Not everyone gets to switch off with their loved ones on Christmas Day. Emma Connolly catches up with those who will be working to make it a better, safer day for all the rest
lead co-ordinator, Covid test centre, Ballinacarriga
COVID doesn’t know what day it is, so the swabbing centre at Ballinacarriga will be open as normal on Christmas day from 10am to 1pm.
Lead co-ordinator at the test centre Catherine Desmond said the service will be by appointment, or GP referral only.
‘Our priority and focus is always on the service user, and we are unable to provide a walk-in service,’ said Catherine.
A team of 12 swabbers and two admin staff will work the Christmas Day shift.
The service will run on Christmas Eve until 4pm, and as normal again on St Stephen’s Day from 9am to 5pm.
Catherine said they have had an extremely busy year at the centre, and in recent weeks had been operating above capacity.
She paid tribute to her team in the centre: ‘They are the life and soul of the centre and are the epitome of kindness and professionalism. There is a great camaraderie between them which shows in the friendly atmosphere that I hope relaxes service users when they attend.
‘They are committed to providing a safe, positive and stress free experience as possible to people. After all no one comes here for the fun of it.’
Air Ambulance pilot
CLONAKILTY’S Donnagh Verling is the air ambulance pilot on duty this Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day.
The service has two pilots, and as the service runs 365 days a year, he says ‘it’s straight forward mathematics to work out when it’s your turn.’
Donnagh has been with the Air Ambulance since 2019. Before that he was an Irish Aer Corps pilot for 23 years and also worked as a pilot with the Royal Oman Police for six years.
‘People the length and breadth of the country will be on duty on Christmas day. There’s lots of stuff that doesn’t stop just because of the day that’s in it,’ he said.
He’ll leave home in Clonakilty on Christmas morning in time to start his shift in Rathcoole, North Cork for 8am.
‘It’s not a job where you can work from home! Our response times are measured in minutes, and every one counts,’ he said.
There were 42 taskings during December 2020, including one on Christmas Day. Crews launched 12 times between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve to counties Cork, Clare, Kerry, Limerick and Waterford.
‘There’s no way of knowing how the day will go. Our average over the year is two calls a day. Some days that could mean six calls, and others it could mean you’re drinking a lot of coffee,’ he said.
On duty with him will be two advanced paramedics who he insists do ‘most of the hard work.’
The shift ends at 6pm, and it will be back home to his wife Jo, his parents who live in Enniskeane and in-laws who are visiting from the UK.
‘I’m sure they’ll save me a roastie!’ he joked.
ALLIHIES caterer Pema Beshoff is making and delivering traditional festive dinners for the elderly and those alone in her area this Christmas Day, for the second year in a row.
‘I have the skills, and I have the capacity so there’s no reason why I wouldn’t do this for my community. We’re very close knit,’ she said.
Pema, was the head chef in Breen’s Lobster Bar in Castletownbere for six years until the pandemic hit, after which she set up her own catering business. ‘I couldn’t not set up, I had so many queries! I started out in my own kitchen and then I rented a kitchen in the Allihies Copper Mines Museum, and things really took off,’ she said.
She now does events and offers a cold take-away menu every weekend through her business Stacks Garden Catering. She comes from a long line of chefs and her family are the well known Dublin based Beshoffs who run a chain of take outs.
‘I couldn’t bear the thought that people might be having this Christmas alone after the year we have endured yet again. Everyone deserves and needs to have something warm to look forward to,’ said Pema.
She said her complimentary offer is her way of ‘giving back to the community that raised me.’
Some people have had their dinners sponsored and any donations she gets will go towards the ‘This is Beara’ calendar which sponsors St Joseph’s Community Hospital in Castletownbere and Cancer Connect.’
She also does some paid meals for people whose family aren’t able to get home to be with their elderly parents.
Last year she served dinners to 15 people, including to one man who didn’t even know how to turn on his oven, and she expects to cater for similar numbers this year.
This year she’ll be up at 6am to prepare her feast which will most likely be a prawn cocktail starter, traditional main and Tiramisu for dessert.
‘I’ll be home for 2pm to enjoy my own dinner with my mum, sister and son,’ she said