A FORMER tea manufacturer and civil servant has turned his career sights to chatting on the telephone.

Robin Grey, from Darlington, had a long and fulfilling career working until the age of 74.

Following his retirement, he decided to take a "gap year" to travel the world and now, aged 76, Mr Grey has returned to the office environment.

Every week, Mr Grey visits his local Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington Office as a Forces Friend Telephone Befriender, calling people who are feeling isolated, lonely, or in need of a friendly voice at the other end of the receiver.

Many of the people Mr Grey befriends have served in the military and with them he talks about a range of subjects, from current life issues and the weather, to baking and the latest cricket scores.

One gentleman Mr Grey supports completed his national service in the Northumberland Fusiliers and now lives in sheltered accommodation.

An avid cricket fan, he and Mr Grey spend most of their time discussing the latest test scores and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Durham and Yorkshire teams.

The gentleman found that since starting to receive calls from Mr Grey, his mood has improved and he “feels buoyant after the calls” and looks forward to their weekly chats.

Another gentleman he speaks to, who had spent three years in the RAF, said he was suffering from stomach pains that was preventing him from sleeping.

Mr Grey encouraged him to consult his GP and after trying a few medications eventually found one that stopped the pain.

Mr Grey said he also benefits from being a part of the service, as he enjoys the atmosphere and company he finds at the centre.

He said: "My role as a telephone befriender for Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington is very rewarding for me and for people who live on their own I’m sometimes their only contact with the outside world.

"It’s all about friendship and knowing that there is someone out there that will take time to listen to their particular situation and life stories. It’s an uplifting experience for them as they look forward to my weekly chats with them. It’s good to talk"

The Forces Friends Telephone Befriending service is available to anyone over 65, who served in any branch of the military, including National Service.

For more information about the service contact Sharon Vasey, Befriending Co-ordinator, on 01325 362832 or, alternatively, if you have an hour or two to spare each week to be a Forces Friend more information can be found by calling 0300 30 20 100 or via ageuknyd.org.uk