves of Fosters with a neighbour of a similar age . . . then Dad would head back home and go straight to bed.”
When he placed the advert in the post office, Mr Hammond’s son considered it “a very attractive proposition”.
“It’s got to be the best job in the world,” he said.
Of the four applicants who have applied so far, he has been impressed by a sprightly gentleman of 78 who still drives.
“We don’t want a teenager taking him out and the two of them having nothing in common,” he said.
He is also wary of candidates who might seek to take advantage of the offer of paid-for drinking time. “Dad is not a heavy drinker,” he said. “We are looking for someone who can share a good conversation, not somebody who is just going to get wrecked.”
Source and Copyright: Times Online