3rd July 2024

To serve them all my days…

Retirement from Trading Standards doesn’t always mean an end to participation in the profession, as three energetic and passionate former TSOs demonstrate.

By Giles Speid
Team Manager, North West Westminster
The more I say I need to slow down, the more they find for me to do!
I still find myself giving consumer advice to people in my village
I want vulnerable people to know how to deal with cold callers

In RF Delderfield’s novel To Serve Them All My Days, a soldier returns from World War I shell-shocked from his time on the frontline and goes on to become an inspirational teacher because he feels it is his duty to continue to serve the public. Like him, many of those who once worked in our profession continue to assist the public as it is in their nature.

Retirement can leave one feeling slightly traumatised — interactions with colleagues are missed, along with the pressure of deadlines, meetings, and decision-making. Many people still feel the need to continue to work — albeit in a different, more relaxed capacity, providing encouragement, advice, help and guidance.

I know of three former stalwarts of the Trading Standards profession who continue to make a difference to people without financial reward, out of a desire to help family, friends and consumers.

Chris Armstrong, Marcia Brown and Nora Walsh are all unsung heroes, still making a difference to the profession and those it serves. They are not social media types who are posting their every move or looking to become influencers — they are doing their voluntary work for the love… not for the likes.

Chris Armstrong
Having started his career at Margate Trading Standards, Chris has remained in the profession all his working life. Chris started his career in 1965 and moved to other authorities, climbing the ladder before ending his career at Newham Trading Standards.

“I always did charitable work outside of Trading Standards and I am a trustee of a local charity called Cottage Community, supporting elderly people with minibus trips to sightseeing areas,” he says. “We take them out as often as we can, because people are struggling at the moment.”

I have witnessed Chris’s commitment first hand, when he had to drop out of a meeting to deliver ‘meals on wheels’ lunches — he was many of the recipients’ only contact that day. He does this three days per week.

Following Chris’s retirement he has continued to work, doing admin for the CTSI London Branch. He is currently secretary of the London Branch Race and Equality Group. “I volunteered to go on this group straight away as I have always believed in equality and inclusion,” he says. In addition to this, Chris was appointed to his role as Chair of the College of Fellows in 2020. In 2023 Chris received the Special Award from CTSI for outstanding contribution for his work. “The more I say I need to slow down, the more they find for me to do! I don’t mind really, it’s nice to be wanted,” he adds.

Marcia Brown
Marcia started her career with Brent Trading Standards in 1987, then moved on to working for Bedfordshire Trading Standards before taking early retirement from Waltham Forest Trading Standards in 2021.

In the midst of her career, Marcia took time out to have children. “We moved to Thailand where my husband was a teacher,” she says. “I lived there for three years and volunteered whenever I could. The difference in culture didn’t frighten me as I knew I was going to welcome it.

“When I returned to England three years later, I resumed my career in Trading Standards. I ended my career as the Chief Weights and Measures Inspector at Waltham Forest but found myself still volunteering to help make the profession a better place to work. I continue to work with the CTSI London Branch.

“Even though I have event-filled days, as a former Trading Standards Officer, I still find myself giving consumer advice to people in my village, as well as to friends and family, on consumer matters such as Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, scam advice and business compliance.

“I recently volunteered to attend the REACH Society Careers Conference in London. It was wonderful to engage with young people and introduce them to the world of Trading Standards.

“I am a mentor on the Ubuntu inclusive mentoring programme, where I get an opportunity to share my lived experiences with other managers, Heads of Service and executives within the Trading Standards service. This is rewarding and challenging in equal measure. I never expected to be able to share my experiences, and it gives me an opportunity to help them see things through a different lens.”

Nora Walsh
Nora Walsh may live in the countryside, but says she is still very much part of London: “I go back every few weeks where I still have family and friends.”

Having been born and brought up in the multicultural area of Tottenham, Nora says, “I remember having curried goat as a child and I can still understand the Jamaican dialect without a problem. I have always been part of a multi-cultural community, especially when I was a manager in Hackney.”

During her career Nora also held roles at Enfield and City of London Trading Standards, and at the time of her retirement in 2021 she worked for Islington Trading Standards.
“When I was working in Enfield, I was aware of the ‘A10 divide’, where life expectancy can differ by as much as 10 years depending on what side of the tracks you are from. It was important to recognise that when helping people who need your services.

“When I left Trading Standards in 2021, I ended up volunteering for Age UK Cheshire East for several hours per week. I really want vulnerable people to know how to deal with cold callers and other scams.

“When you are helping and advising people you have a lot of experience and knowledge in you, and sometimes it’s difficult not to take control, but you don’t because people are doing their best. I am there to help and provide support,” Nora adds. “The help we provide crosses all demographics. Having the experience of working in London makes dealing with all races second-nature.

“Occasionally people see me and assume I may hold the same views as them when they are complaining about migrants. I stop them and say, I am a daughter of migrants from Ireland. That usually stops them in their tracks.”

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