How to be lonely this Christmas, spend the day at the Daily Express

LONE STAR: A glum Royal Reporter Ashley Walton in a deserted Daily Express London newsroom in the 1980s

By STEVE MILL, former Daily Express editorial assistant

Does anyone recall working on Christmas Day in Fleet Street?

I certainly do. My final Christmas in Fleet Street would've been 1988. Those who were there at the time will recall that the balance of power had well and truly shifted to the management side and they insisted that there would be a Boxing Day edition. Completely pointless but they no doubt experienced a great deal of satisfaction in getting one over on the unions for a change.

I've no idea how I was chosen by my chapel to be the lucky man, but I'm confident the decision was transparently and democratically arrived at.

Fortunately, it being the season of goodwill, Express management had very generously agreed to fund ground transportation to, (and luckily from) the workplace.

And so at approximately 8am I found myself at the Express. I can't honestly remember if there was anyone in the front hall, not that there was any likelihood of anyone other than essential staff needing to gain entrance.

What a festive scene it wasn't as I surveyed the Express editorial floor, completely unmanned except for lucky me. There was no sound, even the tape machines that normally chugged away relentlessly were silent. There were a number of festive greetings that had been transmitted by staff at the AP and Reuters, but apart from those there didn't seem to be anything happening in the world, there certainly wasn't anything happening at the Express.

So how to pass the time? These days you could surf the net for hours, but back then apart from switching on the super hi-tech television, (the only set on the whole editorial!) and watching Leslie Crowther broadcasting from a hospital I was reduced to brushing up on my typewriting skills ... yes they were still using typewriters.

And it ground on, hour after boring hour.

Eventually in the late morning staff began to wander in, none of them exhibiting even a trace of Yuletide spirit. And who could blame them? All so different from the riotous assembly of the preceding days.

In the early afternoon my relief arrived, and boy was I relieved. The only slight advantage I had was that I could enjoy the rest of Christmas Day whilst any number of poor buggers were playing out this charade.

I had the same driver, (a very nice young lady) to and from work and we compared bad luck stories.

I've only ever worked once on Christmas Day so was able to put it down as one of life's oddities.


20 December 2023