Imagine being stuck between two completely different worlds! The outside world - where your family and friends are breaking up from school and work to enjoy their festive break and celebrations - and the one behind the big wall where there’s a job to complete, people who require your care, and violence and danger surfacing like any other day of the year.
As with every other 24hr, 365-day service provided on His Majesty’s Service, Christmas is a huge balancing act of work and squeezing in the festive period with your loved ones. In the Prison Service, your demanding 12-hour shift requires you to be constantly on the move and talking down those in your care. You get home to your family who have enjoyed a day of festive delights and a crisp winter walk. They sit snuggly in front of the fire ready to watch a film and all you want to do is take off your boots and enjoy silence.
It's a hard balance
I have always said I have 2 families - my wife and kids at home and then my (sometimes dysfunctional) work family. I have worked long shifts the last 4 Christmas Days and over this time it has become a Christmas Day tradition, with my team of 10 on House Block 1, to sit down and enjoy the delights of our annual homemade Christmas Day curry, naan bread and rice followed by some cake - all made by the staff the night before.
As the team get on with serving our residents meals at about 11.30, I go to the houseblock communal area and piece together a range of differently levelled tables with plastic chairs placed around (making sure it’s as close to a traditional Christmassy setting as I can). I reheat the curry and rice in the microwave and dish it up into polystyrene containers with plastic cutlery. We’re then ready for ‘lock up’ when we all come together and sit down for our dysfunctional family Christmas Dinner curry. We start planning for this at the end of November – it’s become such a huge tradition for us.
A hurried Facetime with the kids
This meal quickly gets shovelled down around our makeshift festive tables before we rush outside to our cars to have a quick face time with the kids and make sure they are enjoying their day. Bolting back in, we deliver the afternoon service with the objective of everyone remaining safe and we are ready to finish on time.
It's a difficult day for those in our care. It’s a difficult day for the staff who are away from their loved ones. It’s a difficult day! But the togetherness and that family mentality amongst our colleagues is incredible......
What’s your ‘working Christmas’?
Working Christmas? Homemade curry, terrible cracker jokes and the drive to deliver our duty until the Christmas shift is done. The brave men and women on my team who make it an amazing day.
A big shout out to colleagues AND their families on Christmas Day
In 10 years, I’ve worked 6 Christmas Days. My upmost respect goes to those in services that require them to be in work on Christmas Day and how they can still deliver an incredible service on a day where Britain, for the majority, just stops.
My upmost respect also goes to the families of those Emergency Services personnel who say, "See you later" on Christmas Day morning but still make the best of their day rejigging their Christmas to allow for us.
For me and a lot of my colleagues, Christmas is a day where you realise you have 2 families - weird as it may sound, (and questionable at times)!