Keeping up good work while everyone else parties

16:00, Dec 25 2012
Alex Hooft
LOOKOUT: Lifeguard Alex Hooft, 18, of Porirua, keeps an eye out at Oriental Bay.

Most people eat, drink and be merry on Christmas Day, but for some paid and volunteer people, work beckons. The Dominion Post spoke to some of those who clock in to serve others.


Luke Smith started work at 7am. He's head chef at Zibibbo Restaurant and Bar, where 210 people were booked to dine on Christmas Day.

Luke Smith
FEEDING FRENZY: Chef Luke Smith on duty at Zibibbo Restaurant.

He expected it to be frantic, with the Wellington restaurant's three sittings fully booked.

The 24-year-old did not knock off till about 11pm, but said he wasn't fussed about having to work while most people relaxed.

"It doesn't worry me, I don't have any family in Wellington. We're changing the way we do things this year so we've got a longer holiday in January, so I'm more than happy to work."


Jimmy McGuinness
ENTERTAINING: Jimmy McGuinness plays his accordion at the Room at the Inn.


Instead of slaving behind a hot grill, chef and restaurant owner Steve Logan was at the front of house. But that didn't mean he escaped all cooking duties on Christmas Day.

The owner of Logan Brown restaurant provided a turducken - a chicken stuffed in a duck, which is then stuffed in a turkey - for his family feast.

Andrew Gordon
HITTING THE ROAD: Go Wellington bus driver Andrew Gordon at work.

"This is the first Christmas I've worked for quite a few years. I wanted to do it and, to be honest, both my daughters will be away out of town."

More than a dozen staff, many of whom are from overseas, worked during the day to take care of about 130 guests.

"They have a little orphan Christmas dinner afterwards. We fix them up with food and beverages . . . everyone is going to the maitre d's flat."

Dave French
FURRY FRIEND: Wellington Zoo keeper Dave French with Burnum the dingo.


Wellington Zoo's chimpanzees were given Christmas presents to unwrap and the dingoes went on a rare walk, but the most fun was had by senior keeper Dave French.

"I have to confess, it's one of my favourite days to work because it's so different. It's the only day we're not actually open, it's just a change, it's something different for the animals."

He went to the zoo about 8am to help feed the animals. Though they didn't get a festive feast, they were spoilt on other fronts.

"I will take the two older dingoes out for a walk on their leads. These guys are not an animal that we would bring out during visitors' hours because they're pretty timid around people, they don't enjoy walking in a crowd."

Once he'd made sure all the animals were fed, he went to his parents' home in the afternoon.


Irish expat James MacAodhgain still struggles with the hot Kiwi Christmas after growing up with Santa visiting in the snow. "I've been here eight years, it's just a completely different feeling." Once he finished his short shift at Les Mills Extreme, the receptionist hit the beach with his partner for the afternoon before sitting down to a roast dinner with fellow "orphans". "Each year we do it and each year it get's bigger." He served roast beef, gravy and vegetables to their 15 guests, who also took a plate to share. Since moving to New Zealand he had not been home for a white Christmas, much to the "mirth and dismay of my mother". He expected about 300 fitness freaks to hit the gym to offset the eating and drinking later in the day.


Go Wellington bus driver Andrew Gordon is one of 63 drivers who volunteered to work yesterday. "I don't have children or anything and people need to get around so why not?" It was his second year behind the wheel on Christmas Day. "It's busy early in the day when people go to church." He clocked in about 7.30am and finished mid-afternoon. "After that I will go to my sister's house for the leftovers from Christmas lunch."


Parents falling off their kids' toys, lonely people who want company, and alcohol-related injuries were expected to keep Wellington Free paramedics busy. Kate McNabb began her 11-hour shift at 7am out of the Lower Hutt station. It was her second Christmas Day spent in an ambulance helping people who get into strife. "We do tend to get more heart attacks than normal . . . and a lot of alcohol-related violence. There is a sad side to it, but there's also the funny side. It's often the parents trying out their kids' toys and breaking a bone or hurting their tailbone." Last time she worked at Christmas, an elderly person called as they wanted someone to chat to over a cup of tea. "I remember everybody wanted us to eat and they kept trying to give us chocolate, I think I was rolling along, rather than walking." Her parents and sister delayed their usual Christmas feast till after she finished work.


Cheryl Wilkie loves Christmas, but the neonatal intensive care co-ordinator at Wellington Hospital has nearly always spent it with colleagues, patients and their families. Although her own children, now grown, rarely knew what the day meant growing up with her spending it at work, she liked to spread cheer in the ward. This year, with 36 babies in the ward and 20 of them from out of town, she and staff made sure to surprise families. After Christmas Eve carols, families were asked to leave, babies were dressed in festive outfits, and stockings were placed at their cradles. "It's me. I love Christmas and I think it's a sad time of year for babies to be in hospital and away from families. Anything that we can do for the families, it's worth the while." Hospitals were not particularly nice places, so it helped to make it more normal. But they were always prepared for business as usual, like new admissions and babies becoming unwell, she said.


For the past 36 years, Timaru man Jimmy McGuinness has visited Wellington at Christmas, playing his accordion for diners at the Room at the Inn annual Christmas lunch at Aro Valley Community Centre. He said he liked to create a "beautiful atmosphere" for the lunch, which attracts more than 100 people. He has been playing the accordion since he was 8 - and is now "65 and a shade" - and said he felt he could help people with his playing. "It's nice, it's a holiday, it's lovely to come up. After 36 years I thought somebody would put me down for a New Year honour." After about two hours' playing, he heads inside to enjoy his own Christmas spread.


This is the first year Porirua teenager Alex Hooft has worked at Christmas.

The 18-year-old lifeguard has volunteered as a surf lifesaver for the past five years, and this is his first summer being paid. He had a Christmas breakfast with his family before heading to Oriental Bay at 11am for work. Mr Hooft said he enjoyed the work. He was one of three lifeguards working yesterday at Oriental Bay, and the trio had a lunch of ham, buns and salad together in their tower: "It's all right. There are worse places to be today."

The Dominion Post