Though Christmas in Casualty may be one of the least appealing of seasonal venues, as BBC One viewers prepare for a festive episode of the popular medical drama, members of the cast share their best and worst Christmas memories.
“My worst ever Christmas was spent in Thailand with flu and an inner-ear infection,” recalls Matt Bardock, who plays paramedic Jeff. “I couldn’t enjoy the fantastic smells at the food markets in Bangkok and I had to wear a woolly hat in bed to keep warm in the 60 degree heat!”
Expecting a cooler Yule this year, Matt is staying at home “to eat too much” with his family. “I’m hoping Santa will bring me helicopter lessons or a Ferrari – but I’m more than happy with socks,” says Matt, who has loved boy toys from a young age. “My best present ever was an Evel Knievel Rocket Bike with flint sparking exhausts. It was unbelievable!”
The best thing about Christmas for Matt is his mum’s eight-course Christmas dinner and re-runs of classic film The Great Escape. But who will he be hoping to catch under the mistletoe?
“My wife says my best hope is my Staffordshire bull terrier, Maisie,” laughs Matt. “And I think she may have a point!”
For actress Laura Aikman, who plays scheming trainee doctor May, Christmas is a doubly exciting time as her birthday falls on Christmas Eve. “I love Christmas,” says Laura. “The best things are the fairy lights, everyone being off work, people saying ‘merry Christmas’ in the street (even in London), my birthday, champagne – everything!”
This year, Laura is looking forward to returning home for Christmas for some parental pampering. “My mum still gets really excited and wakes us all up ‘by accident’ every year at about 6am, by making lots of noise in the kitchen,” says Laura.
“We spend Christmas Day with two families who are very close friends of ours,” she says. “If everyone’s not merry by the time we have to make dinner, something has gone seriously wrong!”
Laura can’t ever recall a bad Christmas experience and is hoping for an unusual but practical gift from Santa.
“Chairs!” she laughs. “I recently bought a table for my flat and was buying the chairs separately when they were discontinued! Other than chairs, who cares?”
Like many people, Sophia di Martino, who plays paramedic Polly, has had her share of yule-tide disappointment. “My worst Christmas ever was in 1987 when Santa brought me and my sister a dose of chicken-pox,” says Sophia. “And my worst present ever was a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner! I don’t like to sound ungrateful but I do find vacuuming difficult to get excited about,” she laughs.
After an emotional season on Casualty, where Polly has been pursued by sinister stalker Alistair, Sophia is looking forward to going back to Nottingham to spend time with the family.
“It’s not exactly calm at Christmas,” she laughs. “It’s a bit like the Simpsons appearing in a pasta advert – lots of bickering, crazy pets and plenty of tomato sauce!”
Polly may have been unlucky in love in Casualty, but who would Sophia like to give the Christmas kiss of life to?
“Michael Cera, the actor from Juno,” says Sophia. “He’s just so awkward and cute!”
After another busy year whipping the other paramedics into shape as duty manager Dixie, Jane Hazelgrove is looking forward to a relaxing Christmas.
“After a trip up North to see the clan, I shall be languishing in front of an open fire with a glass of dry sherry and a board game,” says Jane.
Hoping that Santa brings peace and goodwill to all on Earth “and a big chocolate bar for me!”, Jane is relishing spending time with her three nephews and nieces and hoping not to have a repeat of a previous Christmas dinner with some unusual ingredients…
“One year, we just forgot to buy food for our Christmas lunch,” recalls Jane. “We had to dine on cheesy footballs and brandy snaps, it was horrible!”