This Christmas will be very different for many of us, though for most it will still be a day to put our feet up. But not for these dedicated people, who’ll be working festive shifts to keep our homes warm and our lights bright. In the last of our Christmas series, we talked to two of our Christmas workers.
Paul Davidson is a Control Room Operator at Sellindge in Kent, monitoring the systems that control the import and export of electricity between Great Britain and France on the IFA interconnector – the first of our giant undersea electricity cables. He’s worked here since 2019.
Our role is important in making the festive season special, even if no one gives a second thought to the electricity they’re using. People will be cooking their turkeys, kids will be getting new consoles that they can’t wait to play on, Christmas lights will be on in every home and Christmas songs on the radio. All that is made possible with electricity.
As long as we do our job and make sure everything runs as smoothly as it can, everyone can do all the things that make Christmas special.
The control room is manned 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. We work 12-hour shifts, from 8am to 8pm or 8pm to 8am.
This year I’m covering a night shift on 23 December into Christmas Eve, then I have my four day shifts from Christmas Day to the 28th, followed by another shift cover on the 29th and then I start four night shifts on New Year’s Day.
It’s purely down to the rota schedule really. But if there was ever a need to cover a shift for someone on Christmas Day, any member of the team would step up and offer to help out, which makes this a great team to work with.
This will be my first Christmas not spent with Angie, my wife of 14 years, and our eight-year-old daughter Paige. That was a difficult conversation, as my daughter has a disability that affects how she processes information. We needed to tell her early, so she had time for it to sink in. She has dealt with it really well though.
They’re staying with my mother-in-law from Christmas Day to Boxing Day so, once my shift has finished, I’ll go straight there to see them and I’ll be happy to have a few turkey sandwiches. Hopefully my daughter won’t be fully asleep!
Rachel Woodbridge-Stocks is a Commercial Officer at the Gas National Control Centre in Warwick. Her responsibilities include forecasting demand for the week, balancing the network, forecasting and managing constraints.
I’m working the afternoon-evening shift on Christmas Eve and a regular night shift on Christmas Day, followed by a 12-hour night Boxing Day. It’ll be quite a busy one this year!
The National Transmission System requires active continuous monitoring and control, to safely and efficiently move gas when and where it’s needed. The Gas National Control Centre is responsible for both the real time physical and commercial operation of the system. If it was left unattended, even for a day, we could end up with pressures exceeding their safe limits and risking a burst pipe, or dropping too low and not being able to push the gas through to homes, hospitals and other key buildings.
I worked the Christmas Eve night shift last year, finishing on Christmas morning, so it wasn’t too bad – just a few strategic naps in the day.
I can’t go back home to see my parents and sister because of the way my shifts fall this year. I’ll miss them, but it would be a lot of travelling on Christmas Day with no real opportunity to get enough sleep for the night shift. So instead, in true 2020 fashion, we’re having a Virtual Christmas!
I’m going to open presents with them via a video call in the morning. Then in the afternoon my boyfriend’s family has been kind enough to include me in their celebrations, so we’ll be having Christmas dinner with them, which I’m really excited about. I’ll head to work for the night shift afterwards.
I think most people will be having a very different Christmas this year, so we’re all in the same boat.