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FEATURE: Behind The Masks

A look behind the scenes as masks are sent out at OUFC

29 April 2020

Chris Williams writes

It’s Tuesday morning and I am going to work. Thankfully I have remembered not to wear either my shorts or pyjamas and after six weeks' growth I made a fresh start today: I shaved my head and got my work face on.
 
It feels good to be driving in after spending over a month on Zoom and Hangouts. Hangouts when wearing  your jim jams can be extremely awkward. Like everyone else I have adapted and, to be totally honest, I have enjoyed learning new methods and finding new ways around the problems that seemed insurmountable when all this started. Perhaps we are blessed that for the last couple of years we have learned to communicate remotely with a Chairman based in Thailand. It’s been nice not to be on a video call at 4am when he forgets the time difference too!
 
I wasn’t going to shave my head but yesterday I chatted with Derek Fazackerley and Chris Short - staff speak all the time, don’t forget we are friends as well as colleagues, it’s like doing the best job in the world with a gang of mates.. But seeing them on screen I realised we all had big beards and looked like an early Shackleton polar expedition. The other two spent most of the call trying to turn their phones round because my head was upside down on their screens.
 
So today its a fresh trim and on with the staff uniform of a blue polo shirt and a smile. I am two minutes from home when the phone rings and Karl is asking where he has to report. I’d forgotten his enthusiasm and punctuality and now I feel guilty even though I am 20 minutes early myself. But when I arrive he is already lending a hand lumping boxes of masks into the stadium. Club Secretary Mick Brown is dragging a trolley, Community Head Honcho Chris Lowes has a box on his broad shoulders.
 
They have volunteered to be here today and it suddenly occurs to me that all of the non-furloughed staff are here with Academy, the Women’s team and all departments covered. Claire Theobald is quietly, efficiently, making things happen and it is nice to be among friendly masked faces again. 
That’s what we are here for, to distribute 10,000 face masks. We all put them on and I now look like a sinister Bond Villain (in my head) or an egg in a sock to everyone else.
 
We set up a little production line. Claire and Lowesy frank envelopes, Mick sends masks to players and staff, the guillotine merrily slices compliment slips. I am physically the fittest of all staff so carry the envelopes and slips to a central collection point where the others stuff envelopes and work their fingers to the bone. “Are we sealing these Chrissy?” Karl asks. I tell him ‘”Wait until I get you some comp slips”. “Too late” he replies and even the mask can’t disguise the enormous mischievous grin as he waves 20 sealed envelopes at me. (Players please note there won’t be a compliments slip in yours)
 
Everyone is wearing gloves, everyone is safely distanced and for three or four hours we settle into a nice hubbub of work and chat. Readers, I loved it. I like working anyway but just to get a small taste of what life will be like when we come out of this period is like a mask-filtered breath of fresh air.
 
Lowesy takes masks for various community projects. Niall carefully counts the numbers for City and County councils and the NHS and other charities. Kath Faulkner takes some for great causes that have been in touch since we first announced the masks were coming. Karl takes an armful over to the Oxford Vaccine Centre and to Sobell House. 
 
By 1pm we can do no more. Michael Doyle from the Stadium Company has been fantastic in allowing us to use the facilities but we have run out of envelopes and need to start dropping masks off. We will return and finish off the season ticket holder ones but we have achieved what we set out to do this morning- thousands of masks sent to people on the frontline who need them most.
 
It’s been nice to do some work, even nicer to feel like it is helping, but our work here is done and we all climb into our cars and, like the masks, head for all corners of Oxfordshire. Those comp slips I mentioned? They are in there just as a reminder that the masks don’t make you immune to this dreadful virus. They help and they hopefully slow the spread but if you do receive one through the post over the next few days be sensible. 
 
It’s a fabric mask, not a license to restart your former existence. 
 
By far the best way you can help is still to stay home. 
 
Please.
 
Thank you.
 
 
Chris Williams is the club's Communications Manager but the views expressed in this article are his own, not necessarily the club's. And don't ask him when your mask is arriving on his persoinal twitter. He doesn't know

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