Duty calls on Christmas Day

Banbury Cake: Lucy Richman, who will be working at homeless shelter Pathways on Christmas Day Buy this photo » Lucy Richman, who will be working at homeless shelter Pathways on Christmas Day

WHILE the rest of us are bounding out of bed on Christmas Day and tearing open stockings, people around the county will be pulling on their work boots for just another day at the office. The Oxford Mail caught up with four of them...

 

Lucy Richman, 37, from Witney, works at Oxford Homeless Pathways, a homeless shelter in central Oxford.

She would normally be spending Christmas day with her family in Witney, but this year she will be working for the first time, from 8am to 8pm.

She said: “I am looking forward to it.

“I have heard from other people that there will be a good atmosphere. I hope it is not just hearsay.”

Mrs Richman’s job is in client support – resettling people into more permanent housing based on what support they need.

But the four people working on December 25 will all take on slightly different roles.

“Some people will not want to think about Christmas, but others will want to have the most festive day possible,” she said.

“I will be trying to make sure everyone has the best day possible.”

As well as handing out presents, there will be a Christmas quiz.

For lunch, there will be the traditional turkey, with a mound of sprouts with cheese and cake to follow, mostly donated. Mrs Richman added: “You get some brilliant donations from really kind people at this time of year.

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“We normally buy our guests presents from Boots, smellies and things like that.

“Kids from local schools will also make Christmas boxes with chocolates and small gifts.”

The house will have 56 people staying overnight in beds, who will be treated to stockings full of treats.

But between 9.30am and 3pm the house will open up to people who are sleeping rough so there could be up to 100 people on the day.

If you have an accident while carving the turkey, or playing with your new power tool on Christmas day, the chances are that Mark Begley will know about it.

Mr Begley, 51, will be in charge of the Ambulance Service ’s Silver Command, co-ordinating paramedics and emergency responses across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

At 8am he will go to the Bicester Emergency Control Centre, to catch up on events from the night staff there.

If there is nothing outstanding, then he starts on his daily rounds, which could take him anywhere from Stoke Mandeville hospital to Kidlington Ambulance Station.

“My primary role is to ensure the running of the ambulance service,” he said.

“If we have got a vehicle that has broken down I have to ensure that there are additional vehicles.”

Mr Begley has worked in the service for 16 years, and worked on Christmas day for half of those.

“Christmas day can be incredibly busy, the roads are still full of cars.

“If you get a new power tool and you are full of Christmas cheer, maybe don’t try it out.

“If you over-eat or drink you can become unwell, and these are all additional strains on the usual number of calls.”

Subject to no major emergencies, Mr Begley will finish at 6pm, but will remain on call until the next day.

There have been times where he has just tucked into some turkey after a long day, only to get a call and have to put his boots back on.

However, he says, “It is all part of the job that I love.

“It is our families that deserve the medal.”

Eddie Webb, 51, from Farthinghoe, Northants, is a paramedic team leader, and on December 25 he will start the day at Kidlington Ambulance Station.

He has worked there for the past 25 years, and worked many Christmas days in his time.

He said: “It feels a bit like a family here. The staff are all very aware that our families are at home celebrating without us, so it kind of becomes a home away from home.

“Somebody will bring in food, another person will bring in biscuits and cakes.

“One of the girls is going to be cooking bacon rolls for everyone first thing.”

But, most days, he very rarely sees the station.

“We come in and get sent out straight away.

“You get added illnesses associated with the winter period.

“The worst time is first thing in the morning, when people have been up all night.”

And Christmas is just another day, like any other, and tragedies do happen.

“People do die on Christmas Day, which is more poignant than any other day.

“For your family, the anniversary is more pronounced than any other day.

“You are reminded of it more than any other day.”

If you need non-emergency medical advice in Oxfordshire this Christmas then call 111.

Watch Manager Deb Lamb’s White Watch colleagues will be on duty on Christmas day and, having worked the day in previous years, she explained how a combination of support from fellow firefighters and understanding from her family helped minimise the disruption to celebrations.

Mrs Lamb, 41, is based at Rewley Road Fire Station, and, with four children aged between eight and 13, has to plan her Christmas meticulously.

She said: “Over the past few years I have either worked overnight into Christmas morning or through Christmas Day. Anyone with young children will know that they get up at the crack of dawn and are eager to open their presents.

“We try to make sure that they save the presents from me until I get back or before I leave.

“However, the children are proud of what I do and they have an understanding of the sacrifices we make.

“If someone who has children is assigned to work on Christmas Day, often someone without kids who has that day off will offer to swap.”

Every year, firefighters tend to get called out to similar incidents on Christmas day.

Mrs Lamb said: “Sixty per cent of the incidents we were called out to last year involved kitchen fires. We also found road accidents occurred early in the day or later on that evening.

“So, if I was to offer safety advice it would be do not leave the cooking unattended and be careful when travelling to and from where you are going.”

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