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Christmas? It’s just another working day
FOR most people Christmas Day is spent with family, unwrapping presents in sparkly jumpers and eating too much food.
However, December 25 will be very different for those who work over the holiday and are not at home with their loved ones.
Hundreds of people around the county – from doctors, nurses and care home workers to RAF personnel and power station staff – will be busy keeping essential services working.
Station Commander Group Captain Steve Lushington worked over Christmas at RAF Brize Norton last year.
He said: “It was good fun – everyone gets in the Christmas spirit – it’s a ‘band of brothers feel’ so everyone has a smile on their face and a spring in their step.
Station Commander Gp Capt Steve Lushington
“There are normally around 300 to 400 staff working on the day.
“We have air traffic, police, security, engineering and it’s around the clock so it can be very busy.”
For Mr Lushington it is very important to involve his children on the special day.
They wear Santa hats and jumpers and make chocolate brownies and mince pies that they then hand out at the station.
“I get to have two Christmas lunches,” added the station commander.
“There’s a tradition the commanders serve Christmas dinner so I eat a little lunch with the troops at 12.30 and then have a family meal at around 4.30.”
Not only are there people working on the RAF base but many RAF personnel are on operations.
Mr Lushington emphasised the importance of speaking to people on detachment that can’t be with their families: “I try to ring as many workers as possible although I know there will be lots of Skyping.”
Christmas Day also means work for Karen Goodman, deputy manager of Newland House Care Home, in Witney. The residential care home prides itself on having values of ‘care, comfort and companionship’ and says this doesn’t change over the Christmas period. Four or five members of staff work on Christmas morning to make the holiday extra special for residents in care.
The 46-year-old has worked Christmas Day for many years and enjoys the excitable atmosphere she encounters every time: “I love it, it’s always a jolly morning,” said Ms Goodman.
“The residents open their presents, have a glass of sherry, we sing Christmas songs, and then we go through to dinner.
“In the afternoon some of the families come to visit but it can be quite quiet in the afternoon as the residents have a nap.”
Ms Goodman emphasised the need for residents to enjoy the day just like they would if they were at home.
“I think it’s really important that the residents are comfortable and happy on Christmas Day and we do our best to make sure that happens.”
Tony Woolstone, a volunteer at Oxford Samaritans, is working his third Christmas in a row at the Samaritans branch in Magdalen Road, East Oxford.
Shifts on Christmas Day are divided between volunteers and tend to last around four hours.
Mr Woolstone said: “It’s the same as every other day, we have two people manning the phones, or speaking with people face-to-face, texting and responding to emails.
“At Samaritans we are open 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day so there is always someone to respond.”
Luckily Mr Woolstone still gets time to go home and enjoy the special day with his loved ones.
He added: “I have a fairly easy morning and then I go home to my family to enjoy the rest of Christmas.
“Apart from the mince pies and chocolate it’s just the same as any other day for me at work, I enjoying helping others and it’s a privilege to be a Samaritan worker.”
Geraldine Yebra, a member of nursing staff at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, is one of the county’s most dedicated Christmas workers.
Over the past 13 years the 40-year-old nurse has only missed one Christmas at the hospital.
She looks forward to spending Christmas Day on the wards and added: “I love working over Christmas, even though the workload is the same and it can be very busy.
“There is just something in the air – if you greet someone with ‘Merry Christmas’ it definitely lifts their spirit.”
Ms Yebra’s shift will be from 8am to 4pm, and she still gets to enjoy a Christmas dinner with her family after her shift.
Everyone in the hospital gets in the festive spirit, according to Ms Yebra, who added: “There’s a tradition in all the wards where we give presents to whoever is admitted to the hospital to let them know they can still celebrate Christmas!”
Didcot A, the coal-fired power station closed in March but Didcot B, the gas-fired power station is still producing power for the National Grid.
About 100 people work at the site and many of them will be working during Christmas week.
Didcot B at full capacity can generate enough electricity for one million homes.
Didcot Power Station manager Neil Scott said: “Electricity needs to be generated 365 days a year, so working over Christmas is business as usual for our staff.
“They have family at home so their commitment is especially appreciated at this time of year.
“It’s thanks to their dedication and hard work that we can continue to safely deliver millions of homes with electricity.”
Christmas Day shift manager Rob Pattison said: “It is always hard working Christmas Day.
“However, we know the job we do is important and we are very proud to generate electricity to homes across the region.
“We will celebrate in our own unique style. Each member of the team will bring in food for a feast and we might even pull a cracker!”
Christmas at The Porch Steppin’ Stone Centre in Oxford is a busy time for volunteers and social workers but is always a friendly and inclusive event for all. “Many of our members don’t have families,” said Beth Allen social worker, “Christmas is a time for everyone to get together and have a traditional Christmas meal, it’s a very friendly atmosphere.”
Project manager Nigel Northcott and two other regular staff members are spending their Christmas Day at the centre with 25-30 of the regularly attending members.
He said, “We ask our members to let us know how many people to expect in advance but there’s always two or three extras and we never turn anyone away.”
As well as having a sociable sit-down meal together, both staff and members take part in games like Bingo and even a quiz or two.
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