I don’t know why, but I always find myself offering to work on New Year’s Eve (NYE). I have done it ever since I can remember. I’m not sure what madness comes over me prior to the event because I am terrible on night shifts. Shortly after midnight, it is a given that I will turn in to an exhausted and stroppy monster.
Those of you who have read my book may recall last New Year when I worked at a treatment centre and it didn’t go very well for me. A multitude of lost and heavily intoxicated people in need of our help managed to find us. You would imagine that in their condition the odds would be stacked against that eventuality, but still they came. In short, it was a vomit festival attended by dozens of tearful revellers. I managed to get assaulted by a deranged woman that I was just trying to help, and even worse someone was sick on my boots! But despite this, one year on, I found myself putting my name on the list once again. Last NYE now remembered through rose tinted spectacles, rather like one would fondly recall a long lost love.
Soon after the briefing at a central London hospital we were given the kit we would each need to carry to our posts that were situated within the ‘foot-print’ of the event. This kit included a very large ECP ruck-sack, paramedic bag, three smaller drug bags, 12 lead ECG machine, stab vest, food parcel and, in my case, a rather snazzy hand-bag. We were then informed that we would need to walk with this stuff some of the way as the roads were now closed to all traffic. So we were dropped off nearby and began to find places on our bodies from which to hook all the afore-mentioned kit; I was beginning to feel rather like ‘Buckaroo’. I was just beginning to realise that it wasn’t possible, when from out of nowhere arrived four St John’s Ambulance guys patrolling the area on foot. Like knights in shining armour they offered to help carry some of the gear to our treatment centres with us; I honestly don’t know how I would have managed without them, so thank you so much guys!
I couldn’t believe my luck when I arrived at the treatment centre either. Situated right next to the end of The Hungerford Bridge at Embankment, it had to be the place to be that night. The bridge had been closed off to the public, and the press were in position on the bridge to photograph and film the event. Luckily the fire brigade and treatment centre staff were allowed up there too and the view was simply stunning. A radio station blasted out party music and as we looked along the Embankment we gazed over the throngs of happy people dancing and enjoying themselves. Just over the river to our left was the illuminated Millennium Wheel with the amazing fireworks display taking place at midnight. My only regret was that I was too ditsy to remember to charge my camera battery that day!
All in all the night didn’t go to badly either, although it was, even by a penguin’s standards – a bit parky! The St John’s Ambulance team that I worked with were great and kept me supplied with custard creams and hot tea which certainly helped me survive the darkest hours.
There was the predictable array of intoxicated people that we have come to expect during these events, but they were mostly good natured; only briefly spoiled by a group of men throwing bottles in to the crowd and injuring a few people. Also, one young man fell on the train track and cut his head quite badly; luckily for him (and us) his friend had pulled him back up to safety just before the train arrived! Most of the casualties of the night were simply very cold, very drunk or just lost (some were all of these!)
So will I do it again next year? … probably yes! I seem to have already forgotten the freezing cold (with associated jiggly knee caps and inability to write in a straight line), 4am delirium and the back ache the day after!